Day 1 - Red Wing
|Friday, February 8, 2019: We left our snowy home relatively late, because we had to drop off our daughter at her adult day program.
|We dropped her off the moment they opened, and were on the freeway before 9:00 AM.
|We saw snow showers in the distance as we passed the windmills on I-69.
|Here's a white version of the pink ONE trailers we just started seeing last year.
|We always get a photo of the Zurich building north of Chicago ...
|... and here's Johnny's Castle, permanently renamed from Medieval Times since our grandson saw it last year.
|For the first time ever, we exited the Illinois Tollway at Belvidere Plaza, ...
|... because we were finally going to pop in and see the town of Belvidere.
|We were here to visit the Pettit Memorial Chapel, ...
|... designed by Frank Llloyd Wright and finished in 1907.
|It has matching open spaces on either side of the chapel area.
|"This chapel erected by Emma Clasner Pettit in loving memory of her husband William H. Pettit M.D. who died in Cedar Falls, Iowa, March 25, 1899."
|It was closed but we were able to peer through the glass doors at the one-room interior.
|Here's the view from the other door. Is that a fireplace on the left? Seriously, FLW? You put a fireplace in a chapel? If there's anything we've learned from touring Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, it's that he loved to include fireplaces and they usually had very poor ventilation.
|Here's the exterior of the other side.
|It was noon as we were leaving town, so we grabbed some lunch from Arby's and actually took a few minutes to eat our food in the restaurant.
|As we drove north through Wisconsin, the sun was shining on the thin layer of ice covering everything, making everything on the west side of the road very shiny.
|We passed the Wisconsin Dells, ...
|... Castle Rock, ...
|... and lots of hunting towers.
|By 2:30 PM, we were at Tomah, where the "I Divides" ...
|... and the cranberry bogs are plentiful. Here's the Bosshard Bogs sign, last photographed just two months earlier.
|We zoomed past La Crosse at 3:00 PM, ...
|... crossing the Mississippi River to head north on the Great River Road.
|We immediately encountered Lock and Dam No. 7, which meant that we were now in bald eagle country. The open water near the dam allows eagles to fish in the winter.
|Thanks, Minnesota! It's great to be here!
|Icicles were thick along the roadside bluffs.
|Here's the view looking back toward Onalaska and the pretty bluffs of the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River.
|We passed the Amtrak Empire Builder at 3:18 PM. It was scheduled to be in La Crosse at 10:47 AM. Doesn't look good for getting there on time.
|But the train sure is pretty! We had traveled this way ourselves in 2012.
|Tom spotted an eagle nest in a tree near the road.
|Here's a closer view.
|Here's a look at the pretty river ...
|... and the beautiful bluffs with their fresh topping of snow and ice.
|That's the town of Winona up ahead.
|We had our first eagle spotting just south of Winona. Tom saw the eagle nest in the trees on the left, ...
|... and Debbie noticed the adult eagle standing guard nearby.
|This is Sugar Loaf overlooking ...
|... the town of Winona.
|Lake Winona was covered with ice fishing houses.
|We passed the Wilkie steamboat model at Huff Street. It's hard to tell the scale of this from a photograph, but it's at least eight feet tall. It was refurbished in 2015 so it looks great.
|We couldn't get enough of the gorgeous ice-topped bluffs.
|The light really cooperated for this photo. Debbie was holding her arm out of the window to get these photos, despite the near-zero temperatures.
|We passed another eagle nest on the left. Maybe.
|Here is Lock and Dam No. 5, another popular place for eagles.
|These power lines cut across McCarthy Lake State Wildlife Management Area, ...
|... just south of Kellogg.
|Debbie spotted an eagle but didn't get a photo in time, so here's the photo to remind her that it happened. That's probably a squirrel nest in a tree near the top center of this photo, which could be mistaken for an eagle nest if you have absolutely no sense of scale.
|We made it to Wabasha at 4:00 PM, just as we had planned.
|We drove down Pembroke Avenue toward ...
|... the National Eagle Center on the riverfront.
