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7/1 thru 7/6 - Over the River and through Dubuque . .

We had a wonderful Fourth of July holiday filled with family time.  We had lots of visitors because our Merkes Family reunion was in Dyersville, Iowa (just an hour west of us) on Sunday, July 6th. 

On Friday, July 4th, my nephew Eric, his wife Tina and their son Derek came to spend the weekend.  Tina makes the best carrot cupcakes and she brought us a dozen - YUM!!   They set up their tent right behind our rig and we all settled back in our lawn chairs to enjoy the fireworks from across the river in Bellevue Iowa. 

After the fireworks finale, Tina pulled out some sparklers.
Derek enjoying the sparklers!
Tina had as much fun as Derek

It was a very pleasant evening and very different from what we were used to in Chicago!  One person shot off an M-80 in the park and the rangers were out immediately to find out who did it and that was it for loud noises for the night - Maddie was very happy (me too). 

On Saturday we had more visitors - Sue, Sarah Beth, Matthew and his girlfriend Emily came to spend the night.  I made the mistake of asking 4 year old Derek what he wanted for dinner and so we had pasta and meatballs inside rather than cooking burgers on the grill.  Oh well, now we know we can feed 9 people inside the rig.  We did sit outside and toast marshmallows for dessert - life is good!

Our campground was filled due to the holiday and we had a very interesting neighbor - Hamilton, a pot-bellied pig.
Emily and Matt were quite amused by the pig
There wasn't a whole lot for kids to do at the campground - the playground was still underwater (although that didn't stop some kids).  Derek's favorite thing this weekend was going for "big" walks around the campground.  We can walk the whole thing in ten minutes so I'm not quite sure what a small walk would be.
Derek and I convinced  Sarah to give us a ride.
Derek and his daddy, Eric

On Sunday morning, after eating bacon (sorry, Hamilton) and pancakes for breakfast we drove west into Iowa and headed to the reunion.

Every five years the Merkes branch of my family meets in Dyersville, Iowa for a reunion. Back when it started in 1984 there were 600 +/- direct descendants of my great grand-parents Thomas and Catharina who had ten children.  Thirty years later we number in the thousands!  The reunion is always held on the Sunday closest to July 4th and even though the turnout was less than in previous years we still had a great time catching up with our Iowa and Wisconsin cousins.   My parents are gone as are many of my dad's first cousins.  The ones that are left are mostly in their 80's or older so this may have been the last reunion.
One small branch of our family
When we come to Dyersville we always make a stop at the "Field of Dreams".  It's a magical place and it's always fun walking in the corn and running the bases.  There are always a lot of people there, even more than usual this year (the 25th anniversary of the film).  It's amazing that so many people come to this baseball field in the middle of a cornfield - all because of a movie. 

Eric holding Derek, Tina, Sue, Sarah, Emily, Matt, Mary, Marty and Maddie
Children of the Corn - Oops, wrong movie :)  

We left Dyersville around 5:00 and headed back to Blanding Landing.  My sister Donna, her husband Rick and two of their kids, Sarah and Mark wanted to check out our campground so they stopped by on their way back home.  Sarah, who lived with us for almost two years when we were in Chicago had never seen our new home so "little" Sarah gave her the grand tour.  Once back outside Mark and "big" Sarah climbed the rig's ladder for a view from above.

5 little turtles sitting on a log. . .

Sue and Sarah taking pictures for the blog
Once they came off the roof (and photos were finished) we cooked hot dogs over the fire for a quick dinner.  Donna, Rick and their kids left around 7:00 and we were down to only two guests - Sue and Sarah Beth.  Sarah is actually spending the whole week with us for some quality scrapbooking time - hopefully we can get her "ABC" book finished.  Sue left Monday afternoon after we took a drive into Platteville to visit more family.   Sarah wants to tell that story, so here she is:

Hi Sarah here - in Platteville, Wisconsin we went to go visit my second cousin, twice removed - Tom.  He's my grandma's 2nd cousin.   We stopped at DQ (he owns it).   Then we talked for a while.  He introduced us to his daughters Katie and Debbie then we went to Country Kitchen (he owns that too) to meet his wife Renee and my favorite of his SEVEN daughters - Sarah Beth.
Tom showed us the houses that were destroyed by a tornado on June 16th.  Then he wanted to show us Payton's Hill but when we entered there was a little sign that we didn't see!  (no trespassing)  So we went down there and we saw a police car (and a bunch of broken trees) we pulled over and Officer Reg told us this road was closed and we could not be there.  Then he said he  could give us each, even me, a $205.00 citation.   I STARTED TO FREAK OUT!!!!!!!
but luckily he just gave a citation to uncle Marty.  GOOD NIGHT PEOPLE!!!!!!

Marty, Mary, Tom, Sue and Sarah Beth
Yes, Sarah is correct - we did get a ticket from a University of WI-Platteville police officer.  The gate was open, the sign was small and we wanted to see the hill where Walter Payton used to run.  I guess we just had another "lesson learned" - that would be #9.   We still had a great time catching up with a cousin who we haven't seen in many, many years.