Day #93 – 3 months on the road

LOCATION:  Nelson, Wisconsin
CAMPGROUND:  Nelson Landing  RV Park
WEATHER:  A bit cooler.  High 93

Today marks 3 months on the road for this trip.  And it was a great day!  Art, fun, beer, and BBQ!

We drove on the Wisconsin side of the river down to Winona, MN, another river town.   Our goals were lunch and a visit to the Minnesota Maritime Art Museum. On our way, we stopped in Alma and drove up to Buena Vista Park, which really does have a “buena vista” of the river.  I was so afraid that George would fall overboard!

In Winona – first, lunch.  We went to Bub’s Brew Pub (pronounced boobs).  🙂

It doesn’t look like much from out the outside, but the food and beer are excellent.  We shared their special – baked (not fried) garlic Parmesan chicken wings.

As we left the restaurant, we were consulting our phone (map) to see how to get to the museum.  A man approached us, offering his assistance.  It turns out he is the mayor!  A super friendly guy.  He told us about the museum…..Most of the art had been a private collection of  the owner of Fastenal, a tool company that is based in Winona.  The Fastenal owner donated it to the city.  It is really something for a small town like this to have such a wonderful museum.   The mayor described how Winona is growing and showed us some new riverfront condos under construction.  Winona, a nice college town,  might make it on the list of towns/cities where we might settle one day. 

Then, on to the museum…

The museum was absolutely jaw-dropping!  Extremely well-done.  There are several galleries, including one on European maritime art.  These are just a few of the painters whose art was displayed:  Turner, Sisley, Monet, Manet, Degas, Gauguin, Cezanne, Seurat, Chagall, Picasso, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gainsborough, and Renoir.  AMAZING!!!! 

Photos in the European art section were not allowed, but these are a few in the less famous painter section.,…

This famous one of Washington Crossing the Delaware was good….

Another gallery featured prominent American artists such as Andrew Wyeth, Georgia O’Keefe, Edward Hopper, and John Singer Sargent.  Again – WOW!

The museum is right on the Mississippi, and we watched some barges go by…..

After the museum, we drove back north on  the Minnesota side of the Mississippi to Wabasha where we stopped at the Hoppy Girl Brewery.

It was hopping! 

After a quick grocery store and gas station stop, we returned to the campground.  We walked a block to J&Js BBQ, a very popular place to which people drive from long distances for their grub. It is world famous!

We shared some ribs which were delicious.  I’m afraid we will have leftovers…

We don’t have TV reception here, so we watched a DVD in the evening.  Like many RV parks, this one has a “library” where campers can exchange books.  This one has boxes and boxes of DVDs, CDs, and books.  We traded in some of ours, and picked up some music CDs.  Who knew that we can play CDs on our DVD player?  We picked up several jazz and other nice listening music ones.  Joy has a good sound system, even with speakers in the bedroom!!!  

Day #92 – Nice and easy, does it

LOCATION: Nelson, Wisconsin
CAMPGROUND:  Nelson RV Park
WEATHER:  Still HOT.  High 96

We promised ourselves a slow, relaxing day.  All the time we were in Minnesota, we were running around.  We needed a day of quiet to re-charge.

The day consisted of: 1)  a really great shower in the park’s beautiful bathroom/shower house, 2) a load of laundry in the same shower house, 3) lots of reading, and 4) watching a really bad DVD. 

The highlight of the day was a visit to the (somewhat) famous Nelson Creamery. 

When we lived in Rochester, we liked coming over here for wine and cheese.  They also serve home-made ice cream, and are packed on summer weekends with tourists (especially cyclists) clamoring for cones.  For us, we enjoyed coming here during the winter and sipping wine in front of their roaring fireplace. 

Today we walked over in the late afternoon.  I had a chilled white wine and George tried a local beer.  (Turns out the beer is from the brewery where we will be staying next- in Black River Falls, WI)

We enjoyed quiet conversation in an almost empty bistro section of the creamery. Sexy jazz music played softly in the background.  (Louis Armstrong, Brazilian jazz combo). 

