Champaign County Roadtrip! (Part 1 of 3)
(Part 1 of 3) It’s adventure time! This episode, Flat Lincoln and his buddy Fido are heading out for a great day trip to Champaign County! Lets load up the convertible, grab some snacks and masks, and discover the socially-distanced fun to be had in East-Central Illinois!
How to get there? Back roads of course! You never know what you’ll find by exploring the less-traveled hi-ways and bi-ways. Fido had heard rumor of lots of good things about Champaign County, including an imposing woman named Alma, cool architecture, art by Lorado Taft, and a perpetual year-round snowdrift.
The first clue that there were adventures afoot: a sign about a historical marker... mysteriously pointing 3 miles off the main road. What is it!?!? Fido loves a good mystery. Maybe this was where Alma was hiding?
After a long winding drive, they found it. A closer look reveals a nearly 100 year old historical marker from 1922. It’s the rare historic-historical marker! The marker marks Mark’s travels... errr... ooops... Lincoln’s travels along the 8th Judicial District, 1847-1859. It was installed a mere 63 years after his last trip along this road by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Lincoln Circuit Marking Association (not sure who that second group is?). That was closer to his life then than we are today.
Fido insisted his pic be taken at the base, confirming he definitely was in Champaign County (all cornfields look pretty much alike to a two dimensional dog). He kindly left the pennies deposited by previous visitors. Fido only carries $20s and $50s, so he decided it best to not leave any cash.
They jumped back in the car, and quickly encountered another oddity - a chief peering over the back fence along the highway near Mahomet. Was this person the amazing Alma that Fido had heard so much about? The chief said no, he was not, but that Fido would find Alma if he “followed his heart, or I-74, to Urbana.” With that sage advice, it was back in the car.
Before jumping on I-74 as the chief advised, Flat Lincoln pulled up into the parking lot of the Museum of the Grand Prairie in Mahomet. Flat Lincoln grabbed his mask and they headed inside. Luckily for Fido, they fully welcome cartoon dogs in the museum. Plus, they have a Looking for Lincoln sign on their front porch - this was their kind of place!
The museum is as grand as it’s name states, with lots of cool exhibits to explore about the county, Lincoln, and special rotating topics. There’s even a display about glaciers! It’s also home to a rare INDOOR Looking for Lincoln wayside exhibit- learn all about history in air-conditioned comfort.
There are TONS of neat corners to discover....
...including a re-created General Store, with items that would have been found in early Illinois...
.... and they looked up to historic women who helped move the world forward. Fido inquired if either was named Alma, and they confirmed that although they were compatriots in flatness, they were not the mysterious Alma.
Downstairs, they found an entire section of the museum about you-know-who!
In one corner was a scary-looking masked man. Flat Lincoln’s mask flew off in fright, but then he figured out it was just himself saying hi. So they jumped in the wagon and posed for a pic. "Hello, Mr Lincoln, I'm Flat Lincoln." "Hello Flat Lincoln, I'm scary Lincoln!" It appears flat Lincolns and scary Lincolns both like to perpetually hold up one arm.
With his mask re-secured, Flat Lincoln followed Fido to a fun photo-corner with lots of glossy headshots from Lincoln’s glamor days as a fashion model of dark suits & bow ties. Flat Lincoln doubted that this interpretation was accurate, but Fido liked his version of the story. They decided to agree to disagree, but did agree it was time to go. They hit the gift shop on the way out (picking up some postcards and a coffee mug), and moved on to explore more of the county. More Museum info at http://www.museumofthegrandprairie.org/
Upon leaving the museum, they zipped across the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve covered bridge. Who knew there was a covered bridge in Mahomet? Well... the people who live there would know... and tourists... and covered bridge aficionados... and now you know too!
Why is a covered bridge sooooooooo much fun to cross? The tunnel effect? The cool rumbling noise? Or maybe it reminds us of a simpler time. This was quickly becoming the perfect day trip.
Not to far from the bridge was the Mabery Gelvin Botanical Gardens! It has flowers, sculptures, more flowers, ponds, waterfalls, even more flowers, and a Chinese-inspired bridge. To Fido’s dismay, there was an overabundance of arrogant squirrels, his personal nemesis.
Flat Lincoln insisted they get a closer look at the bridge, which was mostly squirrel-free. They had to be careful, as due to their ‘flatness,’ slipping through the cracks was a real possibility. No one wants to end their life being eaten by a rabid koi fish, or carried away by an entitled squirrel.
You gotta stop and smell the flowers. Fido tried to taste a few, but was shoo’d away by a perturbed grounds-keeper.
On the way to out of the Forest Preserve, they stopped by the lake, which was not too far from the golf course and other Forest Preserve sites. The fear of the rabid koi kept them from getting too close to the water, but they enjoyed the last burst of summer as fall was quickly approaching. More info about the Champaign County Forest Preserve sites at https://www.ccfpd.org/
Remembering the Chief's advice from earlier, they ‘followed their heart’ and hit the road to Champaign/Urbana. Fido was happy to get some distance between himself and those arrogant squirrels - hopefully the Chambana squirrels have better attitudes. Come back for Part 2 of the Champaign County Adventure!