Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lincoln's Tomb

If you find yourself in Springfield, you'll likely find time to stop at a number of Lincoln attractions and Lincoln's Tomb is one that should definitely make it into your itinerary. Oak Ridge Cemetery is the largest cemetary in Illinois and the second most visited (after Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.)

The tomb was completed nine years after Lincoln's death and contains several statues inside as well as the bust outdoors that has been worn at the nose, where it is tradition for visitors to rub the nose for good luck. Lincoln, his wife and three of his four sons are buried there. (Robert is buried at Arlington) The architecture is stunning and makes for beautiful photographs. Tours are available.

Lincoln's Tomb
Oak Ridge Cemetery
1500 Monument Avenue
Springfield, Illinois

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

I'm a big history buff, so whenever we travel, I like to take in a historic site or tour a historic mansion or stop in a local historical society. Springfield, Illinois is paradise for history buffs like me with many of the attractions related to our nation's beloved 16th president. However, don't think that everything Lincoln related is old.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is a state-of-the-art facility that brings Lincoln's time to today's generation through not only artifacts, but through technology. Not every aspect of the museum utilizes technology, like the replica of Lincoln's boyhood home - a modest log cabin or Mrs. Lincoln's Attic, a playroom full of toys of the area and activities that give children a taste of what life was like during Lincoln's time.

A circular lobby offers entrance into several exhibits or presentations, one of them being a facade of the 1861 White House.

In the 250-seat Union Theatre, a 17-minute show called "Lincoln's Eyes" portrays Lincoln's life with special effects of the feel of rumbling cannons, the sight of smoke and the scent of gunpowder. A second theatre shows "Ghosts of the Library"  with a live actor and holographic ghosts. Another high-tech exhibit is a powerful media presentation that shows the loss of life during the civil war.

Across the street is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, with a wide range of books and newspaper microfilm.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
212 N. Sixth Street
Springfield, IL

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Get an eagle eyeful in Quad Cities

Sharing this One Tank Trip Story I wrote for the Northwest Indiana Times about eagle spotting in the Quad Cities. It printed 1/2/10.

Enjoy an eyeful of migrating eagles in the Quad Cities

January 02, 2010 12:00 am  •  
Watch eagles perch, preen and soar in their winter roosts in the Quad Cities.
As we move into 2010, it's prime eagle-watching season in the Mid-Mississippi Valley. The area includes Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Moline and Rock Island in Illinois. From mid-December through February, area trees and bluffs are home to up to 2,500 bald eagles making their way south from Canada.
 The breathtaking sight of our national bird in flight can be viewed in many spots in the Quad Cities, marking 41 years of bald eagle education. The birds, with their huge wingspans of white feathers, have been a symbol of freedom since 1782 when the eagle became the emblem of the United States.
As humans fished eagles' waters and invaded their habitats, the eagle population diminished. The Interior Department removed the American bald eagle from the Endangered Species Act's "threatened" list in 2007. But criminal penalties still exist for those who take or disturb the birds under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940.
About 70,000 bald eagles exist. Nearly half live in Alaska and a large concentration also resides in British Columbia. So the Quad Cities offers a rare opportunity to watch the species in the wild. Adults have white-feathered ("bald") heads, youngsters, dark heads.
Migrating eagles hunting for fish and unfrozen water can often be spotted cold winter mornings along the banks of the Mississippi River. Many, winging from Northern areas, reach speeds of about 30 miles an hour. The sharp-eyed scavengers have wingspans of six to eight feet, boast 7,000 feathers, and weigh 8 to 11 pounds.
Bald Eagle Days is a three-day event next weekend at the QCCA Expo Center, 2621 Fourth Avenue in Rock Island.  The largest eagle-viewing event of its kind in the Midwest runs 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is $4 for adults and $1 for kids. Live eagle programs and bird of prey demonstrations are included along with fine arts exhibits, a wildlife art show and sale. Other attractions are Richard English's Wild Cat Show and The Toonies recycling enviro-show.
Spotting scopes will be set up and manned by the Quad City Audubon Society at Sunset Marina with a free shuttle bus running from the Expo Center. For more information, visitQCCAEXPOCENTER.COM.
The Mississippi River Visitors Center on Arsenal Island, between Davenport and Rock Island, offers free eagle watches and Clock Tower tours every weekend on Saturdays and Sundays from Jan. 16 through Feb. 14 at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and 3 p.m.. Reservations are required, (309) 794-5338. For more information, visit MISSRIVER.ORG.
 Later this month, the Mississippi Valley Welcome Center in LeClaire, Iowa, hosts a Bald Eagle Watch on January 30 and 31. U. S. Army Corps of Engineers park rangers will give slide programs, set up telescopes at Lock & Dam 14 and assist with eagle-spotting. Trolley tours are available on Saturday and Sunday.
Admission to the Eagle Watch is free. Trolley tours are $25 per adult, $15 per child and include refreshments. For more information, visit IOWAWELCOMECENTER.COM.
Other eagle-spotting spots: Pleasant Valley, Iowa; Hampton, Ill.; Sunset Park in Rock Island; Credit Island in Davenport; and riverfronts in Davenport and Rock Island from Lock and Dam 15).
For a more intense experience, join naturalist Bob Motz for a Bald Eagle Safari. He provides car window-mounted spotting scopes (they magnify images 15 to 45 times) for prime viewing of eagles in trees. It's a chance to see the yellow of their eyes and the black talons on their claws.
The cost is $20 per hour for one to four people. Two- to three-hours safaris are recommended. For more information, call (309) 788-8389 or email
If you like winter sports, plan to stay for a day or two to enjoy cross-country skiing, ice-skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling and winter hiking.

