En-route: Small Town Finds

After our excitement in Wisconsin we were ready for a couple of easy state stickers for our map! We rolled into Belvidere, Illinois with no expectations beyond that. This was an en-route stop on our journey, not a specific destination. Belvidere showed us that we should always have expectations!

Belvidere, a small town west of Chicago, considers itself the “City of Murals” with 15 murals in its downtown area. We saw these four murals when we had lunch.


We also found the Pettit Chapel in the Belvidere Cemetery, one of only two chapels ever designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. After reading the book, Loving Frank, I’m not a fan of the man,  but I can appreciate the history and beauty of his designs.

Emma Pettit commissioned the Pettit Chapel as a memorial to her deceased husband, Dr. William H. Pettit, beloved physician and humanitarian. Built in 1907, the chapel is on the National Registry of Historic Places.


The cemetery has a historic walking tour with 36 grave markers identified for people who contributed to “historic progress of the community, state and the nation.” Here are a few:


Wales Woods was a lawyer in New York before coming to Belvidere. During the Civil War he was appointed Adjutant to the 95th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry. In addition to his service, he wrote a detailed history of the 95th, a regiment that was decimated at the Battle of Guntown, Mississippi. An interesting side note about the 95th regiment involved one of its former privates.  In 1913 civil war veteran Albert Cashiere was hit by a car and found to be a woman, Jenny Hodges.


Also from the Civil War era, Adjutant General Allen C. Fuller was buried in this family plot. As a memorial for his daughter Ida, who died at age 24, he commissioned Belividere’s free public library in 1883.

Gravestones for other war veterans are found throughout the cemetery, even from the Revolutionary War.


Sarah Loop was the first white woman in Boone County, Illinois.


There were two sets of intertwined tree headstones, this one for Cephas and Pamelia Gardner.

Our truck was telling us it needed fresh oil so the next stop was Manley Ford. The first thing I noticed walking in the door was script on the wall saying “World’s Second Oldest Ford Dealer.” Does that not beg the question where is the world’s oldest ford dealer?  I asked the first employee I saw who responded that he had no idea. Surely I’m not the first person to ask.  It seems if you put that statement on the wall, employees ought to know the answer to the obvious question. As I had time and my phone I did the search…..

Oldest Ford Dealers in the World
Tenvoorde Ford, St. Cloud MN
Manley Ford, Belvidere, IL
Diehl Ford, Bellingham, WA
Fairmont Ford, Fairmont, MN
Swanson Ford, Ceresco, NE
Tiffany Ford, Hollister, CA

Manley Ford also says it is the 3rd oldest car dealer in the world, not exclusive to Ford. There was a list of all the various types of cars they had sold, beginning in 1883, most of which I had never heard of. But by then my interest had waned….

There were a variety of Henry Ford quotes on the walls, including this:    Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.   Randy and I should stay forever young if we keep learning things along the way.

The next day we learned about toll roads on the somewhat harrowing trek from Illinois, through the northwest corner of Indiana to the southwest corner of Michigan. We tried to route around most of Chicago but it is too big to escape completely.


We encountered our first, second, third, and maybe even fourth toll roads! Thanks to Gerry and Kathy, friends we met in Arizona last winter, we were prepared with our Illinois I-Pass giving us half price tolls in Illinois.  The pass also works with other states’ toll systems throughout the midwest and northeast. Our toll expenditures for the day –  $19. We were glad to be able to drive by or through all of those toll collection stations instead of getting in lines and worrying about having the right cash.


Michigan’s theme seems poignantly sad given the Flint water situation.

We arrived for our overnight near Buchanan, Michigan. We have been told many times that we should go to Michigan’s upper peninsula and someday, when we forget about the bugs and humidity of this region, we’ll come back.  This quick stop was all about getting that Michigan sticker on our map!


Yet, even here in Buchanan, Michigan we found something of interest. Our campground is called Bear Cave Resort and even though the “resort” label is stretching it, there really is a Bear Cave.


Caves are rare in this part of the country and this one was formed by glacial drift 25,000 years ago. The cave is about 150 feet long, 10 feet high and 4-6 feet wide. It opened for visitors in 1940.


The interesting thing about this cave is that it was used as part of the underground railroad during the civil war. Fleeing slaves were brought up the St. Joe River, hidden in the cave until nightfall, and then sent to the next station enroute to Canada.

In addition, the 1903 silent movie classic “The Great Train Robbery” was filmed at Bear Cave. The movie was based on a real Ohio bank robbery and the bandits used Bear Cave as a hideout before escaping the country.

We tried to take a trek to Lake Michigan, just to see it, and let Elko wade in a great lake. Unfortunately, public access to the lake in this corner of Michigan is almost non-existant. Two towns had some access but did not allow pets so we went on by. Coming from a western perspective where scenic over-looks and public access are the norm, we were disappointed.

We did see lightning bugs on the drive back to the campground though! Randy is re-living his Oklahoma childhood seeing the lightning bugs! Guess there are good bugs to go with the bad!

Moving today – back into Indiana!

About Serene

Former full time RVers, transitioned to homeowners and travelers. We've still got a map to finish! Home is the Phoenix area desert and a small cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona.
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