on the road

the gadlfy in...


gadfly homepage on the road home notes on places capital: Springfield first contact: 1/1980

IL Trip Stats (12/05):


Counties visited: 61+

Best county: Cook Co.

Town visited most (outside Chicagoland): Rockford

Town where I live: Chicago

Places slept in: Chicago, Ingleside, Schiller Park, Mt. Prospect, Deerfield, Springfield, Galena, Elmhurst, Lk Murphysboro SP (tent)

Most impressive town: Chicago

Beside Chicago!: Galena

Scariest town: East St. Louis

Biggest town: Chicago

Most scenic area: Hills of Jo Daviess County between Galena & Freeport

Most scenic spot: Garden of the Gods

Three Words: home, farms, prairie

Best Food: I like Garcia's best, but there are endless opporunities for Chicago specialties like Vienna Beef hot dogs and deep dish pizza.

Road Trips: all of them start here, notably including a few to St. Louis area and Springfield, the Southland trip, Cowboy Trip, the annual Eagle Hunting Pilgrimage, Illinois River trip, Starved Rock (3x), Des Plaines trip (2x), Lk Michigan Loops, and several unplanned day trips


Neighboring States: IN, WI, MO, KY, IA


Major passes: Vertical: I-55 Corridor. I have been to Springfield many times and a few years later I took a trip to Kansas City with my father and aunt and uncle. Since then I have crossed the state via I-55 probably a dozen or more times. Great River Road. I have traveled many lengths of the road, but never continuous through. I-57 Corridor. I have done this twice during a trip to Paducah and all parts south. Horizontal: I-88 Corridor. I have crossed along this route three times that I can remember, usually during Eagle Hunting Trips. I-80 Corridor. State crossed once with my father in 1992.  I-90 & US-20 Corridor. This has been accomplished many times,  usually when on route to Galena. IL-64 & 72. Twice traversed state on North Av and Higgins Rd from Mississippi River to Chicago.


Areas throughly explored: Chicagoland, northern Rock River valley, LaSalle County, Southernmost Illinois, Jo Daviess County


Future Plans: I would like to re-explore the Illinois River from one end to the other. I have a great desire to canoe several areas including: the Illinois and Michigan Canal,  the Cache River area, the Vermilion River, and the long bayou near Kaskaskia.


Four Spirits: Illinois is not an endless of sea of flatness and farms as those who do not get to know it say it is. The northern areas are filled with small dairy farms and small wheatfields, none too far from the next. Communities are tight-knit. A quiet Puritan spirit helped build these small towns and it is still part of the spirit here. In the central part of the state, one feels the spirit of the Spoon River of E.L. Masters. The vast prairie has been transformed into huge farms that defy the imagination in productivity and expanse. Communities gather for church and to get supplies at township centers here and there, but otherwise there is a palpable isolation. The southernmost areas of the state are completely different. Hills and forested valleys are dotted by lakes, tiny farms, and range. Livestock roams the wilderness and the people keep alive the friendly spirit of the South. The cities of Illinois, are hard-nosed, gritty places filled with productive industy and rough, provincial neighborhoods. Most true Chicagoans are offput by its gentrification. The  word 'gentrification' does not apply to places like Springfield, Decatur, and Rockford and probably never will. 

First Contact: I first stepped foot in Illinois the day I took my first steps at my Uncle Glenn's house while he was babysitting. (First attempt to travel too, I guess.) My native land, where I breathed my first breath and probably the place I will be buried.

Since I have been so many places in the counties of "Chicagoland," where I live my life, they are not treated on this page. These include: Cook (my home county), Lake, DuPage, McHenry, Kane, and Will. Any more exotic counties will be listed. I had not traveled very extensively in my state until I was in my twenties.

Chicago.  Chicago will have its own page soon.

Chicagoland. Cook, Lake, DuPage, Kane, McHenry, & Will Counties will have their own section coming soon.

West of Chicagoland

Boone Co. (1982)

Belvidere. Always a pit stop due to cheap gas. Farming and industrial area. See the Dodge auto assembly plant by the side of I-90. Caproa. Once got really lost and ended up passing through here. Quiet farming area.

Winnebago Co. (1982)

Rockford. Like most Chicagoans, I have been here many times. Medium-sized city that is slowly becoming a satellite of Chicago as evidenced by airport. Heavy industry everywhere and a lot of rough neighborhoods so a classic Midwest city. Loves Park. You'll know it by the water tower decorated with a heart. Roscoe. Suburb of Rockford. Rockton. A pleasant suburb of Beloit. Visiting family on the river had the opportunity to explore the Rock River near here. South Beloit. Industrial suburb of Beloit.

Stephenson Co. (1991)

Freeport. Large town  that I always bypass. West of here the influence of Chicago fades and the Great Lakes plains give way to the increasingly rolling hills. Eleroy. Farms nestled in hills.

