Northeast Iowa

When I am not road tripping I am planning future road trips.  And when I am not doing that, I like to reminisce a little about past road trips.  Over the next month or two I plan on focusing on places a day or two away from my hometown of Chicago.  First up, Iowa.

Methinks Iowa gets a bad rap.  People think of Iowa as flat, boring, and full of corn.  Yes on the last one but no on the first two.  And the north-east corner of Iowa is absolutely stunning.  There is Pikes Peak State Park (discovered by the same Pike who named Pikes Peak in Colorado), the Effigy Mounds, and a beautiful, rolling river drive that takes you past stunning views of the river, deep valleys where hawks and bald eagles soar, and some pretty lousy, but picturesque wineries.  The one winery we went to was actually in the kitchen/ dining area of a small ranch house and was run by its two elder owners.  The old man was shirtless when we rang the bell, but put a shirt on for the tastings.  You have to expect a certain touch of class at these things.  Pikes Peak State Park has a few short trails and several dramatic overlooks.  Effigy Mounds covers a very large area where one can hike past dozens of mounds in the shape of bears, eagles, and other animals.  A lot of mystery here in that no one knows exactly what the mounds were used for, but they did often house the dead.  To get there drive to Madison, WI and then take 18 east.  It took us about 6 hours.  We also got the last available campsite, so you might want to plan ahead.  Closest town is McGreggor which I think was the birth place of John Wayne. 

After taking in the mounds and the views, it is an easy drive south to Dubuque which is across the river from Galena.  Galena is a much more happening town, but Dubuque has a cool aquarium focusing on the river, a casino (did not enter but I am sure it is nice), and a very clean, built up downtown that was curiously empty when we were there.  Galena is a short drive away and offers a very historic, shop and resteraunt filled town.  I believe that most of the city is a historic landmark and one can really get lost in the beautifully restored blocks that sometimes seem to climb straight up into the hills.  The drive west on 20 is also very pretty and offers a scenic alternative close to Galena that is worth the drive.