Today is Aug 26th , day 8 We drove 300 miles today from Lincoln, Nebraska to Iowa City, Iowa.
The night went well last night. I think the kids we're happy to be settled in a real home for a change as opposed to a hotel. And in case I wasn't clear in yesterdays post (since I was a bit rushed at the end) we had a great evening visiting with Denae and Travis. They're really nice people and I certainly hope they can come visit us once we're settled.
We woke to another excellent home cooked meal of french toast and eggs. The boys we're very happy to get something better than the standard continental breakfast, and we all enjoyed a little breathing room. Its nice to not feel like we have to rush off in the morning. You know we've only been traveling for a week, but it seems like we've been at it for a lot longer. A respite of any kind is welcomed.
Erica and the kids took off with Travis and Denae for a walk around the neighborhood and to the park. It was a bit misty this morning but never turned into rain, at least as far as we saw, so that's good. Erica tells me that the kids had a great time at the local playground. They've got three climbing rocks that Alec loved scrambling on and generally the kids ran and played like they're supposed to, At one point Alec reported on his plans for Halloween. So according to Alec, the plan so far is for this year Alec to dress up as Dora the Explorer, with a backpack and a map, and Calum to dress up as Boots the Monkey, then the following year Alec has plans to be a giant, then the year after that he will dress up as Travis and Calum can be Denae. Sounds like a reasonable plan...
While the kids were gone I worked a bit on this blog and then packed up the car. When everyone came back we said our goodbyes and hit the trail once more. Our timing out of Lincoln wasn't great. We left at around 11:30 and Calum was tired, he soon ell asleep. We usually like to have a stopping point at least sort of planned out along the route, but with Calum asleep right as we left, he was asleep through all of the interesting potential stops nearer the beginning of our driving day. We passed by Omaha, and Council Bluffs (both of which sounded like good places for kids), and Calum was asleep the whole time.
The road, and landscape out here is nice. After Council Bluffs we hit Iowa state and oddly enough it felt like the terrain changed pretty quickly. From the boring farmland and corn of Nebraska, we hit greener, slightly hillier farmland of Iowa. We saw lots of farming equipment on the roads and in the fields. And probably the coolest cargo load on the back of a truck, we actually saw a semi hauling a helicopter! Neat stuff.
Alec was again at it with his chicken mask that he got at the state fair yesterday. “Where is Alec? I only see a chicken in the car... “, “No mommy here I am” (followed by crazed giggles). Alec also has taken to pulling his shoes and socks off in the car. Today he put his socks and shoes on his hands, then he said “mommy, daddy, don't you like my mittens?”.
About a third of the way between Omaha and Des Moines Calum had woken up and the kids we're ready for a break. In fact so were we, that car just gets hot and uncomfortable after a while. So we pulled off the highway and into the little town of Avoca, IA for a BBQ lunch. After a quick drop in at the supermarket for some supplies we headed where else, but to the local park.
One of the weirdest set ups for parks I've seen. The Avoca park, actually the Eddington Memorial Park, is a pretty large space with a lot of playground equipment, but for some reason its like scattered over 3 or 4 acres. Thre we're two play structures, probably one old and one new, but then additionally there were just random solo pieces of playground equipment: swings, teeter toter, climbing bars, marry-go-round, all just scattered about over this very large area. I suppose it forces the kids to run around a bunch more, but I found it a bit odd. Regardless we decided to BBQ some lunch there and the kids honestly had a great time playing around with all of the equipment all over the place. There were some locals there but both Erica and I felt like they we're being pretty cold to us... Maybe they don't like strangers in their park. Whatever, its a public park and we used it.
We set up the grill and BBQ'ed some sausages and corn on the cob, which all turned out delicious. Even though it always seems like a challenge to get Alec to eat when he wants to be playing.Of course he wasn't too busy for blueberries for dessert.
After lunch we hopped back in the car for another long stretch of driving. This sure can get a bit tedious. But we had to push on through and so we did.
With the kids a break is really needed every two hours, and since every break seems to take at least 30 minutes the travel time becomes pretty long pretty fast. We peeled off the highway a bit down the road for another detour, this one with a bit intent though. Winterset was calling and so was The Duke.
The Duke, yes, that Duke, the man, the myth, the legend himself, a true American hero: Marion Robert Morrison, aka John Wayne. Winterset is the birthplace of Wayne, and we felt like we owed him at least enough to go and visit his home. Ok, well that's a bit of a stretch. I like Wayne and all, definitely not a great actor mind you, but I appreciate his place in cinematic history. I have a feeling Erica has probably never seen a John Wayne film. I of course like The Searchers, and The Green Berets, but I seem to remember liking The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance as well. I never really took to The Alamo, but I suppose that might be his most famous film.
