This trip took place from April 20th through April 23rd, 2017.
James slept well and so did we. I filled a tray with delicious breakfast items and brought it back to the room. I’m a sucker for cinnamon rolls but I grabbed some healthy items too. Beth fed him and we watched something on TV. He was up for maybe two hours before getting a little cranky. Beth put him down for a quick nap so I started bringing our bags out to the car. We have never been the kind of people to travel light and packing for a baby hasn’t changed that. The third floor of our Holiday Inn Express was being renovated at the time so the door was propped open by the construction guys. It was helpful when going back and forth with our stuff but the smoke from their frequent cigarette breaks flooded the entryway and hall. It wasn’t my favorite scent. I checked us out of the hotel and we drove over to Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf passing a ton of the kitsch found in The Dells.
I wanted to golf as many mini holes as I possibly could during this trip and we weren’t done yet! Beth and I couldn’t decide on a good wager up to that point but knew the overall winner of the weekend would get some kind of prize from the loser. We were visiting a cheese shop nearby when we were done so we settled on the loser buying. I was ahead by three strokes after 54 holes and it didn’t get any better for Beth, even with James dangling from my chest. There were two separate holes where the course designer clearly left gaps in the brick border of the greens so I could hit my ball over the sidewalk directly toward the hole, thus avoiding the convoluted series of obstacles in our path. Beth said it was cheating but I’ve always held the belief that any territory is fair game as long as your ball doesn’t end up outside the green at the end of any stroke (which would be a penalty). In both instances my score was far better because of my shortcuts; the second one was even a hole-in-one!
Beth narrowed my lead for a while but I got it back to three strokes by the 18th hole. We both hit our first shot within three feet of the hole so I asked her to confirm the scores so I could try to throw it and we could tie. I meant to give my ball a small tap to accomplish that task but it funneled straight in and I won. Beth was displeased with my victory but she said she would have been furious if I had thrown it as I planned. It was lunchtime but we grabbed our free ice cream cone (rainbow sherbet again) before changing James’ diaper and getting him back in his car-seat. Dessert-first is fine on vacation!
The cheese shop I researched prior to the trip was called Carr Valley Cheese. It had good reviews on TripAdvisor. Parking was a bit of a struggle. There was a big open lot behind the building with two cars in it. It was one of those confusing setups with inadequate signage where you’re not sure if you have to pay and if you do, it’s not clear how. I hate those dumb lots and they seem to be present across this country. Eventually, I parked at a meter and paid the whopping quarter fee. James fell asleep so we had to take turns going inside. The cheese (and all their products) generally looked delicious and of high quality but it was also more expensive than we would have preferred. I did a lap and went back to provide Beth with her shopping list for my prize for winning mini golf. It was like $10 for a fairly small wedge of cheese so I said a $6 bottle of blackberry syrup would be sufficient. Yes, we battled for 72 holes all over what turned out to be $6. We’re intense like that. She bought a raspberry syrup for herself and having tried them both since the trip I can safely say they are both worth her purchase.
Our time in Wisconsin Dells was over but I still needed a souvenir. I walked from the cheese place to half a dozen of the souvenir shops within a block before finding the perfect lapel pin for my collection. Beth picked me up and we decided to find a place to stop for lunch on the highway home. I saw two separate billboards for a deli boasting lots of specialty cheeses and pulled off at the appropriate exit in Mauston, Wisconsin. James needed a snack and a fresh diaper so I volunteered to run inside and get our order to go. The restaurant from the billboard was called Log Cabin Deli & Cheese. The building was a log cabin and the furniture inside followed the theme. Beth, whom had looked at the website online, wanted a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato slices. I couldn’t decide on anything so I ordered a grilled cheese as well but with turkey. While I waited for our food to be prepared I looked longingly at all of their fresh cheeses, meats, and baked goods. Beth brought James inside because he needed a break from his car-seat so we ate there instead. He sat on the table in between us and we took turns eating and holding him up (he wasn’t sitting up on his own very well yet). My sandwich, while simple, was great. I could really taste the difference the fresh ingredients made compared to sandwiches I make at home using processed sandwich meat (or Subway for that matter).
