The Clare clan has returned from our visit back home to Minnesota and Wisconsin. (Even after thirteen years in the Pacific Northwest, and in spite of the Midwest’s violent weather changes, blood-thirsty mosquitos, and horizons that can feel lonely in their vast emptiness, those blue skies and rolling fields still whisper “home.”)
Our travels didn’t allow me much time to explore and look for spectacular views or historical sites to share -when you manage to get a family of five 1,500+ miles away from home to visit family and friends, people take priority over sightseeing.
Instead, in between hugs and meals and board games and farewells, I found myself looking around, noticing and enjoying the little curiosities of the Midwest as they presented themselves.
I hope you’ll enjoy a look at some of them too!
For instance, I have to admire the optimism here. Yes, it’s certainly closed, but “road?”
The challenge of sustaining small family farms doesn’t seem to have daunted these folks. This shot was taken in the middle of a nice little subdivision- you can see some of the houses in the background. I imagine the tiny hayfield down the block is theirs as well.
If you’re going to build a water tower, why not add a little local flavor? (Mmm, it makes me hungry for sweetcorn. Minnesota’s is the best.)
Speaking of flavor, we found an interesting bit of it plunked in the middle of peaceful green fields near Jordan, MN.
I can neither confirm nor deny that this is actually the largest candy store in Minnesota. It must be something special, though, as a number of superheroes turned out to guard it. Apparently Doctor Who and the Borg also found it worth a visit.
The sheer volume of candy was impressive enough, with sections of local goods as well as imports from around the world, but then they included a few special displays.
My four-year-old’s hand is in front of the glass, for perspective.
Of my three children, she’s the only one who kept pulling me over to listen to the animatronic candy’s performances of “oldies” music, which took place every five minutes. The other kids found the talking candy unsettling. Personally, I’ll take them over that giant gummy worm…
Needless to say, the kids had a good time perusing the wares and spending the little allotment we gave them. I *ahem* may have found a few items myself.
Eventually, we recovered from the sugar crash, and resumed our journeys.
The straight highways cutting through the southern Minnesota prairie toward Wisconsin seem to go on forever, until you approach the border. Then fields drop away to clumps of dark trees, rising up to cover the slopes that surround the road as it descends into the bluffs that cradle the Mississippi River.
The longest river in North America and third longest in the world, the Mississippi has humble beginnings in Minnesota’s Itasca State Park. The river’s headwaters are shallow enough to wade across- I know from experience- but by the time the Mississippi reaches the southern edge of Minnesota, forming the border to Wisconsin, it’s grown to a respectable size.
Perhaps there are places in the world besides Wisconsin where you decide where to purchase cheese by checking out billboards along the highway. I just haven’t visited them.
We decided to check out Humbird Cheese in Tomah because it was conveniently placed in the spot where I navigated us onto the wrong road and we had to backtrack anyway, and because with a happy mouse on their sign the cheese had to be good.
We were not disappointed.
The cheeses in whimsical shapes were interesting, but we were really searching for cheese curds. It wasn’t until I moved out of the Midwest that I discovered the sad fact that cheese curds are not known and loved everywhere. The bite-sized curds are best when they’re fresh enough to squeak between your teeth.
We indulged in a variety: Cheddar of course, but also Cajun, and Chive/Onion. The beef sticks were a bonus. Mmmmmmm.
Sated with candy and cheese, full of sunshine and mosquito bites, it was nearly time to bid farewell to family and friends and return to the evergreen shaded Pacific Northwest.
That’s when I found a fascinating bit of history I wasn’t expecting, with an odd family story to go along with it…
but that will have to wait for next time. 🙂
Have you found any interesting places, or enjoyed any local curiosities in your travels of late?
Many thanks to the bloggers Jon, Ari and Dan who provided guest posts while I was away, and many thanks to you for visiting!