St. Louis author Dean Klinkenberg began traveling along the Mississippi River Valley in the summer of 2007 to work on a series of books about the history and culture of the region. The journey has included highs like the John Deere factory tour (during which he regressed into the mindset of a giddy 10-year old) and lows like his solo dining experience at a mediocre Mother’s Day brunch.
Some of the stories he encounters end up in the Frank Dodge mystery series, while others appear in his travel guides. The first Frank Dodge mystery, Rock Island Lines, was published at the end of 2014. The book recounts the legend of Rock Island’s gangster, John Looney, who has managed to find a way to wreak havoc from the grave.
The Mississippi Valley Traveler series includes four books. The Headwaters Region Guide covers the most northern reaches of the Mississippi, from where it begins at Lake Itasca to the exurbs of the Twin Cities.
The Quad Cities Travel Guide, released in June 2009, has 128 pages of detail on the cities of Bettendorf, Davenport, Rock Island, Moline, East Moline, Hampton, Pleasant Valley, and Riverdale, plus a section on Arsenal Island.
The Lansing to LeClaire Travel Guide was released in late October, 2009. The 360-page book has detailed information for 47 towns, including historic communities like McGregor/Marquette and Dubuque, Iowa, plus Galena, Illinois and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
The Driftless Area Guide was released in November 2010. Its 376 pages cover the Mississippi River from Hastings, Minnesota to Lansing, Iowa, describing local history with listings of attractions, restaurants, and places to stay for communities like Red Wing, Wabasha, and Winona in Minnesota, La Crosse, Trempealeau, and Alma in Wisconsin, and the quaint villages around Lake Pepin.
The series of travel guides are designed for budget-conscious travelers of any age who want to explore the Mississippi River and the towns that grew up along its banks. The books begin with an introduction and a brief history lesson, followed by an explanation of the author’s approach to researching the books. He then presents separate chapters on each river town (or town along the Great River Road) that highlight the history of the community, attractions, restaurants, entertainment, and lodging. The book concludes with regional information that includes seasonal festivals, when to visit, and a brief discussion of river ecology. Each book has a section of color photos and includes maps for larger cities.
Dean Klinkenberg grew up in the Midwest, developing wanderlust at an early age, thanks in part to a family that moved from Nebraska to Oklahoma to Kansas to Minnesota in a span of eight years. After finishing high school in southern Minnesota, he went to college in La Crosse, Wisconsin, discovering a home along the banks of the Mississippi River. Once he realized that he had a limited future as a professional bowler, he followed the Mississippi River south to St. Louis to attend graduate school in psychology. After several intense years researching HIV/AIDS, homelessness, and mental illness, Dean’s wanderlust reasserted itself. He left his university job in 2006 to begin a new career photographing and writing about the Mississippi River Valley. Dean has been lucky enough to travel independently to over 30 countries on five continents, (six if he can count New Zealand as part of the Australian continent).
Check out the Mississippi Valley Traveler in the media:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (March 28, 2010):
Chicago Tribune (January 4, 2011)
WXOW-TV, La Crosse, WI (February 8, 2011)