Adrift in the Driftless

Today’s guest post comes from Clyde in Mankato.

When Sandy and I moved from the North Shore, we were glad to have a new area to explore. We had run out of places to go, sights to see, roads to drive in the Arrowhead.

We quickly latched onto the southeast corner of the state, the Driftless Country. The drive along the Mississippi is wonderful, but the back roads provide more adventure: drives across the ridges or through the valleys or from ridge to valley to ridge to valley. Winding roads, abandoned churches, thriving churches, abandoned farms, thriving farms, hole-in-the-wall villages, along the Root River by bike or car, Lanesboro, and and the other villages.  Lanesboro

 

 

Along the Mississippi two favorites are the village of Old Frontenac and a delightful little cafe, sometimes tea room, in Lake City called the Chickadee Cafe.Bunnell House

I will share with you two quiet gems which you can tour.

The historic Bunnell House, operated by the Winona County Historic Society, which I see now has performances. It sits in Homer, near Winona along the highway 61, The Great River Road.

Pickwick Mill

The Pickwick Mill, which sits in a small village on a winding drive up a valley from highway 61. It is near Winona but is operated by a private non-profit. When we were last there, it was still a low-priced, do-it-yourself tour, which made it peaceful to wander through the several dusty floors of the building and along its bubbling river and still mill pond. The tiny elderly volunteer on duty that day was pure charm. It was near closing time, but she told us to take our time. Her husband kept calling and asking when she would be home. She kept telling him to be patient. We felt pressured to leave. She told us with a smile, “He’s a useless old lump who needs to learn to take care of himself.”

The mill takes its name from The Pickwick Papers, just as a whim.

Are you a wanderer through space and time or are you driven by an itinerary?

51 thoughts on “Adrift in the Driftless”

  1. Morning all. Clyde – what a wonderful start to the week. Now I have some new ideas for places to explore.

    I am a weird mix of itinerary-driven and wanderer. I am a planner by nature so I almost always have an end plan, but I usually build in enough time for surprises. For our camping trip, we’re leaving early this morning (in about an hour – don’t ask me why I’m on the trail and not filling up the cooler) so that if we see things along the way, we’ll have time to stop!

    Liked by 4 people

        1. Puppy classes are worthless
          Let them be puppies until they are 9 months old
          Just teach them to love you and respond
          At 10 months training starts hard
          If you want my puppy technique I’ll provide no charge
          Seriously
          I love raising fogs

          Like

  2. As usual, very nice illustrations, Clyde. Interesting blog, too. I love the southeastern part of the state, so much to see and explore there.

    Like vs, I’m a hybrid. I like to explore what I discover along the way, and oftentimes that exploration starts with talking with the locals. On a recent road trip, husband and I stumbled upon some interesting sites to explore, some of which we knew existed before we got there, and others that locals turned us on to. In retrospect, we also missed some places that perhaps we should have known about and that would have been worth a stop. Those we’ll have to check out at another time.

    Husband is an anti-planner, and much prefers to just head for the hills without advance reservations anywhere. Depending on when and where you’re going, that usually works out. It does mean, though, that you’ll be staying in more or less interchangeable motels and not in that cute little inn or B&B that you’ve read about. One thing we have discovered on more than one occasion, visiting a place solely because of an intriguing place name can be a real letdown. It pays to do some research ahead of time.

    Like

  3. Rise and Wander Baboons:

    Another hybrid here. My life at work is focused and driven by a schedule and an agenda. Phone off. Door closed. This is the nature of a psychotherapy practice. Focused on the client at hand.

    However, when I am away from there I wander awhile, focus awhile. I need some drifting time every day or I feel too pressured and unaware of myself.

    When we travel I love to park myself somewhere (usually an apartment) with my yet unread travel materials, then start walking and referring to said materials to discover just what might be around me in a drifty, wandery, dreamy kind of way. Sometimes I take a structured, professional tour for an overview and reference point so I don’t miss the important stuff. But the rest of the vacation I drift like a cloud.

