Wine in Cheese Country

This trip was inspired by the second season of the television show “Feasting on Asphalt”.  We are following the Great River Road that runs along the Mississippi River from Venice, Louisiana to the headwaters in Lake Itasca State Park, Minnesota.  When possible we will stop at locations featured in the show, however time has found many of them closed.

I slept like a rock and when I woke up the next morning, I was eager to go for a walk and explore the park a bit.  Ohhhh were the mosquitoes bad when we emerged from the tent and I quickly packed up and we headed back to the Great River Road.  When we came to a town called Prairie du Chien I had to stop.  I mean, what a great name for a town to visit when travelling with a carload of dogs.

It is a small town with a great little cafe called Simply Coffeehouse.  I parked the car on the road out front and went inside to order some coffee and perhaps some food and was delighted to see the menu that had a wonderful breakfast sandwich.  I also saw something on the menu that had me intrigued:  white coffee.  I had never heard of such a thing before but since I was trying coffee during the entire trip, I decided to stick with the americano and I was not disappointed.  Even better was the patio out back where I would be able to sit with the dogs and eat.  So I moved the car to the parking lot at the back of the building and as I was setting up with the dogs, the staff brought out my order.  I sat at one of the tables and enjoyed the food and a lovely americano.  The dogs had ignored their breakfast at camp and continued to ignore the meal I poured out for them since breakfast was obviously more interesting.  And they were getting tons of attention from a slow stream of people entering the cafe.

After I had finished my meal, I took the dogs for a short walk around town to stretch our legs and get some kind of exercise before heading back to the car.  I decided to grab a white coffee to go but when I stepped inside, I was shocked to see how busy the cafe had become since I had first arrived and we hit the road without the extra caffeine.

As we continued to follow the river, I noticed the sky ahead of us was an imposing grey.  We we driving onto drenched pavement and soon we found ourselves catching up with the storm.  Perhaps we were just trailing a system for the duration of our trip.  It was too bad because Wisconsin is such a lovely state to drive through and it would have been nice to get out for some exploration.wisconsin road1wisconsin road 2

When I saw a sign for World Famous Dawg House Depot, I had to stop and check it out.  Hot dogs and dawg in the name?  I figured it was a given that we had to stop.  I parked the car and then saw a boat ramp leading into the river.  Well with a brief break in the rain, I decided to take the dogs for a stroll to check out the water.  Just as we were walking out of the lot, a train decided to run along the tracks between the Great River Road and the Mississippi River.  The dogs did not seem to care one bit about the huge mass of steel screaming by them.  Even Piper, who hates large trucks, calmly watched the cars go by.  And then we got to the river.  I did not see anyone nearby and there would be no way for anyone to sneak up on us so I took the leashes off the dogs to let them sniff around.  I had foolishly hoped that they would maybe wade in to their knees and come out.  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight.  Part of me was dismayed to see them all chest deep in the river but seeing how much they enjoyed their dip, well that’s why I have a seat cover and lots of towels in the car.  Besides, there were hot dogs to eat which meant time for them to dry.

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Piper seems less than concerned about the train.

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dawg house 4boat rampboat ramp1We went back to the hot dog stand and even though I wanted to get a BUNCH of things on the menu, I finally went for the Chicago style hot dawg: a hot dog on a pretzel bun.  I love me some pretzel buns which was what had me tempted.   With a good layer of saurkraut and some mustard and ketchup, I devoured the hot dog.  It was very good.  Different from our hot dogs from Jack’s Cosmic Dog in Charleston and I think I preferred it a bit more. The owners came out and we ended up sitting there talking for close to two hours.  They are both dog people and road trip warriors who told me about their wintering spot in Alabama so they were naturally curious about the girl with all the dogs in a car with Ontario license plates.  With the nearby road calling to me, I wanted to get going but they were so nice I could have sat there for hours.  Jack glued himself to the husband’s leg and Leo somehow ended leaning into my side while Piper kept the wife’s feet warm.  The funny thing is, I never even got their names.  Finally I loaded the dogs into the car and was about to put the car in drive when I heard a whistle and a tap on my window.  I rolled the glass down and the husband asked if I could drive and eat as he pushed an ice cream treat into my hand.  Chocolate ice cream covered in chocolate.  I will find a way to eat it.  This couple are some of the real characters that make road trips so special.  Oh and the hot dogs are really good especially when washed down with an ice cream treat.

We emerged from the cover of the clouds and continued along the road.  I was in my own little world so it took me a little while to register that I was seeing signs for wineries.  Wineries?  Well that’s a stop right up my alley.  Besides, when one thinks of Wisconsin, I don’t think wine usually comes to mind so I wanted to check out what Wisconsin wine is like.  When I saw that we were passing close by Danzinger Vineyards, I followed the road to the top of a large hill in the town of Alma.

