August 2022

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Happy Friday, gentle reader! Full disclosure, this gorgeous sunrise is actually in Iowa, but since it was the early bright of the Wisconsin segment of our epic trip, it made more sense to include it here. This was largely how we rolled, too, finish off one leg of our travels by rising in the cool quiet of the dawn. It raises the potency of the adventure via some unknown alchemy, heightening all the senses.

In New Glarus now, ultimate American soil Swiss Village, utterly bucolic and fetching.

The sweet, sonorous bells made for a more authentic stroll about town. Though, as we learned by chatting up the locals, they are quite the nightmare to live with on the daily, ringing and singing every fifteen minutes. It really is a lot, taken as a whole. Bless them.

Cool buildings, great light and shadows, and some fun eating and shopping, too. We shared most excellent smoked chicken wings and a yummy giant of a pretzel with beer cheese, of course, at Ott Haus, before a stop at the New Glarus Bakery, where we bought Anise Springerli. I have wanted to make these many times but have always been put off by the amount of time and work they require. How grateful I was for someone else’s labor but more so for their deliciousness! They were gobbled right-quick. We also purchased made in Wisconsin maple syrup at The Bramble Patch. Quite exciting, as I never knew it existed!

Usonian Home – Herbert and Katharine Jacobs – 441 Toepfer in Madison

For architecture lovers like us, no trip to Wisconsin would be complete without ogling some Frank Lloyd Wright structures in his native state. The above residence was definitely my favorite of the bunch. The colors are glorious, and I love how the wildness of the prairie garden contrasts with all the straight lines.

Speaking of gardens, Wisconsin had a profusion roadside flowers, which seem to be intentionally cultivated, or at least encouraged, often in staggering heights. I’ve never seen echinacea so tall, nor such a proliferation of blooms of every prairie variety. What a difference water makes in a landscape. It was truly magical!

Unitarian Meeting House

I needn’t wonder how churches of this variety became so popular after the construction of this beauty. Again, I love the contrast, the verdant flat of green roof and spike of sanctuary. Plus, the pattern of glass is gorgeous.

Harold C. Bradley House – 106 N Prospect in Madison

Look at that fabulously detailed cantilever, or is it called something else because it appears supported? I don’t know. I only play architect on this blog. Anyway, I digress, and EEK! How about the curve of the bump out, softness and strength and beauty.

Eugene A. Gilmore House – 120 N Ely Place in Madison

Called the Airplane house, I love the sharp angles and deep shade of the overhangs. What a respite they must be in the heat of summer.

Not a Frank Lloyd Wright but still a quite lovely State of Wisconsin building. The metalwork!

Caught goofing…

Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center

This, along with the soaring capitol building, lies on the isthmus (such a great word) between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona and the last of the Wright buildings we visited. The gardens were alive with birds, bees, and butterflies, and so cheerful, too.

Welcome to Kaukauna! In all honesty, I chose this town because Grandma Tess almost always had a plastic pot of their namesake spreadable cheese in the refridge (her word), usually port wine, sometimes plain sharp cheddar. Her love sparked my own and keeps me close to her in heaven. Besides, there are few better friends for a buttery cracker, in my opinion. No surprise, we bought a tub or three of different brands but similar ilk on our travels.

Also in the local food department, I have never seen such large frozen pizza sections. We visited three stores in Wisconsin, including two Piggly Wigglies, which was terribly exciting (truly!), as I have only encountered them in novels. Anyway, imagine the longest single aisle of a frozen food section with only pizza, and you’ve got it. An embarrassment of pizza riches, dear peeps. A kindly lady ran into us, almost literally because I was so flabbergasted, and we explained our behavior. Her laugh at us was pretty hale and hearty!

Of course we bought one, a Brew Pub Lotzza Mozza with sausage, and darn it if it wasn’t the best frozen variety we have ever had. Super cheesy, perfect crust. How do they do that?! Oh, and the lady we ran into earlier? She lent us her Pig Card at checkout, so we wouldn’t have to pay full price for our treats. Another fine example of Mid-West Nice.

Finally, the bridge, green, and flowers are at the 1000 Islands Environmental Center, a delightful oasis of birdsong and babbling water.

Get ready for Michigan…


We sleep in the desert

on a land full of stories,

and all night the wind reads the news…

We wake to a world without word,

only scent and beauty.

The Word is written

everywhere on the land.

Laura Girardeau


Greetings from Pella, Iowa, town of all things windmills, tasty pastry, deluxe sausage (think Slim Jim, only AMAZING), and window manufacturing. How I loved the old buildings and their charming fronts. My cute, best-ever travel companions, Greg and Juniper! She donned an insect repellent bandanna for much of our trip, as the Mid-West bug situation is next level. I still have remains from quarter inch welts (mosquito?), which I used to think only existed in the world of movies. How disappointing to be so very wrong, dear peeps.

I failed to fill the big shoes but still had quite a lot of fun!

