Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Just returned from a delightful weekend trip to Galena, Illinois, on the state's west border; it's a beautiful historic town that gets overrun with tourists during summertime (it's the 3rd largest Illinois attraction, behind Chicago and Springfield), but retains its blissfully peaceful charm off-season. Galena used to be the world's largest lead mining town, which brought fame and fortune during those boom years of bullet sales, the Civil War - and it's also the hometown of Gen. Ulysses Grant and former president Ronald Reagan. On the downside, the town is reputed to be rather haunted; many of its past dwellers died horribly of lead poisoning before medical science recognized its toxicity.
At the renovated John Dowling House (Galena's oldest home), we were given a guided tour along with two dodgy looking gentlemen (one dressed in full camouflage, who volunteered that he had Tourette's Syndrome and looked like he survived on coffee, cigarettes and squirrel meat - the other fat and unshaven, like a mafioso farmer) who were a little too excited about the woodcutting axes and other sharp objects on display.
Now I know who they were: they were Beavis and Butthead, 30 years later.
Even in tiny storybook towns like Galena, there are dollar stores, and we had to pay a visit. The Galena Family Dollar was nicer than the average dollar store, and we came home with two foam bait buckets, cans of smoked Missouri sausage and potted meat, generic NyQuil, #2 pencils, air fresheners, a can of Bar Keeper's Friend sink cleaner, and a few other cheap goodies that can best be described as Trailer Trash Essentials.
The view from the clean, small, 60's style motel room on Route 20 was worth it all: a sunrise peek down the Galena Territory valley, all rolling cornfields and periodic silos. I'd forgotten towns like this exist, where you have to travel miles to get to a drugstore, grocery or gas station...and on a Sunday? Fuhgeddaboudit. But it was a wonderfully peaceful retreat from traffic, smog, and the ever-present television coverage of the war on Iraq. Consider it a much-needed "sanity break".
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