I popped in about half an hour before closing and was asked if I wanted to have four free samples or ten for $5.00.  When I asked if I would be able to take the dogs for a walk after the ten samples to…you know…mull over the tasting, the staff member (who told me she was new) looked to the children sitting near the counter.  I  assumed they were family of an owner or manager or something.  The one young girl just barely managed to look up from her phone to say “no dogs”.  I mentioned that I would keep them on leash and again, more firmly, she replied “No.  Dogs.”  OK then.  I’ll just have a few of the samples and probably end up buying less of the vineyards products.

Now, where I live in southern Ontario, we have three wine producing areas.  Probably the most famous and well-known is the Niagara peninsula area.  Recently, Prince Edward County has had a wine boom which is surprising when you see how rough the terrain is.  The Lake Erie north shore area is now producing some excellent wines.

The wines were quite tasty and I left with a bottle of Marquette and a bottle of Deep Currant.  To be honest, I was surprised at how good the wines were.  Even though some of the wines were not totally to my taste, it wasn’t that they were bad, just not something that I preferred.  When I left the tasting building, I noticed a sign for the Great River Road Wine Trail.  There is a wine trail that leads through this area.  I’m sorry…what?  A wine trail in cheese country?  Does it get any better than that?!  I mean seriously!!!

As the weather had gotten nicer and a bit of a breeze kept the mosquitos at bay, I took the dogs for a walk in a nearby park.  What an amazing view of the river and I took the time to get some pictures of the dogs.almawisconsin 3

Finally I was able to put my camera away and we continued upriver.  Until I saw Nelson Creamery.  And a sign that listed cheese, wine, sandwiches, ice cream, and coffee.  Some of my favourite things in life.  I wandered around the shop but just picked up a bag of cheese curds.  And then I got to the counter.  They had cups of ice cream for dogs.  Well if the dogs were getting ice cream then I had to have ice cream too.  I left with three little cups of ice cream with dog cookies clutched in one hand and my chocolate ice cream cone with a bag of cheese curds in the other.  I brought the dogs out of the car and let them enjoy their treats while I talked to a woman who had stopped to visit with them.  I figure if I’m chowing down every chance I get, then it’s only fair that they get treats too.

As we continued north, I munched on the bag of cheese curds; a fitting dairy dinner.  We crossed into Minnesota and when I saw a visitor centre, I let them out for a walk break.  And the light was really nice for some photos so I just had to take the opportunity to capture my little darlings.  I ended up talking to some couples who were catching Pokemon until the light was almost gone and then started looking for a place to stay.

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Looking lovely in the dusk.
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Piper deep in thought.
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Jack looking majestic…as usual.
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Leo in a moment of calm.

With the chance of rain and a drop in temperature, it was going to be a hotel for the night.  Finally I booked a Red Roof Inn in Minneapolis and began making my way there.  I tried to check in but the woman at the counter told me that I didn’t have a reservation.  I was tired by this point.  I just wanted to fall into bed and sleep so I was a little peeved that there was a problem with my reservation.  The woman let me use the phone to call Expedia and just as the phone was finally answered by their customer care, she asked if I could have been booked at another Red Roof.  Wait…there’s more than one nearby?  Ohhhhhhh nooooooooooo.  Sure enough, I was at the wrong one.  Dammit.  So back in the car I go.

Fortunately the other Red Roof Inn was fairly close by and sure enough, it was the one that I had booked a reservation.  Now when I was booking the hotel, I’ll admit that I wasn’t really paying too much attention to the specifics of the room.  So when I checked in, I realized that I must have clicked on the accessible room.  I felt awful.  I don’t need an accessible room so I went to try and switch to another room.  I mean that’s worse than parking in an accessible parking spot.  The staff told me that there were several open for the night so no one was going to get turned away since I wouldn’t be able to switch to another room.  I kind of doubt her assertion that she couldn’t change my room but since there were lots available, I decided to let it go even though I still felt like a grade A ass.

I got everyone settled and went to have a shower.  Except I couldn’t figure out how to make water come out of the shower head.   Seriously.  I tried everything, I moved everything, I twisted and I think I almost bent the faucet trying to do something.  Perhaps my road weary brain just wasn’t functioning and there was a very easy solution.  I mean I could have called the front desk to explain the shower but finally I just laid down to get my head under the tap to wash my hair and contorted my body to get as much as I could under the tap.

By the time I got washed off, the dogs had taken up most of the bed.  So the contortions were not done until I had twisted myself around the snoring dogs and fell asleep.

2 thoughts on “Wine in Cheese Country

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