The Road to Minneapolis
We set out immediately after breakfast for what was going to be a fairly long drive to Minneapolis. We’d identified a couple of highlights along our route however and we hoped that these would prove interesting enough to avoid any use of Roadside America!
The Wisconsin countryside continued in the lush, green style and a callout alerted me to this particularly pretty quilt barn. Isn’t that a fine apple tree block?
Shortly afterwards, as I was craning my neck to catch a first glimpse of the great Mississippi River, we followed a signpost to “Lock and Dam #5A”, to what Mary described as “some kind of water operation, I expect”.
There didn’t appear to be much to see, apart from boys’ stuff – statistics about the dam and the lock and…
a huge train with two engines all fired up and ready but for the moment, just puttering there with a couple of miles of wagons behind them. Every so often, there’d be a whoosh of air as the brakes were released but for now, these engines were going nowhere.
But just in case, we didn’t walk over the crossing but used the underpass, as recommended.
Our reward was an unimpeded view of the dam.
And a huge, but dead, dragonfly on the steps – the wingspan was easily four inches and those lace wings were so pretty.
Time to move on, driving alongside the railroad and passing several stationary trains, each one a mile or more long. Why none were moving, we had no idea, but someone was glad to see them and have a small diversion from the straight road ahead.
Not quite a quilt on this barn but interesting nevertheless.
More straight road, through the big woods. Can you guess where we are heading?
I must say, the signs didn’t bode well, but here we were in Pepin, birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the nearest town to the “Little House in the Big Woods”, the first book in the series Mary and I have been enjoying recently.
Actually, there’s not a great deal here, since the books were written many years after Laura and her family moved away from Pepin, taking their belongings with them. But the town features in the first book and clearly, the place of her birth warrants some commemoration.
I’m just not sure this does her justice, however.
Perhaps it’s a “work in progress”? This information panel suggests that someone is working on some changes.
But I think that post it notes are possibly not the most visitor friendly way of imparting information – and of course, none of these things are original or particularly historically accurate.
Oh my. Here’s hoping that changes are afoot and that someone can do something better here, sooner rather than later.
Having said that, I’m not sure the exhibits at the train museum are that great either!
Anyway, here we are by the historic marker, a little further along the road.
Where a clearer, more attractive information board summarised the life of Pepin’s famous daughter and gave directions to the Little House Wayside, about seven miles from here.
It’s along the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway, needless to say.
The historic marker and the cabin are situated on the land owned by Charles Ingalls, but it’s not the original cabin and it’s not necessarily in the exact place either.
But hey, it’s a Little House in the Big Woods!
Yes, of course we went inside to take a look – and to try to remember how it was described in the book. We both recalled how the family had gone into Pepin just before Christmas to choose presents from the General Store – that would have been quite a journey.
And as we drove back towards the river – which opens out to become Lake Pepin here – we drove through the Big Woods again and recalled the words of one of the guides at Old World Wisconsin the other day: She explained how settlers would be dropped off in a patch of native woodland like this with an axe and a spade and just have to manage. First, a well to be dug. Then the trees to be cleared and the stumps taken out before seeds could be sown for the first crops. All of that needed to be done if they were to survive the first year. And those big woods were not neatly planted rows of tall conifers, but these smallish, scrubby deciduous trees and bushes which were so dense it’s impossible to walk amongst or between them.
They must have been tough souls.
We are nothing of the kind and we were getting hungry. The information board in Pepin had suggested that Stockholm, the next town along the road could be a good bet for something to eat, so we parked up and went in search of a bakery or similar.
We spotted another Statue of Liberty too!
My hero’s eyes were elsewhere though…the magic word, PIE!
The Stockholm Pie and General Store was perfect! Great sandwiches for two of us and a chicken pot pie for the driver. Delicious.
What a lucky find!
Stockholm was a cute kind of place, with blue bicycles to borrow, free of charge (we didn’t) and a real community feel. We stepped inside one of the other stores to browse and received a recommendation for a shop/gallery in the next town.
Cultural Cloth was right up my alley and there were some really interesting pieces in there. My favourite was a crochet/beadwork necklace from Turkey – but at $169 it wasn’t an impulse purchase, sadly.
What joys there are to be found along America’s Byways! We love it!
A short time later, we were crossing the river and I was getting out my camera to try to snap the next sign – I nearly got it!
Welcome to Minnesota. No “ker-ching” until our feet touch the ground though
The skyline of St Paul passed by – or rather, we passed by the skyline.
And eventually, finally! We arrived in Minneapolis.
Ker-ching!!! US State #40 for my hero and I!