After we left Lincoln’s Boyhood Home in Indiana, we made our way all the way through the bottom of Illinois and into Missouri to spend the night in St. Louis. We plan to spend a couple of nights here before changing our westward direction northwards.
A few months ago we committed to working on a project that requires us to be in Minnesota by October. It is a bit out of the way but we are excited to hopefully be able to catch some fall colors on this trip.
We are also very excited to get ourselves some real St. Louis BBQ. We headed straight to Pappy’s Smokehouse that first chance we got and it lived up to every expectations we could have imagined.
With our bellies full of their amazing BBQ, we headed over to the famous Arch, also known as Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
I bet some of you didn’t know that. This arch was built to symbolize a gateway to the west. It is managed by the National Park Service so our junior rangers got to partake in some more badge earning.
Since I had to work while Marlene took the kids to the memorial, the scaredy cat opted to not ride up the arch in the tram.
The kids really wanted to go up but it will have to be another time when daddy can come along for the ride.
Newly minted Junior Rangers.
Luka basically cons his way into these badges with his cuteness.
Our next stop after a couple of days in St Louis is northward back into Illinois. The last time we came to Illinois we only got to visit the greater Chicago area. And since it was so hard to actually find a place to camp near Chicago, we stayed in Indiana. We will fix that as we make our way up right into the heart of the state, Springfield.
Springfield, Illinois was Abraham Lincoln’s home for nearly a quarter century. Even though he was born in Kentucky and raised in Indiana, it is here where he became a husband, father, prominent lawyer and world-renown statesman. This is the only house he has ever owned and fully intended to return after he served as the President of the United States.
I might have cried a little at the end of our tour when I learned that Mary Todd Lincoln never stepped foot in her house again after Abe was assassinated. She instead traveled the states… and the world.
One more badge in the bag after touring Lincoln’s home. While we were here we also met up with another Instagram friend Joann. She goes by @jolodrake on Instagram and has been a huge supporter of what we do. She and her husband own a farm in a small town nearby and split their time in a couple of other places around the country. They graciously invited us to stay with them at the farm house.
Before we made our way over the Elkhart, Illinois, we had to stop at the cemetery where Abraham Lincoln is buried.
Ava has been learning about Abe Lincoln since 2012 when we visited Mount Rushmore and then his birth place in Kentucky a few months later. We picked it back up in Indiana and Illinois in these last few days but have not yet gotten to his assassination until right now. I don’t know if she fully understands why it happened but I can see in her curious eyes that gears are turning.
This is one of Joann and Billy’s houses in Elkhart, Illinois. Billy is an architect and Joann is a photographer.
They have mostly retired and Billy is fanatical about Airstreams.
We almost got stuck on their wet side lawn, tore it up trying to get out and our friends still invited us inside for dinner.
If not for these Lynx levelers I don’t know what we would have done. Look at how far I pushed them into the grass in an attempt to get some traction.
Billy was really into the drone that I was flying and I suspect he might be getting one for himself sometime soon.
This is a shot from the drone over the grain bins just across the field from his soybean fields.
Soybeans that go on for days.
Inside the charming little house that Billy’s mother use to live in, Joann made us a delicious dinner that we will never forget.
We usually resent the fact that people think what we get to do as being lucky but we are indeed lucky to have such amazing friends all around the country.
Inside the garage, Joann setup her photo studio that she does each Halloween to take pictures of the neighbor kids in costumes.
I mostly nerded out on the great cars that you can barely see in this photo behind Marlene and the kids.
I love that the kids can have just as much fun with adults as they can with kids they age. The kids really loved spending time with Joann, a kind and amazing woman. As soon as we left, Mila asked when we’ll see her again. Saying goodbye all the time is tough on the kids but we always do our best to see them again down the road.
As we left Illinois, we made out way into Iowa. Not knowing where exactly to go on our way to Minnesota, we found ourselves at another National Park Service site. This time it is in West Branch, Iowa: Herbert Hoover birthplace.
This is the little house that Herbert Hoover was raised in. Once again the ranger said, “Isn’t this place small? Can you imagine living in a place this small?”
Yeah. Yeah we can.
Who can say they’ve spent a timeout on the steps of Herbert Hoover’s birthplace? Mila can.
While we were here earning another badge for the girls, Luka refuses to sit on the sidelines anymore during our roadschool adventures. He insists on having his own junior ranger book, his own pencil and scribbles all over it. When it was time to raise his right hand for the Junior Ranger swearing in ceremony, he does his best copycat voice and recites everything the ranger says. Sometimes the ranger is kind enough to wait for him to finish, other times he gets left in the dust.
This ranger was awesome and did it slowly just for him.
We found Palisades-Kepler State Park just outside of Cedar Rapids for a couple of nights while we explore the area. Of all the adventures we go on, this is what most days look like while we travel. The kids and Marlene do some homeschooling and I find whatever space I can to setup shop for the day.
You might not believe it but the heartland is not all corn and soybean fields.
We went on a little hike down to Cedar River from a trail right at the end of the campground.
That was an awesome cabin right across the river along the ledge.
I hope no one was in there as I flew the drone up for a closer look.
As we left the Cedar Rapids area, we are making our way towards Wisconsin. That is of course not before we drive past miles and miles of cornfields.
We make a stop at the Walter-Lowell House for a tour. This is one of the few Frank Lloyd Wright designed houses in the state of Iowa.
Frank Lloyd Wright is known for designing and insisting the owners use the furniture that is built specifically for the house.
This house is now managed by the Iowa State Park system. It was commissioned to Frank Lloyd Wright’s firm well after he has already established himself as a preeminent architect. Jobs that he took in at the time of his career more or less meant that you get what Frank builds you.
After we left Cedar Rock, we continued down the road passing more rows of cornfields until we came upon this house next to a baseball diamond.
Fans of Kevin Costner might recognize this as the Field of Dreams house.
This of course is the Field of Dreams.
They said that if you build it, they will come.
They were right. We came.
The kids loved running around in the corn right at the edge of the outfields.
Let’s hope they never see Children of the Corn and flash back to this moment.
Let’s play ball!
Just before we crossed back into Wisconsin, we made one more stop for another National Park. This time, we are at Effigy Mounds National Monument.
These mounds are not very easy to recognize from the ground but as seen from above, some of them resemble shapes of birds, bison and other sacred native American symbols.
Mostly these mounds are in the region of the country and right here along the Iowa and Wisconsin border they are especially dense.
Marlene took the girls for a hike to see some of the bigger mounds and they did awesome over several miles even with an incline.
Don’t worry, she didn’t eat the wild mushroom.
From the top of the trail, we could see across the Mississippi river into Wisconsin.
For their awesome job on the hike, they were rewarded with lollipops.
Crossing into Wisconsin we will just be staying a night at a Walmart before making our way into the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Our project starts in just a couple of days.
But before we leave Wisconsin, we made a stop at the Little House Wayside. This is the part of Wisconsin that Laura Ingalls Wilder lived as a little girl. Her book ‘Little House In The Big Woods’ is based on her experience right here on this property.
The big woods might have been replaced by farmland and the original house replaced by a replica, but walking up to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home was as magical as ever. The kids were beyond themselves as hundreds of lady bugs greeted us at the front door.
Luka was not happy about his lady bug friend flying away from him.
over and out,