From prairie to suburbia

After exploring waterfalls, cornfields, and indulging in root beer floats, it was time to leave the Illinois prairie and head into Chicago’s suburbs to visit family.IllinoisWe’re quickly reminded about the Illinois tollway.  With the two additional axles on the Fifth Wheel (toll fee based on number of axels), our first toll was $7.50 and we only  used this stretch of road for about 10 miles.  (Thank you Hildi.  Once again hubby listens to the GPS instead of the wife.  Wife would’ve saved the money by rerouting)  Oh well 🙂  Before leaving Colorado, I considered purchasing the Illinois I-Pass but didn’t think we’d use the tollway enough to make it cost effective, plus I had concerns there would be a mail delay and the darn thing would arrive at our daughters home after we hit the road.  Illinois I-Pass

Sycamore IllinoisHaving the I-Pass makes it very convenient since there’s no stopping involved.  You get to pass the toll plaza without slowing down as the little contraption is scanned through the windshield.  Also the cost of the toll in most cases is half price with the I-Pass.  And trust me, those tolls add up real quick.

Hildi has us exit Interstate 88 shortly after the toll plaza and takes us through some small towns.  It’s a fun drive.  Al nor I have driven through this part of Illinois in nearly twenty-five years.  With the exception of a little growth, much has remained the same.

We pulled into the Paul Wolff Campground with low expectations considering we were rather disappointed with the Starved Rock State Park Campground.  Wow, what a pleasant surprise.  There’s 89 paved sites with 50 amp electric and 10 primitive walk-in tent sites.  Water spigots are scattered precariously throughout the grounds.  We snagged a large pull-thru site with a water spigot nearby to hook up to.

Elgin Illinois

Paul Wolff Campground, Elgin, Illinois

The more popular RV loop offers shaded sites amongst a grove of large trees.  We chose the open meadow loop to optimize TV and internet reception.  This is a Kane County run Forest Preserve and is maintained impeccably.  It’s located on the far west side of the city of Elgin in northern Illinois.

Paul Wolff Campground

9 miles of trails meander through the Burnidge Forest Preserve/Paul Wolff Campground. This is one of the mowed meadow trails. I loved all the wildflowers.

I grew up east of Elgin, Illinois, and my dad still lives in the house where I was raised.  Thus, the Paul Wolff Campground was a great find and the quick 15 mile drive to dad’s house made for lots of enjoyable visits.

gardening in Illinois

picking cucumbers and tomatoes with my dad in his garden

My dad’s house is within walking distance to the train station and usually we never pass up at least one sojourn into Chicago anytime we’re back in the area.   The Metra train even has a stop near the campground; Big Timber Road.  After serious consideration, we took a pass on the day in the city opting to focus on family visits, especially since our son, Logan, surprised everyone with a visit.

Illinois farm stand

Logan and I visit the local farm stand to pick up dinner

Logan had flown to Chicago from Phoenix earlier in the week for a business trip and ended up extending his stay so he could spent some time with his Illinois relatives.  My dad was thrilled to see him, as were his aunts.

When it was time for Al and I to drop Logan off at O’Hare Airport, I did the driving.  I was a little nervous driving the big truck through congested traffic, especially at Chicago’s O’Hare.  When I lived in the area years ago, I always had little cars. I managed the big truck just fine, but was relieved to get that drive out of the way.  We encountered stop and go traffic, insane road construction, heavy congestion, and mean pointing police officers at the airport, and of course tolls.

Al and I decided it was best I drive since this was my old stomping grounds and I know the roads better than he does.  Hubby doesn’t like it when I give him directions (aka – tell him how to drive).  Hildi (the GPS mistress) can tell him how to drive, Ingrid (the wife) cannot.  Must be that marital thing!

Next up, we move over to Al’s sister’s place……


88 year old Dad says, “Oh no. What happened to my flowers?” In the foreground, you’ll notice the weight of the blooms toppled the limbs. With a little attention, they’ll be upright in no time.

Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles


54 thoughts on “From prairie to suburbia

  1. We’re without any internet here at Ridgeway, but I’ve been riding along with you as often as we get somewhere with signal! I love the picture with you and your Dad – that is some mighty robust dill you’re hiding behind!

    Your Hildi stories remind me of a funny sign I saw on a narrow, dirt forest service road the other day….It said something like – truckers!!!! if your GPS tells you to take this road, its WRONG. Turn around immediately! Hahahahaha!

    • Thanks Sue. I’m jealous…. wish I was at Ridgway SP and exploring the San Juan’s. We usually stay in site #18 or #3 (above the damn) and receive ok internet. Hope there’s still plenty of wildflowers around for you to enjoy 🙂

    • The house feels a little empty without my mom around, but I’m grateful my dad has an amazing attitude. It been a very enjoyable visit 🙂

  2. Glad your son got to come for your visit! The absolute worst traffic accident I ever saw was on the interstate just south of Chicago a few years ago. Several big 18 wheel trucks crashed into each other, and we drove past it on the opposite side before any police or ambulances arrived. It was just awful, and I later read that at least one trucker was killed. Those are indeed scary roads!

