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Old 08-30-2016, 09:24 PM   #575
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More photos:

1. The Dam (#10) at Guttenberg. Because of high water, the dam is open, but boats must go through the locks anyway.

2. Locks opening to let a tug through. Locals come to watch this just like tourists.

3. Old stone building on Guttenberg's main street.

4. Our rig parked along the long park along the water.

Gene
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Old 08-31-2016, 07:44 PM   #576
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Mostly we drove on interstates and expressways and did not see the river very often. We drove around Minneapolis fairly quickly, never really seeing the city, and then northward. When we did see the river, each time it was smaller. We made it to a CG in the forest (and most of this part of the state is forest) near a lake (lots of them too) about 8 miles north of Grand Rapids, Minn. Tomorrow we go to Bemidji for 2 nights. That gives us a chance to unhitch for the first time of this trip and drive down to Lake Itaska to see the often photographed headwaters.

We got 2 nights at the beginning of there last big summer weekend, so were glad about that. Still have to find places going south for Sat. and Sun. nights.

Photos later, dinner sooner.

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Old 08-31-2016, 08:54 PM   #577
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I usually check spelling messed up by spell checker, but was in a hurry before, and thus, "there" should be "their". It happens to all of us.

Photos:

1. Back at the mounds (still catching up on photos), the trail up the bluff.

2. It is hard without a jet pack on your back or climbing a tree, to get photos of the animal shaped mounds.

3. Some higher mounds at a lookout above the Mississippi River.

4. Looking east across the river and its many islands.

Gene
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Old 08-31-2016, 09:05 PM   #578
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More photos:

1. Another view east. The island in the right foreground is under water.

2. And looking south.

3. The water tower in Brainerd resembles a castle.

4. The Mississippi down to size on the way to Grand Rapids, Minn.

Gene
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Old 08-31-2016, 09:11 PM   #579
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And one more we saw on a corner in Grand Rapids, Minn.

A bit large to sit on.

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Old 09-01-2016, 10:08 PM   #580
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A short day and we only got lost once. Signs for the river road and the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), a bike trail using the roadway for a "trail", usually are going the same place. The MRT is better signed, but both can lead to surprises. Looking for a county road between Grand Rapids and Bemidji, we were told to turn to a road that was not on the map. We took it and then weren't sure where we were. Just unending forest and no river or lakes. We eventually turned where the MRT said so and ignored the GRR sign—which for the first time went the opposite direction. We soon returned to US 2 and drove to Bemidji, or near it. The highway goes around the town.

We stopped at the KOA—easy to make reservations for two days online and it has fewer nuisance charges than the other CG's here. They gave us wifi coupons for two devices and I asked for a third since we have three devices. That was another $2, so I didn't buy it. What difference would it make?—we can only use two at the same time. Other CG's here charge for wifi, for guests, for cable, for A/C. I know a lot of CG's elsewhere charge if you have a guest. Feels like jail.

It is pretty flat here with some low hills. It was really flat to the south. It is all forest and lakes and swamps and a few farms with obligatory soybeans and corn. If the forest is on public land (state parks and national forest) there is variety in the trees and they are bigger. If private forests for wood pulp, one or two species of trees only and smaller, shorter trees. Guess which looks real?

Minnesota roads are good, though some concrete ones, often the 4 lane ones, have the constant bounce we suffered in Iowa with the whining sound from our tires. The towns, even the older ones, generally seem clean and neat. It looks like Minnesotans love to cut grass because we see big green lawns everywhere, even in rural areas.

It was good to drive less this afternoon and sleep more this morning. We went out for dinner at a very pretentious restaurant. Good taste, strange other stuff. It was their version of Italy I suppose. We've had some unusual experiences eating out on this trip, but we got a lot of laughs out of it. The waitress with her false eyelashes and caked on make up topped it off. Bemidji has a university and a trendy downtown with restaurants and other Millenial oriented stores. We'll try breakfast out tomorrow and check out a bakery hoping we can get some really good bread. We bought some "pumpernickel" at an IGA, but it bears little resemblance to real pumpernickel. They add food coloring to make it look like pumpernickel.

It has remained cool and skies have been mostly clear. Rain is coming in a few days, but we hope to be returning south. We need to find places to stay during the rest of this weekend and haven't worked too hard at it. We tried to make reservations at a KOA in Minneapolis, but they only want you if you stay three days. Who wants to stay three days in Minneapolis on Labor Day weekend?

