West Branch Stories and Tips

Not Everyone's Idea of a Day Trip - Part Two

Corn Fields Photo, Illinois, United States

Part Two - Continued

As I headed south from the Reagan Birthplace and Museum, I continued into the heart of Illinois' farm country. I remember learning about American agriculture in elementary school. One project we did was creating a large map of the United States with a depiction of what crops were grown in each state. Illinois and Iowa were part of an area referred to in the 1960's as "the corn belt." Clearly, I was in the heart of America's corn belt.

You can probably imagine my surprise as I drove through acres and acres of tall corn, ready for fall harvest, when I swooshed by a small dirt road with dozens of children playing. It wasn't that there were children there that surprised me. It was the fact that they were either Amish or Mennonite kids as recognized by the clothing they wore.

I made a loop around the block so to speak, so that I could check out the farms in the area. I was surprised to not find anything that looked to be an Amish farm as they all had automobiles in the driveways and large industrial farm machines (tractors, combines, etc) in the barns or working the fields.

Once home that evening, I did so some research and learned that there was a unique settlement of Amish Mennonite near Tampico. "The Tampico Amish Mennonite constituency, also known as the 'Sleeping Preacher' churches, have distinct differences that separate them from the general Amish Mennonite experience and history. This group adheres to the teachings of John Kauffman, an Amish Mennonite minister from the late 1800s who was known for preaching while sleeping or in a trance." (Cited from http://www.beachyam.org/amishmennonites.htm.)

I did take a couple of photos from a distance, to include one of several girls walking in the schoolyard and one of the school as seen from across the corn fields.

It wasn't too much further from Tampico to Iowa, perhaps 30 or 45 minutes. Another hour or so on to West Branch, the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States. The US National Park Service currently manages and maintains the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, a collection of restored buildings including the Birthplace Cottage where President Hoover was born in 1874. Also located here is the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum, my last official destination of this road trip.

After spending roughly two and a half hours learning about Herbert Hoover, I made my way down to Main Street for supper. Main Street Sweets is a nice small town ice cream shop that also served burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches. After dinner, I programmed Toots to take me home through Dubuque, IA and into the SW corner of Wisconsin towards Madison and then east to Milwaukee.

While perhaps a bit further than if I had backtracked through the Quad Cities and up through Rockford, I really wanted to see a bit more of the rural countryside heading home. Most of the roads Toots had me travel through Iowa were two-laners but I was more often than not, the only vehicle on the road. It was very nice.

When you are traveling on two-lane roads in the heart of farmland, you really must be vigilant to make sure you do not hit livestock or wildlife. Even an old farm dog has been known to wander out into the road. An additional accident waiting to happen could be if you run up behind or meet from the opposite direction, a large piece of farm equipment moving at a snail's pace in the middle of the road taking up both lanes. During my day trip, I passed several . . . including a tractor pulling a silo that was being relocated.

At the end of the day, my road trip was about 14 hours. It was a great day with a lot of interesting history explored. I have written reviews on the four main attractions visited on this day, as well as one on Main Street Sweets where I had dinner. While admittedly not for everyone, this is a road trip from Milwaukee that can be done in a single day . . . or add a day and explore some of the other historical sites along the way!

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