29 May, 2009

Historic Galena (Illinois), a Family Reunion, and the Barn Quilts of Iowa

Road Trip: Day One

It was a mutual love of travel that brought me and Ted together. We met through one of those online dating sites. Wanna see my profile pic from back then?

Heh heh. I know, I know. Devil horns, a four-foot clip on pony tail, and black mini skirt were just asking for weirdos to respond (even when it's obviously a Halloween costume). And they did, in droves. But amongst the kooks, I received a very sweet reply from a guy with an awful lot in common with me. And the rest, as they say, is history. You really can find True Love this way.

Anyway, our obsession with travel took us on vacations three, four times a year and we'd stay away weeks at a time. But for many reasons, including the fact that The Box House sucks up nearly every spare moment and dime we have, it's actually been several years since we've gone anywhere. And for two travel bugs, that can really leech away the spirit.

So we said the heck with this rut, and we took a mini trip to South Dakota, via a family reunion in Iowa. We're home now, but because one post cannot adequately convey everything we saw, I'll be stretching it out all this week.

The reunion was in Sioux City, Iowa, near where Ted's dad grew up. I went to college in Iowa, but somehow never made it out to the western part of the state much. We decided to take a route straight across the state along U.S. Route 20. According to Google Maps, it would take 20 minutes or so longer than the Interstate, but through several towns neither one of us had been through.

Because we were wildly trying to finish up with client work before we left, we didn't sleep at all before loading up the car and taking off. We're both pretty good about sleeping in the car, so figured we could catch some shuteye along the way. Besides, the tollroads around Chicago are pretty dead at 4:00 a.m. and we could zip along.

Our first stop to stretch our legs was in Galena, Illinois. As we pulled into town, it suddenly struck me how ridiculous it was that I'd never been here before. It's less than three hours from our house, with something like 85% of the buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For old house junkies like us, it was like a little slice of heaven. My jaw nearly dropped when Ted jostled me awake and I saw the great brick house of Ulysses S. Grant, civil war general and president of the United States.

Gorgeous! Although I may have been even more impressed by the gigantic hostas growing on the hill below the house. A whole mini forest of them! This is how I want our yard to look.

At eight in the morning, there really wasn't anything open, but we took a walk up and down the main drag anyway.

Here's another view that someone took for Wikipedia:

All in all, it's a very cool town. Too bad we weren't visiting during this conference, however:

UFOs and golf. Gotta love it.

It's about a nine-hour drive from Chicago to Sioux City; we tried to make as few stops as possible, but some things could not be skipped over:

Ted's a Calhoun, and we were heading to a Calhoun reunion, so this photo op in Calhoun County was necessary.

And this just cracked us up, a whole yard full of vintage washing machines like the one we're using as a planter.

But the most interesting bit of the drive was through Sac County, home of the Barn Quilts.

Can't believe I never heard of these before, with my mom being a quilter and all.

There's an extensive Web site, so if you're a quilt fan, it's worth a look. All the barn quilts are done up in bright colors and are on barns or corncribs that are at least 50 years old.

We pulled into Sioux City early enough that we thought we'd be able to take a nap before the festivities began--no such luck. There were already scores of Calhouns roaming the halls of the hotel, so we freshened up just a bit and headed downstairs for the first night of socializing. It was great to reconnect with folks we hadn't seen in a while, and I was lucky enough to chat with one of Ted's aunts and learn more about the family history. She had put together a book about the family, and I look forward to borrowing a copy from Ted's dad. I go goofy over family history stuff.

Finally got to go to bed at nine o'clock, perhaps the earliest I've voluntarily gone to bed in years! But by that point, we had been up for 36 hours or so.


Karen Anne said...

The washing machine photo gave me a flashback to my grandparents' cellar, where they had a washing machine, complete with mangle.

As well as a Victrola. They moved in with us when I was 8 or 9, so it was probably all thrown out, alas.

The interesting stuff I'd have, if I'd had any brain cells at that age and my parents would have let me keep stuff like that.

I've probably whined before about my Mom "cleaning out" the bottles and wooden case from my great grandfather's beer bottling business. Alas :-) Fortunately I have nabbed some of the company's bottles on ebay, and even a little company paperwork, but no wooden case.

modernemama said...

Those barn quilts are fabulous

Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB said...

Very glad you got to stop by Galena during your trip. We love to hear from people, like you, who are fascinated with the history, architecture and old-world charm of our community and area. Hope you can come back again soon! From your friendly hosts for visitor information, the Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau