His and Hers Road Trip -Meat, meet Quirk

Deane and I are always looking for ways to remain on our “first date” with each other. We have the good fortune that we both like to do several of the same activities – road trips, cooking, hiking, going for walks, DIY projects and more. This is the story of our his and hers road trip….

When we hear of fun things to do around town or of an interesting bistro opening up, we jot it down on a perpetual list. This means that when we are looking for something to do, bam, list is ready to go. No wasting time (and losing interest) looking for good ideas.

We have heard that some couples find it hard to find things to do where each of the people finds the activity fun and interesting. I was thinking about this dilemma, and thought what if you took what each person liked and married it up with what the other person likes?

So, instead of the old stand by of going to dinner and a movie, you go to a bistro, that person A wants to try out, and then go bowling which is the thing that person B likes to do? That way you both are able to do what you like, but you also get to enjoy the company of your Honey Bunny.

Let’s say the person who likes bowling would like to bowl 3 games and hang out and have drinks, but the person who would like to try out the new bistro would also like to start with drinks and stay for dessert. So why not both give in a little and mash your ideas together for the sake of couple bonding time? Do people still say “bonding time?”

Like all good things in life, this will take practice, patience, and a bit of give and take. I think it is well worth it. When Deane and I got together he loved to bike and hike. We went a few times and I ended up crabby and miserable because I felt I was dragging him down and making activities he loved miserable by my slow pace and lack of skill. After I finally was honest with him, he told me that the slower pace didn’t bother him at all and that he loved that we were together and that he thought I was improving each time we tried it again. Wow, honesty and openness, who knew?

Brainstorming

Here are a few I am still working on fusing together –

Quilt making and rock concerts / rock climbing and napping / skydiving and gardening.

Successful mash ups – making homemade granola bars and trail mix to take on a hike. DIY projects – I dream them up and Deane does them, just kidding, I usually do demo and Deane usually puts things back together. Although the word bugs me, I’m a great “helper.”

Gardening

We have a great time picking out plants together, schlepping rocks together, and working on the actual project together.

Road trips

Making them fun and memorable. We usually come up with some silly idea, and I will often make the music playlist and food for the road. Deane will usually map it out, after we agree on the stops, and get the car ready. Again, have a little give and take in your schedule and in your approach. It goes a long way.

And now we present to you – His and Hers -Meat and Quirk Road Trip!

We started out in the Twin Cities and made a loop.

Greg’s Meats

Our first stop was Greg’s Meats. Greg’s boasts a full service meat and sausage shop with a total of 205 State and National awards, including 5 National Grand Champion products as listed: Jerky, Hot Dogs, Summer Sausages, Ring Bologna, and Smoked Turkey.

Next up, a little quirk.

Sandy

Rumor has it the giant sunbather is named Sandy. Very fitting, don’t you think? The Viking also cannot be missed.

Sandy from His and Hers Road Trip -Meat, meet Quirk

Eilen & Sons Trucking 2250 Hampton Blvd. Hampton, MN 55031

Edel’s Meat Market

Next up was Montgomery, MN to visit Edel’s Meat Market . Edel’s had for sale, Czech sausage that we did not see anywhere else on our tour.

When we arrived in Montgomery, MN we were greeted with a lovely surprise – we happened to visit on the weekend they were having Kolacky Days!

Celebrating all things Czech and some quirk too! We loved the vintage snowmobile show, vintage car show and of course, sampling the kolackys!

Schmidt’s Meat Market

Next stop – Schmidt’s Meat Market-319 Pine St, Nicollet, MN 56074 – Schmidt’s Meat Market, Inc. is proud to still be a family owned and operated old-fashioned meat market. It is Southern Minnesota’s largest and most complete meat center providing fresh retail meats, a wide variety of award-winning specialty sausages, deli meats, cheeses and salads, custom butchering and wild game processing.

While I was in the parking lot, my excitement must have shown on my face because an elderly gentleman looked at me and asked, “You’re not from Nicollet, are you?”

