This past weekend, 2 of my sons and I planned a quick trip to Eastern Iowa, just to get a toe into the state - we haven't really explored much, even though we've driven through many times. With the long weekend, we knew we could go for Friday night and decided to play Saturday night by ear. The general plan was to visit the Iowa-80 Trucking Museum, spend the night on the Mississippi, then visit an Iowa winery (my first!). On the way home we planned to stop in at Raven's Grin Inn, a haunted house in Mt Carroll, IL.
Our first stop was the Iowa-80 Trucking Museum, next door to The World's Largest Truck Stop (also an interesting place to visit, but straight commercial, really just a giant store and gas station). The Museum is free (donations accepted) and is housed in a large, hangar-like space, along with an entry area and store. The trucks are in various stages of repair - most are in pretty good shape, but some need lots of work (donations to help refurbish these old beauties are also accepted). Even if you're not a truck buff, I would think that this would be an interesting museum to walk through - there are some crazy and crazy beautiful designs on these old vehicles. Highly recommended.
The Quad City area museums have banded together to create a geocaching trail featuring some of the museums in the area (the Iowa-80 Trucking Museum is one of them). At each stop you can collect a wooden geocoin to commemorate your visit. After the museum, we headed towards the hotel, with a stop at the Buffalo Bill Cody Homestead along the way. While the house was closed for the season, we were interested in seeing the property and picking up our second museum geocoin as well. It's a beautiful property set in some amazing agricultural land of rolling hills. It would be nice to return to get a tour of the property one day.
For dinner, we opted for the Blue Iguana in Le Claire, where our hotel was, though there are actually quite a few selections in the area, surprisingly. The restaurant is housed in an old brick building, formerly the town hall, with indoor and outdoor seating (covered at the time we visited). Even though it might not be, the Blue Iguana has the feel of a chain restaurant, very slick and somewhat formal feeling. That being said, however, the food was really good and I liked how they distinguished between an "American" and "Mexican" style of presentation (my tacos had cilantro and onions rather than lettuce and tomatoes for example). Overall I thought it was pretty good for a smallish town.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Le Claire Riverfront-Davenport, which sits right on the Mississippi River, offering up prime views both in the morning and evening. It's a full service hotel, with a pool, workout room, free breakfast and more - full review forthcoming.
The next morning, we headed over to the Buffalo Bill Museum, for a third museum trail geocoin and a major surprise in how good the museum was. Housing a full-size paddle-wheeler that you can actually climb in and around on, there are also rooms and rooms of historical memorabilia. My only complaint was that there was simply too much to take in during one visit, but it just means we'll need to come back. My 6 year old had fun with a treasure hunt, which had him looking high and low for objects - the only disappointment there was his prize was chosen from a drawer of junky toys; it would have been neat if they gave him a little trinket with the museum's name on it or something instead). There is also a small children's playroom if the kids get antsy, though I can't imagine that would happen here.
Up next was Antique Archaeology, one of the stores for the American Pickers folks from TV. What a disappointment - while there were a few interesting pieces for sale, the vast majority was souvenirs for the show or the shop. If you're in town and a fan it's worth a stop, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it.
At this point, my younger son was flagging, complaining of a head and ear ache. We decided to pack it in and head home, stopping at a pharmacy for some pain reliever and possibly snacks for the trip. After this stop, however, the 6 year old decided he wanted lunch, so we checked on Zomato (probably my fave food app) and found an interesting option.
Hillbilly Jack's BBQ sits across from the Archer Daniels Midland coal processing plant, which stretches for miles seemingly, so the views are not that enchanting, though the gold storage dome isn't so bad. The restaurant itself is all bright colors and country charm, though not cloyingly so. One glaring oversight (in my opinion) on their menu is a lack of rib tips, though there are plenty of other options as well. I opted for their BBQ burger, while my older son got the Brisket Sandwich, both of which we shared half and half. My mac 'n' cheese was okay, but nothing special in a Kraft kind of way, though the boys' fries were really good. The meat was pretty good, maybe a bit dry, but available sauces took care of that. One other thing I'd like to see is the restaurant adding some veggies to the menu.
With my son feeling better after lunch and medicine, our last stop was Wide River Winery, my first winery visit in Iowa! Beautifully sited on top of a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, this family winery was well worth a visit - full write up forthcoming.
At this point, we were getting tired, so home was the option. Next time we come back this way we'll visit the haunted house and also make time for a cruise on the Mississippi.
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