It is 38 miles on a large variety of county roads to Lake Itaska and the headwaters. Because a lot of the roads were built along section lines, they tend to go either north/south or east/west making distances much longer if you are going on a diagonal. There's a lot of that tomorrow. After tomorrow we start south and see how far we get. Maybe St. Louis. So far, 8 days on the road, 1,800+ miles, two strange Italian restaurants, a first day that made going home seem a good idea. Best food has been what we brought. Some days we see the river a lot, others hardly at all. Where the river is really wide river towns almost look like lake or ocean towns.

Even with all the problems we had, the unsatisfying restaurants, being lost three times, it is great to be on the road seeing things we've never seen before, learning more about America. And being together, experiencing it together, is always good.

Photos:

1. The Mississippi, down to size between Grand Rapids and Bemidji, Minn.

2. Paul Bunyan and the blue ox, Babe, in front of Lake Bemidji in downtown Bemidji. The tall woman standing next to Paul does not look so tall close to Paul, not quite making it up to his knee. I think there's a bigger Paul Bunyan in northern Cal.

Gene
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Old 09-02-2016, 09:15 PM   #581
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Since we are the same place for two days after almost 2,000 miles in 8 days, we got some shopping in, ate two meals out and drove very little. Breakfast was delayed because we had to find a places to stay Sat. and Sun. night. Everyone in Minnesota has bought an RV and made reservations. After hours of searching, phone calls, online requests, Barb discovered an Airstream park north of Minneapolis in Clear Lake. They have a space for Sat. night. We're hoping for a cancellation at a county CG with 400 spaces near La Crosse, Wisc. on Sunday, but still have to keep looking.

Meanwhile we have somewhere around 235 miles tomorrow. Barb has relatives in La Crosse, so we may stay around there if we can find a spot.

Anyway we had breakfast just short of noon at the Minnesota Nice restaurant in Bemidji. Yes, Minnesotans are not only all above average, but they are very nice. Breakfast was good although it took some time to get it. Maybe it is the college here or people don't need jobs, but the restaurant was quite crowded before the lunch rush.

Afterwards, we started the 38 miles to the headwaters. Mostly trees line wide and smooth and mostly straight county roads. We see few farms and mostly they seem to be raising alfalfa, much of it already harvested. It is more flat than hilly. Not a lot of people living there. Sometimes we cross an ever diminished Mississippi. It was beginning to look like a major river in Colorado (i.e., small). Then it got smaller until in the several miles before we reached Itaska State Park, Lake Itaska and the headwaters, it was about 6' wide.

We paid our $5 to the state of Minnesota and drove to the headwaters parking lot. Lots of information is displayed near the headwaters and we read just about all of it, then walked to the beginning. There were white caps on the Lake and tourists in the foreground walking across the rocky Mississippi as water poured out of the lake. Kids played in the water. We had made it!

We too walked across, but on a dry log downstream about 20'. I seem to recall seeing a picture of the water flowing out of the lake over some rocks into the river back in grade school and many times since. There is a fascination about this rivers headwaters going back centuries. Actually a river's length is usually measured by the farthest headwaters and that would mean the river should be named the Missouri and the Mississippi should be the tributary. Sort of anticlimatic as one headwaters of a great river ends quietly with kids and dogs playing in the water and parents worrying about kids and dogs playing in the water.

After our accomplishment, we, in true explorer fashion, went to the snack bar and had ice cream cones. We checked out the tourist paraphernalia, found none to our liking. I wanted a baseball cap that said "Bemidji", "Great River Road" or "Mississippi Headwaters". None of that is available around here. The caps that say "Bemidji" have it in small letters under "Minnesota". I ordered a river road cap online and we found a "Minnesota" cap for only $8 at the KOA shop of all places. Maybe we'll find some other tourist trinkets along the way.

Photos:

1. A few miles from the headwaters the Mississippi meanders through fields and forests about 6' wide and maybe a foot deep in the middle.

2. Tourists walk across at the start. Lake Itaska is partly covered with grasses, but beyond that patch extends pretty far and was very wind blown today.

3. A wily tourist crosses the great river on a log. It comes out of the lake pretty clear, but tourists' feet stir up the dirt and the river is muddy already.

4. View across the lake several feet from the beginning.

Gene
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Old 09-03-2016, 05:53 PM   #582
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We left the Bemidji KOA at a respectable 10 am. Perhaps all the people who precede us still work and are used to getting up really early. We are glad not to be in that cohort. Since we had followed the river for some miles getting north, and there is not a river road on each side of the river up north, we mostly took fast highways except for one Great River Road section that we had missed coming up. We actually followed the river for about 10 miles and it was at least twice as wide as it was near Bemidji.

