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Sunday morning welcomed us with heavy fog in rural Coon Valley, Wisconsin. Growing up Iowegian, I find open land to be very attractive, and foggy mornings bring with them amazing picture opportunities. I woke up feeling great, and I enjoyed listening to the sheep in the distance as we packed our bags and the car.
Dad is a Rick Steves disciple and has about half the clothes I do for the trip. His strategy backfired overnight as he thought his clothes (washed in the sink) would dry outside. They were more wet than when he began so our rental car doubled as a drying rack today.
The weather vane made the correct recommendation for which way to head.
As we exited the drive at Quiet Valley Cabins, I noticed a lone horse eating his breakfast. What a beautiful horse and a great sight in the fog! He wanted noting to do with me, but that’s ok, I had captured my picture of him.
The sign at Quiet Valley Cabins.
The drive to the Mississippi River from Coon Valley was stunning, snaking up, down, and through the rural hills of Wisconsin farm country. The fog presented a bit of a challenge, but we took our time and enjoyed the magnificent hilltop views. We passed through Genoa, Wisconsin, and we got a chuckle out of the town’s slogan. One of my favorite posts on this blog has to do with town slogans. I’m a bit obsessed.
Our first stop of the day was Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Tillie, the kids, and I passed through Prairie du Chien coming back from a trip to the Wisconsin Dells earlier this year. We grabbed lunch in town, and I was introduced to the best cheese curds of my life. Cheese curds really don’t have anything to do with this post, but I thought you should be aware of my deep love for a good cheese curd while I stand in Wisconsin. Pete’s Hamburgers is an iconic burger stand in town, and I took the opportunity to thank Rob & Julie Waltz again for their donation. They would have loved our overnight location, and I still think the two of them need to build and rent out a tiny property on their Madison County hilltop farm land.
Across the Mississippi River from Prairie du Chien sit Marquette and McGregor, Iowa. In McGregor, we found a unique church that sat at the end of the main drag through town. It being Sunday, I sifted through my Runner’s Choice options and found my colleague Clay Coleman, who I knew would appreciate the faith-based shout. Clay is now on the Phi Delt staff leading our educational efforts. In our world, education is crucial, and Clay will do an incredible job for us. Clay is a fellow runner, so we always hit the trails when we’re together. He asked me throw up the Texas Longhorns’ hook’ em horns sign, but as you can see, I let him down.
Just south of McGregor is Pikes Peak State Park, an Iowa gem. We made our way to the top and were welcomed with another great Mississippi River view. I thanked my colleague Dylan Berg who loves a good walk through nature. Dylan is from North Dakota, and like me, is very proud of his state. His knowledge is mind-blowing, and I love his passion for his home. After this trip, there will be two states that I have not visited (Alaska and North Dakota). I’m lobbying for an invite to his wedding in North Dakota next summer. No shame.
From Pikes Peak, we landed in Guttenberg, Iowa, a town with German roots and beautiful views. I went for einen guten lauf on the river. I’ve already learned that I can count on a few of these route setups each day – Long path, beautiful river, tough to look straight ahead.
In Guttenberg, I thanked Rob & Julie Waltz again for their donation. Dad recommended taking a river boat next time and finding a treadmill on board.
Speaking of dad, I give him 100% credit for the next photo. I’ve grown accustomed to taking advantage of great picture opportunities, even if I’m technically not supposed to be in that area at that specific time. We have passed a number of dairy farms on this trip, and dad has been encouraging me to stop in and ask to take a picture with their livestock. I’ve been a bit timid, but we finally stopped at a farm alongside the road. I’ve never been around a cow that hasn’t run away from me, but these ladies must have appreciated my color scheme. Thanks ladies, and thanks William Kneip for your donation. I get to have dinner with William in Oxford, Mississippi in a few days. Kneip is a young Ole Miss Phi Delt who is now working for the University of Mississippi Foundation.
We arrived in Dubuque, Iowa around lunch time. I wrote a blog post about Dubuque in 2013. It’s a great city, and last time I was here, I unknowingly (until the next morning) stayed in a room next to B.B. King at the Hotel Julian Dubuque. My favorite landmark in town is the Fenelon Place Elevator that transports people up and down a bluff. The top offers a picturesque view of Dubuque.
We grabbed a few round trip tickets and made our way to the bottom. On the elevator, I thanked Ross & Megan Roti. Tillie and I joined them in the Dominican Republic this April for their nuptials. So much fun. All humility aside, I posted a 9-0 sand and water volleyball record in the DR. Ross is my Iowa State men’s basketball season ticket companion, football tailgate griller and my Siri for ISU knowledge. He and Megan also just hooked me up with a sweet Pelican Brewery Company hat from their honeymoon in Oregon, and I wear it often with pride.
