July found me headed back to the Midwest to attend the 2023 North America TBEX conference in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. My Midwest road trip consisted of six states and about 3000 miles of driving round trip. A long journey, yes; tiring, yes; worth it, yes.
I decided on a direct route north. In the afternoon, I headed off to Canton, MS, not to tire myself on the first leg.
The following day I arrived in West Branch, IA, and visited the Hoover Presidential Library for the second time. My guide, Frank, was a wealth of information, and we had a delightful time as we shared stories.
In the afternoon, I visited the U.S. Grant House State Historic Site in Galena, IL. Having arrived late, and due to the crowd, it was just a photo op. That evening I made it to Madison, WI. I drove through four states that day.
Sunday, I was on the way to the EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh, which was a bucket list item for me. It did not disappoint. That evening I stayed overnight in Marshfield, WI, and found a delightful place for dinner, Melody Gardens. Much loved by the locals. Their homemade ice cream capped off a busy day.
I made it to Eau Claire before my pre-bex trip by eleven. The tour of the Sculpture Tour was delightful. We visited the Local Store for some retail therapy and had pizza for lunch at the host hotel, The Lismore at the Informalist restaurant was delicious. Then we were off to do a pottery project at Half Moon Clay. We finished our day out in Eau Claire with wine and music at 200 Main Art and Wine.
I was delighted to learn that Mobile Hometown legend Hank Arron had played baseball in Eau Claire. A trip to find his statue was the first order of my day. Day two pre-bex had me having Craft Beer and Cheese curds at six different breweries in town. It was too much! Court N House, Modicum, The District Pub, Lazy Monk Brewing, The Livery, The Brewing Projekt, and 3rd and Vine gave us a fun-filled day of drinking and some tasty treats.
After two days of conference learning, exploring Eau Claire, catching up with old friends, and generally having a good time, it was time to hit the road for home.
Stops Along the Journey Home
My first stop was Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home. It was a magnificent space. I stayed overnight in Madison again and stopped by the Capitol, which was very busy, then took a quick pic at the Unitarian Meeting House, another Wright creation.
The Historic Auto Attractions in Rosco, IL, is a fantastic place! Plenty of presidential history here. They have about a dozen presidential automobiles that served several presidents. The Kennedy Collection is one of the largest in the county, and you will be amazed at the artifacts you will find here. The owner, Wayne Lensing, was kind enough to give me an up-close look at the collection. Tony Fuller, the museum historian, had lots of information to share. I wish I could have stayed longer.
I stopped at the Laurent House, another Wright creation, but missed the tour by fifteen minutes. Then it was onto Dixon, IL, and a photo op of the Reagen boyhood home. They were closed to tours due to a special event. I ended the day with a photo op at the Lincoln Heritage Museum in Lincoln, IL, then overnighted in Springfield.
Checking into the Abraham Lincoln Doubletree Hotel was easy, but I wasn’t impressed with the rooms. It needs renovation. They were kind enough to change my room because I would have faced the Allman Brothers Band concert bandstand.
Sunday began with Abraham Lincoln Museum and Library. It had a good film and artifacts, and the ghost’s holographic presentation was interesting. I swung by the capital for a quick visit, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, for an excellent tour by the national park service. This was where Lincoln received notice that he had been elected President. I ended my tour of Springfield at the Lincoln Tomb. It was impressive. I went for a photo op at the Dana Thomas House, another Wright creation. My thanks to Visit Springfield, Illinois, for providing the details for an itinerary for my visit.
I drove on to Jefferson City, MO, for an overnight stay at a Doubletree hotel and a visit to the Missouri capital. On Monday, I visited Fulton, MO, for America’s National Churchill Museum. It is an impressive museum. More impressive is that they transported an entire church to Fulton from London in 1965 to serve as the museum. Then I made my last site visit in St. Louis with a tour of the Grant National Historic Site. Again I had a terrific tour of the farm with the National Park Service. Then it was one to Dyersburg, TN, for my last overnight.
I was home after seven hours of straight driving late Tuesday afternoon. And glad to be. Road trips are great. They give you time and flexibility to explore areas that you find interesting. My only problem was that twelve days on the road was a lot to do.
Doing my laundry a couple of times helped in packing less. While I had a small suitcase in the car, I only took a tote bag into the hotel with my clothes and laptop bag that I needed for the night and the following day. This made getting in and out much easier and less to keep up with. I stayed exclusively at Hilton properties, in either a Hampton Inn or a Doubletree.
I found Hampton’s much better for what I needed for my stay. Both Doubletree’s need renovation. Also, the $15 travel credit provided for meals at the Doubletree did not cover the breakfast charge. On both occasions, a buffet breakfast was offered for $19, and a cooked breakfast was $15. I took issue with this on both stays. In Springfield, they reduced the breakfast charge to $15, and in Jefferson City, I received 10% off the bill. I think, if offered, most guests choose the buffet.
The hotels were all comfortable, a couple more than others. You can see my short videos on the hotel and site visits here.
It was a long trip but satisfying. I would recommend a Midwest Road trip. I had a great time at the TBEX conference, seeing friends and visiting several places that had been on my list for a long time. Also, I could check Wisconsin off my list of 50 states. Only four more to go!