On the morning of June 1, we packed up our Jeep once again, this time with a special passenger: Curtis’ younger sister, who was joining us so that she could reunite with her friends in Iowa. We were happy to have her along for the ride, and Charlotte was thrilled to have a new lap to sit on. We began the long drive West as early as we could, hoping to avoid traffic in the Chicago area. Once West of Chicago, we diverted a ways from the interstate in order to spice up the drive and add 2 counties to our map for Illinois. We took I-39 North to highway 30, and remained on the highway into Iowa. Because of this, we are now also able to say that we have driven the entire stretch of highway 30 in Iowa! (I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this already, but we recently discovered a website that lets you create and record maps of all the roads you’ve driven on…just another thing to keep track of!)
Once we finally crossed into Clinton, Iowa, we made an urgent stop at 2 restaurants that Curtis and I have missed terribly: Taco Johns and Culvers! Yes, they’re fast food chain restaurants, but because we don’t have any of our favorite joints nearby, these are now special treats for us. Charlotte also became a huge fan of this Taco John’s in particular because they gave her a “pup cup” filled with chicken nuggets!
After the last final stretch, we were finally back in our hometown, happily reunited with my family. I knew before arriving that my youngest sister had finally surpassed my height, but hugging her for the first time was honestly shocking. We’re not even eye-to-eye…I literally am looking UP at ALL my younger siblings now. I always knew this day would come, and now it’s here: I’m the shortest person in my family, and I have the pictures to prove it. 🙂
As I mentioned before, both of my brothers had graduated in May, and it was so good to catch up with them, celebrate their achievements, and hear their plans for the future. The timing worked out perfectly as my brother Joel was having his graduation party on Friday night, so we were able to see lots of family and friends all in one place. We especially loved being able to spend time catching up with both sides of grandparents this weekend. We were also able to help with all those last-minute party preparations — my dad wrote a great post on the work that goes into this on his blog, which you can read here!
On Sunday, we were able to get away with my parents for a fun adventure in Illinois. As you know, we have been slowly hiking to the highest points of different states over the past few years. While researching different peaks of states we knew we’d be driving through, we read about the restrictions to hiking the highest point in Illinois: Charles Mound is the highest point, found in the Northwest corner of the state, and sits on private property. However, the owners have graciously opened it up to the public on a few specific weekends every year. It just so happened that the peak was only 2 hours from home, and was open the weekend we were there! Sadly, no dogs are allowed, so Charlotte had to sit this one out, but she hardly suffered for it as she had all my family’s pets at home to keep her company. (If you’re interested in hiking to the peak, check out this website for details on when it’s open, or the Highpointers Club website).
We drove out to Dubuque and crossed into Wisconsin briefly, then down into Illinois. We found the trail off a country road, parked along the side, and began the grueling, rugged trek to the peak. Okay, maybe not quite that — it’s a very pleasant 2 mile round-trip hike with not much elevation gain. It was definitely as “Midwestern” as we could have hoped, surrounded by fields, small ponds, and big red barns. We crossed paths with a couple other hiking groups, but were all alone at the “peak”. There were even some “views” Northward into Wisconsin. It was a beautiful day to be hiking, and to knock out our 9th high point together (my 11th)!
After the hike, we drove the historic Stagecoach Trail to Galena, IL. It was Curtis and my first time visiting Galena, despite having lived only hours from this historic little town for so long! We parked and went for a walk around. We stopped at the Victory cafe for a light lunch and “much deserved” beverages after our hike. 🙂 After walking up and down the main street, we drove across the river to the US Grant Historic Site, and then the Belvedere Mansion just to walk around before driving back. We had a great time catching up with my parents and are so thankful they not only accepted our hobby but joined in on the fun! (Also, this is the second state high point I’ve hiked with them — the first being South Dakota — so I think this makes them aspiring high pointers as well 😉 )
On Monday, we went for a hike at Palisades-Kepler State Park near Mount Vernon, and went out for dinner with my siblings to our favorite sushi restaurant: one where I worked in high school, and that Curtis and I frequented often while we were “not dating”. 😉 We visited Noleridge Park to connect with Curtis’ brother who is living in town for the summer. We made other stops at restaurants and shops we missed, such as the Half Price Bookstore. We enjoyed the hot tub, took long walks in the neighborhood, and played The Office trivia and Oregon Trail game. We drove on all those old familiar roads and pointed out all the new businesses that have come to the area.
The week flew by, and before we knew it, it was time to begin the trip back. I am so thankful for this week back at home, with my whole family under the same roof — as time goes on, I know that could become a more rare occurrence. I’m sure glad I forced everyone to come together for a couple minutes to get some pictures to document it. We drove back to Michigan on June 8, had one more evening with Curtis’ family, then left for New York the next day. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for our next visit!