Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Exceeding expectations

Front of Lincoln Presidential Museum

Wax figures in front of Lincoln White House exhibit

My visit to Springfield, Illinois this past weekend exceeded my expectations! 

I expected to enjoy the Lincoln Presidential Museum, but not nearly as much as I did. I also did not expect to enjoy the town of Springfield as much as I did. So, the little weekend jaunt was a success. 

The only slightly unpleasant part was the drive to get there Friday. I left about 3 p.m. I am south of Nashville, and getting around downtown and then north of Nashville was slow, with afternoon traffic being heavy. I think it's even heavier on a Friday. 

Not long after dark fell, it began to rain, and it rained on me the rest of the way. What my maps app told me would take five hours and 45 minutes took about seven hours. The return trip was much easier. The weather was beautiful Sunday, and it took just under six hours. 

The time in Springfield was delightful. The Lincoln Museum is very well done, with just enough artifacts and exhibits to keep me interested, as well as some interactive exhibits and films. 

The museum is divided into three parts: Lincoln's childhood and time up until he was elected president; the White House years; and "treasures" which includes historical artifacts and additional information on the Lincoln family. 

I came away an even bigger fan than I was of Lincoln and his presidency. His genius was in making his enemies his allies, as Doris Kearns Goodwin described in her excellent book Team of Rivals, which I read a few years ago. I don't doubt that politics was nasty and polarizing then, as it is today, but I believe our current presidential candidates could take some lessons in civility from our 16th president. 

I spent the morning at the museum, taking my time and reading almost every word-narrative that went with the exhibits. I also spent some time talking to volunteers who were placed strategically throughout the building. It was a rather slow day there (which I loved, because I did not have to navigate through crowds), so they were eager to talk and share interesting information. 

I had looked up places I might have lunch, and found a great local brewpub. I went in, saw one stool available at the bar and took it. I ordered one of the local beers and told the bartender I would shortly order food. 

Being introverted by nature, I am not one to always strike up conversations with strangers. But the guy sitting next to me on my right looked to be about my age, so I took a breath and asked him if he lived in Springfield. Turns out he was born and raised there. He told me he was an architect and was working a few hours on this Saturday, so decided to come over to this establishment for lunch. A very interesting conversation ensued, and I am so glad I spoke to him. 

He gave me all types of information on what I should see the rest of my time in Springfield, and being an architect, had an abundance of knowledge of buildings in the area. He was tremendously interesting to talk to, and I consider it a great stroke of luck to be able to talk about a place that was new to me, over beers with a local. The lunch -- a turkey burger with potato salad -- was great, too. 

I spent the afternoon going to Lincoln's home and the surrounding area, which is a national park. I went to the visitors' center, saw another film and walked around the neighborhood. 

From there I went to the state capitol, which my new friend from lunch had told me was must-see. Like so many buildings of its kind, it had a beautiful dome and I walked up three flights, just below the dome's top, to look up and down. I was too late for a tour that day, but enjoyed what I could see for myself. 

From there it was to Lincoln's tomb, where he, his wife and three of his sons are buried. 

It would not be inaccurate, with me as the only traveler, to say a good time was had by all! 

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Traveling solo

Anyone who stops by here with any regularity knows I enjoy travel. Most of the time, I am accompanied by Wife, who not only is a good planner, but has a keen sense of direction. 

That is not one of my gifts. So, when we are traveling, I depend on her. 

Like so many, we rely on the GPS built into our phones. She also uses the one in her car. My car has one, but I have never used it. 

She and I are, of course, old enough to remember when we depended on maps. We even remember when gas stations had them. 

And I remember, when traveling with my family, how hard they were to refold after they had been unfolded. And as someone mildly anal-retentive, that just didn't work for me. I would fold and refold until it was back to its original configuration. 

We still love to look at maps and atlases. Before we go on a trip in the U.S., we'll look at the atlas to see where we're going. And often, I'll look at it again when we return home to look back at where I went. I'm odd like that. 

I think my affinity for maps is one of the reasons I so enjoyed the book "The Cartographers" last year, even though it has a fantastical element that is usually a turnoff for me. All the maps information piqued my interest.

But I digress. I started his post not to tell you about maps, but what I am doing this weekend. 

Tomorrow afternoon, I will drive to Springfield, Illinois, and Saturday I will visit the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. I have wanted to go for years, and with Wife otherwise occupied this weekend, I decided this would be a good time to do it.  It looks like it will take about 5.5. hours for me to drive there.  

I will be relying on my GPS to get there, and to get around once I arrive. I've glanced at a map, and I'm sure I will look at it again when I return to once again look back at where I went.  

I thought about asking a friend to go with me, but I decided it would not be fair to either the friend or me. I really enjoy museums, and, unlike many folks, I like to take my time and read the narratives that go along with the exhibits. The person going with me might not want to do that, and the both of us could end up frustrated. 

So, this is a solo trip, and I am 100 percent comfortable with that. I will take my time, meandering not only through the museum and library, but the streets of Springfield as well. I plan to walk around the neighborhood where the Lincoln home is located (apparently, the only home he ever owned), a nearby park and anything else I see that looks interesting. I don't know that I will have time to visit the state capitol, but I will at least go by it. 

I will drive home Sunday. It will be a short trip, and I would not want to be gone much longer than a weekend traveling on my own, but I am excited. Look for a report and pictures next week!