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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Discovering the Beauty of the Bridges of Madison County, Iowa

The Bridges of Madison County trail was the perfect side trip on my sister's and my vacation. Actually, it turned out to be one of the highlights.

Madison County is the Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa, with the largest group of covered bridges in one area. The beautiful bridges were popularized by Robert James Waller in the book, The Bridges of Madison County.  Clint Eastwood’s movie version of the book made the little town of Winterset a desired destination. 

Our first stop was the Imes Bridge. It was built in 1870 and is the oldest of the remaining covered bridges.  Originally located over the Middle River, the length is 81 feet.

Ten miles from the Imes bridge, we stopped at the Holliwell Bridge. A popular one for its feature in The Bridges of Madison County movie. It was Built in 1880 and is 122 feet long.

The Cutler-Donahoe was the third bridge on our route. The location is in the city park. Featuring a pitched roof, it was constructed in 1870 and is 79 feet in length.

We almost skipped this one because someone told us it was gone but decided to take a look anyway. Cedar bridge was almost completely destroyed by arson on April 15th, 2017, but there are plans to restore it.

The Hogback Bridge was the next to the last bridge that we visited. It was built in 1884 and measures 97 feet in length. Traveling through a lot of corn fields is required to reach this one.  

Located on the back wall of the bridge is a notepad for leaving where you are from and a note if you so wish. We enjoyed reading where everyone was from and how far they had traveled. There was even one from Japan!

Our final stop and the most popular of the bridges, the Roseman Bridge. Built in 1883 and at 107 feet in length, it was one of the main locations for the movie and novel. The Roseman remains in the original location of its construction.

It is also known as the “haunted” bridge. Supposedly, two officers thought they had trapped an escaped prisoner inside the bridge, but he rose through the roof and disappeared.

Headed back to the main highway, we came upon this sign. I really wasn't too concerned until we topped the first tall hill and was looking at one that was even taller and without much slope. I refused to drive up it! My sister was laughing at me the entire time that I was trying to turn around at the top of the hill we were on...

She called me chicken! I called myself being logical! I was thinking.... what if we get half way up and have to back down, what if we meet a big tractor, what if.... 😅

The tour of the bridges turned out to be much more fun and entertaining than we expected! Be sure your car is full of gas and you have a printed map in hand before heading out on the tour. Have fun!

Google Map of bridges


Winterset is 36 miles southwest of Des Moines, Iowa and 100 miles north of Kansas City, Kansas

Happy Travels!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Florida’s Hot Spot for Viewing and Snorkeling with Manatees

Located in Crystal River, Florida, Three Sisters Springs is the hot spot for manatees in the winter months.

The 57-acre Three Sisters Springs refuge surrounds the springs and is the only way to access the land around Three Sisters Springs.

A nice boardwalk with viewing platforms takes you around most of the springs.

If you arrive as soon as they open and walk in, you will have a few minutes to walk around before the crowds arrive by trolley.

You can swim and snorkel in the manatees, but must enter through the waterway at the south end of the springs. There is no access on the refuge.

Boat/ Kayak launches can be found throughout Kings Bay. If you do one of the “snorkel with manatees” tours, chances are this is where you will wind up. Two tour groups and tons of snorkelers on their own, were there the morning we visited. 

Swim and snorkel tours:
 here & here.


Front Gate for Walk-in   

601 Three Sisters Springs Trail, Crystal River, Florida

We parked in a large parking lot on Kings Bay Drive between Little Caesars Pizza and Sonic and walked in. It's about a two block walk. 

Trolley Parking area

123 N.W U.S. Highway 19, Crystal River, FL. (behind City Hall)

This is where you can catch the trolley that departs every 30 minutes. 


Daily, 8:30am - 4:30pm


(November 15th- March 31st)
$20.00 Adult
$17.50 Senior (55+)
$15.00 Military
$7.50 Child (6-15)
FREE for Children 5 &under

Happy Travels!

Monday, January 20, 2020

5 Fantastic Day Trips from Gulf Shores, Alabama

If you are looking for a break from the sand and surf of Gulf Shores, Alabama, there are plenty of great day trip options in the surrounding area. From state parks to historic landmarks, there is something for everyone within a short drive of Gulf Shores. Here are five fantastic day trips to consider on your next vacation.

