Baxter’s Vineyards – Illinois’ Oldest Winery

Before our trek down The Mighty Mississippi we had no idea that The Land of Lincoln was also wine country, but there are vineyards and wineries all along the river. This area of Illinois was the first to grow grapes, starting way back in 1851, and those vines are still growing… CONTINUE READING >> 

The GypsyNesters are Illinois Mile Markers

We are proud to be Illinois Mile Markers – thanks to Enjoy Illinois for making this adventure possible! Click here for our full adventure down The Great River Road.

Baxter's Vineyard, Illinois Oldest in Nauvoo

Before our trek down The Mighty Mississippi we had no idea that The Land of Lincoln was also wine country, but there are vineyards and wineries all along the river.

This area of Illinois was the first to grow grapes, starting way back in 1851, and those vines are still growing in Nauvoo State Park.

Baxter's Vineyard, Illinois Oldest in Nauvoo

Nauvoo is home to the state’s oldest winery, Baxter’s Vineyards.

For five generations the Baxter family has been making wine, and their experience and attention to detail shows.

The wines are still made the old fashioned way, no big machinery or assembly lines, in the specially designed basement of the winery.

Baxter's Vineyards in Nauvoo, Illinois

Kim, who returned to Nauvoo after college to continue the family tradition greeted us and showed us the entire operation.

Each vintage is produced in small quantities, carefully watched and tended, and then bottled and corked by hand.

Baxter's Winery featured in Time Magazine
Time Magazine featured Fred Baxter and family.

The busy seasons, harvest and bottling, brings in entire family from far and wide.

Folks gather together as they have for generations and Kim’s grandmother cooks for everyone on site in the big kitchen.

The rest of the year the kitchen serves as headquarters for Carol’s Pies & Nauvoo Nibbles.

The Nauvoo Grand Bed & Breakfast

For those that want to make Nauvoo and Baxter’s winery an overnight destination, the old family home is now The Nauvoo Grand Bed & Breakfast.

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

What we did in Nauvoo:
Visited Baxter’s Vineyards
Where we ate:
Hotel Nauvoo
For all things Nauvoo:
BeautifulNauvoo.com

Thanks to Enjoy Illinois for making this adventure possible! Our opinions, as always, are our own.

YOUR TURN: Have we inspired you to take an Illinois Road Trip?

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Fear Conquering & Roller Derby

“Mom. You are going to get owned.”

My, how the tables have turned. I’m not going to lie, I was getting a bit of pleasure out of worrying The Spawn.

The reason for their concern was not without merit — I was about to attend Roller Derby Camp. Or as the Killamazoo Derby Darlins call it, a “Fresh Meat Event”.

In our never-ending quest to find quirky things to do… CONTINUE READING >>

Roller Derby

“Mom. You are going to get owned.”

My, how the tables have turned. I’m not going to lie, I was getting a bit of pleasure out of worrying The Spawn.

The reason for their concern was not without merit — I was about to attend Roller Derby Camp. Or as the Killamazoo Derby Darlins call it — a “Fresh Meat Event”.

In our never-ending quest to find quirky things to do, David and I stumbled upon an ad for a bout between the Derby Darlins and The Rockford Rage.

Childhood memories of Saturday afternoons parked in front of a black and white TV flooded both our minds. My team was the Los Angeles Thunderbirds; David’s was the Bay Bombers. Aww… good times.

Derby has changed a bit — the games are no longer staged as they were during my childhood days (though you couldn’t have convinced me of that at the time). Today’s derby is real and it is brutal.

So brutal in fact, that teams have taken to naming their bouts things like Season’s Beatings and Cinco de Mayhem. Nothing was going to keep us from seeing this!

Killamazoo Derby Darlins

Modern derby women are strong, bold, beautiful, determined and highly tattooed.

Too intimidated to approach a Derby Darlin’ directly, I instead spoke to one of their massive security guys. He told me he would speak with Battleaxe, a player/owner about an interview.

I was in.

At half-time, I met briefly with Battleaxe and she agreed to talk and introduce me around after the game. So we sat back and enjoyed the second half of the rock-n-rolling action.

Afterwards, basking in the glow of their 100-point victory, LadyHawk, Beverly Hells and Lily St. Smear were braced but bubbly. Even with a name like Killamazoo, The Derby Darlings were not as scary in person as I thought they might be.

