Jul 25, 2018

Trekking through Kaskaskia, Illinois’ first capital

My home state of Illinois turns 200 in 2018.  That’s a lot of history to discover from two centuries of existence.  And as much as I like to malign where I live, I’ve always had a fondness for learning more about Illinois’ past. 

In a state known for the Windy City and nicknamed the Land of Lincoln, it’s easy to ignore other chapters of Illinois’ history.  For instance, one of the least visited yet historically significant historic sites is that of the state’s first capital.  Thanks to geography, it’s also one of the hardest and most remote places to get to in the entire state.  And, despite once being of huge importance, today it’s the second smallest incorporated community in Illinois with 14 inhabitants. 

For all these reasons, I’ve always been intrigued by Kaskaskia.

Jul 12, 2018

A short hop through Rabbit’s Tavern, Grinnell, Iowa

In a recent blog I mentioned how every town – no matter how big or small – seems to have at least one great signature dive bar.  It may not be dive-ish enough to achieve legendary or infamous status like Chicago's L&L Tavern, but it certainly fits the bill for cheap drinks, no-frills decor and no-nonsense surroundings. 

In the small combination of farm town and liberal college community of Grinnell, Iowa, that dive bar would be Rabbit’s Tavern.   

Jul 8, 2018

Scenes from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield, Ill.

Even commoners like yours truly are sometimes guilty of overlooking the benefits of being a tourist in your hometown.  Perhaps it’s just too easy to take for granted what’s right in front of you.  Or maybe, as what often happens to longtime central Illinois residents, you just get burned out on all things Lincoln-related by the time you’re done with all those school field trips. 

Opening in 2005, The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is the newest Lincoln-related attraction to Springfield, Ill., and by almost all accounts, it’s the top-rated and most rewarding attraction of them all (a handful of the nearly 4,000 Trip Advisor reviewers must still hold a grudge over the Civil War or something …).  In fact, since its opening, the ALPLM has been the most-visited presidential library in the country. 

Jul 2, 2018

A commoner dares to drink at Chicago’s L&L Tavern

I’ve often written of the need for a dive bar hall of fame to commemorate all the dank, dingy and downright dirty drinking establishments that still manage to become cherished for their cheap libations, surly yet friendly bartenders who love to drink as much (if not more) than you, and a feel-right-at-home vibe.  

Every town, big or small, seems to have a bar with a certain degree of divey-ness.  Some have more if they’re lucky.  And then there’s Chicago, which is fortunate enough to have the L&L Tavern, a watering hole worthy of the inclusion in the dive bar hall of fame if there ever was one.  For starters, the L&L Tavern prides itself as being the “Creepiest Bar in the USA.”  And they just may be right.

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...