I am not from Nicollet, but I was certainly overjoyed to shop at Schmidt’s. We did sample and buy meat, but we also bought some delicious specialty products – Garlic Mayo, BBQ sauce, and Schmidt’s mild chow chow. What a delight.

New Ulm, Minnesota

16 miles from Nicollet, MN is New Ulm, MN – An absolutely magnificent Minnesota small town with plenty of quirk and charm!

The Glockenspiel clock has a set schedule for visitors to enjoy the emerging 12 rotating figures that reveal themselves like a cu-cu clock at certain hours. We had a bit of a wait until the next chime so we took in the painted fire hydrants, shops, and even found Hermann the German’s footprint! After we saw the Glockenspiel chiming, we also stopped at the Hermann the German Statue. Located in: Hermann Heights Park Address: 10 Monument St, New Ulm, MN 56073

The Glockenspiel from His and Hers Road Trip -Meat, meet Quirk
The Glockenspiel

Belgrade, Minnesota

Next stop – Belgrade, MN to see the World’s Largest Crow!

World;s largest crow from His and Hers Road Trip -Meat, meet Quirk
World’s largest Crow!

Pottyville!

We are on a quirk roll! Time to get serious with the oddities! It was a bit difficult to find, but we did it! Glenwood, MN – AKA Pottyville – a private collection of outhouses all decorated with unique themes.

Address: 16208 SW Amelia Rd, Glenwood, MN

Directions: Between Glenwood and Villard north of Hwy 28, on a street along the west side of Amelia Lake.

Thielen Meats of Little Falls

The next morning we went to Thielen Meats of Little Falls, MN.

They provide a full line of quality beef, pork, chicken, seafood and poultry. Their large variety of sausages, cold cuts, smoked bacon and more are all fresh made and smoked right there in their clean modern sausage kitchen. In addition to meats, we purchased some Thielen Meats Vidalia Onion Steak Sauce and Buckwheat grits!

St Joseph Meat Market

St Joseph Meat Market – St Joseph, MN.

Their efforts have received national recognition after winning National 1st Place and National Best of Show for their Maple Breakfast links.

Their Braunschweiger received a 2nd place award in National Competition and their Fresh Pork Sausage was also recognized for excellence by their peers.

I counted over 60 types of sausages. *** If you are not from Minnesota, I would like to suggest the Tater Tot Hotdish brats and the Funeral Hotdish brats. Doesn’t get any more hometown quaint than those.

What sort of combinations have you come up with? What new spin did you apply to an old date?

Our Road Trip Around Lake Pepin

Lisa and I had a day free of responsibility recently. We needed to find something to do. We decided to go for a drive around Lake Pepin in southeast Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin. Our road trip around Lake Pepin will fill our day.

We’ve driven down the west side from Red Wing to Winona several times. We’ve also driven down much of the east (Wisconsin) side, but not nearly as many times. The trip is best taken in the summer, but we didn’t have that luxury today. It was lightly snowing and about 20F all day.

We had all day to kill. We’ll take our time and stop where we want. We hopped in the car at about 7 am. Crossed the river from Minnesota to Wisconsin at Prescott, WI and settled in for the 70-mile loop around the lake.

This is by no means, an exhaustive study on what to do on your trip but will give you an idea of places of interest to do more research on….

Prescott

Although, not technically on the shores of Lake Pepin, Prescott lies just north of the lake on the Mississippi River.

A very cool little town with numerous restaurants, bars, beaches, and parks for entertainment. In the summertime, it fills up with bikers, boaters, and casual visitors every weekend.

It’s worth checking out!

Diamond Bluff

As we approach Lake Pepin, the first town we pass through is, Diamond Bluff. A small town of 479 people. There is not a whole lot to do here for a tourist during the wintertime. But the town is very picturesque! Really fun to see!

On the webpage for the city is this quote, “Come relax on our sandy beach, eat lunch on a picnic table, and watch the Mississippi roll by.

That kind of says it all about this city. Just a wonderful place to relax and enjoy!

Free beer tomorrow sign
It’s never tomorrow yet!

