Thursday, October 6, 2011

Trempealeau WI to McGregor IA

Trempealeau WI to McGregor IA
October 4, 2011

We got up a little early and left camp about 8:30. Our plan was to be in La Cross to make arrangements for a sightseeing cruise on the Mississippi. We were unable to call for quite some distance due to poor phone service. Really strange how it could be 3G last night - then E – and then off and on no service. We finally got through and had plenty of time to get there for the 11 o’clock cruise.  We walked around the riverfront park for about 30 minutes. It was a very nice park – even had a small Japanese Friendship Garden that was very well done. 

 entrance to Friendship Garden in La Cross IA
The boat was not large but was a real paddle wheeler. They had diesel engines that ran the paddle wheels but they were the only mode of propulsion for the boat.. We left at 11:00 and traveled north for about an hour and then returned. We experienced a train crossing the railroad bridge – we had to wait for it to cross – then a section of the bridge rotated horizontally to let us pass underneath.. We continued north until we came to a lock and dam and turned around to return. Some of the tours go through the lock but this one did not. We would have been waiting a long time as a tug with a long line of barges was passing through.  Along the river on the MN side were many homes. The WI side was a national wildlife refuge. We were surprised that we saw very little river traffic – mostly fishing and touring boats and the one tug and barges in the lock.  In fact so far on our travels down the Mississippi we have seen less than 5 tugs with barges. It seems the town where we stayed near Minneapolis (Savage) is the largest grain port along the Mississippi. We had noticed many grain elevators along the Minnesota River but did not realize the significance.

 Bridge opens to allow us to pass

The paddle wheel boat held about 150 people and was built specifically for the touring. The upper deck was for viewing and the lower deck was set up for dining. A tour later in the day had lunch but we wanted to be down the road so took the earlier tour. The weather was perfect for this outing.

Ben on top deck
Paddle Wheel as seen from inside Dining Area

We stopped at a Festival Food Market and did a little shopping before we left La Cross. One claim to fame for La Cross is a brewery and they have the largest beer cans around!

We continued on down the GRR towards Prairie du Chien WI. We drove around and went in the Visitor Center at Villa Louis, a Victorian home built by a family who made their fortune in the fur trade. With only 30 minutes before it closed we were satisfied to just view from afar.

Crossing the river into IA we were planning to spend the night at Pikes Peak State Park which was high on the bluffs above the Mississippi.  The tiny town on Marquette was at the end of the bridge set against some of the most vivid colors on the trees we have seen.

A few miles down the road was McGregor where the park was located. We came to a ROAD CLOSED sign and took about 30 minutes to finally find the park. It took the GPS, 2 maps, and 3 phone calls before a truck driver stopped and told us the park was about half a mile from where we were. It is beautiful – indeed high above the riverside town of McGregor.  All of Iowa the I had experienced was mostly flat with corn and more corn. This was a different Iowa with hills, crooked roads and fall colors!

Tonight was filled with walking, cooking a simple dinner, and sorting another couple days of photos. Ben is very pleased his entertainment plan has worked well. He has a fairly large number of TV programs on a hard drive so he can run them through his computer onto the TV and watch old shows to fill his evening. Jane is keeping busy with blog writing (even without posting), sorting and naming photos, and reading on the Nook.  The Nook is growing on me. I still think I prefer a real book but we shall see.

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