I’ll be honest- our first week on the road was a little bipolar (cold weather aside, no pun intended). We had some high highs and low lows. We’d mentally prepared for this- every time someone at home would say that our trip was “going to be so amazing!’, we’d counter with a dark and stern “oh yes, but so difficult!”
People would wave away our fears, but deep down we nurtured a thick skin for what was ahead. This forethought softened some of the blows, but honestly, parts of our Wisconsin week completely sucked. Like the flat tire on the trailer, which had to be removed in sub-zero temperatures and driven into town for a fix. Or the mysterious brake lock (which, if you know ANYTHING at all about travel trailers, you might easily solve). Unfortunately, we didn’t, and spent a miserable two hours removing the wheel and despairing before both our RV dealer and AAA simultaneously dropped the bomb that a simple breakaway cable had detached (and once reattached, the brake was A-OK.) Misery aside, our problems ended up being easy (and cheap!) to fix, which was pretty lucky. We missed out on some adventuring due to the setbacks, but learned a few valuable things about the trailer (and hopefully got a little tougher as people) along the way.
BUT- to the good parts We chose to start in Wisconsin BECAUSE of the winter, not in spite of it- we could have gone straight south (as many people have suggested!) and been a lot more comfortable. However, winter is an important part of our backbones as lifelong northerners. Although we’ll catch some ice and snow at the tail end of our trip, we wanted to capture a bit of the cold before heading to kinder climates for the year.
We started things off on Sunday in Green Bay, where our hometown team The Vikings were facing off with the Green Bay packers. A Packer fan from home had tipped us off to a couple of cool tailgating spots near Lambeau Field, and we figured what better way to capture Wisconsin state pride than to get in on the excitement before a Packer game? We saw and met a lot of characters, and had a blast enjoying the excitement (even though it was made clear to us, from our lack of Packer gear, that people knew who we were there to root for). Since tickets to the game didn’t fit into our tight travel budget, we watched it at a nearby sports bar. A good time to be Minnesotan (but a bad time to be amongst Packer fans), the Vikings won.
We headed up to Door Country on Monday to camp at Peninsula State Park. We picked the Tennison Bay campground on recommendation from the Brabands. We turned out to be the only campers there the few days we stayed (yeah, it was freezing cold… but the campground was open, and we had electricity!) It was a great home base to leave from and visit other Door County sights. We’d probably have seen more if not for the flat tire on Tuesday morning that caused some headaches. But if that hadn’t happened, we’d never have gone into the town of Bailey’s Harbor and discovered how sweet it was, or found Bearded Heart Coffee, which brewed Dogwood Coffee from Minneapolis. Even in the snow, the towns of Door County were SO charming. Winter changes the character of this tourist destination, and it’s certainly much sleepier than in the summer months- but we are dying to go back.
We slept overnight on Wednesday at another Walmart near Madison, and headed further west into Wisconsin to the town of Mineral Point. It’s a historic Cornish town, with many of its original buildings intact. It was a perfect slice of Americana. We were again charmed by Christmas decorations not yet taken down- it made the whole town feel cozy and festive. We ate at the Red Rooster Cafe, which felt like a classic hometown restaurant with the coolest rooster wallpaper decorating the walls. Lots of great galleries and antique shops suggest that this too would be a fabulous stop in the summer- we had plenty to see and do, but several places were shuttered during the week. We chose this part of Wisconsin in part because of Mineral Point, and in part because of the Don Q Inn (more on that in a minute). These towns are close to Spring Green, which we’d have hit in a heartbeat in another season. Some of the things we’d love to have seen were closed, like Frank Lloyd Wright’s home/studio Taliesen and the so-called menagerie that is ‘House on the Rock’- but we tried to make the best of exploring the small towns and wintry landscapes.
Our most highly anticipated destination in WI was the Don Q Inn– some friends from home recommended it to us, and we were (needless to say), highly intrigued by the promise of “fantasuites” fabricated in the 1980’s. The Don Q is a quirky, themed destination motel near the town of Dodgeville, WI. We couldn’t tell how the rooms would look in person from the website (campy, but how much?) but that just added to the excitement. We’d hoped for the spaceship room but it wasn’t available, so we settled for the ‘Northern Lights’ suite (complete with a fake igloo). It was, as advertised, weird and awesome. We took a whirlpool amongst a glittery polar bear mural. The igloo even had a TV in a little ice nook, on which we watched a few minutes of ‘Blade’ while Anna had an asthma episode. (We bring this up only because we watched ‘Blade’ in an igloo, which, major LOL). We loved our room, and the manager even let us peek in the caveman suite when we walked by as she was checking on the towels. It looked straight out of ‘The Flintstones’. They even have an airplane out front that you can go inside in warmer months.
We left on a foggy, misty afternoon the next day, after catching up on some work in the hotel lobby. We then headed south to Illinois, where we’ll stash the trailer on Anna’s family farm in Mount Morris while we spend some time in Chicago. Thanks for following along! If you have any suggestions for North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia we’d love to hear them (or any other suggestions, for that matter! Our route is listed at us anywhere.net/route).
Wisconsinites are NICE. And that is a bold statement coming from a pair whose homestate has a niceness idiom in its honor (“Minnesota Nice”). Minnesotans are polite, but reserved- the Wisconsinites we encountered were outgoing and exuberant. This included people stopping to say hello, helping stranger out, and being genuinely interested in one another. We were taken aback by it and felt instantly at home in a strange place.
Wisconsin can be COLD in the winter. “My face is falling off” cold.
Wisconsin is gorgeous in the winter. The cool temps allow for some pretty magnificent scenery, and we couldn’t be more pleased to have started here.
You can check out the video we made to chronicle our travels in Wisconsin below!
US Anywhere is a year-long, cross-country documentary project by newlyweds Carl and Anna. They are taking the 52 weeks of 2016 and are using them to travel the country and make short films about all 50 states (plus Washington, D.C.). The project will seek to illuminate the states and the hugely diverse urban and natural landscapes of the US. They hope to inspire others to dream, travel, explore, and connect with the United States.