Anxious at not having a CG for Sunday night, I wanted Barb to call every place on the planet, but she wisely suggested the CG's don't know about cancellations until later in the morning. Unfortunately that was when we were in cell-less country, so I could nurture and expand my anxiety. Barb called, the county park near La Crosse had two cancellations, less than I thought they would, but they had to check. Then no cell for 45 agonizing minutes. As soon as we were back in the civilized world, the phone rang and we don't have to stay at a Walmart tomorrow.

All that settled, we hurtled down highways, wider and wider, more and more traffic, at 260 miles down the river, now three or four times the size it was at Bemidji, we arrived at the Minnesota Airstream Park. I believe every one of the scores of Airstreams we saw was cleaner than ours. We were sent to the overflow which has water and electric. Very quiet here compared to the more packed regular part of the CG. There are about 10 spaces across from a gold course and only two of us here. It is cheap, the air is cool and the sky is blue. Green everywhere and we look out our dinette into forest of oak trees and brush. The Mississippi is somewhere west of us and we will see it at times tomorrow.

The roads get busier and we travel around the other, east side of the Twins. There's a Trader Joe's there for provisions. Then to Wisconsin and a county park near La Crosse. By then the river will be big and muddy (not too clear up here either).

Photos:

1. Between Bemidji and Grand Rapids, US 2 is a pretty straight line and has a few roadside attractions. This is the Big Fish. I'm not sure what's inside, though there is a restaurant there and cabins.

2. This gas station and general store is very Chinese. New name is proclaimed by banners placed over the old one.

Gene
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Old 09-06-2016, 08:10 AM   #583
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We've been moving south faster than we anticipated. We've traveled along the east side of the river this time. Made it around St. Paul and stopped at a Trader Joe's there to stock up on items we can't get easily at home, or buy things that are cheaper at TJ's. Traffic was not as bad as a weekday, fortunately.

The River Road in Wisconsin always has the same state highway number. That makes things easier. Wisc. has marked the highway better than Iowa and a bit better than Minn. We drove through the driftless area again. Highway 35 hugs the bluffs most of the way and the small towns are crammed between the river, railroad and the bluffs. Many 19th century buildings remain and appear to be well kept. Because of the hills, verdant vegetation, older buildings and small industry in some areas, the driftless area reminds me of Pa., a state I spent almost 8 years living in about 50 years ago.

One of the prettiest towns, though away from the river, is Galena, Ill. Many large mansions and old buildings dating back to the time when mining was happening in the mid 1800's. Galena means lead. The problem with getting photos is the roads are narrow, there's not many places to pull over with a trailer and taking photos through the windshield or out a side window is difficult and things get in the way.

Barb got to see cousins and an aunt in La Crosse, Wisc. and we ate at an unusual local chain called HoHot or something like that. You pick your own ingredients and they cook it on a grill. I suppose after a while I could figure out how to make what I wanted, but since I was trying to create Chinese or Thai food, I failed. We are still trying to find a Chinese restaurant when we stop for more than one night, but haven't succeeded so far.

Today we are in Rock Island at an older KOA. We picked it for two reasons—close to Davenport and it was easy to make a reservation. It is the second most expensive RV CG we've ever gone to. They do have two or three lakes and I suppose that is important to people. We are stopping for two nights so we can go to the Figge Museum, a national known art museum. A surprise find in Davenport. There's also a music museum nearby we may check out.

They call this area the Quad Cities (Moline and Bettendorf are the other two), but it once was the Tri-Cities. Back then they had an NBA franchise in the late '40's when the league started. Along with Ft. Wayne, Ind., Syracuse and Rochester, NY.

Photos later.

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Old 09-06-2016, 09:27 PM   #584
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Today we went to Davenport twice. First we stopped at the QC Coffee and Pancake House in downtown Rock Island. You get lots of food and if you order the Cinnamon Roll Pancakes (hard to find on the menu, but it is their speciality), you get three pancakes doused in everything sugar, 2 eggs and bacon. I don't know how they stay in business serving heart attacks. Barb ate little more than half of the pancakes. I tried some small pieces and the sweetness was much more intense than even a chocoholic like me could stand. I had a skillet which was very filling. Across the street was an old theater and across the intersection was an old hotel turned into assisted living. Traffic was light in downtown Rock Island and the city has seen better days.

Across the Mississippi (larger and larger every hundred miles) to the Figge Museum. The building was designed when glass and steel cubes were architectural fads some time ago. Now they look cold and uninviting. There are a few parking spaces in front and we got one. Downtown Davenport was quiet too and parking doesn't seem to be a problem. We spent a few hours looking at mostly paintings, some of them by very famous American artists plus a Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition. We spent more time at the Wright display than anywhere else. The Figge is an above average art museum in cities of the population of the Quad Cities, but as we had read it was right up their with famous national museums, we were disappointed. It was free for several weeks, so with free parking and free admission, we did quite well. It was a worthwhile visit, but had been oversold.

