BUMMING AROUND BURLINGTON

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I liked the historic feel of Burlington, which was quite different from where I grew up in Southern California.  Several of the downtown Burlington buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, and it was great to see the care taken to preserve these old buildings.

Take the Capitol Theater, for example.  Dating back to 1937, the 700-seat theater had been closed since 1977; however, a foundation of passionate citizens was formed to raise the money needed to restore the theater back to its 1937 splendor– with some modern additions.  Such painstaking care was taken in the restoration that the new seats and carpet were reproduced to look like the originals, and a boatload of money was spent to restore the marquee to exactly as it looked in its heyday.

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We took a guided tour, one of the included attractions for the day.  I especially liked the art deco-style lighting throughout the theater, and the old projector was a classic!

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The hop on-hop off bus also made stops at the top of Heritage Hill, a beautiful neighborhood of lovely old homes and Snake Alley.

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Constructed in 1894, Snake Alley was once known as the crookedest alley in the world.  It was built to create a short cut from the top of the hill to the business district below.  Needing to accommodate horses, the mode of transportation at the time, the bricks were tilted higher on the upper edges, making it easier for the horse’s hooves to catch on the raised edge making the ascent easier and the descent a lot safer.

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We didn’t have access to a horse, so we hoofed the 275 feet of Snake Alley carefully on foot to the street below.

While bumming around Burlington, we had a quick look at St. Paul’s Catholic Church:

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In all, it was a pleasant little historic city of 25,000-26,000 people, and we enjoyed having a look around.

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It was another beautiful sail-away highlighted by an entertaining calliope concert!

 

 

 

 

 

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A typical river barge on the Mississippi River

 

Coming up next:  HANGIN’ IN HANNIBAL

QUAD CITIES

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The “Quad Cities” region, at the confluence of the Rock and Mississippi rivers, was next up on the journey aboard the American Queen Steamboat paddle wheeler.  Located in northwest Illinois and southeast Iowa, the focus of the hop on-hop off bus route encompassed Davenport and Bettendorf, the two Iowa Quad Cities  We hopped aboard for a look around.

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The Isabel Bloom sculpture studio, in Bettendorf, was our first stop where we saw a demonstration of how they make their sculptures.

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In Davenport we chose to spend some of our time at the River Music Experience, which included a very cool performance by two local musicians, and a stroll through the Bix Beiderbecke Museum.  Davenport was home to the great jazz cornetist in his younger days, so the private not-for-profit museum was established for the purpose of collecting, preserving, and exhibiting material related to his life and career.

We also enjoyed the exhibits at the Figge Art Museum, where the highlight for us was seeing this Tiffany stained glass window:

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Downtown Davenport

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A bank building in Davenport

Back on board, the sail-away was eventful, between the bridges we sailed under, the calliope concert (always fun!), and the locks we went through.  It’s a tradition for the steamboat crew and passengers to throw beads to spectators at the locks, so one of the officers handed out strands of beads to toss to these onlookers, who made a sport of catching them!

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Next up:  BUMMING AROUND BURLINGTON

 

GALAVANTING OFF TO GALENA

It’s the busiest time of year for Cooked Glass Creations, so the long delay since my last post was due to Bruce and I galavanting off to craft shows here, there, and everywhere!

A short break from the action (while Bruce builds his stock back up) allows me to squeeze in another post:

The American Queen paddled us down the Missississippi River from La Crosse to Dubuque, Iowa, our next port on the journey.  Having visited the area during a previous trip with my best friend, Laura, her step-brother, and his wife; I had a plan:  Rent a car and visit Galena, where the four of us had thoroughly enjoyed our day.

The shore excursion office offered a premium excursion to Galena; however, after some quick research and calculations, I figured it was a LOT less expensive (and more fun!) to rent a car for a few hours from Enterprise Rent-A-Car and go on our own.

