I am a pretty big fan of history. I don’t know if I qualify as a history buff. I’ve never taken the time to look up the requirements. But it was one of my favorite classes in school, some of my electives in college were history courses, and my bookshelves have quite a number of history related books… though I can’t rattle off names and dates like some folks. Maybe historically informed and curious is a good self description. Plus it sounds more polite than nerd. Which, honestly, I can be at times.
I bit of local history I was unaware of, is the existence of the Lincoln heritage trail. Though it is less of a trail and more of a loss network of highways. Connecting sites across Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois relevant to the life of Abraham Lincoln. Being as I am a Hoosier born and raised… I’m a little disheartened that no teacher or professor ever mentioned it in my many years of schooling. But, I discovered a bit of it heading south to Florida. And hope to see more eventually.
Not far off interstate 65, heading east, is the city of Hodgenville. Where one can find the Lincoln Museum. Before heading a couple minutes south to visit the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park. Now there isn’t I huge amount to see in either place. Just so you know. They’re not going to take up your entire day. But if your enjoying a road trip from point A to point B… They’re a descent way to spend a few hours stretching your legs. While seeing a little bit of history.
A little aside, I’ve always found it interesting how little focus is placed on Lincoln’s time in Indiana. Kentucky is where he was born. Illinois is where he spent his adulthood. But Indiana… which is barely mention in history books. It’s where Lincoln was raised and grew into the man he would eventually be. The “great emancipator” spent 14 years of his life there. I’m sure some Hoosier hospitality and grit were still with him by the time he made it to the White house.
But any how… back to the trip. The museum is right in the center of town. Located on a circle full of small shops. With parking right out front. Which, when you got breathing issues, parking close to your destination is always a bonus. There is a gift shop through the front door. With all sorts of Lincoln themed knickknacks, but also quite a few books. It cost me five bucks at the register to enter the museum. That consisted of a self guided walk through.
The museum itself isn’t huge. You could probably walk through the whole thing in a couple minutes. (Double that estimation for those folks with higher oxygen needs.) If just doing a lap without looking at anything is your intention. But its not as if there isn’t anything to to look at. With pictures lining the walls, display cases running along all of the walls, and several wax mannequin recreation scenes. Most of what you will find here is things from the time of Abraham Lincoln and information about his life. It’s not really so much a destination of actual physical Lincoln artifacts. But its still neat.
An issue for my fellow pulmonary patients though… is it doesn’t have a lot of places to sit down. There is a kids area with chairs upstairs. As well as a bench, and some old church pews. Making the upstairs a little easier than the downstairs. Where I didn’t notice anyplace to rest and catch one’s breath. But don’t let the two stories scare you to much. Yes, the stair case is intimidating. However; if you’re not up for climbing the steps. Which I honestly would have had issue with pre-transplant. There is an elevator employees can give you a lift up on.
Once your done with the Museum, the homestead where Lincoln was born is literally just a few minutes down the road. It isn’t hard to get from one to the other in the least. Though hopefully… if you decide to swing by. The visitors center will be open for business. It was closed when I showed up. But the grounds themselves are nice. Though seemingly not designed for the breathless nor the handicapped in mind. As there are a lot of stairs here to try and navigate… or try to avoid.
Getting down to the base of the monument requires taking a short set of stairs, a long winding path, or walking through the grass. With the most direct way up to the monument being a large flight of stairs. Off to the sides a little ways are a series of shorter sets of steps. Broken up by flat areas… but its kind of a trade off. A longer walk for fewer steps. And a third way to the top, involving a relatively short hike. (As far as hiking goes.) Though a small wooded area along the properties border. Uphill of course, but spread out over a more gentle slope. The only way to the homestead’s old spring however. Is down a set of stone stairs and back up. Sadly there’s no other way to see it.
Personally, pre-transplant… Once I got to the point where I really needed my supplemental oxygen to get around. But before I got so bad getting around wasn’t an option. I would have given the museum a try. And I believe I’d have been able to enjoy myself. Lincoln’s birth place though… maybe not so much. Being so close I would have wanted to have visited. But I probably wouldn’t have gone much farther then the benches, to enjoy the view. I don’t think seeing the inside would have been worth the struggle.
Is it worth seeing if you’ve got the breath to do so without worry? Sure… but the cabin you find inside is chained off. So you can’t go in. Plus it is a reproduction. It’s not the actual cabin Lincoln was born or lived the first few years of his life in. So the appeal kinda drops. Especially if you’re gauging how much O2 you’ll burn through seeing it. Like anything in life, what you can and can’t do with scarred up lungs is about balance. With trade offs dictating how we spend our limited supply of oxygen.
That said however… I really encourage those struggling with pulmonary issues to not waste their breaths. But rather to truly use them to their fullest potential. I reached a point where my life consisted of my bed, a chair, the bathroom, and pulmonary rehab. Outside of those things, not a whole lot was going on. And that is a place many patients eventually get to. But please don’t give up. Don’t decide to live that way before you body dictates it. Heck… fight it even after your body tries to dictate it. Enjoy your life while you got it, by doing all that you can. Be it fast, slow, easy peasy or a struggle. Make memories big and small. Crank up that O2 and climb that hill if you want to. Those breaths are meant for so much more than sitting in a recliner. So be sure to enjoy them.
Lincoln Museum, 66 Lincoln Square, Hodgenville, KY 42748
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, 2995 Lincoln Farm Rd, Hodgenville, KY 42748
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