Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Trip into Illinois

John and I are waiting on some tires for our motorhome to come in from Kansas, otherwise we certainly would have been out of Missouri by now.  This past week we have had a couple of nights where the temperatures dropped below freezing.  It is time for us to head south, which we will do after we get our new  wheels.  We just heard that the tires have arrived and plan to have them installed tomorrow.  Usually we make a trip over into Calhoun County of Illinois during late August or early September to pick up peaches and apples.  So it did seem a bit strange for us to make a trip over there after the harvest season.  We did not quite know what we were going to do when we got there, but figured that at least the drive over there and up the River Road should be enjoyable.  Our first stop was in the small town of Elsah.  It is hard to think of Elsah as once being a bustling river town of the nineteenth century.  Farmers from the surrounding areas would come into town for their wheat to be milled and shipped out on either barges or on the two railroads which once served this town.  There were also hotels, stores and restaurants.  Speaking of the latter, many years ago we liked to visit Elsah just to eat at a certain  restaurant/bakery ( it is not there anymore).  They sure had some delicious pies!  Now the town is just a bedroom community, with  one inn as well as a couple of bed and breakfast establishments.  Population is around 673 people.  On Monday our first stop along the River Road was in Elsah.  We started out thinking we would just take a look at the Methodist church, but then decided it would be interesting to take a closer look at some of the town's older homes   Some of them date back to the time when the town was first established, which was 1856.
The flood of 1993 severely damaged many of the town's homes, but the residents have done a fantastic job in the restoration of many of its older buildings, which include Farley's Music Hall as well as the old schoolhouse.  Surrounding the town are the high river bluffs of the Mississippi River.  From the town we hiked up a narrow winding road  to the top of one of those bluffs.  We were not sure what we were going to see at the top, but our doubts about that were answered by a friendly Ameren Union Electric worker who stopped his truck to talk to us as we were starting out on our trek.  He encouraged us to walk all the way up the top, telling us that not only would we get a good view of the river, but also that there were ruins at the end of the road of  buildings which once belonged to Principia College.  He was right on both counts, and it was a beautiful hike.  Many trees along the road  are still dressed in their autumnal finery.
Our last stop of the day, before we took two ferries across the Mississippi River for our return trip home to St.Charles County, was outside of the town of Grafton.  We thought that no trip to Calhoun County  is complete without a stop at our favorite restaurant, the Finn Inn.  The eating establishment has several large aquariums filled with fish and snapping turtles.  It is quite a unique experience to be eating a fish dinner while large aquatic animals are staring somberly at you!

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