Springfield, IL Day 1 - 06/14/2011

Published at 8:53 PM in , ,

So the adventure continues...

We drove into Springfield, IL today, battling thunderstorms the entire way.  We try not to drive in rain at all, but we really needed to move on.  Looking at the radar, we knew that if we could just go 12 miles or so to the next interstate, we would be north of the rain.  So we pressed on.  It did clear up eventually, but even in Springfield there was a steady rain for most of the day.

We stayed in Riverside Park Campground, which is run by the city of Springfield.  It was a nice park, with large pull-thru sites for our motorhome.  Once we got everything set up, the weather had cleared and we headed out to see the sights.

Sign across from the depot, with part of Lincoln's farewell speech.

Springfield was home to Abraham Lincoln for most of his adult life, so there are many historical places to visit related to him.  Our first stop was to the Lincoln Train Depot.  From this spot, originally the Great Western Railroad Depot, Lincoln left for the White House after being elected the 16th President of the United States.  He gave a memorable farewell speech there, in which he expressed his gratitude to the people of Springfield for all they had done for him and how they had been such an important part of his life.

In front of the train depot.
 Michael and his Lincoln pose.

From there, we stopped by the Lincoln Home National Park.  It was close to closing time, so we caught one short film about the Lincoln's home. We planned on returning the next day to finish the tour since the forecast was calling for nice weather.  One thing one of the park rangers mentioned was that the Lincoln Tomb would be holding a special flag retrieval ceremony tonight, and that they would open the Tomb back up for a little while for visitors.  We decided to go, even though the skies were still pretty threatening.

The 114th Infantry Regiment (of Union Soldiers) has a special flag retrieval ceremony on Tuesday nights throughout the summer, in the Oak Ridge Cemetery where Lincoln is buried.  They march in and give a gun salute, fire a cannon, and take down the flag.  One lucky winner from those attending gets to take home the flag that night, too. (We didn't win.  Boo.)  It was really a treat.  After it was over, they allowed visitors to tour Lincoln's tomb. 

Oak Ridge Cemetery is huge!  We got turned around (okay, lost) in the cemetery trying to find our way out after we drove around looking at the original tomb and other important monuments.  Lincoln's tomb is easy to get to, though, and easy to find your way out from.  Just don't go anywhere else in there without a GPS. 

Standing to the left of the tomb

Lincoln's tomb is pretty spectacular, inside and out.  It was the second tomb built for him.  The first was a temporary structure to house his remains until this permanent one could be built.  There is a huge bust of Lincoln's head in front of the tomb (you can't see it the picture above due to the angle of the shot).  It is a bronze bust, but people rub his nose for good luck, and have rubbed it down to a shiny finish.  The marble original of this bust is in Washington, DC, at the US Capitol.  No worries, we don't have a picture of Michael picking his nose.  Even Michael thought it would be disrespectful to Lincoln to do that.

There was a very somber and respectful atmosphere here.  I think all visitors must feel the impact and importance Lincoln has to our country.  Throughout Springfield you can tell he has always been well loved and admired.

Inside the tomb itself, there is a circular walkway.  Every few feet there is a small bronze statue of Lincoln at various points in his life, from country man to statesman.  Midway around the circle, you come to the part where Lincoln is actually buried.  There is a huge, red marble marker in the burial chamber.  It sits ten feet above the burial vault.  Lincoln's wife and three of his four sons are also buried here, in the tomb just across from the burial chamber.  Lincoln's oldest son, Robert, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery at the request of his wife.

The inscription on the wall
behind the marker reads
"Now he belongs to the ages"

This was a powerful way to finish our first day in Springfield.  We all wanted to learn more about Abraham Lincoln, and couldn't wait to discover the rest of the historical sights.

Please visit the Photo Gallery for more pictures from this day.

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