By Roxe Anne Peacock
Illinois is the home of three presidents, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Barack Hussein Obama. It is also the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan.
Chicago is the largest Illinois city and home to the tallest building in the North American continent, the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. And for our sports fans, it has several well-known sports teams.
I live in the small community of Caledonia and only 10 minutes from Rockford. I grew up in cities along Illinois Route 2 and the beautiful Rock River. In fact, the Rock River was my back yard for several years. I fished day and night.
I would recommend taking a trip Oct. 1-2 to take advantage of all the beautiful fall colors and festivities.
First, travel Illinois Route 2 south for a side trip to Stillman Valley. The Battle of Stillman’s Run was fought at Stillman Valley, Ill., May 14, 1832, between a detachment of 275 Illinois soldiers and a band of Sauk Indians led by Chief Black Hawk, the beginning of the Black Hawk War. Visit Battle Ground Park to view a 50-foot monument where the battle was fought, and nine out of the 12 soldiers killed are buried in a common grave. The remaining three are buried in another area. The marble monument soberly notes, “The presence of soldier, statesman, martyr, Abraham Lincoln assisting in the burial of these honored dead has made this spot more sacred.”
Journey south to Stronghold Castle in Oregon to experience an Olde English Faire and tour the castle, which is a replica of another in England.
After you enjoy the Olde English festivities, drive a few miles farther south to view the 50-foot concrete statue of Black Hawk across the river on your left at Lowden State Park. Take another side trip to visit Lowden and view the statue up close, picnic or camp.
Or, if you prefer, travel a bit farther to White Pines State Park in Mt. Morris, Ill. If roughing it isn’t in your nature, I recommend staying at White Pines Inn at one of the beautiful cabins. Don’t forget to take your fishing gear; the creek has wonderful tasting catfish and bass.
One of my favorite places to eat is at the Lodge Restaurant. You might want to take advantage of the dinner theater with live stage shows while you enjoy a mostly homemade meal.
Your next stop and my favorite is Castle Rock State Park in Oregon, Ill. Climb the 129 steps to the top of the bluff and enjoy the beautiful view overlooking the river. My family camped at Castle Rock in the 1960s when it wasn’t yet a state park. It used to have a restaurant, bar and gas station on the south side of the bluff.
In the 1960s, I lived in Grand Detour for a few years, and spent many summers fishing and playing at Castle Rock. Most of these memories are my fondest and inspired me to write Fatal Catch.
If you have time, stop at the John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour, Ill., and if you are a fan of President Reagan, venture a few more miles south to Dixon.
Also, here are a few extra tidbits about Illinois you might not know. Did you know that the first McDonald’s was in Illinois? Did you know that Metropolis, Ill., is the home of Superman?
Fatal Catch — Author’s summary
It’s 1963, and Chief Riley Bennett knocks on Dody Canfield’s door informing her that her husband died instantly when his car struck a telephone pole. Not wanting to raise her three children alone, it isn’t long before she brings home Frank Billings, and he’s moving in.
Mama sends 13-year-old Missy to take her little brother, Billie, fishing so she can have some alone time with Uncle Frank. Billie casts his line into the murky river water hooking the big one; granddaddy of all fish. He quickly hands the reel to Missy, hoping not to lose his catch. Missy reels in slowly — bubbles begin emerging — releasing an undercurrent of secrets, deadly lies and terror on the Canfield family.
Check out my first mystery, Leave No Trace, at http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com
Check out my Civil War cooking blog at www.civilwarcooking.blogspot.com.
Roxe Anne Peacock is a self-published author who lives in Caledonia, Ill.
From the May 9-15, 2012, issue