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James and I just got back from our Iowa and Illinois trip. Here are some things we learned during our trip.

1. We dislike toll roads.

2. Watch out for people with crutches.

3. If you “forbid” steps in a public park, you’ve instantly made them attractive.

4. Always, always, check the fridge before you leave on vacation.

We put a lot of faith in our GPS when we travel. Turns out this isn’t always smart. We needed to drive from Chicago to Clinton, Iowa. The GPS put us on I-88. I will give the GPS some credit, it did warn us there’d be tolls on our route. We expected one. Maybe two. And! We never ever considered they’d require cash only.

It was pretty late at night when we rolled up to the first toll. These were our lane options:

1) I-Pass.

2) Coins only.

We didn’t know what I-Pass was and we had no coins. The I-Pass lanes are simply open. You just keep going without stopping at a booth. The “Coins Only” lanes had long lines. You stopped at a booth and apparently dropped in your coins to lift the barrier and continue your journey.

Stef: Which lane should we take?! What should we do?! We have no coins!!!

James: Got any cardboard?

Stef: What.

James: We could make a sign! “Will work for toll coins!!!”

Stef: I have no cardboard.

James: Then take my hand, Thelma! We’re blowing through the I-Pass lane and officially becoming “criminals!”

So that’s what we did. For the next bazillion tolls on I-88. The good news is we have since investigated our criminal act of bypassing tolls without paying. We have 7 days to get online and pay all the fees. Sorry, folks. Looks like you haven’t met an official “criminal” here after all. So! I think the moral of the story is this: Always carry coins because you never know. Either that or cardboard.

Once in Iowa, we met up with my family…my mom, dad, aunt, sister and her beau, and my brother Richard and his family.Fit RV iowa trip Richard’s middle daughter, Lilly, was on crutches after injuring her knee. She’s an elementary aged cutie with a big personality and a heart of gold. At one point during dinner out, Lilly and I were at the salad bar. She was doing an amazing job on those crutches making her plate, such coordination! As I started walking around her to leave the salad bar, she brought her crutches back right onto my middle toe on my left foot. OUCH! Of course I was wearing flip flops, even after writing an article about flip flop dangers! Now here’s another reason to add to the flip flop danger list! It really was my fault, I should have given her a wider berth. She felt so awful and I didn’t even react…externally, at least. I secretly iced it under the table, and it’s much better today, a few days later.

One of the things we all did together was visit Eagle Point Park in Clinton, Iowa. Both my parents grew up in Clinton, but then they never moved back after leaving for college at Iowa State. So, they both have fond memories of Eagle Point Park and hanging out there as kids, particularly its “Thousand Steps.”Lynn Miller Carr Marcia Thousand Steps Clinton Iowa The above photo is my mom and her little sister Marcia at the entrance to the Thousand Steps many moons ago. The park is huge, wooded, and my parents couldn’t quite remember where the access point was to the steps. They had heard the steps had been banned long ago due to too many accidents. Of course it was James who finally found them.  He was obsessed once he heard about these forbidden steps. They were hidden behind a small chain link fence, easy to walk around. So, we did. Thousand Steps Clinton Iowa Richard Carr Fit RVThat’s my brother Richard and his oldest daughter Hayley on the steps. The steps lead from the top of a bluff down to the Mississippi water’s edge. We couldn’t get that far, because at one point, the steps ended in a drop-off. They were quite beautiful, though. And the stone bridge we found halfway down the steps….amazing.

bridge 2It’s too bad this gorgeous area is condemned. The Thousand Steps were the highlight of our trip.

And then James and I arrived back home in Salt Lake City last night around midnight. The first thing we heard when unlocking the door was a faint little “BEEP!” We both recognized that sound and simultaneously groaned, “OH NO!” It was our fridge alarm telling us the fridge door wasn’t properly closed. The temperature on the top shelf read 122 degrees, since the hot light bulbs had been on non-stop since we left as well. I’ve since thrown everything out of our fridge and this is how it currently looks.  fit rv fridge

So what can we learn from this trip? Carry coins. Avoid getting too close to people with crutches. Forbidden steps just might be hidden treasures. And never leave the house without shutting your fridge doors. After all, life is a journey with lessons to learn, problems to solve, but most of all, experiences to enjoy. We got all that wrapped into one great trip.

Thousand Steps Clinton Iowa Lynn and Marcia MillerThe Thousand Steps at Eagle Point Park, once upon a time, Clinton, Iowa.

Eagle Point Park Clinton Iowa Ralph MillerMy Grandpa Ralph Miller, my mom’s dad. Eagle Point Park, Clinton Iowa.