Completing the Last 7 Counties in Iowa and 5 More in Illinois in Less than 24 Hours

“Let’s try an overnight trip.” That is what Victoria and I were discussing. It had been over 4 months since I took a big road trip. If you’ve been following along in my journey, you’ll know that our son Austin was born in mid-February. So, there was a good reason why I hadn’t hit the road in that long.

Fortunately, I get three months of paid paternity leave with my job. This allows Victoria and I to tag-team the care of Austin. As a result, we have got a good schedule down. We alternate overnight feedings and attend to him so one of us can get a solid night’s sleep. We’ve been able to build a good routine with Austin, and for the most part, he is sleeping through the night. He’ll wake up usually once in the middle of the night, and then we’re typically good until 5-6 AM, when we usually get up.

With that, we are still both exhausted. Becoming a parent really changes things. Your whole world is suddenly shifted, and it obviously takes a while to adapt. It also seems you never really catch up on sleep.

We felt like things were good enough that I could attempt to take an overnight road trip. When I started planning the trip, I needed to know what kind of time window I had. We agreed that 24 hours would be good. Since we feed Austin around 6 PM, I could feed him and then hit the road after. I could then roughly be back home by 6-7 PM the following night.

I really wanted to finish the last 7 counties I had left in Iowa. These counties were in the southeast corner of the state. I knew I’d have time to visit more counties besides these 7. I debated whether I wanted to visit Northeastern Missouri or Western Illinois. It ultimately made more sense to visit Western Illinois.

I used some route optimization software and found 9 more counties in Illinois that I could visit. These 16 total counties would also bring my total county count up to 700. I was hoping to hit that milestone along with completing Iowa.

I went grocery shopping earlier in the week and stocked up on jerky, energy drinks, and Chex Mix. Then, I got everything ready to throw in the car and was going to make the most of my limited time on the road. For the first time, I even planned ahead of time where I’d sleep for the night. Normally, I’m very impulsive and just find a place when I get tired.

On Friday night, I took my turn to feed Austin overnight. Victoria would then be feeding him on Saturday. I’d then come back, and it would be my turn again. I made it through Friday night and was able to catch a nap during the day on Saturday. I eventually did the 6 PM feeding and was able to hit the road right at 7 PM.

A set of storms had just passed through, so it was a bit dreary and soggy out. At least it made for a cool-looking sunset.

It soon got dark, but I was quickly in Iowa.

At 10:30PM I made it to the rest stop on I-80 that I had planned to stay at. The storms may have passed, but it was still very windy.

I went inside the rest stop and did my nightly routine. Then, I got back in the car and pulled the blanket up.

With all the noise from the wind and the rocking of the car, it took a while to get to sleep. I didn’t get much sleep, but the nice thing is the sleep I did get wasn’t interrupted by a crying baby. My alarm went off around 4:20 AM. I got up and then did my morning routine before hitting the road a little after 4:30.

I had about 1.25 hours of driving before my first courthouse. That first stop would be Monroe County. I was pretty impressed with how well-kept the courthouse square was.

The courthouse itself was pretty nice too.

Up next was Appanoose County.

Some more driving got me to Davis County.

Soon I was at Wapello County.

Then was Jefferson County.

Van Buren County’s courthouse was small and historical.

My last courthouse in Iowa was Lee County. After visiting this one, I could finally say I visited all 99 counties in Iowa!

While I was done with Iowa, Iowa wasn’t done with me and wanted me to stay longer. I was first held up by a train.

Then when I tried to cross the bridge into Illinois, it had to let a ship go by. That resulted in a bunch more waiting.

After a while, I was finally in Illinois!

My GPS took me down some back roads. The area to Hancock County was mainly flat.

It got a little hillier on the way to Adams County.

I had initially planned to keep going south a bit and get Pike, Scott, Morgan, and Cass counties. I realized that I was behind schedule and probably bit off more than I could chew in my planning. I looked at the map and realized Brown County was directly east of Adams county. I headed there instead.

Brown County was actually on my itinerary, and I realized the next set of counties were too. I had basically just abbreviated my trip a bit and chose the right point to skip ahead. The following county I visited was Schuyler County.

The last county I had on my list was McDonough County.

Now it was time to high tail it home.

My GPS took me down some back roads. You know the roads where you can cross a state line without even knowing it if you’re not paying attention. There are no Welcome to Wisconsin or Welcome to Illinois signs on this road. There’s only a sign for the road name and a change of counties. You can also see the pavement style change.

Since I only live about 30 miles from the Illinois border, getting home didn’t take long. When everything was said and done, I was home at 5:35 PM.

While I didn’t get to visit the 16 counties I had planned, I did complete 12. I was also able to stay in the 24-hour window Victoria and I had discussed. I was actually only gone for 22.5 hours. It was definitely a packed 22.5 hours, and I felt accomplished finishing Iowa’s counties. I also made it home in time for Austin’s 6 PM feeding.

This overnight trip was an experiment to see how well things would go. We concluded that we’re still not ready for more overnight trips. Victoria and I both found ourselves even more exhausted than we were before.

I obviously didn’t get the best night’s sleep on Friday night when I took my turn attending to Austin. But, of course, you never get the best night’s sleep while sleeping in the car, so that wore me down even more on Saturday night. On top of that, the actual traveling and constantly moving took a ton of energy.

With Victoria, she attended to Austin all night and then all day. That is very tiring in itself and is why we tag-team it. She was just as worn out. I then got another bad night’s sleep since it was my turn to attend to Austin when I got back.

It took a few days to return to my normal level of tiredness. I might revisit making an overnight trip once Austin can fully sleep through the night. For the time being, I’ll focus on what I can do with day trips and see how that pans out. There are still new counties I could visit in a day trip and many other good things in the local area where I live.

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