One of my favorite family traditions is our annual Fall Drive! This year we ventured north along the Mississippi River. It was our least researched trip ever, but maybe winging it is more fun!
We started on a Friday night with plans to stay at a hotel in Clinton. Why Clinton, you ask? Because we were using hotel reward points of Ben’s, and we always look for the stops that require the least amount of points. We’re cheap like that.
We typically are on the lookout for courthouses (we want to get a picture of each one in Iowa), fall color and historic sites. Sometimes, though, we have to stop for the colorful human-made attractions, such as this house outside of Davenport that had the most Halloween decorations we have ever seen.
It was dark by the time we got into Davenport and started venturing north. We went through LeClaire, home to the guys from the American Picker’s TV show. We found their shop. It’s behind a gas station. Great picture, eh? 😉
We were super stoked to find out our hotel was right next to a casino! We were tempted to scrap our drive and just gamble all day Saturday. (Not really.)
We did swim at the hotel, and the kids did their usual jump-on-the-hotel-beds routine. Saturday morning we had breakfast in the hotel before taking off. There was a group of Michigan State fans on their way to Iowa City for a football game. Ben happened to be wearing a Hawkeye shirt (What?!?), and I was wearing green, so the MSU fans wondered if we were a “house divided.” Well, we are, apparently. Just with Iowa and Iowa State, not Michigan State.
We headed out and jumped on the Great River Road heading north. We were surprised how much land is in the middle of the Mississippi north of Clinton. We went through Sabula, Iowa, an island community and then ended up in Illinois.Water, marsh and trees are on both sides of the road/bridge here.
Which way to go. which way to go?
We didn’t really intend to be in Illinois, so we turned north and decided to turn around at our first opportunity. The first chance ended up being the entrance to Mississippi Palisades State Park. After consulting a map, we decided that maybe we’d see more of the river on the Illinois side. We also decided to check out the park. Good choice! It ended up being one of our highlights of the trip! We drove to the top of a bluff and checked out the overlook trail.
Dad pretended he was going to throw Paige over the cliff.
We found a cool lookout spot.
It was so nice of a train to go by.
Our Morgan is not the only Morgan to visit this spot.
Dad and the kids. Paige had just gotten some weird bug bite. It was a nasty thing, I must say.
Mom and the kids, too.
There was some fun artwork in the “deck.”
And some artwork from God on the path.
And this is how Paige’s friend got to travel.
Photos just do not do justice to the beauty of the rolling hills. The cloudy skies didn’t help the picture taking, either.
We ended up at a scenic overlook. Some other visitors said there used to be a tower. Now there is just a swing.
And some funky fungi.
We eventually got to Galena, Ill., and the home of Ulysses S. Grant.
He had a nice view.
We then went back to Iowa, via Dubuque, and then left Dubuque to enter Wisconsin.
We lost one kid for a while.
The trees were pretty, despite the raindrops.
We grabbed Subway in Wisconsin, and we remembered stopping there on a previous Fall Drive. We ended up back in Iowa — Marquette, to be specific — for our picnic lunch. (See the picnic table in the background above?)
This was the view from our near our picnic table.
The sun came out just long enough for us to truly enjoy the beautiful fall colors nearby.
We kept driving north until we got to the location of the Battle of Bad Axe. I’m going to make a little plug for the History Here app from the History Channel. It’s totally cool if you like to find historical spots. Even historical sites that are not so fun to read about, such as battles in the Black Hawk War.
We kept going into Minnesota. Figured we might as well hit our fourth state for the day. That, and it was the best option for getting back across the Mississippi. Bridges are not in high commodity.
Once we got back into Iowa, we were on a mission to find some more courthouses. Ben had recently read about a county that wanted to get rid of their historic courthouse because of the cost of upkeep. It just so happens to be in northern Iowa. Bonus!
Another breathtaking view not quite captured in a photo.
We lost this one for the second time. We eventually ended up in Osage, got a picture of the courthouse and stopped at a park to play. Much needed energy burning took place. It was the city park and school all-in-one. There was a football game going on next door. We wondered if it had gotten postponed from the night before?
Our last stop was a drive-thru for supper, where we noticed the mileage on the van.
She’s been a lot of places in her 126,000 miles. We hope she gets to many more.
The rest of our drive home was in the dark. It was another fun and memorable trip!