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Trip Report A Big Campus, a Great Lake and a Mighty River: WI/MN Trip Report

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First of all, a huge 'Thank you!' to all of you who helped so much with the planning of this trip. Both recently, and in the case of Madison, last year. All of you must have felt your ears burning sometime in the past couple of weeks as we talked about how much we appreciated all of the suggestions and recommendations! I'm so grateful for your patience with all of my questions and your generosity in responding to them.

I give fair warning that, depending on how much detail I can remember, this may be fairly lengthy. I especially hope to be pretty detailed about restaurants. On the recent lounge threads about trip reports, several people have mentioned not liking so much detail about meals. So I thought about leaving it out. But then I realized that that's one of the things I really look for when I'm researching a trip. So I decided I'd rather err on the side of too much than too little. Anyone who's not interested can easily skip over those parts. But I don't want those who are specifically looking for that information to be disappointed.

Although this trip was a vacation, we took it at this particular time and to these places because we centered it around our son's SOAR (Student Orientation, Advising and Registration) at UW-Madison. With our oldest about to start her last year of college and this one about to start his first, we know our opportunities for family trips are about to become few and far between. So we made the most of this chance for a little family time.

Day One: Madison

We set out from Chicago's western suburbs about 10:30 on Saturday morning, July 21st. Our son didnt have to be at school until 8:30 Sunday morning. But we really didn't want to drive up that early in the morning! And, not knowing how much time he'd have away from the program, our son wanted to get to Madison in time to check the stores Saturday afternoon for some Badgerwear! We headed for Madison by way of Rockford. And it was smooth sailing all the way. Even though we were really looking forward to the restaurants in Madison, all things considered, we decided it made more sense to stop for a quick meal on the way. That meant eating at a Denny's soon after we crossed the border into Wisconsin. It was pretty much what you'd expect from a Denny's!

We'd reserved a room at the Super 8 on the Beltline Highway and had no trouble finding it. Check in is at 3:00 and we arrived around 1:30. But they had a couple of rooms ready so had no objection to letting us check in early. As soon as we got settled in, we got back in the car and headed for State Street. It was an easy drive of around 10 minutes.

We parked at the public garage just off of the campus end of State Street. It's very convenient and reasonable. The maximum charge is $3. But, as much as we wound up using that garage during our 3 days in Madison, I wish I had stock in it!

The first thing we saw when we walked onto State Street were throngs of people! I knew about the Saturday morning Farmer's Market. But, first of all, it was now at least 2:00. And, secondly, that's on the other end of State Street, around the Capitol Building. (I would have loved to have gone but the timing just wasn't right. Too bad SOAR isn't held on Saturday and Sunday instead of Sunday and Monday!) Turns out our son had chosen the weekend of Maxwell Street Days, a huge sidewalk sale, for his turn at SOAR. Pretty much every store on State Street was selling merchandise outside. And some of the restaurants had also set up booths. It was very interesting. And very crowded! But there were some good deals to be had. (As well as a lot of, to put it bluntly, junk!)

A couple of hours and several t-shirt purchases later, we headed back to the Super 8 for a swim. I'll go into more detail about the motel later. But the pool area was very nice. The sign said they had newly renovated rooms. And I'm guessing they must have redone this area too. They have an indoor pool and hot tub. The pool isn't terribly big. But the kids and I were lucky enough to have it to ourselves for about an hour. And we thoroughly enjoyed it!

We'd decided earlier that we wanted to go back to State Street for dinner at Husnu's. It's a Turkish restaurant at which we had lunch last summer when we went to Madison for a campus tour, etc. We'd really enjoyed it and were looking forward to eating there again and taking our daughter, who wasn't with us the first time.

As we were walking along State Street, about a block from the restaurant, my cell phone rang. Now you have to understand that pretty much the only people who ever call my cell phone are the three who were standing on the street with me! When I saw that it was an 800 number I figured it must be a junk call and debated not answering. But my curiosity got the better of me. Well, it turned out to be ADT telling me that our burglar alarm had gone off! What a way to start the first evening of our vacation! We had a very tense 45 minutes or so while we waited to hear what the police found. But, long story short, we never did find out what set it off. And apparently the damn thing beeped (softly, thank God, this was after the actual alarm had stopped sounding) the entire time we were gone. But at least we know that it was definitely not a break in that had activated the alarm. I've always thought of the alarm as giving us peace of mind. Now I'm beginning to wonder if we'd have more peace of mind without it!

Anyway, we did finally get our much anticipated dinner at Husnu's! And it didn't disappoint. The food was just as good as we'd remembered. It's a fairly small restaurant, comfortable and casual. But not the bare bones sort of ethnic restaurant where you go up to the counter to order. There are table cloths and the service was excellent. It was a nice evening and many of the diners had chosen to eat in their small outside area on State Street. So we had no trouble at all getting a table inside.

To start, we split a stuffed mushroom appetizer that was very good. We all chose meals from their dinner specials menu. DS and I had chicken breast stuffed with spinach, feta and mushrooms. There was a choice of a strawberry mango sauce or the one we both chose, which was a raspberry wine sauce. It was delicious! My husband and daughter were equally happy with their choice of acorn squash stuffed with a chicken rice mixture. The meals come with a choice of soup or salad but they were out of soup! They offered two salad dressings; a yogurt based one and a honey mustard one. Both were good.

My husband and I both got beers brewed in New Glarus, WI. I had 2 Fat Squirrels, he had one of those and one Spotted Cow. It was very good beer! Our daughter had a (non-alcoholic) mango drink that she really enjoyed. Our son had soda. The bill, pre-tip, was $84.66.

On the way back to the Super 8, we stopped at a PDQ convenience store/gas station to try to get a six-pack of the Fat Squirrel. They didn't have it, but did have Spotted Cow. Wow, were we surprised to learn that we couldn't buy it because it was after 9:00! On a Saturday night, in a college town!

I had packed our son's Play Station 2 and some tv show DVDs. We've found these to be the perfect length when we want to watch a little something to unwind, but aren't up for a movie. When we got back to the motel, we hooked the PS 2 up to the tv and watched an episode of Mary Tyler Moore. I don't think my husband or son made it past the credits before falling soundly asleep!

It took me about a month, start to finish, to get my last trip report posted on the Europe forum. I'm hoping to do this a little faster! But I've got some major projects going on here. So we'll see...

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    Thanks, cmcfong! I really appreciate the nod of approval on the food details. The meals we've had are always some of our best memories. And I've got the extra pounds to prove it! :S-

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    No way, dfr! You guys are the best!

    Day Two: Madison

    My husband got our son up and drove him to the campus for his 8:30 check in for placement tests. My daughter and I enjoyed the opportunity to sleep in a bit! But we managed to get up in time for the continental breakfast. As hotel continental breakfasts go, I’d rate this one somewhere in the middle. They had all the usual stuff but nothing that would make it stand out. And I was a little disappointed in their cereal selections. They had corn flakes, fruit loops and instant oatmeal. A higher fiber cold cereal selection would have been nice. I was also a little perplexed by their tea bag choices. They had a nice selection of “specialty” teas; flavored ones, herbal ones. But no plain old orange pekoe and very few unflavored black tea bags. That first morning I managed to find one English Breakfast tea bag and it was very good. The second morning I found one darjeeling. But when I went back up for a second cup, there was nothing but flavored teas and herbals. Those are very nice. But it seems to me they should be offered in addition to regular, not as the only choice.

    We had a pretty lazy morning. When our son was finished with his tests, we picked him up and all went for lunch. We chose Kabul Afghanistan & Mediterranean at 541 State Street. My son and I both had lamb pitas which were basically shish kabobs served with lettuce and a yogurt sauce on a pita. They were very good. Our daughter chose one of the specials which was a vegetable strudel. And my husband had a vegetarian couscous dish. I think they came with a choice of soup or salad. We all had the soup which was an excellent slightly spicy bean soup. I had Afghan iced tea that was good. Our daughter had a mango drink that was somewhat different than the one she’d had the night before. My husband finished off his meal with a turkish coffee which he enjoyed. The check, pre-tip, was $38.51.

    This was another restaurant that had a small seating area outside. But we had again chosen to sit indoors. There seemed to be a lot of flies. But I noticed that pretty much everywhere we ate that had outdoor seating. I’m sure it’s unavoidable when the waitstaff is going back and forth. The service was again very good.

    After lunch we headed to the new Campus Welcome Center for the student/parent sign in for SOAR. It really wasn’t until then that we realized there was a full program for the parents as well as the students. I feel slightly guilty about it, but we skipped most of it. I think it’s wonderful that they offer it. But most of it is geared for parents who haven’t yet had a child in college.

    Late in the afternoon, the kids attended part of the program that included a tour (DH and I had done the tour the previous year). The two of us wandered through some of the stores on State Street, including a used book store (the name of which I can’t remember) that DH really likes. Then we strolled over to the campus with the idea of sitting on the Union Terrace waiting for them to finish. I didn’t think we’d be able to get beer so, on the way through the Union, I stopped for ice cream. Orange custard with chocolate chips. Yum!

    As it turned out, they were serving beer, no school ID required. So my husband got one. And, after I finished my ice cream, I did too! When the kids joined us, they wanted ice cream. And my husband and I gave in to the temptation to get some of the popcorn we smelled all around us. So we wound up spending a very pleasant hour or two on the terrace. It was a nice evening. There were lots of sail boats out on the lake. Very pleasant, indeed!

    Of course, after all that gluttony, what did we do but head for dinner! As we were leaving the Afghani restaurant after lunch, we noticed a door leading to a basement restaurant serving East African food. DH and I had gone down to check out the menu while we were wandering State Street and thought it looked good. So we decided to continue the trend of ethnic dining!

    This one is Buraka Restaurant at 543 State Street. It’s a nice little restaurant, casual and warm with patterned table cloths and candles on the tables. My only complaint was that it was a little warm in the other sense. A fan would have helped.

    They have local beers on tap. DH and I enjoyed that. Our daughter had yet another version of mango juice drink! One of the options on the menu is to get a combination of two of the entrees. All four of us chose to do that. I had chicken and vegetables in a spicy peanut sauce (Doro Wat?) and a curry in coconut milk sauce with sweet potatoes. I think all of the others ordered at least one of those. Our son had something with beef or lamb. I’m drawing a blank on the others. But it was all very good! The entrees came with a salad. And there was a choice of having the entrees served over rice or over injera bread. We all opted for the bread. I’d read about Ethiopian restaurants serving entrees on bread. But had never had the pleasure of eating it. The injera was somewhat different than I expected. It was very thin and somewhat doughy. Part of it was spread over the plate and the entrees were spooned over the top. The rest of the bread was rolled up along one edge of the plate.

    If we hadn’t eaten so much at the Terrace before dinner, I would have been tempted by the dessert menu. None of the choices sounded especially African. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what they were. But I do remember that they sounded exceptionally good!

    The service was very good. Especially considering that the poor waitress was running back and forth between the tables in the basement and the small outdoor dining area. Pre-tip, our check was $72.65.

    After that we waddled back to the car and headed for the motel!

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    Hi CAPH - from Gra We are enjoying our time here and Marais. It is fun to read your report. I will enjoy all the future reports too. We are having a great time and will enjoy a family wedding this weekend too. Weather is perfect.

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    Day Three: More Madison

    On day two, Sunday, I forgot to ask whether angethereader saw us waving to her at 6:00?!;)

    It was another early start for DH and DS. Unfortunately, when DH dropped DS to begin a long morning of advising and registration, DS left his phone charging in the car.

    DD and I got a little earlier start too as DH and I wanted to attend the parents financial services program. Well, at least I wanted to attend it! About three quarters of the way through it, DS called from a pay phone telling us where and when to meet him so that we could give him his phone. But at least I was able to attend enough of it to get lots of good information. As I said, much of the parents program seemed to be geared to parents who were sending their first child to college. But this part of it was well worth attending as the financial side of things works so much differently at UW than at the private college DD attends.

    Our son was tied up into the afternoon with registration (he’d feared that, because he was registering late, he’d wind up with terrible classes and an awful schedule but it wound up going very well), getting his ID, etc. He ate the lunch provided as part of the SOAR charge.

    DH, DD and I decided to have lunch at Nitty Gritty which is at 223 N. Frances St., very close to the Kohl Center. I read somewhere, can’t remember where, that it’s something of an on-campus institution. Whether that’s true or hype, I have no idea. But we enjoyed it. It’s a comfortable, casual place. It’s all dark wood; the floors, the booths, the paneled walls.

    We started with an appetizer of fried cheese curds. After all, we couldn’t spend three days in Wisconsin without having them at least once! And very tasty they were too! I had the soup and half sandwich special of the day. The half sandwich was a turkey reuben with slaw instead of saurkraut. I had a choice of soups and chose brat, red bean and rice. It was really good. And a large, filling portion. DD had a grilled cheddar sandwich that looked awfully good. And DH had the burger of the day which happened to be the Nitty Gritty Burger. He said it was very good. I had iced tea which, judging by the taste, was definitely not fresh brewed. One of my biggest pet peeves! DH had a bottle of locally brewed root beer and DD had lemonade. The pre-tip bill was an extremely reasonable $23.16.

    Ever since we’d arrived in Madison DD had been dropping hints about a mustard museum that she knew was somewhere in the area. It seems that one of her very good college friends had had a roommate at her boarding high school who had a t-shirt from said museum. This friend had, for some reason, always been envious of that t-shirt. A year or so ago, unaware of their daughter’s interest, her parents had visited the museum on a trip around the midwest. And didn’t get her a t-shirt! So, when this friend found out DD was going to be in Madison, she told her this story.

    Our son finished up around 2:00. We’d done some research and learned that the mustard museum is in Mount Horeb, about 20 miles southwest of Madison. It was a nice day for a drive. And, let’s face it, we didn’t really have anything else to do!

    Talk about a quirky little place! http://www.mustardweb.com/ But I mean that in a good way! It was fun. And, of course, we managed to find too much to spend money on in the mustard store! Mount Horeb is a very cute little town with wooden statues of trolls placed here and there. I can definitely see us going back there on one of our visits to Madison. And I suspect I’ll be using the mustard museum store’s catalog to order a Christmas gift or two.

    Oh and by the way, of course we picked up a t-shirt for DD’s friend!

    When we got back to Madison, we headed to State Street. Our son wanted to pick up a 2007 football t-shirt as he’d learned a week or so before that he’d gotten season tickets in the lottery. When we finished our shopping, it was still too early for dinner. So we decided to stroll over to the Union Terrace. The kids wanted ice cream. And DH and I were ready to relax with a pitcher of beer. Once again, it was a lovely way to spend an hour or two. Beautiful late afternoon/early evening, sailboats on the lake... What more could you want?!

    We’ve seen more than our share of college campuses in the past few years. We visited several with each child. And our son is a college basketball fanatic who insists on visiting the campus of any basketball powerhouse we happen to be near. So we’ve seen quite a few. And UW is far from the prettiest we’ve seen. But the lakefront area of campus, and the terrace in particular, is pretty hard to beat!

