A few days in Wisconsin

Cousins, genealogy, memories, cemeteries, grandma's house. Fall colors, beautiful Wisconsin countryside, farmers markets, shoreline. Mom and pop places, "I brake for signs" action, and a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's warehouse. Good stuff.

Steve and I decided to combine vacation, visits with relatives, some writing and R&R time, and a "Route 66 in Illinois" program all into one trip October 1 - 12 through Wisconsin, Michigan, a bit of Indiana, and back into Illinois.

We left late on Wednesday, October 1, due to a "Route 66 in Illinois" program I presented that afternoon for Lifelong Learning at SIUE in Edwardsville. On Thursday afternoon, we actually reached Wisconsin. Our first stop was the country cemetery where my mom, my dad, and four generations of my mom's side of the family - Hansons and Engens - rest. 

My mom grew up in one of the two earliest Norwegian settlements in Wisconsin. Many cousins still live in the area, and on Thursday night eight of us got together for a great meal and an even better visit at Domenico's in Beloit. Then it was back to a cousin's home for more visiting and dessert! We stayed overnight at a mom and pop place that we learned was the site of a couple murders some years back, but I haven't had time to research that yet. Always another story to track down!

On Thursday, we were off to Richland Center for ancestor-hunting in Steve's family. After tracking down a chain of city employees, he was able to obtain a map of the old city cemetery and locate his grandmother's grave. He was elated to then be able to find his grandparents' old house - on a hill where he remembered rolling like a log down the steep back yard - when he was a child, of course! 

A big delight in Richland Center was the opportunity to take a tour of a portion of the A. D. German warehouse, designed by Richland Center's native son, Frank Lloyd Wright, and built in 1921. A campaign to save and restore the warehouse is underway and a knowledgeable gentleman involved with the project showed us around and told us some stories.

On Saturday, we headed for Madison but first we stopped at one of the many farmers markets. Peck Orchards has multiple shops along the way and I think we must have stopped at the best one. Apples, gourds, pumpkins, and the biggest heads of cabbage I've ever seen were lined up alongside jams, butters, candy, honey, and other treats. The Pecks know how to decorate for Halloween. "Talking" and "rocking"  ghouls of all kinds were everywhere. With enough snacks purchased to get us to Madison and then some, we took off.

Just a few miles outside of Madison, we intended to wander around Mt. Horeb to see the trolls, visit the mustard museum, and eat lefse at the Norwegian restaurant. But a big downtown festival was taking place, and it was so cold and windy, we just did a drive-by.

In marvelous Madison, we went straight downtown with cameras at the ready. We visited the huge and elegant Monona Terrace, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but built many years later. Many black-and-white photographs by Pedro Guerrero, Wright's photographer, grace the walls there and a gift shop is definitely worth perusing.

On Saturday evening we had another cousin get-together in Edgerton and then made it to Fond du Lac yet that night. Some excellent cousinly advice steered us to Door County the next day.

Sunday was the first day we actually enjoyed a little sunshine (well, darn little), and we devoted the day to making the loop in Door County. Loved it! I can hardly believe with probably hundreds of trips to Wisconsin over the years, I'd never gone there. I see why so many return there, not satisfied with just one visit. Shoreline, quaint buildings, and interesting eateries beckon you to stop, take photos, have a meal. Late in the afternoon we had a late lunch/early supper at J.J.'s of Jacksonport.

Egg Harbor and Fish Creek are especially hard to resist. Change your plans, stop, stay here, you don't really have anywhere else to go. Can't stop. Can't stay. Have to move on to Michigan tomorrow. Well...maybe a stop long enough for ice cream under neon. 


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