Category Archives: THE MIDWEST MISC

Chautauqua/NY, Conneaut/Ohio cheap gas & dog park – drive back to Chicago from Ithaca

To my surprise we drove right into the Chautauqua Institution, the famous educational/ cultural retreat in the western NY town of, yes, Chautauqua, on our drive back to Chicago from Ithaca. Years ago we got as far as the firmly shut outer gate, when passing through the area during in the peak 9-week summer season for tourists and visitors. Back then, we had to pay to get through the gate and enter the enclave, so we didn’t. From the confusing information on various Chautauqua websites (the town tourism website ( was clearer than the institution’s website), a “Gate Pass/fee” ($30) is required to enter the grounds during the summer. Except Sundays when it’s free at least until 2 pm. In spring, fall and winter, all drive-in gates are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, no passes/fees required

Still almost everything was shut down …or felt shut down …on the crisp Fall day when we dropped by for about an hour. The sign on the post office said “Closed until June 2023.” Apparently some events are offered beyond during the summer season, and some residents live there year-round.

It was fun to be able to drive through and gawk at the pretty gingerbready cottages and stately buildings that host lectures, concerts and dance performances. We also found a table in the almost deserted village green that worked well for a picnic. (And yes, sadly, this is the place where author Salman Rushdie was stabbed by a madman last summer.)

Not Chautauqua….this is Lake George (Adirondacks)

Over the Pennsylvania border in Ohio, we found cheaper gas, as promised: $3.49 at the Love’s station in Conneaut, Ohio vs $3.89 in Chautauqua and $3.79 in Erie. Love’s also has a dog park.

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Filed under Cleveland, Ithaca, New York, Uncategorized

Milwaukee – stunning lake front, art museum, Leon’s frozen custard, Bavette burger in Third Ward, walkers point, FLwright’s affordable housing

The weather was so gorgeous today when we arrived after a short 90 minute drive from Chicago that we couldn’t bear to go indoors, which meant skipping one of Milwaukee’s main attractions- the stunning art museum designed by Santiago Calatrava that looks like a massive white bird landing on Lake Michigan’s shimmering blue waters. We did walk down from our cozy Irish hotel, the county Clare, to watch the huge outstretched white wings of the museum slowly, slowly, slowly close into the base of the museum at 5 p. M. And will try to be present when the wings open again at 10 a.m. What other building does that?

Open and shut Milwaukee Art Museum

Compared to Chicago, Milwaukee’s lake front is marvelously undeveloped with huge green lawns stretching out to the rocky shore, sometimes with sandy beach. We were amazed at how few people were around, again compared to Chicago. We walked various stretches of the lakefront to the north, near downtown and in the south neighborhood of Bay View where Three Brothers, the famous Serbian restaurant in an old wooden corner tavern endures in a now trendy residential. (I ate its specialty , a massive filo dough and cheese concoction, Burek, there years ago, following my old friend Johnny Apple’s orders.)

Lunch was tacos in the zocalo food truck courtyard in the hipster Walker’s Point neighborhood followed by an obligatory stop at Leon’s Frozen Custard, which was so creamy and delicious. Nearby, on Burnham Street, we found six FLwright houses all on the same block, surprising modest and small by design. Wright was experimenting with creating affordable housing. I wondered if they are affordable today. (VRBO offers an overnight in one for $231.) They’re on a busy street in a working class neighborhood. One has siding which I am guessing would appall Frank.

FLWright’s affordable housing (one with siding 😳

Dinner was at Bavette in the lively Third Ward area, which has massive old brick forever warehouses with interesting restaurants and shops. Who knew a hamburger could be so good and original – quality meat served rare with a slice of grilled eggplant and tomato, feta, tzatziki, something vaguely spicy. Dirck was happy with his Cuban sandwich.