1. Big Lagoon State Park  in  Perdido Key, Florida

30 minute drive from Gulf Shores

Located just over the state line in Florida, Big Lagoon State Park is a beautiful and peaceful destination for a day trip. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including dolphins, sea turtles, and alligators. Visitors can hike, fish, kayak, and enjoy stunning views of the lagoon and Gulf of Mexico.


12301 Gulf Beach Hwy, Pensacola, FL 32507


8am to 6pm daily


$5.00 - $10.00 per vehicle, depends on number of occupants

2. USS Alabama War Ship Tour in Mobile, Alabama

1 hour drive from Gulf Shores

For a glimpse into America's military history, head to the USS Alabama War Ship in nearby Mobile. This battleship served in World War II and is open to the public for tours. Visitors can explore the decks, see the guns up close, and learn about the brave men who served aboard the ship.


2703 Battleship Parkway | Mobile, AL 36602


$15.00 or less per person, $4.00 parking fee

Summer Hours:

8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Winter Hours:

October – March

8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

3. Fairhope, Alabama

45 minute drive from Gulf Shores

Just a short drive from Gulf Shores, Fairhope is a charming town with plenty of shops, restaurants, and art galleries to explore. Take a stroll down the tree-lined streets and admire the historic homes, or head to the pier for a beautiful view of Mobile Bay. See my complete post on Fairhope here

4. Dauphin Island (Fort Morgan, Mobile Ferry, Fort Gains, Sea Lab)

35 minute drive + 40 minute ferry ride from Gulf Shores

Leave early morning to see all of these in one day.

Fort Morgan State Historic Site

Dauphin Island is a barrier island located just off the coast of Alabama, and it is packed with history and natural beauty. Visit Fort Morgan, a historic fort that played a key role in the Civil War, or take a ferry across Mobile Bay to Fort Gains on the island. Do not miss the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, a marine research facility that offers tours and educational programs.


110 AL-180, Gulf Shores, AL 36542


Seven Days A Week



Adult $8
Seniors/child $5

Mobile Bay Ferry

For a unique and scenic day trip, take a ride on the Mobile Bay Ferry. This ferry service connects Dauphin Island to Fort Morgan, and the trip offers stunning views of the bay and surrounding landscape. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and other wildlife along the way.


Fort Morgan Side

110 AL-180, Gulf Shores, AL 36542

Dauphin Island Side:

111 Bienville Blvd., Dauphin Island, AL 36528


Varies, check here   


Regular automobile and driver is $16 + $5 for each passenger.

Fort Gaines

Established in 1821, Fort Gaines known is for its role in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War.


51 Bienville Blvd, Dauphin Island, AL 36528


9AM – 5 PM daily


Children (Ages 5 -12) are $5.00
Adults (Ages 13+) are $9.00

Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium 

Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium is an educational public aquarium exhibiting the four key habitats of coastal Alabama.


102 Bienville Blvd, Dauphin Island, AL 36528

Hours vary from winter and summer. 

Check here   https://www.disl.org/estuarium


$6 - $12

Dauphin Island

At only 14 miles long and 2 miles wide, Dauphin Island lays at the entrance of Mobile Bay.

This is a great place to enjoy beaches without many people on them.

Bienville Beach (1501 Bienville Blvd)

West End Public Beach (Drive west on Bienville Blvd to the very end)

5. Pensacola, Florida Snorkeling & Fort Tour

45 minute drive from Gulf Shores

Escambia County Bay Snorkel Reef 

Located approximately 50 ft. off shore in Park West, just before the entrance of Fort Pickens. Great for beginner snorkeler.


Park West, Gulf Breeze, FL 32561

Fort Pickens State Park

This 1834 pentagonal historic United States military fort is located at the west end of Santa Rosa Island. It is named after American Revolutionary War hero Andrew Pickens.

After visiting the fort, enjoy some of the 10 miles of gulf and bay beaches leading to the fort. It's also one of the few places in the Pensacola area to find seashells.


1400 Fort Pickens Rd, Pensacola Beach, FL 32561


March 1 - October 31: 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (last entry at 8:00 p.m.)

November 1 - February 28: 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.


Historic Fort: 8:00 a.m. to sunset


Per person (pedestrian, cyclist, etc.) ............................$15
Private vehicle (capacity <15) .......................................$25

Happy Travels!