Sunday, June 18, 2006

Across the Upper Midwest

We started the day with a bit of rain. Although it
wasn't fun to drive in, it made the hills in southern
Wisconsin seem all the more green and resembled what
I think Ireland looks like. Just north of Madison is
the Circus World Museum in Baraboo. They weren't open
yet and it was raining anyway, but we got a look onto
the property and it brought back some memories. I was
last here when I was 6 and we came here as a result of
finding out what a tourist trap the Wisconsin Dells are.
Oops...did I actually say that? I remember the Circus
World Museum being a great place and by the looks of it,
it still is pretty cool. They have the largest collection
of circus wagons in the world (200) and perform live shows
during the summer. We did see three elephants across the
river from the parking lot.

I kept playing this memory lane-type of trip across western
Wisconsin as we next pulled into LaCrosse Wisconsin. Lynn
humored me through all of this but I could tell it was a
two-memory minimum and I shouldn't press my luck. We went
past the City Brewery on the south end of town that currently
houses the "World's Largest Six Pack" Of course they're beer
storage tanks, but it's a gag that's been running since at
least 1971, when I last visited. At that time, the brewery
was owned by the G. Heilman Brewing Company, which makes (made)
Old Style Beer (famous at Wrigley Field). The second picture
shows how the "six pack" looked when I last saw them. Today,
the tanks are covered in vinyl to look like LaCrosse Lager cans,
brewed by City Brewery. When we took the tour in 1971, it had
an odor of hops and brewing beer that I can still remember today.
For some reason, whenever I have Daquiri Ice ice cream, I can
smell and taste this same odor. They say the senses are some
of the best memory joggers and Daquiri Ice does this for me.
Weird...I know.

West on I-90 we kept driving, past lots of farmland that looked
the same as the previous thousands of acres. After a botched
missed turn, we made it to Rochester, Minnesota. I'm told it's
pronounced Rah-chester, not Rock-chester, but that's another
story. If you're going to get sick, this is the town you want
to live in. It's home of the Mayo Clinic and there are probably
more medical professionals here per capita in any other town in
the world, unless you want to count plastic surgeons in Beverly
Hills. I wanted to see St. Mary's Hospital (part of the clinic),
where my Grandpa had surgery in the early 70's and including some
new additions, it was still there. Although it's facilities are
top of the line, I hope I never have to go to Mayo if you know
what I mean.

In Worthington Minnesota, we drove by the "Pioneer Village".
Essentially it's a reconstructed village from the late 1800's
to early 1900's that they've placed on the county fairgrounds.
It might be a nice little distraction on a future trip, but it
had closed an hour before we got there. One thing that did
catch our attention was the admission fee. $6.00 seemed a
little pricey, but not totally unreasonable. What amazed us
however, was that anyone 90 and Above was free! 90 and above???
First of all, if you're over 90, you're probably not going to
be toodling around a reconstructed frontier town. Second, if
you're over 90, you probably grew up in a frontier town. Why
would you need to visit this place??? Thirdly...gee, what a
generous group these folks are to offer it free to those over
90. You only have to be 50 to become a member of AARP and 65
to retire. Picture this..."Honey, we're 65 and retired...only
25 more years until we can get into the Worthington Pioneer
Village for free!" Give me a break!

We received a pleasant surprise when driving across southwest
Minnesota. A Spanish radio station. You wouldn't think that
Minnesota would be a bastion of Hispanic culture, but there
are over 200,000 people or 4% of the state's population that
are of Hispanic descent. We like to listen to Spanish language
radio because we like the music and it gives us an ongoing
chance to practice our Spanish linguistic skills, or lack of.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the dozens of Wind
Generating sites in southwest Minnesota. These windmills
were scattered generously throughout the area and generate
hundreds of Megawatts of power. I'd love to see more areas
do this if they can just get over the hurdle of the NIMBY's.
Wind power and solar are just two of the ways we can lessen
our dependence on oil. Don't get me wrong...I like oil and
what it does for our way of life...We just need to start
planning for the future.
We crossed into South Dakota and are staying the night in
Mitchell. We're starting to feel like we're getting back
to the West!

1 comment:

Karen said...

Nice Blog! The next time you are in the Rochester area, drop down highway 63 into Iowa. About an hour south is highway 346 west to Nashua, home of the world famous Little Brown Church in the Vale and the Old Bradford Pioneer Village Museum. We only charge $4.00 per adults, and I did give a tour to a woman who was 91 a few weeks ago. :o) What a wealth of information! She knew what things in our museum were that we only wondered about. Ha Check out my blog at: