Category Archives: Illinois

Illinois Part II: Sycamore

Illinois is one of the states that we covered in phases. Our first stop in Illinois was during November 2014 when we spent Thanksgiving in Effingham, which is located in the southern part of the state. This time we were in the northern part of the State. Still camped amidst a fabric of farm lands, but on the far outskirts of Chicago. Our campground was in the town of Sycamore, the county seat of DeKalb County. It was a nice and small quiet town which was located near a train station that would take us into the Windy City on daytrips. We were there for two weeks in early May of 2015.

The weather wasn’t great during our stay, but on sunny days we were able to walk the dogs around town, hit the tennis ball on the campground’s court, enjoy a campfire, and (in Mike’s case) catch and release the fish in the private lake. We ate out in downtown Sycamore a few times, and we went into Chicago three times. On one weekend Mike and I took the train into the city both Saturday and Sunday. They were two long days, and the dogs were a little pissed at us for abandoning them for more than 9 hours two days in a row. The third daytrip to Chicago was a solo run on my part. Mike stayed at home with the dogs watching golf and tennis while I went back to take a boat tour, do more exploring and eat more good food.

Downtown Chicago from Navy Pier.

Downtown Chicago from Navy Pier.

I spent some authentic tourist time on the Chicago Architecture Boat Tour. It was a great way to see the city and learn about how it developed.

I spent some authentic tourist time on the Chicago Architecture Boat Tour. It was a great way to see the city and learn about how it developed.

We took the METRA Train from Elburn to Chicago (OTC) three times during our stay in Sycamore. Weekend passes were $8 per person. It was a 30 minute drive from our campground to the train station. Then it was an hour and half train ride without delays. It was better than taking the car into the city. Would have taken almost the same amount if time (with traffic), been more stressed, cost us gas money, AND we would have had  to pay another $50+- for a parking garage for the Honda.

We took the METRA Train from Elburn to Chicago (OTC) three times during our stay in Sycamore. Weekend passes were $8 per person. It was a 30 minute drive from our campground to the train station. Then it was an hour and half train ride without delays. It was better than taking the car into the city. It would have taken almost the same amount of time (with traffic), been more stressed, cost  gas money, AND we would have had to pay another $50+- for parking.

 

The landscape around Sycamore and the rest of Northern Illinois includes vast fields with farm houses and grain silos dotting the scenery.

The landscape around Sycamore and the rest of Northern Illinois includes vast fields with farm houses and grain silos dotting the scenery.

The most bizarre neighbors we have ever encountered parked beside us at the Sycamore RV Resort. One converted horse trailer with individualized compartments, all with exterior access only; seven doors on one side and four on the other. I think 8 were sleeping bunks, 2 were small bathrooms, and one was the master compartment. It was longer than 45 feet. It came with two dooley trucks and at least nine carnies. Three women/girls and the rest were men of various ages, with altering numbers of teeth, and different layers of body ink.  Three bunks and one bathroom opened up to our little campsite yard. We shared our site with them for several days. We kept the doors to the rig and the car locked at all times.

The most bizarre neighbors we have ever encountered parked beside us at the Sycamore RV Resort. One converted horse trailer with individualized compartments, all with exterior access only; seven doors on one side and four on the other. I think 8 were sleeping bunks, 2 were small bathrooms, and one was the master compartment. It was longer than 45 feet. It came with two LOUD Dooley trucks and at least nine carnies. Three women/girls and the rest were men of various ages, with altering numbers of teeth, and different layers of body ink. Three bunks and one bathroom opened up to our little campsite yard. We shared our site with them for several days. We kept the doors to the rig and the car locked at all times.

Here is a view of our community camping space while the carnies were in town.

Here is a view of our community camping space while the carnies were in town.

People would get on the train with open cans and bottles of beer, so Mike decided he would enjoy our ride home on Sunday night with the help of some tequila over ice. It didn't make the end of the trip any more fun after a 40-minute delay due to lane switching problems.

People would get on the train with open cans and bottles of beer, so Mike decided he would enjoy our ride home on Sunday night with the help of some tequila over ice. It didn’t make the end of the trip any more fun after a 40-minute delay due to lane switching problems.

After our American Gothic photo from Eldon, Iowa, it only seemed appropriate that we should seek out the real deal while visiting  the Art Institute of Chicago.

After our American Gothic photo from Eldon, Iowa, it only seemed appropriate that we should seek out the real deal while visiting the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Willis (Sears) Tower from my boat tour.

The Willis (Sears) Tower from my boat tour.

The Willis (Sears) Tower on a soggy Sunday.

The Willis (Sears) Tower on a soggy Sunday.

There is a pedestrian bridge that crosses Lake Front Drive at Millennium Park at the Lake Michigan's edge in downtown Chicago. I thought it looked like a giant metal snake slithering over the cars below.

There is a pedestrian bridge that crosses Lake Front Drive at Millennium Park on Lake Michigan’s edge in downtown Chicago. I thought it looked like a giant metal snake slithering over the cars below.

A reflection of Michigan Avenue in 'The Bean'.

A reflection of Michigan Avenue in ‘The Bean’.

