Thursday, September 6, 2012

Iowa: "Maybe this is Heaven"

We are on the road again..............leaving Galena around 11:00 and heading west on Rt. 20 with those fast-moving trucks again.   We filled the gas tank while we were in Galena for $ 3.94 a gallon.  We thought that was a good price after paying over $4 for it yesterday.  The kicker was when we'd crossed over into Iowa and found it selling for $3.69 !  We later bought it for $3.59.  I hope the trend continues as we move west.

Dyersville, Iowa is the home of Field of Dreams.  We've been there before, and decided not to go there again today.  Instead, we chose to visit St. Francis Xavier Basilica in downtown Dyersville. 


There are 52 Basilicas in the United States.  Randy and I have visited one in Santa Fe and one in Lackawanna, New York, both large cities.  51 of them are in metropolitan areas.  The one is Dyersville is the only one in an agricultural area. 

It appeared over the tops of businesses and auto garages in the little town as we drove in.  Not enormous when compared to the one in New York, but a definite presence. It was built in 1888, seats 1200 people, and has 64 stained glass windows.

I always take a photo of the front door of buildings of reknown, and did so today.  Once we had opened that door and walked in,  we could not even speak for the beauty of this magnificent church.  I will have to let my photos tell about that.  We are not Catholic, but we appreciate beauty. 
You can read about this Basilica further at 

Walking behind the Basilica, we discovered the most lovely purple bush in full bloom.  I have never seen a bush like this one, so took a closer look and discovered that it had purple bean-like things growing amongst the flowers.  If anyone can tell me what this is, I'd appreciate it.  I confess that right there under the towers and next to this gorgeous religious structure,  I broke off one of those purple beans and stole it for its seeds.  So far lightning has not struck me.  So far.
 Another twenty miles, perhaps, and we arrived in Manchester, Iowa, birthplace of my father.  I've been there several times over the years. In the center of town is the Delaware County Courthouse.  My great grandfather delivered a speech at the dedication ceremony for that courthouse in 1895. My paternal grandparents, who had passed on long before I was born, are buried in Oakland Cemetery, along with my paternal great-grandparents. Some great aunts and their families are also in there, and some distant cousins, as well. We visited them all this afternoon.

While paying respects here, I was on the phone with my sister in Texas, trying to get the address of the house my father grew up in. I only knew it was close to the courthouse, and my last trip here I could not recognize it.  Finally, my sister found the death notice for my grandfather, and it mentioned his home address.  I'd seen the house long ago, and knew how the front windows were shaped, but would not have recognized it without that address. Time and some redecorating over the years since my father left it in 1920 have altered it dramatically, but I was still glad to see it.

We continued our western drive into Waterloo, Iowa.  We did some "hotel shopping," and are in a brand new motel with the best deal.   Randy has had a swim, we've had a pizza delivered to our room, and as soon as the convention wraps up the last speech, we will be asleep.  We have a mental map of where we will be going tomorrow, don't know how far we will drive or where we will stay, but we know we will have a good time.

Galena, Illinois, The Garlic Company, and the Stoney Creek Inn

Those of you who know me well probably figured out, if you checked a map, that we were headed for Galena, Illinois, today.  This is our third visit to Galena.  The first time, I had a broken foot, so could only ride through the main drag of town, oohing and ahhhing, but  couldn't get out of the car to walk the over one mile Main Street full of shops, wine bars, galleries, and other fun places that women love to visit. (It was a miserable time for me.)

The hour ride from Rockford to Galena was quite lovely, once the horizon got hilly. Rt. 20, only 2 lanes, however, seemed a bit perilous with some huge trucks going well over the speed limit on those hills. (OK. I hear you. I know I am not a good rider, but even Randy got the chills due to these trucks, and he was driving, and he pulled over and let them go by.)  You would have felt the same way, I'd bet.  They were speeding.  We were not. We tried to enjoy the scenery anyway. Illinois farm country is quite serene.

We were in Galena the second time ,a few years ago. Not sure what year without my journals in front of me, but we had a wonderful place to stay: The Stoney Creek Inn, which was newly opened whatever year that was.  It's a marvelous story to tell, but that was then and this is now.  Suffice it to say that we made a reservation last night to stay here for tonight, and knew we'd be treated as if we were royalty............and since our 4:00 arrival, that is who we have been. Great place. Lovely woodsy theme, a drink with your room, indoor pool, breakfast, nice doesn't get much better.

