Showing posts with label history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history. Show all posts

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Quick Stop in Burlington & Highlights of the American Queen

My friend, Lynn, and I continued down the Mississippi River on the American Queen to our last stop in Iowa. We only had half a day in Burlington so we were up early to have a quick breakfast and get started on exploring.


President Thomas Jefferson sent Lt. Zebulon Pike to explore the Mississippi River in 1803. When saw the bluffs of Burlington, he placed an American flag above them, and recommended construction of a fort. It was easy to see why this town needed to be a stop on the river.

At one point this city was considered part of Wisconsin, but it earned its place in Iowa and downtown buildings on the National Register of Historic places. Before we got on the hop-on, hop-off bus, we had a preview of more of what the city had to offer.

 The Port of Burlington Welcome Center was by far the most advanced port we had been to on this trip. It was filled with items made in the city as well as the state of Iowa. There was even a tasting of Lindon Wines and plenty of brochures and maps of places to visit.

The bus stopped at the Des Moines Heritage Center and Mosquito Park, which gives you a good look at the bluffs Lt. Pike was intrigued by. Next was the Garrett-Phelps House Museum, a home on the hill built by an early merchant who has a ballroom on the third floor that later became the first Protestant Hospital.

 
There was a stop that I got off to only take a look. I wasn’t taking a chance on my scooter going down Snake Alley, the most crooked street in the United States!

We did spend time at the next stop to see some of the other downtown sites in Burlington, which included the grand Capitol Theater and the Art Center of Burlington, which highlighted a lot of local artisans.

Before heading back to the ship, we also made a quick visit to the Burlington Gem shop. Unfortunately, there was a lot of construction downtown and it was difficult to navigate with my scooter.


We arrived at lunch a little late and weren’t happy with the dessert choices left so we went to the Front Porch CafĂ© for lattes and ice cream. As with all other food and drinks on the boat, these were always complimentary.

It was then time to go back to our cabin to rest, shower, and get dressed for dinner. We had the routine down and it worked well for us. We were in the John Wesley Powell Junior Suite. Powell was a soldier and a geologist. He was also a professor at nearby Illinois Wesleyan University.

 

It was not your usual cruise suite. It was smaller than suites I’ve had and decorated differently. The American Queen reflects the steamboat period, with antique furnishings. Only the bathroom was modern (and very big).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the food on the American Queen is the best I’ve ever had on a cruise ship, and I’ve been on dozens. Nearly every single dish was done carefully to perfection and presented beautifully.

 After dinner, I did what had become another habit, I went out to the deck to watch the sunset over the Mississippi. It was different every night. I always find sunsets to be very relaxing.

I met Lynn outside the balcony entrance to the show. It was pianist Gary Peterson performing a variety of music. We then finished the night at the Engine Room Bar with a nightcap before heading back to the cabin.

 We would be heading to a place I’d been to and loved, Hannibal, Missouri, the next day.

 

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I was hosted by American Queen on this voyage, but opinions are my own. 




Friday, September 27, 2019

More Cheap Trick, Gardens & Brew in Rockford


When I planned my trip to Rockford, I heard from quite a few people that I must have breakfast at The Stockholm. I was a bit disappointed when it wasn’t on our (very full) schedule, but a twist of fate brought us there anyway. 

The first stop of the day on the Rockford itinerary for Brittany, Amanda, and I was the Anderson Japanese Gardens. We were to have brunch there and then explore. 


Since they were also having an event that day, there was no brunch. That opened up our chance to go to The Stockholm. This restaurant is on the Cheap Trick Trail because of the Rick Nielsen connection. He’s a part-owner and full lover of this restaurant. 

The menu is huge, reminding me of a New York diner, but Swedish specialties where you would see Greek ones. Due to the breakfast mix-up, we were starving by the time we sat down. I ordered a Swedish Coffee Cake for us to share while we waited. 


It was as scrumptious as it looked and certainly whet our appetite for the rest. I always go toward the sweet and I continued with the Swedish pancakes with lingonberries, which are well worth an order at The Stockholm Inn

I also got the potato bake. Although it was delicious, it was a bit too rich for me to have more than a spoonful of. I did pass the rest around the table. 


Brittany and Amanda went for more traditional egg and meat breakfasts and were enjoyed their choice.

