Summing it Up...

Now, that I'm way on the wrong side of sixty, I feel that being true to self is important. "I yam, what I yam." Kindness and smiles are to be given away. Women are strong. Men are more vulnerable than we believe. Husbands may come and go...but one thing I know for sure is that I will NEVAH live without a corgi or coffee in my life if I can prevent it. Come piles of dog fur or hot water!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Get-a-away from Volunteering~

July 11 & 12th were our days off for the week and we had to go to Rockford to get some work on the RV done before the warranty ran out. By noon we were free to hit the road, looking for adventure and ended up going where the Mississippi River runs like a ribbon through the heart of the unglaciated area, linking NW Illinois, SW Wisconsin and NE Iowa. Since the landscape wasn't flattened by ice, it remains hilly and rugged and is one of the most scenic regions of the Midwest. The area is blessed with rocky bluffs, hilly terrain, lush valleys and river life. The puffy clouds float in blue skies which seem to enhance the emerald green of endless rolling cornfields, looking like cursive m's. Traveling down the roads felt like a roller-coaster, shoulder banging turns and all. The farms are picture perfect and look exactly like what a folk-artist would paint on canvas. It's almost a 360 degree vista, as far as the eye can see. Patchwork quilts come to mind with all the hills and dales, each their own color and texture. "God's country" describes this countryside perfectly.

Galena, Illinois: It's like stepping back in time here. The architecture is mid-1800's, brick, painted ladies and gingerbread. Cupolas top may buildings. Flowers are everywhere, in this victorian village of 3500. The old train depot is now the visitor's center; buses park there and folks grab the trolleys to go downtown. Across the street was the Railway Cafe' where I got the bestest cup o' joe while Jim grabbed up brochures at the depot. Main Street was a narrow, angled, tourist filled area, full of victorian shops, that looked very interesting, but we kept going. Lots of history and vintage charm there, but a little close for comfort.

Dubuque, Iowa: The Mississippi River winds its way 2,552 miles from the headwaters in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. Elegant paddle-wheelers remind us of an era long ago, and tugboats pushing huge barges are important to today's commerce. The barges, we learned, haul the equivalant of 60 semi-trailers, or 1500 tons of grain for export to Asia (other things too). They travel between 8-10 mph and pass through 27 locks and dams as they travel south. Dubuque is a unique and quaint river town.

Picture this: Tugs and barges, rocky bluffs, multi-storied brick buildings from yesteryear's 19th century, silos, church steeples, houses dotting rock faced hills. The smell of freshly baked bread teases your nose as you cross Big Muddy and enter Iowa. A Sunbeam bread factory, right along the river's edge welcomes you into town.

The streets away from the river seem to shoot straight upwards to the bluffs. Mansions with towers, cupolas, widow walks, endless curving front porches edged in gingerbread are now B&B's, seemingly set on rock ledges and hillsides on crooked short streets, all with the vast river view. It's amazing what you can see from up there...the hills, the river, the bluffs, and architecture not seen in many a decade. One bridge leads back to Illinois, and another goes to Wisconsin. This area is called the Tri-State Region.

We spent several hours at the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. It was full of historical exhibits, live river wildlife, fish and fowl, and boatyards (showing tugs, steamdredges, and barges) along the river. We saw films giving history of the river narrated by Garrison Keillor. 2 otters played in their own swimming hole, enchanting children and us too. We did a drive through tour of Loras College, a private catholic school, and Wartberg Theological Seminary, both castle-like with the rocky limestone buildings giving them a fortress look. Jim served both of their school libraries when driving the Iowa route for the book bindery.

Savanna, Illinois: The high steel trussed bridge (looked just like an erector set bridge to us) but it's one of the most photographed bridges in the nation...arches across the Mississippi River just 3 miles from the Mississippi Palisades State Park where we camped for 2 nights. This bridge crosses into Iowa as well, and into an old fishing village called Subola. Between the bridge, and the causeway that followed, it seemed to be miles as we crossed the wetland (marshy back water area of the river) full of white long-necked egrets and blue herons. Jim felt as if we should see a 'gator, it reminded him so of Florida. We saw 2 wild turkey hens with a row of youngin's back at the campground, a young buck deer flew across the road, and a mama quail with a following of 7 or 8 chicks behind her. At bedtime, after our campfire, and ready for sleep, an owl somewhere in the woods behind us, "hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo-hooed" us goodnight.

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