Minnesota Meandering: Ubetcha!

north shore lake superior

From the U.P. we drove west to Duluth where we spent a couple days relaxing before departing on our journey northward toward the Canadian border. As we have posted on Duluth previously (https://wordpress.com/post/ontheroadwithmariastephen.net/1324) we would refer you to our that post for our impressions of Duluth.

Freighter Entering Harbor at Duluth

We departed Duluth via the North Shore Scenic Drive (MN-61) which closely follows the rugged coastline of Lake Superior to the Canadian border. We stopped to camp along the lake shore in Schroeder, which is about half the distance to Canada.

The Great Lakes coastline is dotted with scores of lighthouse and foghorn stations which were necessary in aiding the navigation of Great Lakes freighters. The freighters have traversed the lakes for almost 200 years carrying the ore which was critical to the industrial revolution in the United States.

Pictured below is the Two Harbors Lighthouse. The light is the oldest continuosly operating light on the north shore of Lake Superior. The Coast Guard fully automated the light in 1981 and is still operational. The lightkeepers house is now operated by the Lake County Historical Society as a B&B.

Iron mining started here in 1884 in earnest and the need for a light to guide the freighters into Agate Bay became critical. The light was authorized by Congress in 1886 and became operational in 1892. As you can see from the photo below iron ore from the Minnesota Iron Range is still being loaded on to bulk ore freighters at Two Harbors for shipment to ports to the east and south.

Of the many light stations we have seen along the various Great Lakes, the Split Rock Light Station is one of the most interesting and historic. The impetus for constructing the light was a fierce storm in November, 1905. During the storm, six ships within twelve miles of the Split River went down to the bottom of Lake Superior.

Construction of the Split River Station was completed in 1909 with the light and foghorn beginning operations in 1910. The original light could be seen from a distance of 22 miles and the foghorn could be heard as far as five miles. The powerful light and horn saved many ships and lives for the next 59 years until it was decommissioned.

Split Rock Light House

The construction of the station was quite arduous as all the materials and equipment had to be hoisted up to the top of the cliffs from boats below – there were no roads that reached the location at the time.

Split Rock Light House (photo courtesy Minnesota State Parks)

The first lighthouses in America date back to the 1600s and were operated by individual colonies or privately. In 1797, the government took control of the operation of all lighthouses in the United States. Subsequently, the United States Lighthouse Service was created and charged with the staffing and operation of all marine navigation facilities.

The Service remained in existence until 1939 when it was merged into the United States Coast Guard, ending the long standing traditions and way of life that existed for the lighthouse keepers and their families.

The Split Rock Station required three light keepers to keep the light operating 24 hours a day. A hand wound mechanism similar to a watch or clock had to be wound frequently in order to enable the rotation of the light. Because of the remote location, electrical service did not reach Split Rock until 1940! The videos below provide a provide a brief view of the original mechanism which was reinstalled after the light was decommissioned.

Minnesota highway 1

With our north coast and lighthouse segments completed, we set off west and north to northern Minnesota. With Ely as our planned first day’s destination, we had the opportunity to journey the 100 miles from the eastern end of Minnesota Highway 1 (MN-1) at Illgen directly to Ely. MN-1 is a scenic highway that crosses the entire state from the shore of Lake Superior to the Red River on the western border. Not surprisingly, the 346 miles of MN-1 is the longest highway in the state.

The drive to Ely is both scenic and fun if you enjoy driving. The road is a sinuous, undulating affair that runs through the Superior National Forest for the majority of the drive – light traffic, no stoplights, no stop signs, no potholes!

MN-1

We did encounter one town in the middle of the drive – Isabella. At the time we thought we were passing through a ghost town. We were wrong! Our apologies to the 179 independent souls who call Isabella home.The closest town is 20 miles south. Isabella does have a claim to fame as the highest community in Minnesota as it sits on the Laurentian Divide and is approximately 2000 feet above sea level.

The handful of businesses based in Isabella are guiding and camping services focused on fishing, dogsledding, cross country skiing. Our favorite business based on name is the Great Lakes School of Logbuilding which sadly upon further research closed in 2018 after a 43 year run.

