Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mississippi River Museum (Day 2 - Dubuque, IA)

On our 2nd day of vacation last week, we also went to the National Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, Iowa.

Alex had a lot of fun in this hands-on room. You could open different draws to look at things, touch things on the counter, etc.

If you can enlarge this, I bet you'll learn some "scat facts" that you never knew. I found this very entertaining. :-)
My nephew, Baby H, at 5 months old LOVES to watch the fish in the aquariums.

Brian "Fox" Ellis was the highlight of our day for me. We just happened to be at the museum the day this incredible storyteller was performing "River Stories." We listened closely as he told tales for about an hour. And, I even bought 2 cd's so we could listen to him again and again. He was performing that night as Audubon, but we had to head on to our next destination. He's got lots of information, lesson plans, etc, on his site so you might want to check it out.

Alex at the wheel of a stemboat!

Reading with Mark Twain. Oh, we learned from the storyteller that "sawyer" was a term riverboat men used for a log or tree that was caught in the water and was dangerous. So, Tom "Sawyer" meant someone who could cause trouble.

An otter eating his lunch.

Monday, October 27, 2008

On the Mississippi River (Day 2 - Dubuque)

We spent our first night in a hotel in Dubuque, Iowa and took a paddleboat on the Mississippi the next day. We rode on the Spirit of Dubuque.

I don't think I'd ever seen a bridge "open" like this - here in the Houston area, we see some drawbridges, but not a turn style bridge.

Here's an incredible house on one of the bluffs. By this point, we'd driven through a lot of the "flat" part of Iowa - these bluffs were beautiful.

Details on one of the bridges we went under.

A tugboat pushing a barge.

The paddlewheel making splashes. You might see a small rainbow in the upper left of the photo.

I loved the waves that were created by the 2 red paddles.

Yes, it was COLD out on the water! Alex and I enjoyed a hot chocolate while my mil and sil had coffee.
We were by the stairs to the pilot house when the captain announced that a few people at a time could come up for a visit. So, Alex and I were the first ones inside! It was neat to have the captain explaining some of his instruments and just seeing the river from his point of view. Unfortunately, I didn't have my regular camera - just my "big" camera - so I could only get a photo of the captain's face.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze (Day 1 - Iowa)

While looking at the bridges in Madison County, Iowa, we came across this pumpkin patch. I have never seen pumpkins actually growing in a field! Around here, a pumpkin patch means a pile of pumpkins. :-) (I like seeing the green pumpkin in this photo)
Anyway, there were 2 guys - I think it might have been a dad and his son - and they were filling their trunk bed with pumpkins. We were parked on this country road taking photos and they stopped to chat. Then, he invited us to follow them to "his place" to see more pumpkins. We decided to follow, even though we thought he meant his house. I figured we could stay in the car and get some more photos. We were surprised that "his place" was actually a pumpkin farm/corn maze that was open to visitors!
On the weekends, they even take rides out into the pumpkin patch to "pick your own pumpkin." Unfortunately, it wasn't the weekend. We enjoyed walking around inside the barn where they had so many different kinds of pumpkins! I think he said there were over 70 varieties!!! We bought a dried gourd, but we ended up not being able to take it home - it just took up too much room.We also went through this corn maze. It was SO big! And, the corn was SO high. We walked and walked and finally decided to head back to the beginning. Thankfully, my sil has a much better sense of direction than I do. Otherwise, we might still be wandering around in the corn...

We saw quite a bit of evidence that the deer were enjoying the corn, too... including these hoof prints in the mud.
An ear of corn... the corn stood maybe 10 foot high. I knew there was no way I could see over it, but I thought if we let Alex stand on one of our shoulders, she might be able to see which way to go. But, thankfully, we didn't have to resort to that. :-)

Alex, me, my mil, and baby H in the corn maze. All week, we had to deal with winter-like temperatures. Here in Texas, we are still in the 80's and just getting into the 70's. In Iowa & Wisconsin, we dealing with temps mostly in the 40's (sometimes low 50's) and then in the 30's at night. Brr!

The Bridges of Madison County (Day 1)

As I mentioned on my last post, we returned today from a 10 day trip to Wisconsin. Alex and I actually flew to Kansas City, MO to hook up with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and her 5 month old son, Baby H. From Kansas City, we started our drive north and passed some signs about the Bridges of Madison County and decided to take a detour and drive out to see these incredible bridges.

The drive was beautiful as many of the trees were showing their fall colors and we saw many corn fields. We also tried to take photos of a few hawks, but I never got a good shot. On our side trip, we made it to two of the bridges. My sil has an iPhone, so we decided to look up "why" these bridges were built and just how many bridges were built and how many still existed. (I LOVED having her iPhone and being able to look up things immediately!)

Here's what we found from this site: "Originally boasting 19 covered bridges, six remain today, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridges were covered by order of the County Board of Supervisors to help preserve the large flooring timbers, which were more expensive to replace than the lumber used to cover the bridge sides and roof. Usually, the bridges were named for the resident who lived closest."

Of the 6 remaining bridges which were all built in the late 1800's, we visited 2 of them: the Hogback Bridge and the Cedar Bridge.

These are photos of the Hogback Bridge. I found this article saying from 2003 that said "(The Hogback) bridge, with a rare Burr arch roof, burned on the one-year anniversary of an arson fire at the famed Cedar Bridge in Madison County. The Cedar Bridge was destroyed on Sept. 3, 2002." Thankfully, some passers-by put out this fire quickly, and only a 1-foot square section was burned. This bridge is only opened to pedestrians, not vehicles.

At each end of the bridge were white painted areas and, sadly, they were covered with graffiti.

My sil had the great idea to shoot this photo. I love the way it turned out. It's my favorite photo of the bridge.

These last 2 photos are of the 2nd bridge we visited, Cedar Bridge. This bridge was destroyed by arson in 2002, but this replica was built from the original plans using authentic materials and methods.

It is the only one of the 6 "remaining" bridges that you can drive your vehicle across - which we did.

We're Home from Wisconsin

We just got home from a 10 day trip - most of it spent in Wisconsin. It was a beautiful, fall trip and I can't wait to go through all of my photos and start posting. We enjoyed and learned so much!

We have now been gone 73 days out of the past 7 months! Whew! And, yes, there's no place like home!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Oz Museum

I never finished blogging about our stops in Kansas while we were evacuated for Hurricane Ike. On the way home, we stopped at The Oz Museum in Wamego, KS. It was small, but fun! There are models of each of the characters from the movie. And LOTS of memorabilia.

Alexandra decided to pose with each figure... doing whatever the figure was doing. So, here are the photos! The light in the museum was horrible for photos, but Alexandra was really having fun posing. And, we even picked up another Oz book.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


The things you do for your kids... :-)
actually, I think I would have done this anyway. Alexandra was disappointed that she wasn't quite tall enough to try this bicycle at a museum in Kansas City.