Pella has the cutest downtown, chock full of Dutch inspired architecture spanning the ages. The rightmost building in the above photo, holding the Jaarsma Bakery, was one of our prime destinations. In addition to baked goods, they sell all manner of fun Dutch goods: candies, shoes of wood and ceramic, ornaments galore. I was a stellar customer, buying many gifts in addition to Dutch Letters, a crazy good apple pastry, and a couple varieties of cookie. Ulrich Meat market was our first and best source of the beef meat sticks, partaking in a bacon jalapeno and smoked gouda. So good!

My friend Bob recommended super cute Dutch Fix, and it did not disappoint! Frisian Fries (like poutine, but with a spiced gravy), and a Gouda Burger. And fear not, the two of us shared them. It was vacation, and we ate A LOT, but those huge portions would have been madness!

Pella’s Klokkenspel rings out with figurines a couple of times a day. Cute, but not half as exciting as it sounds.

And now, the sweet town square of Oskaloosa, just a bit down the road from Pella.

Oskaloosa is in Mahaska County, and this statue depicts the Iowan Chief for whom the county was named.

Oskaloosa City Hall

Oskaloosa Public Library

Inside the Smokey Row Coffee House. They’ve converted an old department store, filled with every manner of sign found in the town, including this dazzler of a movie marquee. I highly recommend both the coffee and the sweet service. I chatted up a kindly woman from St. Louis, attending William Penn college on a volleyball scholarship. How intimate and inviting the world becomes in situations like these.

Quaker Friends Meeting House

Amos Briggs & Edith McCracken Briggs

And now the reason for our visit to this tiny town. My Great-Great Grandparents Amos and Edith lived here! They were successful farmers and Quakers and most definitely attended the Meeting House above, along with my Great Grandpa and his siblings, John and Clara. Grandpa Amos died in Oskaloosa in 1911, and despite a valiant effort to visit his grave, I never could find it. Sad face. Grandma Edith lived in Colorado after his death and was the only grandmother my Grandma Frances ever knew.

Baby Howard

My Great Grandfather William Howard Briggs was born March 3, 1894. Adults called him Howard (when angry, he was “How-errrd!!” to Grandma Tillie), but always Grandpa Briggs to me. All the buildings I chose to photograph, save the fabulous Eagle in front of the Fire Station, existed during his time in Oskaloosa. My heart swelled at the thought of him wandering as I did, most especially at the library.

Grandpa Briggs enlisted in the military on June 5, 1917 at Laramie, Wyoming during World War I.

He met my Grandma Tillie at a dance in Greeley, Colorado after the war. They were married on June 23, 1919. This photo was taken three years later, in November. Wasn’t he dapper?

This is the younger version of how I remember him, holding court in his chair, cigar or paper back (Louis L’Amour) in hand, often a mischievous grin on his lips. Perhaps because I was such a vocal and independent child, Grandma Tillie was never terribly nice to me. Her favorite, forever and always, in obvious and small ways, was my cousin Brad. Grandpa Briggs clearly recognized this. While I have no recollection of a single word uttered between us (his voice an unknowable mystery), I remember him with great fondness, his huge hand enveloping mine, walking with me to the Western Motor Lodge, and letting me choose penny candy. His was the first death (March 9, 1980) affecting my own person, experienced as a sincere loss, when I was nearly nine years old. What magic to connect with his youth as he did with mine.

McCook, Nebraska was our first delightful stop on our EPIC Summer road trip. All told, we drove more than 2800 miles, with quite a few early mornings to get them done. A lot, lot, but so fun, and BEAUTIFUL. We love you, America.

McCook is home to some great buildings, charming features, and Sehnert’s Dutch Oven Bakery, which I cannot recommend more highly. Very kindly service, great sandwiches, and delicious donuts! Woot.


The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is a stunner spanning the Missouri River. It takes walkers, who “Bob” across into Iowa, and back again. What a welcome get out the wiggles jaunt, after a long stretch in the car.

There’s a cool sculpture park on the Iowa side. This is made out of aluminum pie and roasting tins, or at least covered in them!

Iowa is delightfully hilly!

Elk Horn, Iowa is home to this fabulous collection of architecture of all sizes!

Des Moines namesake river and State Capitol of Iowa, facelift in progress.

Fort Des Moines, the birthplace of the capitol.

Our first Mid-West bar experience at the High Life Lounge (The Champagne of Bars) did not disappoint! Very old school decor, with awesome bar signs from the from the 60s and 70s, Mid-West nice service (so VERY), a namesake beer for Greg, of course, and crazy good fried cheese curds and deviled eggs. The ultimate!!

Wait, that’s not Greg! My dear friend Bob, who I have known since I was twelve (39 years!!), lives in Iowa and was our most excellent guide, showing us this fabulous Bridge of Madison County, John Wayne’s birth place (two below), a cool stone tower with beautiful view, and Fong’s, where we enjoyed super delicious Crab Rangoon pizza and a ridiculously strong Mai Tai. Yay for friendship!

Winterset, Iowa

Back soon with more adventure!

By No Means

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.

John Lubbock


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