It is with a sense of utter glee and joy that I share this series of articles with you, dear readers. I never thought it would happen, but I have embarked on an adventure that is merging all facets of my blog into one.
In one of my earliest theatre tales, I mentioned that one of my favorite plays is Cotton Patch Gospel. While not a well known play, it was a big hit when it first appeared back in 1982. A few years ago, I started keeping my eyes on a fansite for the show that marked where it was playing in the United States. Given the subject matter of the show, it usually plays in the South, but I always hoped it would one day get to Omaha or close enough so that I could see it in person. A few months ago, I saw that the show was going to be produced at the Howmet Playhouse in Whitehall, MI. It was a long drive at slightly over 10 hours, but definitely doable. When I found that Whitehall contained some B & Bs as well, I decided to buy a ticket to the show and break up the drive so I could review a few inns along the way.
So it was that I found myself on the road again on a spring-like summer’s day making the long journey to Whitehall. For the first day, I would travel as far as West Dundee, IL, a village that is a mere 34 miles from Chicago. I once wrote that Mapquest directions seem to assume that a person is driving 10 miles under the speed limit as I always seemed to arrive at my destination a good hour before the directions said I would actually arrive. This time proved to be a different tale.
Just past Des Moines, IA, I stopped at a rest area to stretch my legs a bit and once I got back on the road, traffic immediately ground to a halt. It turns out the state was repainting the lines on I-80, so I spent 45 minutes plodding along like a turtle while I listened to the comical rants of Lewis Black to pass the time. Mind you, there was no warning about the painting. . .at least not up front. As soon as I got past the painting vehicles, there was a massive digital sign blaring the warning, ROADS BEING PAINTED. EXPECT DELAYS. “Oh! Is that what was happening?” I flippantly thought to myself. State of Iowa, in the words of Jeff Foxworthy, here’s your sign.
The drive progressed pretty smoothly for a while, until I crossed the border from Iowa to Illinois. At that point, things slowed to a snail’s crawl again because Illinois was performing heaping amounts of construction on the interstate. To make a long story less long, I ended up arriving in West Dundee nearly two hours later than planned.
But it was well worth the drive. I think I just may retire to West Dundee. This is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. There are so many historical homes here that I would have exhausted my camera’s memory card trying to take pictures of them all. And I was going to get to stay in one!!
I found my way to The Mansion and my jaw dropped. This inn, owned by Steve Fang & Eda Tomasone, is rivaled only by the Inn on Crescent Lake in terms of luxury and grandeur. I was greeted by Steve who informed me that I had been upgraded to the best room in the house at no additional charge. He said I would have room to spread out and that was understating things quite a bit.
I stayed in the Terrace Room which boasted a master bedroom, a sitting room, a private terrace, and a Jacuzzi bathtub and shower. I quickly settled in, dug out my camera, and began my explorations of The Mansion and the town of West Dundee. The long walk felt good for my legs and worked up my appetite for dinner.
Dinner was at the Village Squire, a nice bistro in the town that boasts live entertainment. As soon as I stepped inside, the singer/guitar player began singing the classic Beatles tune You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away and I knew I was going to be in for an enjoyable meal. I tipped the singer for playing music from my favorite band and sat down to enjoy a Chicken Caprese Panini with a side of steak fries. I lingered over a tasty meal while listening to live classic soft rock and enjoying the escapades of the obsessive-compulsive detective, Adrian Monk.
After dinner, I made my way to Main Street where I went to the Underground Retrocade. For a good portion of my youth, I was an avid video gamer and this place offered me a chance to relive a bit of my childhood. It’s two floors of classic arcade and pinball machines. All you have to do is pay a $15 cover charge and you can play to your heart’s content and, believe me, I more than went through the cover charge in the 2.5 hours I was there. I felt just like a kid again as I battled the Sea Hag and Brutus in Popeye, dueled with Donkey Kong, served drinks in Tapper, and chased down criminals in A.P.B.
It was still a pleasant night as I walked back to The Mansion. Once I returned, I took a long soak in my Jacuzzi tub and then sank into the mattress of my bed. My lights were out until the morning.
I awoke, fully rejuvenated and ready for a great breakfast. Breakfast consisted of orange juice, scrambled eggs (with a splash of sriracha sauce), sausage links, and pancakes. I savored my meal and ended up having a terrific conversation with Steve who shares my interests in music and theatre. After 90 minutes, I returned to my home to finish today’s story.
Shortly, I begin the 4 hour trek to Whitehall where the White Swan B & B and Cotton Patch Gospel await. But if you find your way to West Dundee, get a room at The Mansion. You’ll be glad you did.