Hager City

Soon after, we show up in Hager City, WI. An unincorporated little township with a couple restaurants, bars, and a marina.

It was a little too early on a Sunday morning for us to stop here.

a barn on the side of the Great River Road in Wisconsin on our road trip around Lake Pepin
Just a barn on the side of the Great River Road

Bay City

A village of somewhere around 500 people, Bay City comes complete with a campground on the lakeshore and a winery!

Fallen tree on the banks of Lake Pepin near Bay City, Wisconsin on our road trip around Lake Pepin
Fallen tree on the banks of Lake Pepin near Bay City, Wisconsin

We drove through the campground and took some cool photos of a desolate place in winter.

Lonely winter railroad tracks
Lonely winter railroad tracks

Maiden Rock

This excerpt from L.I.N.K. Magazine’s website is the best description I can find of the legend of Maiden Rock…..

While there are numerous variations of the story, research suggests that all carry a central theme of Princess Wenonah’s father attempting to force her into a marriage with someone she didn’t love, which ultimately resulted in her death as she chose to leap from the bluffs at a place called Maiden Rock rather than be forced into a loveless marriage. The first official record of this story comes from explorer Zebulon Pike in 1805 on an exploratory journey following the Mississippi River: “I was shown a point of rocks from which a Sioux maiden cast herself, and was dashed into a thousand pieces on the rocks below. She had been informed that her friends intended matching her to a man she despised; having been refused the man she had chosen, she ascended the hill, singing her death-song; and before they could overtake her and obviate her purpose, she took the lover’s leap! Thus ended her troubles with her life.”

Maiden Rock is a fascinating town of 120 or so, that has plenty to do in the summer! Not so much in the winter. We stopped to admire the beautiful scenery along the bluffs that border the eastern side of town.

Stockholm

Stockholm, Wisconsin has 66 people living in it, as of the 2010 census, and 2 telephone area codes! I’m not sure why.

A fence made of skis Ski fence! somewhere on the Great River Road on our road trip around Lake Pepin
Ski fence! somewhere on the Great River Road

The town is perpetually active summer or winter! Plan to spend some time here visiting the many and varied art studios, restaurants, shops, and cultural sites.

We stopped the car just outside of town and spotted several bald eagles above and trumpeter swans in the small amount of water that hadn’t frozen over yet.

Trumpeter swans outside of Stockholm, Wisconsin we found on our road trip around Lake Pepin
Trumpeter swans outside of Stockholm, Wisconsin

Pepin

 A larger outpost on this side of the lake is the town of Pepin. Lots to do here if you enjoy museums and restaurants. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name shows up more than a few times along the way.

Nelson

Nelson is another popular spot to find plenty of motorcycles parked along the street in the summer. For us today it was all about getting some lunch at The Original Nelson Cheese Factory! We ate until we couldn’t anymore and filled our cooler with goodies to bring home!

Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin from our road trip around Lake Pepin
Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin
Inside Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin
Inside Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin
The shop at Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin
The shop at Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin

Alma

Alma is cool! Huge bluffs all along the eastern edge of the city and Lock and Dam #4 on the Mississippi River to the west.

A fun place to spend a few hours checking it out!

Fountain city

The most fun thing to see in Fountain City is The Rock in the House. I’ll just put a couple of links here for your entertainment.

The Rock in the House in Fountain City, Wisconsin on our road trip around Lake Pepin
The Rock in the House

 Amusing Planet link

Great River link

It was winter and the place was closed to visitors, but we walked up the steps and peeked around back.

Worth a stop just to make you feel small and insignificant!

Winona

At roughly 28,000 people, Winona seems huge after half a day spent seeing tiny townships on the Wisconsin side of the lake.

Back in Minnesota, the city is filled with plenty to do. We drove up the bluff on the west side of town and found Garvin Heights City Park which had an amazing overlook above the city!

View of Winona, Minnesota from the Garvin Heights City Park overlook on our road trip around Lake Pepin
View of Winona, Minnesota from the Garvin Heights City Park overlook

Minnesota City

Minnesota City doesn’t offer the visitor much to do on a cold winter day. During the summer it offers good fishing opportunities in the slow-moving backwaters of the lake and river.

