So, last weekend, my gal pal and I decided to take a very unplanned, impromptu, we have no idea what we are doing, road trip down along the Mississippi River.   This is very unlike me.  Not the road-tripping part but the lack of any idea as to what we will be doing as I am orderly, perhaps to a fault.

We took of on Friday, after filling up the cooler with one peach, 3 bags of ice, a 12-pack (priorities) and a PDF map on the i-Phone.    We did have a few ideas as to where we might like to stop.  First on the list was lovely Davenport, Iowa which is close to the Quad Cities on the Illinois side.  The plan was to find a super cool bar/pub/brewery near the river and relax.  As we had not done any research on this, we ended up driving for over an hour until we landed at the Rhythm City Casino where it was free beer Friday, an all-you-can-eat buffet and needless to say, it was on the river.

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On the plus side, I was carded, which being middle-aged, was a compliment as I am somewhat proud of my baby face made possible by an excess of fudgesicles and too little time on the treadmill.  But the pluses ended there as the sneeze guard over the buffet led my mind to wander and the smoke-filled slot rooms were testing my lung capacity.  Next option.  T.G.I.F. Friday’s.  Oh, so excited.  One can never have enough spinach-artichoke dip in their lives and what a view.

The next morning, after checking out our route online, Monica noticed that we would be passing through Nauvoo, Illinois.  Being a big fan of American History, this place was a goldmine.  Way back in 1839, the Mormons, led by Joseph Smith, bought the small town and set up their own community.  They hung out there for quite awhile until Smith was murdered while serving a jail sentence and Brigham Young took over, leading the refugees to Salt Lake City.

Now, there are over 40 historic sites from that period, including the cemetery where Smith, his wife and brother Alvin are laid to rest.  What was even more fascinating was that the whole town resembled a Mecca for Mormons, their place for pilgrimage.  With all of the slacks, ties, button-downs and dresses, I was feeling a little disrespectful in shorts and a t-shirt, so we made our visit short.  But on our way out,we see the best tribute to Alvin Smith ever:

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Moving along through sleepy river towns, abandoned farm houses, roadside vegetable stands and a lack of bathroom facilities, we would occasionally step out of the car for a breather and stretch our legs.  And luckily, one of our stops was perfectly timed, as speeding is the norm for me, we may have passed it.  A sunflower farm in bloom.

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We were there for close to an hour.  The wind was pretty strong and I wanted to be sure to stop the motion, expose for the highlights but capture the shadows and get as many variations as possible.  Just because.  You see, one of the things that makes professional photographers different than someone with a camera, is that we shoot, shoot and shoot some more.  Every angle and each setting is modified so we get to see the same person, place or thing in as many ways as possible.  It was just a random stop, along an unplanned trip but it managed to serve as a good reminder for me.  Tori,  keep shooting.

The rest of our trip went off without a hitch.  I have spent several thousand dollars in my mind on a motorcycle as even these tiny, rarely travelled backroads were crowded with weekend warriors on their Harleys.  I was jealous.  I have also decided to do these unplanned trips a little more frequently and the key is not to anticipate much but be ready when something does happen.  A little visual inspiration, maybe.  Because after you get to where you didn’t know you were going, it can be pretty beautiful.

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