Archive for  January 2011

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49 the first interstate

When was the first federally funded interstate constructed?? Not the one we know today…..the first one?…….  1806 !! Yup, before the Eisenhower Interstate system there was, that’s right, the Washington interstate system (yes, ‘THE’ George Washington….). Although it wasn’t called that, George Washington did have plans to construct a federally funded road, from Maryland to carry settlers to the edge of the frontier, and in 1806, Congress allocated funds for the project. Some know it as the Cumberland road, taking it’s name from it’s origin point, Cumberland, Maryland, but most know it as the National Road. This interstate corridor ran from Cumberland, Maryland, all the way to Illinois’s own city of Vandalia.

A timber used in construction of the National Road

The National Road brought thousands of settlers to the frontier, and although funding stopped for the road at Vandalia, the road eventually stretched all the way to St. Louis, being the major crossing point over the Mississippi. The current Illinois Rt.40 pretty much follows the path of the original road and many remnants of the old road can be found traveling the Rt40 corridor.
The city of Vandalia is pretty proud of it’s heritage as being the destination for so many travelers for hundreds of years, and they’ve established the National Road Interpretive Center there. Housing relics of life on the road in the earliest days of our nation, this hub of information exists to serve tourists, historians and anyone else wishing to better understand this important time in Illinois’ history.
The Center will be celebrating it’s one year anniversary on February 12th, 2011 with an open house, featuring an authentic conestoga wagon, the ‘semi-trailer’ of the early road. These giant prairie schooners ferried materials, goods and man power from the east coast to the heart of the nation, helping to build the Nation as we know it today.
Stop by the center and say hello if you’re traveling in the area, or plan a day trip to Vandalia, the States first Capitol, and all the Illinois history it has to share!

Find on Map

-Ed Baumgarten

50 the eagle our national emblem
The bald eagle was chosen on June 20, 1782 as the emblem of the United States of America.  It was selected for it distinguishing qualities of the bird such as long life span, great strength and majestic looks. 

If you never experienced the wonderful bird in flight, it really is an amazing site.  I was fascinated by the size of their wing span which can reach up to 90 inches.  I had the pleasure of seeing this fabulous creature fly to a nest to feed its young.   If you have not had a chance to see these birds in flight you can see them for yourself near various waterways in Illinois. 

You can spot the wintering bird at The Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower.  The Tower will host eagle events on Saturdays and Sundays throughout January and February. Take a tour of the Tower and see the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, all while enjoying the bird’s-eye-view of the migration patterns of the American Bald Eagle along the Mississippi .

Each weekend at the Tower will host a series of exciting eagle events, including artisans, demonstrations, hikes, workshops and more.  For more information about the Lewis Clark Confluence Tower, call (618) 251-9101 or go to

A few fun facts about bald eagles:

Stature – bones are hollow; weigh 10 – 14lbs. and approx. 7,000 feathers, wingspan 72 to 90 inches

Size – The female bald eagles is 35 to 37 inches, slightly larger than the male.

Flight – fly to an altitude of 10,000 feet and achieve speeds of 30 to 35 mph

Longevity – may live as long as thirty years, because they are top of the food chain

Eagles may live as long as thirty years, because they are top of the food chain.  They are strong swimmers along with their excellent eye sight can spot their prey from high altitudes.   Their diet is mainly fish, dead and decaying flesh.  They like to migrate near their food source, you can find them along many of Illinois water ways. 

Check out the other Illinois areas for eagle watching near you:

Bald Eagle Days at Pere Marquette

IL Route 100, Great River Road
Grafton, IL 62037

Phone: (618) 786-3323

Web site:

Bald Eagle Trolley Tours

Rt 178 & Rt. 71
Utica, IL 61373

Phone: (800) 868-7625

Web site:

Bob Motz-Professional Bald Eagle Watching Tours

Illinois and Iowa Quad Cities
Rock Island, IL 61201

Phone: (309) 788-8389


Eagle Watching – Union County Refuge

2755 Refuge Road,
Jonesboro, IL 62952

Phone: (618) 833-5175

Web site:

Eagle Watching in Alton

Route 100
Alton, IL 60642

Phone: (618) 465-6676

Web site:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Illinois Waterway Visitor Center

950 N. 27th Road
Ottawa, IL 61350

Phone: (815) 667-4054

Take a picture of these fabulous creatures and send it to us to post on our flicker account.   Submit all photos to:  In your email, be sure to include your full name, the title for your image and where in Illinois you captured your eagle shot.

51 ice skating in chicago

Ice Skating in Millennium Park

Looking for some winter fun?  If you are in Chicago, head to Millennium Park for ice skating and people watching it’s a great way to enjoy the day.   The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park is open and will remain open through Sunday, March 13, 2011, weather permitting.   The rink is in its 10th season it is free and open to the public.  Skate rental is available for $10.  The ice rink is located on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Madison Streets. 

If you prefer indoor skating, head to the top of the John Hancock Observatory to Skating in the Sky overlooking sky-high views of the city’s lakefront skyline.  The rink is approximately 50’ X 20’ and constructed of sate of the art synthetic substance called XTRAICE.  Disney on Ice performs on a similar rink. 

Don’t let the cold weather give you cabin fever get out and enjoy some winter fun.  Let us know what winter activities are available in your area.