The Quad Cities includes Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa, and Moline, East Moline and Rock Island in Illinois.
For more information, contact the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 747-7800.
Take Interstate 80 West to Interstate 74 West, which will take you into Moline and Davenport. Once in the area, there are five welcome centers in the Quad Cities to gather information.
*Layers of warm clothing. Winter eagle-spotting is a chilly pastime, so dress for the weather.
*Binoculars. While most events include spotting stations with equipment to capture still birds, binoculars will help you identify eagles in flight.
*A camera. If you're lucky enough to have a good zoom lens, bring it along for a rare opportunity to capture a shot of our national bird.
*The trolley tour to different sites for prime eagle viewing.
*The awe-inspiring sight of eagles in the wild. Enjoying a safari with your own tour guide and super-magnifiers that make the smallest eagle details visible.
* A visit to the big agricultural exhibit at the John Deere Pavilion in Moline. John Deere fans also can stop by the John Deere Historic Site, John Deere store and John Deere Co.'s world headquarters.

Shopping in Shipshewana

I recently took a trip with my family to Shipshewana, Indiana. It was my third time in the area, but it was the first time I’d done any shopping. One previous trip was in the summer where we had a fun visit to Amish Acres in Nappanee then stayed overnight and moved on early the next day to Michigan. The other trip was in the winter time where we got in to town, visited the Hostetler Hudson Museum and then spent the night at Splash Universe where we splashed in the water the next day and then left for home.

This time we spent a little time checking out the town. As we arrived in mid-afternoon, we noticed an ice sculpture being carved outside Yoder’s Hardware. I didn’t realize when we started planning our trip that there was an Ice Festival going on a it was a nice bonus. We ended up browsing a little and my husband picked up a nice pair of moccasins to keep his feet warm around the house this winter.
After checking into our hotel, we decided to go have dinner at the Blue Gate Restaurant where we enjoyed some Amish cooking. We strolled outside after we ate and the lights and holiday decorations were lovely – especially a giant tree right outside the restaurant. A few stores were open late for the Ice Festival. We walked through the Davis Mercantile, with four floors of unique shoppes and a carousel.
The next day after we were all done swimming at Splash Universe, we decided to do a little more shopping before heading home. At Yoder’s Red Barn Shoppes, we picked up some tea at the Red Bud Coffee and Tea CafĂ©, some mulled cider, peanut brickle and fudge at the Victorian Candy Company and a I got a lazy Susan for my dining room at a furniture store there. We also stopped by Yoder’s Meat and Cheese Company where we got a variety of smoked meats, cheeses and other treats. They have a huge variety, with lots of natural-fed hormone-free meats.
We, of course, hit just the tip of the iceberg and there are many more shoppes to visit. There are also additional eateries and I was a little bummed when heading to eat dinner on our way out of town that Frontier Steakhouse had shut down for a while for the holidays.  And I’m looking forward to visiting again sometime in warmer weather when fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful and can be bought at roadside stands run by Amish youngsters.
For more information on the area and attractions, visit

Prairie Guest House, Fishers Indiana

On a recent media trip in Indianapolis, I spent a little time in Hamilton County, staying at the Prairie Guest House Bed & Breakfast in ...