    Eventually hunger set in and we set off for State Street again. We wandered farther up the street than we had the other evenings, checking menus along the way. We finally settled on Tutto Pasta at 305 State Street. It was a little more crowded and hectic than the places we’d eaten our other meals. But the service was good and we liked what we saw on the menu. Shortly after we were seated, they brought us a basket of bread and poured olive oil and balsamic vinegar on a bread plate. We shared an order of very good calamari as an appetizer. I ordered a pasta puttanesca that was excellent. The kids both ordered a mushroom ravioli that they really enjoyed. DH was very happy with his choice of an alfredo pasta. DH and I had beer. I think DD had a glass of white wine. And DS had soda. Our check, pre-tip, was $81.10.

    We hit a few stores on our way back to the car. We love the “hippie” stores on State Street. They give it that real college town feel!

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    Before I go on to day four, a few notes on the hotel in Madison. As I mentioned earlier, the sign said they had renovated rooms. The way it was worded made it sound as though not all of them had been. But ours certainly had a new feel to it. The lobby/breakfast room and pool area were also very nice and seemed to have been renovated.

    The Super 8 is right off the Beltline Higway. So close that my husband feared that we’d have traffic noise. Especially since our room was near the front of the hotel. But that definitely was not the case. Unfortunately, noise from the next room was another matter!

    I don’t know whether all the rooms in the hotel are designed so that they can be adjoining. But there was a door in our room. We didn’t hear a peep from the room on the side that didn’t have a door. But we had lots of sound problems from the room to which the door connected. The night that we arrived there seemed to be an older couple in that room who kept the TV on, loud, the entire time they were in the room. My husband was awakened by it at 2:30 in the morning! And we occasionally heard the voice of the gentleman.

    At 5:30 the morning we left, my husband heard a very loud (and seemingly drunk) group of people come into that room and turn the TV on, again loudly.

    While there was a lot that we liked about the Super 8, the noise factor was very definitely enough to make us think we’ll probably try another hotel the next time we stay overnight in Madison.

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    I meant to add that I was very glad we'd gone with a motel with a pool in Madison. As some of you will recall, we had to settle for one without a pool in Grand Marais. And that was fine. But the kids did use the pool all three days that we were in Madison.

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    Day Four: Madison to Grand Marais

    I think it was about 10:00 by the time we got on the road that morning. The plan was to stop for lunch at Norske Nook in Osseo, WI. Thank you isabellasu for the link to their web site (www.norskenook.com)and to all of you who “seconded” her recommendation! I’d been a little worried that we’d get there before we were hungry enough for lunch. I shouldn’t have been! It actually worked out nearly perfectly. We arrived in Osseo around 12:30 and we were all starving. A good thing too ‘cause the Norske Nook doesn’t exactly serve light lunches!

    One thing I’ve got to ask. How is it that everyone knows about this place? Osseo is a very small town. Norske Nook is well off the interstate. We saw only one billboard advertising it. And it’s not even listed on the exit sign that shows places for food. And yet several people recommended it to me. And, while we didn’t have to wait for a seat, the place was definitely busy! Don’t get me wrong, it’s very good. And definitely worthy of all the recommendations. But I’m still a little baffled as to how the word gets around.

    We all decided to go with Norske Nook specialties. My husband had the pork roast, gravy and mashed potatoes in a bread bowl. DS had the same except roast beef. Our daughter had a lefse meal wrap with the Norwegian meatballs. And I had a hot Norwegian meatball sandwich. And, of course, we all had pie! My husband had banana cream. DS had raspberry cream cheese. DD had chocolate cream. And I had a very decadent pecan cream cheese that was so wonderfully rich I couldn’t eat it all. That pie was loaded with pecans!

    Our son was in heaven! I have no doubt that he will try to find a way to get from Madison to Osseo this upcoming school year!

    While certainly not health food, it sure was good! As our son pointed out, his beef was real roast. Not the deli-type beef so often served in hot beef sandwiches. The mashed potatoes were real. The bread was homemade. What’s not to like?! And the pie was wonderful! Our pre-tip bill was $51.19.

    After lunch, of course we had to stop in the little Norske Nook coffee and gift shop across the street from the restaurant. They had some very nice things. But mostly very expensive things.

    It took us a lot longer to get from Madison to Grand Marais than we’d been expecting. And I really don’t know why. I don’t think we were in Osseo much more than an hour. We stopped once at a gas station and I think once at a rest stop. When we got to the North Shore, we stopped at Gooseberry Falls State Park. My husband and I used the rest rooms and then walked up to the falls. We were probably stopped there 20 minutes or so. But it was around 7:30 by the time we pulled in to the Best Western in Grand Marais. It’d been a long day of driving! But, all in all, it was a nice drive. Wisconsin is, on the whole, a much prettier state than Illinois (with the exception of far southern Illinois and the area around Galena). And, of course, once we hit Duluth, it was gorgeous.

    One of the first things we saw as we entered the Best Western was a sign warning that there would be a power outage that night! As I understand it, Grand Marais was in the process of switching to a new substation. And, in order to make the change, the power was going to be going out at 11:00. The person who checked us in said it would probably be out for around six hours. At first I wondered why they’d do this during tourist season. And then I thought about what the winters must be like there. I kind of doubt they’d want to be without power for six hours in the dead of winter!

    We were very pleased when we saw our room. It was your basic motel room, but nice. What made it stand out was the lake view. I’d originally reserved a non-balcony room because they were about $10 cheaper. I mentioned on Fodor’s that I was wondering about that decision. Dfr4848, thanks for your advice that it was probably worth upgrading to the balcony room! You were right, it was! There was what I would describe as a park bench on the balcony and we were to get much use of it during our three night stay there!

    By the time we got settled in, it was getting late. After the lunches we’d had, we weren’t in the mood for a heavy dinner. The kids decided they’d really like to have pizza. So we set out on foot with the idea that we’d eat at Sven and Olie’s (there was a coupon in one of the brochures I’d picked up at Gooseberry Falls State Park). We stopped at a gift shop along the way to try to find some inexpensive candles in case we were still awake when the power went out. Everything they had was way more than we wanted to spend.

    When we got to Sven and Olie’s, there was a sign in the window that, due to the power outage, they were closing at 8:00! It was already after 8:00 at that point. So we meandered on down the street looking for somewhere else to eat. We couldn’t believe how empty the streets were. It was like a ghost town!

    We wound up at the Crooked Spoon Café on Wisconsin St. According to their sign, they were open until 9:00. As it was nearing 8:45 and there weren’t many people there, we asked if we were too late. But they assured us we were fine.

    As I mentioned before, none of us were in the mood for a heavy meal. So we ordered somewhat strangely that night. My husband got a bowl of their soup of the day, a cream of chicken with mushrooms, and, as his main course, an appetizer that was basically a bowl of olives with some peppers. Our daughter got a cup of the soup and the appetizer crab cake which was served with a jicama slaw. Our son ordered the soup and salad combo which came with baked French onion soup en croute. I had what they described as a Greek style salad that came with a choice of tofu or smoked fish (whitefish, I think). I chose the fish.

    All of the food was excellent! And I wish I could remember the name of the draft beer my husband and I had. It too was really good. All in all, a very pleasant experience! The service was very good. And it’s a really cute little place. The check, before tip, was $61.91.

    On the way back to the Best Western, we stopped at one of the gas station convenience stores and picked up flash lights. When we got back, we sat out on the balcony for a while, enjoying the moonlight shining on the water. And listening to what we think was a very loud bullfrog!

    The kids and I used the flashlights to read (each of us reading a different volume of Harry Potter, we’d picked up #7 just before heading out of town Saturday morning!) for a little while after the power went out. But not for long. As I said earlier, it’d been a long day!

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    Thanks, dfr!

    I really am going to try to get this finished soon. With so much else on my mind in terms of getting the kids off to college, I find the details of this trip are fading faster than they did after my last trip. And it was such a great trip! For myself, as well as to payback all the help, I want to write it down before I forget!

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    CAPH52, to answer your question about why the Norske Nook is well known, quite a few years ago David Letterman had the owner and cook on his show. I don't know how he found out about the restaurant, but I think that set off their popularity beyond being known only to the locals.
    Your trip "up north" sounded wonderful!
    Thanks for the detailed report.

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    You chose fantastic restaurants in Madison! My best friend works at Husunu's and will be glad to hear the service was good. Kabul and Tutto Pasta are 2 of my favorites, and I'm glad you enjoyed them.

    Regarding the Gritty, it is known for being the birthday bar. You can have all you can drink beer (or soda) on your birthday and you get to keep the mug. As you can imagine, there are often some pretty, uh, happy birthday boys and girls there - especially in the evenings.

    And Spotted Cow is practically an institution, and probably my favorite beer.

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    Glad you liked our choices, bethke! :D We certainly enjoyed them! Looking forward to eating at all of them many times over the next four years!

    Sometime when we're up there visiting our son, I'd like to check out the brewery in New Glarus. We've never been to the town but I've heard good things about it.

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    Glad to hear that you enjoyed Madison. It is a great place.

    I have not toured the New Glarus Brewery but I do know that they are in the process of expanding and building a new facility. It is a charming little town. I recommend that you go on a Sunday and have brunch at the New Glarus Hotel. I'm not usually big on brunches but they set out a wonderful Swiss buffet (they call it a hotel, to the best of my knowledge there are no rooms to rent, only a restaurant. Go figure).

    On the way back to Madison stop off in the tiny town of Paoli. They have a wonderful gallery called the Artisan, a tiny one called Zazen, and a darling little cheese store all set along the banks of the Sugar River. It is a pretty drive.

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    Hi From Grand Marais Again CAPH!! Love your report. Weather is wonderful here and the whole fisherman's Picnic Week was great. Love your report. No more power outages since we first got here - the whole town is finally all connected to new power. Think it they did it now to not be doing in rainy weather or winter weather. Keep the reports coming - love them!!!

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    oops forgot what I was originally going to say - think Norsk nook is also known from being written up several times in Midwest Living. We too wondered how anyone found it the first time we went there!!!

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    Hi, Cali. I'm glad you're still having good weather and enjoying yourselves!

    I wonder whether Midwest Living is how Letterman's staff found out about it? Might have been his mother though. I picked up her cook book at a used book store a few weeks ago. Apparently she and her husband travel a lot in the midwest. And, judging by the type of recipes in her book, it seems like the kind of restaurant that would appeal to her.

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    Day Five: The North Shore

    By the time we got to Grand Marais, my husband was on driving overload! He begged that our itinerary for the next day not include driving! And both he and our son wanted a chance to sleep in a bit. So we decided we’d start out slowly in the morning, take the 11:30 cruise on the Wenonah and then spend the afternoon walking around Grand Marais, getting acquainted with the town. While I thought it best not to mention it to my husband just yet, I was hoping that by evening he might be up to a drive out along the Gunflint Trail.

    Well you know what they say about the best laid plans....We awoke to fog that morning! My husband said that when he first got up it was clear over the lake and foggy inland. By the time I got up it was very foggy over the lake and seemed to clear gradually the farther inland you went. We could see the sun shining behind all the fog. So we were hopeful that it would burn off by 11:30.

    By the time all of us made it to the breakfast room, we were coming very close to the 10:00 cut off time. We did indeed take it slow that morning! Again, I’d probably have to rate the breakfast somewhere in the middle. But it was definitely better than the one in Madison. They had a nicer selection of toasting items, including two very nice breads, one of which was whole grain. They also had a much nicer cereal selection. I can’t remember what the “kid type” one was, possibly fruit loops again. But they also had raisin bran and a very good granola. And, in what I thought was a nice touch, there was a bowl of raisins by the cereals. They also had a container of hard boiled eggs.

    I forgot to mention the juice at the Super 8. Both it and the Best Western had the orange juice and apple juice in the Minute Maid dispenser that’s so common at hotel continental breakfasts. But the juices in Madison were very watered down. In fact, the first morning the apple juice was really just colored water! It was much better in Grand Marais.

    After we’d eaten, my husband and I went to the desk to ask where we needed to go to catch the Wenonah cruise. We also asked whether it was better to walk. The clerk told us that there was some parking but that if we didn’t mind walking the 6 blocks, that would be better. Since I hadn’t been getting in my morning walk, I was glad for the opportunity for a little exercise.

    It was a neat walk. As we walked across the very nice harbor area, the fog was still very thick out on the water. We could hear things that we couldn’t see. And every once in a while we’d see a small boat emerge from the fog. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be in a boat out in that fog. I hope they have GPS!

    Even with all of the fog, we couldn’t help but notice how many more people there were on the streets than there had been the evening before. This continued to be the case the whole time we were there. There was a sign on the door saying that our hotel was full when we arrived. But I have to think that, due to the power outage, people must have found somewhere else to go that Tuesday evening. At any rate, they certainly weren’t out and about when we went to dinner!

    By the time we reached Dockside, where the tickets were being sold, it was around 10:45. We were told that they still didn’t know whether the cruise would run! The gentleman told us that the captain would probably make the decision around 11:10 or so.

    As we headed back towards the hotel, we decided that we’d rather wait, whether the cruise went or not. At $120 for the 4 of us, it’s just too much money to spend unless we could be fairly sure of a good, clear view. So we took our time getting back to the room, stopping in a couple of shops along the way.

    We knew that our time on the North Shore was very limited and that there was no way we could begin to see it all. One of the things we’d decided we definitely wanted to do was drive up to the Canadian border. Well, I guess sleeping in a bit had made my husband feel a lot better because he suggested that, since we couldn’t do the cruise, we go ahead and drive up. Although it was still foggy on the lake, it seemed to be getting better inland. And it looked to us to be better to the north than to the south.

    We looked at the map and decided we’d go to Judge C.R. Magney State Park, walk to the waterfall and then drive the short distance to Naniboujou Lodge for lunch. When we got to the park, we bought our daily vehicle pass. It cost $5 and was good for as many state parks as we could hit before 10:00 that night. Quite a deal when you consider that there are eight state parks on the North Shore!

    Unfortunately, by the time we parked, our son had decided he was too hungry to walk the mile and a half (I think) to the falls! So we got back in the car and drove to Naniboujou. When we got out of the car, we decided to walk down to the lakeshore before going in to the restaurant. How nice! A big lawn with scattered benches and chairs just before it slopes down to a rocky beach. We wound up spending at least 15 minutes taking pictures and walking along the beach.

    Thanks so much to Cali and all of the others who recommended Naniboujou! We thoroughly enjoyed it. Since I’m quite long-winded enough as it is, I’m going to give a link for those of you who’d like to read about the history of this interesting little place! It’s www.naniboujou.com

    While we were far from being the only ones there, neither was it terribly busy. We tend to think of tranquility these days in terms of quiet earth tones. But despite the bright, prime colors in the ceiling, the dining room exudes such old fashioned warmth and tranquility. Something about it makes me think of my grandparents. I guess because it’s of their era.

    And the food was really good! DD and I both had the turkey sandwich, DH had the chicken salad and DS had a burger. It wasn’t until we got there that I realized that they probably don’t serve alcohol (and later saw that confirmed here on Fodor’s). I’m glad we went for lunch! Our pre-tip check was $52.94.

    After lunch we checked out the small gift shop and then walked in the back again. We could tell quite a difference from when we’d gone in. A couple of points along the shore that had been only partially visible or not visible at all when we went in, were now completely clear. As we headed up the road, we hit a patch of fog here and there. But by the time we reached our next stop, Grand Portage National Monument, it was clear and beautiful.

    Again I’m going to post a link rather than going into the history of Grand Portage National Monument. It’s www.nps.gov/grpo/

    We really enjoyed the Monument. While it doesn’t compare to Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, it’s very well done. It certainly has the feel of the historic site that it is rather than that of an amusement park. We spent quite a bit of time wandering the grounds and walking out on the pier. I noticed that one of the comments in the guest book was about how good it smelled. I couldn’t agree more! Between the bark of which it was made and the pine needles scattered on the floor, I was really impressed with how fragrant it was inside the Native American hut.

    From there we went on to Grand Portage State Park. There’s a half-mile paved trail leading to the falls. It’s a very pretty walk. And the falls are beautiful! According to the Moon Guide, it’s the highest waterfall in Minnesota. What a gorgeous spot!

    We’d been debating whether or not we wanted to drive to Thunder Bay, Ontario. We decided to go for it. But, in hindsight, we wish we hadn’t. It was a beautiful drive. But longer than we’d anticipated. And we were very disappointed in Thunder Bay. We seemed to be driving on and on, passing strip mall after strip mall followed by somewhat run-down neighborhoods. We finally just turned around and headed back, without ever getting to the downtown or lakefront area.

    We’d originally thought we’d try for the 6:00 cruise on the Wenonah. But it was around 7:00 by the time we got back to Grand Marais. I’d been reading up on restaurants as we drove back. We really weren’t in the mood for anything fancy. The descriptions of My Sister’s Place sounded like it might be just what we wanted. And it was right on our way back into town. So we decided to give it a try.

    It was very busy. In fact, shortly after we sat down there was a line of people waiting for tables. And there seemed to be only one woman doing both hostessing and waitressing duties. But she did a damn good job of it! She was somewhat harried but very professional. We were waited on promptly and our food arrived piping hot.

    My Sister’s Place is mainly a sandwich place. They have a long list of toppings that are available on either a burger or a grilled chicken breast. And a shorter list of toppings available on a hot dog. All of the sandwiches came with a choice of soup, fries, I think onion rings or slaw. We started with two appetizers; fried mushrooms and fried cheese curds. I had a burger with what they called the anna banana topping, which was mozzerella and banana peppers with a side of slaw. It was really good! Both of the kids got the buffalo topping, DS on a burger, DD on a chicken breast. DH got a chili dog. DH and I each had two beers, which, at $4 a glass, were a little more than we’d been paying thus far on this trip (but still less than we pay when we go into Chicago). DD had a glass of wine. Our check, with tip, was $83.16.

    After going back to the hotel, my husband and I decided that we wanted to walk over to the liquor store to see what kind of local beer they might have. (We didn’t buy any as we thought it was awfully expensive.) We wound up taking a very nice walk around the harbor area. It was so different than it’d been that morning (or the evening before). That morning, due to the fog, I hadn’t even realized there was a lighthouse of sorts in the harbor! It was a very nice evening and there were lots of people out and about. That walk was one of those experiences that really make you feel you’re on vacation. So removed from your normal, everyday life! And the sort of memory that stays with you. What a pretty little area that is!

    On the way back to the hotel, we passed Sydney’s Frozen Custard stand. When we told our daughter about it, she wanted to go. So the two of us walked over. She had a chai tea milkshake that she really enjoyed. DH and DS both had sydnamies, basically their version of a blizzard. DH’s was almond joy, DS’s oreo mint. They said both were delicious. I was good and abstained!
    (Actually I don’t care for ice cream after I’ve been drinking beer!)

    We ended the day by sitting on the balcony for a while and then reading more Harry Potter. What a nice day it had been!

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    My apologies to julies and dfr4848. I should have specifically thanked you for the great info you gave me on Naniboujou, Grand Portage National Monument and other things that we did on day 5! And SuzieTrue, a big thanks to you for telling me about the Wenonah when I found out the Grandpa Woo is no longer running.

    As I've said several times, you guys (along with Cali, isabellasu, shouldercat, cmcfong and several others) were incredibily generous with sharing your expertise. I can't tell you often enough how much you added to our experience.

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    CAPH52, Mom Letterman is famous for her pies..so maybe she did check out Norske Nook to taste their famous pies!
    Esquire magazine also said that the Norske Nook was a place to drive out of the way for many years ago.

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    Hi, isabellasu! That's right, they always do that "guess the pies" bit on Thanksgiving!

    Sounds like Norske Nook has gotten lots of publicity over the years! No wonder so many people seem to know about it!

    In my last post...Um, I think that should be incredibly! :">

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    Hi Again CAPH, glad to hear you enjoyed Naniboujou. It i such a unique place and we always love to go there. They do a Christmas Caroling Dinner that is really nice and fun. The dinner is always a gourmet, 5 course dinner and very special and then singers - really fun and festive. We try to go if we are that area over the Holidays. We also enjoy My Sister's Place for a burger. We did get to take the Wenonah cruise with a group of friends on this trip and we had such a fun time. Weather was perfect for the whole trip and the cruise was beautiful. I missed Sydney's custard this trip - too much to eat at the other places and the booths set up for Fisherman's Picnic. Will do it next time. We also had a family wedding during this time and that kept us busy too. Fun tho. Love your report.

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    We just got back from a similar trip yesterday up to the North Shore. Gorgeous.

    CAPH52…I have been enjoying your trip report since I live near Madison and could relate to most of your experiences. We go down to the Union Terrace just to sit in the summer evenings…it is beautiful. As for Osseo and the Norske Nook…my husband grew up in Osseo. The pies became famous in the late ‘70’s. There happened to be bus loads of people on tours that would stop in Osseo to eat. (Must have been half way to wherever they were going.) The guy that wrote it up in the magazine was one of those that just happened to stop. The pies are amazing.

    On the North Shore, we stayed at the Lutsen Resort and Sea Villas in one of the Poplar River Condominium Rooms. Beautiful balcony and tons of amenities at the resort. I would definitely go back. http://www.lutsenresort.com/

    The Lutsen Ski Hill is a very beautiful place with a tram to the mountain, canoeing, hiking, horseback riding and a restaurant with a gorgeous view of the mountains. Grand Marais was a cute town. Very interesting walk out on the rocks to the lighthouse. We stopped at the Grand Portage Heritage Center where they were having a Rendezvous celebration. People dressed as the French settlers and they were having all kinds of events.

    We traveled up to Thunder Bay, Canada and spent the night. I wish we had just gone for the day. As CAPH52 stated the town was not very exciting. We got there late in the afternoon and did go down to the harbor which was very pretty. We had a small dinner down there and ate outside and watched the harbor. I am sure there is a lot more to do but we were tired of driving. We tried to find a mall that was on the map but it turned out to be not much of anything.

    A trip to the North Shore is truly worth it. It really reminded us of the coast of Oregon.

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    Hi, Cali! Are you back home? Sounds like you had a very good trip.

    Sounds like you did too, barbmc! Maybe we should have gone the rest of the way into Thunder Bay. It sounds like the harbor area was nice. But it just seemed to be taking us forever to get there and we weren't impressed with what we were seeing. And it was getting late...

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    Hi CAPH, yes we are home. Got home late last night and am trying to catch up with everything since we were gone 3 weeks. We had a wonderful trip - great weather the whole time. ONly one night with thunder storms while in Mpls. this past Friday. We did lose power in our hotel tho and that was not fun - it was hot and dark. Fortunately, we were going out with friends and were mostly ready so just got in the car and headed out and it was back on when we got back later. We are going back to the North Shore in late Sept. so I am hoping the leaves will be pretty then. They say they might not be too good this year as it has been so dry. Oh well, we will have fun anyway.