JoDaviess Co. (1991)

A beautiful gem of a place that I've mostly seen in the winter. Stockton. Woodbine. Elizabeth. One of the most beautiful and real towns of the Midwest. I always remind myself that my teaching certificate is good here while I drive through. Hills surround the town giving panoramic views of the surrounding farmland and forests of the Apple River. Just west of town is a tower open to the public that sits atop one of the hills offering a great view. Such views are not easy to find in the prairie state. Near the highest point in Illinois, a whopping 1235 feet, 600 feet above Chicago. (By the way, that was a sarcastic use of the word whopping.) Galena. Once a major lead mining area, connected to Chicago via railroad, now a tourist hot spot partially because it has the best skiing in the state. The town is situated on several terraces overlooking the small stream of the Galena River. Visiting Galena is like visiting the 19th century. The old frontier buildings are in pristine condition and the gated town is quite picturesque. I like the view from the railroad tracks across the river. I remember seeing the town from this angle as a kid when we visited the area with Aunt Peg and saw a Christmas parade. U.S. Grant's home is located here. Chestnut Mountain. A ski resort full of yuppies south of Galena surrounded by the Mississippi bluffs. Blackjack Road leading to the area is quite dangerous in the fog that often blankets everything in winter. There is a partially paved road that I was driving down in winter of '06 and got my car stuck on the banks of the river in about 2 feet of wet snow and frozen mud. Very fun day. Hanover. West of this town are forests and bluffs. East Dubuque. 

Carroll Co. (2002)

Savanna. An oasis for sure. This town saved my life on more than one road trip. I tend to underestimate the Mississippi bluff country. The town sits on a wash plain of the great river that seems to be half wet every time I see it. On the other side is a huge bluff that is capped by Mississippi Palisades SP. The bridge to Iowa is odd in that it turns many corners on its way through the muck of the river. Mount Carroll. Eastward is an endless sea of farmland.

Ogle Co. (1990)

Never stayed here long, passed through twice in my life, both in the dark. Brookville. Mount Morris. Car dealers and gas stations. Leaf River. Byron. Davis Jct. Nice small town. Monroe Center.

DeKalb Co. (1990)

DeKalb. Home of NIU and not much else for me. Sycamore. Fairdale. Kirkland. Kingston. Genoa. Sandwich.

Whiteside Co. (1990)

The farmers from around here are always calling into WGN. When I think of this place, I think of driving through farmland in the middle of the night. Peace and stars... East Clinton. Unionville. Morrison.

Lee Co. (1990)

Dixon. Drove by the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan not too long after his death. A small white house with a statue out front. Decent-sized town, close to John Deere country.

Rock Island Co. (1990)

Rock Island. Moline. Teice passed through the Quad Cities.

Henry Co. (1990)

Passed through the northwest corner on the way home from Kansas City.

Kendall Co. (1990)

People here consider themselves to be Chicagoans. Well, not on this page! Oswego. Plano. Yorkville.

Grundy Co. (1990)

Goose Lake Prairie. Small section of flat tallgrass prairie and glens that once was the bed of a lake. Prairie wildlife that once occupied the whole state makes its home here at the head of the Illinois River. The nuclear power plant and its massive cooling lake nearby do not help the view or the imagination. Morris. 

LaSalle Co. (2000)

Marseilles. Once drove through and saw a wildfire on the hills of the Illinois River valely. Ottawa. Old city square with monument to Lincoln-Douglas debates. Comfortable river town at confluence of the Fox and Illinois. Starved Rock SP. A stop along the Illinois River made by French explorers through the years. A rocky bluff was the site of a legendary Indian battle in which several warriors starved to death while under siege. The hills and healthy, unspoiled woods of the valley are filled with deer and waterfalls. A rarity in a state once of flat prairie and now of flat corn and wheat farms. Visited a few times for some solitude and eagle hunting. Utica. Small town destroyed recently by a tornado.

---- all other Illinois areas are under contruction----

I-55 Corridor

I-57 Corridor

Mississippi Country

Southernmost Illinois

Alexander Co. (2003)

Cairo. Dickens once described this place as "a grave uncheered by any gleam of promise." Cairo is a rough, sad town of boarded up, moldy buildings. This may be because it has been washed away so many times by the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi. Future City. Most expensive gas outside Canada.

Pulaski Co. (2003)

Cairo. Dickens once described this place as "a grave uncheered by any gleam of promise." Cairo is a rough, sad town of boarded up, moldy buildings. This may be because it has been washed away so many times by the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi. Future City.




A great harbor view of the northern Chicago skyline during the summer. (2008)

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Nothing is more Illinois than big sky and prairie grass accentuated by an oak here and there. This shot was taken at the Chicago Portage. (2004)

Relaxing in my canoe at the Skokie Lagoons near Wilmette. (2005)

Once the capital, Kaskaskia has been flooded so many times that it now houses only 18 residents and switched sides of the river. (2003)

Cypress and tupelo stands in the swamps of the Cache River. (2003)

The interior of the Capitol Rotunda in Springfield. (2008)

I am pretty sure that this was not the Metropolis from the Superman comic books. (2008)

An autumn lake scene from the Shawnee National Forest. (2008)