The Great River Road
We set off this morning from Quincy to drive along the Great River Road, north to Davenport, one of the Quad Cities. Shortly after we hit open countryside, we screeched to a half by an historic marker which told the story of the Mormon Exodus from Missouri and this abandoned village.
We were driving through fields of corn and soybean, having read that Illinois is the #2 producer of such crops in the US. Later in the day, we might have felt as if we’d driven through every one of those fields, but for now, it was a lovely landscape. As you can tell from the photo, we were not travelling along major highways!
Soon we were in Warsaw where I just had to get out and take a closer look at the lamposts. Each one was different, celebrating various highlights of the town.
Though the town was well kept, sadly, as in many of these small towns, the commercial heart of the town seems to have gone. Such a lovely group of old buildings but very little business on this Monday morning.
Our main reason for stopping here was the site of an old fort, high above the river. Had the trees not been there, I imagine we’d still have had a great view, but for now, we made do with a glimpse of a passing barge.
Back on the River Read then, following the signs and trying to keep track of where we were.
As we entered Hamilton, we caught an eyeful of this huge mansion, completely out of proportion to anything else in the area. Who lives in a house like this, we wanted to know!
From time to time we stopped in a viewpoint and took a closer look at the river.
Occasionally, someone stopped us as they went about their Monday morning activity.
We were enjoying the ride, though the road often strayed well back from the river itself and perhaps it was time for a break.
We’d identified Nauvoo as somewhere interesting to stop and drove into the old village and found a parking spot. It looked like something was going on here – were we in time to see something special?
We spotted the sign for the Cultural Hall and climbed the steps to go inside where a group of people were sitting listening to a presentation. We crept into some seats and listened.
I know, I ought to have read about the place more carefully because then I’d have known that Nauvoo is a former settlement of the LDS community and is now run as an historic site. That would have explained why the presentation had a religious tenor…
That didn’t worry me too much. We’d been welcomed warmly and I found the bakers house interesting, too.
The village had the same kind of vibe as Colonial Williamsburg or Old World Wisconsin with a collection of restored buildings and interpreters to bring the place to life. But we didn’t seem to have started in the right location – perhaps there was a visitors centre where we could learn a little more about the village?
We found the Visitors Centre and made our way inside, where I explained how we’d reached this point and asked if perhaps we might have some advice about where to begin learning a little more about the history of the village and life here. Sister Andersen, a delightful young missionary was introduced and she began to tell us a little about Nauvoo. As the conversation progressed away from the village and more towards the church however, we felt a little uncomfortable so thanked her sincerely and returned to the car.
Actually, we had arrived in one of the busiest periods of the year here, during the summer Pageant. Many families and other LDS groups were here, enjoying the beautiful parkland and the wealth of activities which were organised for them. There were groups of young LDS performers; musicians and actors, all putting on shows and performances throughout the day.
But this wasn’t our community. We didn’t feel we belonged here. So, although we could have visited any of these historic buildings and (I assume) participated in any of the activities, we didn’t.
We did spend much of the day reflecting on the experience, though!
We had plenty of time driving gravel roads to do that
The Byways of America. Recommended!
After a while, we turned onto a rather larger road and hit – the road works!
At least it gave us a closer look at the corn. Not yet quite as high as an elephant’s eye…
After the road works, we came upon a sudden junction – right or left? We followed the River Road sign and turned left…and found ourselves crossing the Mississippi (unintentionally!) But there’s no way of making a U turn on a bridge…
Which is how we found ourselves in Iowa (state #44 wooop woooop!) Our sandwich lunch in the bakery and cafe was great – though perhaps it would have been better to have arrived and ordered before the family with twelve children?! (Their bill came to $175)
At least my hero got to see a rather smart engine.
As we went to return over the (swing) bridge, there was a slight problem…it had swung open!
So we went a little further on the Iowa side and crossed back over the next one instead – this one didn’t have a toll, either, so we got out of Iowa free!
Oh, and speaking of elephant’s eyes…
Roadside America strikes again. Dear old Norma Jean, the elephant with a travelling circus, was tied to a tree here in Oquawka when lightning struck and killed her. She was buried right here where she fell, where there is now a memorial with a rather tacky elephant on top. Someone had left a bunch of (plastic) roses at the foot of it too.
Oh yes, we do see the highlights!
Now, we are in one of the Quad Cities, Davenport (Iowa) where the 95F weather has provoked some very dark skies. We’ll have a couple of nights here to explore a little of this SE corner of Iowa before our last stop in Chicago later in the week.
The fun continues!