|Inside, we took a quick photo of this aerial view of the area, ...
|... then headed straight to see the live eagles. Here is Columbia, an 18-year-old female eagle who has lived at the center since her wing was broken when struck by a vehicle. A second adult female eagle, Angel, was away from the center on this day.
|When we first walked in, Tom didn't realize Columbia was a live bird until she moved her head to look at us.
|Here's more info about these two.
|Also here was Donald, an adult male golden eagle. Like Columbia, he had just had some delicious rabbit for lunch.
|His buddy, juvenile male bald eagle Latsch, was also away from the center, traveling with Angel. Each of these birds has an injury that prevents them from surviving in the wild, so their permanent home is the Center.
|We walked around the museum for a bit.
|Tom took a small sticker dot and put it on the map of 2019 visitors. We were the first visitors of the year from Indiana, so yay for us.
|There's an outdoor balcony on the second floor to look for eagles.
|With lots of open water, this is a good place for potential sightings.
|We had our binoculars along so we looked and looked, but didn't see anything.
|Tom wiped the snow off of the sign so we could read it. It tells us that the trees across the river are part of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
|There was a nice little park and statue on the river next to the Center, but we didn't go down there. So very cold.
|Looking straight up behind us, we could see the slightest sliver of a crescent moon over the statue of an eagle. Don't try to find it in this photo though - it's just not visible in this scaled-down version.
|Back inside, it was warmer and we looked around some more.
|One room had an entire wall of windows, just perfect for doing some indoor eagle watching.
|Another room had smaller windows. Binoculars were positioned nearby to help viewers.
|Tom spotted an eagle flying near the bridge, but it was gone by the time Debbie arrived to take a photo ...
|... and to take a look herself. Note she remains completely bundled up in an attempt to warm up from being on the balcony.
|This was a cool overhead display of different types of eagles and other birds of prey.
|This sign was a little out of date, but it showed the bald eagle counts that we had been checking online. This is the information that convinced us to stay in Red Wing overnight.
|Stuffed turkey display? Sure, why not?
|The center was completely empty except for us and a couple of employees, so we took a quick look at the gift shop before heading out at 4:30 PM.
|We headed north on Main Street, past the Christmas decorations on the street lights, ...
|.. until we reached Reads Landing. We had a map of potential eagle nest sightings, and there was one near here, but we didn't find it. (Instructions: Drive to bottom of hill, park, then walk back up the hill. Yeah, not gonna happen in this cold, sorry.)
|However, we spotted an eagle at a roadside overlook a mile or two further north.
|We got out of the car ...
|... and took a look at him with our binoculars. Even if we didn't see any other on the trip, we could now say that we had both seen bald eagles in the wild here.
|A couple of minutes up the road, we stopped at the Lake Pepin overlook.
|We spotted an eagle soaring overhead.
|A man in a car nearby walked over to tell us that the eagle was waiting for the birds in the open water below to catch fish, ...
|... then swooping down to steal the fish from them. We stayed for a few minutes but didn't see the eagle again, so we moved on.
|There's Lake Pepin with Lake City in the distance.
|Here we are, in Lake City.
|This is a water sports town, but all of the boats at the Lake City Marina were up on dry land for the winter.
|Someday, we'll actually visit this town for more than a few minutes. This looks like a nice place to eat.
|Our windshield wiper fluid had frozen early in the day, so Tom was thrilled to find a Kwik Trip that still had windshield washing equipment available.
|The sun was nearly down as we drove along Lake Pepin, ...
|... and the bluffs on the Wisconsin side were glowing with the last little bit of sunlight.
|We were too close to our destination -- and dinner -- to stop at the Lake City Dairy Queen, as is tradition, but that was a rough decision to make.
|We passed the Round Barn Farm Event Center and B&B. It was cute, but we had other accommodations in mind.
|Specifically, the St. James Hotel. We played Mary Karlzen's song as we approached Red Wing, because this song had been on repeat in Debbie's brain since booking our room there.
