Galena beckons


What a perfect day!

A pristine blue sky, an early start to our day, plenty to see and do in Galena. The just-right antidote to yesterday’s many frustrations.

Ulysses S. Grant lived in Galena before and after the Civil War and his home there is now a state-owned historic site (more on our visit there later).

So it was fitting that our 18th president was kind enough to give us a walking tour of the downtown area, pointing out the most historic sites and filling us in on preservation efforts for certain buildings that date back to the early 1800s. He did a fine job as a tour guide and you got to hand it to the guy. He looks good for 194 years old.

Now that we've met two presidential impersonators (sorry... "reprisors") during this trip - Teddy Roosevelt and now Ulysses S. Grant - I'm thinking I really need to pursue something in the historical tribute artist category as a potential post-TV news career. But which historical figure would I portray? Jefferson? (Probably need a powdered wig... so, nope). Lincoln? (Doubt that I'm tall enough... wrong hair color... too many other guys already doing Honest Abe). Mark Twain? General Custer? Thomas Edison? Maybe Tesla. He seems to be a hot commodity these days.

I welcome suggestions.

Meanwhile back in Galena, we enjoyed an outdoor lunch at the very historic (I’m going to use that word a lot in this post) DeSoto House Hotel.

Mr. Lincoln gave a speech from the hotel’s balcony a few years before he was elected president. Grant used the hotel as his campaign headquarters when he ran for the nation’s highest office in 1868. Various other dignitaries and high office holders have stayed at the DeSoto House over the years. It was named after the Spanish explorer who supposedly discovered the Mississippi River, though I have a feeling a whole lot of Native Americans probably had a pretty good idea where the river was before DeSoto happened along.

If you’re into souvenirs, gift shops and antiques, Galena is your nirvana. That’s good news for Deanna, who’s been searching for the right gifts to bring home to co-workers and friends since we started our trip a couple of weeks ago. She had a pretty good idea of what kind of items she wanted, but we had a hard time finding exactly the right stuff in Galena. Lord knows we tried. Tchotchkes of all colors, shapes and sizes were for sale on every street corner in every shop and there are many, many, many shops. After a few hours of frustration, we finally settled on stopping into a sweets store to pick out hand-made chocolate goodies for ourselves. They were seriously overpriced but dangerously mouth-watering. Deanna’s choice: chocolate-covered cherries. Mine: chocolate over French vanilla filling. Nearly two bucks apiece, but wow, were they good.

In between visits to antique shops in search of gifts, we took a tour of Grant’s home, high atop a hill looking down on Galena. A group of the town’s leaders bought the red brick home for Grant and his family to live in following the Civil War in appreciation for the general’s service and leadership during the conflict.

The home was far from being a mansion, but it was better than Grant’s family had endured prior to the war when he had failed at everything he tried to do to make a living. Grant is an interesting historical figure, considering that he hated war, but knew himself well enough to realize he wasn’t much good at anything except soldiering, so that’s what he pursued. We all know Grant’s leadership was critical toward winning the war for the North, but until now, I guess I didn’t fully realize how important a figure he was in American history. A pretty fascinating guy all around.

Tomorrow, we’ll visit Dubuque, Iowa, where I lived for five years back in the mid-80s when I worked as an anchor for a TV station there.

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