2018 Midwest Wanderer Year in Review

What a busy year! As we look back on our photos, it’s hard to believe we packed so much into 2018. Besides two month-long trips west, we spent a lot of time touring the Midwest. We traveled the Great River Road from the Mississippi River headwaters near Bemidji, Minnesota, down to the Quad Cities. We also visited southwest Kansas for the first time, with stops in Liberal and Dodge City. As we look at our year in review, we’re sharing a few photo highlights from our 2018 travels, which perhaps will give you inspiration for your 2019 travel plans.

Audubon-Alton Eagle Festival

Alton-Audubon Eagle FestivalTop: Rescue eagle at TreeHouse Wildlife Center (left); Eagle spotted on an tour sponsored by the Pere Marquette State Park (center). Live eagle meet-and-greet at Alton Visitor Center during the Alton Audubon Eagle Festival (right). Middle: Photo op with mascot at the Alton Visitor Center. Bottom: Trumpeter swans at the Audubon Center at Riverlands.

North Central Iowa

North Central Iowa

While I attended a travel writers conference in North Central Iowa, Skip spent the time photographing the area.
Top: Historic Park Inn in Mason City is the only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built hotel in the world. Bottom: Surf Ballroom pays tribute to Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and The Big Bopper, killed in a plane crash in 1959 following the Winter Dance Party held at the venue (left); The Surf Ballroom green room is filled with autographs from acts who played there, including part of the “American Pie” song written on the wall by the song’s writer, Don McLean (center). Right: Freedom Rock in Lake Mills.

Council Bluffs, Iowa

Council Bluffs Iowa

Top: Hitchcock Nature Center (left); Standing in two states on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge (center); Squirrel Cage Jail (right). Bottom: Watson Steam Train and Depot (left); Union Pacific Railroad Museum (center); General Dodge House (right). 

Great River Road: Bemidji, Minnesota

Bemidji Minnesota

Top: Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues at the Bemidji Visitor Center. Bottom: The Mississippi River headwaters (below rocks) feed from Lake Itasca (above rocks) in Itasca State Park (left); Bemidji Sculpture Walk in downtown Bemidji (right).

Great River Road: Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Judy Garland Museum. Left: Dress worn as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Center: Judy Garland’s birth home (top); Carriage that Dorothy rode on in The Wizard of Oz (bottom). Right: Wicked Witch of the West.

Great River Road: St. Cloud, Minnesota

St Cloud Minnesota

Top: Summertime by George weekly festival (left); Ducks on the river at Munsinger Gardens (right). Bottom: Huge donuts from Dutch Maid Bakery (left); St. Cloud Rox minor league baseball game.

St. Joseph, Minnesota

St Johns University St Joseph Minnesota

Not quite on the Mississippi River, St. John’s University in St. Joseph is near St. Cloud, and worth the side trip. Top: St. John’s Abbey Church. Bottom: The Saint John’s Bible project (left); Man playing the saw as a music instrument in the church (center); St. John’s Pottery (right).

Great River Road: Little Falls, Minnesota

Charles Lindbergh House and Museum

Charles Lindbergh House and Museum. Top: Childhood home (left); Walk from museum to house (center). Middle: One of the hands-on activities in the museum). Bottom: Model planes (left and center). Right: Theater in the museum.

Great River Road: St. Paul, Minnesota

St Paul Minnesota

Top: Minnesota State Capitol (left); Fort Snelling (right). Bottom: Cathedral of St. Paul (left); St. Paul farmers market (center); Wabasha Street Caves (right).

Great River Road: Dubuque, Iowa

Dubuque Iowa

Left: Fenelon Place Elevator—the world’s steepest, shortest scenic railway. Center: Hotel Julien Dubuque lobby (top left); Julien Dubuque monument (top right); Crystal Lake Cave (bottom left); Mississippi Riverwalk (bottom right). Right: Shot Tower, one of the last shot towers left in the United States.

Great River Road: Quad Cities, Illinois and Iowa

Quad Cities Iowa and Illinois

Top: Colonel Davenport House on Arsenal Island (left); Rock Island Arsenal Museum (center); John Deere Pavilion (right). Bottom: Figge Art Museum (left); freshly made hot fudge at Lagomarcino’s (center); Bix Beiderbecke Museum.

Midwest Byway Conference

Midwest Byways Conference

In August, we attended the first Midwest Byway Conference, held in Richmond, Indiana, along the historic National Road. Top: The conference included events at the Huddleston Farmhouse (left) and J&J Winery (right). Bottom: We also toured The Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches byway in Western Ohio (left); After the conference, Skip and I took some photos in the area, including at the Miami and Erie Canal in New Bremen (right).

Liberal, Kansas

Liberal Kansas

Top: Dorothy’s House and the Land of Oz. Bottom: Giant book in front of the Liberal Memorial Library (left); Mid-America Air Museum (right).

Dodge City, Kansas

Dodge City Kansas

Top: Dodge City Historic Trolley Tour (left); Boot Hill Museum (center); Sacred Heart Cathedral (right). Bottom: Kansas Teachers Hall of Fame (left); Boot Hill Distillery (center); Wild West Heritage Buffalo & Longhorn Exhibit (right).

Route 66 Miles of Possibility Conference

The 2018 Route 66 Miles of Possibility Conference was held in Carlinville, Illinois. As part of the conference, we toured the area. Top: Macoupin County Courthouse (left and center). Bottom: Illinois Coal Museum at Gillespie (left); Carlinville is home to one of the largest collections of Sears homes in the United States (center). Right: Macoupin County Historical Society Museum.

Illumination, Morton Arboretum

Our last event of the year was Illumination at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. Everyone should experience Illumination at least once. The walk-through lights show includes interactive activities, like changing the color of a tree when you sing to it or hug it. Other lights dance to music. 

Beyond the Midwest

We explored more of the U.S. beyond the Midwest, including:

  • Northern Arizona, southern Nevada
  • Tucson, Arizona
  • Palo Duro Canyon in Amarillo, Texas
  • Austin, Texas, where I attended a travel writing workshop
  • New Mexico, including sledding down the sand dunes at White Sands National Monument; visiting Roswell aliens; a couple of days in Santa Fe, and the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque

We’re now in process of planning our 2019 travel. How about you? Where are you planning to travel to this year? Answer in the Comments section below.


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2 thoughts on “2018 Midwest Wanderer Year in Review

  • January 4, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    Hi, I just started reading your blog a couple of months ago. I’m planning to travel to Galena, Illinois, in 2019 — and wherever else I can go. 🙂

    Wanted to mention that there’s a typo of a sort in this post; I think your subsection header that says “Cedar Rapids” should actually say “Council Bluffs” (it would be pretty hard to stand in Nebraska and Iowa simultaneously from Cedar Rapids — unless, of course, you are Paul Bunyan from your other posts).

    • January 4, 2019 at 4:56 pm

      Oops! Thanks for pointing out my error, Joanna. I’ve fixed it. True, it would take some awfully long legs to stretch from Cedar Rapids to Nebraska. LOL Thanks for reading Midwest Wanderer. You will LOVE Galena.


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