We asked our table mates if they wanted to join us, so after a quick look at Dubuque aboard the hop-on-hop-off bus (included with the cruise), a friendly Enterprise rep. picked the four of us up and took us back to the office to sign the paperwork.  (The rep. who brought us back was also friendly and a fun guy to chat with during the drive back to the boat.  I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Enterprise folks, so I concur with Consumer Reports and recommend them for your car rental needs!)

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This shot was snapped through the bus window in Dubuque.

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Another shot through the bus window of an interesting mural.

Galena, Illinois, located across the Mississippi from Dubuque, was a pleasant 25-minute drive, and well worth the visit.  Bruce, Jacque, and Rick enjoyed strolling through the historic district as much as I thought they would, and it was nice to visit the quaint town (population less than 3,500), once again.

Unfortunately, it was a gloomy day, so my photos aren’t nearly as nice as the ones I posted in my first blog about Galena.

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Now, somebody up there has an interesting sense of humor!  I wonder how many tourists look up and wonder about THAT!

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We enjoyed a tasty “flight” of root beer here:

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Our boat, back in Dubuque

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Jacque and Rick seemed to enjoy the calliope concert during the sail-away as much as we did!

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Goodbye, Dubuque!

Next stop on the cruise:  QUAD CITIES

 

 

LOVELY LA CROSSE

On August 16, 2017, the American Queen arrived in La Crosse, Wisconsin’s largest city on its western border.  Historically known for its lumber and brewery industries, La Crosse has become a regional technology and medical hub, thanks to the numerous educational institutions and health systems in the city.  Not only is La Crosse home to a University of Wisconsin campus, Viterbo University and Western Technical College are also located in this city of under 53,000 people!  No wonder why La Crosse has received high rankings for education.  Gundersen and Mayo Clinic health systems are also located in La Crosse, so the city also ranks high for health, well-being, and quality of life.  That’s a lot of greatness for such a relatively small city!

We chose to make the Dahl Auto Museum the first hop-off visit of the day on the bus route.  Ranked 4-1/2 of 5 on Trip Advisor, we were not alone in our assessment that this was a worthwhile attraction in La Crosse!

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My, how times have changed since I was born!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a couple of other stops in the city, we enjoyed a walk along the Mississippi River from the riverboat to the lovely Riverside International Friendship Gardens.  La Crosse has sister cities in China, Germany, France, Russia, Norway and Ireland; and, this collection of themed gardens celebrates those relationships.  I like their motto: “Riverside International Friendship Gardens will be a place of beauty reflecting our appreciation for the diverse cultures that share the earth.”

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Onward ho to Dubuque, Iowa!  Bon Voyage!

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One of my favorite times of the was during the short calliope concert during each sail away.

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This was one of the many locks we encountered along the Mississippi.

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Another tasty seafood dinner…

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… and delicious dessert!

Coming up next:  GALAVANTING OFF TO GALENA

 

A RELAXING DAY IN RED WING

One of the enjoyable aspects of cruising aboard a riverboat is the easy access and close proximity of each town on the itinerary.  In most of the ports we visited, it was a short walk to town from the boat.  Many of the attractions were close by, and for the highlights not within walking distance, the (complimentary) hop-on-hop-off buses got us to where we needed to go quickly and efficiently.

The evening before each port, we stopped by the kiosk located at the purser’s desk and selected the time we wanted to hop on the bus for the narrated circuit of town.  Forty tickets were available for each time slot (on the hour, quarter hour, and half hour).  Select the desired time and quantity of tickets, and your tickets would immediately print out for the taking.

The following morning, we would board the bus at our designated time, and off we would go.  If we arrived early, and there were still available seats on an earlier bus, we could take that bus instead.  It was an efficient system, because it avoided unwanted line-ups and waiting.

Once in town, tickets weren’t needed.  If there were seats available on the bus when it stopped at one of the several available locations on the circuit, you could hop on for a ride.  There was never a problem catching a ride; the buses were never full.

