What Better Way to Celebrate the 4th of July!

"America will never be destroyed from the outside.

If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves". Abraham Lincoln

State 6: Illinois - July 4, 2017

We woke up at a Walmart in Springfield, IL, and then headed to Planet Fitness for a workout, shower and chair massage. Today is America’s birthday! If we were back home in Connecticut, we would have had a picnic, and then watched the fireworks! We are not home! We are the Cross Country Couple in the middle of a journey to discover America, and find a new state to home. This year on the 4th we had to do something different and extra special! Since we are currently in Illinois, we could not think of a better way to celebrate the 4th of July than exploring sites related to The Rail Splitter, The Ancient One, The Tycoon, The Liberator, The Savior of the Union, The Great Emancipator, Uncle Abe, and our 16th President of the United States of America; Abraham Lincoln. We had 3 sites to visit on today: The Abraham Lincoln Museum & Presidential Library, The Abraham & Mary Todd Lincoln’s Home, and we will end the day the Lincoln Gravesite.

We started our day at Abraham Lincoln Museum & Presidential Library. Admission is usually $15.00 per person, but they were having special promotion the day we visited. If you bring a brand new backpack, you get free admission. Lori and I stopped at Walmart, and picked up 2 new backpacks for $3.00 each. Not a bad deal! There was also free parking in the city of Springfield, IL today which also saved us a few more bucks. Since there is a lot of copyrighted exhibits, they did not allow photos inside of the museum. They were extremely serious about this, and had dozens of staff throughout monitoring the visitors. Usually the highlight of a museum visit is to see actual artifacts of the event or person being depicted. It was thrilling to see Lincoln’s own pocket watch, and the actual Tiffany Diamond necklace that he gave his wife. However, what was equally exciting was how they told the 150-year-old story of Lincoln utilizing cutting edge modern technology. I know is sounds strange to use the words history and modem technology in the same sentence. The audio visual effects were superb. For example, they had holograms throughout the museum to make the displays come to life. One of my favorite displays was a mock news show of how the 1860 Presidential election would have been reported if news and TV had existed back in Lincoln’s time. The political attack ads run during the commercial breaks were hilarious! We were also walked through each stage of his live from the early log cabin days to his funeral with life size displays that were eerily real. One such example depicted a slave auction Lincoln witnessed as a teenager. You actually saw and felt the pain of husband and wife slaves as they were torn apart from each other on the auction block after being purchased by different owners. Whomever executed the design of the museum did so brilliantly, flawlessly and created a museum enjoyable to people of all ages. This museum was by far the best we have ever seen!

Next we walked 5 blocks to our next stop, The Abraham & Mary Todd Lincoln’s Home where the family lived for 17 years until Lincoln’s Presidency. This site was the biggest shock of the day. We were expecting that they preserved and restored the Lincoln Home. What we did not expect was that they preserved 4 square city blocks of Lincoln’s entire neighborhood. Springfield, is the capitol of Illinois and a modern city possessing all one would expect from such. When you take one step off the sidewalk, and into Abraham & Mary Todd Lincoln’s Home National Park located in the middle of the city of Springfield, you are instantly transported back to the 1850’s. One second we are walking down the street surrounded by traffic lights, street signs, paved streets, buses and the like. The next second Bang! We are walking down a dirt street, with horse carriages on the side of the street, wood plank sidewalks, and antique 2 story houses with grassy front lawns.

We signed up for a free tour with one of the park rangers as it is the only way to access the Lincoln's home. There was a long explanation by the rangers on acceptable conduct in the house, down to how the women should carry their purses. They were extremely serious about preserving this national treasure for future generations, and understandably so. It was an average size home by today's standards, and was certainly not the mansion we were expecting. The Lincoln home was about 75% original, and was full of antique period appropriate furniture. However, some of the furniture was original to the house and actually owned and used by the Lincoln’s, such as the parlor chairs, the bed in the guestroom, and the cast iron stove that Mary Todd Lincoln cooked on. There was one item in the house we were allowed to touch that Lincoln himself also touched, and that was the handrail on the stairs leading to the second floor, and doing so gave us the chills! We were very happy that photographs were allowed, and we hope you enjoy the pictures below of the Lincoln’s Springfield home.

We had experienced his life in the museum, and walked through the home where he lived. The only thing left was to view his final resting place. We reunited with Rosie, and headed 3 miles across town to the Oak Ridge Cemetery; The final resting place of Mary Todd, 3 of her 4 Children, and the 16th President of the United States; Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, ever since the assassins bullet took his life, Lincoln has not rested in peace. His grave site has twice been the victim of grave robbers, and his grave site was even once relocated so a highway could be constructed. His current grave site contains a beautiful monument pictured below. You can actually enter the monument and view his headstone. Lincolns remains are buried beneath the huge monument and under 10 feet of solid concrete ensuring that this will in fact be the final peaceful resting place for Abraham Lincoln.

After a busy day of touring, we were all Lincolned out! So we decided to resume our path north through Illinois via Route 66. We traveled about 45 miles north of Springfield and began to look for a Walmart to sleep for the night. The nearest Walmart we found that allowed overnight guests was… take a guess.. the town of Lincoln, Illinois.

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