DINNER:  Round #2 of the mufallettas, New Orleans-style.  This time, I made them with dinner rolls, leftover olive spread, and different kinds of cheeses and Italian meats.  It made a nice meal on a hot, summer night. 

BOOK:  “Friend of the Devil: by Peter Robinson.  I keep coming back to this series about a detective in Yorkshire, England where we did a housesitting assignment.  I like the references to the pubs, landscape, and shops of that area.  4 stars out of 5

Day #91 – Fun on the Mississippi!

LOCATION:  Nelson, Wisconsin on the Mississippi River
CAMPGROUND:  Nelson RV Park.  We have stayed here once before and really liked the location and amenities – full hook-ups, large sites, few neighbors, lovely showers and bathroom, laundry, level site, firepit, and picnic table.  Only downside is that there is not too much shade – the park is new and the trees are still small.  $45/night.  5 stars
WEATHER:  When will this heat wave end?  High 102
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  2 hours

My high school friend Nancy who lives near the campground came over to breakfast.  She brought her sister who used to work in my father’s general store.  It was so fun seeing them again.  I served breakfast tacos and it was cool enough to sit outside at the picnic table.

You gotta love Minnesota.  This is the first state on our travels this year that has done any recycling.  Upon check-in, they give you a plastic bag for your garbage and this paper bag for your recycling, along with instructions….

We found a route that avoided metro Minneapolis, and made our way east to Wabasha, Minnesota where we crossed the Mississippi (again) into Wisconsin.  We passed through Red Wing, MN (home of Red Wing pottery and Red Wing shoes), pretty Lake City (birthplace of water-skiing), and Wabasha (where Grumpy Old Men movie was filmed).

This RV park does not have an office.  They do everything online.  Once I made the reservation, they sent us a bill which we paid electronically.  They emailed us instructions for setting up, bathroom code, and wifi code.  So, all we needed to do was go to our site to set up.  Very practical. 

After we got set up (including the electricity to run 2 air conditioners), we were off to have more fun!

A former Mayo Clinic co-worker recently bought a house outside of Wabasha right on the Mississippi River.  They are doing a major renovation project with the house maximizing river-front views.  They invited us to go to a restaurant via their pontoon.  Fun!

After a half-hour boat ride, we arrived at Reads Landing Brewery and Restaurant.  We tied up and went in for dinner.  In the 1800s, this was a booming trading town.

We had a nice dinner – George and I shared their shrimp and grits.

Back on the boat, we meandered up and down the river. We admired the beautiful (and expensive) waterfront houses.    We passed under the Wabasha-Nelson bridge

And, we passed by Slippery’s –  the restaurant where they filmed Grumpy Old Men

We got up close to some of the huge dredges that go up and down the river, clearing the channel

George jumped into the water for a quick swim and to cool off…

It was a great evening!  This ends our “social butterfly” season.  After today, we won’t be seeing any old friends or family for a long time.  Back to the 2 of us! 

Day #90 –A Family Reunion!

LOCATION:  Suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota
CAMPGROUND:  Lebanon Hills County Park
WEATHER:  Terribly hot.  High 100+

I found a lovely trail around a small lake and got in a few steps before it got too hot.

When we got into the truck, this is what we found:

Yikes!

Off to near downtown Minneapolis where my brother lives.  His house is near Lake Calhoun, now called Bde Maka Ska – a Native Indian name.  We drove around the lake to admire the beautiful houses. 

It is a popular place for hiking, biking, and roller-blading.

We went to a French bistro for lunch.  We were able to sit outside as we nabbed a table in the shade.  The food was top-notch.

Back to my brother’s house to enjoy A/C comfort and conversation.

He lives not far from  where George Floyd was killed, and he, like most homes in the neighborhood, has a Black Lives Matter sign in the front yard.

We zipped back to the campground before the rush hour traffic.  Thank goodness we had left the A/C on while we were gone.

DINNER:  Leftover meatballs.  I swear this is the end of them!!!  Sides were salad and toasted pita bread (left from the night before) with some mozarella inside. 

