My last week in Nauvoo was a busy, busy blast. I assume I will already forget many details, which is sad, but I’ll do my best. Saturday the 25th and Sunday the 26th were both work days for me. On Saturday night, the family and I made our last jaunt to the movie theater in Keokuk, the nearest town with an actual stoplight. We saw Pixels, which the kids loved, and their enjoyment of it brought me much happiness. Church on Sunday was fine enough, from what I remember. Sunday school ended up being donuts and coffee, but without any coffee because it turned out there wasn’t any on the premises to be made. (Had there been, I might have been tempted to try it again, despite not yet having had any coffee I’d go so far as to say I’ve enjoyed.) So many of the people in the Nauvoo congregation work at the Joseph Smith Historic Site that conversation comes easy. There’s probably too much shop talk going on, but it’s nice to do something you’re interested in talking about.
Monday the 27th was my final day off before leaving Nauvoo. I figured I better do some final exploring of Nauvoo while I had the chance. I went solo, making my first stop the Calvin Pendleton Home and School. I then attempted to go to the Lucy Mack Smith Home, but the door was locked despite having an “Open” sign on the front of the house. Do they lock people out of it if they already giving a tour? I don’t know, but that’s my only guess. I gave up on it and then made an impromptu stop at the Lands and Records Office. I looked up one of my ancestors and found out where he used to live, then drove to that location and took photos of the empty field that it is today. I next went downtown (if it deserves to be called that) and saw what they had, which was very little. I snapped a few photos and decided to hit Nauvoo Mill & Bakery for the last time. Little did I know I would end up there one additional time that day, but more on that in a moment.
This field is, I believe, where my great-great-great-great (I don't even know how many) grandpa used to live. I assume there would've been a home of some kind and that he didn't sleep in the grass. (Edit: To clarify, I think it is further back in the tree area that the guy would've lived, kind of behind where that house is on the left edge of the photo.)
Some of what downtown Nauvoo has to offer, which is relatively little.
Obligatory temple shot. It is a beautiful building. I wish I'd had a chance to go inside.
At Nauvoo Mill & Bakery, I purchased some strawberry and cream cheese croissants that Melanie and I had tried earlier in the summer and quite enjoyed. I considered it a last hurrah. When I left the bakery, I was going to go pick up an order of onion rings from Peter’s Place. Peter’s Place is a burgers-and-shakes, Mom-n-Pop type eatery on the outskirts of town. I’d heard they have really good onion rings, and I had always meant to try them, so now was the time. Before I could go to Peter’s Place, however, Melanie texted me to request some things from Nauvoo Market, the only grocer in town. I had also wanted to stop at Casey’s and get a fountain drink, plus I thought I should check out the Fudge Factory since I hadn’t yet. This resulted in me making a lot of brief stops, jumping in and out of the car, buying snacks and treats aplenty. Peter’s Place, for the record, did have pretty good onion rings, texture-wise. They were super crunchy. Flavor-wise, they were fine, but not something I’d bother making a special trip for. I thought I’d take some back to Melanie, but you hardly get any onion rings in an order. I ate them all myself. I did get a fountain drink on my way to Peter’s Place, and I did stop at the Fudge Factory on my way back home. I got just two little pretzel braids that were covered in chocolate, crushed pecans, and caramel. They were quite good.
I mentioned earlier that I would end up back at Nauvoo Mill & Bakery. While there, I noticed they had a pecan pie in their display case. One of my tour guide co-workers (call him Ford) has raved about their pecan pie, but complains that it is rarely available. I have even witnessed Ford call Nauvoo Mill & Bakery to ask if they have any pecan pie, only to hang up sadly upon hearing that they do not. I asked Melanie if I should go back and buy the whole darn pie and then invite Ford and his roommate Azrael (whom I’ve mentioned before) over for pie. Melanie thought I should, and so I did. By the time I had returned, a couple of slices of the pie were missing. I bought what remained. I went back home, spent some time there, and then Melanie and I loaded up the kids to make a trek to Ft. Madison, since we had discovered that the Hy-Vee grocery store in Ft. Madison contains a Starbucks. Melanie was desperate for a green tea Frappuccino after going nearly seven weeks without one. On our way to Ft. Madison, we stopped by the home where Ford and Azrael live and invited them to come over for pie later in the evening. I explained what I had done, to which Ford replied, “So, you’re the one who bought the pie?! We went in there earlier today and asked if they had pecan pie and they said some guy had just bought all that they had!” We had a good laugh about that. We laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Okay, not really. But we chortled some.
The Nauvoo Mill & Bakery wasn’t the only place I visited twice that day. On our way back from Ft. Madison, we stopped for dinner at Peter’s Place. I figured it would be a place the kids would enjoy. I was a bit disgruntled by our visit. The kid who served us was very friendly, but had his humor knob cranked to 11 and made me feel obligated to laugh at every joke he made, which was about 75 jokes per minute. They were also out of tons of stuff. They had no Diet Pepsi, no Mountain Dew, and no Pepsi—literally the first three drinks I would’ve chosen from among their selection. I didn’t know this until I had bought and paid for a drink. They were also out of ice. No joke. There weren’t lids for the drinks, either. Thankfully we weren’t interested in the caramel shakes or junior burgers, which we had been informed were also out of stock that day. I was unimpressed, let me just say that much. My Navajo taco, which is supposedly one of their most popular items, tasted like canned food from a grocery store all dumped together on a slightly overdone and too-flat scone. If I ever return to Nauvoo, I shan’t be eating at Peter’s Place. I will, however, make trips to Ft. Madison for green tea Frappuccinos.
