|From Pike's Peak State Park, near McGregor, in the NE corner of Iowa.
The last 2-3 days at Thomson were mostly spent just enjoying the breeze blowing off of the river, chatting with our neighbors, reading, working crosswords & Sudoku, etc. We did go into Clinton on Friday for a hair day, at....you guessed it, WalMart.
Hair care (my cutting, Vicki's "treatment"..wink, wink) was one issue about which we had some trepidation as we contemplated hitting the road. We are not that vain, but we both are a little bit picky about our hair. Kelly had earned our appreciation for her service & we weren't sure where we were going to find her out on the road.
But, now that we have had the hair experience in three different states (TX, GA, & IA) at the WalMart hair salons, we have realized that that trepidation was unfounded. We have had excellent service each time that we have dropped-in.
Being one day short of the maximum stay permitted by the Corps of Engineers at their campgrounds, we decided to leave Thomson on Sunday to move-on up the road. Pikes Peak State Park in Iowa, about 120 miles away, was our destination.
We had debated for several days exactly when to leave & where to go when we did leave. Even after deciding that we would make Pike's Peak our next stop, we then debated whether to stop for an overnighter at Uncle Wally's enroute. After considering the temperatures & the fact that we would not have A/C without running the generator in Uncle Wally's front yard, we decided to do the campground-to-campground plan.
A stop at Uncle Wally's (WalMart) somewhere along the way did still need to be a part of the trip though to gather-up some groceries. From what we saw in our various directories, the best option was to jump the river (remember we are traveling up the east side of the Mississippi) from East Dubuque, Illinois to Dubuque, Iowa.
Sunday morning, when we set forth, we thought that we were going to (1) stop & be tourists for awhile in the town of Galena, Illinois, (2) go further north to hit the Dubuque WalMart, then come back across the river & (3) continue northward to Prairie du Chen, Wisconsin where we would again jump the river to McGregor, Iowa to make our way to Pikes Peak State Park.
In the midst of that planned itinerary, we had no idea what we might encounter along the way.
We had heard & read mixed reviews about Galena. Some neighbors at Thomson Campground had told us that it was over-commercialized, which did not appeal to us. Our literature described it a bit more enticing, but not overly so. We arrived there with the attitude that we would drive through & decide based on what we saw whether to stay longer.
Galena's Main Street ran perpendicular to the highway up which we were traveling. For us to get a fair look at the town, we had to drive the bus (the Jeep was still attached) through the city streets. We almost immediately decided that we did in fact want to see more, we only needed to find a place to park the bus & Jeep.
THAT became a challenge. We drove all the way through town, via the truck route, & found nary a place to park. As we headed out the east side of town, I asked some people who were standing on the sidewalk a few feet from my window (picture that, & you have an idea of the narrowness of the street) for an idea. The committee of four had no solid ideas.
The road, which by now was an extension of the Main Street, was very quickly heading out into the country. Probably needing to back-up in the maneuvering to get the bus turned around, we stopped & unhitched the Jeep. The design of the tow bar forbids reversing while attached.
We knew that we were going to tour the town in the Jeep anyway, so that was no issue. After unhooking & turning around, we headed back into town, me in the lead in the bus, Vicki following in the Jeep ........again, no sightings of suitable parking for a 36-footer.
After getting back to the highway, I went on out of town on the north side to find a pull-off where I felt safe leaving the bus.
All of what we had done was worth the experience. The town of Galena was the early social & cultural capital of the Upper Mississippi & is now one of the best-preserved historic towns in the country. Between the quaintness of the town itself, the nearby water-sports areas & snow skiing slopes, the town has an active year-round tourism draw.
Nearly the entire town has been designated as a "National Historic District". Many of the old buildings had retail shops on the street level, with apartments on the 2nd & 3rd levels.
After a couple of hours of walking, driving, & gawking around the town, & we were ready to get back to the bus to continue onward.
Just as we began to exit Galena, we found a new WalMart SuperCenter that had not been listed in our directories. We stopped-in there to stock our pantry, eliminating the need to divert over to Dubuque later in the day.
We continued to follow the Great River Road signs, leading us onto county roads for extended legs of the trip. Though the whole route is scenic, some of those county roads are a bit tedious for driving the bus.....not exactly like I-40!!!!
At some point along the way, we began looking for a diner for something to eat. Finally, as we were going through Prairie du Chen, just 5-6 miles from our final destination, we found a family restaurant. By now, I was hungryyyyy. As Jeff Foxworthy would have said in one of his spiels, "If I don't get something to eat real soon, I'm gonna eat this dashboard!!". Their turkey & dressing Sunday special hit the spot.
The town of McGregor, whose Main Street we had to drive through to get to the park, is a town that we put on our list to visit while we were here in the area. Finally, sometime around 6:30, we arrived at the park. Our first impression of the park was mediocre.
Even though the park was only about 20% occupied, it was still difficult to find a site that would work for us. Conceding that the park had no 50 amp sites & only a single water source in the park, the sites were typically too sloped, too short & (the electrical post) too remote. The entire campground is heavily shaded, remote enough to not have traffic noise or drive-through spectators. The park has a river overlook & a few walking trails, but not much else.
Many of its demerits were offset though by a very nice bath/shower house, amongst the best that we have encountered anywhere. If it had manual off/on & temp controls, rather than that one-button spring-loaded button that totally determines the duration & temp of water to be had, it would rate a full 10.
As I approached the bathhouse the first time, I heard a male voice coming from inside at a louder than normal-conversation volume level. As I stepped inside, no one seemed to be present. Then as I listened to the voice for a moment, I realized that it was a continuous broadcast of the NOAA weather station.......a very good idea that I have not encountered anywhere before.
The broadcast continues 24/7. I can't understate what a great & simple idea that is. Of course, the continuing drone does get monotonous after awhile, but that is the sacrifice for the information & potential safety.
I told Vicki that the Weather Bureau should use a voice du jour. Something like a sexy French lady on Mondays, (equal time for the ladies so...) a sexy (fill-in the blank) male voice on Tuesdays, a Grandpa voice on Thursdays, Larry the Cable Guy on Fridays ......... someone else can supply the suggestions for Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays; not that the weather forecast would be anymore accurate, but it would sure be a whole lot more interesting to listen to, especially on Mondays!!!!!
Shortly, I'll post another entry about what we have done since arriving here.