Not wanting to back-track on I-94 the entire way back to Minneapolis, I planned a different path for our return. This one was slated to take four and a half hours, a bit longer than I-94, but I desired new scenery. Not long after making the turn onto I-90 I had to stop for gas and James decided to poop (as babies will do from time to time) and it got everywhere. Beth got a fair amount of practice changing diapers on the back seat of her car on this trip. He seemed to do well despite the non-level surface.
Our next destination was La Crosse, Wisconsin, just across the Mississippi River from Minnesota. It’s a beautiful historic city with tall bluffs of sandstone. The best known of them, Granddad Bluff, seemed like a cool place to checkout according to my TripAdvisor research before the trip. It’s not every day you can visit a place mentioned in a Mark Twain memoir (Life on the Mississippi, 1883)! I drove up the twisting bluff road at the required 25mph and passed a couple walking up it. It wasn’t too steep but it probably would have been an hour of decent cardio to reach the top. The parking areas at the top were all packed but I saw two cars leaving and figured they had to have come from somewhere. Beth’s famous parking luck found us the closest spot to the scenic overlook right up front!
James was hungry again so Beth took care of him and told me to go check out the view in the meantime. It was somewhat crowded but the fenced sidewalk overlooking a significant drop was wide enough for everyone to see. Some of the people looked like they had just come from church or something (logical for a Sunday). The pictures on the internet that attracted me to this particular spot were nice but nothing compared to experiencing it in person. I could see for miles. The buildings below looked like miniatures. So did the golf course at the base of the bluff directly below. A train even went by that looked like a model. It was fantastic. There were some informational signs about the geology of the region and the history of the city of La Crosse. I learned that the cliff on the South face of the bluff was once quarried for sandstone. There was a tram system that would bring the rock down to the bottom of the hill (approximately 500 feet). A guy standing next to me noticed a young woman on the North side (maybe 150 feet away) standing on the very edge of the cliff beyond the fenced off area. Beth and I saw the same type of dangerous activity while visiting the Grand Canyon. This cliff isn’t nearly as high but I still don’t understand it. Who would want to risk death for a selfie?
Beth texted me wanting me to come back to the car. We were behind schedule so she wisely stated that we should probably get back on the road. She wasn’t too worried about seeing the overlook because she knows well by now that I took plenty of photos in the few minutes I was walking around (94, it was 94 photos). We left the bluff and drove through town. There were lots of historic houses at which to look. James took a nap so it was pretty quiet for the next hour or so. I couldn’t really listen to the radio very loud so it might as well have been off. I was fairly tired, actually, and could have used some music to keep me awake. My only alternate was the Southeast Minnesota valleys and Mississippi River bluffs. I stayed awake but it wasn’t easy. The only notable thing we saw other than natural scenery was the Mayo Clinic as we passed through Rochester, Minnesota. Mayo has been ranked as the best hospital in the United States by some groups and in the top ten for most advanced hospitals in the world by others. Next time I’m in the area I hope to stop and take a tour.
Closer to home James started to fuss so super mom whipped out her trusty distraction device (her phone) and they watched Frozen for the last twenty minutes before Beth’s parents’ house. Maeby, our Shetland Sheepdog, was thrilled to see us. She gives us enthusiastic greetings when we come back from grocery shopping so our post-vacation hello was over-the-top. She immediately forgave us for leaving her with her grandparents for a couple days. We didn’t stay to chat with Ken and Carol because James’ bedtime was fast approaching. The last twenty minutes went by quickly and we were home. Beth gave James a bath before bed while I emptied her car. Then, thankfully, we all conked out. End of day four.
This four day and three night trip to Wisconsin Dells from the Twin Cities was roughly 550 miles. Even though it was much quicker and less mileage than our usual trips it was a fun getaway from regular, everyday life. It was our second vacation with James, the first by car, and I think we learned a lot! Beth got really good at changing his diaper in the car (while parked, of course) and I learned just how much I can carry pack-mule style. We both learned that babies are not terribly helpful while mini golfing. We over-packed (again) but I do still like to be prepared at all times (because I’m an Eagle Scout). With the discounted hotel stay the trip cost us approximately $400; $130 or so for the hotel, $140 for food, $70 for gas, and $42 for mini golf. I know it was not a long or extravagant vacation but it’s always good to get away, even if just for a long weekend. Free time spent with family is very important in life and something always worth cherishing. I cannot wait for our next trip together!