Iowa – Part 1: Dubuque

It may seem like little more than a bigger version of Eau Claire when all you’re doing is driving through (yawn, yay), but upon closer inspection, Dubuque is magnificent. It’s not quite as aesthetically appealing as Eau Claire (though to be fair, few cities are), but it has a river to the east and high bluffs to the west, leaving the downtown area nestled in its own little topographical groove.

As you probably figured, this is where I was yesterday. Instead of leaving Eau Claire around 8am and arriving around 11:30am like I had initially planned (I was serious about wanting to explore all of Dubuque), I ended up hitting the road around 11:00 and didn’t cross the Mississippi until after 2:30. This left me only four hours before I had to get on the road again. Four hours is not a long time.

The first ten minutes were spent trying to find a place to park where I would remember to find my car. Fortunately, Dubuque is a city, and cities have parking ramps. Unfortunately, it took me a little while to find a parking ramp that would either let me in (the first one was a public ramp, but the ticket machine wasn’t working) or didn’t require a permit (the second ramp I tried was permit-only). I finally settled for the Iowa street ramp. 

The next half hour was actually spent sitting on my trunk with my acoustic, noodling around and singing to myself while my GoPro charged inside the car. Eventually, the little camera regained the bar of battery charge it had lost on the way from Eau Claire (I may have stopped a few times for photo opportunities). I put the guitar back in its case, put the GoPro back in its housing, attached it to its head strap, tucked my spare key into my pocket (nobody likes carrying around a big bundle of keys), hid my other keys in the glove compartment, grabbed my sport pack, put headphones in my ears, and was on my way.

Since I didn’t have much time (it was already 3:15), I didn’t waste any of it. I immediately scoped out the highest rooftop that I could quickly access and went up to snap a couple views. Accepting that I didn’t have enough time to actually get around to climbing any buildings (which was a real bummer, since I saw at least a few that I would love to go back and try), I walked around and saw everything that I could see. 

Of course, no trip to a city is complete without getting into at least a little bit of parkour shenanigans. My right wrist and left foot weren’t feeling the greatest to begin with, so some things I saw that would have been a lot of fun to try simply didn’t happen. In an effort to conserve battery, I also neglected to leave my camera rolling (and thus forgot that it wasn’t recording), so I didn’t get to capture much at all. I think my favorite part was when I ran up a wall to a low rooftop and a lady down below smiled to the guy next to her and pointed at me. Thank you, random lady. Putting a smile on your face definitely put a smile on mine.

Since I hadn’t eaten since about 8am, I got hungry around 4:30 and decided it would be a good time to find a place where I could sit down and process a few pictures. So I went back to my car, paid $3 for my parking, had a conversation with the parking cashier who told me about a few things to explore which I wish I would have known before, and went to the McDonald’s across the street. There I sat and went through all of the pictures I had gotten from the day, and ended up with 4 panoramas that I thought looked somewhat acceptable.

After talking on the phone with an internet friend regarding upcoming plans for this weekend, I called another friend who I stayed with last night (and will again tonight), hopped in my car, and drove away to leave the city. Of course, I didn’t end up leaving immediately. There were just a couple things that caught my eye. So, naturally, I decided to stick around for just a little longer to investigate these things.

The first one was a freight train parked less than 100 feet away from a railroad crossing. I quickly drove around the block, parked, grabbed my GoPro, and ran around the front of the train to hopefully catch a couple pictures. However, as soon as I got around to the other side of the train, its horn blared and it started moving. Thinking quickly, I switched my camera back to video mode, got down low next to the train (maybe three or four feet away), and filmed the cars as they rolled past. The footage actually doesn’t look too bad.

The second was a gas station. It wasn’t the gas station itself, though, but the price they had advertised on their sign: $3.25/gal for regular unleaded (with the usual up-to-ten-percent ethanol). It was the lowest price I had seen in a while. Even though prices have dropped a little in Eau Claire, I still paid $3.59/gal when I filled up yesterday morning. So, naturally, I topped off my tank and seized the opportunity to add a little oil to the engine and clean the windshield. 

Now I was on my way. It was about 6:45 when I finally left. I didn’t want to keep my friend waiting, so I didn’t make any more stops. I did, however, manage to film the sunset as I drove westward. I arrived in Waterloo right around 9:00 and pulled into my friend’s driveway a few minutes later. His family so far has been very kind and hospitable. I was pretty tired last night, though, so I don’t remember much. I think I dozed off around 11 the first time, was woke up around midnight, and flopped on the couch they had prepared for me.

Now that I have a little coffee in me this morning, I think it’s time to eat something and head into town to do a little more exploring. Because this week is all about adventure, and today’s adventure is all about exploring Waterloo.

Today I’m grateful for air to breathe, coffee to drink, a hospitable family, and God’s relentless grace.


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