Towards the end of last week, a sudden and powerful urge to go out and explore came over me. I expected to stay close to town and go on a nice hike, but Tor suggested some other options and my adventure seeking self was ecstatic. The plan was formed to seek out the Mines of Spain just outside of Dubuque (a two hour drive away). Because of the driving distance, we decided to make a day of it by stopping off in Guttenberg, exploring Dubuque, and going to the Mississippi River museum. We also managed to fit Wisconsin in.
Guttenberg is a quaint river town an hour away from Decorah. There's a lock and dam system there, and plenty of cute little shops and eateries along the water. We stopped at the Clayton Ridge Meat Market and ate at their cafe called the Picket Fence. One of my favorite things about the Midwest so far is the pricing on food - a sandwich and side cost $4.99. It was a good sandwich and the best beans I've ever had. The cafe was super midwestern kitsch, which I love, and I posed with the little piggie placemat. I enjoyed you BBQ'd, little piggie. Delish.
After Guttenberg, we headed into Dubuque. Dubuque is the 8th largest city in Iowa, and an important river town on the border of Wisconsin and Illinois. Dubuque itself was weird. All of the storefronts and buildings downtown had this really neat old-time type architecture with red-brick buildings and stylized structures. But, every other corner had a bar and there were a ton of pro-life billboards. It had this weird feeling to it - you wanted to like it, but I couldn't ever imagine living there and I definitely didn't leave my car doors unlocked as I do in Decorah.
In any case, we stopped at the Mississippi River Museum, which was totally worth the $15 admission. I learned about the barge system for grain transport, about how they reversed the flow of the Chicago river, and that the Colorado river has been pretty much destroyed by dams. I also saw paddle fish, which are ridiculously awesome looking.
We also messed around a lot on the frozen edge of the Mississippi. Tor and Steffen were very determined to catch and ride an ice drift along the river. I'm glad they failed though - I would have had to join them out of fear of being abandoned along the river, and had we all been on some random ice chunk in the middle of the Mississippi, questions arise like ... how to get off of it.
After the sun set and we made our way back to the car, we lucked out and got a table at L.May in downtown Dubuque. This was a very fancy place which our hiking boots and dirty jeans clearly clashed with, but I had earrings on so it was okay. We got a fig chutney and goat cheese appetizer, and then three different fancy pizzas to split up and share. It was really good.
Find more pictures here.