Historically, if your interested, the city is known for being “first” in many categories in the county of Winona!

Minneiska

There are 4 local businesses listed on the Minneiska official city website here. A good place to stop and take some photos along our road trip around Lake Pepin!

Kellogg

Fun little shops and restaurants in Kellogg. The city mostly caters to hunters, fishers, and outdoor activities.

Wabasha

Wabasha is a destination town to be sure! Lots of galleries, places to eat, places to stay and fun things to do! They even have a ski area if you’re there with your gear!

We stopped at the famous National Eagle Center right on the shore. Hung out with some live eagles and took turns with the binoculars trying to see more outside.

One of the rescued bald eagles at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota on our road trip around Lake Pepin
One of the rescued bald eagles at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota

Reads landing

Stop in at the brewery and relax for a bit. It’s been a long day.

Lake City

Popular with birders, Lake City has plenty to see and do! Fishing, biking, shopping, and eating. Stop by on your way through and tell your friends that you’ve spent time at the Birthplace of Waterskiing!

Frontenac

An unincorporated village, Frontenac has a ski area and a state park nearby that are fun to visit. Our road trip around Lake Pepin is nearly complete.

Red Wing

Finally, we get to the end of our day in Red Wing, Minnesota. If you still have any energy left, stop and do some shopping, or simply crash in one of several hotels.

If you’re up for a small hike, Barn Bluff on the edge of town is a fun little walk with views overlooking the river. At the right time of year, you may see rock climbers hanging from the cliffs above you!

So, that was our day driving around Lake Pepin. I intentionally didn’t put a whole lot of information about any of the destinations so that you can add your stories to the mix. Post your adventures from the Lake Pepin area in the comment section below and I will add them to Our Road Trip Around Lake Pepin!

Also, check out our other adventures!

Until then…. Grab whatcha got and let’s GO! Road-trippin!

One Time in Alaska

Slogging up the muddy slope to reach the rocky mountainside was a lesson in frustration management. Clearly, I was not the mountain climber that I once was.

A little over a year ago I headed off to Alaska to visit my son, Josh, who was working near Denali National Park for the second summer in a row. It was late in the season, he wasn’t sure if he’d return the following year, and I didn’t want to miss the chance to see what he was up to out there. I bought the airline ticket, told my boss I’d be back in a week, and took off.

Josh

Josh had a tough go of life that year. For privacy, I must refrain from telling the story here. My belief is that he went back to Alaska for a second time, not so much for himself, but to prove to the spirit of a lost loved one that he could go on. He has never been one to let life’s setbacks keep him from exploring and learning. In fact, for Josh, life’s setbacks only seem to encourage the expansion of his dreams and goals.

As is the case for many fathers, I had felt that my parenting skills had been inadequate for the first 22 years of Josh’s life. Maybe I could use this time to bond with my son in his world and not mine for once.

A Goal Realized

My son greeted me in the airport terminal with a smile and a hug. He gestured that we should get outdoors as quickly as possible knowing that I was anxious to do so. Alaska was the last state of the US that I had not visited, and I was eager to complete my long-standing goal. Josh seemed almost as excited as I was to step outside into the warm, lovely, August sunshine miserable, rainy, cloudy, cold, and windy mess that is Alaska in August.

I’m sure it’s not always like that, but for the duration of my only visit there, that was, pretty much, all that I experienced.

We drove for the next few hours, catching up on current life events and making plans for the week. By the time we arrived at his apartment, we had made more plans than we could execute.

Road Trip

We started off the week with a road trip to Talkeetna. The weather was no better than the day before, but we made the most of it. Josh stopped several times along the way to point out and show me many of the little things he had discovered over the past two years. I was fascinated.

Roadside Surprise

He left the paved road at one point for a dirt path that was barely wide enough for the car. He continued until the path crossed a dry riverbed. Then he drove through it!

