June 6-8 - Springfield IL
As we headed for Michigan, we decided to spend a day or so in Springfield, IL - Abe Lincoln country. We didn't know that Abraham Lincoln had never had a presidential museum and library until just last year. We just assumed it would be there. And it was. What we didn't expect were the surprises - first, that Springfield is home to an international Carillon Festival going on NOW, and that the new Lincoln Library and Museum is unlike any other. We wished we'd left more time. We may have to go back.
Tue 6/6 - Springfield is just about 100 miles east of Hannibal, MO, so we figured it for an easy drive and planned on arriving after the lunch hour. Good thing, too - the RV park we'd chosen charges you $5 an hour for each hour before 1pm that you try to check in. After hooking up, Al did battle with the latest Verizon wireless aircard, and was able to get on line only well enough to locate the Verizon Wireless store in Springfield. We headed there to turn in the aircard and try to activate internet access through our cellphone. It took us a while to explain to Verizon which of their products we wanted to buy (we don't speak the same language, apparently), but after about an hour, we were assured that the National Access service through our cell phone had been activated. "Great", says Al, "Now sell us the cable and software to make it work." Not in stock. "Where might I find it?" - Best Buy, probably. After looking at what Best Buy had to offer, he decided to try the Motorola Phone Tools software and cable he'd bought several months ago. Bingo! It works! And better than Verizon thinks it would. We can now get acceptable Internet over the cell phone, supposedly anywhere we can get a digital signal. Victory du jour. Dinner followed at T.G.I. Fridays.
The real high spot of the day turned out to be the 45th Springfield International Carillon Festival, attracting top carillon players from all over the world to play the "world famous" Thomas Rees Carillon. We learned that a bell tower with more than 23 bells is a carillon; fewer than that it's just "chimes". There are 67 bells in the Springfield carillon, and you sit outside in the park around the bell tower and listen. We heard two forty-five minute concerts that night and now probably own more carillon CDs than anybody else in Oregon (which apparently has no carillon). It was great. And in spite of two short but furious thunderstorms around dinner time, it didn't actually rain any during the concerts.
Wed 6/7 - There is just one Bank of America ATM in Springfield, inside a shopping mall that opened at 10, so we started our day slowly so as to arrive there at the opening hour. Freshly cashed, we then went to downtown Springfield and the Lincoln Museum. If you're ever within a 1,000 miles of Springfield, you have to visit this place. We figured 2-3 hours would cover it. We were there five hours. This is unlike any museum you've ever seen. Example: A full-size replica of the Lincoln cabinet room filled with extremely lifelike figures of the cabinet illustrating the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Very impressive. And then one of the figures gets up and wanders around the room, explaining who everybody is and how they reacted to the proclamation. One live actor brings the whole thing to life. There are other similar surprises. Special effects by movie genius Stan Winston. Holographic high-def video with live actors in the mix. Reverse forensic aging to figure out what Lincoln looked like as a boy before any of his photos were taken. And displays of a signed original of the Gettysburg Address (one of only 5 known to have ever existed), and a signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation (for $10, Lincoln would sign a copy, it said). Given that the Lincoln presidency covered some very dramatic times and so has much drama potential for presentation, it's still an exceptional museum. You have to see it. After the museum, the "traditional" historical sites were pretty tame. We'd spent so much time at the museum that most of the others were closed, so we were relegated to pictures from the outside. We'll have to go back, and we'll do better research next time.
Thu 6/8 - We had two days to drive the 400+ miles from Springfield to Al's home town of Muskegon, MI, and we figured two easy days. So we hooked up and pulled out shortly after 9AM. We'll talk about that next time.
Al's Highlight - We only did two "touristy" things in Springfield, and they were both over the top of the scale for wonderful. Back in the 1950's, Stan Freeberg did a satire on the hi-fi craze - more power, bigger speakers, where would it end? He speculated that one day, we'd all be sitting outside, listening to our house. That's kind of what a carillon is - the whole building is the instrument, and you sit outside and listen to it. The keyboard is half-way up the bell tower, with bells above and bells below. You gotta figure the Carilloneur (that's what you call a carillon player) can hear it better than any of us, so long as his hearing holds out. This was a completely new thing for me, and it was great, so I'm giving it the edge over Mr. Lincoln's life story. Sorry, Abe.
Judy's Highlight - At the Lincoln Museum was a very special traveling exhibit about all the first ladies from Martha to Laura, with very informative biographies of every one, and a sample of a gown actually worn by each wife (or niece, or daughter-in-law, as the circumstances dictated). I was amazed at the number of original items in the display. All of the first ladies' gowns were on headless mannikins arranged chronologically in the center of the room, and the biographies, along with portraits and items the ladies had worn or used, were arranged around the perimeter. We spent considerable time in this portion of the museum, reading all the fascinating biographies and admiring the lovely gowns. I don't know where else the First Ladies will be going on their tour of the country, but if they ever come close to you, be sure to attend.
Click here to see a slideshow of some of our pictures from this leg of the trip.
Stay tuned . . .