Saturday, September 10, 2011
Great River Road Trip
The past couple days we took off on a spur-of-the-moment trip along the Great River Road of the upper Mississippi River. We usually drive some on both the Wisconsin and the Minnesota side; both are beautiful. The weather here has been sunny and dry, and comfortable for doing almost anything. We've been taking similar trips most of our marriage, often staying in bed and breakfast places or small inns. I keep trying to capture the beauty of the area, and I never come close. These shots were taken from Buena Vista Park, far above Alma. We'd never visited this park before and were well pleased by the scene below us, the town, railroad track with endless freight trains, and lock and dam. In winter I've heard the town is a great place to watch bald eagles.
We stayed further north in Maiden Rock, in a restored school house, now turned bed and breakfast, called the Maiden Rock Inn. It's off the main high a block or so, a little farther from the railroad tracks that run along the whole highway than we usually stay. The owners saved the old brick school from demolition in the 1990s, and were happy to take us on a tour of the large building. Our room was beautiful with high ceilings, tall windows like the ones in the two room country school I attended as a child, but with comfortable air conditioning and a jacuzzi. This picture was taken in the hallway outside our room. In the evening we shared wine with the owner before we headed off to the Harbor View Cafe in Pepin (a favorite place for supper). In the morning we were treated to a late breakfast of organic chicken paprika and spaetzle. It was all very decadent.
Nearby on the River Road is the little town of Stockholm. We always stop here for something cold to drink, and a wander through the galleries and antique shops. These mannikin heads caught my eye this time. There's an art tour coming up in October and I am tempted to go back and tour around all the galleries and pottery places.
We drove home slowly, stopping at scenic overlooks whenever we felt like a stretch. We took a little side trip at Cochrane to revisit a favorite folk art site called Prairie Moon. Its several acres of cement sculptures created in the late 1950's and 1960's by a farmer and fiddler named Herman Rusch. There's a building that apparently has photographs and more information, but we have never found it open, and in fact have never seen anyone else at the site, though it is nicely mowed and planted with flowers.
There are all sorts of constructions here - planters, a 250 foot arched fence, life sized sculptures, painted or decorated with bits of broken glass or seashells. I like this tableau of a Norwegian pioneer battling with a brown bear. There's a life size polar bear too, and a huge snake. All of it is kept by local volunteers and by the Kohler Foundation.
I didn't take any photo of the historic Trempealeau Hotel, when we stopped for a late lunch, but that is another favorite place for us, nothing fancy, but always with friendly service and excellent food along the Mississippi River. We sat and watched a grain barge while we ate.
Our last stop was at Peck's farm market outside of Spring Green. I wanted some early Macintosh apples for eating and baking, and I am a sucker for the animals they have for the kids. The lady who checked us out modeled her new weiner hat for us, and I am sharing the photo with her permission. Too fun!
We're back home again, and while it was very pleasant to revisit the river, it's good to be back.