Most of the time, we would ride the circuit once to listen to the narration and learn about the town.  Once we had gone round-trip, we would plan out our day from there.

Red Wing was one of those towns located adjacent to the river, so it was a very short walk into town.  We did hop on the bus, though, because the Pottery Museum of Red Wing was one of the attractions located outside of the historic town center.

According to their website, The Pottery Museum of Red Wing is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich and colorful story of Red Wing’s clay industry. More than 6,000 vintage pieces of artisan-crafted stoneware, art pottery, dinnerware and folk art bring the story of historic Red Wing to life in dozens of dynamic exhibits covering 13,000 square feet.”

 The museum had a group of excellent docents, and we were fascinated by the history of the pottery they had on display.

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Red Wing, Minnesota, a small town of less than 17,000, is also known for their handcrafted work boots of the same name, a company that has been in existence since 1905.  These giant painted boot sculptures around town were a humorous reminder of the company that made the town’s name recognizable to us two native Californians:

The historic downtown was an attractive little area to walk around, especially this quaint little park located across from the St. James Hotel:

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We also made sure to stop by Red Wing Confectionery to pick up a couple of treats and compliment them on the cute steamboat chocolates that were waiting on our bed for us when we returned to our cabin the previous evening:

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As we sailed away from Red Wing during the late afternoon, we were fortunate to catch a glimpse of some bald eagles.  This one was photographed from quite a distance using telephoto, and then cropping the photo.  Due to the fact we were moving when the picture was taken, it isn’t sharp.  Still, l thought it was worth including:

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The sail away was the beginning of our 2,300-mile, 21-day journey down the Mississippi, and we were excited to be in on the adventure!

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Meanwhile, on board, I had a humorous encounter with another passenger as I stepped into the hallway from my cabin.  A man stopped one of the cabin attendants in the hallway, and in a jovial, teasing manner, asked her why all the passengers on this deck had cabins with pretty names on the doors, while he was stuck on a floor with cabins named after presidents.  He lamented, “I’m in the ‘Polk’ cabin, and ‘Filmore’ is next door—two of the worst presidents in history!”

I was listening in on him teasing this poor gal, so I took a flyer and snapped back, “At least you aren’t in a cabin named after Trump!”  Now, that could have gone either way.  At that very moment, I either made an enemy, or made a friend.

Fortunately (for me, because he was a big guy with a gruff-looking expression), that brought a smile to his face!  After a bit of commiseration about the current state of national affairs, we introduced ourselves and exchanged typical passenger-to-passenger questions, such as, “Where are you from?”  The thing is, every time I asked Rick a question, and he replied, I felt as if our pasts had mirrored each other—and, his wife’s, too!

As it turns out, Rick and Jacque currently live about four miles from where Bruce and I had lived during our last fifteen years in San Diego County.  Then, I learned they were both from my native home town of Long Beach (and neighboring, Lakewood), California!  Rick graduated from a rival high school, while Jacque was a Lakewood Lancer, like me!  Go Lancers!!  Jacque and I also attended Long Beach City College; however, the two of them graduated from Long Beach State University, while Bruce and I were San Diego State University graduates.  Jacque worked at San Diego State University, though, and they are basketball and football season ticket holders.  Go Aztecs!!

Since we had a twenty-year age difference, we didn’t know each other back then; however, it still felt like a small world.

When I met Jacque at the show that evening, she greeted me with a big hug and, “Go Lancers!”  She couldn’t wait to text her group of friends who were also Lancers and have stayed friends over all these years.

As it turned out, the four of us were able to arrange a table together in the dining room, and we were table mates for the length of the cruise.  Lucky for us, we really hit it off, and they were the best table mates we have ever had!