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    Day Six: Grand Marais

    Again we figured we’d try for the 11:30 cruise. Again we awoke to fog! We decided we’d hope for better weather for the 6:00 cruise.

    I should have done this trip report sooner as I’m beginning to get a little fuzzy about exactly what we did do that morning! But I know that, at some point, we decided to check out some of the shops in Grand Marais. The night before, our son had finished the volume of Harry Potter he’d brought along. And he hadn’t brought the next one. So our first stop was Drury Lane book store. Unfortunately, they didn’t have it. But it’s a very cute little book store. And they were very helpful. They knew they’d recently ordered it and took the time to pull out the order, checking to see when it would come in.

    Drury Lane is next to the little red shop called World’s Best Donuts. Ah, the aroma! And I don’t even like doughnuts! Since the rest of the family does, of course we had to stop in! They thoroughly enjoyed their doughnuts. And I had a pastry, sort of a cross between a turnover and a Danish, with lemon filling, that was very good.

    We spent quite a bit of time wandering around town, going from shop to shop. There are some very nice ones. The one where we spent the most money was Lake Superior Trading Post. They have a very nice variety of merchandise.

    When it was time for lunch, we decided to head back to Dockside Fish Market where we’d gone the day before to ask about Wenonah tickets. I read somewhere that the owners are commercial fishermen. So their fish is very fresh! We had a very pleasant lunch. We each started with a chowder, the choices were clam and mussel or Wisconsin cheese with smoked fish (can’t remember what kind of fish!). They were both delicious! My husband had a smoked whitefish wrap. The kids and I had fish burgers, theirs with fries, mine with chips. It was all good! It’s a very casual, go up to the counter to order kind of place. But bright and comfortable. Our bill was $50.88.

    We had a very laid back afternoon. Unfortunately, the weather never did completely clear. It wasn’t awful. But neither was it great. It rained lightly a few times. And the sun came out briefly a few times. About mid-afternoon, my husband and son decided to walk the beach over to the point we could see from our room (Artists’ Point?). They walked out to the end, taking pictures and just generally enjoying themselves!

    Meanwhile, I walked across the street from the hotel to the grocery store. Pretty exciting stuff, huh?! But we needed to replenish our supply of bottled water. And I always enjoy checking out grocery stores when we’re traveling, looking for things we can’t get at home.

    As 6:00 approached, we realized that it wasn’t going to be a very nice evening for a cruise. So we decided we’d drive out the Gunflint Trail and have dinner at the Trail Center. We were as leisurely about that as we had been about everything else that day. It must have been 7:00 or so by the time we set out.

    I’d read about the Moose Viewing Trail in the Moon Guide. We still hadn’t seen any moose. And the trail is only about ½ mile round- trip. So I was watching for it as we drove. I wasn’t sure how the others would feel about it. But when we got there, they decided they were game. Silly us! We didn’t take into consideration the fact that it had just rained and it was twilight. Never in my life have I seen so many mosquitos! Or such big ones! And, of course, we didn’t see a moose! But it’s one of those stories we’ll laugh about in the years to come!

    After that, every time we passed a campground, and it seemed like we passed quite a few, all I could think about was how on earth they survived the mosquitos! I have to say though, that the walk on that trail was the only time we encountered mosquitos on the trip. We didn’t notice any at all when we sat out on the balcony of our room. Maybe because it’s been a dry summer.

    Trail Center seems like a true North Woods experience. It’s very rustic and out in the middle of nowhere. But crowded! We didn’t have to wait for a table though. Does anyone know if it’s owned by the same people (or members of the same family) who own My Sister’s Place? We noticed a bumper sticker for the other restaurant on one of the “bar stools” (not like any bar stools I’d ever seen before, wooden with a back and plastered with bumper stickers). And there were some similarities in the menu.

    They didn’t have any beer on draft. My husband and I chose bottles of Moose Drool. It’s not local, I think it’s made in Montana. But we’d never had it before. We really liked it. Our daughter ordered a glass of white wine which turned out to be White Truck. I’d read about Red Truck and White Truck on Fodor’s. But had never had it either. She really liked it. We asked the waitress whether it was available at nearby liquor stores and she suggested that we try Windigo, a short way up the Gunflint Trail. We checked it after we ate. But they had a very small selection and no White Truck. However, Windigo turned out to be part of a small “resort”. As nearly as we could tell, it was a restaurant and hotel rooms. It’s right on a lake and looked like a very nice location.

    Anyway, we all enjoyed our meals at Trail Center. We all got a cup of the soup of the day, which was an excellent ham and bean. It could have been served a bit hotter. But it tasted very good, none the less. All of our sandwiches were quite tasty. Our son and I had grilled pork tenderloin with grilled onions. My husband had some sort of prime rib sandwich and, as nearly as we can remember, our daughter had a burger. There was a choice of several sides and we all chose mac and cheese. It turned out to be the blue box kind! A bit of a surprise! But the kids enjoyed it. And I have to admit that I did too! Our pre-tip bill was $58.96.

    Thanks so much, Cali, for suggesting that we have a meal at Trail Center! Had it not been for you, we wouldn’t have known about it. And we would’ve missed a fun experience.

    It was a nice drive back into Grand Marais. But, alas, no moose!

    When we got back, we walked around Grand Marais a bit and then sat out on the balcony for a while.

    I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to get this posted. I started on it just after posting the last installment. But things have been absolutely nuts around here the past two or three weeks. However, the kids are now at their respective colleges and my husband went back to work today. So, aside from my short time at work, today will be a very long, very quiet day! Depending how often I have to call one of the kids to ask about something I can’t quite remember, I should be able to wrap this up soon!;)

    I had this ready to post yesterday morning but our internet has been in and out (mostly out) ever since. One more reason to please bear with me!

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    I loved your report CAPH and am so glad you enjoyed Trail Center. I am just sorry you didn't have the same wonderful weather we had when we were there. We didn't have any fog or rain and the mosquitos were few and far between. Guess they like damp days. There are tons more of them up the trail tho and we only were up there 2 times on our trip. I also love World's Best Donuts. I don't eat many at home but when I get to Grand Marais I can't pass up their donuts. Nice people there too. The people from Trail Center used to own My Sister's Place but it is now owned by someone else. It is still much the same as when it was owned by the ladies from Trail Center. Many restaurants in Grand Marais have changed hands in the last couple years so lots of changes. We also love Dockside. Since they are commercial Fishermen I always have the herring - fresh and yummy. We are going to Grand Marais for Christmas this year so hope they have snow. They didn't have much last year at all. Next trip you have to go to Gunflint Lodge too as they have wonderful food and a pretty setting - farther up the Trail than Trail Center tho. Another place we like to go for dinner is Tracks in Lutsen at the ski hill. It is part of Caribou Highlands Resort. We try them all and like some better than others but try to spread our dollars around as we want them all to succeed. Several places close after the fall colors but several stay open all year so that is good. Thanks again for a great report.

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    Hi, Cali! Glad you enjoyed the report. I'm working on the next day and just might manage to finish the darn thing soon! Someone remind me never to wait so long to write one again. I'm really struggling with details at this point!

    Thanks for the restaurant info. I can see why you'd want to spread out your dollars. It'd be a real shame to lose any of them.

    You mentioned going at Christmas. Have you decided not to go during the Fall?

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    Hi CAPH. We had planned to go this fall but my Mother in law is having surgery out here so it just won't work. We'll try to go next year in the fall. We look forward to Christmas tho - especially if there is snow. I know what you mean about remembering all the details after you get back home and into your busy schedule. I do the same.

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    I hope you get your snow, Cali! Since they seem to have had a relatively dry summer, maybe the winter will make up for it. I'm sure it's really beautiful there when it's snow covered!

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    Dearest CAPH ~ I was in search of this, SO glad I found it, have begun to read but had to stop and post when I came upon...

