A few weeks ago we got e-mail from a major airline. Being on their e-mailing list is a legacy of my family's trip to Japan last year, when they all signed up for the airline's frequent flyer program. The reasoning at the time was eh, why not? I nearly trashed the e-mail, but noticed that it claimed that the miles earned by each member of my family last year were due to expire at the end of 2010. Round-trip to Japan represents a fair number of miles, but I figured not enough to get you more than a quarter of a domestic flight (after which you'd be ejected with a parachute, which would cost extra).
Then I found out we actually had enough miles to book three no-charge hotel nights. Not top-drawer hotels, but reasonable limited-served brands in a variety of places. We didn't need much more prodding than that to take a short trip, especially over the elongated Columbus Day weekend, which our school district thoughtfully made even longer by scheduling parent-teacher meetings on Thursday and Friday -- and ours on Thursday.
But where? Some deliberation followed. Eventually we decided on Springfield, Illinois. It's out of town but not too far; not overwhelmingly large, nor too small for a couple of days' visit; we hadn't been in years; and the place has more than enough to see. We used two of the three nights, driving down Friday and returning today.
When you go to Springfield, as an ordinary tourist anyway, the thing to do is Lincoln. Served up with a little more Lincoln on the side. And maybe another helping of Lincoln after that, just to be sure. Sure of what? That you've experienced enough Lincoln. The main industry of the town might be state government, but not many casual visitors are going to come to town to catch a meeting of the Illinois Cemetery Oversight Board, for instance (created just this year because of this scandal).
No, people come for Lincoln. Springfield makes it easy enough, since he seems to be everywhere. While walking down one of the city's streets yesterday, I wondered what kind of project it would be to take a camera in hand and photograph every image of Lincoln visible in downtown Springfield. My guess is that it would be a long task resulting in hundreds photos: not just official items such as statues and plaques, of which there are many, but also the proliferation of Lincolns associated with shops and shop windows, advertising and even handbills with cartoonish but recognizable Lincolns.
To help satisfy the desire for Lincoln and further promote him, the State of Illinois did an unusual thing in the 2000s. It developed the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. I've been curious to see this place since it opened in 2005, and now I have. That was the main course. For our sides, we also managed to visit the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site and Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, which isn't far from Springfield, in Menard County.
So we went for Lincoln, like everyone else. But for all that, he wasn't quite the whole trip. We got to see this guy too. He's tall, but he's no Lincoln.
We also paid a visit to the empty tomb of Mr. Accordion. More about which in the coming days.