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Coming up next:  LOVELY LA CROSSE

http://www.potterymuseumredwing.org/

 

ROLLIN’ ON THE RIVER ON THE AMERICAN QUEEN STEAMBOAT

Following our ten-day road trip around Wisconsin, we met up with the other American Queen Steamboat passengers for a night at the Radisson Blu hotel at Mall of America, near Minneapolis.  After getting registered and settled in, I took advantage of the hotel’s pool for a swim workout (such as it is in a small hotel pool), as Bruce relaxed poolside.  Not being shoppers, we opted to spend the evening at the mall getting a good walk in and a casual dinner at an Asian noodle restaurant, before returning to our room.

The next morning, we got to know some of our fellow passengers during the buffet breakfast.  They were from California, as were approximately ten percent of the sold-out ship’s 400 passengers.  Another ten percent were from either Australia or New Zealand where the seasons are reversed, and they were escaping their cold winter.  Since this was the only longer vacation (23 days) offered by the cruise line during the year, it attracted travelers from afar who wouldn’t be inclined to fly such a long distance for a 7-day cruise.  This made for an interesting mix of passengers, several of whom we had fun getting to know during our weeks aboard the paddle wheel boat.

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Boat?  It’s not a ship?  No.  Ships sail the oceans, and boats, like the American Queen Steamboat, sail the rivers—just one of the things we learned from Bobby, the “Riverlorian” who presented lecturers throughout the journey.

Our home away from home for the following 21 nights, was a paddle wheel steamboat built in 1995, recently renovated, and beautifully maintained.  Step aboard, and you feel like you have been transported in time back to the 1890’s.  Other than the Front Porch Café and the outside decks, the ship has been decorated to bring you back to that era when steamboats were a common site on the rivers.

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We were transported from our hotel to the American Queen by a bus wrapped to look like the American Queen on wheels.  The company has a fleet of these matching buses that mostly serve as hop-on/hop-off buses at each port.  In the early evening, the buses caravan to the next port where the drivers stay the night at a hotel.  One evening, while enjoying the view from the top deck, we saw all five buses in a line crossing the bridge over the river—cool!

In the morning, the buses are lined up dockside, ready to transport the boat’s passengers around town, arriving at each stop every 15 minutes or so.  Local docents hop aboard each bus during the busy morning hours to provide running commentary, and then disembark at Noon.  As the afternoon winds down, the buses make their rounds at each stop every 30 minutes while each driver takes their break for lunch at the Front Porch Café or their local favorite haunt.

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The Front Porch Cafe offered buffets at each meal for a casual alternative to the dining room, as well as 24 hr. access to non-alcoholic drinks, soft serve ice cream (with toppings), fresh-baked cookies, and popcorn.

The drivers were terrific, especially Al, my favorite back in 2013 when my mom and I rode his bus frequently.  It was great to see he was still with the company!

Our cruise began in Red Wing, Minnesota where we were dropped off to embark the American Queen.  We stayed there overnight, so we had plenty of time to settle in our cabin, tour the boat, and still enjoy the town the following day.  (More about that in my next post.)

I was so pleased to see that Bruce was just as impressed with the boat as I had been when I boarded the American Queen the first time.  Although I had emphasized the small cabin size ahead of time, he even commented on how much space we had for storage!  (We had space left over after unpacking our suitcase filled with clothes for our 5-week trip AND our business supplies for our Etsy business at www.CookedGlassCreations.Etsy.com !).

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We had the cabin next door to this one; however, we had already started unpacking before I remembered to get a picture!  (The storage and door were located along the wall behind me.)

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Our stateroom attendant, Cassie, was such a sweetheart!

The food, entertainment, and friendliness of the staff was just as impressive to Bruce, and I was happy it was just as good as I had remembered it to be from my first cruise on the American Queen.

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The menus changed daily.

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Here are the crab cakes I ordered from the menu above.  YUM!

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These scallops were AMAZING!

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So was this lobster!

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During lunch in the dining room, we had a choice of ordering off the menu or enjoying the lunch buffet.

Stories about our experience on board (and more photos!) will be included in future posts, so for now, I will leave you with some photos taken aboard the American Queen.

