Northern MN is very flat with lots of lakes and rivers caused by the last ice age. Whenever you look out the car window, if you don't see a lake, you see a pond. Very wet. And flat. About 20 south of Minneapolis, however, it began to be full of rolling farm land, and then it became somewhat mountainous. Not the Rockies, but more than hills. Anyway...
After breakfast this morning we went to the Red Wing shoe store to see the world's largest boot. It's an actual boot about 20 feet high built by the Red Wing shoemakers, just real big! Anything to get into the record books.
Using his thumbnail, Dad carved his name into a hide that was on display at the Red Wing historical exhibit.
I did not do this. 7/18/2011
After our hearts stopped pounding, we continued on our way to Wabasha, MN. The National Bald Eagle Center is there, but there's an admission price, so it wasn't for us. We went to the riverfront and saw our own bald eagle. Wabasha is another one of those towns that died a long time ago but still struggles to stand up. Empty streets at 11:30 in the morning, lots of shuttered stores, etc. Sad. Michael loves to stroll through these towns.
Despite having the Eagle Center, Wabasha was empty. 7/18/2011
We then continued down the road to lock number 5 on the river and watched a boat push I think 12 barges (hooked together) through the lock. The barges had to be unhooked and it took two raisings and lowerings to get them all through. Very time-consuming, and there are lots of locks that have to be gone through. Not the most interesting work in the world. Not like accounting, say.
The gray things in the foreground are the covers on barges in Lock No. 5. We watched as the barges were lowered in the lock. 7/18/2011
The next stop was Winona (Michael said Winona Ryder is named after this town). Larger than Wabasha, and loaded with interesting architecture from the 1800s, but dead. After that we crossed into Wisconsin and drove through the Trempeleau National Wildlife Refuge that is attempting to bring back the prairie grasses. Interesting. We would have taken a walk there, but the deer flies were swarming the car, and we didn't dare.
Hills in the Trempeleau Nat'l Wildlife Refuge. 7/19/2011
The super cool, Prairie School, Merchant's National Bank in Winona was a surprise in the center of a town made up of mostly late 19th century buildings.
After driving through enormous farms of corn, and on our way to Dubuque, we were passing through the little town of Dickeyville, WI, when we stumbled upon the Dickeyville Grotto, an absolutely amazing roadside attraction. The grotto is on the grounds of a Catholic church, The priest, Father Matthias Wernerus, who was there for about 30 years, spent five years building the grotto out of bits of broken glass, shells, stones, and other pieces of stuff he found. It's indescribable; you'll have to Google it or something.
Dad at Dickeyville Grotto. 7/19/2011
The hazy evening made it difficult to capture the grotto's splendor. 7/19/2011
A detail of the grotto. It was made up mostly of shells, glass, and rocks. 7/19/2011
We're spending the night in Dubuque. Tomorrow we head to Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain's birthplace.