Each time I travel between St Paul and Newton, I try to vary my route... depending on the time avialable. For once time was my friend, and I could pretty well go anywhere. Chose the Great River Road. This would allow me to catch up with friends along the way.
It was pleasing to see so much of the road going right by the river. Often it was not possible to stop to get a better view, a photo or two, but all in all, highway 61 led me through spectacularly scenic countryside and many close ups with this mighty river.
At Red Wing (I think it was) is a pull off with picnic facilities, restrooms etc. There was a lot of water around. When I got out of the car and walked the few metres to the river, it was actually washing over the wall. Fast flowing, with lots of debri and very muddy looking.
At Lake City local artists were making the most of the lovely day, and were painting on the river banks. When I had a chance to pull into a turn out, I saw Christine painting the view in front of her. And nicely she was doing too. Christine took the time to tell me about the festival, artists were doing a painting per day, for each day of that week. Later they would all be displayed in a local gallery. She allowed me to take her photo so I could illustrate my report.
Winnona saw me stop at a roadside mall to get some lunch. Was a great charity store next door. Yeah! I walked out with another bag full. Totally addicted.
By this time I realised that if I kept stopping at all the view points and each time the road met the river, I would not be in Dubuque for a couple of days. Sadly I made the decision to by pass some of them. But only some of them.
At I-90 I crossed over into WI and continued down the Great River Road on the eastern side of this versatile waterway.
Stopped at the visitor centre in La Crosse to pick up a bit more info, and continued along the way. There was a sign to a rest area and viewpoint. I turned in, and followed the steep path all the way to the top. A neat spot for a view of the river from above. But I did not have the time to linger.
Shortly after I came to Lock and Dam 8 just as a 12 barge vessel filled with corn was preparing to enter the lock. Watching this was a great experience, especially when I realised that it had to go through in 2 bits. The lock is only big enough for 6 barges at a time. How they do that is something to see. It certainly captured the attention of quite a few people - yours truly included.
The personel involved in all this manouvering were only too willing to share what was happening, and the whys and wherefores of each move. The whole process takes between 90 mins and two hours. Two hours I could barely spare, but two hours of such great interest that I was not aware I had been there for so long. By the time I finally got to Dubuque it was 12 hours since I left St Paul.
After Dubuque I continued down the GRR to Clinton, trying not to repeat the time consuming activities of the MN and WI stretches. Made a couple of stops, but not too many. At Clinton I headed east in IL on US 30. That too was a great route. What stands out most is the huge storm I drove into. Thunder, lightning and rain which even the fastest wiper setting could not clear. In IA I had been told that they badly needed rain, and I have to admit, the countryside looked much drier than my previous visits. I was hoping that this rain would make it to them.
Another outstanding part of my return to Newton was through NY state. At Darien Center I picked up US 20 and took it all the way into Albany. The route took me through small rural communities and past some of the Finger Lakes. Stopped three or four of times, at large shopping malls and quaint little houses. I was so glad I was not stuck on the NY Thruway.
Interestingly, the driving time for the 250 or so miles on US 20, at 55 mph took less time than the less than 200 miles on I-90 into Newton, which was all at 65mph.... and congestion!
On my arrival back at son's place the Odo had just clocked up 15K miles, since I had left his place after Easter. Over the 82 days, that averages out at less than 200 miles per day. But of course, there were many days on which we did not drive. Days when she needed the rest as much as I did. (I have the grandchildren working on a name for her... any help would be appreciated!)
Of the 82 nights, 40 were at hostels, hotels, motels, RV Parks or paid campgrounds. The prices ranged from $8 at Marion Creek on the Dalton, to $99.75 at Enterprise. The total comes to $1500 for an average cost per night of $37.50. I have not yet totalled the fuel and other costs. That will have to wait.
As I mentioned above, in only a matter of hours now I will be on a flight to take grandson for a holiday to meet his Aussie cousins.