Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Go West Old Man – First Few Days – 2012

After a hard week of getting ready, we got the house sitter settled in and departed home around 8 am on Aug.30 headed for Benton, IL.  What’s there you asked – I have no clue except for a KOA campground on-route and the right distance from home.  I prefer to keep our drives to around 300 miles a day, but with no sightseeing planned the first few days, I kicked us up to 375-400 MPD to get us into the West sooner. 

Our first day was an eight hour drive thru Nashville, TN and Paducah, KY to get to our first stop.  This is a shot of our campsite and since it was 95*, I only spent about five minutes in the chair before moving it inside for the evening.

 Day two was another eight hour trip from Benton, IL to Iowa City, Iowa where we stayed in an Army Corps Of Engineers campground at Coralville Lake.  The dam was completed in 1958 as part of a flood control project on the Iowa River for this area and the Mississippi River.  I can imagine the importance of this as it flows right thru the center of Coralville/Iowa City. 

There are several campgrounds on site and they are all pretty nice.  This is our campsite which is one of many lined up in a row - it was pretty full for the Labor Day weekend. 

As you might expect, due to the drought in this area, the lake level was at least 10 feet low.  These are shots of the lake and dam from the swimming area and the dam top.

Unlike the TVA dams at home, which have adjustable spill gates, this one has a fixed overflow.  These shots are of the overflow on the upstream and downstream sides and an overflowing shot I imported from the web.

This is the dam, from downstream side. 
This is from a campground below the dam.

The next day we crossed the Iowa River to the northwest and it was little more than a ditch – about five feet wide and a couple of feet deep.

Our only meal in the area was at the Blue Bird Café in North Liberty, IA, which we found via the Urbanspoon website, where it got 4.5/5 stars.  I forgot my camera so no photos, but our meals were very good. 

After breakfast, we drove around Iowa City, which is home to the University of Iowa and both of us were HIGHLY impressed with both the town and campus.  The Iowa River runs thru town with lots of green on both sides and as with most college towns, there is a vibrant downtown and the whole area seems quite prosperous.  About 10% of the students were from around the world, which might explain the surprising number of ethnic restaurants we saw.  I know nothing about the school, but it seems like a great place for their 30,000 students to spend four years - assuming they enjoy the average 27" of snow..

We finished off the evening sipping wine and dancing on our concrete pad to some country music on the super sound system installed by the previous owner.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


8/30-9/1/1/12 event date


  1. I've done that first stretch of the drive many times on my drives home to St. Louis. Lots and lots of flat Illinois land!

  2. I haven't road tripped in your direction in years. We are hoping for a long road tip through that past of the country in a couple years, once my boys are a little older. Now that we have our little cabin just a few hours from here, it's hard to work up enthusiasm for a longer trip!

  3. Well, you lasted longer in that 95 degree heat than I would have. :) Thanks for taking the time to share the photos. Love following along on your adventure.

  4. Larry, Too bad about the heat the first couple of days...but the good news is that it's cooling down where you are today. Having lived in Illinois for many years, we explored large segments of Iowa and found many areas to be verdant and quite scenic. Enjoy your journey and stay safe! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  5. So jealous! I need another trip out west. Enjoy and have a wonderful safe trip.

  6. It's very different from when I last crossed the midwest during the 90s (and no drought). Indeed, in 1993, we crossed the Mighty Mississippi at St. Louis, and then heard on the radio 2 hours later that the bridge was closed due to high water! That river can change so much in that area so very quickly!

  7. Looks like you are making some good progress.... Hope things continue to go well for you all. We leave next Wed and will head to Colorado...

    Keep us posted.

  8. Oh my God, I cannot tell you how I enjoyed this post Larry and Bev!

    You stopped in my old college alma mater town of Iowa City and the Coralville dam area of the Iowa River.

    I haven't been TO iowa City in years except for a drive by on my way to my hometown of Ames (north on I-35 to Minneapolis from Des Moines, which you drove by). Iowa City is an absolutely awesome little city that I was privileged to attend college with numerous students from Illinois who attend college there due to the cheaper 'out of state' tuition in Iowa than the 'in-state' tuition of Illinois. They helped me 'mature', that benefited me as I met 'city kids' rather than just 'farmer kids' that attended Iowa State (the aggie school) located where I am from in Ames.

    I hope that you noticed something besides the burnt and drought-starved crops . . . . Iowa is quite a rolling hills state, not flat as Illinois, Indiana, or Nebraska…..the name is Indian for 'land between two rivers', in this case the Mississippi and the Missouri, both desperately dry I imagine from what we see on TV. Many people don't realize this until they drive through the state. It is what made the Iowa painter, Grant Wood, so famous (the painting with the farmer and his wife with the pitch fork!)

    We've been to SD and enjoyed it's unusual geography. We especially liked the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and the ongoing carving of the Indian Chief, (Geronimo???) Sorry my mind is a bit tipsy on some vodka so I can't quite remember who the memorial was for . . . but it's quite a sight to see!

    Enjoy your trip out west! It's my true American homeland (the Midwest). . . my Ohio husband brought me to the 'other side' of the mighty Mississippi after marriage! I love them both!


  9. It sounds like you are well on your way with 8 hour days on the road. Ending the day with wine and a little dancing sounds lovely.

  10. Can't wait to see where your travels lead you! You were just one state south of here in Illinois ;) I know, it's a long state!

    Happy journey!

  11. what a great trip. i wish i could just drive around like that and stay where i want! maybe someday...

  12. I noticed you bypassed Arkansas this time ;) :)

    I like checking out dams, I find the engineering amazing.


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