    • Yeah, I hate that heavy semi-truck traffic…. nothing worse than traveling 60 miles an hour sandwiched. We make every attempt to stay out of Chicago traffic. I’ll take mountains any day 🙂

  3. Although summer is not the ideal time to visit Illinois, I’m sure your father was so happy to have you there. What a treat to have your son come to visit. Love that photo of you and your day Ingrid.

    • I picked August on purpose for our visit. I knew the tomatoes and corn would be ripe and OH are they ever good. Also the bugs and storms are not bad, unlike May and June.

    • Oh trust me, we talk back to her and not always in the nicest way lol. She does provide occasional entertainment along with frustration but then she also has the ability to be VERY helpful.

  4. How great to have your son surprise you with a visit! So glad you are enjoying your visit with family. Your are a brave woman to drive through all that city traffic! We avoid Atlanta and other cities at all times!

    • We do our best to avoid big cities especially towing, not always doable. Fortunately, the campground was in the country and the only serious city drive was the one to take Logan to the airport. So the RV stayed comfortably parked in the forest preserve…. thank goodness 🙂

  5. Such sweet family photos! Love the one of you and your dad. And what a wonderful surprise to have your son there, as well. We also stay in our trailer when we visit my folks in Florida, even though they have a big house. We need our own space. 🙂

    • Thank you Laurel. Isn’t it wonderful staying in your own home while visiting family or friends? It makes for such a pleasant visit allowing everyone to maintain their own routine. We’ve been parked at Al’s sister’s place for about 10 days now, and she’s loving it (much to her surprise). Our lifestyle still perplexes her!

  6. Im sure you brought lots of sunshine to your dad and made him very happy plus Logans surprise visit. The vegetable and flower garden are keeping your Dad fit and busy I suppose.
    That is a nice campground! I would not mind staying there as long as it is not in the Chicago area.

    • The campground is in the country surrounded by trees, meadows, and cornfields with Chicago an easy one-hour train ride away. Dad enjoyed all of us visiting and I’m enjoying the fresh veggies from his garden….. that’s why the August visit 🙂

    • While our son was in town with work, he and a couple of co-workers went to a Cubs game. Public transportation all the way. I’d say this is a great campground to stay at and explore Chicago. The campground is in the ‘country’ and it’s about a one-hour train ride into the city. It’s the best of both worlds. I’m working on that post 🙂

  7. Perhaps Hildi will accidentally take a flying leap out the passenger window? Just a thought. 🙂
    Lovely to see some of your family. Your Dad must have been so happy to have the two of you and Logan visit.

  8. That looks like a nice campground, especially since the train into Chicago stops near by. I have added it to our list of places to stay as I want to visit Chicago but not necessarily camp there.

    • This would be the perfect place to camp and take in a Chicago visit. I think from the Big Timber train station it might take an hour to get into the city. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to check into the parking situation at the station. The campground is located in a country setting and close to stores and farm stands. Be sure and let me know whenever you get around to a visit. I can provide a bunch of insight 🙂

  9. Lovely campground, Ingrid, and how wonderful to be ab;e to spend time with your family, especially your dear dad and Logan. The garden looks wonderful, and I’m just imagining fresh cucumbers and tomatoes instead of store bought. 🙂

    • The veggies from dad’s garden are so delicious. As you well know, family visits at this stage are very special for everyone. We’re taking full advantage of our time in Illinois 🙂

    • Yes, my dad really enjoys gardening and my sister and her husband help him out since dad’s ability to bend over is limited. It’s amazing to see how lush and green everything is around here. Such a vast difference from places like Moab.

  10. Barb and I drove from Indiana to Wisconsin this spring and it cost us over $40 in tolls. On top of that our GPS route me to the express lane through Chicago. It told me to get in the left lane and the next thing I knew I was committed. You should have seen the looks I got from the other drivers. You know how patient and considerate Chicago drivers are (not!). I was able to get in the proper lane a few miles up and ignored the constant bickering of the GPS the rest of the way through town.

    • After the GPS took us on to the tollway after I specifically recommended we NOT take I-88, I unplugged her LOL. When I took our son to the airport, I stopped using my blinker because each time I did folks would speed up and not let me in… grrr! We’re heading up into WI next week and on the 25th Al will be going out onto Lake MI for fishing with the guys. Should be a fun time.

  11. Thanks for the report on the campground, I added it to my spreadsheet for a possible future visit. We are heading to Michigan tomorrow from Kansas City. Decided to take a route around St. Louis, north through Indiana to avoid Chicago traffic. The trip back we will most likely take I-80 south of Chicago. We will be on Lake Michigan by then anyway. I’ve never driven an RV in city traffic (the rig we rent is 25′ class C). Figure by the trip home I’ll be more comfortable driving.

