On our recent family vacation, we did the most American of things…We hit the road for a week-long road trip.  Because of my general fear of flying, this is something my family is very accustomed to doing.  For us, it’s not some novel concept of returning to the family vacations of my and Jamie’s youth, it’s just the way we roll (I think I just did a pun; how cool is that?  I don’t pun often).

This year we took a slightly different take on the all-American road trip:  We traveled the road less taken.  I mean that quite literally as most of our route directed us onto small, never heard nor seen before roads.  Roads that make you wonder why they exist, as they don’t lead anywhere except to some other nowhere.

It was not grand nor exceptional, but it was peaceful and refreshing.  We began our journey at The Natural Gait, just outside of nowhere, somewhere in the middle of Iowa.  I don’t remember the name of the town we weren’t in and it’s not really important.  No one should go to The Natural Gait, unless maybe they have horses and want to vacation with them.  And then, it’s just a maybe.  We hung out with some good friends from Iowa City and that made The Natural Gait a much better place to be.  Enough said.

From there our mini-van took us to Dubuque, Iowa.  Dubuque is not a hot-bed of tourism and I don’t remember how I decided we just had to visit, but visit we did.  There are a few cool things in Dubuque, so if you ever find yourself there, hit these places up…

The National Mississippi River Museum - It was a pleasant surprise.  The section on steamboats was the unexpected highlight of the visit.  We spend a couple of hours, but if we had been without children, we could have easily spent a couple more.

 Fenelon Place Elevator  (it’s a funicular) - This thing was a trip (Are you noticing this; another pun!).  A small, old, rickety car takes you straight up a very steep hill on a small, old, rickety track.  Jamie and I both felt elated to avoid death or serious injury while riding.  The kids thought it was a blast.  The history behind the Elevator was interesting to learn as well.

The Hotel Julien - This is the type of hotel that I am always happy to find.  A lovingly restored downtown hotel with all the modern amenities including a pool, spa and lots of character from the past.  The rooms were clean, spacious and attractively decorated. We had breakfast at the restaurant two mornings and were impressed with our food.  The hotel also had a separate bar that was handsome in decor and hopping with people and good times, but we didn’t have a chance to check it out.

L. May Eatery -  Our meal here was the best we had during the trip.  Outstanding food was in short supply during our trip, but this place was pretty darn good.  It’s a small, upscale restaurant with a charming atmosphere that focuses on the local, sustainable food movement, and both Jamie and I eat that kind of thing up (Is it another pun?  I’m flabbergasted.).  They didn’t have a kid’s menu, but they were accommodating and welcoming to our little crazies.  Jamie’s meal of lobster lasagna was particularly good and we all, kids included, had a charming time.

From Dubuque we hit the road and drove a short distance (about 19 miles, hardly a drive to us city folk) to Galena, IL.  I’d never heard of the place until I was looking for accommodations in Dubuque, but it’s a touristy little spot.  The town has a quaint, expansive downtown that most women would love to spend a day or two perusing.  It screams, “Come, shop, dine!”  Turns out I am like most women in this regard and could see spending a weekend enjoying the historic blocks of downtown Galena.  The area also had things more manly to attend to, but in our short stay we did not participate in any such offerings.  We walked the downtown, had a sub par lunch, and jumped back into the mini-van to head to our next destination.

This is turning into a much longer post than I’d intended.  Hopefully, I haven’t bored the ten of you to death.  I think I’ll break here and pick up with the rest of the trip in another post.  Till next time…