As I’ve mentioned before, later this year Mr. Q and I were supposed to take an amazing vacation. It was a cruise starting in London and stopping at eight fabulous ports of call in Europe. Back in March, when I last wrote about it, we were still optimistic that we’d be able to go. It wasn’t until early May that Princess officially canceled the cruise. It didn’t take long after that to realize that we most likely weren’t going to be taking any sort of vacation that involved air travel this year. So that just left us with either a stay-cation (staying at home and visiting local spots) or a road trip.
We were really itching to do some sort of getaway though. My sister and my niece also wanted to get out of town for a bit of a break. So we decided to plan a road trip.
After a little research, we settled on exploring some of The Great River Road. The Great River Road is a series of state and local roads that follow the Mississippi River all the way from its headwaters in Minnesota, to where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. So last week the four of us set off on our adventure. We’d put together a loose itinerary for the first day, and we figured we’d just play it by ear from there. We just had one rule, that we would stop anywhere that looked like it could be interesting.
So we loaded up the car and headed south on highway 61. Our first stop was the town of Redwing, MN. After refreshing ourselves with breakfast at Perkins, my sister wanted to visit the Pottery Museum of Redwing. We arrived there only to find that it was closed because it was Monday. Dang! Little did we know that ‘sorry, we’re closed’ was going to be the theme of our little adventure.
So, we piled back in the car and considered our next move. Since it was now around noon, and there was a heat advisory because it was in the upper 80’s with 1,000% humidity (or at least that’s what it felt like), we decided a hike up Barn Bluff was not in the cards for us. So instead we drove up to Memorial Park which also offered a view of the city without as much sweating required (you can see the haze of humidity in the air in this next photo).
It also offered a porta-potty (a.k.a. portable toilet, jiffy john, what do they call them where you live?). Another discovery we’d made at this point in our journey was that many of the state run rest stop facilities were closed. We definitely had to use some very questionable toilets during our trip.
After checking out the rest of the park, we piled back into the car and headed to Old Frontenac. Old Frontenac is a small village along the river that was established in the 1850’s and hasn’t seen a whole lot of change over the years. There aren’t any tourist shops or places to get ice cream, but there are a bunch of houses that are over 100 years old.
Obviously, this stop was one of my picks. I just love looking at old houses, and this was a whole village of them.
Winona Cottage (below) was built in 1889 as a wedding present for Israel Garrard’s son and his wife.
Gosh, getting a house as a wedding present, and not just any house but a gorgeous house overlooking the Mississippi River, wouldn’t that be nice!
Most of the homes in town were well maintained and obviously lived in, but this one was appeared to be in need of some TLC …
It’s called Locust Lodge and was built in 1854. I did a little google research and learned that it is owned by a woman who lives in Boston and has been unoccupied for years. I think it goes without saying that the house is probably haunted!
Almost all of the houses in Old Frontenac were white with dark green shutters …
which led me to wonder if there were strict rules about using historic colors or something, but there was also one lone purple house …
Is this a house where rebels live? Actually, according to the info I found online this is the Lowell House Bed & Breakfast, but I couldn’t find a website for them. So I’m not sure that it still operates as a B & B.
Before we leave Old Frontenac I just have to share this little detail. One house had a birdhouse that matched the town’s old church. Here’s the life size church …
And here’s the birdhouse …
How cool is that? If only they’d had a gift shop selling these birdhouses, I’d definitely have snatched one up as a unique souvenir.
If any of you that live in the Twin Cities haven’t been to Frontenac, I’d definitely recommend it for a day trip. You can visit the old town (here’s a link to a self guided walking tour that you can download), and also visit Frontenac State Park to do some hiking. You could also stop off in Redwing for some antiquing, or a nice lunch.
After exploring the town and checking out a gorgeous field of wildflowers …
we hopped back in the car and continued to head south towards Lake City. We had planned on exploring there a bit, but there was road construction that detoured us around a bit and we never did make it back to Lake City.
Instead, we followed some advice I’d found online to check out a collection of restored historic windmills nearby. So we drove a bit out into the country on roads with views that mainly looked like this …
And here is what we found …
So … I have to admit … when I read that this guy had a collection of restored windmills on his property I was picturing this in my mind …
Which I now realize was totally ridiculous of me. We were in Minnesota, not the Netherlands. Talk about wishful thinking.
After that little detour we continued on to Kellogg, Minnesota where we stopped off at Lark Toys which apparently was named one of the top 10 best toy stores in the world by USA Today.
It’s not just a toy store though, there is also a toy museum.
You know you are getting older when the toys you played with are now in a museum.
I had that blue Easy Bake oven when I was a kid (upper shelf, left).
They also have an amazing carousel with the most fantastical creatures.
Each animal is handcarved out of Minnesota basswood.
Isn’t the otter totally adorable?
I think my favorite might have been the flamingo though.
After buying some fudge at the gift shop we headed back to the car and drove the rest of the way to Winona where we found a hotel for the night and some down home cookin’ for dinner. Mr. Q had liver and onions (his favorite, gack!) and I had a hot turkey open faced sandwich with mashed pototoes. You can’t get much more down home than that.
I hope you enjoyed checking out some of the sights along the Great River Road with me today. Have any of you traveled any portion of the route? Or maybe you have another road trip that you can recommend. If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!