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Filed under Milwaukee, Uncategorized, Wisconsin

Willa Cather in Red Cloud, fried chicken in Omaha — a quick drive through central to eastern Nebraska

Unlike Nicodemus in Kansas, Willa Cather-land in the famous author’s hometown of Red Cloud, Nebraska is closed on Sundays. But we walked along the wide main street, paved with red bricks, peeking into the windows of the Visitors center and Willa Cather Foundation, Museum and archives. And we picnicked in a quiet town park across from Willa’s small unassuming childhood home, where she lived from about age 9 to 17 before hitting it big as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and going on to live much of her life in New York City. It would have been nice to tour these buildings but just seeing the town on a peaceful day, with few other people around, and also driving on country roads through dormant yellow farm fields almost felt like being in one of Cather’s novels.

In Omaha’s Blackstone district, we had a quick dinner at Dirty Birds in The Switch Food Hall. The pastrami and bagel place we went in the Hall a few years ago had closed, sadly, but Dirty Birds did the trick, with ginormous fried chicken thigh sandwiches, served in various degrees of heat, with large dill pickle slices and crispy fries. We ended up splitting one sandwich and taking the other one home for two lunches. The place also turned out to be dog friendly so Millie joined us, charming young children and older customers but one young woman looked terrified when she suddenly encountered Millie. (Note to self: keep Millie on a short leash in these situations.) We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many hotels, motels and restaurants are dog friendly. Millie even visited an antique store in Las Vegas, NM, although that was a little nerve wracking for us.

Other cool architecture in Red Cloud, NE

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Wisconsin for future reference: Wandawega Adult Summer Camp, Sheboygan “Art Preserve”

I loved summer camp as a kid (I know, I know, not everyone went to summer camp and of those who did, not everyone enjoyed it – my own childhood household was divided, two kids liked; two kids disliked) so the idea of a nostalgic old-school summer camp for adults sounds fun (my husband may not agree).

I wonder if they have horseback riding, canoeing, Native American dancing (once called “Indian dancing”), macramé, Petoskey stone polishing and Birch bark decoupage? Not to mention s’mores, pancakes cooked on a Dutch oven and old cabins in the woods. Or jumping off the dock to skinny dip. Anyway, here’s two clips from Midwest Living that caught my eye for future reference!

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Quick visit to Cleveland -Airbnb dilemma, cultural gardens.

I didn’t give this segment of the trip my usual careful attention since we were just passing through, with a one-night stop. And it showed. Our Airbnb was in a “historical” (read “transitional” or “iffy”) neighborhood in western Cleveland (may have been Ohio City), with houses in various stages of disrepair or repair. Ours looked like a mess from the outside (which explains why there were only interior photos on the Airbnb listing).

Inside it was nicer and clean but still had a musty old smell. The decor was shabby chic teetering on shabby. The bed and pillows were predictably soft. The blinds were off-white verging on dirty white, and closed, presumably so we didn’t see the very transitional wooden deck. Now I will have to decide what to do about my Airbnb review. I don’t like to give bad reviews because often the hosts depend on their Airbnb for income and they are well-intended. But the flip side is I feel a responsibility to future Airbnb customers to give them a heads up if a place isn’t so great. It doesn’t help that these hosts overtly requested a 5 star review, mentioning this in their directions by inviting us to text if we need anything (and presumably find something lacking). What I may do is offer faint public praise and mention the soft bed (since I would want to know this …) and then offer constructive criticism/suggestions in private comments to the host.

As for stars, I cannot give it 5. That was our DC Airbnb, which cost twice as much as the Cleveland one, had a great bed and everything else.

Our 5-star Airbnb in DC

We drove around Cleveland a bit, trying to find a way to park quickly and affordably so we could pop inside old buildings to see some of the gorgeous-looking shopping arcades, inspired by arcades in Milan, but I refused to pay $7.50 per 15 minutes. I also would have liked to look closer at some of the stately old buildings and park monuments. (Several are mentioned in this sort of stale travel story:

We also went to the much touted (by NYT travel writer) Gordon Square Arts District/Detroit Shoreway but this seemed outdated or aspirational. Didn’t help that the few shops we found were closed on a Monday. The pandemic may also have done its damage.

