Exploring on Columbus Day

Climbing the Tower at Holy Hill in Hubertus, Wisconsin

The decision was made to brave the rainy fall weather and go exploring in honor of Columbus Day (we were bored, had the day off, and wanted some adventure) so we climbed into the car and set off on a two and a half hour journey to Hubertus, Wis. I had been seeing posts on social media about the Tower at Holy Hill. It was being touted as one of the top spots in the state to admire the blazing fall colors and I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. A bit of minor preliminary research on the website gave me hours of operation, a bit of background, and a warning about steps and weather closings. Yup, time for some adventure!

My daughter, my granddaughter, my son and I climbed into the car and headed down the highway in the fog and the rain. We had some minor navigational issues, but Holy Hill is easy enough to find if you aren’t gabbing and you pay attention to the road signs. The weather was much clearer in that part of the state and the sweatshirts stayed in the car. We lumbered up the steps from the parking lot to the main church entrance, and from there we went into the Tower and started climbing. The lower level steps were wider, but as we climbed the staircase narrowed considerably. I am uncomfortable with heights and open stairwells, but on a scale of 1: comfortable to 10: super scary, this climb was 5: only slightly nerve-racking. Due to the recent weather, the tower was quite damp and the handrails were wet and sticky. Most of our fellow climbers were courteous when it came to taking turns on the stairs and waiting on the landings.

And then we got to the first open-air landing. It was beautiful. The wind was blowing through and the church bells were ringing in the adjacent tower. The view through the window grill was breathtaking. You can see forever when you are that high, and the trees were exploding with the red and gold colors of fall. And then I looked up. The open spiral staircase to the upper level rose up in the center of the room like a dark cloud on my super sunny day. I didn’t want to go any farther. Thank goodness for small children!!! My son took off up the steps but my granddaughter decided she had had enough and didn’t want to go any higher. Thus begun our slow descent. Granny first, toddler in the middle, and mama taking up the rear and offering encouragement. Isn’t coming down always harder than going up? My right hand on the railing and my left hand reaching behind me to keep a firm grip on the poor girls rear end to make sure she wasn’t getting too far from me. Mama had a death grip on the

rail and a death grip on her baby. We made it all the way down though!!! Phew. What was I thinking?

After that, we wandered into the church and admired the vast quiet space. There were beautiful stained glass windows and row upon row of smooth, ornate pews. We pondered trinkets in the adjacent gift shop and visited the tidy, well-appointed restrooms. Other than the case of descending heebie-jeebies, it was a lovely way to spend the morning.

There are a few particulars to keep in mind if you decide to visit. The Basilica and National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill are thirty miles north of Milwaukee. From Hwy 41N you simply get onto Hwy 167 and take the Holy Hill Rd exit 57. Travel west for six miles and the entrance will be on your left. If you get turned around, just look out over the treetops and you can see the beautiful spires of the church towers rising above the trees. Parking was simple and ample for a Monday morning, but I am sure weekends are a bit more crowded. Parking and admission are free, but an offering is encouraged for help with maintaining the Basilica. You must keep in mind that this IS a church, and masses are held regularly. Please be considerate. There are picnic areas as well as a café on the premises. Again, you can visit their website here for Tower hours of operation, information about the café and gift shop, as well as the Mass schedule.

On our way back to the highway, we stopped at the Tally Ho Pub and Grill for some lunch. It was a quiet Irish pub with spacious table seating and very friendly staff. We enjoyed our sandwiches and homemade chips before the long ride home. You can visit their website here or find them on Facebook @tallyhoerin and say hi. (Sorry for the toddler fit over spilled lemonade…)


The Fairlawn Mansion in Superior, Wis

22196132_317460631996496_8437479552775673849_nThis Victorian house museum sits right on Hwy 2 coming into Superior, an elegant piece of history surrounded by a modern city. If you are in the Superior/Duluth area, it is well worth your time to stop and take the tour. The house is beautiful and full of history. Listen for the chiming of the grandfather clock on the first floor landing…it gave me chills. The house is full of original fixtures, period pieces, and many photos of various rooms as they were when the Pattison family lived there. This house also became a children’s home from the 1920’s to the 1960’s and the upper floors let visitors see how the children lived and what their life was like living in such a luxurious setting.

