Tag Archives: Rant

Duke’s Bakery–Alton, Illinois

Disappointment at Duke’s

During our short visit to Bob’s hometown we drove the streets of his old neighborhood and shared memories. As we headed down Henry Street we point out Aunt Helen’s house, where the funeral home was a decade ago, churches family members attended. And, there’s Duke’s Bakery in the same location since 1951.

Duke's Bakery Interior

We reminisce about how Grandma Mary used to always bring a couple of gooey butter cakes when she came for a visit. One would be consumed immediately and one frozen for a future indulgence. No where in Denver could we find a coffee cake quite like Duke’s.

Deciding we could share one with Aunt Eleanor and family we doubled back to the bakery. The cases were filled with sweet treats including a couple of gooey butter cakes. My selection was easy; Judy chose large iced sugar cookies for each of us.

With the first cookie bite we knew these were going to have to be dunkers. We’d assumed the pumpkin shapes were in honor of Thanksgiving but now think they might have been left from Halloween.

When I cut into the cake a few hours later I immediately felt a stab of disappointment. The cake was dry and obviously several days, if not a week, OLD. Shame on Duke’s!

*Rant* – Small Minded Tourism Sites

How Small Can They Get?

I admit this is a personal rant; but, here’s my beef. Many communities that depend solely or in large portion on tourism can’t get their act together to present a comprehensive website for activities, dining, events and lodging information. Each special interest presents a small slice of tCB Mountains with Wildflowershe picture. The potential visitor either has to be a world-class sleuth or already be familiar with the area to find all the meaningful information. I suspect in many cases the visitor gives up – either missing important parts of a visit or skipping the destination entirely because that small slice isn’t the right match.

What set me off? My pending weekend in Crested Butte, Colorado. We have family living in “The Butte” and have visited dozens and dozen of times in all seasons. Well, maybe not the spring mud season. I’m a travel writer, I’m on PR email lists, I know the area and I’m frustrated. Can you imagine how the first time visitor from Oklahoma might feel?

Google “Visit Crested Butte”, among the top choices will be www.visitcrestedbutte.com – a commercial site, www.gunnisoncrestedbutte.com – from the Gunnison – Crested Butte Tourism Association, and www.skicb.com – the site of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Each site is totally self-serving. In an area of this size the likelihood of a visitor coming to CB and confining their lodging, dining and recreation to one provider is slim to none. Remember folks – Club Med failed here.

CB Downtown Going to Crested Butte and want to know what’s scheduled? Good luck! It’s actually the biggest weekend of the summer but you have to dig deep for a even a semi-complete picture.

The Community Calendar at www.visitcrestedbutte.com lists Active Isolated Stretching Class on Friday, July 30th. That’s it! Their last Mountain Bike Report update was July 5th; and, this is truly a mountain biking haven. Does this information make anyone believe anything else on the site is relevant or timely?

Over at www.gunnisoncrestedbutte.com the Crested Butte Art Festival is listed as a Featured Event. Clicking the name provides basic details and a link to the event website. Not bad. However, clicking on the 2010 Event Calendar takes me to a cumbersome listing of events with no links. The list is organized by the date of the first event; for example the Crested Butte Music Festival is listed under July 3 – Aug. 5 – Various locations. That’s all the information provided. They’ve put the money into lovely pictures and cute animation on this website but they only promote members.

The Events Calendar at www.skicb.com notes the Arts Festival and Crested Butte Open Gala Dinner and Golf Tournament on Sunday at The Club at Crested Butte – a resort owned property.

Because I had a head’s up from a local I know there’s a Mountain Man RendezvousCB Mountains up Washington Gulch. By checking the Crested Butte Music Festival website I know when and where the free and ticketed events are this weekend. From the local paper, chamber of commerce, town and county web pages additional bits and pieces of information can be obtained.

Why not combine resources and offer a comprehensive site that visitors will truly find helpful. Quit being small town provincial and work together.

Our weekend will include lodging at CBMR, music, the arts festival, mountain man rendezvous, outdoor recreation, shopping and dining. We’ll have a wonderful time in spite of the tourism agencies.


*Rant* – Shame on You, State of Illinois

More Shame for the State of Illinois

There are times when I’m embarrassed to admit I’m from Illinois. My ancestors moved westward with the frontier in the early 1800s from Virginia, through Cumberland Gap, stopping in Ohio and Indiana before finally settling on the Illinois prairie. Reality is that Central Illinois was a great place for growing up and gave me a firm basis for the values I hold and who I am today. However, the shameful political history is an embarrassment and against all values learned on Illinois soil.

As if the recent governor debacle isn’t bad enough when I sat down to write about my visit to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum I made a new discovery. The Governor’s Office under the orders of now – thankfully -ex-governor Rod Blagojevich  has closed 25 historic sites and state parks including four designated National Historic Landmarks. Reviewing the list I see that none are in Chicago or Cook County, the great sinkhole of state funds goes untouched while places like the Carl Sandburg home, Fort Kaskaskia (Illinois’ First Capitol), Kickapoo State Park and the Vandalia Statehouse are shuttered and barricaded. Any member of the public entering the closed parks or sites will be arrested and charged with trespassing. Now, isn’t that a friendly use of taxpayer money?

Sites directly connected with Abraham Lincoln are among those closed. Just in time for the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. Vandalia Statehouse was the location of most of Lincoln’s time as a member of the Illinois state legislature.

lincoln-log-cabin-2Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site was the location of Thomas Lincoln’s farm from 1840 until his death. While Abe never lived on the site he owned and maintained the farm for his stepmother, Sarah Bush Lincoln, after his father died in 1851. He stopped to visit Sarah in early 1861 on his way to his presidential inauguration.

Located eight miles south of Charleston, Illinois the historic site encompasses a replica of Thomas’ log cabin surrounded by a subsistence farm with heirloom crops and cattle breeds. The Stephen Sargent home, reflecting the practices of successful cash crop farming in the 1850s, is also part of the site. Nearby is the Reuben Moore Home where Lincoln and Sarah met for a final time. A living Abraham Lincoln never returned to Illinois.

The need for a replica log cabin holds quite a story. In 1893 the original cabin was disassembled and shipped to Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition. Somehow after the exposition the cabin was lost – perhaps used as firewood. Many photographs existed and a replica was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934.

Before the Blagojevich closing both the Lincoln and Sargent farms supported an active living history program. I’ve visited many such programs around the country and this was absolutely one of the best. The participants weren’t actors or characters, they lived life as the original families would have – growing crops with tools of the period, raising cattle, mucking out the barns, cooking over wood-burning stoves, eating with crude utensils. Authenticity went right down to the hand sewn period underwear worn by the interpreters. This was the only site in the state of Illinois to offer regular first person interpretation.

lincoln-log-cabin-kids1In 2008, volunteers gave over 13,000 hours of their time to ensure that Lincoln Log Cabin was open and accessible to visitors from all 50 states and many other countries. Volunteer support enables the Fifth Grade Live-In and Summer Youth Educational Programs.

The Lincoln-Sargent Farm Foundation is a nonprofit private group that supports the educational programming at Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. Foundation board members are evaluating what potential exists for the foundation to assist the site during the forced closing. Please consider making a donation to help support the efforts of the Foundation in maintaining educational programming and the preservation of rural heritage. Click here to download a form for mailing.

I’m betting the hard working, dedicated volunteers will find a way to overcome the obstacles created by “their” state government. Plus, my check will be in tomorrow’s mail.