Ely, minnesota

Ely is a lively, bustling town that is the starting place for many canoe trips into the Boundry Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA.) The BWCA extends along 150 miles of border with Canada and comprises almost 1.1 million acres. There are 1100 lakes and 1500 miles of canoe routes within this expansive wilderness. While we were not venturing in the wilderness on this trip we took advantage of the good restaurants and shops that exist due to the many tourist who come here to take guided multi-day trips into the wilderness.

Specialty coffee and tea is, of course, a critical element of any OTR itinerary. Northern Grounds Coffee + Wine Bar (https://www.thenortherngrounds.com/) in Ely provided us with sustenance and a friendly cafe for our pre and post bicyling needs.

Life on the farm

Smokey

There are a growing number of private camping options for travelers looking to avoid large, crowded and noisy commercial campgrounds when dispersed camping is not an option. We utilized the Hip Camp platform to find a location convenient to Ely but off the beaten path.

We spent an enjoyable four nights at a 100 acre working, family farm down the road a bit from Ely. The farm has chickens, pigs, ducks, sheep, horses and a couple of dogs and cats for good measure. We parked on a grass field by a small barn where we could sit out in the evening by a campfire and enjoy the sparkling, night sky.

This is a working farm with farm animals, farm noises and farm smells. Some folks might not enjoy that aspect but we enjoyed the company of the animals and one of their dogs, Smokey, accompanied us on our nightly walks around the property.

We will definitely keep this option in mind in the future based on this experience.

Ranier and the falls

The Echo Trail

From Ely and our base at the farm we resumed our journey north to Ranier. Because we are generally looking for the most interesting, scenic and/or the slowest way to get somewhere, we decided to drive the Echo Trail from Ely to its terminus in Orr. The Echo Trail is a 76 mile gravel road which takes you on a hilly, curvey path through dense forest and by half a dozen stunningly beautiful lakes.

Ranier’s Voyageur

After completing the Echo Trail we refueled in Orr and made a straight line north to Ranier. After a number of nights of camping – no matter how enjoyable – we are ready for more spacious quarters than the van and a shower of more than two minutes.

We stayed at the Cantilever Hotel & Distillery in Ranier, a tiny town on the Rainy River which separates the States from Canada. We had not expected to find such a swanky looking place in this tiny border town – but all the reviews were great and we reserved a room for several nights.

We are happy to report that the hotel lived up to the excellent reviews we had read. We enjoyed great dinners and of course, had to sample a few of the cocktails made using their in-house distilled vodka and gin. While we are usually wine drinkers we, quite enjoyed a number of their different concoctions. Cheers!

We do need to mention the train for the benefit of any future visitors.

The train…the train

CN Intermodal Double Stack Freight Train

Ranier, as we mentioned, is quite small with a population of 626 people. However, in one regard it is quite big. The Candian Northern Railroad (CN) operates a north/south freight line which bisects the town befores it crosses the rail bridge over the river into Canada.

Unfortunately for the townspeople, this freight line has become the busiest rail border crossing between the States and Canada. Twenty-two trains per day, every day of the week, go through the town – at any hour of the day or night.

The trains cut off any passage east and west on Main Street. This is exacerbated by the fact that the trains are required to slow to 10 miles an hour because each car is being scanned by U.S. Customs in order to detect illegal cargo. And, each of the trains consists of 100 to 200 cars, so the trains are over a mile long! The town is going to build a pedestrian bridge over the rail line which will help with some of the issues.

We met a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer while in town. We asked him if they actually found enough items to warrant the scanning of every rail car on every train. He indicated that they make a significant number of seizures mostly related to Chinese goods coming into the country which are counterfeit, do not meet pollution or safety standards or were manufactured using stolen intellectual property. The day before we spoke with him CBP had seized a container full of motorcycles which did not meet U.S. emissions standards. How the CBP knows about the items he would not say.

Voyageurs national park

An additional perquisite of staying at the Cantilever was that we were able to bicycle directly from the hotel to Voyageurs National Park (VNP) on the paved path that runs from International Falls to the Rainy Lake Visitors Center.

We spent an afternoon hiking at the park after biking the short (12 miles) bikepath from the hotel to the visitors center. There are a number of hikes which take you along the shoreline at Rainy Lake providing very nice views of the lake and a number of the smaller islands visible from the shore.