To get our bearings, we did a quick drive by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Flats, Little Italy and the Case Western Campus. We found some cool ethic-themed gardens along MLKing Parkway that I learned are known as The Cleveland Cultural Gardens. Dating back to 1916, the 33 separate gardens are each designed and tended by a particular cultural or nationality group. I’d like to return and explore on bike and foot.

I don’t know why Cleveland’s lakefront is so less noticeable or seemingly less people-friendly than Chicago’s and Milwaukee’s. (Too industrial?)

We did pop into the famously atmospheric West Side Market, just before it closed at 5 pm (and we discovered wouldn’t reopen until Wednesday. Oops.) Dinner was nearby at a trendy Mexican place Avo (as in avocado). Good service. Food okay. The best things were the margarita and the carne asada grilled meat. It was too cold to eat outside so we requested a socially-distanced table which worked well. The place wasn’t too crowded.


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Fort Hartsuff/Burwell, Ansel’s Bagels/Omaha, Dittmar’s Orchard/Council Bluffs – Drive from NE Sandhills home to DSM

Easy drive home from Burwell, Nebraska with a few stops, starting with Fort Hartsuff, an 1880’s U.S. Army calvary outpost fort from 1974 to 1881  on the edge of town.  It’s a well-preserved state historical park on the edge of the windswept Sandhills but several buildings were closed due to Covid-19 precautions. Further east in Omaha, we found even more happening in the Blackstone District since we were last there in 2018 including a new attractive food hall,  The Switch Beer & Food Hall, (a clean, ultra-modern space on bottom floor of a clean, ultra-modern new high-rise) which has several good dining options (complete with outdoor seating)! We opted for the well-reviewed Ansel’s Pastrami & Bagels where we had the famed pastrami sandwich (delicious but seemed more like brisket than pastrami) and bagel with dill cream cheese and lox. Bagels are good – heavier and chewier than I’m used to but that’s fine. Next time, I’ll try the Vietnamese Street Food option. Over the Iowa line in Council Bluffs, we stopped for some Jonathan apples at Dittmar’s Orchards, which was full of families picking apples and pumpkins. (We were the only ones wearing masks…)


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Filed under DESTINATIONS - Iowa, Nebraska, Omaha

Cowboy Trail bridge/ Plains Trading company in Valentine, NE, south on 83 through Valentine National Wildlife refuge to Sandhills Scenic Byway to Burwell (sandhill suites and sandstone grill) – the Nebraska Sandhills

(Sadly Covid did happen and was happening when we were there in mid-September….wonder if attitudes/practices have changed since I wrote this:)

Great to get away to a land where, as Dirck aptly put it, Covid didn’t happen…or so it seemed in Burwell, NE. Few cases. No masks. Busy restaurants and shops. An old car show. Tiny town movie theater showing “American graffiti” in exchange for “ a good will offering.” Felt like we were in “Back to the Future.”

And we finally “get” the Sandhills. I thought they’d be like the Flint Hills in Kansas but they cut a broader swatch through this state and look like more concentrated mounds than the more spread out mounds of the Flint Hills. The Sandhills look shaggier version too. They’re small sand dunes covered with short grass prairie (not tall grass prairie as found in Kansas. The wind was out in full force, pushing the grasses (and us) this way and that. We drove on two-lane largely empty roads and one “auto route” off highway 83 to get a feel for the Sandhills’ lonesome vastness.

In Valentine, we stopped at a great bookstore with the un-bookstore sounding name the Plains Trading company. It had a broad selection of regional books, crafts and homemade goodies. Picked up a book with an irresistible title. ”love and terror on the howling plains of nowhere” byPoe Ballantine, a memoir set in Chadron NE (the book was as good as the title!)

Dirck and I also did a little bike riding, quickly learning that wind is a major issue. We rode over the dramatic Niobrara Rail Bridge converted part of the Cowboy Trail outside Valentine, with panoramic views of the river valley.

