CCC Lodge Near Grafton, IL
Just As We Remembered
This is what Don and I were both eager to see! It had been a few decades since our last stay. We were glad to see few changes in the grand open space with log beams and comfy lodge furniture and the giant chess board! The only new addtions were the sort of odd "patchwork leaf quilts" hanging from the beams.
All we needed was cold weather so we could enjoy a fire in the massive 50- foot limestone fireplace. No fire, but we could still enjoy the big green chairs!
And More Chairs!
I had forgotten how many sitting areas there were! There were rattan chairs gathered around a tabletop game of shuffle board...
The Historic Wing
We hiked up a flight to room 222 in the Historic Wing.
There have been lots of renovations since the lodge was completed in 1940. We like old, so we didn't want a room in the new addition. Sadly the only thing that hinted at old, were the windows. It was nice having an updated flat screen TV and a decent bed, but I was kind of hoping for some log beams or some of that big chunky lodge furniture. Or how about a picture on the wall. I think they forgot?
But the windows were great, offering a view of the Illinois River along with a warm fall breeze! And we had the added treat of champagne and chocolates, as well as a $50. voucher for dinner. I'll admit, our package was more about numbers than romance. We were on a 22-day road trip after all. We just did the calculating and this was the best deal.
What the room lacked in rustic decor, it made up for with good bathroom counter space and a checkerboard table with checkers! It even had a Kuerig coffee maker, which was a surprise in a State Park owned lodge. We never expect frills.
Then and Now
Don and I stayed at Pere Marquette in the fall of 1985. I remember sitting in Adirondack chairs on the back terrace. It was a little cooler and we had the place to ourselves, staring out over the sloping lawn to the Illinois River.
The Adirondacks have been replaces by metal tables with umbrellas. I missed sitting in those old wooden chairs, but the view was just the same.
Plus, I had a place to put my glass of wine when I took a photo.
And then I had my turn to pose.. on the very log where we propped our feet, years ago.
Dining at The Lodge
On a Sunday evening the dining room was packed with families feasting on fried chicken and other lodge favorites. The place was thinning out when we arrived after sunset and we could tell the staff was ready for "Apple Festival Day" to be over. I was eager to try the Goat Cliff Soup, I'd heard about. Our server nearly sneered as he told me there was no such thing. Maybe that just means Soup of the Day? I was afraid to ask again. I ordered pot roast and Don ordered salmon. It was tasty and the seats were so comfy we wanted to linger forever. But we took the hints from the yawning staff and moved along.
Don and I made it a point to amuse ourselves by asking her questions every time she came to our table. I don't believe she ever had 2 feet on the ground at once. She answered every question with one sentence as she moved away from our table. I'm not sure why she was in such a hurry? There was hardly anyone there.
Admiring the Fireplace
We spent a little time studying the stone fireplace with all the harvest decor. I hope our waitress didn't hear me complaining. I love real pumpkins and wheat, but I get really tired of cutesy scarecrows and fake leaves. You know you've been on the road for 9 days when you start getting picky about things like that.
Let me end with some photos from our morning walk, before we checked out. Pere Marquette is an absolutely beautiful State Park.
30 Years Ago
Don and I were living in St. Louis in the '80's, when we heard about this place, just a 45 minute drive from the Arch. However, we arrived on bikes and it took a lot longer. I was too sore and exhausted to care about luxury, but I remember chuckling at the "time warp" experience.
Saturday at the Spa
When we visited recently, I was surprised to find Okawville, smaller and quieter than I remembered. When we walked through the open front door, we actually saw others checking in at the front desk. I expected to see no one. How did they even hear about this place? We had to wait a bit while some couples checked in and made arrangements for massages and spa treatments. Really?
A Bit Worn
I sound like a spa snob. In fact I know very little about spas. This was just not the atmosphere where I could picture people coming for a weekend of pampering. The lobby was comfy enough, like Grandma's house... with lace doilies and autumn scarecrow decor. A breeze was blowing through the lacy curtains, causing the advertisement fliers, taped to the woodwork to flutter. It was the kind of comfy that made you want to take off your shoes and tilt back on the Lazy Boy with a Reader's Digest. I just couldn't see myself signing up for a Detoxifying Body Wrap or a Deep Tissue Massage.
There was no elevator, but they had an awesome staircase to our second floor room. My photos are good at disguising stains on walls and carpets. They also hide some of the old building smells. I'm not complaining though, we like old hotels and we had asked for one of the older rooms. We were just happy this place still existed!
When we opened the door my senses were bombarded. Visually, the green and burgundy decor transported me right back to 1980's! Little straw hats and dried flowers decorated the walls and wallpaper border. A curious swag of material hung above a rather grimy window. And what was that smell coming through the window...?
The kitchen blower was right on the other side of the glass. It's good Don and I are not vegetarian or we could have had a real problem with this. Mostly it just made us laugh... and made us hungry.
What Shall We Do?
We had the whole afternoon to enjoy! What should we do? 30 years ago, I did partake of the bathhouse experience, with a soak in the hot mineral waters. I remember the attendant delivering me to my tiny dark room with a claw-footed tub, that had been filled with a hose. I remember I had a hard time suppressing my giggles at the whole situation. I've never been very good at relaxing.
A Quick Tour
We decide against spa time, but did take a little peek. The old steam cabinets and massive tubs had been removed. A "modern" tub tried to tempt us with some awaiting mineral water. The wooden loungers, covered in sheets, looked like ghosts rising slowly.
Where are the Old Tubs?
We remembered the pool from our last visit. The hand painted stairs, the surrounding picket fence and the glassed in ceiling. Mostly we remembered an encounter with a gentleman 30 years ago. He had approached Don with an almost frightened expression. "You look just like my son." We've always wondered about that. We didn't have anymore people encounters near the pool, but Don did make use by doing a little lap swimming.
Ahhh! The Porch!
The porch looked more inviting this time. The wicker furniture was pretty comfy and the weather was lovely! It felt good to sit and do a little nothing. This was the 7th night of our 22-day road trip and we were ready for a little porch time.
But then the bells surprised me with a performance of "We shall overcome..." I've never heard that played on church bells! The concert ended and we suddenly heard the clomping of horse's hoofs. I looked up to see a bride and groom riding by in the backseat of a carriage. A few minutes later the driver rolled past, minus the bride and groom. What interesting entertainment.
Saturday Night Dining in Okawville
Lucky for us the hotel had a restaurant in the basement. As far as I know there were no other dining options in Okawville. By the time we made it down to The Boiler Room for a meal of pork chops and chicken, there was hardly a table left.
This photo, taken earlier, shows the festive fall decor and cozy corner bar. We sat at a table between the glowing juke box and non-glowing fireplace. It was a perfect spot for people watching and there was a lot of that to be had. We seemed to be the only diners who weren't a part of a large, local family reunion. Lots of greeting and hugging and mingling. We looked a little out of place as we sat glued to our table.
Time for Bed!
We returned to our room where we were greeted with a blast of new aromas! Bacon and sausage smells filled our room! All we could do was laugh!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!