We really think that in order to fully enjoy this park, one needs to get out on the water and cruise the lake, possibly visiting or camping on some of the islands. Canoes can be rented from a concessionaire at the small marina adjacent to the visitors center in order to get out on the water and explore. Unforunately, this was not an option for us on this visit due to one member of the team having a torn rotator cuff.

Ranier to north dakota

After our excellent experience in Ranier we got back on the road driving west along the southern bank of the Rainy River on Route 11, known as MOM’s Way (Manitoba – Ottawa – Minnesota). Route 11 is one of a very few roads which carries the same designation across borders.

We finished our day of travel in Lake Bronson – positioning us to cross into North Dakota the next day. Lake Bronson is a tiny town by any standard – a land area of 352 acres and a population of 169. Like many of the tiny agricultural towns that dot the landscape on the western plains of Minnesota the town is physically dominated by the town’s co-op grain elevator.

Lake Bronson

After setting up our campsite at the lake we decided to take advantage of the beautiful evening and bicycle into town. As we were cycling along a residential street, we noticed a yellow crop duster parked at the end of a dead end street.

We cycled to the end of the road and found ourselves at a grass airstrip with two crop dusters, a private home and attached hanger. The owner and chief pilot of the crop dusting firm happened to out in his yard playing with his kids. He graciously allowed us to check out and photograph the aircraft up close. These planes are purpose built and quite rugged with fortified cockpits to protect the pilot in the event of a crash.

The pilot told us that his job as a crop dusting pilot is the “best job in the world” although a bit dangerous at times. If you have ever seen a crop duster in action you would probably agree that there is danger involved. Crop dusters dive down and fly just above the tops of the crops and then must pull up very steeply to avoid power lines, structures and other obstacles at the edge of the field. There is no room for error.

P.S. Fellow Nutmeggers: please note that the enginess that power these crop dusters were manufacutured by Pratt & Whitney.

Dependable Engines!

Rails to trails

Minnesota has a fantastic network of (mostly paved) rails-to-trails bike trails through out the state. Our experience on this trip and a previous visit to Minnesota is that the majority of trails showcase the beautiful scenery in Minnesota as you ride through forests and along rivers and lakes. The other nice feature is that many of the trails are 50 or more miles long allowing for as much uninterrupted riding as you want to undertake.

Final thoughts………

We really enjoyed our meandering journey through the northlands of Minnesota. This trip was inspired by the book Northland: A 4000-Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten Border, written by Porter Fox. The Northland is defined as the area along the border with Canada from Maine to Washington.

Fox found that many areas along the border are just as remote and unspoiled as they were when they were discovered and settled. We would say that in some cases the modern world is more intrusive than when the book wa published in 2018. Having said that, there is absolutely a feeling of remoteness by today’s standards when you are in the Northland. We also would agree that there is still a strong sense of independence and self-sufficiency among the long time residents and descendants of the original Voyageurs and settlers. Lastly, we without exception experienced nothing but friendly and polite people as we crossed northern Minnesota.

North Dakota next – westward ho!

Be seeing you.

Thoroughly Modern Milwaukee (MKE)

We at OTR had never visited Milwaukee until this trip but a bit of advance reseach convinced us that it would be a good city to spend several days exploring. So after spending a week or so biking and camping in southwestern Wisconsin, we made our way east to the state’s largest city (pop. 595,000).

As some of you may recall, our city visit criteria are well established and straight-forward: third wave coffee and tea cafes, high quality street art, an art museum (or two), an excellent Italian restaurant (and professional baseball is always a plus).

milwaukee Art museum

Crying Girl, 1964, Roy Lichtenstein

The Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) and it’s predecessor organizations have been in existence since 1888. The Quadracci Pavilion pictured below was constructed in 2001. The impressive Pavilion with its moveable sail sits on the waterfront of Lake Michigan as the signature work of architecture in the city. http://collection.mam.org/

The MAM has several galleries devoted to modern, pop and abstract art which seems fitting with the architectural style of the Pavilion. The museum collections includes a number of works by major Pop and Abstract icons including Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.

Mist, 2012, David Schnell

fika

Colectivo Coffee served as our cafe host for our stay in MKE. Colectivo is MKE based with cafes on the waterfront and in the Historic Third Ward. Colectivo is also a force in the roasting business and operates the Troubador Bakery as well.

Colectivo has been in a business for quite a while but clearly has not lost its edge and sits firmly in the realm of third wave coffedom. Our experience was excellent because of the professional baristas, friendly staff, great coffee, tasty sandwiches and treats along with an interesting and comfortable cafe space.

There are other solid third wave coffee cafes in MKE which are worth visiting but for a short stay in town you cannot miss with any of Colectivo’s locations.

Street art

MKE provided us with several excellent street murals nicely placed in the Historic Third Ward while the epic mural by @AEROSOLKINGDOM pictured above and below required a short drive down to an industrial area along the waterfront.

As you can see from the photographs there is an eclectic mix of fun and serious art to be found in MKE.

Historic third ward and Riverwalk

The Historic Third Ward District is a former warehouse area which has been revitalized into a thriving entertainment district. There are over 450 businesses in the district. The center piece of the district is the Milwaukee Public Market which houses restaurants, bars, wine shops, live entertainment and retail shops in an large open space.

The district is bounded by the Milwaukee River and the riverwalk which allows pedestrians to stroll along the river and of course provides direct access to the district. Nicely done MKE!

Our recommendations for the district – Onesto for excellent Italian fare, Thief Wine Bar for delicious and very reasonably priced wine, St. Paul Fish Company for fresh fish from the Lake and of course Colectivo Coffee.

Sports

Our timing was fortuitous in visiting MKE while the Brewers were at home. The Brewers did not play when we saw them, but have played better since we were in town (won nine of last ten games). Nonetheless, it is always fun to take in a MLB game, particularly in a stadium not previously visited.

The stadium – American Family Field – opened in 2001 and, like the MAM, is architecturally impressive. The stadium has the only fan-shaped convertible roof in the United States – which worked out well for us as rain moved into the MKE area on the afternoon of the day we were attending.

As you can see in the photos below the crowd was sparse as the city was still limiting attendance to 25% of capacity. The bewildering part of the rule was that while attendance was limited there was no social distancing with seating.

Our thoughts

We had a great time visiting MKE. The city is a good stop for three to four days, depending on your interests. There are plenty of options with professional sports teams, museums, fine and casual dining and live entertainment.

MKE is also very pedestrian- and bike-friendly with numerous paved paths in downtown and along the waterfront. Also, and very importantly from our perspective, is that the local folks we met were uniformly very friendly and open.

MKE – modern and friendly – worth a visit!

Our next planned post will be based on our travels through Minnesota.

Be seeing you!

Visiting the U.P. Doesn’t Make You a Yooper

Fika at Velodrome Coffee in Marquette was our first destination as we returned to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for the first time in over two years.

Pictured Rock National lakeshore

The Pictured Rock National Lakeshore (PRNL) was created in 1966 to protect a 42 mile section of coastline along Lake Superior. The 15 mile stretch of sandstone cliffs rising as high as 200 feet above the water is the real attraction here. The total protected area is around 71,000 acres which provides a buffer zone between the lakeshore and commercial logging.

We toured the lakeshore by boat. While there are a substantial amount of hiking trails throughout the park which lead to the cliffs the best views of the various formations are from the water. We would recommend a boat tour if you are going to be in the area but would not recommend PRNL as a multi-day destination unless you are going to camp in the park and kayak from the beach through the formations.

Iron mining

While iron ore mining and production is very often portrayed as nonexistent today in the United States, it is still quite active in parts of the Upper Peninsula and Minnesota. In fact iron ore mining has been ongoing here in the Marquette Iron Range since 1847.

The completion of the various shipping canals and locks throughout the Great Lakes facilitated the efficient movement of iron ore by lake freighters to ports further south-close to major manufacturing operations for steel and auto-making.

More to come on iron mining when we post from Minnesota where we will be traveling through the Iron Range.

Iron Ore Loading Dock, Marquette, Michigan

Iron ore heritage trail

Carp River

The Iron Ore Heritage Trail (IOHT) is a winding and hilly 47 mile trail that utilizes the former rail lines that were used to bring timber and iron ore to Lake Superior. The trail runs through many wetlands and wooded areas as well as a number of closed and abandoned mines.

We rode the trail from the west to east (from Ispheming towards Marquette) which means a long uphill climb as you return from Marquette to your starting point. One of our favorite trails to date because of the fast downhills and corners.

