Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Strand Six: Iowa Vacation

I know I normally break our vacation wrap up posts with a couple so they aren't so long, but for the sake of time and the ridiculous list of things I have one week to get done... you're getting it all now. 

Before I go further though, everyone has asked us, "why Iowa?" and the simplest answer is..... we needed to cross it off our map. We have a goal of seeing as many states together as we can and we've done a bunch around MN/WI where we live, except Iowa. It's always the drive-through-it state but you guys- we need to collectively stop dissing Iowa. Iowa is fun and Iowa isn't getting the respect it deserves. 

We took off on Friday and I was so damn sick. No, I wasn't Covid sick, I was adrenaline crash sick. The night before was ROUGH and I won't get into that, but just know that as parents, Matt and I are dealing with a lot and it's a constant barrage of stuff and frankly, that Thursday was just really almost too much for me. Well, I guess it was because that Friday my body was like, "girl- you're done". I was on the verge of throwing up the entire day (and the next), I was in and out of consciousness, I felt like it took everything in me just to sit up straight in the car, my stomach hurt so bad and I had the worst headache. I was awful and I very much do not recommend going on a road trip in these conditions. Anyways. The show goes on, as they say. 
We stopped at Minnesota's Largest Candy Store in Jordan, Minnesota. If you've never been, it's worth the stop, the kids absolutely loved it. 
We then hauled it to Blue Earth, Minnesota to see the Jolly Green Giant Statue Park, and this was so pretty. Not only is this little town really pretty, but they have little Sprout statues all over and you can do a little scavenger hunt to find them all. I'm sad we didn't have enough time to do that. We had to hustle to get to Des Moines, Iowa because that was where we were exploring first. 

We ended up getting to our hotel late (for Pep and Lu) and our hotel was just the worst. It really was. It literally smelled like garlic bread and not even good garlic bread. Ugh. 
The next day we went to Blank Park Zoo, which was a really great little zoo. We saw a ton of animals, the zoo was incredibly well laid out and clean. It wasn't the biggest zoo we've gone to but it was worth our trip. 
After the zoo we decided to go on a train ride, mostly because Penelope asked for one. We drove to Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad & Museum because we had tickets for the Fraser Train. We got there a little early, so we explored the museum and got to climb onto a train. The museum isn't near as cool as the one we have local to us, but what they had was a little bit different so it wasn't a total waste. The train ride though? Beautiful. 
We went over a bridge and I'm not kidding, in the fall this would be STUNNING. The views are beautiful but I can say that is the highest up off the ground I've ever been while in a train!
For dinner, we took a chance on the Drake Diner (which Jackson later discovered was home to a couple of murders and I'm telling you, knowing that know makes me feel strange). The food was great and the decor/restaurant was beautiful. It's a cool little gem in the middle of a neighborhood. 

That's how we ended our first full day in Des Moines. We were exhausted but got to hear a dance party in the hotel parking lot for three hours in the middle of the night. Loved that. :/ 
The very next day we had to get up super early because we had tickets for the 9-12 slot at the Science Center of Iowa. This was a pick from the big kids because they really get into science things, but it turned out being a huge hit for all four kids. I can't hate that. Easily the best areas were the Build It area (you can make a building and see if it withstands an earthquake) and the area with circuits. Penelope really enjoyed circuits and making things turn on/off. 
We ended up getting through the entire science center in about two hours so we had some time to kill before we would need to eat lunch so..... we decided to check out a local bookstore! This is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do in a new town, and this one did not disappoint. 
Storyhouse Bookpub was the cutest little shop I've been in. We spent quite a bit of time (and money) here and I just wanted to hang out all day. The owner and her employer were literally the sweetest people, and gave us a little scavenger hunt around this up and coming neighborhood. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday so lots of shops weren't open, but Penelope was determined! She had to find a specific book in each store and have her sheet marked off. She went right up to store employees to ask questions, get her sheet signed, etc. You have NO IDEA how proud she was to get her sticker at the end showing she's a super reader. For real, you guys- this store is amazing. 
Also? Iowa has these awesome murals all over and I could have spent entire days just looking for these. But I love this picture because it's everyone's personality and there's Pep with her scavenger hunt sheet! 
Also? I got so many pictures of our family, of Matt and I, the kids, etc. I really wanted this vacation to count. 

