After some brainstorming, we decided to take Route 20 toward Galena. I'd been there as a little girl, but only vaguely remembered it. Galena is a little town in northwestern Illinois, right across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa. It's actually a pretty popular weekend getaway for city residents hoping to escape Chicago's madness, so we were a little concerned it might be crowded with tourists. But we'd read about the gorgeous hills in the area (which apparently escaped the massive glaciers that made the rest of our state excruciatingly flat), and figured that if all else failed, we could at least explore the scenery and move on.
Rendezvous Coffee, a cute little coffee shop on the main drag with local art on the walls and an area in the front for live music, then took a stroll up and down the street. It seemed like there were a lot of cool things to check out, and thanks to the chilly weather, it wasn't nearly as crowded as we'd anticipated. We decided to check into a hotel and stay for the night so we could explore.
Peace of the Past (super cute used book and antique shop), and Otto's Place (where we had the most incredible breakfast Saturday morning).
We got up early Saturday morning, did some more random exploration, then said goodbye to Galena and headed south. Saturday was probably my favorite part of our trip because it felt the most like an adventure. Aside from looking to see where we were starting and the occasional glance to make sure we were heading in the general direction of home, we barely used a map. We just drove.
From there we hopped on 64 west (which, if you have a lot of time to kill, actually takes you right into downtown Chicago). And then... we passed through farmland. And more farmland. And yep, more farmland. I won't lie; this part of our journey was boring. Our remedy was to blast the music and sing heavy metal songs at the top of our lungs until we came upon the next cool thing.
Oregon. The town is nestled upon the Rock River (which is soooo pretty), and from the road, we noticed a huge statue of a Native American on a bluff from across the river. We decided to cross over and check it out, and after driving through a lush nature area full of budding woods and blooming flowers, there it was. And friends, it was glorious. We learned that over a hundred years ago, the area was an arts colony, founded by sculptor Lorado Taft and populated by Chicago artists. In addition to its residents, many famous artists, architects and writers spent time at the colony. Over a three year period beginning in 1908, Taft and another sculptor from the Art Institute of Chicago designed and built a 50-foot tall statue called "Black Hawk," as a tribute to the many Native American tribes that once inhabited the area. The statue is massive (the second largest monolith statue in the world!), and is part of the National Register of Historic Places. And yes, all of this impressed me. An art colony in the middle of rural Illinois? So bad ass. I'm glad we stopped, because it was cool to see the structure up close and to learn this little area in the middle of nowhere had been a well-known, thriving creative collective waaay back in the day.
If you made it this far (and your browser actually allowed the ridiculous amount of images in this post to load), you rock! I can't stress enough how rewarding a mini spontaneous adventure can be you guys. For real. When I think of all the time I spent in cars and RVs in my early 20s (the majority of my life at the time was a road trip), I'm amazed at the fact that I'd basically completely forgotten how awesome it is to just GO. Day trips or even quick overnight trips like ours cost next to nothing, don't require missing a lot of work or commitments, and can be a great way to make fun last-minute plans with your partner, friends, family, or even alone. The next time you're feeling overwhelmed with life, just try it. Then come back and share your story (you can thank me later. :))
Do you have anything fun planned this weekend? A spontaneous adventure? Visit from the Easter Bunny? Whatever you do, I hope it's wonderful. See you Monday!