L and I were on vacation Wednesday evening through Sunday. We drove from Chicago to the Quad Cities (Moline, IL, Rock Island, IL, Davenport, IA, and Bettendorf, IA for the uninitiated). I know, I know. People are going to ask why we would go to the Quad Cities for vacation. Well, we only had four days, and did not want to spend a day of that in airports. Of course, as of Thursday morning airports around the world were thrown into chaos, and L were feeling pretty smart. We could also brush our teeth and use lotion, which is more than airline passengers could say. More on that some other day.
Anyway, here's how to make old Midwestern, rust belt cities a short vacation wonderland. Step one, set reasonable expectations. Step two, choose to seek out what that place is good at. Don't go to Toledo, Ohio and complain that they didn't have New Orleans cuisine. Step three, see if you can get a local to hip you to some things before you go. Step four, be flexible.
Wednesday night was exciting for me, but not so much for L. After holding out for over a year, we finally broke down and got an IPASS
. This means that we could go through the fast lane at the four(!) toll booths on I-88 between Chicago and the Quads. Very exciting to me. Less so to L. The open in question is why in the middle of cornfields, long past DeKalb, are there tolls on I-88? I figure that since the Republicans named it the Reagan Memorial Tollroad, they want to pack as much government spending into it as possible. And thus do we honor Reagan. In a similar vein, check out the Reagan building
in DC some time. Ron would have loved that monster.
Thursday L and I got up and explored the cities. We drove around and did what we always do in rust belt cities. We chased steeples. We drove to where we saw tall, old looking steeples. It is a decent way to see the older parts of a city, and we both like old churches. Of course, in the home of Augustana College
, the old churches all seem to be Lutheran. Anyway, we did that for a while, then came back to the room to snooze. After all, we are on vacation. We woke up just in time to be hungry, which worked out really well, because we found a place called the Bierstube
in East Davenport. Decent German food, although why they served gnocci instead of spaetzle is beyond me. In any case, a place well worth a visit just for the beer and bretzels. We went back to the room and watched The DaVinci Code. Kind of a hatchet job, but whatever. Anyway, Thursday was a day doing things the Quads do well. Old churches, Germanic food.
Friday we started with Mass at St. Paul the Apostle
in Davenport. There sure are a lot of old folks who go to Friday morning Mass in Davenport. Anyway, here's my hot tip that St. Paul at least was Irish--windows sponsored by the Flanagans, Curleys, Gillespies, and a bunch of other Irish names.
After Mass we searched for a nice cup of Joe. L and I looked around the downtown Rock Island area and came across Coffee Hound at 2108 3rd Avenue, Rock Island. Apparently they are a local chain, with a few other locations in the area. The Rock Island location has a drive-thru, and a nice atmosphere inside. It is a little lefty, I think, as shown by the copy of the Socialist newspaper under my Blackberry below.
After Joe what could be better than the John Deere Pavilion
? The John Deere Pavilion is in Moline, as is John Deere. The Pavilion has machinery, merchandise, and everything John Deere. They have machinery with tires taller than L:
It was pretty cool. I will say that the problem with committing your logo to a statue is that if you ever change it, it will look like you have a random statue with your logo flying above it:
Anyway, if you want to know why the quad Cities has more than 100 people, and why I-74, I-80, and I-88 all come here instead of somewhere else, visit the Deere Pavilion.
Deere is to the Quad Cities what Caterpillar is to Peoria, and what the Big Three was to Detroit.
Originally we had planned to go see some fireworks on Friday night. However, in perusing the Quad City Times
, I discovered that the Swing of the Quad Cities
were scheduled to play a double header on Friday evening. A double header?!? Are you kidding me? After a rigorous nap, L and I left for game one. It was 15 minutes before game time, we did not know where we were going, and we did not have tickets. God bless small towns life. We paid $2 to park, $7 each for general admission tickets, and got in to see the first pitch of game one. How can you beat that? Well, I'll tell you. You can sit in general admission with this view of the field and river:
The Swing lost the first game, but it was pretty well played and we had fun. We left the second game early, but we did get to see a guy hit a home run that almost assuredly ended up in the Mississippi. It is only 318 down the line, but it was a good poke. More Swing pictures on the fotoblog. Also, the satellite shot here
shows the configuration of the park.
Saturday was our last active vacation day. We dedicated it to Tugfest
in LeClaire, Iowa. Port Byron, Illinois is the other half of the fest, but we were in Iowa. Tugfest is crazy. The centerpiece of the fest is a tug of war across the Mississippi River between teams from Iowa and teams from Illinois. They have a 2600 foot rope that they pull on. The teams line up in a tug pit and on "go" they pull like hell. They pull for three minutes. Nobody comes close to going in the river. Instead, after pulling for three minutes, they stop and measure who pulled the furthest. 50 feet is really good. They do this 10 or 12 times with different teams, and whoever wins more individual tugs wins the Tugfest. Illinois won this year. Woo-hoo! I'll add pictures later.
Anyway, the highlights on Tugfest are several. First, I got a pretty excellent farmer's sunburn. Actually, the farmers there looked much better than I do right now. I guess its a city boy burn. Second, the cuisine was outstanding. Corndog, funnel cake, shish kebob, lemonade. It was all good. None of it would be good outside the context of a fair/fest (except the kebob, which was excellent), but it kicked ass. Third was the Buffalo Bill Museum
. Bill Simmons has a concept called the Unintentional Comedy Scale
. It's as if this museum was created with this scale in mind. Buffalo Bill was born in LeClaire. Then he left and lived his entire life outside of LeClaire. Thus, the Buffalo Bill Museum has almost nothing to do with Buffalo Bill. Instead it was a LeClaire, Iowa museum, with some Buffalo Bill-era crap at the beginning. Really worth the price of admission (free for fest goers). Finally, the Tugfest had carnival rides. With real carnies. I mean, guys with three teeth. Carnies leering at the 13 year old girls. Carnies snoozing in the rides when there was not a line. Really excellent.
Sunday morning we got up and came home. We were home by 1:00. We are unpacked, happy, relaxed, and still have our toothpaste and shampoo. Vacation in a rust belt Midwestern city rules.