Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cross-State Day Trip

But first, a diversion... I mentioned in our last post that it was iris season - most of their flowers are at their showy peak. But as we see outside our sunroom window every day, the resident Canada Geese babies are at their peak too! The little canoe beach is perfect for them to enter and leave the water, and the manicured lawns here are perfect for them to graze with a clear shot to any predators or escape back to the Fox River. In this particular group there were at least 30 goslings, at various stages of development, still a few yellow fuzzballs, some larger ones changing to their darker brown already. They all elicit laughs as they run and flap their little wing nubs as they copy mom and dad.

Whenever we spend our week here in Illinois, Sundays are typically reserved for the drive to Iowa to visit the Ketelsen family. All of the sibs live within a 45 minute drive to Clinton County and the Mississippi River near where they grew up. And Sundays are the easiest time to make plans for a get-together or share a meal. It is a straight shot west on the Interstate 88 tollway, getting us to Clinton in just over 2 hours. This particular visit, our Aunt Velma, who we usually stop to visit or kidnap to join us, had other plans; and sister Linda had an afternoon church function, so leaving St Charles at noon we had a couple hours to do some exploring.

First up was a place we've driven past many times, and no, the picture is not of a recent tornado strike, but rather, the grounds of "Barnyard Antiques", on Highway 136 east of Fulton, IL. Click on the photo to load the full size image and to find Melinda among the "collection". A couple years back, the main highway was closed, and the detour was past the barn and yard piled high with "stuff" that we always wanted to stop and explore. Well on Sunday we had the time and inclination. The barns were pretty much heaped high and impenetrable, but at least the yard had aisles of sorts to get around. James, the proprietor, has been at it about 15 years and might have just what you need from recycled building supplies to old farm tools of all kinds. We decided that nothing was calling our names that day, but you never know about a return visit.

From there we crossed the Mississippi and turned north a few miles to Eagle Point Park, built on a bluff overlooking the broad pool built up behind lock and dam 11. I can't tell you the number of times the Ketelsens and their relatives picnicked there over the decades, but it has to be in the hundreds! It is a very nice park by any standard with lots of lawns, playgrounds and ballparks for kids to tire themselves out, as well as shady pavilions and picnic tables for adults. The overlooks provide a nice view of fishermen in the River, as well as barge traffic plying the waters. Here is a large barge moving north out of the locks. We also spotted a small flock of White Pelicans, the second largest bird in the country (behind the California Condor). They never got very close, seemingly a mile away, but this shot blew up nicely to make a positive ID.

After a cruise through downtown to reminisce about the "Olden Days", we still had a few minutes to spare before hitting DeWitt and the pizza feed, so we swung past Uncle John's place, where I spent a multitude of summers working on his farm. The farming operation consists of only crops now, much of the pastures and woods cleared for a housing development. He and Aunt Judy confirmed they were headed out for pizza too, so we headed west to the farming community of DeWitt and Happy Joe's Pizza, located right across the street from the Pizza Hut. Both have been in business for decades, so there must be enough business for both in the town of 5,000.

It was nice as always to see everyone. Of course, sister Sheri and her family lives in San Antonio, so they were not there, and brother Jim, as always, was having a LONG day retrieving his daughter Breanna from Luther College in Decorah followed by chores, so he wasn't there either. But there were about a dozen of us to catch up on news... Star of the show was again great niece Alivia - the camera just loves her and she has a good time mugging for it as well. And surprise, Breanna the returning college student made an appearance (shown here with sister Linda on the left)! She is on her way to a medical mission trip to Haiti in a couple weeks, so she is having a whirlwind summer planned.

After 3 hours (!) of chowing and visiting, it was time to return east. It seemed strange to be returning to the Chicago area when it was still light, but the northern sun and daylight savings time helped that too. We were back home by 10:30 - early for us, but it was a great day trip to visit family!

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