Have you seen the Great River Road through the eyes of three amazing photographers? In the fall, we sent three incredible photographers – Emily Blincoe, Paul Octavious, and Jessica Zollman – on a memorable journey along the Great River Road! In four days, the team discovered the beauty of Alton and Galena and shared their journey on Instagram.
In Part I, we detailed Jessica’s favorite aspects of the adventure. Read on to find out what Paul and Emily loved most and check out their amazing photos!
MiniAbe joined Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious), Emily Blincoe (@emilyblincoe) and Jessica Zollman (@jayzombie) on their journey along the Great River Road. Here he’s helping them pick apples at Eckert’s in Grafton.
Q: Of all the places you visited in Illinois from Alton to Galena, what experience stands out as most memorable and why?
Emily Blincoe: The McPike Mansion Haunted House tour Jessica and I did in Alton was definitely the most memorable for me. I have never done anything like that before and I had no idea what to expect. I wouldn’t say that I do or don’t believe in ghosts; it’s just not something I ever normally think about. And while I didn’t really ever feel like we got “haunted” that night, it was such a unique experience to learn about, and see photos of, the people who lived in the mansion many years ago. It was so interesting to see inside the house and hear about all the past sightings. We even checked out the crypt out back and tried to communicate with the ghosts in candlelight in the basement. That’s definitely not something I have ever done before. It was pretty amazing (and crazy!).
The team’s journey though the mystical Galena fog. Photo by Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious).
Paul Octavious: Driving around the hills of Galena in the fog at sunrise was amazing and surreal.
Q: What destination surprised you the most and why?
Beautiful fall foliage captured by Jessica Zollman (@jayzombie).
Emily Blincoe: I didn’t really have a lot of set expectations beforehand for this road-trip so I would say everything ended up being a pleasant surprise for me. As far as what surprised me the most, it wasn’t a destination; instead, it was the colors of the fall leaves along the roads. I have never seen anything like that with my own eyes before. It was absolutely breathtaking and I was sort of freaking out about it. I will definitely be back next fall to see that again. Nature totally blows my mind sometimes.
Exploring the Piasa Bird Cave in Alton. Photo by Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious).
Paul Octavious: The Piasa Bird Cave in Alton. The sheer size of the caves and the thought of that Mythical Giant Bird appearing in the cave was exciting and scary.
Emily Blincoe (@emilyblincoe) captured a great photo of the fog in Galena.
Q: What is one word you’d use to describe your trip?
Emily Blincoe: I’m always really bad at coming up with just one word for something. But I will go with “neat-o” I love small towns, and exploring, and especially exploring with friends. I loved the leaves and the bed and breakfasts we stayed at and the fog and the overlooks in Galena. It was all just really perfect.
Paul Octavious: Explorers.
The team enjoyed a stop at Eckert’s! Photo by Emily Blincoe (@emilyblincoe).
Q: What advice would you give to someone considering a Great River Road trip?
Emily Blincoe: Go for it! I can’t speak for the other seasons but doing this trip in the fall was so great. I would also suggest giving yourself plenty of time to stop and explore your surroundings and maybe even get lost a little. Don’t rush it.
Oh Deer! Photo by Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious).
Paul Octavious: If you drive past something and think you’ll see something like it, you won’t! Turn around and go explore it.
Q: What restaurant and meal was your favorite?
Emily Blincoe: I loved Lagomarcino’s. It reminded me of a restaurant my grandmother used to take us to when I was a kid. Plus they had the biggest ice cream sundae I’ve ever seen! Can’t go wrong with that one.
Paul Octavious: Lagomarcino’s in Moline. Get the Sundae!
Q: Which photo from the trip is your favorite and why?
Emily Blincoe (@emilyblincoe) captures a picture of Jessica Zollman (@jayzombie) taking a break from her travels in leaves.
Emily Blincoe: My favorite photo from the trip that I took was the portrait of Jessica in the leaves. I am so obsessed with the leaves (should be obvious at this point). My favorite photo that Paul took was the portrait and reflection of Jessica on the Amtrak Train. My favorite photo that Jessica took was of the corn and the old barn; that was such a great day and a great impromptu roadside stop.
Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious) and the team stumbled across this hidden gem along the Mississippi!
Paul Octavious: A photo of a tiny fishing house on the Mississippi.
Q: Did you play and games in the car? What’s your go-to road trip game?
Emily Blincoe: I don’t recall playing any particular games with each other in the car, but Paul and Jessica are both good pals of mine so it was great catching up with them while driving around. As a kid, I always loved trying to find all 50 states one at a time on other people’s license plates.
Paul Octavious: Two Dots!
Q: Anything else you want to share with our readers?
Great capture of de Immigrant Windmill by Jessica Zollman (@jayzombie).
Emily Blincoe: I had so much fun in Illinois and I’m grateful I was able to make so many memories with Paul and Jessica on this trip. Some of which include: the cave room at the bed and breakfast in Alton and all the wiener dog decor, Paul being too scared to tour the haunted house (we still love you Paul), that foggy morning in Galena, the tiny house on the bank of the Mississippi, the baby pigs at the apple orchard, all the deer on the side of the road in Nauvoo, the Piasa Bird Caves in Alton, and so much more. It’s always such a treat to explore with friends.
Photo by Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious).
Paul Octavious: It was so great getting out of my “bubble of Chicago and exploring my beautiful beautiful state.
-Emily Blincoe and Paul Octavious
Meet the Mile Markers:
Jessica Zollman (@jayzombie) is a photographer who lives in Los Angeles.
Emily Blincoe (@thuglifeforevs) is a photographer who lives in Austin and Nashville.
Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious) is a photographer who lives in Chicago.
Thank you to our partners, including Great Rivers Country Regional Tourism Development Office and Amtrak, and to the following destinations for making this trip possible including, McPike Mansion, Eckert’s Orchard, Jackson House B&B, Nauvoo Grand B&B, Eagle Ridge Resort, Villa Kathrine, Lagomarcino’s, De Immigrant Windmill