Surprises in Southwest Wisconsin

Trip Start Jul 22, 2012
Trip End Oct 13, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Wisconsin
Wednesday, September 26, 2012

 After taking an early morning hike along the Lake Michigan shoreline at the Great Lakes Naval Station, we headed north to Wisconsin. Wisconsin is the home of various cheeses, dairy farms, interesting environmental features and Dave and Mary Reisland, our winter neighbors from Honolulu. As our luck would have it both Dave and Mary are out of town while we visit, but we manage to sneak into their gated community to peak at their house. I e-mailed Dave a picture of us in front of their place and he had the nerve to ask me to cut the grass while I was there!!! What a guy.

Heading west from Lake Geneva we crossed the state to the Wisconsin Dells area, actually stopping about sixty mile south near Taliesin, home of Frank Lloyd Wright. We stayed at the “Shot House State Park”, which was the spot where an early businessman decided to start a buckshot factory. Wisconsin had vast lead deposits so he picked a spot on the river with a steep cliff. He had the lead delivered by oxcart to the top of a cliff where he had paid for the digging of a shaft. The molten lead was scooped up in a ladle with shot size holes, the lead droplets were sent down the 175 foot shaft into a pool of water. Dropping down the shaft caused the molten lead shot to become spherical….hmmmmmhhh, never heard of that before, the things you learn on the road!

Another surprise was the House on the Rock. Never heard of it before either. Alex Jordan was one of those crazy eccentrics that had a genius that bordered on insanity…my opinion. He fell in love with a favorite picnic spot and decided to build a house on top of a rock spire. The design of the house was a fabric of his imagination and molded to the shape of the rock, incorporating the raw rock into the floor and walls of the eleven rooms. He eventually had local tradesmen helping him with his “vision”. Well, once he finished the structure the curious public beat a path to his door to see this eclectic structure. One day he decided to start charging an entrance fee…then things really took off. The House on the Rock complex is now a major tourist attraction with three separate tours. The house itself is one tour, with a late addition of a “nose” actually a cantilevered glass room that extends sixty feet off of the end of the rocky spire 160 feet above the valley below, it is quite a structure. The other two tours are of buildings that Alex designed to hold his numerous collections, self designed art work and musical “machines”. At one point he had about forty full time tradesmen working on his structures. You have to see it to understand what I am trying to describe…go if you are anywhere near southwest Wisconsin, the guy was nutty and brilliant at the same time.

The Wisconsin Dells have been a tourist attraction for over a century. Dells is a derivative of Dalles, French for layered rock according to the brochure. The attraction is the rock formations along the river and lakes of the region. After the lake tours became successful an entire tourist trap mecca was built to complete a resort atmosphere. There are countless water parks, fun houses, mini golf courses, ice cream shops, etc., etc. I guess this place is a madhouse in the summer. We took the lake tour upstream and then the “Duck” river tour downstream, the rock formations really are pretty.

After an all you can eat fish fry we headed for Minnesota. Stopping just the other side of the Mississippi River for the night. We nearly stayed in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on the Mississippi River. Its residents were gearing up for the annual Octoberfest parade and parties…lots of drunks in lederhosen stumbling in an out of bars. While it was tempting, we decided to find a campsite at Money Creek Campground in Houston, Minnesota.  Another great campfire.....
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