Galena, Illinois was the home of General and President  Ulysses S. Grant.  Once the Civil War was over, the townspeople gave him and his wife a new home to live in, up on top of a hill overlooking Galena.  It is sort of the main event of this town, historically speaking, which we love.  We did a stop-by at the Grant home on our entrance into Galena. We walked to the statue of his wife, Julia Dent Grant,  First Lady from 1869 to 1877, which is overlooking the city, as if she is waiting for him to come home. Interestingly, there are only three statues of  First Ladies in this country. (Why?)

Standing there, I realized that Randy had a grasshopper on his shoulder. He calmly told me to leave it alone, but I had to take a photo of "Jiminy" before Randy brushed him off.


 We have not had the inside tour of the Grant home, but twice have walked around the house and gotten the feeling of how appreciative the people were for Grant's service to the Union during the Great War.

Eighty percent of the homes in Galena are registered on the National Register of Historic Places. It is obvious when you walk down Main Street.  It's a very long street filled with fun places to shop!

  My favorite experience today was when I went into the Galena Garlic Company. In the front window was a photo of the owner of the shop standing next to Food Network Star, Guy Fieri, who we love.  We got really excited to know that Guy had visited this place, and just then the young man said, "Yep.  He got to meet me!"

This little store is filled with spices and garlic and balsamic vinegars and olive oils. The smells are wonderful.  After a long day of shopping elsewhere, I came back and bought the Garlic Company poster, which you may see in my kitchen when you visit.  It is like the store: bright, colorful, and full of happiness.

Galena, downtown, is full of hills and stairways to places above Main Street.  Parks on corners give shade to resting people. One of our favorite dinners ever was at Vinnie's, an Italian restaurant on a hill downtown, under clear lights on a summer evening, that previous visit.

Randy and I had lunch at Durty Gurts. We were starving by the time we had walked the length of Main Street, and found this fun place at the far end of the street, almost. "She's Not Durty, She's Just Gurty," is the logo. The restaurant was filled with fun sayings and signs. A sign on a toilet told us where to drop our suggestions. The menu included lots of enormous sandwiches and good beer. We enjoyed a shared pulled pork sandwich with sweet potato fries.  This was a fun place.

Then we did the Main Street Shopping, which involved a full length of the street walk, including jaywalking constantly to and from each side of the street to be sure not to miss a single store.  We probably could not have done this during the summer when the tourists are everywhere, and cars are trying to go up and down the street, but today the kids were all back in school and the summer visitors were gone.  We did hear, however, from one gourmet wine shop keeper, that today was a good day with lots of happy tourists and the shops might even stay open later tonight due to the abundance of later-season tourists.

We went to a wine-tasting at the Massbach Winery, finding the atmosphere calm and refreshing. I bought a bottle of white wine to bring home, and Randy found a good red in another store. Want to bet on that bottle making it home?

Our feet hurt by the time we'd covered the entire street, both going and coming back to our parking spot.  We checked into the Stoney Creek Inn and prepared to go to dinner at Fried Green Tomatoes, which apparently is "the place to go" for dinner.

Fried Green Tomatoes is a very lovely restaurant in Galena, on Main Street.  It has good lighting, excellent food and fabulous wait staff. Our server, Stacey, couldn't have been better.  We both ordered just enough, not more than we needed for dinner.  The "small plates" menu suited us just fine. Randy had a pork chop, and I had a Mediterranean Spaghetti thing that was out of this world.  A round loaf of bread covered with Parmesan and an amazing tossed salad were served prior to the main course. Wonderful place!  If only there had been an al fresco option, it would have been perfect, but other than that, it was.

Back at the Stoney Creek Inn, we enjoyed our free drinks, a wine and Crown Royal, on the back deck, then sat in the clean and quiet hot tub. We took a swim in the not-too-cold and very, very CLEAN indoor pool. This place gets an A+ for clean!

What a wonderful day we've had!  Tomorrow we continue our western trek.  Come along.......