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October 12, 2019

Great River Road Fall Trip, Part 2

There was a coffee maker in our hotel room, but I knew it would wake Bob if I tried to use it when I got up around 7:30 am. His cold had kept him from sleeping well and I was hoping he could sleep a little later. Instead I walked down to the hotel lobby, got a cup of coffee and occupied myself on my phone as I drank it.

By the time I got back to the room Bob was awake and getting dressed. The two of us returned to the lobby and had the somewhat-better-than-average free hotel breakfast. Our day's agenda was pretty loose and it was well after 9 am by the time we finished eating and checked out of our room.

While Bob had enjoyed watching sports on TV the night before, I had spent time on TripAdvisor researching some options for the second day of our road trip. This was so different from how I usually approached trip planning. Normally I would have had a detailed itinerary planned far in advance. But this time it was nice to just "go with the flow" and see where the day would lead us!

We began by driving to the Garvin Heights Park on a bluff overlooking the city of Winona. With a little color here and there, the view was quite beautiful. Lake Winona borders the city on the western side and the Mississippi River to the east. In the distance we could see the bridge leading across the river to Wisconsin.

Good morning, Winona!

One of the TripAdvisor "things to do" in Winona was a visit to the Watkins Store and Museum. We arrived at 9:50 and discovered it wasn't opening until 10 am and didn't feel like it was enough of a priority to even wait 10 more minutes. Changing our focus, we spent some time driving around the town and checking out the campus of Winona State University. The city is the county seat of Winona County and we drove by the castle-like courthouse.


On the other side of the Mississippi River is Wisconsin.

Shortly after crossing over to the Wisconsin side of the river, we stopped at Lock and Dam No. 5. We parked and walked down to water's edge and watched as a boat went through the locks on the far side.



Heading north on Route 35, our next stop was at Lock and Dam No. 4 in the tiny town of Alma. This time the locks were on our side of the river. It would have been fun to see a barge go through the locks, but who knows how long we would have been waiting. There was an elevated walkway above the railroad tracks to get to the locks and reviews I read said it was quite a rush to be standing on the open grate walkway when a train passed by underneath!

Just a smaller version of the Panama Canal!

Walkway above the railroad tracks.

Every town needs a claim to fame!

It was a little out of our way, but we drove north 7 miles past the town of Pepin to reach the Little House Wayside. The wayside is on the plot of land where Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867. The site contains a replica of the cabin that Laura described in the book "Little House in the Big Woods."


The room on the right was the pantry and the bedroom on the left
was where all five members of the family slept. 


Photo on display inside the cabin.

The area was a dense forest when Wilder was born, but now is surrounded by farmland. Bob wandered in to the corn field which looked a bit like a scene from "Field of Dreams!"

Is this heaven? No, its Wisconsin.
Backtracking through Pepin, we crossed over the Mississippi to Wabasha on the Minnesota side. The town is remembered for being the setting of the Grumpy Old Men movies, but we were here for another reason. I was keeping a close watch on the time, but decided we should first grab a quick bite to eat at a nearby Subway.

Rushing through lunch, we made it just it time to the National Eagle Center to attend their 1:00 pm classroom program. An "eagle ambassador" shared many facts about eagles and then gave us an up-close chance to see one of the birds feeding.

The National Eagle Center looks out over the Mississippi River.

The bird was quite excited to get a yummy snack of raw meat. 
The birds that are in the Eagle Center have been rescued and
are not able to live in the wild. The one we saw being fed had lost
it's left eye and was not able to see well enough to hunt.

Following the program we wandered around the center looking at the two floors of exhibits and then made a pass through the gift shop.

An eagle's nest on display. It was huge! Some nests weight up to two tons!
A rare, strange bird had landed in this nest while we were there. 😅

The National Eagle Center is located on the banks of the Mississippi. Outside is a statue of Chief Wapasha, whom the city is named for.



Chief Wapasha

Wabasha was celebrating "Septoberfest" and the whole city was decorated with pumpkins and all things fall-ish. One of the employees at the eagle center suggested we walk down the street to where huge pumpkins were on display under the bridge.

A pumpkin the size of our La-Z-Boy recliners!

Each pumpkin had the weight and the name of the grower written on it.
Some were over 1,000 pounds!
Leaving Wabasha, we drove up Minnesota Route 61 along the shores of Lake Pepin...a beautiful lake formed by the Mississipi River and known as the birthplace of water skiing. The final stop on our two-day tour was in the city of Red Wing. The town is home to the manufacturers of two products that bear the name of the city...Red Wing Pottery and Red Wing Shoes. We opted to walk through the Red Wing Pottery Museum but will have to return some other time to view the world's largest boot which is on display at the Red Wing Shoe Store and Museum. (FYI...it is a size 638 1/2 D...16 feet tall, 20 feet long and weighs over a ton!) Don't you just love stuff like this!

I have a couple of these Red Wing crocks that I use as flower pots in the summer.


We had to face the reality that our trip...and the nice weather...were coming to an end as we reached the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Clouds were rolling in, the wind was starting to blow and to make matters worse, we had to deal with rush hour traffic through the city. 

