I’m back on the road finally, after spending a couple of weeks at my sister’s house outside of Chicago. The day I leave the sun is shining and the clouds in the sky are white billows with hazy sunshine breaking through. I’m excited about the road ahead. Seeing new things again. I’m heading northwest on Hwy 20 and as I watch the suburbs fade into the distance in my rearview mirror, the rolling hills slowly climb higher in front of me.
Soon I come across Galena, a 1800‘s town with many preserved or restored buildings along the riverfront. At one time Galena was a prosperous port on the river, shipping their locally mined lead all over the U.S. A large number of Civil War generals, including Ulysses S. Grant hailed from the small town. But as Chicago grew and the mining became less successful, the town’s population dropped from around 13,000 to 3,500, where it still stands today.
There are a number of historic houses with tours available, and I decide to tour the oldest mansion in Galena, Belvedere Mansion. It’s an impressively detailed building on the river’s edge, with ornate woodwork, but I did not enjoy the tour. For one thing the house is currently occupied by its owner and the third floor and a large portion of the rooms are not viewable. Also, none of the furnishings are original but rather antiques from the current owner’s collection packed into the rooms with little discretion or care. The house feels more like an antique store than someone’s home, which is ironic considering it’s the only home I’ve toured so far that is in fact occupied. Also, the tour was short, lacked history, and cost the most of any tour I’ve been on. So, if you’re ever in Galena, forego the Belvedere Mansion and tour another one of the homes, or take the trolley tour, which seemed fun although maybe a bit tacky.
The next day I woke to a dark cloudy sky and rain that continued nonstop for the next two days. In the morning I walked through Galena’s downtown street, which was surprisingly long for such a small town. The unique stores provided some diversion, at least for a little while. Despite the rain, the view from my warm car continues to be lovely pastoral fields as I continue on through Southern Wisconsin.