Friday, October 2, 2015

Our Mississippi River Mini-vacation

Before I retired, one of the many things I looked forward to was the ability to travel in the fall.  I love the mixture of sunny days, cooler evenings, and the beautiful colors everywhere.  For those reasons and more, hubby and I planned a short Mississippi River get-away at the end of September and October 1st.  Although really a quiet trip with lots of driving, there is still too much to tell all at once, so I am going to write bit each day until I run out of things to share.  And maybe mixed in, I'll add some book reviews.

We left Monday morning for Dubuque, IA; the drive is under 3 hours and travels along many curvy Southern and Southwestern Wisconsin roads.  Lots of farmland.  Our hotel, the Grand Harbor, is right in Dubuque's Port.  After checking in, we grabbed burgers at Tony Roma's, a restaurant connected to the hotel.  We ate outside on the patio, right along the river.  Since temps were in the 80's, many people were out walking the riverside trail, and we even saw a few recreational boaters.  We also saw the first of many barges we would see over the next 4 days. The Grand Harbor is a large, impressive hotel with a waterpark attached (we did not get a waterpark pass with our accommodations) and also a convention center.  I don't know if it was because it was a Monday or if it was the time of year, but the whole place was very, very quiet.  Almost no cars in the parking lot.  It made for a super quiet stay, but I certainly hope the place has enough activity to be successful.

 We spent the rest of our afternoon at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, which was only steps from our hotel.  As museums go, this one is bright, up-to-date, and incorporates technology into the exhibits.  Lots of information about history of the river (and other rivers), wetlands, ecology and such.  We liked the old canoes, kayaks, and river boats.  One building had lots of Mark Twain themed items and concentrated on that short period of time that steamboats ruled the water.  We were lucky to visit when we did, as the museum was still hosting a traveling Titanic exhibit.  Despite having seen dozens (and I mean dozens) of television specials about the Titanic, both Russ and I found this exhibit one of the trip's highlights.  As you probably know, visitors to Titanic exhibits are given a boarding pass with the name of a passenger on it. I was a third class passenger; Russ was a first class passenger.  It is not until the end of the exhibit that you learn whether you were a survivor or not.  I figured, being a third class passenger, albeit a female, that I would not be a survivor.  But we were both survivors; and I am so glad that the real people on those two tickets were among those who made into  the life boats. I think everyone has their particular favorite details from the exhibit.  Near the end is a room of items recovered, some belonging to the ship and others traced to certain passengers.  I was fascinated by a series of tiny perfume samples belonging to a salesman.  Supposedly, the perfume still sealed in the glass bottles has kept its fragrance.  Divers also found some of the ship's crockery all in a row on the ocean floor.  Evidently, the identical au gratin dishes had been stacked on wooden shelves which rotted away, leaving the dishes standing like toy soldiers.  Minute order in a shipwreck of chaos. By the time we had covered most of the museum's exhibits, both indoor and outdoor, it was 5 o'clock and closing time.

After the short walk to our hotel and a rest, we decided to walk across the parking lot to the Diamond Jo Casino.  Now we aren't gamblers, but DJC has a sport's bar that is separate from the casino, and we decided to stop there for a drink.  Being a Monday evening and still quite early, the bar was almost empty.  We had our one drink, talked a little to the young bar tender, and then headed back to the hotel to watch the Packers.  It had been a long day and it was great to watch the game in peace.
Packer won, so the day ended on a high note.

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National Mississippi River Museum

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