After wandering around, we had about an hour-ish drive to Columbus Junction to see the Swinging Bridge Park, home of the Lover's Leap Bridge. We found it easily enough, had some disagreements on how to get to the bridge, finally deciding to take this weird little path which wasn't a fun one to walk. 
We did get a view of the bridge and doesn't that look like a fun one? This one definitely counts as our adventure card of this trip. 
When I tell you this was a swinging bridge? I am not lying to you. This damn thing swung side to side but also up and down and was the scariest bridge I have ever been on. It didn't help that the people behind us started being complete assholes, knowing full well that we had four kids on this bridge. So that was fun. 
We saw this at the end. Fun. 
We were on the way to city #2, Dubuque. I need to pause though and tell you that Des Moines was maybe the prettiest city I've ever been in. Everything was so clean, everyone was so nice and helpful, I really was sad we had to go, but it made me excited for Dubuque. 
We only had one full day in Dubuque so I knew we had to make it count! I knew during my research of Dubuque that I wanted to find some of these murals and we only got photos of a couple but there were SO MANY. If you are traveling through Dubuque, I so highly recommend you drive around and find them. 
I mean, how bad ass is that? I wish more cities had things like that, tap into the artists of your city! 
First up for Dubuque was the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. It's similar to the aquarium we have where we live (though that is solely focused on the Great Lakes), so I know going in that we would really love this and we did. 
We ended up getting there a little early, so we found a little walkway and decided to just watch the morning wake up over the water. It was really beautiful. 
The museum/aquarium was absolutely worth our time and money. We did everything this place had to offer and the kids were bummed by the time we were done. 
Afterwards we were going to get lunch, and I had found Shot Tower Inn online, and it was SO GOOD. It wasn't without drama though, I wanted to take the kids to take a picture of the mural and some guy, presumably picking up an employee from work, started screaming at me he was going to tow our vehicle away. I yelled at him for being an asshole and then, because I can be petty, proceeded to stand there within his view until the place opened for lunch (we had gotten there like 7 minutes early). We said something to our waitress, who made sure we weren't actually towed, and tipped her really well. She was the nicest and this place was pretty great. 
Next up? The Fenelon Place Elevator! I'm all about an inexpensive, quirky thing to do and for $4 a person, you too can ride on the world's shortest and steepest railroad! 
It goes incredibly slow, has a great view at the top, and the neighborhood at the bottom is full of fun little shops. 
We also found a Little Free Library! We didn't find anything for us that day, but it was cool to visit anyways. 
I inadvertently found a bookstore I had wanted to go to while in this neighborhood, too. When we road the elevator back up, we drove to the bottom and found some parking right out front and went in. 
River Lights Bookstore is beautiful. Again, Olivia and I bought a stack of books we don't need but you know.... buy local, am I right? 

We were going to try to go see some caves but in the end decided maybe the kids were wearing out. Our last stop for the whole trip was always meant to be Effigy Mounds National Monument
We literally had no idea what it was before we went and I'll be honest, we only saw three. The three at the start of the trail. 
This was something that Jackson had wanted to see and we realized it was one of the "special sights" places on our map that you cross off as you see, so it was a double bonus. What they don't tell you is the trail to see these? 


Sure, there are two trails, a two-miler and a four-miler meant for a more "rugged" experience. The two-miler? Is not for out of shape folk. It's not for anyone with a bizarre leg malady we're still getting worked out, and it's not for a toddler who also seemingly has the same thing but the beginning stages. 

To sum it up? We made it .7 of a mile up the mountain before saying screw it and going back down. 
Looking at this it freaks me out because that is a straight down drop off behind Olivia and her legs kept giving out (it's a whole thing, we don't know what it is, we're in the middle of trying to figure it all out). Lucy had to be carried for awhile because her leg was giving out and she was in pain. Jackson had to hold me up. Only Penelope was ready to climb the mountain, and she let us all know repeatedly that SHE is just fine and SHE could do the whole thing, no problem. 

Penelope is not the motivational coach anyone needs. Unless being shamed by a six year old is what drives you, of course. 

We then drove like 5.5 hours home. It was late when we got home, the last two hours were ROUGH. The kids were all asleep, Matt and I had the music cranked so loud and nobody heard a thing. It was crazy. Was our summer vacation over? Nope! Tomorrow? We play local-ish tourists. 


Shooting Stars Mag said...

It sounds like you had a really great trip overall. And I kind of want to go to Iowa now. I love murals - Cincinnati has a ton of them, and we even have tours to see them, which is something I really should do sometime.

That mountain sounds awful, and I'm glad none of you got hurt with all the leg issues. I would have collapsed I'm sure. I can't do uphill. And omg, Penelope as a motivational coach has me laughing. I can see it.


Why Girls Are Weird said...

Your trip sounds AMAZING. I kind of want to eat at that diner BECAUSE OF the murders (I can't help it, I love true crime). And I've never actually been to the World's Largest Candy Store, I need to go there someday.