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  • Writer's pictureJessica Stough

Adventuring Close to Home - Dubuque, Iowa, Things to Do, & What I've Been Up To Lately

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

I cannot be the only one that feels like I simply blinked, and then September ended. Our September was so busy, though, we didn’t have time to think – let alone travel. The month started off like any other, but I had a few amazing opportunities that really made the time fly. Although it made for a month that felt like it didn't even exist, I'm really thankful for all the things it brought with it.

First, I got the chance to help out with the Nature Trail Running Series. I absolutely love trail running, love helping others at these events, and truly enjoyed the chance to help out this year. My ankle, on the other hand, did not enjoy the excursion and has been causing me a bit of trouble ever since. Injury or no, I always enjoy getting out into the woods and just running.

After the first of the trail running series, I was off on an entirely new adventure – taking classes to learn how to ride a motorcycle. I would highly recommend the courses at DMACC (found here) to anyone interested in learning. I had never ridden a motorcycle before. However, with my grandma and grandpa owning a Harley Davidson shop years before I was in existence, and with my dad always having one in the garage, I felt like I needed to at least see if it was for me. It was almost like riding was in my blood.

In the midst of the classes, I was invited back to the 9th year of the Knoxville Cancer Relay, and I am so thankful to have been a part of it again. This year, I even had a Des Moines friend join me for thirty-one miles! I logged the most miles this year that I ever had at a Cancer Relay (32!), and was so grateful to have a friend come along to keep me company for the adventure. Buzz even ran a few miles with us before it got too warm for him. After his miles, he was happy to hang out and mascot for the event, even while I was out running more miles in the heat.

I ran for those we've lost, my mom (her sign is pictured above), and Zac's aunt and grandpa, along with those that have fought and won their battles with cancer, and all of those impacted by cancer that we've never met.

Shortly after the Cancer Relay, I finished up my motorcycle courses. Two days after they ended, I went to the courthouse to get my license. The next day, I purchased my very own motorcycle! What an exhilarating (and frightening, if I’m being honest) experience it was to ride my very own motorcycle home.

Although I had all of those exciting things going on, we were still juggling (and still are) being just a few months in to having a new foster placement. On top of the roller coaster ride that is going from no children in the house to one that needs constant attention, we also began battling scrutiny from others about how we were managing that adjustment.

I explained to someone that I went from having 100% of my time to do what I wanted to only about 25% – the other 75% of my time is currently divided between our new kiddo, her appointments and needs, her bio family, and everything else that comes along with having a new child. That remaining 25% of my time, right now, is what I have for myself, for my relationship with Zac, and for literally everything else.

We have had so many people who have been insanely supportive of our journey (and for that, I am so thankful), but have surprisingly had others who have told us we are doing it wrong – some saying we should be giving tons of things up that we used to do before, and others saying that we should be spending more time doing the things we used to do before.

It’s been a difficult battle, to say the least, with more barriers and dramatics than what I would have ever expected. What it has taught me is that there will always be something that a person is doing that others will not like or agree with. I always knew that, but never saw it until I had people telling me that I was doing things wrong in two very opposing ways. Can they both be right? Am I both simultaneously spending too much time for my own self care but also not enough time to myself?

I believe that what has been happening over the last few months is a perfect example to share – that everyone is going to have a differing opinion. I found a quote that resonated with me, a great reminder during these times:

You have to be your own person. You can’t let people’s opinions determine how you think about yourself. There’s a difference between identity and self-identity.Amy Tan.

What I do know is that, whether others think we are doing it right or not, there are always small wins. When I came home from the Cancer Relay, I got loads of questions about what I was doing. The smile on the kiddo’s face when I shared that I was running to raise money for people with cancer told me that, no matter what others thought, I was doing the right thing. Do the people with cancer know you’re running for them? Are they proud too? I told her that some knew, but others didn’t, and that was okay – because I was doing it to help them, not for the recognition.

When I would leave for motorcycle classes, she would get a bit bummed that I'd be leaving, but also so excited for me to learn a new skill. Then, when we went to go get my new motorcycle, I had the teeniest, tiniest little thumbs up peek out the truck window every time we came to a stop sign or stop light, reminding me that she thought it was cool and that I was doing a good job driving home.

Now, this time is surely hard for her, as it is for us as well – but hopefully, she will look back on the time in our home and remember some of those things: help others; learn new skills; do things that excite you; challenge yourself. If that can happen for her, the scrutiny from others about how we are managing things will be worth it.


Until then, it's time for me to start talking travel – because I know that's what those of you reading are here for. Although we have something up our sleeves for the end of November, what we really need are some day trip or weekend getaway ideas. For something extremely short and still in Iowa, I thought I’d walk through what a trip to the Dubuque area might look like. The Dubuque area has a lot to offer, especially for something in Iowa (since Iowa has a bad rap for being boring and flat).

With that, I decided to go ahead and provide a few high-level lists. Whether museums and the indoors are your go-to or if you have a preference to be outdoors like us, I’ve got you covered with some day trip or weekend vacation ideas for Dubuque.


Breweries and Wineries

Outdoor Activities

I thought about looking further into the food places they had to offer as well, but found an all-inclusive page (Taste | Travel Dubuque) that was too good to try to beat. It had sections sharing the best coffee shops, boasting the best breakfasts, and the best prime-time game day places to grab some food, along with other lists.


There have now been a few times where I’ve been able to talk Zac into a day trip or weekend getaway (granted, one of those weekend getaways ended up being with my amazing friend Mischa instead of him – but he was wholly supportive of the adventure!). I am hopeful that I will be able to talk him into another trip soon so we can get away and reset with a fun mini adventure. After doing some research on the Dubuque area, I feel like I have a pretty good proposal ready to go.

Now, it's time for me to get back to momming for the rest of the evening. Hopefully, I'll have some fun posts up after this, but before our November trip comes up. If not, though, our November trip will definitely create some fun posts. Then, before we know it, we will be planning for 2023 and the adventures it will bring.

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