Josh knows me very well. He was taking me to a rocky beach just beyond, where we would be skipping rocks. I love skipping rocks into water. I don’t know why. I just do.

We spent the next hour competing with one another in various rock-skipping contests until our arms were completely useless.

In Talkeetna, we learned that the town mayor, Stubbs, had died for the last time. He had been a cat and had used up his allotment of lives well before we had arrived. A new one had not yet been elected.

After a bit of hiking on the riverbanks outside of town and a bite to eat, we headed back to Josh’s place.

The Rain

The rest of the week went by in a flash. The day after our road trip we stayed close to Denali. We drove up the park road as far as they let cars go and did some scrambling on an outcropping of rock in the rain. It was always raining.

I’m told that Denali, the mountain, is only seen by 1/3 of the visitors that come to this area with hopes of seeing it. Typically, it is shrouded in cloud cover, making seeing it from a distance a rare treat. Josh and I were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one slope of the mountain. Hardly satisfying. I still count myself among the many who have not seen it. I never did get another chance that week.

We spent the following day hiking a trail through the wilderness… In the rain.

the triple lakes trail from One Time in Alaska
Day hike in the Alaskan Wilderness

The rain let up the next morning and we had a reservation to go whitewater rafting on the Nenana River. After we suited up in dry suits and started paddling, it rained.

Despite the crappy weather, I was simply having a wonderful time. Josh seemed at home in this little roadside encampment of a town. Before I knew it, our time together this week was almost up. Josh needed to get back to work the next day so I would have one day to explore on my own before heading back home.

The Climb

I would head to Mount Healy and climb the Castle Rock side of the peak.

I woke up just before 6 am, well before Josh had to get ready for work. I quietly gathered my gear and snuck out without waking him.

According to the locals that I had spoken with, the round trip to the summit and back should take 5-6 hours. I wondered if I still had it in me to accomplish it in that time frame.

The first hour was torture. Slogging up the muddy slope to reach the rocky mountainside was a lesson in frustration management. Clearly, I was not the mountain climber that I once was. So far, though, no rain yet today.

My pace picked up though, after finally reaching the more easily navigable, rocky ridgeline. The rain clouds loomed in the distance and were approaching fast. I set my sights on the nearest prominent feature and refused to stop for a rest until I had achieved the miniature goal. Next feature, next goal, and so on. I tried to fill my mind with the memories that I had made this week with my son.

The rock was very loose below the ridge that I was following. At one point I watched a small landslide occur as the rocks shifted 100 feet away from me. I’m sure this is a daily occurrence judging from the evidence around me. I’ll stay on the ridge to be safe.

After a few hours, the summit was partially visible. The recently nearby clouds were now upon me obscuring my view. A light snow began to fall but would amount to nothing. At least it wasn’t raining! Not being able to see the next features, I trudged on blindly and rested often. Another hour and I was on top…. Almost.

Cloud Cover on Mt Healy
nearing the summit of Healy from One Time in Alaska
Summit in View

In front of me was a 30-foot-tall wall of rock. I would have to revert to my meager rock-climbing skills and scale it to reach the true summit. I had no ropes or anchors with me. Could I live with myself knowing that I came so close to the goal and turned around? Would anyone know if I fudged the truth? Would anyone really care?

The Summit

I looked around for an easy route up. Someone had done this before. I found a wooden white stake planted in the rocks nearby, apparently marking a weakness in the wall that I could exploit.  

An easy way up?

Success! I sat on top for 20 minutes. The clouds let up for a time, granting me a grand view of the valley below. Fear cost me another 10 minutes before I could commit to down-climbing the wall that had nearly protected the summit from me.

from the summit of Healy from One Time in Alaska
Mt Healy Summit
On Top

The End

Two hours back to the car. Six hours almost to the minute! I was elated!

My little tales don’t always go as well.

Josh drove me back to Fairbanks to catch my plane the next day. He had been a gracious host to say the least. My time in Alaska had been filled with wonder and exploration, but also with admiration for my son, who, for a brief time called it home. I am jealous and probably always will be.