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A Wee Bit o’ the Irish

June 22, 2013

Illinois – Saturday, June 15

I woke up to gray skies and drizzle and took my time in leaving for the day. The rain eventually let up temporarily, so after breakfast I headed out to see if I could find one of the rail trails in the area, so I could get a couple miles of walking in before the next round of showers. But first I had to go to the post office – I’d been taking care of some things that needed to get mailed, and in finding the post office, I also found my unexpected donation-of-the-day! I always enjoy when that happens!

I was driving along the road to the post office when I noticed some kids on one of the street corners, holding a big poster board sign saying something about a bake sale to benefit Irish dancers. That got my attention, but I needed to get to the post office first, and simply hoped they would still be there when I came back through. And they were. I pulled in and found out what the bake sale was for – a group of Irish dance students from the Isle of Erin Irish Dance studio were raising funds to help them travel out to New Jersey to compete in the national competition. When I got there, 3 dancers were in their new costumes, and were doing some dance steps out on the corner to draw attention to their bake sale. I met their instructors and they told me that all entry fees have been paid, and the fundraising was to help pay for gas to drive all their equipment out and stuff. And I’m happy to support a dance group on a road trip! This is actually only the 3rd dance group I’ve made a donation to, so I was very happy to run across them. This bake sale had originally been scheduled a couple weeks earlier, but the bad storms that came through Illinois a few weeks ago interfered with that. I also bought some homemade baklava at the bake sale, and was very happy I had to go to the post office, or I wouldn’t have seen them. Good luck, Erin’s dancers!

With good directions from the dance instructors, I found the Rock Island Trail, and Tula and I were able to get 3 miles of walking in before the rain started up again. Thunder started rumbling when we were heading back to the van, and I was walking fast – at one point I even did some jogging (and I really don’t like to run!) to get back to the car before the rain started, and Tula thought that was some kind of fun new game. That didn’t last long though! I can walk for miles and miles and have never understood how people can run for miles! We only got a little wet.

Since I had had internet problems last night, I took my computer into a local McDonald’s (nearly all of them have free wi-fi) to catch up with some stuff while I waited for the rain to let up again. Once it stopped, it cleared up pretty fast, and I drove into downtown Peoria to find the riverfront. I got almost 3 more miles of walking in along the paths by the Illinois River. There was a rock memorial along the river for Dan Fogelberg, who was born in Peoria. There was also a Steamboat Festival going on with carnival rides and food and stuff – it was surprising how much more crowded it was on my way back since the rain had moved on and the sky was blue.

After Peoria, I wanted to head down toward Springfield. I was planning to go to the Lincoln National Historic Site in the morning, and it was a good time to get in the car for a while and I enjoyed a pretty drive through farmland – blue sky, green fields of corn and white farmhouses and barns. When I was close to Springfield, I saw signs for the cemetery where Lincoln’s tomb is located. It was evening by now, but the cemetery gates were still open, and I went in and found Lincoln’s tomb. It was huge and wonderful, and it made me wonder why I couldn’t recall ever seeing even a picture of it. It never occurred to me to wonder where he was buried – I spent time at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, and maybe I thought he was buried there. I took some pictures, but since it was after 5pm, I couldn’t go inside the tomb to see the actual gravestone. There was also a bigger-than-lifesize sculpture of Lincoln’s head in front of his memorial, and the nose on him literally glowed. A local couple told me that everyone rubs his nose for good luck, which is what I figured it was, and I had already touched it for good luck! There were also a lot of pennies (with Lincoln heads on them of course) around the base of the sculpture. The sculptor’s name looked familiar – Gutzon Borglum – and it made me think of Mt. Rushmore, which I looked up later and it was the same guy. I also drove over to the area that had memorials for the veterans.

By this time it was getting dark and the cemetery gates were going to close, but there was a long street leading up to the cemetery that was divided like a boulevard, and there were lots of lightposts in the grassy area between the lanes, and it made a pretty place to get our last mile of walking done for the day.

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