Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Day Driving The Great River Road


 I had this great idea about how we would travel on the Great River Road through NE Iowa and see all of the gorgeous fall colors. Only issue with this: the trees were still green! Of course, social media lies and obviously all of the pictures I had seen posted from that area were filtered or photoshopped or something because the trees we saw looked nothing like those pictures! We still had a great time though. We began bright and early and made our way through back roads to Bellevue State Park.  



We loved Bellevue State Park! This State Park is unique in that it has two sections. The Dyas Unit to the south has a campground area and much more extensive trail systems with views of the river, while the Nelsons Unit to the north has lookout points. We had fun at both locations, but enjoyed hiking in the south section much more.

Yes, they're examining an empty wine bottle hanging on a tree branch.

Our fearless furry leader.

Keeping north on the Great River Road, we drove straight through Dubuque (we didn't stop because we have spent many weekends in Dubuque and had our sights set on other places we haven't been to) and wound up in Balltown, Iowa for lunch at Iowa's oldest restaurant! We have never been here before and gosh, was it quite the set up! We didn't eat inside because we had the dog with us. Instead, we ordered our food to go once we got there. We killed thirty minutes by roaming their antique store across the road from the restaurant and tasting wine in their other shop as we listened to a lone guitarist play soft tunes. We ate our food at a picnic table at the back of their lot, overlooking a beer garden and ball field. It was simply one of the best hours of our day! How we have never been here is beyond me because it's just our kind of place!

Matching masks and kittens while we shopped for antiques, pumpkins, apples, and other random items they had. Small town Iowa isn't big on masks, but people were respectful that we wore ours and kept their distance. 

The view from the lookout point.

Breitbach's newest fans.

After lunch, we got back into the car and drove one more hour north to Effigy Mounds National Monument. Not only are there great hiking trails with scenic overlooks, but the minis just learned about "mound builders" in social studies and were eager to see them. Yes, we have already been here (a few summers ago), but something about learning all about it makes it more special to visit. We still didn't get to hike the trail I really wanted to do, but we did manage 3 1/2 miles on a trail we couldn't complete three years ago. 

It began sprinkling the further north we went. Not that it was an issue--the trails at Effigy Mounds are completely tree covered, so no rain actually made its way on us.

Pit stop in Guttenberg, Iowa. I tried to talk everyone into walking on the trail alongside the Mississippi, but no one else wanted to.

The map readers. They nearly got us lost several times (clearly we're adding in map reading to next month's lesson plans), so Hubs brought up the trail maps on his phone.

This portion of the trail took us so close to the mounds we were worried we were walking on them!
 ** no worries, we weren't.

It was nearly dark by the time we were done with the trails and lookout points! We grabbed some Casey's pizza to eat in the car and headed home in the dark. Hubs and I were voted against for staying a night in a hotel in Decorah, Iowa because the minis wanted to wake up at home on Sunday. For what reason? So they could do school work (head slap). Who are these kids??? In all actuality, they've figured out that if they work on things a little bit each day, they don't have long school days. Again, I don't get a break, but they're favorite thing right now is being able to set their own schedules. I can't say I'm against it when I wake up Sunday morning to freshly made pancakes, warm apple cider, and them doing their school work!

As for the Great River Road, definitely give it a go if you're looking to explore Eastern Iowa. I'm already making plans for spring to head back to Effigy Mounds to complete the one big trail we have yet to do, stay in McGregor, Iowa for a weekend, and grab food from Breitbach's again.