Monthly Archives: June 2014

2014 Trip Five, June 27, Summer in the Cities

St. Paul, June 28

Good Ol’ Potosi. What, you have not heard of Potosi and Potosi beer? Well, neither had we until we began reviewing Wisconsin travel literature for our jaunt to Fennimore.

Our day began with breakfast again at Timothy’s restaurant in Fennimore. I could not pass up the opportunity for unlimited cold milk. Then it was goodbye to the Fenway House Hotel and Silent Woman restaurant. Both were quite nice, a gem in small town Wisconsin. We would definitely return to them in the future. There were plenty of travel adventures in the region to justify the two nights here. There were even opportunities we skipped.

Our original plans had included the Cassville Ferry over the Mississippi River (closed due to high waters and high river velocity from to the flooding in Minnesota), the Villa Louis historic site in Prairie du Chien, and Potosi WI to visit the National Brewery Museum and Great River Road art museum. We were too optimistic about the number of places we could visit before heading back to St. Paul for a 7 pm river ramble held by the Mississippi River Fund.

Potosi Brewery and Museum

Potosi Brewery and Museum

The Potosi Brewery Museum does not open until 10:30 AM (and the art museum at 11 AM) so we started the day a little later than usual. The museum was quite a pleasant surprise. I mean, how much did you expect for a museum in a little town of 700 in WI? But like the Danish American museum in Elk Horn IA or the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, MN, we are finding gems in small town America.

part of a decorated beer bottle display

part of a decorated beer bottle display

The museum has only been in existence since 2008. It was the dilapidated home of the Potosi Brewing Company which had been the fifth largest in WI at one time, brewing Good Ol’ Potosi, Augsburger, Garten Brau and other labels and marketing them up and down the Mississippi. The brewery closed in 1972. The community set up a non-profit foundation and renovated the brewery and won the right (over Milwaukee and St. Louis) to be the home of the national museum for collectors of breweriana. In essence, the museum displays the collections of brewery memorabilia accumulated by people around the U.S.

Jacob Schmidt Brewery display

Jacob Schmidt Brewery display

Due to the combined efforts of the community, the town has parlayed these efforts into a rejuvenated brewery, a museum, an events center busy year round, an art museum, and local shops. We realized the late start for this museum makes sense; it is open from 10:30 AM to 9 PM and is attached to the brewery’s pub so you can have a meal and a glass of Good Ol’ Potosi.

image

Our tour took us through several levels of the old brewery. The collections are loaned to it from members of the American Breweriana Association and since the collections only remain here for 3-6 months, there are justifications to return to the museum again and again. (This we learned from the mayor of Potosi, Frank Fierenza, whom we met here and who gave us a 20 minute tour in addition to our explorations.)

The museum has several brief video collections where we were educated about the proper way to clean a beer glass; how to properly pour a beer, hops growing, beer commercials, etc.) There were several displays relating to St. Paul beers although the collection today was a little heavy on WI beers. It seems every small town must have had its own brewery-at least until Prohibition put major economic challenges in front of them. We saw a display about Schmidt’s of Philadelphia beer so that resonated also. Potosi Brewery does get a special place all to itself. It even owned its own river steamship to deliver beer and to hold entertainment trips on the Mississippi.

Our admission price (only $3) included a glass of beer or root beer so we finished off the visit with cheese curds and a root beer. Before heading up to the art museum, we went across the street to visit a local winery’s store and also went into a local woodworking shop’s display area.

http://www.garydavidwoodworks.com/gallery.php

new floor lamp being tested out in various locations

new floor lamp being tested out in various locations

Gary David had built the bar in the Potosi Brewery pub and as we wandered through the gallery, Chris and I were both independently attracted to the work. Now we don’t need much and rarely buy items on our travels other than postcards and a few small mementos for family. But this time we came away with a tall floor lamp with a multi-hued wood base. With our white walls, we thought it would accent the living room nicely.

Preston MN

Preston MN

By this time it was 1:30 and time to head back to St. Paul; it is 250 miles mainly on two lane roads. We had to pass up the art museum; maybe a return visit? We did stop to take a picture of a trout statute in Preston MN, we had passed by two others in WI on our drive to Fennimore and decided we just needed to have at least one in our photo collection.

