On the Road: The Best of the Upper Mississippi River
Navigate the Upper Mississippi through three to four states to discover nature and history in charming towns. Exclusive excursions access places where the general public can't go.
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Program No. 14948RJ
7 days
Starts at
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7 days
6 nights
16 meals
6 B 5 L 5 D
Getting There
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Check-in, Program Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Moline/The Quad Cities
Radisson on John Deere Commons-Moline

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration 4:45 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar meeting room on the hotel’s second floor to register with the program staff, get your welcome packet, and select a seat for orientation. Your welcome packet contains your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation. 5:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. On the Road programs are journeys that take participants to multiple study sites in a region with a number of overnight stays. Lectures, talks, discussions, field trips, and on-board commentary amplify the program theme. Unless specified otherwise, transportation will be provided primarily by motorcoach, which will require ascending/descending 6 steps when getting on/off multiple times each day. Regulations require all passengers to exit the motorcoach at every stop. Most transfers throughout the program will feature a lecture given by our expert Study Leader relating to the program theme and daily destinations. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At the hotel restaurant, we’ll enjoy a welcome dinner together with coffee, tea, water included.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and enjoy a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

Cow Robots, Farm to Table Meal, Ectotherms
Moline/The Quad Cities
Radisson on John Deere Commons-Moline

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; driving approx. 50 miles throughout the day, with stops for trips; total duration aboard is about 2 hours. Walking distance up to 1 mile throughout the day; unpaved paths, uneven ground, climbing 1 flight of stairs at the farm (12 steps up and down) and climbing motorcoach steps multiple times (totaling 40 motorcoach steps up and down throughout the day). Regulations require all passengers to unboard the coach at every stop.

Breakfast: In the hotel breakfast room, we’ll have a breakfast buffet featuring hot and cold cereals, waffles, rotating main dishes, pastries, breads, yogurt, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, milk, an assortment of juices, water.

Morning: With long transfers aboard the motorcoach on many days throughout the program, our vehicle will serve as a mobile classroom and venue for our expert Study Leader to give a series of lectures related to the history and culture of the region each day. We will enjoy our first lecture in the series en route. Traveling via motorcoach, we will make our way to visit a private family farm for a field trip, during which we will learn from the farmers themselves about the logistics, machinery, science, and other aspects that go into caring for a working farm. While here, we will settle in for a presentation given by one of our hosts before making our way to the barn to see how technology meets tradition as we watch robots milking cows, learn from the owners about the crops they raise, and observe the massive field equipment that is required for farming today.

Lunch: At the farm, we’ll be treated to a special farm-to-table meal prepared by our hosts that will feature ingredients grown and produced on site. Water and one additional beverage included.

Afternoon: Arriving via motorcoach to join a local college biology professor, we will engage in a classroom session focused on what near-miraculous mechanisms frogs, turtles, and insects use to survive the harsh winters of the Upper Mississippi. During our discussion, our professor will provide insight on how native ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals use their adaptations to survive subzero temperatures in this region of the river.

Dinner: At a popular Moline restaurant, we’ll enjoy plated meals with a salad, entrée and dessert, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Locks & Dams, Tiffany Windows, Dubuque Cable Car Ride
Dubuque, IA
Hotel Julien Dubuque

Activity note: Driving approx. 120 miles throughout the day, with stops for field trips; about 3 hours combined. Admittance to Mississippi River lock and dam field trip limited to U.S. citizens with government issued ID only (passport, driver’s license, etc.). Walking approx. 1/2 mile total during group activities; standing up to 1 hour; closed-toed footwear required.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Boarding our motorcoach, we’ll transfer to Rock Arsenal Island for a field trip to view boats passing through locks from inside the Lockmaster's control center. By special permission upon arrival, a Park Ranger from the Army Corps of Engineers will take us "beyond the gate" for an exclusive Road Scholar exploration of a Mississippi River lock and dam to learn the purpose of the locks and gain an insider's view of their operation. The lock is located smack in the middle of the Mississippi River on Rock (Arsenal) Island, which is also home to an active U.S. military arsenal, National Cemetery, historic buildings, and site of the infamous first railroad bridge over the Mississippi River. We’ll then return to the hotel, check out, and transfer to LeClaire, Iowa.

Lunch: In a local restaurant that was formerly a riverboat captain's home, we’ll have soups and sandwiches prepared from local gardens, with soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll then have some time for independent exploration in LeClaire, home to the “American Pickers” (as seen on the History Channel) birthplace of history's William "Buffalo Bill" Cody. Continuing by motorcoach with our Study Leader, we’ll make our way to St Luke’s Methodist Church in Dubuque, Iowa. Built in 1896, the church is noted for its Tiffany stained glass windows, considered one of the finest religious Tiffany collections in the world. Along the way with our Study Leader, we’ll enjoy another lecture in the series relating to the Upper Mississippi River. We’ll then check into our Dubuque hotel.

Dinner: At a nearby restaurant in Dubuque, we’ll enjoy a tasty meal including an entrée and dessert, with coffee and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Next, we ride the "shortest and steepest cable car in the country" to the top of a Dubuque river bluff for an evening river view of three states.

Backwaters Wildlife Refuge Boat Ride/ Historic Overlook
Dubuque, IA
Hotel Julien Dubuque

Activity note: Driving approx. 150 miles total through beautiful scenic countryside; multiple transfers with stops for field trips; total time aboard about 3 hours. Walking up to 1 mile throughout the day; mostly level, uneven terrain, rocky, wooded trails. Getting on/off pontoon boat; ride is approx. 1.5 hours; boat into National Wildlife Refuge backwaters is covered but not heated; basic onboard restroom facility available.