Here in Burwell, we rode to the small and famous rodeo grounds (100th year in 2021) and around the dusty town and the square lined with viable small businesses, bars and hopes. We’re at The Sandhill suites, a boutique hotel (believe it or not) in an old brick building. Still feels like an old apartment building with a shiny patina. Fun to be here.

Dinner was perfectly cooked steak and delicious pie (burgers looked great too) at the renowned Sandstone grill, connected to our hotel. It was packed with large groups of non-masked diners on a Saturday night. We were clearly tourists in our masks. It felt wonderful and scary to eat inside a restaurant, which we have not done since March. We decided to take the risk since this area has so few virus cases. But never totally relaxes. Earlier I found an old Windsor style chair in a shop (another rare experience for us these days), going inside a shop) and the owner insisted on bargaining even though I was happy to pay the asking price of $75. “$60?” I asked. “$62.50,” he replied. “Let’s shake on it.” I shook his hand before fully realizing that I haven’t touched a strangers hand or almost anyone’s hand since March. I used hand sanitizer soon after.

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Filed under Nebraska, Uncategorized

Door County covid-era travel tips!

Our six glorious days in Door County during the last week of July 2020 (the wretched pandemic year) were all the better thanks to great tips from our airbnb host on where to eat, bike, swim, hike – and stay reasonably staff during a pandemic. Here they are: (I’ve bolded the ones we visited. all good!)

Sand Bay Town Park and Beach
A wonderful bbq/picnic spot, secluded with cedars and great for swimming, shallow but sandy.
11154 N Sand Bay Ln, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Garret Bay
Going NORTH out of Ellison Bay, take LEFT off of HWY 42 onto Garret Bay Rd.  Follow on Garret Bay Rd till it curves to the right a bit and you see on your left the boat ramp and historical marker for the Fleetwing Shipwreck.  Pebble/rock swimming beach with a beautiful view.

Europe Lake
Europe Lake Boat/Kayak Ramp area also has a small spot for picnic/bbq.  We like to swim here when the Lake is too cold!  This is a great little lake to kayak on.
460 Europe Lake Road

Pebble Beach (Our favorite)
going SOUTH out of Sister Bay, (when you see Open Hearth Lodge on your left), take RIGHT off of HWY 42 onto South Bayshore Drive and merge to the RIGHT onto Pebble Beach Rd.  You will then follow this down to the small but lovely swimming beach.  Great for sunsets but probably less frequented during the morning.

Hotz Memorial Town Park The Europe Bay area of Newport State Park is another wonderful place for bbq/picnics and swimming.
Take HWY 42 NORTH of Ellison Bay, taking a RIGHT off the HWY onto Europe Bay Rd, follow the road until you reach the kayak launch and park.
349 Europe Bay Road

Washington Island
Worth the visit!  You can take your bicycles on the ferry. (There are two different ferry services)
Schoolhouse Beach is a wonderful pebble swimming beach with a deeper drop off.  We love to pick up lunch at the Island Cafe and Bread Company and head to this spot.  Sievers School of Fiber Arts is also worth a visit if you are interested in weaving, knitting or basketry arts.  They have a shop that sells supplies as well as a gallery with items for sale.

We also really love the Ellison Bay Potters! (our favorite too)
There are several wonderful pottery studios in Ellison Bay.  Start with Clay Bay on the highway and tour the others in the village area.  (Gills Rock Stoneware, Ellison Bay Pottery etc)

Sand Bay
(4.2 miles (one way) from the unit) Waters End Rd to Sand Bay Town Park & Beach.  Take a right out of our lane onto Hillcrest Rd, follow Hillcrest until Waters End Rd.  Take a right onto Waters End and stay on it until you reach Lake Michigan!  Just before you reach the lake, take a left onto Sand Bay Ln.  At the end of the lane on your right is Sand Bay Town Park and Beach–great for swimming and picnics/bbqs!

