Sunday, September 2, 2018

A Weekend In Dubuque

A few months ago, Hubs requested to see the LST 325 as it docked in ports down the Mississippi River. Looking at the docking places, we decided Dubuque, Ia was the place to visit it. We made it into a very fun family weekend getaway to northeast Iowa.

We left Friday afternoon when the kids got out of school. One of the big bonus points of the minis getting out of school at 2 p.m. is that makes weekend getaways much more doable! We didn't do much when we got into Dubuque Friday evening, but we did order pizza and take advantage the Disney channel (woah, cable TV!).

I failed to bring reading material or work along on our three hour road trip. I resorted to taking pictures of my jewelry (I love my newest bracelet) and playing the license plate game with the minis, although, it's not as fun playing it on small highways as it is on the interstate.

Fablo Bros Pizza was AMAZING! Their stuffed crust cheese and roasted red pepper and spinach pizzas were excellent and fed all five of us easily.

The minis love staying in hotels.

Thankfully the minis had us up early Saturday morning because we had plenty of time for breakfast (at the hotel), coffees from Jumble Coffee, and we got in line early to see the naval ship. Thank goodness we did to. When we got off of the ship, the wait to see it was over three hours long! 

Thankfully we had good views and hair styling to keep us busy while we waited. We got in line around 10:20 and got onto the ship around noon. I was a bit shocked that this was so busy, but Dubuque was a bustling town last weekend.

Some fun history of the ship (before you see the pictures): this ship made dozens of trips to Normandy with supplies during WWII, was sold to the Greek army and bought back, and the history of the ship is completely preserved, including all of the Greek lettering, art work, and flags found on the ship. The oldest mini really got into the history of the naval ship.

One of the minis favorite thing: a Lego recreation of the LST 325.

There was no air conditioning on the ship. Elizabeth and I were sweaty, frizzy messes.

Elizabeth: "Omg, it really smells here!" They were standing right next to the vent to the kitchen (which was in use!).

Shadows on the water.

Right after we were done on the naval ship, we booked on over to the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. We were all relieved to be in the air conditioning!

We were last here four years ago with the minis for a spring break trip (read about that here). We enjoyed comparing what was different and seeing some of our favorite things from last visit. If you haven't made the venture to Dubuque, I highly recommend you stop to spend some time at this Museum (tip: you get in half off with your Blank Park Zoo pass).

I'm fascinated by the history of the Mississippi River in Iowa. This is one of my favorite sections of the Museum.

We really had no intention of stopping for lunch, but as we passed by the Museum's cafeteria and the minis saw grilled cheese and cheese curds on the menu, we "had" to stop. I had never paid attention to how the oldest eats his grilled cheese....he spreads the ketchup on the top.

When we visited the River Museum and Aquarium four years ago, we didn't get to do much of the outside portion because, well, it was March. This time we spent most of our time exploring the ships and other outdoor features of the Museum.

Inside a cat fish playing Wild Kratts. This made me laugh a lot because the minis recently discovered the PBS Kids app on our Roku and have since been spending their TV time watching some of their favorite shows (mostly for preschoolers, but hey, whatever keeps them entertained and interested in learning). I didn't catch on to what they were doing until Elizabeth shouted at Harrison, "no! I'm Aviva! No you!"

"Look mom, we have curls like you now!" Never mind that it's a wood shaving...

Totally checked my hair out in this mirror on the boat.

Turtles on a log.

This was Harrison and Elizabeth's favorite part was the River Flyover. With the turn of a button, you can travel down the Mississippi River starting in the headwaters in Minnesota all the way into the Gulf of Mexico. Not surprising at all, the minis would now like to take a trip to Lake Itasca.

After the River Museum and Aquarium, Hubs and I needed a break (and a drink or two). We settled on 7 Hills Brewery. In the Milwork District, this Brewery was in an old warehouse with long tables and a fun menu. The fact that they had a kids menu was what brought us, as a lot of the restaurants we wanted to try didn't have one. The kids got soft pretzels, mini corn dogs, and pizza while Hubs and I tried a few various beers and drinks. It was the perfect resting place before our next adventure for the day.

This was one of the best salads I've ever had. I have yet to successfully recreate it at home.

I had hoped for a picture in front of the building with the minis, but two of the three were crying and pouting so that picture didn't happen.