Breakfast: In the hotel's private Road Scholar dining room, the breakfast buffet features a selection of rotating main dishes, fresh fruit, and cereals, with milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Transferring to the dock for an exclusive Road Scholar river field trip aboard a large pontoon boat, we’ll join a former professional clammer as he details his life and takes us to hidden places along the river where the big boats cannot go. As we go, we’ll learn about mussels and their pearl treasures. At the conclusion of our boat field trip, we’ll board the motorcoach and transfer to the German town of Guttenberg, Iowa, for lunch. En route, we’ll engage in another lecture with our Study Leader as we learn about the Upper Mississippi even more.

Lunch: Inside a historic limestone building along the Mississippi River, we’ll enjoy Road Scholar exclusive German lunch buffet especially prepared from locally produced ingredients. Coffee, iced tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Back aboard our motorcoach, we’ll climb to the top of Pikes Peak State Park’s highest bluff for a majestic view of the river. On the way, our Study Leader will provide a lecture focused on effigy mounds, Marquette and Joliet’s discovery point of the Mississippi River, and other historical events that took place in the area. Carrying on, we’ll also visit a mounded effigy in the shape of a bear before continuing on the Great River Road to our dinner destination. AAA magazine declares this section of The Great River Road to have some of the "best vistas of the Mississippi River in America."

Dinner: At a popular restaurant, which also has a fascinating story, we’ll enjoy a buffet dinner of home-style salads and entrées, homemade pie and ice cream, plus coffee, iced tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll then return to our historic landmark hotel in Dubuque for the remainder of the evening at leisure. Former guests include Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and Al Capone. Following a $33 million renovation, the Hotel Julien Dubuque today is a blend of rich history with modern luxury and style.

Charming Galena / Wisconsin Galena Mine
Dubuque, IA
Hotel Julien Dubuque

Activity note: Driving approx. 70 miles total; multiple transfers with stops for field trips; total time aboard about 2 hours. Walking 1 mile throughout the day; 90 steps up and down 50 feet during mine activity; level walkway, spacious, well-ventilated. Hard hats provided. Above-ground alternative activities available for those not wishing to participate in mine activity.

Breakfast: Visit with other Road Scholars as you enjoy a breakfast buffet of fresh fruit, rotating main dishes, cereals, coffee, tea and juice in our hotel's private Road Schoalr dining room.

Morning: Setting out for the day, we’ll cross the Mississippi into Wisconsin for a field trip to Platteville where we’ll learn what attracted early settlers to this Driftless Area, and why Galena is Wisconsin's state mineral. Our lecture series will continue en route to Platteville and, upon arrival, a local expert will lead us on an underground exploration 50 feet down via stairs into an original Galena lead mine while offering commentary about the local history and mining practices. A less active alternative will be available above-ground also.

Lunch: At a popular local Italian restaurant, we’ll have a plated lunch including a soup and sandwich, soft drinks, coffee, iced tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Continuing, we’ll travel via motorcoach to Galena, Illinois, which was once the steamboat capitol of the Upper Mississippi, and still retains its historic charm. As we ride on a narrated journey past the local landmarks, we’ll hear about the town’s history before having time to explore independently. You may wish to visit the U.S. Grant home or Galena's historical museum, or stroll along the shops of the quaint downtown area. Return coach shuttles to Dubuque will be provided at prescheduled times.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Victorian Riverboat, Mississippi Museum & Aquarium
Moline/The Quad Cities
Radisson on John Deere Commons-Moline

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; short transfers. Minimal walking in museum; elevators available. Riverboat field trip is approx. 90 miles; about 7 hours, but can be longer due to river lock delays; riverboat requires ascending/descending 2 flights of stairs when getting on/off.

Breakfast: Enjoy a breakfast buffet of fresh fruit, rotating main dishes, cereals, coffee, tea and juice in our hotel's private Road Scholar dining room.

Morning: We enter the Port of Dubuque, Iowa to our first stop of the day, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Affiliated with the Smithsonian, this multi-building museum provides interactive exhibits indoors and out. An interpreter will be on hand to answer any questions as we independently study live animals and fish of the river, and view films in several theaters. The museum also includes an actual restored dredge boat that is permanently docked in the Port of Dubuque. Next, we’ll set out for our main event aboard a Victorian riverboat reminiscent of the glory days of steamboats. Mark Twain called this type of boat a "floating palace." Take this time to relax and simply enjoy the river in the manner of your choice; you may wish you engage in informative narrations given by the captain, bring a book to read, enjoy the company of others, or simply watch new vistas unveil as we round each bend. Our 7-hour relaxing river adventure will navigate through two locks and dams on our way from Dubuque to Le Claire, Iowa.

Lunch: Plated lunch is prepared and served on our riverboat, as we ride down the Mississippi. Complimentary coffee, iced tea, lemonade and water are available on the riverboat at all times. Other beverages are available for purchase.

Afternoon: As our riverboat continues downstream, enjoy live music and join in the fun. Feel free to explore all three decks on the riverboat, inside and out. Spot bald eagles, white pelicans, and water fowl; hear the captain's narrations about the historic sites along the river. You may wish to take the captain's invitation to join him in the pilothouse – he may even let you take a turn at the wheel!

Dinner: Aboard our Victorian riverboat, our delicious plated farewell dinner will be prepared and served as we watch the sunset over the Mississippi River. Share some of your favorite experiences of the program with new Road Scholar friends. Coffee, iced tea, lemonade, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Our motorcoach will meet us as we disembark in Le Claire, Iowa, near the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois. Returning to Moline, we’ll check into our hotel where the remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

Program concludes
Moline/The Quad Cities

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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