Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Across the Lincoln Highway: Dixon to Clinton, IA and Home Again

Yeah, I know. Long time, no post. I have several good excuses, which range from: my kids, to the half marathon I'm training for, to sleeping, which I like to do sometimes. And back to my kids again. I also have written a couple of pieces by the request of a local TV show for their blog. (Before you picture me actually breathing on my fingernails and buffing them on my sleeve, things seem to be in a bit of an overhaul over there, and this may never get seen by anyone.) I'm only writing at this moment by the mercy of my elder child, who requested an early bedtime tonight. And I thought I should sit down and record that before the earth blew up beneath me.

Okay, so as you most likely do not remember, since it was posted two months ago, we woke up in Dixon, IL, on the last leg of our Lincoln Highway trip. Things looked much better (read, "not Deliverance") in the morning, except for this:

This mural, at our Dixon hotel, was entitled "the Illinois Presidents." If you know your presidential birthplaces, and I don't know why you would, you know why that's funny. Before you begin Googling, I'll just tell you that only one of them was born in Illinois, and probably not the one you were hoping for. (And not in Dixon, either.)

But before I get started taking away from ol' Dixon, let me build it up a little! It is the "boyhood home" of President Reagan. He was born in Tampico, but said he considered Dixon "home." Good enough for me, Mr. President.

So we had a lot of nice experiences in Dixon, but let me relate this one. We happened to get a piece of luck, for the third time on our trip, and happen on an old theater that just happened to be open. The folks that run the Dixon Theatre just happened to be giving the first presentation (before the official dedication) of a restored Barton Pipe Organ. They let us up on stage to see it up close, and told us all about the theatre.

There are only a few operating in the world, and they asked us if we'd like to meet the man that donated the organ, ha ha ha. He was very private, and he just happened to be there very briefly. Remember the suited cat that advised us that there are nicer places to eat than the Galena Steak House (but perhaps none in Dixon at that time of night?) Turns out, he was the organ donor, ha ha, ohhh, that never gets old. He gave us an official poster of the opening performance, and I corrected him on the quality of the chicken fingers at the Galena. I'm so full of sass.

We made a lot of stops in Dixon, but food-wise, we were headed for the Iowa border before our next experience. We crossed out of Fulton, IL, and into Clinton, IA.

And look, a real working windmill in Fulton! (More tours, more cool people that I won't bore you about. Plus, I do have that early bedtime.)

The windmill does grind and sell grain, so that's food-related, though we didn't buy any. I needed some food of the prepared variety.

After some browsing through Clinton, and realizing that our first choice was closed for the day, we liked the looks of Nora's Cafe.

Inside, you could sit at a booth, a table, or right in yo' chef's binniss.

I liked the looks of the "Juicy Potato Soup." I mean, how could you not order that? I figured it was a non-creamy soup, and the name was their way of telling you that. I was right. I guess Nora and I think the same way.

That was delicious, and for my meal, I got the old-school diet plate. I know you're rolling your eyes, but I loves me a diner diet plate: meat, and sliced veggies. This one was extra-deluxe, with fruit and eggs. And I loved that the friendly waitress asked me "what kind of dressing I wanted with that." Don't want to lean it out too much, do we?

Chris tried to order three pancakes. He was strongly advised by our waitress that three was a lot of food. That's okay, he said. I mean, like a LOT, she said. I really like pancakes, he said. I've never seen someone eat four, she said, but if you eat two, I'll bring you three. I saw the competitive spark (the one he denies is there) light in Chris' eyes. This is him, making the "are you kidding me?" face when two arrived. Clearly this woman is unaware of the carb-hog, and automatic gainsayer, that she's dealing with.

He horked down his two cakes, and she offered to bring another. He passed on it. Here's where I love to say that officially, he only ate two. I know this will drive him crazy, and that's what kind of person I am.

Lincoln, you were tons of fun, man. I have always said that about you.

Back to the land that was named for you, along the road that was named for you, we were glad to get home to our wee folks, and our own house.

At the beginning of our trip, Chris began to take the info sheet we had printed for each town, and as we passed through the town, crumble it up and toss it over his shoulder into the back seat. This never failed to make me laugh. What can I say? That's how two hyper-planners cut loose. Here is the product of our trip: Illinois, you have been smoked and cashed!

So that's the last post on this little fall trip. Not long now before I'm blogging about our recent trip to Napa, CA! If I play my cards right, this blog may not involve any actual cooking on my part for quite some time.

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