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Places Visited:

Illinois: Brussels, Wittmond Inn, Kampsville, Jerseyville, Grafton, Hartford, Lewis & Clark Camp River Dubois

2003 Travelogue# 12 Grafton, IL

Mileage: 41052, Traveled: 0 miles
Pere Marquette State Park, Route 100, Grafton, IL 62037 618-786-3323
Electric Hookup, 50-amps, no water/ sewer, gravel pads, $11

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Down the road from us, toward Grafton, is the turn-off for the Brussels Ferry. This ferry connects the mainland of Illinois near the furthermost point of a long peninsula between the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Some of the locals suggested we drive through Calhoun County… OK… Where is Calhoun County? " Oh, just take the Brussels Ferry", they said. This morning we saw Calhoun County and the small town of Brussels, about 8 miles inland.

From the ferry we followed a winding narrow-lane highway over small rolling hills planted in corn and soybeans that were ripe for harvesting. Nearly all the farmhouses had small gardens and many had pumpkin patches full of pumpkins. A cool front had passed through leaving the day crystal clear, the air smelling clean, fluffy white clouds drifting across a dark blue sky…It was a good morning for a drive in Calhoun County.

Arriving at Brussels, which is a spot in the road, we stopped at the Wittmond Inn. The Inn, built in 1847, was once the home of the Wittmond's, and the family still owns it (the 5th generation of ownership). Today however, and for the past 100 years, it is not an Inn but an eating "institution" and our lunchtime adventure.

We entered the white, two-story wood frame home, walking past the stairs and down the hall. Off this entry hall was the dining room and parlor arranged with tables for dining. The hall stopped at the enclosed back porch where we were greeted, seated and served by a hearty young lady who must have spent a lot of time talking to deaf people. She asked, "Are you familiar with our menu?" We said, "no".

She then said," we don't have one but here is what you get for $9, excluding drink and dessert. The first course is a relish tray with pickled beets, homemade corn relish, spiced apple rings, fresh applesauce, cole slaw with sliced carrots and celery. The 2nd course is chicken noodle soup, yeast rolls, and links of our whole hog pork sausage. The 3 rd course is fried chicken, roast beef, gravy, green beans, whole kernel sweet corn, mashed potatoes, and its all served family style". (That means bowls and platters of food are served to replenish our plates…. whoopee!)

Our reply was, "Sounds good to us, bring it on".

Needless to say, the day was not the same after that encounter, but we did enjoy it and paced ourselves enough to split a piece of homemade pecan pie for dessert…can you believe?

Leaving the old Inn/Restaurant, we made our way up the peninsula to Kampsville. There we boarded another ferry, departed Calhoun County and once again crossed the Illinois River. We stopped in Jerseyville at a Super Wal-Mart for supplies. Our next stop, as we headed toward home, was Eckert's Country Store & Farm where we picked our own apples from their orchards. It was fun walking downhill into the groves of ripe Jonathan, Yellow Delicious, and Red Delicious, and choosing the exact ones for our bag. We've had some experience picking fruit, peaches not apples. However, I used the same process in selection, look at them, feel them, then gently pull, if they give and break lose at the stem, they are just right. Later, after eating them, these were delicious apples.

What a day, time to head to the motor home and rest up for tomorrow.

Friday, September 26, 2003

We had another cool front pass through last night. They are coming more frequently, as the season moves into fall. The mornings are cooler with the temperature in the low 40's and the leaves are beginning to change colors.

We planned to pick up our mail this afternoon in Grafton. When we stay in a place, for at least five days, our mail can catch up with us. Our Pak N' Post, in Rockwall, forwards the mail to us in care of General Delivery. Small towns are best to receive mail because they don't lose things as fast. After previously checking, I knew the Grafton postal lady closed for lunch between 11:45 and 1:30.

