Stay-At-Home Dad: Taking a dip in history
By Howard A. Ludwig April 26, 2012 11:48AM
Bubba and Pete Ludwig stand beside a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield during a recent family getaway. | Howard Ludwig~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 30, 2012 8:05AM
Abe Lincoln’s hometown is a fun place to vacation.
The Wife and I took our two sons to Springfield this month. The short getaway proved to be fun, educational and relatively cheap — all qualities I think would meet with Honest Abe’s approval.
It’s roughly a three-hour drive from my home in Chicago’s Morgan Park community to the state capital. My aged minivan drank $70 in gas from the time we pulled out of the driveway until we returned the next day.
We stayed seven minutes outside of downtown Springfield in a sprawling hotel with an indoor swimming pool. The Legislature was out of session, so the hotel was empty and the rooms were cheap. For $87, we stayed in a suite with two queen beds. A free continental breakfast also was included.
A late start translated to a 3 p.m. check-in at the hotel. My 4- and 5-year-old boys wanted to swim more than anything, so that was first on the agenda. The pool was empty. We played as loud as we wanted for two hours.
After toweling off, the Ludwigs headed to the Capitol building. Tours aren’t available after business hours, so we simply walked the grounds. It’s quite an impressive structure, surrounded by lifelike statues and bubbling fountains.
We snapped a few pictures and headed to dinner. Springfield is full of delightful diners. We opted for D&J Café, which is one of several places that serve a “horseshoe.” This open-face sandwich originated in Illinois’ state capital and remains a local favorite.
A horseshoe starts with toasted bread. It’s usually topped with a hamburger patty or two (though other meats such as ham, roast beef and pork tenderloin also are used). This hearty base is then topped with a warm cheese sauce and piled high with french fries.
There are likely fewer calories in a jar of mayonnaise. But I cleaned my plate and left happy.
The next day began with breakfast at the hotel, which was followed by another dip in the pool. We cleaned up, checked out of the room and headed to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. This was intended as the highlight of the trip.
The museum is relatively new, having opened in April 2005. It’s dedicated entirely to Lincoln’s life and legacy. Admission is $12 for adults, children get in for $6 and toddlers 4 and younger are free.
My boys are too young to be interested in reading any placards. So, we made our way through the museum relatively quickly. Both of the movies held their attention. I found them interesting, too. And the displays are well done, offering an honest view of Lincoln as both a person and a politician.
It struck me as odd that the whole place smells like Subway. Apparently, the sandwich shop is a big sponsor of the museum and operates a restaurant inside. The result is the distinct smell of sub sandwiches permeating the main gallery and even some of the exhibits.
I could have spent hours in the museum, but my busy boys were ready to leave after about 90 minutes. I didn’t object, as I wanted to get back on the road. I was also hungry for lunch, and I wasn’t particularly interested in a $5 footlong.
Headed home, The Wife and I agreed that we should have stayed an extra night. I would have liked to see Lincoln’s home and his tomb. I’d also like to check out New Salem, the historically re-created town nearby where Abe ran a small store.
The next morning, Bubba and Pete were eating breakfast and reminiscing about the trip.
“What was your favorite part of Springfield?” I asked.
“The pool,” they replied in unison.
I can only hope that exploring Lincoln’s legacy placed a close second.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business reporter who traded his reporter’s notepad for a diaper bag.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.