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The Engine Room Bar was situated directly above the engine room (pictured below).  See those round windows?  We would watch the paddle wheel turning while listening to the music.  On each end of the night club, there were doors leading out to outdoor seating with a view of the paddle wheel.  More stories to follow about the band– and Bruce!

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Next up:  A RELAXING DAY IN RED WING

AMAZING AMNICON FALLS & DELIGHTFUL DULUTH

Before visiting Amnicon Falls State Park, we took the scenic route around the tip of Bayfield Peninsula.  The little town of Cornucopia was having a festival, so we pulled over to check out the crafts booths and shops along the marina.

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The vibe we picked up on throughout Bayfield Peninsula was that many of the residents were progressive, so this awesome solar-powered pottery studio fit right in place:

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Amnicon Falls was well worth the detour before continuing to Duluth, Minnesota.  The scenery was spectacular, and the hiking trails throughout the state park were so peaceful.  From any location, we could hear the rushing water from the falls.  The day was gorgeous, and we had chosen the perfect place to have a picnic and devour the remainder of our smoked fish and hand-picked berries.

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The remainder of the final full day of our road trip was spent up in Duluth, Minnesota, located on the south-western shores of Lake Superior.  The Downtown Lakewalk sounded like a nice way to spend a beautiful afternoon, so we put more miles on our legs while taking in the sites around the lake.

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Fitger’s Inn up on the hill looked interesting, so we climbed the stairs to see what was up there.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fitger’s was Duluth’s first brewery, dating back to 1857.  After 115 years of brewing beer, the brewery closed in 1970.

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The Fitger’s Brewery Complex was re-opened in 1984, and it appeared to be thriving during our visit.  Between the Inn, brewery, restaurant, and shops; the place was bustling.  It was warm, so many people were out enjoying a cold brew while relaxing on the patio and taking in the view of Lake Superior.

We opted for a cold Bridgeman’s ice cream, instead, and thoroughly enjoyed this local favorite.   Dating back to 1936, Bridgeman’s began as a family-owned business, and it remains in the Bridgeman family to this day.

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This was a great place to enjoy the sunny afternoon before heading south for the last night of our road trip.  The following day, we would be joining the American Queen Steamboat Company for a pre-cruise stay at Radisson Blu, at Mall of America.  Soon, we would be rollin’ on the river!

Coming up next:  ROLLIN’ ON THE RIVER ON THE AMERICAN QUEEN STEAMBOAT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE APPEALING APOSTLE ISLANDS

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In addition to the berry farm trail and beauty of Bayfield Peninsula itself, the big draw to the northern region of Wisconsin was the opportunity to see and photograph the Apostle Islands, a group of 22 islands in Lake Superior.  Our favorite light for photography is the golden hue cast by the sun just before sunset, so we opted to take the 3-1/4 hour, 55-mile narrated Grand Tour sunset cruise offered by Apostle Island Cruises.

As we headed out to the furthermost islands we cruised by Manitou Fish Camp, which was built in the 1930’s and used by local fisherman.  Since then, it has been restored and depicts the fishing industry in the area from the 1930’s through the 1950’s.

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The most photogenic highlight of this cruise was located at the most northern point of the islands at Devils Island.  We arrived during the prettiest golden light, so the photography was fantastic.  Between “sea stack” rock formations and extensive sea caves, I shot more photos per minute than I could remember shooting in a long time!  (Thanks to digital, it didn’t cost any more to do so like it had back during the film-shooting days.)

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As we cruised back to Bayfield we saw the Raspberry Island Lighthouse that marks the entrance to the West Channel.  Built in 1863, it served as home to several lighthouse keepers through the years until 1947 when the light was converted to automatic operation.

