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Galena, IL

Dear Travel Diary,

Our weekend excursion included a driving tour of 4 Midwestern states – Minnesota and Iowa, of course, but also Wisconsin and Illinois. Our Illinois destination was the historic, small town of Galena.

One reason I love Galena, IL; it is one of the few northern cities that celebrates and showcases its history, rather than bulldozing it to make a parking lot.

We walked through its city park with decommissioned cannons and trophies of war, down historic Main Street, and stood where Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant once did. We walked through the DeSoto House, where crossing the threshold was like stepping back into the 1860s. Landen, who is beginning to learn about Lincoln, stood in the exact spot where our 16th President once delivered a public address from the DeSoto House balcony. To watch him connect history to where we stood today was such a cool experience.

The kids and I also walked the grounds of Grants’ old house, and the fact that we walked in the footsteps of former Presidents, on President’s Day, was not lost on me. Though Madelyn may still be too young to connect this, Landen did express plenty of interest in exploring, and I did my best to document the experience through my camera lens with the hope of retelling the story to Maddie when she’s older.

We set foot inside an antique store. I swear if history had a smell, it would be found within that small shop. We ate at an old cafĂ© accessed only by an old staircase, since the buildings off Main Street were built into the bluff that overlooked the Galena River. Archeologists are still finding artifacts from the past, as the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium exhibits a small cannon excavated there. We viewed a map of the city from the 1860s that pointed our exact location as we stood in 2016. Just as history builds upon the layers of time, so too does our own story. And the reason why I enjoy traveling with the kids, is because I can help write their chapters through experiences like these. There is an entire world out there beyond our ¾-acre property, more vast than the current capacity of their imaginations, and with each of our excursions big and small, we are building their characters.

Though the cities of Dubuque and Galena are not “new” to us, we did receive a fresh perspective as we explored through their eyes.

President Ulysses S. Grant's estate
The view of Galena's historic Main Street as seen from Grant's property
The old train depot
This cannon is a trophy of war.

Dubuque, Iowa

Dear Travel Diary,

The story of “us” begins with an awkward hello between two college freshmen in a dorm room in Dubuque, Iowa.

Within the limits of this city, we met, got engaged and brought our first child into the world. Bachelor degrees were earned here, first “real” jobs were worked here and our first apartment was rented here. Ultimately, Dubuque launched us into the lifestyle we so much enjoy now.

When our time off meshed with Landen’s recent 4-day weekend, we rented a Suburban and made the 4-hour trek south to introduce our children to the city where it all began. So much of the area remained untouched, while other parts showcased a progressive growth. Upon settling into our room at the Hilton on City Island, we mapped out a quick itinerary that included a driving tour of “our” spots, exploring the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, swimming in the Grand Harbor indoor waterpark, and enjoying each other’s company. 

The experience felt like we had closed a circle. This city served as the backdrop to so many of our “firsts,” and now, here we are 10 years later. It was the kind of weekend that made sense, where everything seamlessly fell into place, and we returned home grateful (albeit exhausted) with a renewed spirit to continue to move forward. 

If you want to know where you’re going, you must first honor where you’ve been.

Thank you, Dubuque, for a lovely weekend – though you are a small city, you hold a rather large place in our hearts.

(As seen through a dirty passenger side window ... #RealLife)
Mr. Landen was born at this hospital, so the photo-op was necessary.
The detail in the architecture of the historic estates is stunning.
And no trip to Dubuque is complete without a visit to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. The kids enjoyed watching the fish and other animals native to the river!
This turtle has earned the nickname "Grumpy Turtle" with his frown.

River bank

Dear Photography Diary,
It's not every day I can stand in Minnesota and take a picture of Wisconsin, while separated by the Mississippi River.

Milwaukee Art Museum - The Calatrava Atrium

Dear Travel Diary,
My artist sister helped me to see the significance behind the absolutely amazing addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum, designed by famed architect Calatrava. The exterior is easily recognizable, and a fixture of the Milwaukee skyline. The interior of the atrium is just as incredible.


Raindrops on Spider Webs

Taken on my mother's property in Milwaukee, WI

NYC Icons

Dear Travel Diary,
I've been to NYC twice in my lifetime (thus far), and if there are two images (among many) that epitomize what NYC is to me - it's the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.

These two were taken in 2006 during a cruise on the Hudson River.