Quiet pleasures, national treasures, ghosts of lessons learned. If you’re looking to experience a slice of real Americana, point your wheels toward Northern Illinois. Then settle back in your RV, automobile or Harley and take a step back in time. While there, experience some of the finest fishing, hiking, golfing, natural scenic wonders and wildlife America has to offer.
Unspoiled landscapes, undiscovered riches of the simplest kind are yours for pure enjoyment and contemplation as you travel. Perhaps you’ll trace the nation’s first transcontinental highway via the Lincoln through a collection of charming towns from the outskirts of Chicagoland to the famed Fulton Windmill. Watch for eagles, go horseback riding and explore canyons, bluffs and waterfalls in a breathtaking setting along the Illinois River Movlan at Starved Rock State Park in Utica.
Now that you’re in the mood, dig a little deeper into the homespun magic of Illinois. Always wondered what life on an American farm is really like? Farm tours in DeKalb and Bureau counties give you a first-hand look at what modern-day agriculture is all about, led by the farmer himself. Visit a corn and soybean farm with hay rack rides to the fields. Witness state-of-the-art global positioning systems.
Since a tour of Northern Illinois means plenty of driving, you’ll want to schedule a stop at one of the region’s fabulous parks and lakes. Fishing, hiking, water skiing and swimming abound at Shabbona Lake State Park, one of DeKalb County's biggest draws, recording more than 60,000 visitors in peak summer months.
If you’re traveling in the fall be sure to have your camera set with plenty of supplies. Autumn in Illinois will literally take your breath away. Locals find all kinds of charming ways to celebrate the seasons, from a Pumpkin Festival very Halloween week in Sycamore to one of the state’s last free music festivals every August -- Corn Fest.
If you want to explore the area from a historical perspective, many artifacts can easily be found in your travels. From a Civil War cannon in Wynet Cemetery to a station on the Underground Railroad where Abraham Lincoln stayed to former President Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home in Dixon Northern Illinois, holds many remnants of the past in its unassuming hand.
In nearby Ogle County train-watching and rail history exhibits are proudly presented daily at Rochelle Railroad Park, and military uniforms and regalia from Civil War days through Desert Storm are housed at the Stuka Military Museum.
On Route 89 stands yet another poignant reminder of lessons learned and ghosts of the past. In Village Park , north of Cherry, are the remains of one of the worst mine disasters in the U.S. When 259 miners were killed here on November 13, 1909, the State Legislature was prompted to pass the Worker's Compensation Act. In 1911 the United Mine Workers dedicated the Cherry Mine Disaster Holy Trinity Miners Memorial in the shape of a mourning woman.
Another sort of remnant awaits those who will hear its message. Once a verdant pasture, McCune Sand Prairie is now a picture of blow sand and prickly pear cactus. It offers a vivid example of how land can virtually be destroyed when it is misused -- in this case severly overgrazed. But it still offers pleasure -- covering 200 acres, the area is now open to the public to visit any time and offers an excellent place for cross country skiing. Nature lovers can see pine, cottonwood, and Cyprus trees, native grasses and flowers, prickly pear cactus and many others.