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September 13, 2018
The Great River Road


This morning we got up early, took our granddaughter Avery to school, and said “Goodbye.” We packed our bags for the last time and said “Goodbye” to our daughter Colleen.

Our flight doesn’t leave until 4:45 pm, so we had a good five-and-a-half hours to get from La Crosse to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. We decided to take one last scenic drive up the Great River Road. This is not an official road. Rather, it is a combination of highways and byways that more or less parallel the Mississippi River on either side.

It was a nice, relaxing drive on yet another amazingly beautiful, clear and sunny day. The road itself was no Highway One (California’s scenic coastal highway). At times we would be nowhere near the water for miles. We would make a turn and see the river, then make another turn and be nowhere near the water for miles again. We would literally pull over on the side of the road, run out to take a scenic photograph, then jump back in the car again.

    
A couple of great landscape photos…

    
… and where Gail was actually standing to snap them


We couldn't stop laughing at this. The town of Nelson has its “Welcome” sign in front of the cemetery...


… and is followed directly by a population sign!

We did have a destination goal, as part of Gail’s “Little House on the Prairie” tour. The town of Pepin is where author Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867. In 1961, a local librarian challenged Pepin to create some kind of memorial to the birthplace. After a year of research, a committee was able to determine the location where the Ingalls cabin once stood. The cabin itself was long gone, but a replica cabin was built on donated land. The first replica deteriorated and was replaced by a second replica in 1996.

We made the seven-mile drive outside of Pepin into the middle of nowhere, where the replica cabin stands next to an historical marker on top of a bluff. Gail was excited not only to see where Wilder was born, but to imagine their covered wagon traveling down the same road we now drove.


The “Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum” in Pepin

    
The replica cabin – but actual location – where Wilder was born

After all of our meandering and exploring, we had time for a very quick lunch before we zoomed to the airport. Luckily, Pepin had a small diner down by the river, The Pickle Factory, with an outdoor patio. We got the last outdoor table.

The restaurant was playing oldies music. Just as we sat down, we heard the familiar lyric, “If you’re going to San Francisco…” The next song? “The road is long, with many a winding turn…” We kid you not.


Our final Mississippi River adventure: lunch at the Pickle Factory. (Yes, Gail is eating Wisconsin cheese curls!)

    
At the riverbank, we saw one last reminder of how far we have traveled

We have been gone for a month, but the real world has continued in our absence. Russell the corporate worker learned that his manager has retired. Gail the property manager learned that a renter is leaving, and one of her properties needs to be turned around immediately. Reality is now calling, and we are going home.

We hope you have enjoyed reading about our adventures as much as we enjoyed experiencing them. We don’t know yet what our next adventure will be, but we will definitely have one. We are already joking about taking the American Queen paddlewheel steamboat down the length of the Mississippi River again in one direction, then renting a car (or boat) and going back the other direction.

No matter what, the river will be waiting…


 

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