    Great drawings Clyde! I love SE MN–beautiful territory. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Much of the travel I’ve done has been stemmed from a business purpose, so I’ve had to carve out some wandering time between conference sessions. I’m flexible enough to enjoy myself that way, but prefer being off the clock if I have a choice.

    The mill story reminds me of a time when I was wandering with a friend through an antique shop in a little Wisconsin town when we realized that the shop owner was waiting to close up the shop. I think the posted closing time was 4:00 or something odd like that, and we hadn’t noticed and assumed it would be open till at least five. We left and went on to another shop with longer hours. While we were there the owner of the first shop came in and, not seeing us, starting telling the owner of the second shop about these inconsiderate people who wouldn’t leave when she was trying to close. We lurked in the very back of the shop for awhile.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wouldn’t it have been fun to come forward with about $3000 worth of product and just tell the shopkeeper that you had this money burning a hole in your pocket you just trying to find a shop that would stay open to allow you to purchase the products and then when the first shop on her left an embarrassment you could laugh until the second shop on her you were doing it for a joke

      Like

  5. I plan as far as a destination and maybe a stop or two along the way (or once I’m at said destination), and then drift. I don’t like too much of an agenda and prefer to plan only the bare minimum (including reservations for a place to stay, I can’t quite be like PJ’s husband and allow myself to rely on whatever is available for a roof over my head at night).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am a homebody and generally don’t get out much and can’t afford vacations anyway. When my parents were alive and still had the cottage, they liked to occasionally go driving down narrow, windy dirt roads “just to see what’s there with a sense of adventure. Unfortunately, those types of trips made me a bit anxious. I don’t know if it was the unknown or that I used to get a bit claustrophobic in the forest with high trees everywhere. I have a sense of adventure when i read books or see movies, but in reality I’m a bit of a scaredy cat.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have traveled both ways but seem to prefer the less structured tours. I love back roads and sweet surprises. The one organized tour I have taken was to Ireland. It had some very special moments and I fell in love with the people on the tour, but I remember looking longingly out the bus windows at places I wanted to stop and explore. I did hold up the group once. The group consisted of several “renegades” and the bus driver became reluctant to even stop for toilet breaks because people would get to exploring and not get back on the bus in the “allotted” time.
    I wanted to return and revisit those places on my own that I either didn’t get enough of or get to at all. I haven’t yet. And I have never really wanted to take an organized tour since though some sound so inviting in their publicity.
    A friend and I toured the south of France without advance reservations. But it was September and we didn’t have any trouble finding beds…and very lovely ones at that. Being able to move about without a schedule or fixed goals is best for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It must be tough to be a tour guide. You can’t please everyone – these people get upset if you don’t stick to a schedule, and those people are disappointed at what they’re missing.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I love September travel. The weather can be spectacular and there are fewer tourists around than at other times. September in Scotland was unbelievably pretty and easy for travelers. We could consider this for our honeymoon (assuming you could afford to pay for it).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A virtual honeymoon shouldn’t be too expensive. Scotland would be lovely, I haven’t been there since the 60s and then it was just Edinburgh. Perhaps Babooners would like to suggest sites to visit.

        Like

      1. 2000…pre-Euro. We did do one week at a restored silk factory in the Ardeche while “attending” (without a dog) a herding dog clinic. The room was $10/night with breakfast. We did some adventuring during that week then spent the next week wandering.

        Like

  8. My favorite way of travel is to have that end destination but plenty of leeway for how to get there. We’re figuring out how to go to California in late Sept., when there is a house sitting opportunity near my sister. But how to go, plane, train, or car? Car will probably win, since it gives us the most flexibility.

    The excruciating part of our France trip in the spring was all the decisions that had to be made ahead of time. If we go again, now that we know a LITTLE of the territory, we might be able to keep it a little looser.