A view looking up from the elevator.
We had a surprise visitor at the bottom of the hill. Dad is a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity and knows Kevin Marks through his interactions with the Fraternity. As a Phi Psi staff member, Kevin came to Ames for the Iowa State chapter’s 100th anniversary. He was in Bellevue at a cabin and learned that we were going to be close. So he met us in Dubuque. What a guy! Dad and Kevin chatted while I ran, and Kevin was even gracious enough to leave me with a donation for the Iron Phi cause. Pretty awesome.
From Dubuque, we drove 25 miles east to Galena, Illinois, one of the more charming cities in the Midwest. While Galena is a bit off the river, we couldn’t pass up a quick visit. Galena’s Main Street is one of a kind, spanning a number of curvy blocks, packed with unique storefronts and a ton of people. I thanked Mike & Deb Sedlacek once again for their donation. After running my mile and fueling up with food, we were back on the road.
Our next stop was a surprise. I take pride in my Iowa knowledge, but I had no idea that the state has an island city – Sabula. There’s not a whole lot to the town, but nonetheless, I had to get some pics.
Sabula proved to be a great place for a Runner’s Choice opportunity. I thanked another one of the very supportive Brannon family members – Brittany!
Clinton, Iowa was our next stop, the most eastern city on the Iowa section of the Lincoln Highway. We realized at that point that we had driven nearly 1,200 miles and were still only 180 miles from home. That ain’t right. Clinton is the home of David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals, the Saw Mill Museum and this lovable cutout of Paul Bunyan. It was only fitting to recognize the most grizzly man I know, Andy Tomka. Andy is a fraternity brother from Iowa State who now lives in Chicago.
Le Claire, Iowa was a short drive away, and the community is quickly becoming a tourist hot spot in Iowa. It sits just north of I-80 along the river. If you’re a fan of American Pickers, it features the people of Antique Archaeology in Le Claire. A great show! I thanked my colleague Robbie Marsden who specifically asked for this location. It was fun to visit! Robbie was with me in New York last month, and I always appreciate his zest for life.
Also in Le Claire is the Mississippi River Distilling Company, a booming distillery founded by one of my Iowa State classmates – Garrett Burchette and his brother Ryan. I love hearing about Cyclones doing great things across the world, and the Burchette brothers have seen great success with the company. Unfortunately, I did not make it in time to Le Claire to have a taste.
Le Claire is now home to another one of Iowa’s Freedom Rocks. An Iowa artist has painted a number of these rocks for communities across Iowa, and they are always amazing to see. Le Claire’s featured Buffalo Bill who had roots in the area. I thanked my good friend Mike Hyatt. Mike has been an incredible supporter of mine in all aspects of life, and he is always quick to support everything I do. He’s one of the classiest gentlemen I know, and I love spending time with him.
The Quad Cities area (Davenport, Bettendorf, Moline and Rock Island) was our end point for the day, but I had to get two runs in before quitting time. First up was the John Deere Pavilion. If you know farming, you know John Deere. The brand is a staple around the world and its iconic green is always recognizable. I thanked my favorite John Deere employee Ryan Galles and his wife Nicole. Ryan and I tailgate together at Iowa State football games, and he is one of the funniest guys I know. The Galles’ will be having their third child soon! Awesome, but crazy.
Davenport played host to my final run of the day, and I was pooped. Eight miles on the treads today had me worn out. You can probably see it in my face. I thanked one of my favorites in Davenport – Debbie Smith! Debbie and I have worked together for 12 years now, and I always love chatting with her on the phone and when I visit Oxford. Thanks Debbie!
I also thanked my former colleague Alex Stefanic upon finishing my final run. Alex saw Davenport and immediately thought of Will Ferrel’s Old Milwaukee commercial. I did my best to recognize this by enjoying my favorite Milwaukee beverage, a Miller High Life pony bottle.
Dad and I stayed with long-time family friends in Davenport – The Brenemans. Carla is one of my mom’s childhood friends, and a group of them take an annual girls trip around the Midwest. Dean is a retired high school teacher in Davenport. The two of them are big Chicago Cubs fans, so it was fun to watch the game with them this evening despite the result.
Carla brought out a print that would soon be hung in their basement where we would be staying. It will make a great addition to the basement.
An evening in Davenport wouldn’t be complete without a Happy Joe’s pizza. Happy Joe’s began in Davenport, and you can find it throughout the Midwest. Food tastes a whole lot better when you’re eating it in the place where it has history.
Today’s approximate route.