Beach Road
(5.1 miles (one way) from the unit) Bicycling down Beach Road is a wonderful mostly-shady ride.  Take a right out of our lane onto Hillcrest Rd.  At Waters End, take a left and go down a fairly steep hill till you reach HWY 42.  Cross the highway toward your right, onto Beach Rd.  Beach Road eventually connects to Porcupine Bay Rd and then HWY 42 again.  You could make a nice day trip out of this route by adding Ellison Bluff State Natural Area as a picnic spot towards the end and your turnaround (take a left onto Ellison Bluff Rd).  Ellison Bluff has a great lookout and nice wooded trails to stretch out on.  (We recommend returning on the same route to avoid having to cross and travel on the highway)

Eats and Drinks:



Although Heirloom is in Baileys Harbor, it is our other favorite place for breakfast. And we really love Skipstone, Analog and Kick Ash for nearby coffee alternatives…
Sunflour bakery in Sturgeon Bay has great bread but I think they’ll be closed by the time you get up here. Macready Bread Company in Egg Harbor is also wonderful (open till 4). And Seaquist Orchards just north of Sister Bay on HWY 42 has great apple cider donuts and lots of other goodies. (It’s kind of a large farmstand with preserves etc)


Fish Boils:(please call to check on their takeout/outside-seating options)

White Gull Inn in Fish Creek 920-868-3517
4225 Main St, Fish Creek, WI 54212

Viking Grill in Ellison Bay 920-854-2998
12029 WI-42, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

Rowleys Bay Resort in Ellison Bay 920-854-2385
1041 Co Rd Zz, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

Old Post Office Restaurant in Ephraim 920-854-4034 (our pick — it was great!)
10040 N Water St, Ephraim, WI 54211

Here is a list of some of our favorites on the peninsula.  (Although-if you find a special spot that’s not on our list, please let us know so we can try it too!)


Bluefront Cafe
Tuesday – Sunday 11-3 Take out and Curbside Only
a few outside tables first come first serve
order by phone or online
(920) 743-9218
86 W Maple St, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

Lawlss Coffee
Everyday 7:00am-3:00pm,
limited seating inside and outside
(920) 257-3782
Online ordering available for pickup as well
108 S Madison Ave, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

Kick Coffee
Everyday 7:30am – 3:00pm
limited back patio, street and indoor seating
(920) 746-1122
148 N 3rd Ave, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

‘Get Real’ Cafe
Wednesday – Saturday, 10am-2pm
limited indoor and outdoor seating
Curbside pickup available
116 S Madison Ave, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235


Heirloom Cafe
Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday 8:30am-2pm
Friday and Saturday 8:30-4
pickup only
inside ordering or call
no dine in
2434 County F, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202

Bearded Heart Coffee (yum)
order online only, no phone calls or order in person at counter
Friday-Sunday 7-5
Monday-Thursday 8-2
carry out only
limited outside seating
8093 WI-57, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202

Wednesday – Sunday 4pm – 10pm
inside dining available, reservations accepted
—Chives Food Trucks (located next to Chives)
Wednesday-Saturday 11am – 8pm
Sunday 11am – 3pm
8041 HWY 57, Bailey’s Harbor, WI 54202

Door County Brewing Co. Taproom & Music Hall
Check website for latest hours
(920) 412-7226
8099 WI-57, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202

Waseda Farms (brats! you pick-em raspberries, beautiful grounds!)
Farmstand/Grocery Store on Farm with trails open to the public, call to ask for updates!
Order ahead or order at curbside Everyday 10-5 (call or email them at
They update their lists of produce/meat/specialty/local items here:
7281 Logerquist Rd, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202


Ephraim Coffee Lab
Curbside PIckup Thurs-Sun 8am-2pm
order online
3055 Church St, Ephraim, WI, 54211

Thursday – Monday 5pm – 9pm
day-of orders for pickup or outside dining
No Reservations for outside dining, first-come first-served
order online or call day-of
9996 Pioneer Lane, Ephraim, WI, 54211