Keweenaw Peninsula (KP)

Portage Lake Lift Bridge

The Portage Lake Lift Bridge pictured above connects Houghton and Hancock, Michigan. The bridge is the widest and heaviest double deck lift bridge in the world. When the bridge is in position for automobile traffic it sits a mere four feet above the water. The bridge fully raised provides 100 feet of clearance allowing large lake freighters (lakers) to use the canal.

The canal itself came about as mining companies sought to decrease the time it took to haul copper from the copper-rich Keweenaw Peninsula to markets. Work on the canal began in the 1860’s with dredging and widening of several narrow riverways to Portage Lake thereby creating a east/west canal and shaving 100 miles off the trip.

When the canal was completed, the northern half of Keneewaw Peninsula technically became Copper Island. For a number of years all traffic had to go across the canal via ferry boats while winter allowed for crossing on ice roads. As the demand to cross the canal increased, a series of bridges were constructed to allow people, vehicles and trains to cross the canal. The current bridge is the fourth bridge to connect the southern and northern halves of the peninsula. The first three were swing bridges which were slow and unreliable. The second bridge was destroyed when a freighter collided with the bridge. The current bridge came into use in 1959.

Copper mining

Quincy Shaft #2 Rockhouse

Copper was first utilized on the peninsula by Native Americans long before the arrival of Euro-Americans. The Native Americans utilized copper for tools and jewelry. Copper had been separated from rock by retreating glaciers and was scattered around the surface in abundant quantities requiring no mining or excavating.

While the first copper mine in the Upper Peninsula began operation around 1771 it was not until around 1840 that large scale commercial extraction of copper (as well as iron and silver) commenced. The rush began in earnest when the the state’s first geologist, Douglass Houghton, released his report affirming the abundance of high grade copper on the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Copper was mined for the next 150 years on the Keweenaw Peninsula where a narrow seam of copper runs from the Wisconsin border to the tip of Keweenaw Peninsula (Copper Harbor). The mines in Michigan produced more than 14 billion pounds of copper during that period of time and during the late 1800s was the largest copper producer in the world.

The mines began to mature around 1900 as the depth of the shafts made the cost of extraction unviable. A number of mining operations closed down and the population of Keweenaw Penninsula declined for a number years.

War is good for business and the increased demand for copper during World War II brought prices to a level which made copper mining in the penisula viable again. Several mines continued operation until 1969 when a labor dispute triggered the closure of those mines. Today most of the copper production in the United States takes place in Arizona.

The legacy of the cooper mining industry is still highly visible on the Keweenaw Peninsula today. There are numerous mine-shaft rockhouses scattered along what is now Highway 41. The rockhouse stood over the mine shaft. The rock was brought up the shaft in train cars (skips) and dumped into rock crushers below, which then fed uniform sized pieces of rocks into rail cars below the crushing machines.

Another lasting legacy of the copper mining on the Keneewaw Peninsula is pollution. The good news in that regard is that because the copper here was native copper is it 99.99% pure and as such the slag, rock waste and tailings are much less toxic. Having said that, there was enough concern that an EPA Superfund Site was created to deal with the waste. The site has been removed from the Superfund list as a result of the remediation effort.

The Keweenaw Peninsula economy has transitioned to focus on tourism and timber as the main sources of employment. This area is a haven for boating, fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain biking and OHV riding.

Copper Harbor via the m26…but first, breakfast

WIth a day of exploration in front of us we have learned that is is essential to be well fortified. So we stopped at Slim’s Cafe in Mohawk. Slim’s Cafe has been serving breakfast to Yoopers and visitors for over 40 years. In addition to the massive and tasty breakfast it is mandatory to have their absolutely delicious cinnamon rolls. Do not leave without purchasing cinnamon rolls!

After fortification at Slim’s, we spent the day touring the KP from Houghton to land’s end at Copper Harbor. The M26 winds along the western coast of the peninsula providing wonderful views of Lake Superior and the coastline. Beautifully preserved lighthouses dot the coastline and provide excellent opportunities to learn about the history of the area.

Eagle Harbor Light Station
Lake Superior from West Bluff, Brockway Mountain

We veered off the M26 a few miles south of Copper Harbor to take in the views from Brockway Mountain. The “mountain”is 720 feet above Lake Superior and on a clear day provides a panoramic view of the lake as well as Copper Harbor and several other lakes.

After descending Brockway Mountain we continued to Copper Harbor and followed US Highway 41 through the village where the highway terminates. This is one of those places where you feel as if you are at the top of the world.

On the day we visited the village, the sun was shining and the sky and lake were deep blue. We had a picnic lunch sitting at the waters edge. We could not, however, keep ourselves from envisioning being here in the dead of winter with the 85 brave souls that call this village home. The cold, the wind and prolonged darkness that occur at this parallel is requires a level of self-sufficiency we do not possess.

Copper Harbor, Keweenaw Peninsula

We decided to return to Houghton by a more rustic route. While Highway 41 ends in Copper Harbor you can continue on via the dirt roads used by loggers and eventually loop southward down the peninsula.

Mandan Road

We had the opportunity to meet with many residents of the Upper Peninsula – known as Yoopers. Yoopers do not consider themselves as Michiganders. In fact, there have been numerous attempts in the past by Yoopers to form their own state – unsuccessfully, obviously.

Yoopers clearly see themselves as separate and distinct from the city folk downstate. This is outdoor country where sled racing, skating, ice fishing, snowshoeing are part of everyday life. Of course the most Yooper outdoor winter sport of all is probably outhouse racing (paint your own mental picture!)

Many of the Yoopers we met made it very clear that to be able to live here year round a person must be extremely self-reliant and self-sufficient and you better know how to drive in the snow! Yep!

Next stop Minnesota.

Be seeing you!

Falling for…Fallingwater

Fallingwater

After our visit to Pittsburgh we decided to head south to Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece Fallingwater. Fallingwater was designed for the Kaufman family. Edgar and Liliane Kaufman were prominent members of Pittsburgh society and owners of the highly successful Kaufman’s Department Store.

The Kaufmans owned the property at Bear Run in the Laurel Highlands where they had a rustic weekend retreat. The met Frank Lloyd Wright through their son Edgar jr. The younger Edgar studied with Wright for a short time at Taliesin in Wisconsin.

Edgar jr sold the home and 1500 acres of land to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy with the proviso that the home be open to the public. The conservancy purchased another 3500 acres adjacent to the former Kaufman property to assure that the area remains unspoiled for future generations.

Bear Run

Wright designed the house in 1935 after visiting the site and integrated the house into the waterfall and landscape in brillant fashion. Wright practiced what he called “organic” architecture and Fallingwater is undoubtedly unparalled in that regard.

Wright also designed many innovative and one of a kind pieces of furniture which can be found throughout the main house and the guest house.

Wright designed over 1000 structures in a career that spanned 70 years. Just over half of his designs were constructed. He was a pioneer in many facets of design and was acknowldeged by the American Institute of Architects in 1991 as the greatest American architect of all time.

Wright’s designs were not limited to just his well known private residences. He designed churches, schools, museums, hotels and office buildings. Additionally, he designed one gas station (which we stumbled upon during our previous wanderings in Michigan.)

In addition to achieving phenomenal fame as an architect Wright also achieved significant noteriety in his personal life. During his life he was married and divorced several times in very public fashion and suffered the tragedy of having a lover and her children murdered at his studio while he was away on business. Recommended reading -The Fellowship:The Untold Story of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship.

Fallingwater is located near Ohiopyle, Pennsylavania. Ohiopyle State Park encompasses over 20,000 acres of beautiful scenery for hiking and camping. The Youghiogeheny (yawk) River runs though the middle of the park and provides serious whitewater rafting and kayaking opportunities. Additionally, the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail runs through the park with a trailhead in town for easy access to ride towards the Pittsburgh or Cumberland, Maryland terminus points.

The combination of outdoor activites and Fallingwater makes Ohiopyle a popular destination with many visitors. As we visited early in the season there were no crowds. We definitely recommend the Ohiopyle area as worth a several day visit.

Be seeing you!

P.S. There is a second Frank Lloyd Wright designed house (Kentuck Knob) close by which is open for tours. Kentuck Knob is an example of Wright’s Usonian (affordable) designs.

Wisconsin: Say Cheese!

