Monday, July 19, 2004

Meet me here in 2233

Happily, last night we made it to within an hour of Riverside, Iowa. What? You say you don't know Riverside's claim to fame? I'm astounded. Riverside is none other than the Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk, of the U.S.S. Enterprise, who will be born here on March 22, 2233. (The truly nerdy contend Kirk's birthday will really be May 7, and that the erroneous March 22 date comes from actor William Shatner's birthdate, but I wouldn't know anything about that.) We imagined swarms of pasty-faced geeks, but alas, I was the only one.

Captain Sunshine a/k/a Jana

Lieutenant Tom

The roads through eastern Iowa go through some of the prettiest, greenest, most well-groomed, rolling farmland I've ever seen as we make our way to Spook Cave, seven miles west of McGregor. Spook Cave is the source of a tributary to Bloody Run Creek and must be toured entirely by boat. A lock and dam at the opening of the cave control the water level, and there's no room to spare. In many places you must duck your head between your knees to just barely pass beneath the low ceiling. The boats are powered by electric motor, which makes for a silent and, yes, "spooky" glide through the cave.

Rural northeast Iowa

Spook Cave entrance

Spooky Tom!

Boo!

Back at the Mississippi River again, we catch back up to the Great River Road. We went through Harpers Ferry, Iowa, a.k.a. the Town of Many Trailers. The drive from Harpers Ferry to Lansing is very pretty. Finally, we make our way into Minnesota, another first-time state for me! In La Crescent, Minnesota, we stopped at Mississippi River Lock and Dam No. 7 and watched some pleasure boats pass through.

Harpers Ferry, Iowa

Our next awesome bit of Americana was found in Nodine, Minnesota. We'd been looking forward to this for weeks. It was none other than the world-famous, 30-foot-tall Culvert Man! We were there at the wrong time of day for a truly spectacular photo, but still, he was glorious. You get the idea.

Culvert Man, Nodine, Minnesota

We then stopped at the Great River Bluff State Park, took a small hike, and were quite underwhelmed. No spectacular views. We have found in our short stay in Minnesota that you can't believe the "scenic overlook" or "historical marker" signs. Usually you'll find just a place to watch birds, or perhaps even nothing.

At Winona, Minnesota, we crossed the river into Wisconsin. This is the last time I'll be saying this in this journal, but it's a new state for me! 42 down and eight to go. We tried to get a hotel room in La Crosse or Onalaska, but it was super-jab prices, so we drove on to Sparta, where it was still a jab $75 for a Super 8, but at least we were in a town we wanted to visit. Fine-dining tonight was had from the Pizza Hut. We'd been so busy today, our first meal was after 10:00 p.m. No wonder it was so good! 390 miles covered today.

Happiest ghost in the Midwest

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