Good Eggs
Open daily, 7am – 1pm
Pickup orders placed online only
9820 Brookside Ln, Ephraim, WI 54211


Open for patio pickup, 5pm – 9pm
order online
7829 WI-42, Egg Harbor, WI 54209

The Fireside Restaurant
Thursday – Monday  Lunch 11am – 3pm or Dinner 4pm – 8pm
Offering pickup
or patio seating only.
7755 WI-42, Egg Harbor, WI 54209


Skip Stone Coffee Roasters
Every day 7:30am-2:00pm
or for pickup order online
or call in (920) 421-4388
10678 South, N Bay Shore Dr Building 2, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Analog Coffee
Daily 6:30-8
Pickup Orders available
(920) 854-1155
10649 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Grasse’s Grill
Open Thursday-Monday 11am – 7pm
Walk up or Curbside TO GO
920-854-1125 or 920-854-3302

Door County Creamery
Open 11am-7pm Wednesday-Monday (closed Tuesday)
Pickup Only call or order online
Online Store also open
(920) 854-3388
10653 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Open Every Day 11am-2am
Inside/Outside dining/bar and takeout
10641 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Wild Tomato
Sister Bay location open for Dine-In, Patio or Take Out
Open Daily 11am-9pm
10677 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Thursday-Monday 4pm-8pm
Take Out
or Patio Dining (which is Take Out but they will bring a cocktail to your table!)
Limited Indoor Seating call for reservations
10627 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Door County Ice Cream Factory
Call ahead for hours
Curbside or Pickup Window
(920) 854-9693
11051 WI-42, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Ellison Bay

Kick Ash Coffee
Online Ordering or call for Pickup 8am-4pm
or inside 8am-4pm
(920) 854-9400
12001 Mink River Rd, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

Wickman House
Friday – Monday 4pm – 8pm
Limited Outdoor Dining 5pm – 9pm, no reservations, first come-first served
(or order a drink and walk the grounds while you wait)
Takeout Available
Order Online (day-of)
11976 Mink River Rd, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

Gills Rock

The Shoreline
Curbside Pickup: Wednesday& Thursday 4-9 Friday-Sunday 12-9pm
….their hours are changing frequently, please check for updates
12747 WI-42, Gills Rock, Wisconsin 54210

Charlie’s Smokehouse
(A retail smoked fish shop)
Daily 9-4
12731 WI-42, Ellison Bay, WI 54210


There is a map of LandTrust trails on the coffee table. Those are great spots as well as Peninsula Park (between Ephraim & Fish Creek) and Newport Park (between Ellison Bay & Gills Rock).
There is an easy to moderate trail on Cty NP (off of HWY 42 between Ellison Bay and Gills Rock) called Schoenbrunn Trail that winds out to the Mink River. It’s a sweet trail that may give some canopy coverage from the rain today.

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canoeing on the Niobrara River – Sparks Nebraska

I may not walk straight for awhile and my knees, arms, shoulders and back ache after canoeing Nebraska’s premier river, the Niobrara for 7 hours. We put in at Cornell Bridge, passed the famous Smith Falls State Park (home of Nebraska’s highest falls – not Ithaca but still lovely) and ended at the cabinand outfitters where we are staying, SunnyBrook camp. The river was peaceful in most parts but we had to navigate some rocky rapids and got stuck on some sandbars and rocks. The weather began chilly, about 59, and gradually the sun won its battle with clouds and we think smoke from the western fires. The temps were in the low 70s, but lots of vigorous wind. I don’t think I can canoe without a seat back any more and sadly, the outfitter told me, way after the fact, that he had a seat Back I could have used. Next time we may try a double kayak. We were envious of their seats.

But we did have the river almost entirely to ourselves which was great. Wepassed through grassy banks of the sand hills and high soft stone bluffs dotted with red vegetation. Not too much wildlife. Some ducks took flight. A snake slithered past on the muddy bank. We spotted an elegant blue-gray heron.