Battleaxe immediately invited me to a practice where I could learn how to become a rock ’em, sock ’em Derby Girl.

Whoa. That was a little more than I had in mind, especially after I found out they call the new girls “Fresh Meat.”

Then I thought — what the heck? After all it had only been thirty years since I had last put on skates — what could possibly go wrong? I started research on hip replacement therapy — just in case — and began to psyche myself up for the big day.

I couldn’t possibly get myself into a proper frame of mind without a proper derby name. My dad came up — very inappropriately I might add — with the hysterical “Vicky Viagra” and David and I were tossing around variations of “Raisin Hell.”

Not quite feeling either of those, I decided to ask the brilliant folk on our GypsyNester Facebook Page for a brainstorming session. As usual, they didn’t disappoint.

Among my favorites: “Roni Rinkrash”, “Mama Crash”, “Boomer Babe” and “The Midlife Crisis.” But the name that gave me the courage to move forward was “Helln Hotflash” (thank you George!).

Helln Hotflash could handle anything that the Derby Darlins could dish out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to get a Helln Hotflash tattoo before camp.

My new mentor, Battleaxe, hooked me up with proper equipment and let me in on a trade secret — the proper derby stance is called “Tits over Toes”. Tits over toes creates a strong center of gravity, making one able to withstand harder hits and stay solidly upright.

WATCH: Helln Hotflash in action!

Learning to fall and stop correctly is imperative in Derby action, so Battleaxe ran me through drills designed to teach me to fall and pop back up. I was great at falling — popping back up, not so much.

Derby is a hard hitting sport — and I needed show Battleaxe what Helln Hotflash was made of. Tough derby name aside, Battleaxe is only two years my junior and has a very graceful off-track demeanor. Though hard-driving and no nonsense, she was very patient and fair.

I knew she had manners because she only laughed at me AFTER she knew I had a sense of humor about the situation. It didn’t feel right to take her down with a massive Helln Hotflash block.

Carefully lining up my skates and donning the correct stance (must we repeat the name?), I bashed her with all my might.

She. Did. Not. Budge. Seriously, I went reeling in the opposite direction, almost fell on my butt, arms flailing every which-way. Apparently, this Battleaxe person wasn’t as nice as she was letting on.

My status as wuss firmly established, we moved on to the fun stuff. The notorious WHIP! The fun was slightly dampened by Battleaxe’s insistence that I perform the WHIP! safely. Jeez.

I was to skate to her in the TOT position, grip her hand and forearm, be flung across the rink to land with a Rock & Roll stop (sliding on both knees — think ’80s Hair Band) complete with arms overhead and the standard rock & roll finger position.

This was a lot to put together. I had practiced the elements separately, but the full ballet was a bit daunting. I put on my Helln face and went for it. The dance was elegantly executed until I freaked out at the end, neglected to Rock & Roll, and hit the wall at full speed. Just testing the equipment…heh.

Killamazoo Derby Darlins

It only took hitting the wall once to make me realize that 1) I should not hit the wall again, and 2) I might be a little too old for roller derby. Excellent reaction time is no longer in my bag of tricks.

To my credit, I did get back on the horse and complete my mission.

Happily, the Derby Darlings were easier on me than they are with each other. All in all, Helln Hotflash got off easy, considering the alternatives, and it only took me three days of great pain before I was myself again.

With a career record of 0 – 0, Ms. Hotflash has officially retired her rental skates.

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

To see Veronica’s full Fear Conquering series, click here.

YOUR TURN: When was the last time you were on skates? Would you attempt roller derby?

Veronica (aka Helln Hotflash) Does Roller Derby


enlarge video
Veronica becomes “Helln Hotflash” and embeds herself with the Killamazoo Derby Darlins — not quite the brightest move for a “woman of a certain age”! She survived – barely – and it wasn’t until… CONTINUE READING >>

“Mom. You are going to get owned.” Veronica becomes “Helln Hotflash” and embeds herself with the Killamazoo Derby Darlins — not quite the brightest move for a “woman of a certain age”! She survived – barely – and it wasn’t until three days later that she was able to walk properly again! Rock & Roll!

For more on Veroni…uh…Helln’s big derby experience: http://www.gypsynester.com/fcrd.htm

To see Veronica’s full Fear Conquering series, click here.

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