    <<The kids and I used the flashlights to read, each of us reading a different volume of Harry Potter>>

    I cannot think of anything more precious.

    Continuing on now...

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    Hi again CAPH ~ I so enjoyed your trip report and am thrilled you all had a pleasant time. Best wishes to all of you! I am glad Grand Marais will be a part of you always.

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    Oh darn, CAPH. I was hoping this was a continuation of your report. We are in the same boat, with both kids off at college. The house seems SO big with just 2 of us. Looking forward to the rest of your report.


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    Hi, Tiff and Suzie! Thanks for the feedback, Tiff! And my apologies, Suzie. I've started the next day but keep getting interupted! I know I keep saying this, but I'm gonna really, really try to finish it up this week. Frankly, I'm tired of having it hanging over my head!;)

    I'll probably add a little on the end as we had a quick overnight trip to Madison. Just got back an hour or so ago. This cool weather caught us all by surprise. We had to make a warm clothing delivery!

    We ate at Husnu's again and loved it just as much as the previous three times! But we tried a new place for lunch today.

    Hope you're adjusting to your big, empty house okay, Suzie. It's quite a transition, isn't it? It was very bittersweet leaving our son again today. But he's loving UW. And that makes me very happy!

    Watch this space! With a little luck there will be additions coming soon!:D

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    Caph - I finally found your trip report! I'm glad you liked Madison so much. It's really a cool place. I miss having an excuse to go there, DH's girlfried graduated from UW Law in May.
    Now I have to drive south to Evanston to visit him.
    We ended up spending an extra day at the lake, so were driving back on Sunday. So I missed your wave.
    We just had the pleasant trip to Minneapolis to drop DS3 and his girlfriend off at school.
    We also came back to an empty house. It still feels weird, even though this is not the first time for me.

    Another place to try the next time you're in Madison is The Great Dane. They brew specialty beer on the premesis, and it's good.
    I love Tutto Pasta. That's where we had dinner before the Lareena McKinnet concert.

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    Hi, ange! I definitely want to try Great Dane one of these times. Just haven't gotten to it yet! I'm just amazed at the variety and quality of restaurants in Madison considering the size of the city.

    Good luck with your job search. I hope that very soon you'll find the job of your dreams!

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    Day Seven: On the Road Again

    Of course, we awoke that morning to beautiful, clear blue sky! It’s a little irritating that things so often seem to work out that way. I would’ve loved to take the cruise on the Wenonah. But I thoroughly enjoyed everything we did. And, had we done the cruise, we would’ve missed out on something else. As much as we would’ve liked to have the nice weather the other two mornings, we were grateful to have such a beautiful day for our drive back down the shore.

    We certainly didn’t hurry ourselves along that day. We had a leisurely breakfast and took our time loading the car. On the way out of town, we stopped to pick up donuts! We’d also decided that we wanted to take the time to make one stop as we left the North Shore. It wasn’t an easy decision, but we finally settled on Split Rock Lighthouse.

    We couldn’t afford to spend a lot of time as we wanted to stop for lunch in Duluth and had reservations for the night in Red Wing. So we were quite disappointed to learn that we couldn’t even see the outside of the lighthouse without paying the fee to enter the park. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I think it may have been $8 per person. And that was too much considering our time constraints. So we looked around the gift shop and then moved on. Fortunately, a short distance down the road, we passed (literally, but turned around and went back) a scenic overlook that gave us a very nice view of the lighthouse.

    All of us were quite sorry to say goodbye to the North Shore. It turned out to be everything we’d hoped for, exactly the relaxing, beautiful couple of days we’d all really needed. I’ll be very surprised if we don’t wind up returning there in the next couple of years. There’s so much we still want to see! And restaurants we still want to try!

    We were a little nervous about getting off of the interstate at the right place in Duluth. But we had no trouble exiting and getting right to the Canal Park area. It was crowded though! Lots of traffic and lots of people walking around. We had a little trouble finding a parking place in one of the lots.

    We walked around a bit looking at shops (we found the Harry Potter book we’d been looking for!) and restaurant menus. There were a few restaurants that caught our eye. We wound up choosing Green Mill, not realizing that it’s a chain. However, my main reason for avoiding chains on trips is that I don’t want to eat somewhere I can eat at home. As far as I know, there are no Green Mills near us. So that wasn’t a concern. And the food turned out to be quite good. Both my husband and our son chose pastas from the lunch specials. My daughter and I each had a salad and split their “healthy” pizza. It was very good. But had we been told warned that it might take a while, we probably would have made another choice. In fact, it wasn’t until we’d been waiting about half an hour that someone finally bothered to tell us (without any effort at apology) that it was the pizza that was holding up our order. Maybe we should have realized that a pizza might take longer... At any rate we weren’t pleased as we were beginning to get a bit nervous about how much farther we still had to drive that day. And one of the reasons we’d chosen Green Mill in the first place was that there was no wait for a table!

    We didn’t have a chance to see a lot of the Canal Park area, much less of Duluth as a whole. But we liked what we saw. I could definitely see spending a night or two there sometime.

    The drive on the interstate from Duluth to the Twin Cities is pretty much your typical, boring Midwestern travel experience!

    As I mentioned way back at the beginning of this report, we’d been watching Mary Tyler Moore Show DVDs over the summer. And our daughter had become quite a fan. So, of course, we talked about stopping in Minneapolis. But we began to realize that we were going to be hitting the Twin Cities pretty much at rush hour. And this was a Friday. So we decided that it would make a lot more sense to save Minneapolis for a time when we could come back and spend a couple of days doing the Mary Tyler Moore sites, maybe taking in a Twins game, etc. Unfortunately, due to a wrong turn and lots and lots of road construction, we wound up seeing a lot more of the suburbs of St. Paul than we’d wanted!:D

    Once we got back on track, though, it was a very pleasant drive to Red Wing. And it didn’t take very long. I think we rolled in there around 6:30.

    Our reservation was at the Super 8 out on the edge of town. Believe me, this is not a place I’d recommend to someone who’s used to 5 star hotels! But, for our purposes, it was just fine. Our room was fairly large, clean and quiet.

    My husband picked up some tourist literature in the lobby. He read about a restaurant he thought sounded both good and fairly close to where we were staying. We drove around for a while looking for it. But couldn’t find it. So we headed into the downtown area. The drive had given us a chance to see a fair bit of Red Wing. What a lovely town! But I’ll go more into that on Day Eight.

    Another place we’d read about was Liberty’s. The Moon guide described it as a “Red Wing institution”. So we decided to give it a try. It was busy, but not crazy. We found out that they have a Friday night all you can eat buffet. And it seemed like the majority of people there were ordering that. So three of the four of us did too. Our daughter got a chicken and wild rice salad that she said was very good.

    I wouldn’t say the buffet was by any means outstanding. But, as those things go, it was okay. There were enough people eating it that the food didn’t seem to be sitting for long. It’s been too long and I can’t remember exactly what was on the buffet. But I know there was a decent clam chowder, a salad bar, a fried fish and one that wasn’t, chicken and German potato salad.

    While it wasn’t the best meal of our trip, it certainly wasn’t bad. And it was a very pleasant place to eat. The service was good and my husband and I had some good local beer. The buffet was set up in the bar and it seemed to be doing a very good business.

    When we were in that area, we saw the St. James Hotel. It had been recommended to me on Fodor’s and I’d checked their web site. It was, unfortunately, not within our budget. But, based on the web site, the location and the way it looks from the outside, I’d certainly mention it to anyone looking for a place that’s a bit more upscale.

    We drove around town a bit more after our meal. And then we headed back to the motel so that the kids could take advantage of having a pool this last night on the road.