    And I’m like Joanne – when I used to drive to central Iowa almost monthly to visit my mom, I had tried out every configuration of back roads to vary the route – found lots of fun surprises, like a little roadside park for a rest stop, nice cafe in one little town…

    Like

  9. I missed Stonehenge becasue of an overenthusiastic guide taking me and a couple of others through an exhaustive and ultracomplete tour of Salisbury Cathedral. We got to climb up and down through the rafters and attics, around the clerestory, up and down staircases, in the bell tower, etc., and were able to sneak up in the back where no one could see us but we could see a fancy wedding with all the men in top hats and pale grey morning suits. The rest of our group left for Stonehenge without me and one other of our group. I was on a college seminar exploring the medieval to modern transition.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Unlike Steve, I loved Stonehenge. The guide had really played it down so I had low expectations but it was a perfect day and I loved walking around the stones. Gave me an amazing feeling.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Good morning. I like wandering and would do it more often if I could make time to do it. On one of our trips to the North country we decided to explore a road off the Gunflint Trail running more or less parallel to the Trail. This was one our best wandering tours because we saw a black wolf loping across an open area and also saw a big bull moose up to it’s shoulders in a pond. That was the only time that I have ever seen a wolf in the wild.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. According to the stereotype, male travelers are grimly committed to schedules and women “enjoy the trip.” Here, as so often in my marriage, we reversed roles. My erstwife believed we’d never again be able to afford travel, so she was determined to tick off as many destinations as we could physically manage getting to. I was the one saying, “Hey, there’s a cute pub! I’ll bet if we stop by they might be willing to sell us some ale and a Scotch egg.” Our travel was a long exercise in unacknowledged tension (which became a blueprint for the rest of our lives together).

    Like

    1. Yep – even planning the France trip would have been easier if it was just us two, since we’ve gotten used to how to compromise. My sister and son were also going, and she’s the ultra-planner… so I was go-between for her and ultra-loose Husband.

      Like

        1. Daughter is organizing a small casual buffet. My wife wants to take over and plan everything in advance. My daughter wants to wait until it gets close and throw it together for which she has genius. I am the pickle.

          Liked by 2 people

  12. Loved your art of SE Minn, Clyde. It is remarkable how similar SE MN is to SE Iowa. Both areas were settled early because they have rivers that were the original travel routes. Both areas are lovely. Both went into a sleepy, no development mode when trains, cars and airplanes dominated travel. And both SE areas now are flourishing because they were so neglected for so long. SE MN and SE Iowa have an abundance of charming old buildings and homes that now attract tourists. SE Iowa is the most popular tourist destination in the state.

    Like

    1. The single biggest tourist attraction in Iowa is the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa. One of the places we stumbled upon on our Great River Road adventure this past spring. Had no idea it was there, just happened upon it. Interesting place to visit even if you’re not into motorcycles.

      Like

  13. Love the artwork. I am afraid that SE MN is a closed book for me, but husband keeps telling me we need to explore that area some day.

