It can be difficult being away from home, and I certainly missed my wife and kids while I was away for a week last month. I’d also be lying, though, if I said I didn’t enjoy being on the road and visiting both new and familiar places.
If I could, I’d travel much more frequently, and to much more exotic locales than I have thus far in my life. I’ve never even been outside of North America, for crying out loud — there’s a huge world out there beckoning me from multiple angles. Maybe when I retire from the Globe (I can’t imagine that being before 75, or even 80, given Social Security will either be broke or non-existent at some point), Becca and I can circle the globe (not the office) and see things we’ve only seen online and read about in books.
Until then, I’ll settle for a few interesting towns here and there. Driving out to Vermont last month, one of the places at which my brother and I stopped — on the advice of coffee-drinking buddy Daryl Bosma — was Galena, Ill. I now know where I’d love to take Bec for a husband/wife-only getaway weekend at some point.
Galena, for those who don’t know, is the birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant. One can visit, though, and probably skip the whole history/Grant element and just walk up and down main street. There are shops galore — the length of the downtown stunned both of us, considering the population of the community is only about 3,500 or so. It’s a historic downtown that’s been rejuvenated in recent years, and though it is a bit touristy it’s definitely great to stroll through.
Naturally, I had to find some java downtown, and wound up at Kaladi’s 925 Coffee Bar, located right along the main drag. I starting chatting with the woman behind the counter and before I knew it, I was learning that she had been a longtime resident of Worthington for some 15 years (I’m wishing I’d jotted down her name). We were only in town about 30 to 45 minutes; I’d like to spend an afternoon there. I’ve since been told there’s much more to do than just window-shop, and the topography of the place alone merits a return visit.
A few days later, while back east reuniting with family, my mom and I took a side trip to Poultney, Vt., and Whitehall, N.Y. Poultney has a pleasant, small downtown with a few nice shops, including a wonderful used book store complete with multiple dusty shelves and a fair share of totally random finds. It has a good coffee shop — a must for me in any locale — in Café Pazienza, which exists in large part because Poultney is home to Green Mountain College, a four-year liberal arts institution. I’m not sure if I could live in Poultney — it’s population is about the same is Galena, but it feels smaller — but I can think of far worse places to spend a few hours.
As for Whitehall, it’s the birthplace of the U.S. Navy, and there’s also a Bigfoot statue — but there’s not much else. The town does have its share of intrigue, however, as there are multiple boarded-up downtown buildings and a body of water (Lake Champlain) that has multiple commerce possibilities. If Whitehall has a very rich uncle, he’d be advised to check the place out.
Lastly, Decorah, Iowa, was a stop when my dad and drove back from Vermont to Worthington. There’s Luther College, Norwegian heritage galore, beautiful hills and valleys, a gorgeous park with a walking and biking trail, a downtown with lots of cool merchants and restaurants, a food co-op scene — I could go on. It’s another place I’d like to go and spend a weekend.
We’ll see just when that happens. As for now, I’ll do my best to enjoy everything that Worthington has to offer. And that’s by no means a bad thing, either.