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STOP #221

This week we find ourselves camped on a side channel of the Mississippi River. There are 29 locks and dams on the 2320 mile long river and since we are between Locks #8 & #9, this area is known as Pool #9.

There is a National Scenic Byway that follows along the entire length of the river and is called The Great River Road. The section of roadway at the entrance to our campground is part of that Scenic Byway.

Another fun fact I found regarding the river is that when a rain drop falls into the headwaters of the river in Minnesota it take 90 days for it to travel to the Gulf of Mexico outside of New Orleans. You can drive it in 36 hours by car, that is if you don't stop for anything but gas.

Today when we towed THE POD over the Mississippi River from Iowa into Wisconsin we crossed a narrow two-lane bridge that made us a little nervous. Here is a short video!

Once we were safely across the bridge it was a short drive to the campground.

A front view of Campsite #57 here at Blackhawk COE Park in De Soto, WI.

Looking south from the very back of our campsite
you can barely see the main channel of the Mississippi River in the background.

WEDNESDAY - We have a busy sightseeing day planned for today in Iowa.

We started by driving 46 miles south and then back across the Mississippi River into Iowa. It is here where we will experience our 44th cave tour. This tour at Spook Cave will be a little bit different than most of the tours we've done. This tour only has two steps to negotiate, one down at the start of the tour and one up at the end.

The entire tour will be experienced while seated in one of these little 12-passenger aluminum boats, which will be steered and powered by a small electric trolling motor mounted on the bow.

The entrance to Spook Cave is not only very narrow, it is also very low. All of the water inside of the cave is less than three feet deep and in many areas the ceiling of the cave is only three feet above the water line. That means there are several areas throughout the tour (especially at the entrance) where people of average height will have to lean or bend over in the boat.

In this photo the tour guide is shining her flashlight behind the formations to show how thin and transparent the rock is. Notice the metal shelf underneath that protects peoples heads from colliding with the formations as we pass under them.

In this short video not only should you pay attention to all of the stalactites decending from the cave ceiling, listen to the witty banter between the young tour guide and the very young boy who was seated directly behind us. This was just after she casually informed us that there were three very unfriendly alligators in the cave.

Next up on our agenda for today is to visit the location featured on the reverse side of the 2017 National Park Edition of the U.S. quarter, Effigy Mounds National Monument, just 13 miles from Spook Cave.

This visit turned out to be kind of a bust for us. They did have an interesting little museum at the Visitors Center that we enjoyed, but their auditorium where they show their documentary film was under renovation. The Ranger was happy to say that when they reopen there will be an updated film to present and not the one from the late 1970s.

There are miles of hiking trails that you can use to go visit the mound sites. Most of the mounds around here are rough animal shapes and can only be located by they way the grass is mowed around the sites to enhance the shapes. So the best way to experience the mounds is from a birds eye view. I hope their new film will include a lot of drone footage, something that was probably not possible back in the 1970s.

We elected not to do any hiking here in the 80+℉ heat and instead decided it was time to search for a unique lunch destination.

First we took care of filling up ROVER's near empty gas tank before we took care of our own bellies. Gasoline all around the country is high right now and today is averaging $3.19 a gallon according to AAA. Today we paid an All-Time high for gasoline since hitting the road, $3.09⁹ to be exact! But I'm sure we'll beat that record within the next month, when we have stops in Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania, all three states have higher than average gasoline prices.

We chose the Backwoods Bar & Grill in McGregor, IA to have lunch today. The restaurant is located in a 170+ year old building, right in the heart of downtown McGregor and less than a hundred yards from the shoreline of the Mississippi River.

Much of the interior has been remodeled since it's initial opening, but it has been done tastefully with period looking handcrafted pieces and workmanship. Most notably the rough looking stage which until recently was used for weekend entertainment such as live music.

There is one exception to all the remodeling and modernization efforts however, the building still proudly displays the original 1850s rough hewn timber floors.

The restaurant boasts they have the best BBQ in town, I now believe they may have the only BBQ in town. I selected their Smokehouse Sandwich, which included Smoked Brisket, Smoked Pulled Pork, Bacon, Barbecue Sauce, and Swiss Cheese on a tasty roll. I did finsih most of my meal but it wasn't anything special.

Tricia however enjoyed her Chicken Philly, which included Grilled Chicken served with Caramelized Onions, Green Peppers, Mushrooms, Swiss Cheese and Bourbon Sauce.

Both came served with tasty Sweet Potato fries and we shared the Beer Battered Onion Ring appetizer. If we are ever back in town, we'll try somewhere else for our dining pleasure.

Last, but not least, is Pikes Peak State Park, suggested to us by the nice Park Ranger back at the National Monument. I know what you all are thinking, isn't Pikes Peak in Colorado? Yes it is, but apparently there is one in northeast Iowa as well.

Pikes Peak in Colorado boasts an elevation of 14,115 feet, here in Iowa we are at a less ear popping elevation of just 1000 feet. The views are still pretty impressive to someone like me who was raised in South Florida. Forntuately for us the two peaks do have one thing in common, you can drive your car all the way to the summit.

As soon as we climbed out of the truck we saw people hanging around and pointing towards something under a huge tree. As we got closer we could see what all the excitement was about.

The Park Service had hung three hummingbird feeders beneath the tree and there were at least 18-20 hummingbirds flittering about. Only once in three years have we had more than one bird at a time give our feeder any attention. Briefly there was also a Downy Woodpecker enjoying a quick drink of the sweet nectar being served.

NOTE: Tricia took these hand-held videos from about 30 feet away. If she is going to start taking more, longer-range video, we'll have to purchase her a good tripod to help smooth things out.

With the hummingbirds now behind us we walked over the the park's main overlook. Pikes Peak State Park is located on the opposite shore from the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers, as seen in the photo below.

After spending some time checking out the views from a couple of overlooks we saw a sign informing us that Bridal Veil Falls was only a half-mile hike down the boardwalk trail. Again, I know what you're thinking, isn't Bridal Veil Falls inside Yosemite National Park in California. Yes, it is! But there are also falls named Bridal Veil in Utah, Oregon, Colorado, North Carolina, South Dakota and even in New York at Niagara Falls. There are probably others, so it's a fairly common name.

After passing on hiking at the National Monument, this time we elected to go check it out, it's only a half mile and the trail is mostly shaded.

This is obviously not the more famous Bridal Veil Falls in California, but we did get 5000 steps in today because we took the chance to go see it.

It was time to head back to camp and when we arrived we had a surprise waiting for us. Just four campsites down from us was this very special Airstream trailer.

From 1998-2009 Airstream made travel trailers with slideouts. This is a top-of-the-line 33-foot triple-axle Classic Model and the heaviest trailer Airstream has ever made. It takes a truck with a lot of power to move this trailer around! They even have a satellite dish on top.


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