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Not weary or anything these days, are you?

Despite our Creator’s insistence that we observe a Sabbath, taking a day away simply to play is challenging for many households. There isn’t enough time or money. There are way too many legitimate needs. Unless it’s a long-planned vaca, you just can’t afford to get away.

I guess we have Max Weber to blame for that.

According to Wikipedia, Herr Weber coined the term “Protestant work ethic” over a century ago in his seminal work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Drawn from the fields of theology, sociology, economics and history, the concept emphasizes that “hard work, discipline and frugality are a result of a person’s subscription to the values espoused by the Protestant faith, particularly Calvinism.”

But it’s not just us Protestants, you know.

A coworker raised Roman Catholic calls it her “Catholic Guilt” – the sense that she has never done quite enough for anybody. That she’s spread too thin. That there just isn’t enough of her to go around. And our Jewish friends trace their work ethic back to Joseph, viceroy of Egypt under Pharaoh, whom the Bible calls a “successful man” (Gen. 41:40).

Galatians exhorts us to carry each other’s burdens, “and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Having been both burden-bearer and burden-sharer, there is no other way to live a meaningful life in community.

But sometimes, occasionally, every now and then, from time to time you just gotta getta way.

A short way away, even, so that you’re not staring at piles of laundry, home maintenance projects, or the never empty inbox.

And you need to encourage others to get a way as well – a modest way away to refuel, recharge, and refocus.

So the week before last I pulled out my aspirational travel file and found a magazine article I’d torn out about Princeton, Illinois, a rural enclave in Bureau County about 90 minutes west of our home. Over a Thursday lunch hour I googled the local Chamber of Commerce, spoke to a lovely woman named Maria. Called my husband, rang up my mom and made the pitch.

“The calendar is blank tomorrow night and most of Saturday,” (an event more rare than a solar eclipse). “Let’s go somewhere!”

When it comes to impulsive decisions Mike’s usually the gas and I’m the brakes, so it didn’t take much convincing.

And on Friday after work, the three of us set off for 24 hours off the grid just 90 minutes away but a world from home.

I love reading other’s travel recommendations, so for my fellow Midwesterners, here are ours.

Princeton has several decent hotel options including a newly renovated AmericInn with a pool if you’re traveling with kids, but we go for ambience and charm over predictability.


Our pick? The award-winning 1854 Chestnut St. Inn in Sheffield, just an exit or two past Princeton heading west on Rt. 80. Delightfully congenial owners Jeff and Monika were serving a full-course dinner to guests and members of the community when we arrived (sold out, we’ll book ahead next time), but we exclaimed over the hot gourmet breakfast the next morning : lemon-curd flaxmeal pancakes with homemade lemon- blueberry compote and locally sourced bacon. (My pork producer farmer dad would have approved.)

The three of us stayed in the Green Room (actually a two-bedroom suite formerly the Maid’s Quarters), and next time we plan to book the Blue Room. I love how the owners decorated with vintage china.

Enjoying the hospitality of the Sudakovs is reason enough to visit the Princeton area but here’s how we spent our Saturday.

  • First stop, the Chamber of Commerce at 435 South Main to pick up a packet of information Maria left out for us. Lots of parking, plenty to explore on Main!
  • Favorite shops: Lodestone for gifts and home decor, Sassy Sisters for clothes for grownup women (scored a cute jean jacket for under $30), and Hoffman’s for vintage china patterns and crystal.
  • Lunch? Try Four and Twenty Café with its winsome nursey rhyme décor right across the street from the Chamber. Mike recommends the fabulous cheesesteak sandwich with homemade chips; Mom and I loved the artisan cheese plate and the best clam chowder outside of New England.
  • After lunch, walk over to the Bureau County Historical Museum off Courthouse Square. If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy the fine display of Native American artifacts as well as women’s fashions and memorabilia from the Great War and WW2. And if architecture is your thing, you must see the 1899 Clark-Norris House built by The Richest Man in Town. Curator David Gugerty gave us a private tour ($3 donation.)
  • And now the real reason to visit Princeton: Myrtle’s Pies! I read about these in a farm publication a couple years back, and oh my that pie. We tried French Silk, Lemon Meringue Poppyseed and Chocolate Coconut but will have to return to sample the rest. At about $3.50 per slice it’s worth getting off Rt. 80 for.
    • Bonus stop as you head home: going north on Main/Rt. 26 out of Princeton, cross Rt. 80 and turn left at the sign in a mile or so to visit the 1864 Red Covered Bridge, built as part of the Galena Trail and the only covered bridge in the state still open to motor traffic.(Can you read the sign? “FIVE DOLLARS FINE FOR DRIVING MORE THAN TWELVE HORSES MULES AT ONE TIME OR FOR LEADING ANY BEAST FASTHER THAN A WALK ON OR ACROSS THIS BRIDGE.”) Be warned.  
  • What we missed: the historic Lovejoy Homestead (a station on the Underground Railroad), Hornbaker Gardens (opens April 10), and the colorful Barn Quilts of Bureau County (get a map at the Chamber or online.)

Sometimes, ya know, you just gotta get away. A little ways away.

And for Chicagoland suburbanites, Bureau County is just the ticket.