Day #89 — More time with family and friends

LOCATION:  Suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota
CAMPGROUND:  Lebanon Hills County Park.  Perfect location for visiting the Twin Cities.  Full hook-ups.  Squeaky clean bathrooms/showers.  Picnic table and fire pit.  Not much shade or space between sites.  $46/night.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Minnesota is under a heat advisory.  High 100.  Not my cup of tea
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  < 1 hour

Last night at the winery, it remained pretty hot (we were sans electricity/A/C).  I slept on the couch to keep away from George’s hot body!!!  It finally cooled down enough for a decent sleep.

This morning, George did his daily stretching exercises amid the vineyards, while I hiked around.

We had a short drive to this campground, getting lost only once.  We were lucky to get an early check-in.  After getting set up and cranking up the 2 A/Cs, we headed to NE Minneapolis to see Alexis and her boyfriend.  They rented an Air B&B to visit some friends here, and just coincidentally, it is the same time we are here.  We hung out with them in their air conditioning.   As usual, Alexis helped George with technical support for his phone.  A lot of hours get wasted doing that sort of thing!!

Our final good-bye…..

We had to zip back to the campground as we were expecting dinner guests.  The traffic was horrible.  We had to go from NE Minneapolis, through the downtown, to our SW Minneapolis campground right in the middle of rush hour!  Our big pick-up seems especially huge when we are in a city. 

Some friends we used to work with at Mayo Clinic who now live near here came by bringing dinner.  We had a very nice evening catching up with them. 

DINNER (take-out):  Hummus with pita bread, gyros, chicken shish-ka-bobs, and rice.  Very tasty!  Lots of leftovers! 

Day #88 – Yet another winery stay

LOCATION:  New Prague, Minnesota – just south of Minneapolis
CAMPGROUND:  Next Chapter Winery. Another Harvest Host site.  Harvest Host camping is in their wedding parking lot, right next to the vineyard.  Friendly owner/host.  Indoor wine-tasting area plus outdoor patio.  Music and food trucks on most weekends.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Minnesota is experiencing an unusual heat wave.  High 95
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  2 hours

In no hurry to rush to the winery, we hung out at Oxbow Park in the morning.  I did my last hike, then some friends came out for coffee. 

We have enjoyed our stay here.  We will probably return to the Rochester area again next summer, and will stay here again…..We will book way ahead of time so we get a site with electricity for our entire stay!

Then, on to this winery.  Our route took us through the small town of Pine Island.  UH-OH!  They were having a Cheese Fest with a parade.  The parade route was our route, too!  Since that street was blocked, we tried going down some side streets.  Most were blocked, as the parade route turned and wound itself through the town.  The streets were narrow, as cars were parked along both sides.  We had to turn into a residential area where it was super crowded, due to cars parked for graduation parties.  What a mess!  I was SO afraid that one of the streets would dead-end, and we would be stuck.  Finally, we just re-traced our steps and went back the way we came, into the country.  From there, we took an alternate route avoiding Pine Island.  Whew!

This winery is quite nice.  The owner met us and guided us in his ATV to our camping area.  This is a popular place for weddings.  The server told me they had had ones on Friday and Saturday.  We are parked in their overflow parking lot, used for weddings.

Here is the view from our front door, looking toward the winery…

  Since it was beastly hot, and without electricity (A/C), we headed in to their cool  indoor wine tasting area.  There was music on the patio where most people were sitting.  I bought a bottle of their driest red wine called “Wedding Bliss”, appropriate for our wedding parking lot location. 

They serve local craft beers, so George bought a can.  He also bought bottles of rum and whiskey which they make here, too.  So, our “free” Harvest Host site cost us quite a bit!  🙂 

My high school friend Nancy joined us.  We had a great time sipping wine and catching up.    We ordered  dinner from the food truck as it was way too hot to cook.  We sat in the shaded wedding reception area and ate.  The food truck served smoked meats.  George and I split their ribs (delicious) and Nancy had carnitas (tacos with shredded pork). 

