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This here. This Superior-Michigan-Huron strip of land, said without real fanfare despite having plenty, is what started it all. I read a lot, every manner of media, and scribble little notes as I do. In magazines and cookbooks and stories, the U.P. kept rising, literally and figuratively to the top. The plan began.

Far away, with a solid twenty hours of driving, it was important to pace ourselves, to take in as much as we could without going over our self-imposed two-week limit. You’ve seen that wondrous journey to what became, for sure, the absolute highlight. The whole shebang!

These photos were our first up close and personal look at Lake Michigan. Just outside of Escanaba, which is another cute town, another friendly place. We enjoyed lunch at the Swedish Pantry, where kindly women are truly welcoming, and you can’t help but share the main (meatballs, sausage, rutabaga, coleslaw, bread!) because deciding between two desserts – walnut sour cream pie and a baked apple dumpling – is impossible. Um, yes.

This is the portion of our journey where I am honest and say traveling is sometimes hard. Juniper, in a rather stealth maneuver, ate one of these rotten fish, probably the size of a large sardine, and got sick. Not horribly so, but, let’s just say it could not be ignored.

Also on this leg of the journey, we got a lot of rain, gloriously big drops of sweetness from the sky. But our new windshield wipers, which Greg promised to install, were happily ensconced in the garage at home. My dismay turned into a fiery-quick rant before all went quiet and our wee ship was righted again.

Sand Point Light House. I expected to take more light house photos, but I think this may be it. A very fine example nonetheless!

Also, if you have been with me for a very long while, you probably remember I “collect” license plates, not in the literal sense, but a look-see at every passing car. On vacation, however, I am quite diligent and keep a pen and paper list, hawk-eyed until all fifty states, plus D.C., are present and accounted for. Normally, the same few states, Delaware, West Virginia, Rhode Island, and Hawaii, are the trickiest to find. Greg was pleased as punch to point out, while I was taking my snaps, that Rhode Island was right in the parking lot. Squee-e!

This was actually my best ever collection. In addition to the usual fifty, plus D.C., I spied: Chihuahua, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. And on the U.S. Native side, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Cherokee Nation, and Seneca-Cayuga Nation. Toot-toot!

The owner left us a bouquet of flowers.

Light from the water reflecting on the trees. Sigh…

Oh my gosh, how I loved our rustic cabin in the big woods! No electricity, save a wee bit of solar, no running water, and a cozy, sleep across from each other bunk bed situation did nothing to diminish the amazing lakeside location.

We initially kept Juniper on her very long leash, but eventually let her run riot, and she circuitously zoomed about: squirrel-water-oh, are you eating? This stay was our giant collective sigh, strolling barefoot, spending long hours reading, then tree gazing and bird listening before kayaking and watching the long and gorgeous sunset unspooling across the sky. We bathed in the sauna and skinny dipped in the warmth of the lake. We cooked nothing, grazing on cereal, apples and cherries, Grandma’s Kaukauna cheese spread thickly on crisp crackers, nibbling sausages and Old Dutch Cheesy Puffcorn. We drank tea and beer and Dr. Sprecher, some of the best soda we’ve ever tasted. As I am fond of saying, but only when true, it was the height of splendor, the height.

The Mackinac (mac-in-awe) Bridge – a beauty spanning 26,372 feet

Then there was this! Stunning view after stunning view all along our winding trip around the U.P.

Lake Huron at St. Ignace. We wandered, enjoying the shore, the shopping, and, of course, the food. As you can imagine, fish is a big deal here, and in particular, Whitefish, which we, and me especially, enjoyed. First, at a roadside shop, where it was super fresh and perfectly smoked. The whole package was devoured at a picnic table for breakfast. Then at The Gangplank in St. Ignace, a perfect fillet crisply fried and nestled in a tasty bun. Mercy.

The truly marvel-ous Soo Locks in Sault-Ste Marie. Many thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers for this awe inspiring feat, responsible for the free movement of more than 7,000 vessels each year!

