Sunday, June 17, 2018

Zumbrota, MN

Driving south on HWY 52? Check out Zumbrota, MN. What, you ask, is there to do in Zumbrota? Explore the charming downtown business district, grab a bite to eat, visit an art gallery, AND check out their claim to fame!

Zumbrota Covered Bridge - Minnesota's Only Remaining Covered Bridge

  • Claim to fame - Zumbrota boasts the only remaining covered bridge in Minnesota, spanning the Zumbro River at Covered Bridge Park, just a few blocks from the business district, right next to the Zumbrota Public Library.

The bridge even has a festival named after it - Zumbrota Covered Bridge Music & Arts Festival, which takes place the third weekend in June every year.

Sit down to eat at the Coffee Mill Restaurant. We had a tasty breakfast AND pie, yum! One of the slices of "pie" was bread pudding made from cinnamon rolls.

Crossings at Carnegie art gallery and shop, located in the former Carnegie Library, was our second stop. OMG... you need to go there... Why? Well they display new art exhibits every few months, hold art classes AND have a fabulous gift shop. They also host live music weekly.

The best part about visiting small towns is meeting the locals. Everyone we met in Zumbrota was friendly - from the staff at the Coffee Mill Café, to the barista at Bridget's Café, the owner of Wild Ginger Boutique, and the staff at Crossings at Carnegie. Through our visit at Crossings, we discovered that three of the local businesses are women owned - Wild Ginger Boutique, Luya Shoes, and the Crossings at Carnegie.

Two hours was definitely not enough time to experience all Zumbrota has to offer, so we will be back to spend more time downtown and at the Covered Bridge Park.   

Thursday, May 10, 2018

100 Mile Garage Sale!

When you hear the words garage sale, do your ears perk up? If so, then this is the day trip for you! The 100 Mile Garage Sale is a yearly pastime for many. Families and communities hold garage sales in neighborhoods along the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the Mississippi River and Lake Pepin. This may become a yearly event for us!

We started out driving through Prescott, WI on the Wisconsin Great River Road HWY 35 South.

Hager City, WI

Best sign!

First stop: Hager City - which wins the prize for best sign! We had planned to get on the road before 7 AM so we would get to garage sales as early as possible... because the early bird gets the worm. It's cliche, but that was true for us. I found a few nice tank tops for 25 cents each at the second garage sale and a pair of designer jeans for $5 at the third sale. At the fourth sale we found a set of six beautiful glass martini glasses for $4. We almost left without them, but the women running the garage sale wouldn't let us leave without the glasses. Thank goodness... they are beautiful and we have already used them once.

We went to several garage sales in Hager City. All were off the main highway, which turned out to be positive as these sales were not as heavily attended.

Bay City, WI

We came across several more garage sales and a few flea markets in Bay City. Browsing the treasures was super fun… but we were getting hungry. We also needed gas, so Ted filled the tank up and I had a few more minutes of amusement!  

Maiden Rock, WI
We had been wanting to return and eat breakfast at Ole’s since we had stopped there during the 2017 Stockholm Art Fair. It was worth the wait. Plus it was nice to see the owner again. The corned beef hash with hollandaise sauce, and plain old eggs and bacon were delicious! We sat at the bar… always a great place to meet the locals… and sat next to a few young men who stopped for breakfast while fishing. Well, we ended up visiting, and after playing a few of the dice games at the bar, they bought us a beer (but Ole's also has regular and iced coffees if you like)! While we were waiting for our food, the biscuits were made from scratch right in front of our eyes. Next time we pass through, I will have to try the biscuits and gravy!

After breakfast, we walked up the road to a few garage sales, the sidewalks are narrow and the traffic was picking up so we were careful!

After browsing at a few more shops, I stopped at the Smiling Pelican Bakeshop as I had been wanting to visit for a while. White paneling and crown molding, charming front deck, pretty bakery case and the smell and sight of fresh baked bread… what more could you want? OMG… if you like focaccia… please try their Sour Cream & Green Onion Focaccia… so tasty!

Stockholm, WI

We stopped at the Stockholm Pie & General Store… I just needed a pie stop! This time there was no line, even though it was midday and many people were about, there was only one person ahead of me. We grabbed a couple of pie cookies (pie crust with Blueberry and Nutella filling in the shape of a cookie) but choosing the slice of pie was a really difficult… we had tasted Triple Berry before, and that was delicious, but I wanted to try something new. The woman behind me clinched it when she recommended the Peanut Butter Fudge. Mmmm… we just sat in the park and ate our slice (we shared). It was rich… but tasty… creamy, with a flaky crust and chopped nuts on top.