Harriet Island Pavilion under water-two weeks ago Ed was there for a naturalization ceremony

Harriet Island Pavilion under water-two weeks ago Ed was there for a naturalization ceremony

Our evening event was a River City Revue sponsored by the Mississippi River Fund, which is a non-profit championing the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, an arm of the National Park Service. The event was to be held at City House, an old farmers cooperative grain elevator, and now restored as an event center and historical display, right along the river. Flooding, however, has made City House surrounded by water.

MN Showboat-hopefully anchored tightly

MN Showboat-hopefully anchored tightly

We met instead at Park Headquarters in the MN Science Museum located on the bluffs above the river. We still went on a tour, getting as close to the river as was safe. The tour presented several local experts discussing barge traffic, river hydraulic research, fishing, the city baths that existed about 100 years ago and included two musical interludes in our 1.75 hour ramble.

One of the musical interludes

One of the musical interludes

All in all, a fun filled day.

Ed and Chris back in St. Paul, June 28 9 AM

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2014 Trip Five, June 26, Summer in the Cities

Fennimore, WI June 26, Thursday

Our little jaunt to Wisconsin continues today. First off, we found breakfast nirvana; Timothy’s Restaurant in Fennimore. Most importantly, milk was $2.50 for a bottomless glass. The milk was cold, the glass size was at least 16 oz, if not 20 oz, and refills were free. Medium sized OJ was a large elsewhere. You could choose to have your bacon limp, medium or crispy. We were probably the only non-residents as everyone else was chatting with each other. It was the anniversary of the two owners so everyone was offered a free chocolate chip/M and M cookie. The rest of the food was good too.

After breakfast, we headed out to Plain, WI, the home of Cedar Grove Cheese. They have been in business for 125 years. We had a tour and will give you an abbreviated lesson. 130,000 pounds of milk from 33 farms are processed daily into 13,000 pounds of cheese. A vat of milk has bacteria added to it to clot the milk. The milk coagulates to the consistency of pudding and wire knives are pulled through the vat to cut it into tiny cubes. Bingo, you have cheese curds.

Cedar Grove Cheese Co

Cedar Grove Cheese Co

The curds are heated and whey (the watery liquid) is drained off, leaving the curds. After this step, they are stacked and rotated, losing more whey and acid. Salt is added. The curds are placed in liners, pressure applied and now you have 42 pound blocks of cheese which are put in wooden blocks and left to cure for months or years. Mild cheddar is aged for a few months, medium for three to six months, and sharp for six months to a year. Cheese is naturally white, but colored by adding the juice of the annato plant from South America.

The whey is spun in a separator machine and the spun off cream goes to a creamery to make butter. The remaining whey is trucked to a plant where the whey is powdered and used to make baked goods, candy, baby food, etc. The remaining water is used to irrigate alfalfa for the cows.

Cedar Grove would like you to know that their cheese is organic and rBGH and GMO free. Their wash water is cleaned with hydrophilic plants and natural microbes and returned to the nearby Honey creek crystal clear. We did purchase some string cheese and some muenster, not a lot due to a small cooler and very little ice.

The cantilevered room at House on the Rock

The cantilevered room at House on the Rock

After the tour, House on the Rock was our next stop and main destination for the day. Chris, Ed, Sarah and Deborah visited here before, decades ago. At least we think we took the girls here. We have a book from House on the Rock dated 1983 and doubt we would have come here without them.

Garden at House on the Rock

Garden at House on the Rock

How can one describe House on the Rock if you do not know about it. Well, it is complex, large, kitschy, a place stuffed with museum like items without the descriptive verbiage usually found next to the item, and an entertainment stop. It consists of the House as well as several large warehouse like structures internally configured into a complex of maze-like, dimly lit display areas, contrasting from narrow ceiling to four-story displays. One man, Alex Jordan, was responsible for its design and construction. He was born in Madison and worked in his father’s construction business. This house was his life long project.

The first room built

The first room built

The house was built first and consists of several rooms. The house is built on and around Deershelter Rock. Materials had to be hauled up by a hand powered pulley 156 feet from the forest floor. The ceilings are low,maybe 5’10”. Alex was 6’4″. Why the low ceilings? Don’t know. The house was built along the rock so the floors slope and it offers great views of the valley below. Bridges had to be built to connect various areas.

Inside the Infinity Room-the cantilevered room

Inside the Infinity Room-the cantilevered room

Rooms rarely offer a clear sight line to the next room although brief, tantalizing glimpses are offered. The house is dimly lit, frequently with colored lamps, usually Tiffany reproductions. One room is cantilevered out over the valley, similar to the Guthrie Theater’s Bridge to Nowhere, although Jordan designed this over 15 years ago.

inside the house

inside the house


inside the house

inside the house

The additional buildings have numerous display collections. I am sure I am not doing it justice since many small items pop up in the settings. There are huge collections of dolls, guns,calliopes, organs, doll houses, circus wagons, Asian art, sculpture interspersed with other artifacts. You walk one way through exhibits, up and down multiple levels so you view displays from different angles. It took us about 3.5 hours to go through the entire House on the Rock; yet we could have spent hours more if we were to thoroughly examine the items.

The Mikado calliope

The Mikado calliope

I do have to admit it was not quite as amazing as the first time we visited. We have been to many more museums and attractions around the country since then but we are still glad we came back. I think the carousel and calliopes/music box displays were the best. Everything is over the top. The “largest” calliope, the “largest” chandelier, the “largest” organ, etc.

the carousel

the carousel

On our way home we stopped in Dodgeville, home to Lands End. The one retail store they operate had summer clearance items but nothing that grabbed our fancy. We stopped at a local popcorn store and picked up some of their popcorn to compare with Candyland’s.

Tonight it is dinner again at The Silent Woman restaurant. We have already been greeted familiarly by a repeat local customer who was here last night. We have been seated outside the restaurant on the main drag working on the blog and he recognized us from last night when we were doing the same thing.

Below are a photograph of descriptive data of the carousel and a video of the carousel in operation.

Ed and Chris June 26 7:45 pm

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2014 Trip Five, June 25, Summer in the Cities

Fennimore, WI Wednesday June 25, 2014

Igor, the official greeter in Fennimore WI

Igor, the official greeter in Fennimore WI

We are taking a little jaunt to Wisconsin. Through Sarah, we took advantage of a two night get away to the Fenway House Hotel and The Silent Woman Restaurant in Fennimore, WI. The town is about an hour west of Madison, WI. The population is 2,500 so the name may not spring to your mind immediately when you think of Wisconsin.

Of course, we made it into a road trip, driving along the east side of the Mississippi River and along the Wisconsin stretch of the Great River Road. One of the many travel brochures we saw at a tourist info center said: Visit the West Coast–of Wisconsin. They were advertising the Wisconsin river towns of the Mississippi River. (The west “coast” of Wisconsin.)

The drive took us through numerous, cutesy, small river towns. Speed limit 25 mph. Railroad tracks between the river and the town. The mining of sand for fracking has become big business and highly controversial in the area-on both sides of the Mississippi River.

We stopped in Stockholm WI and had some danish. Window shopped a few stores and talked to one woman running a cooperative craft store. She does needlepoint and her husband does wood working. They want to retire in a few years and spend the winter in the South so we told her about the Stephen Foster Cultural Center and state park in Florida that we wrote about in March. A good place for the two of them to volunteer and obtain free lodging in exchange for their craft work.

The fields looked green and lush. We did not observe ponds of standing water in the fields as there are in portions of southern Minnesota. Right now, the crops look to be in great shape. The homes and towns look prosperous, buildings not in disrepair.

Our major stop was at Effigy Mounds National Monument just north of McGregor/Marquette Iowa. This site preserves over 200 mounds built by Native Americans from about 500 B.C to about 1400 AD of the Woodland and Mississippian cultures. Little is known about why they were built, the cultural significance, and why they were no longer built. On our Deep South trip this spring, we visited two other national monuments for mounds along the Natchez Trace in Mississippi and near Macon Georgia.

Two of the mounds in Effigy Mound National Monument, IA

Two of the mounds in Effigy Mound National Monument, IA

Those Deep South mounds were more ceremonial; the Effigy Mounds appear to be heavily, although not completely, burial mounds. They are also smaller. The burial mounds in Indian Mounds Park in Saint Paul are also different, being fewer in number and larger in scope. The mounds we saw today were smaller although a number of them are in the shape of bears or birds. (Not always a clearly defined shape, though.) Like the mounds in St. Paul, a large number here were destroyed as they a.) got in the way of progress, and b.) were not fully understood in the 1800s.

