The Little Giant and the Mighty Mississippi

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Got a bunch to report since leaving Chicago, but in the interest of catching you up to my present condition, I will try to fit it all into one post.

Chicago, of course, is crazy for Lincoln.  Grant Park features an imposing statue of him and the neighborhood we stayed in was named Lincoln Park.  But also fondly remembered out in these parts is his great rival, Stephen Douglas.  Indeed, our final stop before leaving this sprawling metropolis was the late senator’s tomb.  Known as the Little Giant due to his diminutive stature, Douglas was more than a presidential also-ran.  In the latter stages of the campaign, with Lincoln’s victory assured, Douglas toured the country and exhorted his fellow countrymen to resist the urge to secede. While war did break out, he was successful in keeping the Democratic Party together, making it one of the few national organizations to survive into the post-war years.

The drive through northwestern Illinois took us through the Chicago suburbs and into the countryside, which was quite reminiscent of the Ohio countryside.  What made the area distinct, however, was a small pricing oddity: gas was exactly $3.99 at every gas station we passed for a good fifty miles.  I smell collusion.

Our only major stop for the day was in Freeport, Illinois, site of one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.  Held in 1858 during their contest for the Senate, these debates still hold up as one of the most significant events in American history that didn’t end with someone pushing up daisies.  The town is well aware of this fact, with a commemorative park occupying the spot where these two legendary statesmen once clashed over slavery.

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From Freeport, it was a peaceful drive into the Midwest’s version of the Tri-State area (here the three states are Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin) and what turned out to be our first instance of culture shock.  At a pizzeria in Galena, Illinois, this is considered a small:

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As Paul said, “Dude, this whole obesity thing totally makes sense now”.

After that delicious yet gluttonous meal, we ended the night by roughing it a little bit – and by that I mean we slept in a Walmart parking lot (technically illegal, but who’s counting).

The next day was devoted entirely to the coolest small town we’ve yet to come across: Dubuque, Iowa.  Crossing the state border (delineated by the Mississippi River) by mid-morning, we then found a bed and breakfast, allowing us to sleep in comfort for the night.  This is what Dubuque, the oldest town in Iowa, had to offer: a stunning county courthouse, which easily ranks among the top 5 buildings I’ve seen thus far; an invigorating boat cruise down the Mississippi River on the Spirit of Dubuque; a historic and charming downtown; and tasty regional beer called Potosi.  So, the next time you find yourself out in Iowa, make sure to stop in Dubuque, the self-described “Masterpiece on the Mississippi”.

Dubuque County Courthouse

Dubuque County Courthouse

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