Pepin, WI

More garage sales! This is where we found the glass lamp, brown sugar teddy bear stone, teddy bear book, and teddy bears. I was not on the hunt for stuffed animals, I promise… but the sellers were just giving them away. I made the mistake of saying how cute they were… and they insisted I take two bears… for free!

Look how high the water is!

After this garage sale we continued down the road toward Nelson to cross the river to MN HWY 61.

Lake City, MN

Crossing the Mississippi River
Stopped at a few garage sales in the outskirts of Lake City. By mid afternoon, the sales were pretty crowded so we just visited a few, but I found a chopper and a bowl that says Good Kitty (for Hops, our cat)!

Red Wing, MN

By the time we were heading into Red Wing, we were sleepy and ready to go home. We could not have been tempted by a single sign… or so we thought! The hand painted sign with two of our favorite words changed my mind… “We have to pull over, there’s an art fair!”

We were grumbling about where to park, when a nice couple who were leaving rolled their window down to let us know there was parking at the top of the hill. (We made sure to pass the message on when we left!)

So, we made it to the top of the hill and wow… Round Barn Farm - what a lovely view… the red-brick, white trimmed country manor home and the white round barn are amazing! If you have a chance to visit, please do!

Another wonderful surprise… live music! We browsed the art fair, had a chai tea latte (for the pick me up) happened to be there to hear the Saint Paul Mudsteppers, a group who plays country blues. Check out their website here.

View of the bluffs from HWY 61

Words of wisdom…

When you go… learn from our mistakes! I had been planning to browse the sales online, but it was a bit overwhelming, so I only looked up a few. Next year I will search the first town we are driving through for the garage sales that are open at 7:30. We drove straight through Prescott and stopped at our first garage sale at 7:40ish, but it wasn't open yet! Consult the website! Another thing we might do differently next year… start on the Minnesota side. Our plan involves eating breakfast early and bringing lunch. This year we stopped for breakfast during peak morning hours of the garage sale. We were enjoying ourselves so much that we spent at least an hour and a half before heading out again... but that was part of the experience... meeting people along the way!

Here's what we scored for around $20...

Friday, October 13, 2017

Another Birthday Adventure… Stockholm and the St. Croix River Valley: Part II

Attending an art fair is another great reason to explore a new town.  There are pros and cons to visiting a new town during an event, so just be prepared for anything.  You may have to wait in line to visit a long awaited establishment, and depending on how far you’ve traveled, if you will be visiting in the future (or will make future visits/plan to visit again), and your mood; you will have to decide if it is worth the wait.

The purpose of this trip was to celebrate a friend's birthday… and explore some of the towns along the St. Croix River (WI HWY 35 and MN HWY 61).  Ted and I had traveled to Maiden Rock, WI and Stockholm, WI in the spring and had been dying to go back to visit again.  Even after this trip, we would still like to go back again.

Prescott, WI

First stop, The Twisted Oak Coffee Shop in downtown Prescott.  It is hard to see the sign if you park across the street as the complete logo Twisted Oak Coffee Shop is on the window pane and not the wood awning.  It is worth finding this coffee shop, though.  The cozy shop has only a handful of small tables inside, but has overflow tables out on the sidewalk.  Inside, the lighting and furniture are dark like a cabin.  The drinks are delicious and the scone (from Emily’s Bakery & Deli in Hastings) was a little lighter and fluffier than expected, but still rather tasty.  I would have preferred it without the icing (even though the icing had a nice flavor).

If it is nice out, take your coffee across the street by the river.  Prescott is the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers.  You might (have flashbacks to childhood) feel like you are in a Disney movie as the railroad bridge towers over the river look like Mickey Mouse ears!

Maiden Rock, WI

As we were thirsty, we stopped at Ole’s Bar & Grill.  The new bar owner, and her good friend, the bartender settled us in right away with crisp, slightly spicy bloody mary’s

We stopped at the Green Queen artists’ shop, a lovely little shop specializing in all things pollination, across the street.  In addition to jewelry, art, and wind chimes; they also carry…

Stockholm, WI

After pulling off the road at a few scenic lookouts, we arrived outside of Stockholm… cars lined HWY 35 (and the neighborhood) for about a quarter of a mile in either direction of downtown.  Anxiety was high while we navigated the streets, dodging cars and people; however, we were persistent and ended up finding a perfect spot just outside of town.  As we walked into town, we stopped at several of the small artist shops…

Our spirits sank when we saw the line at the Stockholm Pie Shop as it was out the door.  So, rather than wait in line (as we were already quite hungry), we went to Lena’s Lucky Star restaurant to grab lunch.  Again, our spirits sank as we opened the door and saw the crowd of people waiting for tables.  We took a chance and put our name in anyway and ended up waiting less than five minutes!  Whew!  AC and good food on a 90 degree day.  As it was a busy day, a limited menu was served, but all we needed was something light and a cold beer… so the Nacho’s Grande (with ground beef, beans, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes) and Mango Blonde (from Lift Bridge) were a perfect combination.  The nachos were nice and light and the perfect size for sharing (for two).  