Our history lessons for the summer are continuing. Here, we took a ranger led tour that educated us about the mounds and culture that consturcted them. One topic the ranger did not discuss was the evident mishandling of the site by a previous, and recent, park superintendent.

http://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/2014/05/12/park-service-circles-wagons-on-indian-burial-mounds-debacle/

In the last 10 days we also had a tour of the buildings along Rice Park in St. Paul and a tour of the new artists lofts that are going into the former Schmidt Brewery in St. Paul. We have more Twin Cities tours planned although one or two of them along the Mississippi back in St. Paul might end up being canceled.

View of the Mississippi looking south from Effigy Mounds  National  Monument in IA

View of the Mississippi looking south from Effigy Mounds National Monument in IA

The Effigy Mounds are along the Mississippi and parts are high on the bluffs overlooking the river. Flooding is occurring here as it is back in the Twin Cities. St. Paul was predicting the flood crest would be its sixth highest. Most of the flooding in St. Paul and along the river here seems to be restricted to roads, parks, marinas, farm fields,etc. Over the years, it appears that most of the flood prone properties have been demolished or moved to higher ground except for a few vacation homes on an island in the river across from the National Monument.

View of river and vacation homes along Mississippi

View of river and vacation homes along Mississippi

As mentioned, our lodging is in Fennimore WI. The hotel is downtown and the building was built in 1918 and included a hotel, theater, restaurant, and commercial storage. Our room is nice and includes a jacuzzi tub. Dinner was downstairs at The Silent Woman restaurant. The food was excellent.

Ed and Chris June 25 9:15 pm

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2014 Trip Five, Summer in the Cities, June 16

Saint Paul, Monday June 16

our early morning sunrise view from the condo bedroom

our early morning sunrise view from the condo bedroom

The weather people have been repeating that June is our wettest month. This month has certainly backed up their assertions and the rest of this week will continue to add to those totals.

Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis

Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis

We have made our adjustments; changed the times we walk or bike outside, do alternate activities, etc. Saturday the 14th, we even had to cancel a dinner engagement since we had power outages along with the wind and rain. Without power, we could not get our car out of the garage. The National Park Service canceled a volunteer activity to plant cottonwoods along the Mississippi due to high water. Luckily the power came back eventually so dinner was an exciting can of soup. But Wednesday night was a bright spot. Kathy has moved into the building next door. That day was sunny and warm and we joined her in cooling off in the outdoor pool at her apartment complex.

Hidden Falls in St. Paul

Hidden Falls in St. Paul


high water covers an island by the Ford dam in Mississippi RIver

high water covers an island by the Ford dam in Mississippi RIver


There have been other bright spots. One of the more memorable was my volunteer work with the National Park Service as it assisted with the naturalization ceremony on Harriet Island. 135 new citizens were sworn in from 40 different countries. A bald eagle was perched in a tree right behind the new citizens and stayed there for most of the ceremony before flying away. That was one frequently photographed eagle. One of the park rangers made a presentation, he was a naturalized citizen from Korea. Rep. Betty McCollum made an inspiring speech describing how diversity makes us strong and that out of many comes just one country. I was fortunate to be able to participate. If we had not returned early from the Southwest trip, I would have been in South Dakota when the ceremony was taking place.

The bald eagle

The bald eagle

The Naturalization Ceremony on Harriet Island in St. Paul The Naturalization Ceremony on Harriet Island in St. Paul

Our biking journeys have taken us along the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis, along the Mississippi River Drive in St. Paul, and in Crosby Farm Park-until too many of the paths were closed due to high water.

We crossed the border a few times into Minneapolis. I have been wanting to visit the Trylon Microcinema in south Minneapolis. It turned out to be a small, boutique movie theater with old seats and a small (for movie theaters) screen-but they had real butter on the popcorn. The feature was Burt’s Buzz, a documentary about the guy who started Burt’s Bees, the natural honey and bees wax products company. He is a loner, comfortable with very little who got bumped out after getting too friendly with the female employees. It never said what he walked away with but the woman who was a major force in growing the company made $177,000,000 many years after he was gone when the company was bought out.

