Behind the wheel of the aforementioned GR86, I drove all the way down the mighty Mississippi on the Iowa side. I made it all the way to Keokuk intact.
6I embarked on a road trip that was a collaboration between Toyota, its agency, and the magazine I am Managing Editor of. Behind the wheel of the aforementioned GR86, I drove all the way down the mighty Mississippi on the Iowa side. I made it all the way to Keokuk intact. There were a few moments of drama, but it has been a very pleasant and productive road trip to this point.
As for reference, I omitted key parts of the trip that pertain to the magazine’s version of this road trip story. Once that is published, you can head over to the magazine’s site to read it.
Now, back to the story…
Sunday meant switching states for the driving experience. After checking out of the Hotel Blackhawk in Davenport, I grabbed a lovely breakfast across the Mississippi at Meli’s in downtown Moline. It would be the launching point of my Illinois leg of the Great River Road.
The Illinois side claims to have the National designation for the Great River Road while Iowa calls it a “Scenic Byway.” It would be easy for me to say “you’re both pretty,” but it creates a balancing act as to which Great River Road is worth driving on.
The Illinois route did not disappoint. I stuck on Illinois Highway 84 for most of the way. That was until a county sheriff’s roadblock thwarted our progress in Savanna. Instead, we were treated to a detour to the east before connecting with US Highway 20 in Stockton.
I passed through Galena once coming from a Midwest Automotive Media Association event at the Autobahn Country Club. This historic place always had my curiosity. It was not just about President Ulysses S. Grant and his home there. There was a vibe that needed to be felt, combining a welcoming place for all with historic tourism.
Needless to say, my curiosity was fulfilled. Galena definitely had a vibe that was that exact mix of history and overall vacation cool. In fact, it yielded some content for the magazine. I’ll try to sort it all out for that publication.
My final night was spent in Dubuque at the TownePlace Suites by Marriott in the Millwork District. This is quite a significant location, as the neighborhood is transforming into a vibrant destination within a town that had seen its share of down years, companies shutting down, and people leaving.
The TownePlace Suites is a new structure surrounded by older industrial and warehouse building that are getting a new lease on life. New restaurants, bars, breweries ,and distilleries have popped up, along with shopping opportunities. Housing has also been added to these old structures with more buildings to be reclaimed for mixed use.
If there is one thing that has sparked Dubuque’s recent rebound, it is seen at the Millwork District. However, the older core of Dubuque still has its image issues, but one could see a turnaround even in the bleakest of neighborhoods.
The suite hotel itself was fantastic! It was new – very modern. Quite the contrast from the Hotel Blackhawk. I felt safe, secure, and had a very good time.
For dinner, I wandered down to a pizza place a block or so over. The food was fine. Just wished the service was better.
During my time in Dubuque, I met some really nice folks. Our conversations centered on how Dubuque is changing, as well as how much Galena has also changed. I will also add that I met some nice folks in the Quad Cities who had stories to tell about their experiences there.
For this most part, people were friendly up and down the riverbanks of Iowa and into northwestern Illinois. Although, I found service to be lacking. That disappointed me. Then again, I think it’s universal lately as people are not wanting to work at certain places – especially those that are looking for help and are not getting it.
For the most part, I experienced a section of the Mississippi River that never gets the spotlight. It doesn’t get the shine, like St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, and even the Twin Cities. That does not mean that you should ignore it.
Just follow the Great River Road. I did. You will not be disappointed.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle, some of the lodging and logistics of this trip were provided by Toyota Motor North America and their associated agency. Other trip expenses were paid for by Victory & Reseda.
All photos by Randy Stern