The main event: the Stockholm Art Fair!  The fair is held past the railroad tracks by the river at the Stockholm Village Park.  The giant trees (and artists’ tents) were a blessing in the heat of the day.

The art was fabulous, of course… going to an art fair is like going to an art gallery, only in a more casual atmosphere.  Browsing with a friend is a great way to spend the day!

Pepin, WI

After Stockholm, we stopped at the Pickle Factory Pub… fancy restaurant upstairs… casual bar downstairs… great place for people to stop when they are boating…

Wabasha, MN

We crossed back over the river through the beautiful Nelson-Trevino Bottoms State Natural Area (so beautiful in the slanting rays of the afternoon sun!) to the home of the Grumpy Old Men Festival… stopped at Slippery’s Tavern Restaurantthe clam chowder is as good as they claim!!

After taking pictures with the Grumpy Old Men benches we headed home along HWY 61 as we were sleeeeepy… again, a lovely drive along the river!

The “D” Trip on HWY 12

So, here’s the deal with this trip… it took place several months ago… in the spring...

Over the past several years our good friends have led us on many urban explorations in Minneapolis and now we are returning the favor by taking them on road trips in suburban and rural areas.
Our fellow explorers are always up for traveling off the beaten path, so they make excellent traveling companions.  I make mention of that as there were at least three unplanned stops on this road trip… and these guys were up for the adventure!

Darwin, MN

First stop, Darwin, MN for the “World’s Largest Ball of Twine Rolled by One Man.”


Mr. Johnson began rolling a ball of twine back in 1950 and continued until 1979..  Soon he had to move the ball outside on support beams… read more here at Atlas Obscura.


If you want to touch the ball of twine and visit the museum, make sure to call ahead to schedule a tour.  As it happened we had other places to visit, so we contented ourselves with looking at the ball of twine through the glass structure and reading about Mr. Johnson and the process of creating this large work of art.

Dassel, MN

You never know what you’ll find driving down HWY 12.  You just might find one of the most interesting museums you’ll ever visit (as least in my opinion).  The was one of those “bonus stops,” not on our itinerary.  We were driving along and what in the world did we see?  A mushroom shaped vintage gas station (not in service).  Photo op!  And what did our wondrous eyes see… but a sign for The Dassel History Center & Ergot Museum!  Only one of four had any idea what ergot is; a fungus that grows on the stalk of grains such as rye, oats, or wheat.  When ingested...

Cokato, MN

On our way out to Darwin, we noticed this ginormous log on the back of a pickup truck.  So of course we said to ourselves… “we need to stop and get our picture taken with that truck.”  The things you see while on a road trip!  

Delano, MN

Beer stop at Lupine Brewing.  One card, eight growlers, $35.00… good deal.  So, since we were heading out this way anyway, we thought we would pick up a growler.  And how do you decide which beer to choose?  Sample a flight… after tasting a flight, we settled on the Barleywine (so tasty!).


This town had two breweries… South Fork was the other brewery… which is now closed.  Unfortunately, we know some of the reasons why: the beer was not our favorite and the old couches and broken pallet table left something to be desired.  The staff were friendly and (the company was amazing as our friends are excellent conversationalists), so the experience was not an entire loss.  All of that said, there may be others out there who have different opinions about this former brewery.  Everyone has his or her own preferences.

Howard Lake, MN

A nice surprise was driving by Grandpa Ittel’s Meats, the local meat market.  We were looking for a place to eat, when we found this place.  Tasty beef jerky.  They have won awards for their meats.  


If you are hungry stop at Frontera Cafe & Bistro, a charming, little Mexican bistro.  The enchilada’s were delicious!  

Waverly, MN
Behind the Moon Antiques store… found a reed organ!  I love the sound of accordion and I am lucky enough to have a husband who humors me…

Long Lake, MN

Birches on the Lake… mmm… another tasty Barleywine.  The atmosphere is casual elegance.  Fine dining upstairs and bar downstairs.  We went in the spring, so it was still a little chilly so we wouldn’t have enjoyed the patio.  In the summer it would be lovely to sit by a fire pit or in the Adirondack chairs.

The Red Rooster is a tasty, family friendly restaurant that was hoppin on a Saturday night.  The burger and grilled cheese were delicious.  The portions are large, so we took half home (next time we might share).


What a great day!


Zumbrota, MN

Driving south on HWY 52? Check out Zumbrota, MN. What, you ask, is there to do in Zumbrota? Explore the charming downtown business district,...