Anyhow, we wandered around over to his homestead, but got there just as the museum was closing so unfortunately didn't have time to get a look around inside, other than the gift shop. Also admission was $7 each for an adult and $3 for each kid, that seems expensive to me. We did enjoy the gift shop though and got the kids each a cowboy hat. They look really cute in them when they wear them properly, but I don't think they're going to last too long. They're not very well made...
I like the town of Winterset though, Erica said its like a film set that's empty. The buildings all have this older artsy look about them. Artsy ina real world middle America way. To me at least this is a pretty 'classic' mid sized town and I think its place in the history of the Middle River Valley has shown that.
After a walk around we struck back out for the highway, but before we got there... what would a stop in Madison County be if we didn't go and see a covered bridge?! We couldn't pass it up... even though you know, they're only bridges.
So don't quote me on this but here's the deal in a nutshell, originally there were some 19 covered bridges in the Madison area of Iowa. They covered the wooden bridges to keep the wood less exposed to the elements. Replacing the boards on the ceiling and walls was a lot cheaper than replacing the floor beams. Most of these bridges are gone. Now there are only 6 in the Madison area. And I think only 5 are available to view easily. These particular bridges became famous after Clint Eastwood made a movie called The Bridges of Madison County (I presume it was based on a book). The bridge we saw was the Hogback bridge.
Covered bridge... yup, what can you say. My only comment is that there were two other couples visiting the bridge and one couple (both the man and woman) we're smoking while walking onto the bridge?! What the heck are they thinking, I mean this is a hundred year old wooden bridge and a place you presumably are excited to see as a tourist, why on Earth would you smoke inside the bridge!? Just step outside for goodness sake!
After the bridge excitement we made our way back to the highway and the kids fell asleep. Even though it can be tricky in terms of timing its always better for Alec's disposition if he naps. He's definitely growing out of it, but he still does it sometimes and it really makes him much more personable later in the day.
We set ourselves the goal of powering through and making it out to Iowa City while the kids slept, but it was still just too far. About an hour outsider of Iowa City, Alec woke up not too happy. He had crashed out a bit upset about the music selection in the car and woke up still upset :(
We had to stop and fast, so we found literally the next small town and pulled in with the intention of getting some dinner into him as fast as possible. Food, be it a snack or a meal is always helpful for kids. The simple act just calms kids down, and kids who don;t eat regularly, at least in my kid's case, can get very grumpy.
We pulled into Brooklyn, Iowa. Yes Brooklyn. I didn't see any relation to Brooklyn New York, but its always odd to me to see towns named the same as much larger more famous towns. People who live there must always be qualifying their city to strangers.
The City Park in Brooklyn was pretty great. Iowa is doing well in the parks department so far. There wasn't a ton of equipment, and oddly, just like at the other park in Avoca, the pieces of equipment were really spread out around the entire park space. Maybe that's just a thing here. Anyhow, it wasn't that the equipment was that great for Alec, no, it wasn't bad, but Alec really liked the fact that there were other kids there to play with.
Alec is a really outgoing happy kid, and he wants to play with other kids. On this trip he's had mostly his brother and us. Not that we're bad, Calum is definitely trying to keep up with Alec as best he can, but he's not quite there yet. Almost but not quite.
Alec and the other kids got along really well. I'm always impressed when I see older kids making an effort to play with younger kids. It makes me hopeful that the kids today are really going to be alright. And these kids, a girl and boy who we're cousins, maybe around 11 and 9 we're great.
Alec played and played and played, and Calum played and played, and then ate and hung out with his mommy. While Alec and Claum ran around the playground, I cooked pizza. Yes pizza on the BBQ. It was all Erica's idea and wow it really turned out well. We got some ready made crusts, a can of tomato sauce, a whole tomato, a green pepper and some shredded cheese, threw it all together, put it on the grill and had at it a few minutes later. All we really needed was it heated up so the cheese melted, and the BBQ certainly did that. Really a good idea.
Even the kids liked it. I mean what kid doesn't like pizza? So this was a sure success. After dinner we just let Alec go, we decided hat rather than force him to leave his new friends we would just stay until they had to go (when the street lights turned on) and go at that same time. So Alec and Calum got some extra run around time. The park was cool, but these kids really made Alec's day, and I am so thankful for that.
As the street lights came on we eventually bundled up Alec and headed back into the car and onto the road.We're staying at the adorably named AmericInn tonight just outside of Iowa City in Coralville. Tomorrow we're off to see an eye doctor at the University of Iowa, and then staying with my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Marty in Muscatine, IA. Looking forward to some more fun family time!