A view from our morning walks around the little lake in our campground.

A view from our morning walks around the little lake in our campground.

When we walked our dogs in Sycamore, it was usually through the sidewalks of downtown and the adjacent historic neighborhood. That made it  convenient to stop on a patio for some post walking drinks and snacks.

When we walked our dogs in Sycamore, it was usually through the sidewalks of downtown and the adjacent historic neighborhood. That made it convenient to stop on a patio for some post walking drinks and snacks. A counter productive activity after exercising, but fun all the same. Piper and Cessna know all about waiting during happy hour.

Moscow Mules on a random Thursday afternoon.

Moscow Mules on a random Thursday afternoon.

Illinois Part I: Effingham

Effingham. Doesn’t that sound like a cuss word? I think it does. I had lots of fun with that joke for the two weeks we stayed at the Lakewood Campground. When we got up in the morning, I demanded Mike make me some Effingham coffee. Then the Effingham water pressure was bad. We cleaned the Effingham kitchen after dinner. That joke never got old for me.

Actually, that joke was pretty much the highlight of our stay in Effingham… aside from Thanksgiving. Effingham is an agricultural community in the middle of southern Illinois where I-57 and I-70 intersect. The population is only about 12,000. There wasn’t a lot to see in the area (most farm fields look the same after awhile). The weather was cold and gloomy during most of the two weeks we were there, so we didn’t get out too much. After arriving to our new campground, we realized we completed the Eastern Time Zone back in Indiana, and had made it back to Central Time with this stop in the Land of Lincoln. I was excited about the change until I realized I had to make another adjustment for the time change just like I did a few weeks earlier when Daylight Saving Time came into effect. Sunsets at 4:30 PM are not invigorating. The early darkness just makes me want to be a lazy sloth.

We just did normal and boring things while we were at this stop. We ran some errands; got haircuts; Mike got a blood test to make sure his thyroid works properly after his surgery. We did grocery shopping and had a nice Thanksgiving. During the times when the weather did clear, we tried to take the dogs for nice walks. One of the hike & bike trails in town was closed for deer hunting season, so that option was eliminated. Another day we went to a Nature Center on the outskirts of town. The trails were so wet and muddy, we both had to throw away our tennis shoes when we got back home!

We took only one road trip to the small town of Vandalia, which was the state capital for a brief time in history. We planned on spending the afternoon walking around town and exploring all the small town businesses. When we arrived we found a downtown that was one block long, and had about three businesses open. Needless to stay, our “afternoon” outing turned out to be a 15 minute pit stop. I was so discouraged after that daytrip, I didn’t suggest we go see any other sights for the rest of our Effingham stay.

 

The weather was cold and miserable while we were in Effingham, so we only got to have two campfires outside. Repeat after me: "cabin fever".

The weather was cold and miserable while we were in Effingham, so we only got to have two campfires outside. Repeat after me: “cabin fever”.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Even though we were alone in a strange location, I was not inclined to skimp on our turkey day dinner. Thank goodness Mike is willing to eat leftovers for days on end.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Even though we were alone in a strange location, I was not inclined to skimp on our turkey day dinner. Thank goodness Mike is willing to eat leftovers for days on end.

Our neighborhood geese enjoying an icy Thanksgiving morning.

Our neighborhood geese enjoying an icy Thanksgiving morning.

Thanksgiving morning at our campground.

Thanksgiving morning at our campground.

It snowed most of the night before thanksgiving.

It snowed most of the night before thanksgiving.

Our campground was on a little lake on the outskirts of Effingham. The sunrises and sunsets were very peaceful.

Our campground was on a little lake on the outskirts of Effingham. The sunrises and sunsets were very peaceful.

Most of the people who stayed at Camp Lakewood drove in at dusk and stayed one night while en route to another destination. The place was basically empty by 9:00 in the mornings until new folks began to arrive around 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoons. Since we were there for the long duration of two weeks, the campground manager gave us the 'best' spot. Not much to look at, but the building beside us ended up blocking lots of wind. Actually, the campground had 80% of its water hook-ups turned off for winter... so with what was available, this spot did turn out to be a good one.

Most of the people who stayed at Camp Lakewood drove in at dusk and stayed one night while en route to another destination. The place was basically empty by 9:00 in the mornings until new folks began to arrive around 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoons. Since we were there for the long duration of two weeks, the campground manager gave us the ‘best’ spot. Not much to look at, but the building beside us ended up blocking lots of wind. Actually, the campground had 80% of its water hook-ups turned off for winter… so with what was available, this spot did turn out to be a good one.

After we FINALLY finished eating our Thanksgiving leftovers, Mike made fried chicken for dinner. He makes the best fried chicken - which is unfortunate for my thighs.

After we FINALLY finished eating our Thanksgiving leftovers, Mike made fried chicken for dinner. He makes the best fried chicken – which is unfortunate for my thighs.

Since we were cooped up in our warm and dry house during most of our stay, Cessna watched lots of Cesar the Dog Whisper on television.

Since we were cooped up in our warm and dry house during most of our stay, Cessna watched lots of Cesar the Dog Whisperer on television.