Davenport has a lot of large buildings downtown, but not much seems to be going on. Smaller cities are not doing well in America and these seem to be struggling. The four cities are about 360,000 people, a pretty good size, but the energy seems to go to the suburbs.

We came back, I took a refreshing nap, and then we went out to Chinese restaurant that advertises itself as having "Chinese fine dining". I would not say it was that good, but they had the best scallion pancakes we can remember. The two entrees were good and fair. The waiter was not too good. We got our Chinese dinner, finally.

The weather has become very hot (for this time of year) and humid again. We're hoping for a cold front. Meanwhile trees are starting to change quickly. We saw a little of that in Bemidji, but it is more pronounced now. The L brackets on our hitch have moved back and I have to reposition them and tighten them more. A cabinet latch under the sink is starting to fail and I have to replace it soon. And the TV cable is not working when connected to cable. It is either a bad connection at one end or the other I suspect, but don't know whether I'll get to fix it soon.

Near us is another Airstream from Colorado with an Equalizer hitch.

Tomorrow we go to Quincy, Ill., 150 miles. We'll take a look at Nauvoo, Ill. on the way. In the early 19th century, Mormons were persecuted as they moved from upstate NY and they settled in this place on the frontier. They were quickly successful at creating a bustling frontier town, but their ways did not go well with other settlers moving to what was then the west. They were chased out. It is another story of our past with hatred of those who are different and persecution resulting. If I recall correctly the state militia was used to attack them. Then they moved out of the US to what was soon Utah and they again were in the US. No decent CG in Nauvoo it appears, so we will go on to Quincy were there are a lot of old buildings to see and we'll be close to Hannibal, home of Samuel Clemens. We have plenty of time, so we can go slowly for a while.

Getting late, photos later.

Gene
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Old 09-06-2016, 10:06 PM   #585
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Photos:

1. Looking towards the many Airstreams at their owned sites, gold course on left, nose of SOB MH at this Airstream only park. Maybe they were there to look at a site. Sites with older Airstreams were pretty reasonable and not too far from the Twin Cities.

2. The first town in Wisconsin, not far from St. Paul, Minn., is Prescott and down the highway a little ways is a large River Road visitor center. The city built it and did a nice job. The woman at the front desk ignored us and for most of the time stared at her smart phone; only when we asked her questions, did she surface. Outside we met someone who had grown up not far (60 miles) from where we live and struck up a conversation. But time was ticking and we had to get to LaCrosse. But here is a photo of the river as it enters Wisconsin below the St. Croix River. It is beginning to look really big. The current here appeared to flow upstream. We couldn't figure that out.

3. Further south the river has gotten really big. Part of that is caused by the frequent Corps of Engineers dams creating large pools upstream.

4. One of many small towns along Wisconsin 35, each tucked between the bluffs and the railroad and river.

Gene
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:08 PM   #586
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And more photos,

1. Another view of older buildings along the river. Note the one in the middle is painted two different colors. The third from left is a really nice stone building with curved pediments.

2. The Mississippi looks like an inland sea (ok, some hyperbole) as we travel south. The bluffs are up to 500' high in the drifts area.

3. Dickeyville's Catholic Church had a priest in the early 20th Century who was into using stones and crystals over concrete to create grottos, walls, caves and hard to describe structures, all with a strong Catholic message. This is the first thing you see from the highway.

4. There must be many, many thousands of individual stones, crystals and such. There are more structures, each equally hard to believe.
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:44 PM   #587
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More photos:

1, 2. Galena, Ill., must have had a lot of wealthy individuals in the mid-1800's judging by all the large houses from that time.

3. This bar appears to be a favorite for bikers and why the place is named this, I can't imagine. We see a lot of strange signs along the way, but catching them with a camera is hard to do while moving and being 42' long with no easy place to stop.

4. This theater in downtown Rock Island testifies to a vitality there that seems to have been lost.
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:56 PM   #588
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More,

1. The Figge Museum in Davenport, a glass and steel cube once thought to be modern, now looks dated.

2. Downtown Davenport—lots of large buildings, but where are the people?

3. The sign says "Apartments"in a well kept early 20th century building, but the store fronts are empty. The city is not rundown or dirty, but quiet.

4. The Centennial Bridge over the Mississippi consists of 5 spans, each alike, a maze of steel girders if you look above the roadway.

Gene
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