The Pictured Rocks remind me of the turquoise waters along the coast in Nice, France. It is hard to fathom that this is not some vast ocean, but Lake Superior, and not terribly warm.

A final glimpse of our lakeside paradise. On to the Western U.P.

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…

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.

Omaha!

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!

The late snow kept Pike’s Peak in prime prettiness for days. Another silver lining…

Our girl gets the bestest belly rubs and poses with brilliant iris blooms. She is all that and then some.

The petal parade has begun….

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary, twenty-nine years!! It is quite the number, which leaves us both pleased as punch. In celebration, we went to Dos Santos, our favorite taco joint, on Friday, and yesterday I made bouillabaisse and homemade garlic and red pepper aioli (high falutin’ word for lip-smackin’ good mayo) for the day-of celebration. It is slathered on extra crunchy French bread croutons before being delicately dipped in the broth. Every manner of happy tastebud sound follows. We enjoyed it with a bottle of wine purchased on our Missouri vacation last year – Hermanhoff White Lady. It made for one heck of a way to celebrate!

While I labored in the kitchen, the hubster labored in the garden and on our screen door. Juniper is sometimes an impatient little booger when it comes to getting in and out of the house and had made enough of a wreck of the screen that insects could get in, no problema. So we had a heavier duty one installed (by Mullet Screens – a kindly guy who comes round in a van!) and bought the “screen saver” (HA!) to keep further damage from occurring. It needed a little trim, and Greg made it so. It looks quite nice and seems built to last.

All the sprouts tended since January are snug in the ground and looking quite lovely! The stick structure in the middle is made for beans to climb and came from fallen branches in all these terrible winds we’ve been having. I am super excited to think about our summer harvest. Though I won’t be counting any beans until they’re actually off the vine. Now that snow is out of the picture, we are in prime hail season. Oh, Colorado….

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Happy 73rd Birthday to my MOM!!

Rolling along Highway 50 and the Arkansas, gazing westward toward the Collegiate Peaks. With soaring granite walls and the steady rush of the river, this drive is one of our favorite excursions, putting Colorado’s full glory on display: sun, stone, water, sky!

In the awe of people doing what they truly love category: despite what I imagine to be rather frigid temperatures, we spied many a fisher in chest waders out on the water.

Wet Mountains

The sky put on quite the light show as we headed south!

The Mellow Moon was our cozy landing spot, an easy walk to delicious eats at Raisin’ Rye (cinnamon roll, jalapeno & sausage kolache, almond croissant!!), Three Barrel Brewing (Firecracker Pizza, honey kolsch!!), and Chavolos Mexican (carnitas, chile relleno!!). Oh, and a giant-wonderful jar of honey and a bar of bee pollen soap at Haefelis!

It was an equally easy amble from the Mellow Moon to the Rio Grande and all the small town charm. Some large beast, a deer or elk, we guessed, left ample evidence of a hearty roll in the snow. Juniper could not help but to follow suit!

Horizontal snow…

Our trip on Friday was a leisurely three hours, including a stop in Canon City for Indian food at Nirvana and another for marijuana treats in Salida. We are very infrequent flyers and found ourselves agog at the choices! Greg got some Bliss Drops to, as the kindly salesperson put it, have the the equivalent of “three glasses of wine without needing to pee!” I chose Wyld Peach gummies for my annoying migraines. As luck (???) would have it, I did get a migraine while in Del Norte. I could not have been happier. I suffered no headache pain. Woot!

Sunday started as a rather gorgeous, snow coated morning. We made no tracks to rush while still getting on the road at nine. After breakfast in Alamosa (nothing remarkable, sadly), the skies turned, and we inched along in whiteout conditions up and over La Veta Pass (La Veta Loca, as the hubster put it), adding two hours to our normal trip length. Luckily it was beautiful, and there was only one jerk on the road, so it was all good in the end. Life as it should be.

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