The trails were all filled with beautiful plants and flowers and the lakes had colorful fish and ducks. It was a bit warm, but the scenery was tranquil.


We then headed to the Anderson Japanese Gardens. I knew there would be a lot of walking and took my scooter along. Almost all of the garden paths were very accessible. 

With the Japanese Festival taking place there were also booths and additional tea ceremonies taking place (they do have authentic tea ceremonies at other times too). 


The Midway Village is a most unusual place that is a great experience for children and adults. In addition to the recreated 19th century village, representing a typical Northern Illinois town, there is a museum dedicated to the history of Rockford. 

I asked Brittany and Amanda to explore the village while I walked around the much smaller Dollhouse exhibit. We then met up in the museum.

I was really amazed at the history of Rockford after going through the Midway Village Museum. 


There were displays on the Emerson Carriage Company, the immigration to this area from Norway, Sweden, and Italy that was recruited through Ellis Island, and the dedications to the Rockford Peaches, the baseball team you may remember depicted in A League of Their Own. 

Also at Midway Village is another Cheap Trick shoutout, this one a Sock Monkey (Sock Monkeys were also made in Rockford) in their honor. 



We drove through downtown to look at some of the nine murals created in the Rockford CRE8IV project. They are well-worth a look. 

Our last Rockford stop was at Prairie Street Brewing Company, located in the spot Englishman Jonathan Peacock arrived in 1849 with the dream of building a brewery. 



Prairie Street has a large selection on microbrews, with the Peacock, Passion Fruit, and Peach Wheat all getting accolades from Brittany and Amanda. I enjoyed one of their mules, and their house made non-alcoholic root beer. 

The menu is very large and has some interesting things on it. The Poutine was a huge hit and Amanda raved about their creative Trolley Burger, with Applewood bacon, fried egg, provolone, thousand island dressing, and an onion ring. 



For dessert, we shared a rich and chocolatey S’mores Tart. 

Rockford is another Midwest spot that outlived my expectations with so much to see and do. The team at the CVB really put together a great trip for us!


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Food, Discovery, and Wakeboarding in Rockford

The Go Rockford Convention & Visitors Bureau set me up with a full schedule of things to do in Rockford. Fortunately, I had Brittany and Amanda to help me out.

One of the facts we were learning about Rockford is about the large Norwegian and Swedish population that came here. There was a direct link from Ellis Island to Rockford, Illinois, because of the industry here and many of those immigrants established  themselves and remained in the area.
 
Our breakfast was at The Norwegian, known for authentic food, homemade jams, and even their own mocha sauce (delicious in a mocha latte). They also have a stage for music. 

We had our first taste of Æbleskiver, Danish pancake balls. They were quite good, as was the omelet and steak & eggs.
 
After breakfast we drove to Riverfront Museum Campus. We started at the Discover Center Museum. It’s a great family outing as the exhibits appeal to all ages. 

There are also plenty of hands-on activities to keep kids busy, such as a two-story maze and rope climbing.

The Discover Center Museum also honors Astronaut Janice Voss, a Rockford native, and has learning experiences about hospitals and agriculture.


I set Brittany and Amanda to explore the Burpee Museum of Natural History. They are most known for their dinosaur exhibits, some of which were created by skeletons found by the museum’s own researchers.

Rockford’s Museum Campus also has an Art Museum, but we didn’t have time to go there.


Our next stop was the most anticipated of the day: West Rock Wake Park. I had never heard of wake boarding in Central Illinois and this place has it organized for all ages and skills.

The activity is best described as a combination of water skiing, surfing, and ziplining, as you are holding on to a rope as you balance on a board in the water. 

According to my companions, it is easier than it sounds, and I have to agree with their assessment since they were up riding within a short time of their lessons.

Both loved it and definitely want to do it again.  After taking lessons and mastering the ability to stand up on your own, you can by a season pass at West Rock Wake Park and come as often as you’d like. You do not need to buy any equipment as passholders can use the boards, vests, and helmets at the park.

I was impressed with the attention to those with special needs here, as told to me by a mother who  brings her autistic son regularly for lessons. She said he has thrived since the regular wakeboarding.