As we drove into the city, I saw a large riverboat docked at the wharf. Driving to the landing, we got out and walked up to the Mississippi Queen, a large luxurious riverboat that carries passengers on weeklong journeys up and down the River. The boat stopped in Grafton to let passengers disembark to shop the riverfront stores. There at the landing, we recognized a couple from the State Park also investigating the boat; we introduced ourselves and had a nice visit. They were Felix and Sharon Owens from Chesterfield, MO, and they knew our friends, the Schulte's in Hermann, MO.

As we talked, standing in the gazebo at the Rivers edge, the boat's crew prepared to depart. They rolled up the red carpet, brought in the gangplanks, placed them on the front of the boat where you might expect to see bales of cotton. Then, the next sound we heard was the big bass steam horn starting its roll, telling all the Mississippi Queen was once again heading North. What a sound, as the Queen pulled away from the wharf, passengers waving to us from outside their state rooms, the big paddle wheels in the rear churning the water, and all of a sudden this overwhelming music coming from a steam calliope playing Oh, Susanna as it made its way out into the River. For us, it was nostalgic, and another once-in-a lifetime panorama of sight and sound.

We came back to the Park and I spent some time visiting with our neighbors, Forrest and Kathy Healey from Alton, IL. They enjoy coming to the Park since it's so close to their home. They have been very helpful telling about places in the area to visit. I told Forrest about my on going problem of blowing fuses in the Saturn and that Brake Buddy had sent me a 12 volt adapter, which I hadn't gotten around to installing. He is a former Air Force and Dept. of Defense specialist, whose specialty was electrical. He said, "no problem, I will help you install it". That would be on our agenda tomorrow.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

It is really nice to have a Dept of Defense jet aircraft electronic specialist as my next-door neighbor. Today Forrest and I, or I should say Forrest with his able "step and fetch it" assistant hooked up the 12 volt adapter to the battery for the Brake Buddy. I had called around several Saturn Service Departments, talked to a few of their techs, trying to find the best way to go through the firewall. Finally found a tech that had a good recommendation on running the cable. Taking those instructions and some of his tools Forrest cranked it out in less than an hour. I tested it 3 or 4 times and never blew a fuse so, maybe this will be the end of blowing fuses.

This afternoon we drove Route 3 to Hartford, IL to view the Lewis & Clark Camp River Dubois (U.S. National Landmark and State Historic Site) Interpretive Center. We found this to be an excellent museum as it outlines the entire Expedition.

At River Dubois, with some 40 men on December 12,1803, Clark issued the orders that this Camp would be their home and training center. This is where it all came together, where they built their first fortified encampment, learned to work as a team, and built the bond they would need for the Expedition.

The Center's premier exhibit is a cutaway keelboat that is the actual size and replica of the Corp's main vessel. The boat is 55 feet long, with mast erect and sail unfurled. You can observe where all their goods were stored. There is a theater, which offers a short film on Lewis & Clark as well as other rooms that have displays and exhibits telling the complete Illinois history.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Today was a special day; our neighbors, Forrest and Kathy, invited us to brunch. Their son, Brad, daughter- in- law, Nicole, and 1 ½ year old grandson, Conner, arrived to have one of dad's famous NASCAR tailgate breakfast's. Forrest enjoys taking his motor home to the races and prepares an open breakfast for friends. Actually, I think the man was a cook in the Air Force and not an electronics specialist. This is standard breakfast fare for his "tailgaters": link sausage, country ham, maple cured bacon, skillet fried hash browns with onions, French toast, eggs (any way), toast, bowl of fresh fruit, home made preserves, and coffee…Can you believe that? Mind you, we are sitting outside, enjoying the warm sunshine on a beautiful day and smelling these wonderful aromas filling the air. I have to use a quote from a friend, Mike Hendrix…"it doesn't get any better than this?"

The Park is bursting on the weekends with so many families and friends enjoying the fullness of fall. The leaves are starting to turn, there is a special smell is in the air with burning campfires; all this blends into a "Norman Rockwell" setting.

Bob & Peggy Woodall


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