How the Back Porch Sits

This past Wednesday, around 3:30pm, I headed out from Chicago toward a downstate gem—Quincy, IL. I had been invited to attend the Mississippi River Parkway Commission (MRPC) Conference being hosted there as well as present Relay to the 40+ commissioners gathering there from the 10 states touched by the Great River.

After driving the several hours just to get through Chicago traffic, I finally found my way to 55 and then 72 and things were pretty smooth sailing. The night was so dark when I hit Quincy around 9pm, I wasn’t sure if the network of lights to my left was industry along the river or belated holiday decor.

Early the next morning, I was ready with my conference packet, my Quality Inn breakfast, and seated front row for the general session to begin. My eager student attitude paid off, as I found my neighbor to the right was “Pilot” Karl Samp—the chief commissioner of MRPC and a native of Brainerd, MN. What an amazing, generous, knowledgable and kind soul I had just discovered!

I quickly learned the priorities of the MRPC, with Carol Zoff from the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region leading the session, running through an exercise to build a new 10-state “corridor management plan.” From archeological, to cultural, historical, natural, recreational, to scenic, the resources available on the Great River Road are vast, and it was awesome to spend a few days sharing ideas with these amazing volunteers, working for their states, regions, and communities.

Later that first evening, the group piled in a tour bus and went into Historic Quincy to tour some of the beautiful architecture and antiques in the area. The most memorable for me was the Baldwin-Dayton-Emery House, built in 1880 by Ebenezer G. and Agnes W. Baldwin but currently owned and decorated by owners who moved from Ocean City, MD in 2003. The inventory alone from this tour is a treasure, and the precision and consideration of placement of each accessory and furniture piece—from bedroom to powder room—is impeccable!

The home tour was most memorable, though, not for all the great sights, but rather for the great conversations I had with Anne Lewis from Grand Rapids/Minneapolis who founded Americas Waterway and is a real champion of discourse along the river. I’m looking forward to keeping that dialogue going as well as connecting again with Mike Klinger—owner of another of the homes we toured and an engineer and activist working against the flooding along the upper Mississippi River.

In the end, I finally did make it to the presentation on Friday morning—a little under the weather from a debilitating migraine attack the night before. However, I rallied thank goodness, and got through the 30 minutes and some questions before thoroughly fading and being assisted back to my room by the gracious Holly Cain of the Quincy CVB! My thanks to the Quality Inn is in multitudes for letting me have that late check out and try to sleep off the pain a few extra hours.

So, here I am, finally back at home in Chicago—even made it through to a great rehearsal with the company tonight! Only eleven more days until we launch the Advance Tour, heading first to Minneapolis and then further upriver to Lake Itasca and the headwaters! I cannot say thank you enough to all the amazing people I met and how I am looking forward to this new connection with the MRPC. I’m ready to get out of this “concrete metro,” as Norma Pruitt, my new liaison from the Kentucky Great River Road said, and get a better a view of “how the back porch sits!”