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Throughout the cruise, we enjoyed the informative and entertaining narration while we took in the views from the open-air deck.  Once the sun set, though, it got too cold to stay up on top.  I did manage to brave the cold out on the aft deck for a few final pictures:

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Next up:  AMAZING AMNICON FALLS & DELIGHTFUL DULUTH

BAYFIELD: FROM BLUEBERRIES TO BOATS

Gloomy skies and occasional light rain showers continued during our drive from Ashland to Bayfield, so we went straight to Winfield Inn to pick up our key to the rental we would be staying in for the next two nights.  After settling in, we decided to spend the remainder of the late afternoon exploring the area.

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Click on the picture, and read the “instructions,” because they are a hoot!

Bayfield is Wisconsin’s self-proclaimed “berry capital,” so we headed out to the berry farm trail located just up the hill from our apartment.  Our plan was to return in the morning to pick berries for breakfast; however, we found a pick-your-own berry farm that was still open, and the blueberries looked too delicious to wait until the morning!  Compared to the blueberries we pick every June in our area of Georgia that tend to split from the heat while they are still small, these berries were HUGE, and the bushes were LOADED.  We grabbed a box and went to it, ignoring the rain and mud.

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The weather forecast looked promising for the following day, so we planned to return in the morning to pick more, and then see the other farms on the trail.

Meanwhile, after enjoying our afternoon snack of delicious blueberries while gazing at the view of Lake Superior from our rental, we headed back down the hill to town.

Located on Lake Superior, Bayfield is small and hilly; however, the town is attractive and quite nice to stroll around.  It served as a perfect base, too, for exploring the area.  They even had a community center with a 25-meter swimming pool!

The following day, we woke up to sunny skies and a beautiful day, perfect for the outdoor activities we had planned to enjoy, including exploring the remainder of the berry trail.  We returned to Rocky Acres Farm to pick more blueberries, and picked some raspberries as well—the best I had ever tasted.  It was such a beautiful setting, too!

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This is one of the other farms we stopped at along the trail (the one with the self-kicking machine):

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After our breakfast of fresh-picked berries, we enjoyed the gorgeous day poking around town, doing some photography, and visiting the excellent Bayfield Maritime Museum.

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My mid-day swim at Bayfield Area Recreation Center was wonderful—and, much needed.  It was my first opportunity to swim on this trip since we were in Minneapolis, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Bruce, meanwhile, returned to the maritime museum to see the remaining exhibits.

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Having worked up an appetite, we were ready for the picnic lunch we had planned to enjoy at a table overlooking the marina.  Bodin Fisheries, located near the pool, had a nice selection of tasty-looking fish, so we picked up some smoked salmon and white fish, as well as a filet of sugar-cured smoked lake trout.  Ritz Crackers claims that everything tastes better when it sits on a Ritz, and we both agreed.  That fish tasted great sittin’ on a Ritz!

It’s amazing how thoroughly enjoyable such a simple experience can be.  Start with a beautiful day, add a pleasant setting with a lovely view, toss in some delicious smoked fish and crackers, and then finish it off with some fresh Wisconsin tart cherry juice.  Life is good!

It was also good that our Apostle Island sunset cruise that was scheduled for the same evening rather than the rainy evening before.  We had waited to book the cruise until the 10-day forecast clued us in on what to expect for weather, and the gamble paid off.  Fortunately, the cruise hadn’t yet sold out, and the weather forecast was spot-on.  What a beautiful evening!  Check it out in my next post!

Next up:  THE APPEALING APOSTLE ISLANDS

 

 

ASHLAND’S HISTORY THROUGH MURALS

From Boulder Junction, where we bid farewell to the “Townies,” Bruce and I headed northeast toward Bayfield, our home base for the next two nights.  To break up the drive, we thought Ashland would be a great place to stop, stretch our legs, and see the town’s murals I had read about in my research.

Expertly and beautifully painted by Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice Martinsen, most of the huge murals depicting Ashland’s history are located in the eight-block Main Street business district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

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Ashland’s historic downtown was quite charming.  Between the murals, architecture, lovely little park, and artistic mosaic trash receptacles, it was a great place to visit!

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Coming up next:  BAYFIELD:  FROM BLUEBERRIES TO BOATS