While we had planned to travel north through Wisconsin as part of OTR 6.0 we did not initally envision visiting the southwestern part of the state. But, after coming across some information about the Badger State Trail, it looked as if it would provide several days of enjoyable riding through the countryside. We decided to swing west to camp, bike and explore the region.

The geography of this area is predominated by rolling hills and dells. This is dairy country with much of the milk going to the production of locally made cheese. The picturesque countryside is dotted with dairy farms.

There is a large Amish community here, it is quite a sight to see fields being plowed using horse drawn equipment. The winding hilly roads require extra caution due to the presence of horse drawn carriages.

Badger state trail

The Badger runs north/south from Madison to the border of Illinois. This trail was originally the rail bed for the Chicago, Madison and and Northern Railroad, with successor railroads carrying freight until the mid 1980s. The trail was opened for cycling and walking around 2007. The trail is not paved but the dirt and sand surface is good. We thoroughly enjoyed riding through the rolling hills of southwestern Wisconsin.

Irma’s Kitchen

On the advice of a local resident we met while doing laundry in Monroe (The Cheesemakers) we had breakfast at a local institution in the nearby Village of Argyle (pop.857). Irma’s Kitchen was founded in 1976 by Irma Collins. Irma has retired but IK continues as a family operated business with two of her daughters serving classic and delicious breakfasts between 6:30am and 11:00am. Another of Irma’s daughters is an extraordinary baker, making pastries and PIES for the cafe.

We ended up having breakfast at Irma’s several times – not just because the breakfast and pie was delicious – we met the local guys’ coffee group on our first visit and knew we had to go back to capture more of the local flavor and history. Thanks guys! We really enjoyed chatting with y’all.

Jane Addams Trail

Crossing Richland Creek

With continued good weather we decided to bicycle south from Monroe and ride the Badger Trail into Illinois where it becomes the Jane Addams Trail. The trail runs 19 miles from the border to the town of Freeport.

The trail is named in honor of Jane Addams, the second woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Addams founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919. She worked for many years lobbying the major nations of the world to disarm and sign peace accords. Addams was born in Cedarville, Illinois which is located close by the trail.

Mineral point

On the advice of our new friends at IK we spent an afternoon in Mineral Point. The town was founded in 1827 and is Wisconsin’s third oldest city. The town grew rapidly for a number of years after the discovery of lead deposits.

As the scope of the mining operations increased, experienced miners immigrated from Cornwall in England. The arrival of the Cornish miners enabled a significant increase in lead production.

The discovery of gold in California in the late 1840s coupled with diminishing lead production triggered an exodus of the miners from Mineral Point.

The legacy of the Cornish immigrants is still prevalent today in Mineral Point thanks to the construction of many stone cottages and buildings by the Cornish miners and the work of a number of residents to preserve the cottages and buildings.

Mining returned in the late 1800s due to the discovery of zinc at the bottom of the lead mines. The zinc mining played out by the 1920s. Today the town draws many tourists to see the architecture and shop and dine at the beautifully preserved historical buildings.

The mulberry pottery

Mineral Point has become an artistic enclave and we were fortunate to stop in to see the pottery of Frank Polizzi. Frank has been creating wood fired stoneware and pit fired earthenware for over forty years. Frank’s lovely wife Barbara shared the history of the pottery and explained the process for us.

The Mulberry Pottery utilizes a wood burning kiln built by Frank which can hold up to 300 pieces of pottery and achieves a temperature of 2400F during the roughly 15 hour process.

Yes, of course we loved many of the pieces and are now the proud owners of a beautiful vase!

Camping at Yellowstone Lake

More from Milwaukee (MKE) soon. Be seeing you!

Madison:post script

We had never been to Madison so decided to spend an afternoon there as we traveled from Yellowstone Lake to Milwaukee. We had read about the vibrant and pedestrian friendly shopping and dining area along State Street near the State Capitol Building. We thought it would be nice to stop for coffee and tea and explore the area.

We were saddened to find that protests last April-May had turned into violent street riots in which 75 businesses in this area were damaged and looted. Today 30 of the 75 businesses remained closed, boarded up and covered with graffiti.

The business owners requested financial support from the city in the amount of $250,000 to help repair damages and reopen. The city council voted not to provide funding since most of the State Street businesses are white owned and as such providing funding would constitute an act of systemic racism.