Photos are not allowed during the interior tour, but you can snap away on the grounds outside. The original woodwork and tiled fireplaces are gorgeous. There are many exhibits detailing the extensive restoration process, but in the main office downstairs you can still see the original ceiling in all it’s paint peeling glory. Unfortunately, the mansion is not easily accessible for visitors with mobility issues.


Tours run on the hour and tickets are purchased in the coach house gift shop. Adult tickets are $10, senior and student tickets $8.  There is ample parking behind the mansion. Check out the website for special seasonal events, such as the flashlight tours or holiday treat tours.

Old Route 66

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

We crossed the Mississippi River on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, the original crossing of Route 66 from 1929 to 1970. It is now a pedestrian/bicycle trail connecting Illinois to Missouri. It was very cool walking through the tree tops and out over the water. Standing over the middle of the Mississippi, surrounded by history (literally, shout out to MIKE, 1978) and watching the water flow slowly past was an unexpected treat on our Missouri adventure.

Free parking and bridge access are on the Illinois side, watch for the signs on Rte 3 near Madison, Ill. Oh, and heads up, there are no bathrooms onsite. If you are taking your four-legged friends out on the bridge, bring a baggie! Please!

For in-depth information, please visit the national parks website at this address: https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/route66/chain_of_rocks_bridge_illinois_missouri.html



A Magical Adventure With Swanstone Garden

As an early celebration of my upcoming anniversary of life on this planet (I stopped using the “B” word years ago), I was invited to join a day trip being hosted by The Swanstone Gardens of Green Bay, WI. The event, entitled “New England Charm of Port Washington” in the brochure, included motor coach transportation, a breakfast stop, sightseeing, shopping, and a dinner theater matinee of “The Witch in 204”. Sightseeing somewhere I’ve never been, shopping, food, and Witches? Yes, Please!!

Our adventure began at the park and ride at Hwy 172 and GV in Green Bay bright and early on a Sunday morning. We traveled by Lamar’s coach masterfully driven by Chris, who had a wonderful sense of humor and was very accommodating. Kudos to Chris for figuring out the wifi for us! Our stops included a breakfast/potty break at Hardees in Sheboygan and a driving tour of down town Port Washington with photo stops at the 1860 Light Station, The Pebble House, and Coal Dock Park.  We then spent some time browsing a varied collection of items all handmade by WI artisans at the Blue Heron Gift Shop and exploring the shops (and bars) on Franklin St. I, personally, ended up with some lovely chocolate covered cashews from CoCa Lena ( www.cocalena.com ) and some sinfully delicious peanut butter cup popcorn and some pickle flavored popcorn to gift      ( www.BroadwayPopcorn.com ).  The weather was cool and windy, but not unbearable. We had ample time to stretch our legs and see everything at each stop.

By 11:30 we were off to Memories Ballroom for our main event. Matinees at Memories are a plated lunch, and we were served a salad starter with dinner rolls, followed by a delicious signature pumpkin fluff. Our main course was a very generous portion of roast chicken, steamed vegetables, and baked potato. Containers were provided for those of us who couldn’t possibly eat a complete half of chicken and fixings in one sitting. A creamy oreo cookie tort was served during intermission. Our hostess welcomed the various groups attending and our waitstaff were excellent. Ample water and coffee were provided to each table and the bar was open for beer, wine, and soda. A $10 minimum for charge card purchases at the bar forced me to enjoy more than one glass of wine with my lunch, what a shame.

The production was excellent, and the theater was beautiful.  The cast and crew did a wonderful job and we enjoyed our afternoon of comedic insight into witchcraft and magic through the deft employment of modern pharmaceutical hexes and a clever genie. We even got the recipe for the pumpkin fluff. For more information about the Memories Ballroom, this show, and upcoming events, visit their website at www.Memoriesballroom.com.

The entire day was wonderful. David Calhoon, owner of Swanstone Gardens, made this trip a fun adventure. David is a recent recipient of the Silver Trowel Award for Best Garden, and a fun-loving host and teacher. To find out more about David, his beautiful gardens, upcoming classes, and future outings, please visit them online at www.swanstonegardens.com or find them on Facebook.