It’s About Time I Got Back to Normal (Illinois, That Is), Part 1

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Forty-one years ago this month, my life was changed forever just by taking a drive 130 miles south of Chicago.  The destination: Normal, Illinois, home of Illinois State University.

I had not been back to my alma mater in decades. So a few days ago, Susan and I packed up the Camry and visited ISU, downtown Normal, and the bigger town next door, Bloomington.

What follows is a photographic account of our two-plus days in and around the I-State campus in flat, but still beautiful, Central Illinois.  I’ll follow up soon with some thoughts and insight on my three and a half years in a place much different than Chicago.

Relaxing on the site of the old Walker Hall, my first address after leaving Chicago. There's a state-of-the-art health facility on the site now, and it even has a climbing wall. We never had a climbing wall!

Relaxing on the site of the old Walker Hall, my first address after leaving Chicago. There’s a state-of-the-art health facility on the site now, and it even has a climbing wall. We never had a climbing wall!

 

On the north end of the ISU quad, a way-cool green space that looked just as good as the last time I visited. I remembered all of the buildings, and even some of the trees. Glad to see the Bone Hand of Friendship was still there.

On the north end of the ISU quad, a way-cool green space that looked just as good as the last time I visited. I remembered all of the buildings, and even some of the trees. Glad to see the Bone Hand of Friendship was still there.

 

 

Downtown -- no, they call it Uptown now -- Normal has changed for the better. And the old theater is still there.

Downtown — no, they call it Uptown now — Normal has changed for the better. Planners installed a neat traffic circle and opened up areas to encourage pedestrian access.  And the old theater is still there.

 

One mainstay during my day was Mother Murphy's a real "head shop,' man. Never got to meet Mother, though.

One mainstay during my day was Mother Murphy’s, a real “head shop,’ man. I recall having visited once or twice. Never got to meet Mother, though.

 

Watterson Towers, the Darth Vader of dormitories. I spent two semester in one of those rooms. Reportedly, it's the tallest structure between Chicago and St. Louis.

Watterson Towers, the Darth Vader of dormitories. I spent two semester in one of those rooms. Reportedly, it’s the tallest structure between Chicago and St. Louis.

 

Downtown Bloomington, looking north. Much of the town looked pretty good, but one of my old haunts, Miller's Metropole was gone.

Downtown Bloomington, looking north. Much of the town looked pretty good, but one of my old haunts, Miller’s Metropole was gone.

 

Surprise! This new bike path, once a railroad right of way, was a welcomed diversion. We learned the bridge was called a "camelback" in order to provide clearance for locomotives.

Surprise! This new bike path, once a railroad right of way, was a welcomed diversion. We learned the bridge was called a “camelback” in order to provide clearance for locomotives.

 

So what the heck is this? It's a grain elevator, and it was across from our hotel. My first time seeing one up close.

So what the heck is this? It’s a grain elevator, and it was across from our hotel. My first time seeing one up close. But they’re all around ISU.

 

Couldn't resist this: I'll bet they have friends like Jim and jimmy, Tom and Tommy, Joe and Joey. You get the picture.

Couldn’t resist this: I’ll bet they have friends like Jim and Jimmy, Tom and Tommy, Joe and Joey. You get the picture.

 

As you can see, the corn crop is looking pretty good. When I went to ISU, I could ride my bike for 10 minutes and be in corn fields.

As you can see, the corn crop is looking pretty good. When I went to ISU, I could ride my bike for 10 minutes and be in corn fields.

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Galena Getaway: A Travelogue

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Last month, Susan and I traveled to the historic and very picturesque Northwest Illinois town of Galena.  We had a purpose: To celebrate my birthday and get away from the city.  (Okay, no need for a late birthday gift, but if you insist, I would welcome a Gibson ES 335 guitar to my collection; cherry red preferred.)

We have history in Galena, a town that once was a major center of commerce but now is a prime Midwest destination for visitors. More than a dozen years ago, we owned an investment condo in a new development among the rolling hills and hallows just east of town. The investment, let’s say, was not the best expenditure of financial resources.  So we sold it and had not returned to Jo Daviess County and the storybook — well, for Illinois — community since.  When we visited in August, we found that what attracted us to the area was intact and just as special.  Picture post card weather certainly helped.

Our itinerary was simple: Relax, visit the town, cruise the winding country roads, enjoy the serenity, and relax further. Some memories:

  • Stopping on a side road at night and hearing a symphony of cicadas, crickets and other insects. It was near deafening, but thrilling to enjoy beneath a starlit night sky.
  • Recognizing some new developments in and around town, but not too many to spoil the character of the area.
  • The room we had at Eagle Ridge Resort, which faced woods, included a modest deck and offered privacy.
  • Lunch at Stella’s Cafe in nearby Stockton, IL, where we had an outstanding meal served by genuinely friendly people.  My BLT arrived on homemade bread and featured lots of bacon and real, home grown tomatoes.
  • The “musical stylings” of a singer/guitarist who performed in the Eagle Ridge lounge each evening.  He wore a cowboy hat, and deserved to. And, he sang “Happy Birthday” to me.

And now, a few visual memories. The good shots were taken by Susan with a good camera; the not-so-good shots came from my trusty BlackBerry.

The view of Galena from Grant Park.

The view of Galena from Grant Park, which overlooks downtown.

The town is known for General Grant.

The town is known as the home of U.S. President and Civil War hero General U.S. Grant. His home is here, and there’s a golf course named for him.

Standing on Main Street.

Standing on Main Street, I blended in with the other visitors with my cap, polo shirt and shorts.  But imagine what this street was like 120 years ago.

One of the grand mansions on the bluffs above downtown.

One of the grand mansions on the bluffs above downtown. It’s now a B&B. Great to know cool structures can be preserved.

How could you not like a town with a home named after you?

How could you not like a town with a home named after you? Actually, I was born a few years later.

Susan with a friendly butterfly.

Susan with a friendly butterfly who greeted us on the dock at Lake Galena behind Eagle Ridge Resort.

Lake Galena at sunset from Eagle Ridge Resort.

Lake Galena at sunset from the hill behind Eagle Ridge Resort. Serenity. Quiet. Peace. A great spot to ponder the good things about life.

The cafe in Stockton.

Stella’s Cafe on Main Street in Stockton. just east of Galena.

One of the best souviners .

A trip to farm country would not be the same without some farm stand produce. And, yes, the corn was delicious.

Galena is known as “the town that time forgot,” because remarkable number of well-preserved century-plus old homes and storefronts. We forgot about Galena, figuratively of course, for several years.  Our visit last month rekindled old memories and brought new ones.

We’ll be back.  Have you visited Galena?  Share your memories.