When our mini-vaction to Decorah, Iowa came to an end this weekend, we reluctantly loaded our stuff into Doug’s car, AKA his mom’s old mini-van (a dream compared to my forever-breaking-down ’98 Mazda) and set the GPS to “Home.”

Doug put in a CD and flipped to the John Prine song that I have come to associate with our modest adventures.

No, We’re not the jet set
We’re the old Chevro-let set
Our steak and martinis
Is draft beer with weenies
Our Bach and Tchaikovsky
Is Haggard and Husky
No, we’re not the jet set
We’re the old Chevro-let set
But ain’t we got love

Doug turned down the volume. “These are the mini-van years,” he said.

We sometimes talk about how these are our “Mattress Years.” We got the term from the movie Benjamin Button, from the scenes when him and his lover meet briefly at the same age while simultaneously aging in opposite directions. They are very poor for these years. All they can afford is a mattress. But they are never happier.

“We have to enjoy this while we don’t have kids,” Doug said. “We have it so easy. We got to jump to the head of the line, put our kayaks in the river, and take off. Can you imagine how long it would have taken us to get in the river if we were trying to rub sunscreen onto a bunch of squirmy disagreeables?” (AKA children. We sometimes turn adjectives into nouns).

“That’s true,” I said. “We should keep taking advantage of that. But at least we know it will always be the mini-van years. By the time we can afford a real car we’ll just have to buy a new mini-van to lug our children around anyway.”

“Yeah. But right now we have all this space in the van to fill with bags of garbage,” he said, gesturing his arm over our accumulated garbage bags. Touche.

It was a fantastic weekend in Decorah, despite the van breaking down on the way to our kayaking adventure and despite Doug driving over our cooler/thermoses/sunscreen/my shirt with the van afterwards. And we even got to document the trip because we have a camera now, courtesy of my new friend Krystle

Hiking through Ice Cave Park

Hiking through Ice Cave Park

View of Upper Iowa River from Phelps Park

Phelps Park

Hiking through Phelps Park (or as I called it, “Hiking Trail for the Rich and Famous”– check out that walkway!)

We rented a private apartment right above the river, between two parks.

Our innkeepers, whose house was attached to our apartment. We spent a lot of time with their pets…

Three-legged cat, whom I named “The Hobbler.”

Little Man.


Big Lady. We nearly lost her on a walk one night…

Decorah is home to StoryPeople, whose “Story of the Day” e-mails I have been receiving since 2007!


StoryPeople studio closed due to holiday. Boo.

Doug calling his Dad when the van broke down on our way to kayaking.

Kayaking the Upper Iowa River.

Obligatory arm picture.

Beautiful bluffs.

Doug in awe of bluffs.

I know I look inexplicably depressed here, but I like the way the water looks.

We spotted a bald eagle!

Dunning Springs.

Decorah fish hatchery.