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Mile Markers' Trip Along the Great River Road

Nov 14, 2014 From Local Experts

A windmill on left and tiny house on the left

We sent three photographers – Jessica Zollman, Paul Octavious and Emily Blincoe – on an unforgettable trip in October along the Great River Road.

Over the course of four days, the group traveled from Alton to Galena. Together they chronicled their autumn adventure on Instagram. Read on to find out what Jessica enjoyed most and to see the groups’ photos!

A yellow tree A boat on a lake People in underground basement

Q: Of all the places you visited in Illinois from Alton to Galena, what experience stands out as most memorable and why?

A: The most memorable experience was, without a doubt, our late night tour of the famously haunted McPike Mansion in Alton. Sharyn and George Luedke were fantastic tour guides and did a wonderful job informing us of the rich history behind the mansion, including details regarding the former owners who have been frequently spotted and photographed on the grounds. We’d definitely built it up in our heads to be an extremely spooky place, and Paul refused to join us on our tour inside the cellar, but it ended up being a fascinating look into the history of the town. Though, to be fair, I left the mansion with an irrational fear that there were ghosts waiting to scare the heck out of us at the Bed & Breakfast (Jackson House) we were staying at that night.

Q: What destination surprised you the most and why?

A: The Mississippi Palisades State Park was absolutely the most surprising destination. I really didn’t know what to expect when we turned off of the River Road into the park but a couple of bends later we were face to face with large beautiful trees that were as yellow as a canary. The park was absolutely breathtaking and I left wishing we had more time to explore it.

A woman lying in the leaves

Q: What is one word you’d use to describe your trip?

A: Vibrant. From the fall colors, to the history of each town, and every person we met—everything we came across was bright, bold, or colorful.

Q: What advice would you give to someone considering a Great River Road trip?

A: I would highly recommend giving yourself two or three days to explore Galena. We ended up getting there just before sunset and had to leave early the next morning to avoid traffic on the way back to Chicago, but what little we did see of the town was absolutely beautiful. We missed out on antique shopping and a trolley tour that would have given me a much better sense of the history and architecture of the town.

Q: What restaurant and meal was your favorite?

A: Lagomarcino’s was absolutely my favorite meal. Who doesn’t love an old-fashioned ice cream parlor experience?! The sundaes were delicious and the restaurant was adorable.

A person apple picking

Q: Which photo from the trip is your favorite and why?

A: Can I pick an image that isn’t my own? If so, it’s absolutely an image that Paul captured of a tiny house on the big Mississippi. Our entire car YELLED when we spotted it while driving by and Emily quickly turned the car around so we could all jump out and capture it. Just one of those fun moments that often happen when photographers are working together.

Q: Did you play any games in the car? What’s your go-to road trip game?

A: We didn’t! We actually had a lot of wonderful and deep conversations while on the road. The best part of traveling by car with friends is that you have time and a space to really get to know each other on another level. I felt like I learned so much more about Paul and Emily. The trip definitely brought us all closer together.

Q: Anything else you want to share with our readers?

A: A lesson I learned while lying in a pile of fallen leaves for some portraits was that there is a LOT of bugs that like to live in dead leaves. If you don’t like spiders or worms or other creepy crawlers I would not recommend playing in piles of dead leaves.

Thank you to our partners, including Great Rivers Country Regional Tourism Development Office and Amtrak, and to the following destinations for making this trip possible including, McPike Mansion, Eckert’s Orchard, Jackson House B&B, Nauvoo Grand B&B, Eagle Ridge Resort, Villa Kathrine, Lagomarcino’s, De Immigrant Windmill.

Meet the Mile Markers:

Jessica Zollman (@jayzombie) is a photographer who lives in Los Angeles.
Emily Blincoe (@thuglifeforevs) is a photographer who lives in Austin and Nashville.
Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious) is a photographer who lives in Chicago.


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