Day #87. Visiting the old ‘hood

LOCATION:  Rochester, Minnesota
CAMPGROUND:  Oxbow Park and Zoo
WEATHER:  Another scorcher.  High 94

One of the summer’s highlights when we lived in Rochester was the Saturday Farmers’ Market.  So, we headed there today.  We bought some veg and smoked trout.  We ran in to my former boss who now owns/manages a bee/honey enterprise.  It was fun talking with him again. 

Next to the farmers’ market grounds is Rochester’s iconic corn cob water tower.  It looks like it is  undergoing a paint job or maintenance.

Then, off to lunch with our daughter.  We went to a restaurant with a beautifiul patio.  It was too hot (for me) to sit outside, though.

Alexis took this picture of us inside the restaurant.   When our daughters were young, they were the ones on the electronic devices.  The tables have turned…..Whenever we have wifi, we focus on our tablets and phones to catch up.

We shared an ahi tuna poke bowl.

Then to check out one of the area’s newest breweries.  When we lived in Rochester, there were 0; now there are about 12. 

Then, back to the neighborhood where we lived while in Rochester -from  2000 – 2013.  One of our neighbors was having a surprise 50th birthday party for her husband.  How lucky we were with timing, so we could be part of the surprise!  Lots of family, friends, and neighbors came and enjoyed beers and a picnic on their driveway.  He was really surprised. 

Opening our gift…(beer, of course)

Back-door neighbor (great person!)

Here is our old house.

And our street in front of our house…

DINNER: Pulled pork sandwiches and other goodies at the birthday party.

8BOOK:  “The Last Mrs. Summers” by Rhys Bowen.  This is another mystery series that enjoy.  It features a kind of kooky woman who is related distantly to the Queen and gets herself into pickles.  Lots of fun reading it.  4 stars out of 5.

Day #86. Hot Minnesota!

LOCATION:  Rochester, Minnesota
CAMPGROUND:  Oxbow Park and Zoo
WEATHER:  HOT!!  High 97

Strangely, it is hotter here today than it is in our winter home in Texas! 

I got in my morning hike/steps before it got too hot.  I follow the same trail each morning, through the winds paralleling the river.  The flowers are so pretty. 

Then, off to lunch.  We met up with a couple, Judy and Kevin,  who live in our Texas community – Retama Village – in the winter.  It is such a small world…..  One day at the swimming pool, someone told me about a couple who had just moved to Texas from Minnesota.  We met at the pool and realized we know each other!  Not only are Kevin and Judy also from Rochester, Judy worked at Mayo Clinic, as did I, and we worked in the same HR department!!!! 

Being in Minnesota, we ordered traditional foods – a walleye sandwich and cheese curds on the side!

I splurged at Trader Joe’s, buying unusual foods that we don’t normally see in grocery stores, especially the smaller stores that are often our only option.

Back at the campground, we turned on the A/C as it was quite hot. 

Then, back to town…..we are making a lot of trips back and forth!  We went to Whistle Binkies Pub, a pub/restaurant built to look like an English pub.  It used to be our favorite watering hole, located just a few blocks from where we used to live.  We could walk there on a Sunday afternoon (especially a dreary, wintry February day), have a beer, talk to friends, and walk home. 

We met up with a collection of people – a faithful blog reader, a fellow travel afficionado and Facebook friend, and two former co-workers.  The conversations mostly centered around travel. 

For some reason, the pub was featuring flamingos, the mascot of Airstreams. So George had to get a photo.

George took off for a baseball game with Alexis’s boyfriend.  Rochester’s team is called the Honkers (named after the thousands of Canada geese that love living in Rochester)..  It is a “farm league” and is good old-fashioned fun.

I came on back to the Airstream to enjoy a peaceful interlude by myself. 

DINNER:  George had a Philly cheese sandwich at the game, and I just warmed up the leftover udon/vegetable bowl. 

BOOK:  “A Market Tale” by Martin Walker.  This short story is part of a series that I love that takes place in northern France where we once did a housesitting assignment.  It is about Bruno, Chief of Police, who is a charming man and connoisseur of French wines and foods.  5 stars out of 5.

Day #85 – Real social butterflies!

LOCATION:  Rochester, Minnesota
CAMPGROUND:  Oxbow Park and Zoo
WEATHER:  Like summer!  Sunny.  High 94

To my Rochester blog followers: 
We will be at Whistle Binkies North starting about 4:30 on Friday if anyone would like to drop in and say hello.  Would be great to see you!

After a nice hike on one of the trails here in the park, we headed to town.  George dropped me off in downtown Rochester.  It has grown so much since we left in 2013.  Downtown is full of hotels (for Mayo Clinic patients) and was bustling today.  I met a former work colleague in one of the hotel’s new restaurants.  It is an Irish pub.  The story is that they dismantled a pub in Ireland, brought all the pieces back here, and re-assembled it.  It does look quite authentic!

Rochester is very walkable, and I walked back to our daughter Alexis’s  apartment to meet up with George.  We hung out there for awhile and did some computer work.  Alexis and I might do some housesitting in Spain or Italy this fall/winter, so we checked out some possible assignments.  She has been studying Italian diligently and would like to practice her Italian there. 

I dropped George off at a friend’s house and then met up with some other former work co-workers at a very popular bar/restaurant.  Now that most people have been vaccinated, people are venturing outdoors for the first time in more than a year.  The patio was overflowing with people.  It was fun to catch up.  These ladies all work together, but had not seen each other face-to-face in more than a year. 

Then, I zipped back to pick up George and to enjoy a glass of wine in our friend’s beautiful back yard.  The ferns, hostas, and other plants all look so lush!

It was time to relax back at the campground. 

DINNER:  We are still eating the Nick Stellino meatballs that I made and froze weeks ago.  I think they are multiplying in the freezer!!!  I sauteed some onions and mushrooms, then stirred in the meatballs.  Sides were cheesy polenta and salads. 

Day #84 – A visit to Mayo Clinic

   LOCATION:  Rochester, Minnesota
   CAMPGROUND:  Oxbow Park and Zoo
   WEATHER:  Very nice and sunny.  High 83
 

We got up early for my 7:00 AM appointment with Mayo Clinic.  Masks and social distancing are required, and I was screened before I could enter.

Most of downtown Rochester are Mayo Clinic buildings.  My appointment was in the Mayo Building.

Here are the 2 Doctors Mayo who got the whole thing going.  The Gonda Building is in the background.

Throughgout the clinic is artwork, including this dramatic sculpture in the Gonda Building.  When our daughter was young, she would also say “Avert your eyes” when we were around this sculpture of the naked man.

One of the cool things about the buildings is the juxtaposition between the old and new.  This Plummer Building door is only closed for important occasions.  When I was working there, it was closed for September 11. 

This is the building where I used to work.  With Covid, all of the employees in this 6-storey building are now working from home, so it is empty.  I don’t think there are plans for people to return.

The downtown area is all focused around Mayo Clinic patients and employees.  The Peace Plaza is a pedestrian mall with hotels, bars, shops, and restaurants.

Conveniently, there are subways and skyways throughout the downtown so that patients and employees do not have to venture out in the frigid cold in the winter time. 

I am so proud to have worked at Mayo Clinic, which was selected as the best hospital in the USA last year.

I met with George for lunch.  We went to a Middle East restaurant.  I had a toubelleh salad and George had a gyro.  It was really tasty, but full of garlic, raw onions, and parsley — not such a wise idea to have ordered right before my afternoon dentist appointment!

I met some work colleagues for happy hour.  It was nice to sit on the patio.  The place was pretty busy; I think people are just so anxious to be outside again.


DINNER:  We returned to the campground and George fired up the grill.  We had some delicious brats that were seasoned with blue cheese, brats we had bought in a German meat shop in Missouri.  Side was a salad.

BOOK:  “The Quiet Side of Passion”   by Alexander McCall Smith who wrote the popular #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.  This is another series about a philosopher’s life in Scotland.  I love the way he writes.  5 stars out of 5