After showers and rest time back at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center, we had dinner at Lino’s. The family-owned restaurant, which has been in Rockford over 40 years, gave us an amazing, authentic Italian meal, something I don’t get a lot of in the Midwest (unless I cook it).


We started with a liter of their house Chablis and Lino's salad, which included Italian sausage, along with garlic bread. Brittany and Amanda raved over the Shrimp Dejonghe Appetizer, followed by spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmigiana. I thought the lasagna was wonderful.

It was another full and fun day in Rockford, and we were looking forward to another one coming up.  




Friday, August 16, 2019

Literature and History in Hannibal, Missouri

After a big, complimentary breakfast at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Hannibal, Missouri, Brittany, Amanda, and I got ready for a jam-packed day.

There was quite a bit to do in the city made famous by Mark Twain, who was known in his hometown under his real name, Samuel Clemens.

We had seen some of Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home & Museum the previous day and went back to visit some of the buildings we missed.

It was interesting to see Becky Thatcher’s House, the Huckleberry Finn House, and J.M. Clemens Justice of the Peace Office. 

Becky and Huck Finn were popular characters in the Mark Twain series, but J.M. Clemens was the actual name of Samuel Clemens father.










One of my favorite exhibits within the Boyhood Home buildings was something I’d love for every child to see. It was called “Growing Up to Fast.”

Using the examples of Becky, Tom, Huck, and Jim, all growing up in different levels of income, it examples how their life would be at that time. It explained their ability to go to school, and if (and when) they might have to leave to go to work. 

Many children during this time in Hannibal would have to forego finishing school to help support their family.

Within the block with the recreated houses is also the Haunted House and Wax Museum. 


It’s worth a visit to look through the museum, especially the life-like replicas of the characters Mark Twain wrote about.

The Hannibal History Museum shows the industry passing through this Missouri City, as well as other famous people who lived here. Among them were “Unsinkable Molly Brown” who survived the Titanic, and performer Cliff Edwards, who is best known as the voice of Disney’s Jiminy Cricket.

We walked down to the dock to take a scenic cruise on the Mark Twain Riverboat. The trip, which runs along the Mississippi River, straddling Missouri and Illinois, was very relaxing. There is narration throughout, telling you all about the area and Mark Twain.

Mark Twain Riverboat’s sightseeing cruise is an hour and they have a snack bar with some food, soft drinks, and alcoholic drinks. There is also a dinner cruise. You do not need to worry about the weather as the boats are completely enclosed. It’s also very accessible and I had no trouble taking my scooter on and off.

When we left the boat, we headed over to Mark Twain Caves and Cave Hollow West Winery. While Brittany and Amanda explored the caves, I tasted the offerings at the winery.

I was pleasantly surprised at just how good Cave Hollow West wine is. There were two wines that were so good I went home with bottles: An Innocent Broad, a slightly sweet blend of Vidal and Vignoles, and Lighthouse White, a sweeter white with citrus notes.

When they returned from the Cave, which is celebrating its 200th birthday this year, we sipped some more wine and enjoyed some snacks on the patio.

I needed some rest, so we went back to the hotel for a bit, deciding to have dinner after the show.

I was very impressed with Mark Twain Himself, a one man show in which actor Richard Garey, dressed as Mark Twain, presents an impromptu look at the author’s life through his writings. The show changes with each performance so you never know what part of his life you will be learning about.

We were more than ready for dinner at Mark Twain Brewing Company.  I nibbled on giant pretzel with beer cheese sauce while Brittany and Amanda sampled the beer.

In addition to their brews, this eatery is known for its barbecue. 

We sampled the brisket and the ribs, with smoked in house and topped with their own BBQ sauce. They were all good.
Mark Twain Ramblers Red Ale, Scotch Ale, King Arthur IPA, Chocolate Coffee Stout

For dessert, they had one of my favorites, pecan pie.  

I went back to the Holiday Inn & Suites to turn in for the night. 

Brittany and Amanda headed downtown to take the Haunted Hannibal Tour. They had fun with the combination of ghost tours and history, which ended at Hannibal’s Old Baptist Cemetery.




Monday, September 24, 2018

The Best of Mackinac Island

It was a beautiful morning on a most amazing island.

I fell in love with Mackinac Island on my first trip and this time was no different. My friend, Lynn, and I had arrived at the Grand Hotel the day before and were ready to explore.


