Dubuque to Keokuk
Day 3 – March 20
After a night of thunderstorms and rain, the day broke clear and 63F. There are significant rain/thunderstorms and flooding in states south of us. It’s a slow moving system and we’re hoping to somehow avoid it all. The Weather Channel also reported a massive onslaught of tree pollen around the middle parts of the country because of this heat wave and the sudden, quick blooming that’s happening.
We saw a flowering magnolia tree as we left Walford. It was a stunning mass of pale pink blossoms. Daffodils are in bloom, as are the yellow forsythia shrubs. There is nothing to compare, really, to the first flowers of the year.
Our Mississippi River Trail guidebook really helped us get through Dubuque and onto the road to St. Donatus, where I wanted to stop for lunch at the Kalmes Restaurant and Store. It was featured in the book Feasting on Asphalt. It was written by a TV food personality Alton Brown and covered a motorcycle trip he took following the River North from the Gulf. Kind of like our planned trip – but using motorized means. The town was settled by people from Luxembourg in the 1850s and one family soon built a bar and restauarant. Fifth generation Kalmes are working there still. Some of their specialities are from Luxembourg, others are Iowa traditions and some are a blend of both I think. Mike had the pork tenderloin sandwich and liked it a lot. I ordered the broasted chicken livers and the buttered noodles on the side. All three of these items were recommended by Brown. I have a very broad palate and am ready to try lots of odd recipes. Plus I do like chicken livers and these sounded really good (by his description). The noodles are like spaetzle, but tossed with butter and crushed saltine crackers. The livers were too deeply fried for my taste and pretty much lost any of their unique flavor. The noodles were OK, but too greasy. I satisfied my curiosity at least.
We were driving into strong and gusty southern winds again. The river near the town of Belleview, looked brown and muddy, such a contrast to the water we walked around in 2010. It didn't take long the realize that our bike route in Iowa was going to involve a lot of hills and very few shoulders. In Clinton, IA at the north end of town, big earthen levees prevented us from seeing the river, but there is a bike trail on top, so that will get us off the road for awhile. The other end of town is a major industrial area with a mega ADM plant – all steel and aluminum pipes and stacks – and a huge golden sphere, containing god knows what. It was probably my imagination, but my throat felt scratchy and I wondered what chemicals were emanating from these towers and smoking stacks.
The town of Princeton is built right along the river’s edge. Here the grass was already a bright green. Out on the water the waves rose up wearing white caps. Le Clair was a lovely river town. It seemed positively upscale compared to others we’d passed through. I’m not sure what would give it the economic boost to have such a spiffy looking main street, with both new and old brick buildings. Cherry trees had been planted along the boulevard, each encircled by a fancy wrought iron fence. My brother Bill had recommended a distillery in town, so we got out to walk around a bit and stretch our legs. The 81F temperatures and strong sun made our northern blood simmer when we got out of the car. It's still disorienting to know it's March, but feels like July. I found a cute shop of 'primitives' to check out while Mike continued on up the street. Found a darling little crane shaped scissors that I had to have.
The shoulder leaving town was nicely paved, but soon turned to gravel. There were more hills on our route and none of them had good shoulder clearance. We’re feeling a bit more uncertain about biking through Iowa. Davenport has a bike trail near the river to get you through town, which is a good thing. Mike found the small purple flowered creeping Charlie in bloom when he got out to take a picture of a tug pushing barges upstream, north of Buffalo, IA. Muscatine is a big city and there are trails (we think) on top of the levee. We still can’t get over how green everything looks. The red bud trees are outstanding and ethereal in appearance, as are the white blooming trees (sp.?) that we saw in yards in Burlington, IA.
Our day ended in Keokuk, IA – not as far as we had expected. Very happy to have our Prius – we averaged 50.7 mpg, and that was with a nonstop headwind.