Going through the Twin Cities wasn't the most direct way to get home, but it was the best way because it took us straight to our son's house west of the city and gave us a chance to see our grand-kids!! We enjoyed a delicious dinner that my son had cooked (he has become quite the chef!) and then spent the night. The next morning we woke up to rain which continued all during our drive home and into the next day...and now has turned into a full day of snow.

After our little trip I realized that I get so focused on our big trips that I forget to take time to enjoy the sites close to home! Hopefully there will be more of these shorter road trips in our future!!



October 11, 2019

Great River Road Fall Trip, Part 1

Sitting here watching the first snowflakes of the season flying outside my window, it is hard to believe just a few days ago we were in t-shirts enjoying 70 degree weather! But...those days are just a memory now and something we won't see again until the long months of winter are over.

Knowing the weather was going to change, we decided to embrace those last couple of warm days and take a quick road trip to enjoy some of the sites here in the upper Midwest. Our journey began by crossing southern Minnesota on I-90. After a very wet spring that kept many farmers from planting...and causing others to plant very late, the crops we passed were in all stages of development. Some brown and ready for harvest...others still totally green and looking more like they would in August.

Crops and livestock are not the only farm commodities in southern Minnesota.
Wind farms are in abundance here on the prairie.

A little trivia from our journey...I-90 is the longest interstate highway in the U.S. at over 3,000 miles and extends from Seattle to Boston. The last section of the highway that connected the east and west was laid near Blue Earth, Minnesota in 1978 (the year we moved to Minnesota!) and was painted gold similar to how a gold spike was driven when a railroad was completed. A stop at the Blue Earth rest area gave us a chance to read the commemorative plaque (and use the bathroom after sipping on a large cup of coffee all morning!)


Our first official stop was in Austin, MN at the Spam Museum. We have often passed by the Hormel headquarters right on I-90, but had never taken the time to venture into town. In the museum we learned a little of the history of the famous "mystery meat" and got to try "spamples" of some of the various flavors that the company produces. The World Market area of the museum was sort of an Spam Epcot with booths showcasing the products sold internationally in 44 different countries. One exhibit explained the role that Spam played as a staple for American troops during World War II (often being served for meals three times a day!)

 






This motorcycle was created to run on bacon grease and was
featured in a short film starring Eric Pierson, a good friend
of our son! (Google "Driven By Bacon" to get the full story!)



Our purchases from the Spam Shop in the museum.

I had packed a picnic lunch which we ate at the Jay Hormel Nature Center on the outskirts of Austin. We took time to wander through the interpretive center, but did not hike any of the 10+ miles of trails. Several groups of school children were there and we watched as one class took turns operating an antique apple cider press.



Pushing on, we arrived at the Great River Bluffs State Park around 3:30 pm. After purchasing an annual state park pass, we drove to the picnic area and walked a couple of the trails leading to the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. The fall foliage was just beginning, but if you looked closely you could find pops of color here and there. No one else was around and we enjoyed walking through the woods on such a beautiful day.





Bob cracking some of the black walnuts we found on the trail.
The nuts were so hard that the rock broke instead!

This is what happens when you prop up the camera on a fallen tree and set the timer. Ten seconds wasn't enough time to navigate through the leaves and broken branches and a split second later I was laying flat on my face! 

Our 2nd try at a photo together. I let Bob handle the photo taking responsibilities this time. 

Day 1 of our road trip ended in Winona. Dinner was at Mango's Mexican & American Grill across the street from our hotel and then we called it a night. Bob was coming down with a cold and was starting to run out of steam.

Part 2 coming up next...






April 24, 2019

Penguin Video!

After our wonderful day at Volunteer Point in the Falkland Islands, I couldn't resist doing a penguin video...with music of course!

The stars of the show? A small group of stately king penguins going for their daily swim and a mischievous, cartoon-like gentoo penguin who keeps photo-bombing their scenes. 😉

After watching these beautiful (and sometimes comical) creatures don't be surprised if it causes you to book a cruise to South America! Here is the link. One click and you can have a 10 minute trip to the Falkland Islands!



February 24, 2019

Heading Home

Sunday, February 24

It was still dark when we got up and went to the hotel lobby to wait for our ride to the airport at 6 am. Coffee was available which was much appreciated but we were too early for the breakfast that was included in our stay. When the four of us booked the package deal for Iguazu Falls I had expected that all of our transfers would be together in a van. But no. Again two drivers in two cars showed up. Seems like putting us together in a larger vehicle would have been a cheaper alternative. I know that is what I would have preferred.

Kent and Laurel were traveling with 3 large suitcases, a carry on bag and two backpacks...almost more than the small car could handle. It took some creative maneuvering by the driver, but they made it.

On our way to the airport we went past the obelisk. Very pretty in the predawn light.

February 23, 2019

Puerto Iguazu Back to Buenos Aires

Saturday, February 23

Weather: Still hot 😓

Not quite so early of a start today as yesterday. Time to get what little we had repacked and have breakfast in the lobby. I was so disappointed to find out the fresh mango that was on the buffet yesterday was not to be seen today. I knew pretty soon we would be back to Minnesota's version of fresh fruit in the middle of winter...hard and no flavor. 😒

Our transportation to the airport was a van and we only had a stop or two to pick up other travelers. The drive took us back through the national park.

Loved this sign. (I magnified it in the photo.)