st louis family vacation, day 1

Last week we loaded up the minivan for a trip to St. Louis. At the last minute we decided to leave a day early, as there was winter weather in the forecast. Thankfully we did or I think we would have been stranded on our farm. A whole blizzard hit Minnesota. But just 8 1/2 hours south in St. Louis it was 78 and sunny with trees in full blossom and tulips and daffodils at their peak. I mention this just so that you, too, can file this fact away: that when it is still full blown winter in Minnesota, you could get to much warmer weather in just one day of driving. It's sort of amazing to me!
 We packed a picnic for our first lunch and found a fantastic small town playground and picnic area (with bathrooms!) in New Hampton, Iowa. This is a new family favorite destination. We had a blast, ran around for an hour, could be as loud as everyone needed to be, used the bathrooms many times, ate ham and cheese roll ups and basically marveled that we were not wearing winter coats.
Ivar was in full-boy-glory, teasing me that he might fall in the water, exploring how close he could get, watching a frog swim by and then he found the treasure of all treasures: laying in the bottom of the stream was an abandoned play gun.
Could there be anything more thrilling for an 8-year-old boy?!! Rory helped him fish it out with a long stick and then they hung it in a tree so that it's rightful owner might find it again and wonder how it got up there.
Oh, and then they found half of a crayfish. Clearly this rest stop was epic and full of adventure and excitement. We were glad we hadn't stopped at McDonalds. That would have lacked so much!
Then we got back in the car for the long haul. It took us 11 hours to travel the 8 1/2 hours we had to drive. Which isn't terrible! 2 1/2 hours of stops was pretty impressive to me. I kept saying, "we're making terrible time, but we're having a great time!" Though in the last 30 minutes Alden had had enough and let us know his frustration until he fell fast asleep. We got to Uncle Mark and Aunt Jane's house around 8:45 and transferred the little two into bed while the big two explored the house and where we would spend the next two days...

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