Cabin porch view
Nebraska’s highest falls!

It was great canoeing right up to our rustic cabin, the only one we saw right on the banks, at a gorgeous bend in the river. At 7 a.m. fog and mist were rising off the river. It looked very mysterious. The cabin is huge and very comfortable. There is a second bedroom with bunk beds and a double bed. It’s all knotty pine, with a huge open living room, full kitchen (but no plates, cups, utensils which apparently is a Covid preventive measure the owners forgot to mention…fortunately we had some paper and plastic stuff.) There is a big stuffed deer’s head on the wall, lots of wood antlers to use for hanging wet clothes. The best part is the rustic wrap around porch with a rocking chair I melted into after canoeing and old rusted metal chairs. Apparently this is a former dance hall from the early 1900s that was moved here in 1980.

mysterious morning in the cabin

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Enchanted Highway/ND, more Badlands and tribal territory in South Dakota

(From our September trip) We drove 6.5 hours south through gorgeous wide open country, ranch land , Indian reservations and South Dakota Badlands to Valentine, Nebraska, just over the South Dakota line and from there 40 minutes east to Sparks, NE where we are suddenly in a huge cabin (sunny brook cabin) by the side of the river — quite a change from the past three nights lodging where we had only a room to ourselves and the rest was shared space.

A highlight was the early part of our trip when we drove down a two-lane highway south from I-94 to Regent, ND through vast open fields of pasture, sunflowers and corn. The road was dotted with about six huge fantastic cut metal-and-welded metal sculptures, designed by a guy looking for a way to boost the economy of his small struggling town of Regent. It seemed to work because we weren’t the only ones opting for this road (there were other options) and pulling off every few miles to stare in wonder at massive metal sculptures — a grasshopper, flock of geese, fantasy fish, a farm family and of course Teddy Roosevelt on a bucking horse. Regent has a handful of worn buildings, several empty, one with a local history museum and one with a good gift shop where we bought a small replica of one of the Enchanted Highway’s metal sculptures. That will spice up our garden back in Iowa.

We made a u-turn in the small northern South Dakota (that’s confusing terminology) town of Lemmon, after driving past a local butcher, LemmonMade.

Me: Wait,wait, slow down, what was that?

Dirck: (half-heartedly) you want me to turn back?

Me: Yes please.

Dirck: (3/4ths-heartedly) Okay.

Turned out to be a great find. We loaded up on fresh brats, ground meat and teriyaki beef jerky— from what smelled outside like very nearby livestock. When in the Dakotas…

In South Dakota, we found a tiny picnic area by a small lake to eat lunch (now starring the beef jerky) and continued on almost empty two-lane highway through several reservations (standing rock, Cheyenne river, pine ridge, and rosebud.) We saw only a few signs that we were in tribal territory including a handmade sign reading “Indigenous Lives Matter,” a casino area inside a gas station/convenience store and a Covid -19 checkpoint at the Pine Ridge Reservation manned by several no-nonsense Native Americans wearing masks, the only masks we saw during our 6-hour drive. (We didn’t go through the checkpoint and probably couldn’t. Tribal communities have been hard hit by the virus and are taking it seriously. The checkpoint was a sign we were driving the wrong direction. Fortunately briefly). We also passed a fat ass tractor flying a Trump 2020 flag and a few other trump signs.

Now we are in our rustic cabin by the Niobrara River, which we discovered has no plates, cups or silverware – apparently removed due to Covid. This place isn’t cheap so not good. We fortunately were warned to bring our own bedding and towels, also a preventative Covid measure, which doesn’t make that much sense science-wise. We had some plastic plates and plastic ware in the car so we managed to eat our brats (purchased at the roadside butcher in Lemmon, ND.) We also wisely grocery-shopped at the IGA in Valentine before the 40-minute drive to this remote location. It’s on a beautiful isolated bend in the river which we will paddle on tomorrow morning.

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