Springfield, ho!

My friend Casey got married Saturday out in Waverly, Illinois. Since it was okay for us to take the girls to the reception, Yoli and I thought we might as well make a whole day trip out of it.

We packed up the girls and set out around 8:40 a.m. Saturday for the distant city of Springfield.

The plans

I hastily planned the trip the night before. Yoli and I already had a few vague notions about stuff to do. Of course there was the big Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, as well as many Lincoln-related sites in and around Springfield.

But the city also features a few Route 66 attractions, including the Cozy Dog Drive-In, which boasts of the “one and only Cozy Dog. The Cozy Dog is a delicious hot dog on a stick that is found nation-wide at many county and state fairs.”

I had heard about this place while watching a documentary called “A Hot Dog Program” on KETC (Channel 9) about hot dogs. Ever since then, I have wanted to visit this and other such eateries. Now I would get my first chance.

After lunch, my plan was to take the girls in strollers to Oak Ridge Cemetery where Lincoln is buried, or at least to a park, and walk them around until they fell asleep and let them get their naps in before heading out to Waverly for the wedding reception.

The trip

The journey to Illinois was pretty good, although Jadzia gave us a little bit of trouble when getting her in and out of the carseat, stroller, or potty seat. The problem is that she scraped her knee (twice) last week, and she is afraid of seeing the scabs. She always wants it to be covered. Since she was wearing a dress, her knee would be exposed a little bit when putting on her seat belt, which caused her to start crying.

The Lincoln Museum was pretty fun. I think Jadzia may have been slightly unnerved by the giant non-living figures (like Abe and his family) inside the museum’s atrium. There was a man playing period songs on a wide variety of instruments, like steel guitar, which made for a cool atmosphere. We headed first to the section of the museum dedicated to Abe’s early years, where you can see a re-creation of Abe reading by a fire inside a one-room log cabin. Jadzia really liked that. There was also a scene later showing Abe in his law office with two of his boys playing wildly, throwing ink wells at each other. Papers and books were strewn across the place. Apparently ole Abe gave his kids pretty free rein.

It was at about this point that we were stopped by a security guard. Apparently there is no video-taping allowed in certain (most) parts of the museum. We had been filming all along, and a guard had even seen the camera earlier when they searched our diaper bag. But nobody ever mentioned “no filming.” Anyway, they didn’t make us get rid of it the camera or film or anything. We just had to stop, and we happily obliged.

The girls both enjoyed the children’s area, which was full of cool toys. Some of them were period toys. But there was also stuff like a kitchen set with the sort of food and utensils you’d find in a log cabin, so you could imagine being in the Lincoln family. There were period dress clothes. And Lincoln logs. Ludi seemed to have the most fun at first. Jadzia was still a bit tentative and weird about her knee. But she played and had fun, too.

Finally it was lunchtime. We drove out of downtown and made our way to the Cozy Dog Inn. Ludi was asleep and Jadzia was rapidly losing consciousness as well. We had to keep calling out to Jadzia to keep her awake, promising her a nice corndog.

We found the place — but it was closed for Memorial Day weekend. Apparently I missed the fine print on their website. I was crushed. I had long wanted to eat cozy dogs in this Route 66 fixture.

Of course, I had no backup plan. And Jadzia was now asleep. I certainly didn’t want to settle for a dime-a-dozen chain restaurant. But that left only sit-down restaurants, and that would necessitate waking Jadzia to get her out of her seat. Plus I didn’t have any other particular restaraunt in mind. In fact, I had no idea what the choices were.

We ended up driving several circuits of 5th and 6th streets, seeing what was there and trying to figure out a place to park. I went back and forth about whether we should stop and eat or whether I should just go to a drive-thru. Ultimately we chose a place called the “Garden of Eat’n,” but we had to find a parking spot. I didn’t have any quarters (We had forgotten to visit the bank on our way out of Ferguson, and I spent my last quarters paying for the Abe Lincoln parking garage). But God provided us a nice spot on the street with an hour left on the meter.

At the restaurant we had some hot dogs which were tasty, but weren’t cozy dogs. Jadzia finished an entire hot dog by herself.

After that, we decided to head back to the Lincoln complex and check out the Presidential Library. We are a very library-oriented family, after all, what with Yoli working at one and our family’s love of books. But there wasn’t much there for us… it is a research library after all, and we hadn’t prepared ahead of time to do any research. But there was an interesting display of war-era government propaganda posters.

We walked across the street and re-entered the Lincoln Museum to watch two of the theater presentations they had there. While we waited for the first show, we browsed some of the special Lincoln items they had in their gallery … stuff like a leaf from Lincoln’s math notebook as a teenager, or a gorgeous heart pendant Abe gave his wife on their anniversary.

After the shows, we took the girls back to the toy area, which they attacked with gusto. Ludi was crawling faster than ever and Jadzia was unusually playful. I guess that’s what happens to sleep-deprived girls. Jadzia was playing so well I hesitated to leave, but we needed to get going or they wouldn’t have a chance to nap before the reception.

The reception and the return

I drove toward Waverly taking back roads, hoping the girls would sleep, and hoping for some nice scenery. Ludi nodded off quickly, but Jadzia resisted for a while. Too bad for her, I guess. She got only 30 minutes of sleep. We ended up parking at the park in the middle of Waverly for 10 minutes to extend their naps before going to the reception.

The reception was a lot of fun. We found a couple of friends there and enjoyed chatting. Jadzia was really into dancing (which consisted of her running laps around the dance floor). I think I know where she gets her dance moves from. But she wasn’t too into eating. Her diet consisted of pork steak and a few nibbles of pasta and potatoes. She wouldn’t eat anything else, not even cake!

Once the evening drew on, it was time to get back home. We looked at the map and decided to take state highway 111 south to Alton, instead of the interstate. It seemed more direct, and probably more fun. For the most part this was true, but about halfway down Ludi became inconsolable. We had to stop for a half hour or more at a gas station in the middle of nowhere to feed her, change her, nurse her, etc. It was at this time that Jadzia realized she wanted to eat after all, and began asking for food. But it was tough luck for her, she had missed her prime opportunity at the reception.

There was a lot more crying from Ludi as we proceeded down the highway, but eventually both girls fell asleep. Ah, bliss.

All in all, a very memorable and exhausting day.

About Josh Renaud

I'm the Emperor of the Renaud Empire, which is to say that I'm the husband of a Boliviana and the father of three daughters and one son. When I'm not conquering lands and expanding borders, I'm a newspaper designer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Find me on Twitter (@Kirkman) or Google+.
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