|It was getting dark by the time we drove into Red Wing.
|We passed the lovely buildings at the Minnesota Correctional Facility.
|Debbie gets all nostalgic when she sees the NSP sign at the Red Wing power plant. NSP stands for Northern States Power, which is what Debbie grew up with.
|We arrived in downtown Red Wing and there it was: The St. James Hotel. Debbie had wanted to stay here for many decades, and every time we drove through town, she'd think, "We should really stay overnight someday." Finally, this was that day.
|We parked in the parking garage across the street and walked over, entering via the side door. We found out very quickly that it was not the main door, so we made our way to the main lobby and checked in.
|Our room was on the second floor.
|The walls contained historical information about the hotel, like the time Captain Roald Amundsen visited Red Wing in 1908, giving a lecture about his 1903-1906 Northwest Passage expedition. Not sure if you would have wanted to attend? "The LECTURE WILL BE in the ENGLISH LANGUAGE." That should convince you.
|Here's our hallway, ...
|... and here's our room on the left, Room 201, the Nellie Sheldon room
|This is one of the premium rooms at the hotel, and it was huge.
|Even our luggage had its own room.
|The hallway to the bathroom wrapped around a corner.
|Here's the bathroom.
|We had really hoped for a room with a view of the river, ...
|... and this room came through for us. There are better rooms with better views, but this was perfect for us.
|We could see Mississippi just down the hill by the Amtrak stop.
|We were hungry so we quickly bundled up for a short walk through town. We left via the entrance on Main Street this time.
|The Uffda Shop was across the street and was still open, but we would head there in the morning.
|The Red Wing Shoe Company was on the block next to the hotel, so we peered inside. This helpful sign asked if we were looking for the Big Boot, and if so, we should turn around because the store itself was behind us.
|Indeed, it was. We'd be going there later.
|It was just a block-and-a-half to Marie's Underground and Tap House, but it was now below zero so it was very cold on our faces.
|Marie's is literally underground, located in the basement of the Armory building.
|It's a large, welcoming place with a whole menu of Midwest comfort food.
|We started with a couple of beers and the soup and salad bar, where Debbie reconfirmed that she loves pickled beets and Tom indulged his love of all soups.
|Dinner was fried chicken (all dark meat!) and potatoes au gratin for Debbie, ...
|... and fettucini Alfredo and another trip to the soup bar for Tom.
|Delicious! It was an absolutely perfect meal for a cold night.
|There was a cool mural right across the street from the restaurant when we came out.
|We went to the Red Wing Boot Store, where we were the only visitors. With 40 minutes left before closing time, we didn't stay long.
|There it is: the Big Boot. Those are regular boots on the Wall of Honor behind it for scale. Built in 2005, it is 16 feet tall.
|This sign was on the landing as we took the stairs ...
|... to the museum on the second floor.
|This cool display tracked the progress of a Red Wing boot from raw materials to finished product.
|Here's a view from the second floor to the main showroom. We had taken a look at some of the boots but they were very clearly out of our price range. However, we really liked the decor, consisting of birch tree trunks hung from the ceiling.
|We got a closer look at the Wall of Honor, featuring boots worn by customers for their jobs.
|We also got another look at the Big Boot. Yeah, it's really, really big.
|It was just a half-block from there, ...
|... back to the hotel.
|Here's the lobby. There are stores and restaurants on this floor, but we didn't visit any of them.
|We just wanted to get in our pajamas (and in Debbie's case, one of the hotel bathrobes), have some Girl Scout cookies, and get comfortable.
|Each room in the hotel is named after a river boat. Ours was named after the Nellie Sheldon, a steamboat ferry built by Red Wing in 1868 to carry teams and wagons across the river to Wisconsin when the water was too high to use the original cable ferries.
|This emergency plan showed the layout of the rooms on our floor, confirming our suspicions that our room was exceptionally large for the hotel. That's ours in the lower left corner.
A man, his comfy pajamas, his charging station, and an episode of "Forensic Files" on TV. That's bliss, Tom Bundy style.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy