the rolling hills of western iowa

First light makes it so right. Unlike other drives through this area, I was unable to capture any pics of the early morning mist, crowd-pleasing cloud-only, or windmills. Hopefully next time. The drive through the rolling farm hills is that much better for having these kinds of views. It might have been the only thing keeping me awake.


Omaha, Day 3

A little bit country... it the crossroads of America afterall. (I made that up)
Sweet, I was looking for a  rebel flag buckle!!!
Something to hang over your mantle without having to shoot it... and only a mere $1200. 
Something for the kids... 

Omaha, Day 2

The day started off with a plan to go see some wild animals in Omaha's Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari, located a bit outside Omaha (20 miles or so). They purported to have owls, elk, bison, deer, black bears, eagles, herons, pelicans, and wolves... wait, wolves!?!? I'm in.

For $6.50, yes, that's right... less than the cost of a movie, you get admission. This is also a drive-thru safari style place, so you just sit in your car (save for the bear and wolf enclosures) and do a steady 7mph the whole time.

Huge elk in a huge elk herd greet you right as you start the "ride". Can you get more American than this??? Well, without taking out a rifle and mowing this huge beast down...

Now, I unfortunately do not have any pictures, but the wolf enclosure was well worth the price of admission in and of itself. You get to step out of your car and walk up to their enclosure. There are 6 wolves (3 boys, 3 girls) on the property and they kind of hint that you may or may not see them. After all, they are wild animals and do what they want. Well, we weren't standing on an overlook more than 3 minutes when we heard howling. I think we all thought some dad was being a dufus, but it kept going. As we heard a few more howls, a light-colored female silently loped under our overlook and moved closer to the howls. She showed herself up on the hill and joined in on the howling. Soon, three or four of them were basically having a conversation via howls. It was pretty cool. A bit later, she moved to lay in the sun near the fence. I could have almost touched her, but thought that might be pushing it.

After that, I don't want to say the rest of the park was a let-down (see bison below... not "buffalo" either), but how can you top live wolves? They had a large herd of bison, including two albino and even a calf that looked only days or weeks old. But, you have to drive your car right through their "pen", so it's a bit stressful wondering if you're going to make it out without them charging your car and basically tipping it over like a tin can.

What do you do after wildlife viewing? If you're my sisters, shop of course. We hit a super deep-discount department store. This place is where other department stores send the stuff that doesn't sell (kind of) and they had racks of clothes as far as the eye could see. The girls loaded up on shoes and I did find something in the small men's area, snow boots. They were a good deal and Lord knows you can never have enough snow boots in MN. Alright, I'll go with it.

Omaha, Day 1

If you want to see where we went the first night, just go to this previous post about Barrett's - all still applies.

This man was out walking in the morning hours on Friday... you can see he brought his precious DOG with him in the stroller. Good, Lord!

We stopped of at a resale place...they had the "hosen", but they were missing the "leder".

Ding! Do you remember this toy? Seems like you could make some money on eBay now.

This is a printing press at our friend's place of business "Inclosed". She's one helluva creative mind and is one a few places (I think) still doing letterpress invitations for all manner of events. She is highly recommended by basically everyone. 

If you hit Omaha's Greek Islands, why not go all the way with a little beer too?

And what could top off a night better than a cupcake? I will warn you though, this place is a scene almost all the time now, and the interior and exterior of the business has suffered for the success. I couldn't sit for two minutes on the outdoor patio without an ant crawling up my pant leg (thinking I was some of the already copious amounts of cupcake and litter all over the patio). The cupcakes are still relatively amazing, but just get them to go.

See, you can't fake great 'cakes. I think the best one this time was the "White", which is a vanilla bean taste explosion.


Brit's Pub, Minneapolis, MN

In case you didn't know, this is never a bad way to spend a gorgeous summer afternoon. Highly recommended.


Minocqua, WI

After a fun-filled weekend in Manitowish Waters, WI (say that ten times fast!), I stopped off in Minocqua to check out the main drag and have lunch. I'd heard about this city when I lived in Milwaukee, from native Wisconsinites, but never really understood its place in WI outdoor adventures.
My take - It seems as though people from IL go as far north as Lake Geneva or The Dells... but people in WI go much further north to Minocqua and beyond. They know why too... a lot less peolpe and a lot more wilderness and outdoor adventures.
I get the impression that Minocqua is the Jersey Shore of Wisconsin, and I mean that in the nicest way. They have their version of the Shore Store, where you can emblozon a t-shirt with any slogan you want, and many you don't and one of the largest sports stores I've ever been in, with tons of Packer and Bears stuff.
It's an "island city" and has a very relaxed, small town vibe. I had a great time walking that strip, popping into the shops, and having a relaxed brunch before getting back on the road.
Uber-custom cheesehead beer coozie anyone? 
 A three foot, hand-made, $600 bobble-head of Clay Matthews anyone?
Nothing starts the day right like Packers labelled waffles... 
...Except Packers labelled toast 
The Mother Load 
Who doesn't hate the Cleatues Robot on FOX? 


Manitowish Waters, WI

They know how to do northwoods weekends right in Wisonsin and Michigan, man oh man!
Please be sure to keep your eyes peeled for... wildlife, tons of natural beauty, donut stops, and wicked aggressive black flies.
Don't miss the fawn... 
Top 3 Donuts in my Life, hands down. 
Yooper Melt... ham, turkey, bacon, American cheese, Texas toast - delicious. 
Big ass Wolf spider - like eight eyes... you can see one reflecting the flash... 
God Bless America!!! 
Pretty as a... 
Black flies ate me alive for this picture 
I'm thirsty now... 


A drive through the middle of Wisconsin.

Most people, when needing to drive from the Northwoods of WI to Minneapolis, MN would take a direct or fast route. Google says this proposed route is 288 miles and 4 hours and 37 minutes. But, everyone knows my middle name is "adventure", so I took the road less travelled. Google also lists an option of a small two-lane highway labeled as US-8. I've come to find out this highway is also known by Wisconsinites as their "8 Mile".
In any case, I did something of a mix of two options, going down on Hwy 51 to US-8, cutting through WI solely on US-8, and going all the way to Minnesota's I-35. This route is listed as 285 miles, but jumps to 5 hours and 33 mintues.
The decrease in mileage (3 big miles) and increase in time is due to the fact that US-8 is two-lanes all the way and enjoys a maximum speed of 55mph (which seemed as though everyone went about 60mph without issue). Every 10-20 miles, you get to slow down to 45mph, then 35mph, and then 25mph to pass through small towns all along the way, with populations to match:
Tripoli, ~110
Tony, 113
Bruce, 771
Ladysmith, 3383
Cameron, 1784
Barron, 3425
But this doesn't take into account the real close up look that you get at small town America and the farmland that makes Wisconsin the dairyland powerhouse that it is. Though I will admit  I may not choose this option everytime, it really pays to take it some of the time. There are just some things you can't see at 70mph.


Fun Wolf Factoids*

I can't stop looking up info about wolves since my real-life run-in and wolf-kill-fawn experience in Tofte/Lutsen, MN.
> Wolves weighing over 54 kg (120 lbs) are uncommon, though exceptionally large individuals have been recorded in Alaska, Canada, and the former Soviet Union. The heaviest recorded gray wolf in North America was killed on 70 Mile River in east-central Alaska on July 12, 1939 and weighed 79.4 kilograms (175 lb), while the heaviest recorded wolf in Eurasia was killed after World War II in Kobeliaky, Poltavskij Region, Ukrainian SSR, and weighed 86 kilograms (190 lb)... must be all the vodka and borscht
> The majority of victims of predatory wolf attacks are children under the age of 18 and, in the rare cases where adults are killed, the victims are almost always women...[insert quote about bears from Anchorman here]
> [Wolves] auditory perception is sharper than that of the fox, being able to hear up to a frequency of 26 kHz, which is sufficient to register the fall of leaves in the autumn period... that's just nuts, I bet they hear those fall too
> At least two fatal attacks by wild, non-rabid wolves have occurred in 21st century North America: in 2005, a man was killed in Saskatchewan, Canada, while in 2010, a woman was killed whilst jogging near Chignik Lake in Alaska... at least one more compelling reason not to visit Canada
*all from Wikipedia


Delano, MN: 4th of July Carnival & Fireworks

If you happen to be near this farm community of about 5,500 people in central MN during the week of the 4th of July, you're going to want to stop and check out the  annual carnival. Lots of midway games, hand-pressed lemon-squeezes, bingo, tons of foods on sticks, frozen dairy treats, and the best part, fresh Minneapple Pie with ice cream. A deep fried hunk of sweet sweet love in either apple or pumpkin varieties.
Not just the food and games either. If you time your visit correctly, you can stay late that night and catch the fireworks. It was easily one of the best boom-boom shows I've ever seen, and totally unexpected.


Northern Waters Smokehaus, Duluth, MN

Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives isn't often wrong... and Northern Waters Smokehaus is unique and delicious. Like a number of my recent posts suggest, you should consider stopping at this place if you're in the Duluth area. They have a nice menu of unique sandwiches, which all incorporate their smoked fishes/meats or their homemade salamis (salamii?). They appear to turn a very brisk business (it was busy), but the staff knows what their doing and actually seem to be happy doing it. It helps when the people like what their doing, a lot.

Not only is the food worth it, but the DeWitt-Seitz building that houses this restaurant also has a ton more shops, and the whole area is down on the lakefront with lots of stores and eateries. It could easily be the perfect afternoon stop on your way back down to the T-C.

This is the Northern Bagel. It's a great helping of smoked salmon and a healthy schmear of scallion cream cheese. I would whole-heartedly recommend it. They have about a dozen other options too.


Lake Superior Shoreline

I saved the best of the Noth Shore for last. I was pretty well mezmerised by Lake Superior. Having grown up only miles from Lake Michigan, I might have to concede that this lake truly is superior.
I think I could get used to waking up to that everyday
Do you see the three geese? (I know, kind of hard...) 
This help?! But now is another group too
Even when it's crummy out, the lake still has its majesty 
I brought a bag full of rocks home, just cause they're so unique 


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