I happened to overhear people talking at the Mississippi River Museum about this little gem and one of the trails in the park. We have never been here before and I'm honestly shocked we never had been. There are so many hiking trails to do, plenty to see (including Julien Dubuque's grave site), and amazing views of where the river used to flow. We had an amazing time at Mines of Spain!

There's so many lookout areas in this park that are easily accessible. Of course, our favorite trail was off the beaten path, but it was so worth it!

The boys were not as enthused about this hike as Elizabeth and I were.

Of course it was too much for Max to let another kids be the leader, so there he went....

Harrison: "Look mom, a frog! Did you happen to bring the net?" 
Me: "No, no I did not." 

Despite all of the hiking, walking, and heat, the minis still had energy for swimming in the hotel pools before we all crashed. I would say we slept in, but we sure didn't. We had the minivan packed up and ready to go before 9 a.m. We made a stop for breakfast at Donut Boy (good, but I still prefer our Donut Hut here in Des Moines) and got on the small, two lane highways headed north.

Our main destination for the day was to be Effigy Mounds for hiking. Naturally, because it's us, we also stopped at plenty of lookout points and hiked at Pikes Peak State Park before we even made it to Effigy Mounds. I had been telling/complaining to a friend how little hiking we've been doing this spring and summer. We definitely made up for it during our time in northeast Iowa!

As we traveled down the small highway, in and out of small towns and farms, we saw signs on the side of the road pointing to lookout spots. We decided to follow one of them to a lookout of the Mississippi River. Not only did we get pretty views of the Mighty Mississippi, we also happened upon local farm stands setting up at the lookout point. We unexpectedly brought home honey, real maple syrup, flowers, flower arrangements, spices, and decorative dish towels all from local, northeast Iowa farms. This wound up being one of my favorite parts of our weekend!

As someone who hasn't frequented northeast Iowa, I really had no idea how close everything was to each other. It was an easy drive from Dubuque to Pikes Peak State Park to Effigy Mounds (yes, I even looked at a map, but apparently I didn't pay close enough attention). Plus, you get to drive through some very fun, quaint small towns.

We had to layer on the bug spray as the mosquitoes were all over us as soon as we got out of the car at Pikes Peak State Park. It always takes us a few tries to set up for pictures....

There's numerous amazing hiking trails in this park, but we chose an easy and scenic one. Bridal Veil Falls was only about a mile (we walked a bit extra on another trail) and done quickly. When we have more time (someday) I hope to explore more of the trails. For this day, we kept it easy and short.

Great views of the Mississippi valley from Pikes Peak State Park. Again, wear bug spray. Lots of it.

Great trails for kids too! We easily finished all of these trails (they connected) in under 45 minutes.

"Um, is this the waterfall?" I giggle at the minis disappointment when we see waterfalls in Iowa. Once you've experienced waterfalls in the mountains, any waterfall in Iowa seems slightly ridiculous.

We finally made it to Effigy Mounds National Monument! We've been talking about going here for three years and we finally made it happen. We did the North end of the park, since the north end had a shorter hike for the minis. We'll definitely be back at some point to hike the south end.

The south end of the park has Marching Bear Mound Group, but it's a very long hike. While the North Unit was only a 2 mile hike, it goes down in the books as one of our toughest hikes to date (this is after we've hiked up mountains in Yellowstone and Smokey Mountains). It was a very humid and hot day, so I'm sure that played into it a bit. Either way, while we nearly didn't make it through the hike, we persevered and made it to the mounds.

I don't think the minis fully understood what they were seeing, but they went along with us (as usual).

Naturally, I fell in love with northeast Iowa's hilly land and bluffs. I really hope to make time this fall to make another road trip to the area to see the trees in their colorful glory. 

We got home from our Dubuque trip, we unpacked, only to pack back up for our next road trip. The bags didn't even move from the corner of the living room for our short work/school week. People often inquire why we take so many road trips, or they think we're crazy for often packing up an SUV or minivan and taking off. After a weekend like we had in northeast Iowa, seeing so many things, and meeting new people that we wouldn't have met by staying in our little corner of the world. I love that we're able to do these things with our kids and enrich their lives in this way. I may be in a permanent state of tiredness from all of the going, but it is so worth it!