Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spring Fever is Banished

So the next couple of posts will catch you up on our recent happenings.

At the end of April, it was dark, rainy, and colder than necessary.  I had a 4-day weekend and was upset we couldn't take advantage of the time off to go anywhere (had to pay off taxes to Lady Liberty).

I work up on a Friday morning, looking at the pale gray weather, and thought, "if we don't get out of the house, I can going to pull my hair out."  So I woke up the hubby and told him of my desire to flee Cedar Rapids.  It wasn't hard to twist his arm. 

We settled on Dubuque.  It's our default getaway-at-the-last-minute city.  Easy traveling distance (just over an hour), Mississippi River culture,  friends and family in the area, and the awesomeness of Galena, IL nearby.

Unfortunately for this little spontaneous trip, it all went on the credit card.

I know, I know <looks sheepish>

There was no money to do it otherwise out of the monthly budget.  If we were truly being responsible, we would have stayed at home.  But I couldn't bear the thought of being trapped inside for four days when I desperately needed a break.
This is why you need to have your credit cards paid off or have a nice savings account.  Tight budgets eliminate spontaneity.  Lack of spontaneity can drive you up the wall.  We will, from here on out, being reserving money for such another trip.  Live and learn.

So here's what we did and how much it cost.

1. The Julian Hotel

Despite our last-minute plans, we had the foresight to use Priceline for our hotel arrangements.  We snagged the Julian Hotel, a historic property overlooking the river, for $80 a night.  Well below the average $150 a night.

The only time the sun was out for two days.  Thanks Mother Nature.

2. Dinner Friday night

Across from the hotel was a restaurant called Crust and pizza sounded amazing.  So I ordered up a candy bar martini (seriously dangerous), Mike drank a white wine, and we got Blanca pizza - 3 types of cheese, garlic, spinach, and bacon on half.  Excellent pizza, though I've decided I don't like spinach on pizza.  Drinks and tip put the bill at $45.

3. The House on the Rock

A regional curiosity in Wisconsin, I've been wanting to visit this house for some time.  House on the Rock 

It's hard to describe what it even is.  This rich guy (they always are) spent his time collecting collections of this, that, and everything.  He then put them on display for the public. 

This is seriously the WEIRDEST place I have ever visited, and my tolerance for kooky is pretty high.  It's part amateur museum, part fun house.  Everything is for sheer entertainment.  No learning is supposed to, or even can, take place.  Some items are replicas, some are the Real McCoy.  The joke is that you can't tell which is which.

I'll just let the pictures do their thing.

Ginormous planters line the driveway and the parking lot.  

Beautiful Indian motif that ran throughout the place

The Infinity Room - an architectural feat combined with an optical illusion

The Infinity Room from outside

One of several Japanese gardens

A Tiffany lamp - recreation or real, no clue

An interesting way to decorate the ladies bathroom

A collection of guns.  Real, imaginary, from any era?  Who knows.

Very hard to see, but a 90-foot whale.  Because the guy wanted one.  Mike present for scale reference.

Is it just me, or does this look like an ill-advised photo opt?

THOTR is known for music machines.  These can be anywhere from human size to full rooms

This is chandelier.  For no reason.  Other than to look like a flying saucer.
THOTR is famous for the world's largest carousel, also the most impossible thing to photograph

Overall, I'm glad we went.  Another tourist oddity crossed off the list.  We got the full tour (3 sections) for $57 and spent 5 hours there.

4. Dinner Saturday night

After a quick nap after the sensory overload of the House, we took the 20-minute drive to Galena, ILAn old mining community, the entire town is on the National Historic Registry.  How cool is that?

We went out for a nice dinner at One Eleven Main, a family-owned eatery stressing local and organic food sources.

Beer-cheese fondue.  More restaurants need to bring back fondue.

My soup and salad.  The soup was amazing!  White bean and roasted pepper!

Blue-cheese mashed potatoes for the man of the hour (while the lady said yuck)

A penicillin-laden burger and garlic chips.  Gone shortly after this photo was taken.

Gnocchi.  First time I've ever ordered it in a restaurant.

No dessert necessary.
Trip Total:                                  $445.84
            Field House                            20.93 (lunch in CR)
            Caseys (gas)                          44.15
            Cookin’ Something Up            21.40
Crust (pizza)                          45.36
Hyvee (medicine)                    9.08
            Hyvee (breakfast)                 14.28
            House on the Rock              57.00
                        Pizza                           6.54
                        Fudge                         6.32
            Great American Popcorn     14.03
            Galena Canning Co              11.09
            111 Main Restaurant           51.04                          
            Hyvee (snack)                       2.24

Several lessons were learned on this little outing:
  • Even if you go on a trip on the fly, still pack a water cooler, snacks, and breakfast options to save money.
  • Priceline is great for getting hotel deals.
  • Even regional trips can add up if you're not watching.
We returned home renewed and tired.  It was a good trip out.  Was it worth almost $500?  I don't know.  It's hard to put a price tag on relaxation and memory making.  Could it have been less with a little more planning?  Absolutely.

It also has helped us renew our focus on eliminating our credit card debt.  I want our cards to be free for exactly these kinds of outing (and emergencies).  We need to keep up our payments so we can enjoy these kinds of vacations in the future without worrying about how we paid for it.

Question of the Day: Where is your go-to vacation spot?

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