    • Paul Wolff CG is probably way out of the way from the sounds of your intended route. It would work if you were heading up into WI which is what we’re doing. Enjoy MI. It’s my favorite Midwestern state 🙂

  12. Ha! We lived in Geneva for a while before getting smart and heading to Wisconsin!

    If I remember right, the iPass really “costs” virtually nothing — there’s the deposit that you get back if you cancel your account and turn in the transponder, plus an initial toll deposit, and if I remember right the entire actually purchase price is only $5.00. You can administer your account online — I do — and you set your own deposit-refill levels, as well as the amount you automatically add to the account when it refills. For us, we have maybe $40.00 sitting in that account like an unused bank account when we aren’t in the state and when we come back to WI (how do you get to WI from the South without going through IL?) we have the convenience. For US it makes perfect sense. But I can see maybe not for you.

    AND — it’s good in IN, and OH, and all the places where EZ Pass is accepted.

    • Geneva is a really nice Chicago burb and you are totally right about the I-Pass. I probably should have gotten one but we don’t intend to return to IL each summer, or for that matter head east of the Rockies. Thus, I won’t mess with it. We’re heading into WI next week but must admit I can’t wait to get back to Colorado. I’m missing the mountains.

  13. That campground does look very nice. How awesome you got to spend time with your family. That makes the whole trip worth it. I have never had to pay a toll, if we head eastward someday, I will have to be aware of that.

    • This country has so much diverse beauty to enjoy and explore. But with that said, you won’t find us traveling east of the Rockies very often. We traveled the eastern half of the United States extensively during our airline days. Thus, we’ll focus our travels in the RV west of the Rockies…. much more RV friendly 😉

  14. Your dad looks great, Ingrid:) Love that he has both vegetable and flower gardens. Keeping physically busy is so important. Good to have this time together:) How nice that Logan joined the family! What a wonderful park!

    • It was wonderful that Logan was able to join us. It really made my dad happy. Dad is having good AND bad days and was actually in the hospital for 48 hours last week. Every day is a gift and I’m glad we’re visiting. And the bonus was a fantastic campground to park. We lucked out 🙂

  15. How wonderful your son was able to extend his stay for a visit. Love the shot of you & your day in his garden, precious time spent together!

    • Thank you Lynn. I’m kicking myself for forgetting to take photos of my son and dad together. We got caught up in the visit which I sure can’t complain about.

  16. Those golden shots of rolled bales of straw are irresistible for your camera lens, aren’t they? Love how they glow.

    I dread the thought of driving in heavy urban traffic while towing. You may have shamed me into accepting more of that responsibility. Good job.

    • You have no idea how much I wanted Al to pull over so I could get into the field and grab some fun shots of all those bales of straw. I have a fascination with them. Alas, a photo out of a moving vehicle had to suffice.
      I DON’T voluntarily tow through congested traffic. I have through Albuquerque and parts of Phoenix and that’s about it. All the city driving near Chicago was with the truck alone, which was stressful enough. As soon as I’d put my blinker on, folks would speed up so they wouldn’t let me in. I wised up and quit using the blinker. “Coming thru, get the **** out of my way”!!! Big dogs win! 😆

  17. Small world, as I grew up on the North end of Elgin IL on Plum St.. I know exactly where you are talking about when you say Big Timber Rd. After moving to Sandwich at age 12, I attended Elgin Community College for 2 years there too. Your Dad looks amazingly young..and your son is a very handsome young man, great combo of you and Al..Looking forward to pictures of your stay at his sister’s house..Haven’t seen those girls in years..Enjoy that great family time!!!

    • You know, I went to Elgin High School? I’m so glad we found that campground. It made the stay so enjoyable and it allowed us to visit dad without imposing on his routine. The girls are a couple of characters. I wish we had more time in the area to get all of us together. Next time…. at the Sandwich Fair. Oh dear, what a dangerous combo that might be 🙂

      • My big sis, now deceased, graduated Elgin High School in 1950..That was the only high school, and there were 400 or more in her graduating class..I went to Larsen Jr. High School for seventh grade then we moved to Sandwich…small world!!

        • My brother graduated from that same school / building. I graduated from the NEW Elgin High with about 1,000 other seniors. Encountered a couple of racial riots and evacuations during my 3 years. All part of my education!

  18. I did the same thing when traveling on Hwy 20…stopped at one of my childhood home in Claredon Hills, IL and then to my other one in Perrysburg, OH. Talk about time warp when going back after 30 years. Enjoy your visit with family

    • I just reconnected with a friend while here. We met when she lived in Clarendon Hills and I lived in Hinsdale. Small world. My dad lives just off of Hwy 20. Thus it was an easy shot from the campground to his house. Always nice reconnecting with family and friends.

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