Sarah L is on a softball team and the league plays on Monday nights. Last Monday we packed a picnic lunch and watched the game. Later in the summer we might be ready to bike over instead of driving.

Stone Arch bridge and Mississippi River

Stone Arch bridge and Mississippi River

Friday night we went to the Stone Arch Festival along the river in Minneapolis, listening to music by people we never heard of before-and probably won’t hear about in the future. Not that they were bad, it was more club music, not exactly our usual cup of tea.

The Saturn had the warning light (check coolant level) evaluated to the tune of $500 for a replacement radiator. Once we returned home, I was replacing coolant more frequently. One more cost to add to the total from the last trip.

Father’s Day was quiet. The Sarahs were out in Boston visiting. We tried out the ritzier restaurant at Cossetta’s; wanted to see what $10,000,000 would buy, including a $2,000,000 taxpayer subsidy and exemption from living wage rules. The place is impressive, from the deli, bakery, and market up to Louis, the third floor upscale restaurant. Sunday afternoon only offers a limited menu up there. The food was quite tasty but the portions smaller than other Italian restaurants and no garlic bread or salad is included. I think next time we will try the deli (there is a separate seating area). The bakery has great looking desserts. I bought chocolate mousse to take home. It was good, I have had better.

Music tent at Stone Arch festival

Music tent at Stone Arch festival

That evening we tried out the Marcus Oakdale cinema, recommended by my nephew. We don’t do movies often and were blown away by the recliner seats, sound system, and reserved seats. A whole new world. But their butter was fake. The film, A Million Ways to Die in the West was okay but not overwhelming. The opening scenes were clearly from Monument Valley, one of the stops on our last trip. We recognized several monuments including right and left mitten, and the W V (Welcome Visitors) rock formation. However, New Mexico tax credits came into play as the movie credits listed Santa Fe as the primary filming location.

Ed and Chris June 16

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2014 Trip Five, June 7, Summer in the Cities

Saturday, June 7 St. Paul, MN

Well, I have been persuaded by one-half of this partnership to continue periodic updates of the blog. We are spending the summer in St. Paul, with only periodic out-of-town journeys. Summer is a great time here and we need time to plan the fall journey to Canada and the Northeast. We hope to keep an active pace with morning exercise and afternoon or evening activities and errands.

By now, the ailment that slowed me down for activities in the Southwest (Trip 4) seems to be pretty much dissipated. Monday was rainy so we did the 5k at MOA (Mall of America). Tuesday and Wednesday were 4 mile hikes along the Sam Morgan Trail. Thursday was our first day biking, just an introductory journey along the trail in Crosby Park. Friday was a hike at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden-the bugs were bearable. Exercise-check.

Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Today we went to the Walker Art Center and saw their Edward Hopper special exhibit and managed to catch the 11:30 docent tour. Our initial plans were to catch the “Art in the Hollow” at Swede Hollow Park with Bernie but it was raining and plans are made to be changed. We stuck to part of our plan, however, and had lunch at Yarusso’s, an Eastside Italian eatery that is about 80 years old and we had never been there. Decent food and one more item checked off our to-do list.

Edward Hopper painting at Walker Art Center

Edward Hopper painting at Walker Art Center

Every day there are free music concerts at one or more parks. Wednesday we went to Minnehaha Park and met Sarah for a picnic dinner. The music was Latin/Afro pop but the musicians were a group of what appeared to be high school kids. We did not stay too long. Thursday, though, Minnesota Public Radio was hosting three choral groups and the performance was excellent. We took a neighbor with us and the three of us went over to watch the falls (second time for us, we stopped by Monday also after the MOA walk). The heavy rains for the last several weeks have filled the creek to overflowing and the falls are beautiful and making great background sounds while we listened to the concerts.

Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls

Thursday’s activity was a lunch and speech at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul. This is a former federal building built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. My mother had been a long time volunteer here and I sat at a table with the former Landmark Volunteer Director and the former Executive Director. It was pleasant exchanging reminisces. I also made people jealous when they heard about our travel experiences.

Ed and Chris Saint Paul June 7 6:45 pm

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