Most of the people who stay at this resort take the dinner and breakfast package, and that’s what the hotel had provided for us.

After taking some time to once again enjoy the view from our balcony, we headed to the main dining room.

The buffet at the Grand Hotel, from which I decided to take a little of a few different items to have with a smoothie and coffee, was extensive, as was the menu. 

Included were items such as Apricot Cream Cheese Brioche French Toast and steak and eggs. The basket of freshly baked breads was also always on the table.

After breakfast, we headed down to the front entrance. Mackinac Island does not have motorized vehicles. Instead of asking the bellman to get a cab, we needed to get a horse drawn carriage to bring us downtown.

We were going to spend the day with Mackinac Island Carriage Tours. I had done the tour previously and it’s the perfect way to get a real feel for the island.

The tour had changed some since the last time I took it as it had a stop in the middle for shopping and a carriage change. It still covered all of the highlights of this one-of-a-kind island.


We saw the sites on Market Street as Mackinac’s history came to life. We went to the Parade Ground, and saw some of the town’s Bed & Breakfast accommodations and stores. Then, we went to Mackinac Island State Park and Fort Mackinac for the most breathtaking spots in the Midwest.


After the tour, we checked out a few stores and picked up some fudge. Mackinac Island is famous for its fudge and you can get samples and purchase unique flavors at a dozen different shops.


When we returned to the Grand Hotel, we stopped at Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor, where we enjoyed local flavors, Mackinac Island Fudge and Michigan Deer Traxx (Peanut butter cup and chocolate fudge in vanilla ice cream).


It was time for a rest before another delicious dinner that included pork chops and filet, with all the trimmings and a delicious dessert.

Then, we headed out to the porch, enjoying some wine on our final night on Mackinac Island.



Friday, July 6, 2018

A Day at Tahquamenon State Park and Whitefish Point

It was our third day in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, and we were taking a day trip.

When I decided to make the trip to Sault Ste Marie, one of the main attractions I was interested in was Tahquamenon State Park, just about an hour from there. 

The park is nearly 50,000 acres and home to wildlife and birds (including bald eagles, which we did see). It’s second to only Niagara as the biggest falls east of the Mississippi River.

Since I have physical limitations, we decided the best way to enjoy Tahquamenon State Park was to take the Toonerville Trolley RiverboatTour.

The tour is divided into two parts. The first is on land, on the ‘trolley.” It runs along a railroad track for five and a half miles.

While there is an opportunity to see many animals, we just saw a few deer and some birds.

The trolley then stops along the river, where you pick up a boat for a narrated cruise, 21 miles to the rapids of the Upper Tahquamenon Falls.

The falls themselves were not accessible enough for me to walk to. I waited on the boat for the hour it was stopped and enjoyed the tranquility of the river while Jamie and Brittany hiked up there.

Brittany took some great pictures, though they didn’t have time before the boat left to capture all of the beauty of the park.

The boat ride back to the trolley, and then our cars, was equally relaxing, but we then had to hustle to make it the half hour to Michigan's Whitefish Point with enough time to explore.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is actually a complex dedicated to the boats passing through Lake Superior since the 19th century. It is on the National Registry of Historic Places and definitely a must-see when in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Among the ships who are paid homage to here are the Samuel Mather, which went down in Marquette in 1891; the S.R. Kirby, that sank near Eagle Harbor 1916; and the Edmond Fitzgerald, lost with the entire crew just 17 miles from Whitefish Point.

While Brittany and Jamie climbed the lighthouse, I went through the crews’ quarters.

Inside was set up to depict exactly how the family of a crew member housed at Whitefish Point would live.

The house has been restored by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society with support from the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Michigan Council for the Arts & Cultural Affairs. You can even stay here overnight here.

The lighthouse is the oldest on Lake Superior. We didn’t have long enough before closing time to go through the Museum Store or the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory. We did walk along the peaceful Lake Superior beach.

Before we left Paradise, Michigan, we decided to stop at a local restaurant for dinner. The Inn Gastropub & Smokehouse was a good choice for delicious barbecue.

We were back at Superior Place in Sault Ste Marie in time to crash for the night. We still had one more day to enjoy some time in the city before heading south to the lower peninsula of Michigan.