Sorry I could not find the original thread that this should go under, but you've been such a great help to me that I've been watching for the opportunity to reciprocate. I felt that I had to post re. your recent reference to wanting to visit the 48 contiguous United States, your preference for scenic locations, and your ambivalence about Chicago.
My hometown is in Northern Illinois (Dixon, the "hometown" of former President Ronald Reagan), about 100 miles west of Chicago. Hence, I feel somewhat qualified to respond.
If your travels have yet to take you to Illinois and you have some curiousity about Chicago, I'd like to suggest combining Chicago and Galena, Illinois over the course of at least a couple of days (Chicago would demand much more than that by itself). As a lifelong Illinois resident, I have to add my endorsement of Chicago as a place to visit. From early in my life, my parents made a point of exposing me to Chicago culture on a regular basis. I'm sure you already have a wealth of information about what Chicago has to offer: a variety of world-class museums (Field, Science and Industry, Art Institute, among others), landmark architecture (Sears Tower, John Hancock Building, etc.) great shows (at Chicago Theatre, McCormack Place), a fantastic waterfront location on Lake Michigan, huge variety of dining opportunities, etc..
But you might not know about the scenic opportunities available about 3 hours outside of Chicago. Galena is situated on a steep hillside (yes, Illinois has these, if you look in the right places) about 150 miles from Chicago, in the northwest corner of Illinois, not far from the Mississippi River. It's partially accessible via interstate. Where the interstate leaves off, the rolling, scenic 2-lane roads begin.
Galena offers a lot of historic information (see Ulysses S. Grant), as well as beautiful architecture. Visiting it, you definitely get the feeling that you've stepped into another era. The community was founded primarily on lead-mining and steam-boating. There are a number of lovely B&Bs in the immediate area. The Mississippi River is just a short drive away. If American religious history is of interest to you, Galena is home to one of the state's 2 oldest Episcopal churches. (As an Episcopalian, I confess to some bias there!)
Also, while it's definitely distant from Chicago (a drive of several hours; Illinois is fairly large, as our states go), Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois is definitely worth a look if your're interested in scenery. There, you'll see large impressive rock formations amidst woodlands.
I hope this info is helpful. Again, I'm hoping to reciprocate for all the help you've given to me. Please let me know if more info from an Illinois "local" would be helpful. Happy Travels!