Budget vacation continues
– Columns –
After my daughter, Hannah, and I left Dickson Mounds, on our budget vacation last year, we continued on our way to our destination of Illinois’ state capital, Springfield. We have always loved Abraham Lincoln and Springfield is a veritable treasure trove of history surrounding the former president’s life.
The architecture of the buildings and stately homes are worth the visit itself. There are so many things to see and do there.
One of my favorite places, is the old State Capitol building. Its old world elegance has been beautifully preserved. A favorite memory was my eighth-grade field trip (many years ago), when I visited there for the first time. The floors were the original wood flooring, held in place by wooden plugs.
Some of the plugs had worked their way out after years of constant foot traffic, so I followed the custom of placing a penny in an empty spot where the plug once sat. I had specifi cally chosen a penny with the year my class made the trip, 1978. I was sad to learn the flooring had been replaced several years earlier, though it in no way diminished from the charm.
Another fascinating place to visit, is the Illinois Supreme Court building. The law library is located on the second floor and contains “glass flooring” (plexiglass), and, fortunately, no one was up there wearing a dress. The elevators are still hand-crank operated and contain stained glass in the overhead dome.
One of the most impressive, and perhaps the most emotional for me, was touring Pres. Lincoln’s family home. Many of the rooms were roped off, but still accessible for viewing, and the tour guide requested everyone refrain from touching anything displayed, as the natural oils in a person’s hand can damage the fabrics of the brocade sofas, velvet drapes and stunning dresses belonging to the former First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln.
One item we were allowed to touch, was the banister railing as we ascended the stairs to tour the upper story. I felt a rush of emotion, realizing my hand was moving along the exact spot where Abraham Lincoln’s hand had once rested so long ago.
The visitors’ center was extremely informative and interesting, and, as it was during a weekday when we were there, we literally had the place to ourselves to peruse the many historical treasures at our own pace.
A must see when visiting Springfield, is the Lincoln Tomb Historic Site, the final resting place of the 16th president. The original receiving vault is located on the grounds and, at the entrance to the memorial, a bronze bust of Lincoln sports a shiny nose, as people rub it for luck as they pass by. If you’re a history buff, you’ll be in your element and can easily spend an entire day there.
One of our jaunts included a trip to Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site, in Petersburg, located about 20 miles northwest of Springfield. New Salem is a reconstruction of the village where Lincoln spent his early adulthood. Volunteers dress in period costume and reenact how life was in the 1800s.
The village includes a working grist mill, a blacksmith’s stable, an apothecary, a dry goods store, a trading post and several log homes, where gardens are tended and livestock reside within split rail fenced enclosures. The beauty of this is, you can wander at your leisure throughout the village. Picnic tables are available for families who would like to bring a picnic lunch, or there is a small eatery to purchase hamburgers or hot dogs, or an ice cream treat, if it strikes your fancy.
Our cousin, Randa, came with us that day, and packed a picnic lunch for our noon repast. The first time I visited New Salem, was with my Grandma and Grandpa Young. Grandma had brought ham spread sandwiches and iced tea. I took a large healthy swallow before I discovered it was unsweetened. I nearly died…and that was the day my dramatic nature began.
Randa remembered me telling that story, and surprised me with ham spread sandwiches and unsweetened iced tea. (One of my favorite drinks now.) Another beautiful memory to tuck way.
We spent a couple days at Randa’s house, and she arranged a family potluck get-together. I hadn’t seen some of my cousins for roughly 25 years, and hadn’t even met several second cousins. Han hadn’t met the majority of any of the cousins, so it was a fun night of getting reacquainted while eating delicious food, sharing great stories, and lots of fun and laughter.
The great part about this vacation, was, not only did we see so many interesting things, but the majority of the places we visited were no admission fee or donation only. Staying with family not only alleviated a huge hotel bill, but gave us the priceless extra time together catching up on each other’s lives.
The grand total of this budget extravaganza was $317. The memories made were worth far more than that. I’ll take that kind of vacation any day.