    Like

  14. Young Adult didn’t want to pull off to see the Danish Windmill Museum today. I thought of you all and told her to be prepared to stop on the way home!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Marvelous pastels, Clyde. We’ve been to both the Bunnell House and to the Pickwick Mill, but it was when our kids were young and so many years ago.
    Anticipating a road trip, we generally do some research. We scout out used bookstores in our path and yarn shops and botanical gardens. Robin’s interest in fiber arts, especially knitting and spinning, is so avid that our destinations invariably have a fiber arts component, like a woolen mill or a sheep and wool festival. I usually check the Kohler Museum website to discover whether there are any outsider art sites in the area we are traveling. I will readily brake for anything that strikes me as quirky. I browse through the atlas obscura website ( http://www.atlasobscura.com )for inside tips to unusual or off-the-beaten-track and eccentric attractions. We also stop at charming cemeteries, farmer’s markets, and opportunities for scenic or interesting hikes. We generally decide how far we plan to go and prearrange lodging so as to spend as little time as possible securing it when we get there.
    Many of our excursions are in the driftless area. This spring we went to Mineral Point, Wisconsin for a sheep and wool festival, spent the night in an historic inn, toured the Cornish cottages for which the town is noted, hiked up to the farmer’s market, popped in and out of shops, visited the old town cemetery and visited a woolen mill. On the way home we detoured through northeastern Iowa and climbed up to Effigy Mounds Park near McGregor. Last year we stayed overnight in Viroqua, Wisconsin (Ewetopia Yarn Shop). We wandered around town, I spent an hour or two in a used bookstore housed in an old brick tobacco warehouse (tobacco was once a significant crop in Wisconsin and you still can see tobacco drying sheds on farms due west of Madison). The yarn shop owner directed us to The Driftless Cafe in Viroqua (yarn shop owners and used bookstore owners are good sources of information about local eateries). On Saturdays in the summer, there’s a farmer’s market in Viroqua. At least half of the vendors are Amish, so it has a distinct and picturesque flavor. We’ve been to Decorah and Spillville and all along the northeast edge of Iowa in Clayton County where my Czech relatives settled.
    We take day trips down the river road on one side or the other on impulse several times a summer. Last Sunday we were in Maiden Rock to pick blueberries and to bum around a little. Just inland from there is Plum City, where a whole passel of my Swiss relatives are buried.
    Since I don’t seem to have any idea where I’m going with all of this or any graceful way out of it, I guess, Clyde, I’ll back out by addressing myself to the original question: we are definitely hybrid trippers, with a destination in mind and a loose, unrestrictive grab bag of itineraries that gives us some idea where we are and what we are seeing but leaves us with plenty of room for surprises.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. The Driftless is much more interesting in Wisconsin, the little bit I have seen. One of my best friends at the U of Chi was from Viroqua. He ended up an artist.
    Re the Nooks and Crannies tour: just was at 5 Guys with my daughter. She says the boy who bonded with the guide was my grandson, but the girls who twirled was not my grand daughter. But she thinks she and Robin were doing a little bit of exploring on their own with the light from their cell phones.
    5 Guyes had a Now Hiring Sign out front, so does that make them the 4 Guys?

    Like

  17. The driftless area of Iowa is a gem. That is extreme NE Iowa. It’s close to where my mother was born and raised. Bluffs, scenic overlooks, glinting little trout streams, steep country. Not at all what you think of for “Iowa.”

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Husband has lived in and around Winona three times – college, hippy farm, and in town with Joel and me, early 80s. He has talked about Pickwick, the Root River, et al. when he tells his stories. Having lived there too, I still feel the pull when I travel down there on 61, as soon as we hit the bluffs south of Lake City (where I have eaten at the Chickadee Café in Lake City with a friend…) It’s a magical place. Thanks for the post, Clyde.

    Like

  19. Sorry I missed the day
    Computer issues
    3 responses didn’t get published
    A seat of the pants traveler when allowed
    Love winging it but business and traveling with s group makes this challenging
    Showing up at the whim of a moment and looking for a room can be a real joy or a problem
    Be ready for each

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Back in the Vw van days I was the aimless wanderer, no destination no agenda
    Met the most interesting people in the most interesting places
    I went up to a friends cabin 20 days ago on a whim and when I went he told me to invite two other old friends. The one who went was one I traveled with 40 years ago. He and I are so unlike people used to comment on what an odd pair we were. He just talks and talks and talks I was able to enjoy plugging into his conversations and ditch out when I needed a breather. People used to comment on the mellow guy and the hype. I never thought of myself as a mellow guy my brain is active enough to keep me distracted I guess but next to this guy my style is comatose. He was always up for the next thing though whatever it was
    We had some enjoyable adventures

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.