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    Just realized that I forgot to say that our pre-tip bill at Green Mill was $51.45. Unfortunately, I can't find the receipt from the dinner at Liberty's. I think the buffet was $8.95 per person.

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    I can't believe all the details, even the cereal they serve at a Motel 8! You must have a lot of free time on your hands to write al this - and what about me for reading it. When our son went to SOAR years ago we stayted in the hotel rooms they have at the Union: very lovely but noisey at night from all the kids out on The Terrace.

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    "You must have a lot of free time on your hands to write al this"

    Actually, I don't. That's why it's taken me over a month and a half! And I still have another day to write about.;)

    But I got so much help from people on Fodor's when I was planning this trip. The least I can do is find the time to write a trip report in hopes that it'll help someone else who is planning a similar trip.

    And, believe me, if I hadn't been rushing this, I wouldn't have made some of the mistakes I noticed after I posted!:D

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    Hi CAPH - as all your other reports, I loved this one too. Thanks for being so diligent and writing everything. It is too bad you didn't see any big ships come into the Duluth harbor. We see them almost every trip (except dead winter) and it never gets old. Next time you can do that!! We have had friends come up to Duluth with us and they are pleasantly surprised and end up staying in Duluth a couple days. It has become a tourist destination for people now. When you go to Mpls. sometime you will like it also. They have many gorgeous lakes right in the city and lots of places to walk, bike, run, etc. You would also like Stillwater which is on the St Croix River over by St Paul. Thanks again for your report. I loved it!!

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    Thanks again for your feedback, Cali! I really appreciate it. Just as I really appreciated all of your help before the trip.

    I've been curious about Duluth ever since a friend of ours went to visit friends of his there a few years back. He was so impressed with Duluth! And, even though we saw so little of it, I can see why he was. It seems like a very nice city in a very pretty setting. I definitely hope to have the chance to see more of it.

    And I'm sure you're right about thinking we'd enjoy Minneapolis. Definitely on our list too!

    Sometimes you get so caught up with wanting to see the world that you forget that there are wonderful things to see relatively close to home. This trip really made me aware of that.

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    CAPH, You are so right about seeing things relatively close to home. We have recently take some weekend trips to different places not far from us here in Southern CA and they have been lots of fun We have also done some trips throughout MI when we have been back there (my husband grew up there) and have loved them. We frequently do through the Chicago Area and have enjoyed it but now have to do other parts of IL. We loved going to Amish Country in Ohio too. So much to see everywhere in this wonderful country.

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    Day Eight: Red Wing, the Mississippi, home

    The continental breakfast at that Super 8 was definitely the least appealing of the ones we encountered on this trip. So my husband grabbed a cup of coffee, I grabbed a cup of tea and we decided that, as it was our last day on the road, we’d splurge and have a real breakfast. We loaded up the car, checked out and headed into Red Wing.

    The town was having some sort of a sidewalk sale. There were lots of people out and about. And we had a little bit of trouble finding a place for breakfast. One place didn’t serve full breakfasts. Another place was packed to the rafters. So we wound up back at Liberty’s. And it wound up being a very good choice. There were people there but it wasn’t crowded. And the food and service were very good. The pre-tip bill was $35.05.

    Our daughter needed to find a post office in order to buy a stamp to send a post card to her boyfriend in Ireland. We asked where it was and found out we were parked a few blocks away. But we decided to walk so that we could see a bit of the town.

    My husband was so taken with this town! And I certainly understand why. It’s the epitome of a charming midwestern small city. The Moon Guide mentions the “largely intact 19th century downtown, a gift to all from previous city leaders who were ahead of their time in historic preservation”. And I would add a thank you to those civic leaders who plant all of the flowers and see that it continues to be kept so clean, warm and welcoming.

    After spending an hour or so walking around, we got back in the car and decided to drive around a bit before getting on the road. We took the Scenic Skyline Drive to the top of Sorin Bluff. According to the Moon Guide, this isn’t quite as nice a view as one gets by climbing to the top of Barn Bluff. But we thoroughly enjoyed the view we had. And our son was quite impressed by the frisbee golf course we passed!

    I think it was close to noon by the time we finally tore ourselves away from Red Wing! We got back on 61 and headed down along the Mississippi. What a beautiful drive! I know there are arguments to be made as to which side is prettier, Minnesota or Wisconsin. And one of these days I hope to make the drive on the Wisconsin side. But, for right now, I can say that we sure did enjoy the Minnesota side. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was a beautiful, sunny day!

    We crossed the Mississippi at LaCrosse. And , from there, it was pretty much going back over territory we’d already crossed.

    This was a wonderful trip! One on which I look back very fondly now that summer is over, the kids are in college and we’re adjusting to being empty-nesters!

    I know that many people (and I’m often guilty of this myself!) see the midwest as ugly and boring. But I’d compare this trip very favorably to any we’ve taken, anywhere in the country.

    A Brief Update

    We did a quick over-nighter in September to Madison to take our son’s warmer clothes. After which, of course, it warmed up and he hasn’t really needed them since!

    We had dinner that Saturday at Husnu’s which has definitely become a favorite of ours. It didn’t disappoint!

    Early the next afternoon we took our son to brunch. We ate at Sardine, 617 Williamson Ave. It’s on the other side of the isthmus from the campus. And one of the reasons we chose it is that it has a very nice view of Lake Monona.

    The other reason is that the menu sounded very interesting. Unfortunately, we didn’t find it to be quite as good as it sounded. Or quite as good as it should have been for the price. My husband ordered a salmon dish that came with potato pancakes. Well, the menu said potato pancakes but they were really more akin to hash brown squares. At somewhere around $15 (this was over a month ago so I don’t remember the exact price) , he felt it was definitely over-priced. I had a sandwich that included smoked salmon, our son had a burger. The pre-tip check was $41.15 for the three of us. On the positive side, the iced tea I had, a custom blend, was very good. On the negative side, it was very noisy.

    We’re going back in two weeks. I’ll pull this up again if we try any new restaurants!

    What a relief to finally have this done! I’ve felt so guilty about not finishing this trip report!

    Oh, and a huge thank you to all of you who recommeded Red Wing when I posted asking for suggestions for a place to stay on the way home!

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    Hi CAPH - glad you like Red Wing. I have always loved that area too. We would go down to that area quite often when we lived in Mpls. Still like to go there when we are back in MN. Next trip, also go to Stillwater - also a neat town but upriver from Red Wing on the St Croix. We love that whole area. Glad your trip was so nice and I loved reading about everything.

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    Hi CAPH52 :)

    What a wonderful report you've written! I enjoyed it so much with my coffee this morning. I feel as though I've been on vacation, but now I'm a bit hungry after reading about all your delicious meals! (turkey reuben with slaw, yum!)

    My kids graduated college a few years ago, but oh how I remember the angst about getting the classes they wanted. Sometimes it seemed they had to go backwards before they could go forward. They had to take Class A before Class B, of course, but Class A wasn't available. Oh my. They eventually got thru (even in 4 years!) but it did seem there should be a better way.

    Love the mustardweb site! "Bone Suckin' Sauce" and the King of the Mustards Gift Box is now on my gift list for the holidays!

    Sounds like a lovely family vacation. We get fewer and fewer of those these days. Enjoy their company while it lasts!

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    Thanks, Cali. A few others mentioned Stillwater when we were trying to decide where to stay. It's definitely a place I want to check out next time we get that way.

    And thank you for hanging with me through this slow, arduous process! I can't believe I finally finished it!

    Kopp, thanks so much for your kind words! I'm really glad you enjoyed my report. And the mustard website. Such a quirky little place! We picked up a jar of Bone Suckin' Sauce which we just about finished off when we grilled last night. Good stuff!

    Wishing both of you ladies a very nice Sunday!

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