(Note: Above pic is a piece of public art that is like a guestbook for the town. All the branches make up a large eagle’s nest. A cup with two sharpies is provided to leave your name.)
After our Valentines Day was a bust due to illness and such, we were about halfway through the week when we got to the “Screw this, we need to get out of Dodge” levels of antsiness in our pantsinesses.
Really? Already? You are going to mess up the story already? I will agree that we were both ill on Valentine’s Day, but, it was my declaring a need to run away together because we needed couple time that was the main impetus of this amazingly unexpected vacation. I told Joel: “Figure it out. We have to get out of here. You do the planning!!” Usually, I’m the one who has our vacations planned down to the minute, but this time, I just needed….air.
We didn’t need far. We didn’t need expensive. I searched Stillwater for available rooms in B&B-type places. There were no openings. I moved downriver until I found the Blue Door Inn in Alma, Wisconsin. We knew nothing about Alma. The Inn looked nice, and they offered to load your room with cheese if requested. And they were doing a winter rate of $60 a night. With temps in the 40s, we had it made.
It’s worth noting that we did have a slight hesitation to crossing the river into Wisconsin. Our last adventure there driving around Lake Pepin gave us the willies, enough so that we created a game of trying to find more offensive things to say about Wisconsin the longer we were there.
Friday night, we skidaddled out of the cities, our nerves frayed, ready for rest. It got dark on the way. We did go through the parts of the region that gave us the willies last time, and even saw a truck with one headlight out that was perfectly timed casting right out of a horror movie.
We got to Alma at 7 p.m. and checked in to our lovely room. Cozy bed, high ceilings, awesome bathroom, and a nice little nook for a fridge, coffee and cheese cutting board.
When Joel suggested the opposite side of the river, the Wisconsin side, I thought he had lost his mind. Having been so many people in so many places, I can not escape the stereotypical Wisconsin smug, snotty good Minnesotan that deep inside me. My sweet husband inserts these delightful details which seem perfectly innocent, normal even. He has that condition where you only remember the adventure as a beautiful whole and not the quirky, the bizarre, even terrifying sections of the whole. The Blue Door Inn…lets start with that. I agree it was lovely, but, you would assume that the front door would be blue. Nope. Instead, the blue door was hung on the side of the building. What? Also, Joel mentioned the innkeeper’s stocking the fridge with cheese, what that means is, that our room service was cheese curds, 2 pounds of cheese and a German Sausage. They were the best cheese curds and German Style Summer Sausage (Shout out to the Gunderson Meat Market in Mondovi, Wisconsin) we have ever had, by far, (Shout out to Eau Galle Cheese Factory) and the cheese cutting board offered was fantastic, but still. Room Service in Wisconsin = Cheese Curds.
There was no cable or satellite, but the TV did come with a DVD player with a small selection of movies available. Over the course of the weekend, we’d find that our DVD player worked about half the time. Our phones worked less. Alma is in some sort of cell phone hole, so even shops that used iPhone card readers for business sometimes have to go outside to get a signal to complete the sale.
He’s not kidding on this one, store owners wandered the street, arms held high, to get a cell signal, several at a time.
Friday night after settling in, I headed back out to Nelson, 10 miles away, to find J&J Barbecue and a liquor store. The ribs were fan-fucking-tastic. The local beers also rocked. I picked up this apple ale mix from New Glarus Brewing that rocked our world. I find out now that it’s a small batch that will probably not be available again. Sigh. They do make Spotted Cow Ale which is worth seeking out if you happen to be in Wisconsin.
Saturday we slept in. The plan was to just go out for an hour or so, but we ended up spending seven hours out and about in the area.
Wait, he’s not going to mention this, is he? The Blue Door Inn thinks of everything for the comfort of their guests. So, when you go to the bathroom, the back of the toilet, has a lovely basket, including shampoo, bars of soap, makeup remover, AND….ear plugs. Yep, ear plugs.
I brought the ear plugs to Joel and asked “WHY????????” As if our trip was scored, the dressers’ mirror started rattling against the wall, then the vibrations, then the HHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNKKKKKKKKK followed by the rattling, clinging. These trains traveled next to the water and us all night long. So, we both slept in, and we slept quite cozily in spite of our trains. Eventually they became the soundtrack to our vacation.
Our first stop, on Saturday, was just across the street at a small shop where we got a much needed barstool for our entryway, shoeing/de-shoeing needs. Becky is determined to have a foyer.
We then went to the unexpectedly cool Castlerock Museum, which is an armor and weapon museum that only a reserve circuit judge could collect. Yeah, in the middle of this riverside town lies the highly unusual castle-shaped façade. Inside, two floors of weapons and artifacts from Greece, England, Norway, China and more. Even the hipsters that arrived after us couldn’t help but sincerely enjoy the exhibit.
As I continued my tour downstairs, examining torture and beheading devices while a local expert spoke about architecture and whatnot, Becky sat next to a window between floors to watch bald eagles soar up and down the river after fish and small birds dumb enough to stick around for the winter. Bald Eagles were EVERYWHERE this weekend. Stop and look up for any length of time, and you’ll probably spot 3 or 4 hovering above you.
One of the tour guides looked too familiar for me not to know. i asked him his name, and it was nothing I remember now. Having been a college history major myself, I asked him what were his next steps in his career, as the museum is only open 1-4 Saturdays and Sundays. He said, I am going to Hollywood and help costume designers to get the designs and fighting scenes right! Well, ok. I have to admit that is a unique answer to my lame “Whatcha gonna do when you grow up sonny?” question. But, right behind him out the window flew an eagle. I have this instinct and knowledge of hunting birds, especially eagles, that arrived in my brain sometime in childhood. I don’t remember learning it; I have just have always known and felt connected. Across the river was the nest. I was done with the weapons after that. I sat on this bench on the stairs watching the birds fish, swoop, and spread their wings wide and float on air. Each time I spotted one, I took a quick breath in, waiting for Joel to be done with whatever and come watch with me. I found my air.
Stay tuned for part II coming soon!