The Great MS River Road- Iowa to IL – Day 5

“Five days?  To drive from Minnesota to St Louis?  Are you sure you are giving yourself enough time?” the words of this discussion played over and over in my head on day five of this journey.  It was a discussion with the Hubby in August about my timeline and when I was to arrive at my oldest sons house in the St Louis area.

“Could take one more day, I guess, but after that many days on the road I think I just want to get to St Louis, it has been two years since I last visited.”  I already knew as well as the Hubby I was pushing my driving limit with the long planned six hour drive.

As I started out from Dubuque after a night of really good sleep and a wonderful breakfast at Richard’s House B&B, I found my way back onto the road heading along the west side of the Mississippi.  The number of the Great River Road had changed once again and I was traveling on Iowa highway 52 and I could mostly see the river on my left as I drove along.

I came to a small town called Bellevue.  It is the location of United State Army Corps of Engineers Dam number 12. I worked for a summer in 2015 for the USACE on the Upper Mississippi River and this dam was huge compared to the one where I had measured and regulated water levels entering the Mississippi River.

Dam number 12 at Bellevue, Iowa

Dam number 12 at Bellevue, Iowa

Opening the USACE Dam at Big Sandy in 2015

Opening the USACE Dam at Big Sandy in 2015 (as you can see it was very high tech at this location in Northern Minnesota)


As I stood there trying to imagine what this mighty river looked like before man decided to tame it for commerce, I was treated to a group of pelicans making their way down the river. Performing their age old migration to the South without a care in the world to the manmade dam below them.

Pelican's at Bellevue, Iowa

Pelican’s at Bellevue, Iowa

I got back into the car and started on the road again.  Only it seemed I was not alone, there floating next to me, just above the tree line were hundreds of pelicans in a flight dance heading in the same direction.  Lucky for me the road was void of traffic because I was looking at the pelicans and not really watching the road.  I scanned down the highway and looked for a place to pull off before I would miss this special moment.

When I stopped, stepped out of the car and started watching, the show was a pure beauty to see. These huge birds soaring above the tree line, silent and yet, you could hear the sounds of how they clicked to each other as they flew.  Moving in a strange chaotic way but yet totally understanding what each one was doing and direction they were going.  Geese fly pretty straight and in a V shape, these pelicans were in a V shape but sort of glided to and fro. Then other pelicans would be soar into the group and some would leave.  It was like watching a beautiful ballet for the first time and knowing you were experiencing something truly special.

The start of the Pelican Ballet

The start of the Pelican Ballet


A passing car finally interrupted my morning entertainment and made me realize I was not going to make it to St Louis if I stood there all day watching thousands of Pelicans.

My route map for Day 5 in Iowa highlighted in yellow.

My route map for Day 5 in Iowa highlighted in yellow.

I was on an emotional high as I continued down the road that now once again changed numbers to Highway 67 as it continued into Interstate 80 that skirts the Northside of Davenport, Iowa. This is where I planned on taking I80 West and then linking up with highway 61 on the other side of the city.

That is also about the same moment that the universe decided that I needed an extended adventure on my way to St Louis.  Road construction on I80 had traffic backed up, so I exited thinking I could detour around the construction. Well… I ended up on Highway 74 through downtown Davenport and onto the bridge over the top of the Mississippi River into the state of Illinois! I hadn’t planned on entering IL until I was in Louisiana, Missouri.  Pretty rattled, pissed off, and now with the outside temps reaching another 90 degree day, I pulled off at a roadside diner and collected my thoughts and consulted the map.  I might be able to salvage this part of my route.

In the end, I took IL Highway 67 all the way to my son’s house on the IL side of the Mississippi River.  Not much to blog about except cornfield after cornfield and that I crossed the Illinois River at Beardstown.

My drive that day was 12 hours plus. I was not only happy to see my oldest son but very happy to be able to get out of the car and declare that I was not driving for the next few days.

Determined to salvage my Mississippi River Road route that I missed, I made a plan to alter my return trip to Minnesota.

Next blog- Heading North on the Mississippi River Road out of St Louis.

Have you ever had to greatly re-route your travel due to road construction or a wrong turn?  Please share below.

© The Cedar Journal, 2019, all rights reserved