The kids engage in some high quality tomfoolery just outside of Peter's Place.
A photo of Peter in front of Peter's Place, for obvs reasons.
Tuesday, I was back to work, but we had fun plans in the evening. Several people from the Joseph Smith Historic Site (including Ford, Azrael, Sheradon, and others) were heading to Burlington, Iowa for a 7:05 PM showing of Jurassic World. Melanie and I took the kids. Because we had to leave right after I got done with work, we decided to eat dinner at the mall that housed the movie theater. That wasn’t the best plan in the world, as their food court consisted of literally two eateries: a Maid-Rite and some Chinese place. Not having had Chinese food since leaving Utah, that’s what Melanie and I ate, while the kids ate stuff from Maid-Rite. By the time we got our food and ate it, we were pushing it on making it to the movie on time. The previews were already going by the time we got into the auditorium. Melanie would later head to the lobby to take advantage of their Tuesday night deal: a free popcorn with every drink purchase. With Tuesday night tickets costing only $5, we were able to splurge at the movies without it being as outrageous as movie prices typically are.
On Wednesday night after work, our good friend Jenn stuck around for dinner. Jenn’s husband Seth had gone back to Utah for the Sunstone Symposium, so we tried to keep her company. We had a good time, and afterward I decided to hightail it to Burlington to get a haircut at the only hairstylist within a 35-minute radius of Nauvoo that was still open. Eddie and Creegan wanted to tag along for whatever reason, so they went with me. (Beegy actually acted like he wanted to get a haircut, despite having gotten a haircut just a few days prior. I guess he likes them. Go figure.) It ended up being one of the best haircuts I’ve gotten in the last decade. Being damn near bald, you probably think I’m making some kind of a joke, but I’m not. Damn near bald guys can still get better and worse haircuts.
Thursday was our last night in Nauvoo. It was also my last time to be lead guide (which doesn’t matter much, but I figured I might as well mention it). Because it was my last night in town, my boss at the Joseph Smith Historic Site took everyone out to dinner at the Hotel Nauvoo. They have a nice buffet that is a bit on the pricey side. Isn’t that generous of my boss to do that for us before we left? It was really nice. The one sad thing—and I admit, I got more sad about it than a 36-year-old man should—was that I never got any dessert. I scooped up some warm apple crisp, one of my favorite types of dessert, and was about to eat it when my fellow interns and I were escorted outside for a group photo. I had planned to head back inside and eat my dessert, but we took a while with the photo and everyone else ended up leaving the restaurant. There was no going back at that point. I hadn’t even had a single bite of the dessert. It still stings a bit.
That brings us to Friday, July 31st, my last day in Nauvoo. The day started off neatly enough. Before the visitor’s center opened for business, the historic sites director showed us interns some of the original manuscript pages of Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible (known today in Community of Christ as the Inspired Version and in the LDS Church as the Joseph Smith Translation). Shortly thereafter, I singlehandedly (actually, I used both hands) unwrapped a newly arrived cradle that was made in the 1870s. Several early RLDS prophet-presidents had slept in the cradle as babies. When it comes to tours, I had it easy. I accompanied my boss on a tour with a very large group of S&I (formerly called CES) instructors for the LDS Church, interpreting the Mansion House when that group had to be split into two. I gave only one tour on my own, to a group of only three people. For the first time, I bumped into Joseph and Emma Smith themselves while on tour. In actuality, it was two LDS missionaries in costume for some vignette they would be performing in just a moment, but they were standing together in front of the Mansion House and already in character. Naturally, we had to stop and shake hands and make the obligatory jokes about going into their house and how we’ll keep it in good shape. Knowing I wanted to get on the road as early as possible, I was allowed to go home shortly after 3 PM. I helped Melanie pack up a few final things, put some oil in the car, said our goodbyes to Jenn and her kids, took a few final photos around town, and left Nauvoo.
Moments before leaving Nauvoo. We are standing in front of the Sidney Rigdon home, which was our home for approximately five weeks.
The Red Brick Store (reconstruction), where most of my tours would come to an end.
The Mansion House, which Joseph Smith called home during the last 10 months of his life. This was the most popular stop on our tour.
The larger, red brick structure is typically called the Nauvoo House, although it was officially dubbed the Riverside Mansion when completed. It is one of the stops on the tour, although we do not enter the building. The stone building in the forefront was the office of Lewis Bidamon, whom Emma Hale Smith married three-and-a-half years after Joseph's death. Our friends Jenn and Seth are staying in that building now.
The Homestead, which was Joseph and Emma's first home in Nauvoo. This is where they lived the longest during their time together in Nauvoo.
The Homestead, from another angle (slightly more to the north). I once joked to a tour group that the Homestead well (visible just behind the informative sign) was the very well that inspired the popular hymn, "All is Well." One woman laughed very hard at this joke; everybody else just stared at me.
As this post is already running a bit long, I think I’ll save details about our return trip to Utah for another day. Until then…