One of my favorite Cottage activities is to hire a bus and take people out on an adventure! And what better place this time of year than up and down the Mississippi River! So we headed out before the Sun rose and pointed our bus toward Lake City ... our first stop on the Great River Road bus tour. It was foggy and I was glad I wasn't driving the bus but the fog just enhanced the beauty of Highway 61. There's something magical about how the fog muted the bright colors of the hardwoods along that stretch of road.
Lake City, Minnesota was our first stop. Did you know that this is where waterskiing was born? Lake Pepin is a large body of water that is part of the Missisippi River ... plenty of water to trying pulling someone behind a boat on slabs of wood! Almost directly across the lake on the Wisconsin side is where Laura Ingalls Wilder's family crossed in the middle of winter to begin their new life as pioneers. Lots of interesting history in this area. But we were here to shop! The bus dropped us in front of Pumpkinberry Stitches. Lisa met us with a welcome bag from the Chamber and pretty little pumpkins from her store. This shop has charming touches ... including a vintage window that looks into the classroom. Quilters had a field day here and at Rather Bee Quilting just down the block. Rather Bee had several amazing samples of Tula Pink's Butterfly Quilt ... and I'm dying that I didn't buy the pattern. What was I thinking?
While everyone else was shopping the antique, vintage, and primitive shops in Lake City ... many who opened up early for us ... I was out taking pix of the scarecrows. There were so many clever ones scattered thru town.
Just down the road about twelve minutes or so is Wabasha. It may look familiar to many because it's where a lot of Grumpy Old Men was filmed. Lots visit for the National Eagle Center. I am partial to it because my sister the Sister was a first grade teacher at St Felix Catholic School for many years. But we were visiting to take advantage of SeptOberfest ... a month-long weekend celebration of fall. Each week in the park under the bridge there is music, arts and crafts, pumpkins, scarecrows, and a view of the river with all of the bright colors. Every corner was decorated with scarecrows and pumpkins, too. They have done it up right! I love the boutiques that pop up during this time and also the interesting shops. I picked up some great finds there for not many $$$!
Our visit in Wabasha was too short but the reward we were dangling to get back on the bus was lunch at Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin. It was a short drive over the Hwy 60 bridge across the Mississippi River and then a quick turn onto WI-35. Thankfully we had lunch prearranged because the lines were lllllooooonnnnngggg! It was such a beautiful day that our entire group was able to sit outside on the patio to eat. Inside are other charming areas to eat, a cheese shop, a wine shop, ice cream, coffee and sweets ... oh ... and a wine bar. Several of our guests decided that since we didn't have fruit with our meal, a glass of wine would fill in that slot!
One of the reasons I love Nelson's ... in addition to the wonderful food ... is the old-world look. When you drive by, it looks interesting but sort of small and it makes you wonder what all the fuss is about. But then you walk in the door! It smells delicious! And then you start noticing how deep the building is and all the many areas it encompasses. And then you see the details ... ivy covered walls ... planter boxes ... peeks of the river here and there. It's hard to leave.
Nothing says 'Fall' better than bittersweet. We found this guy right outside Nelson's selling gigantic bunches from his truck. I want to know his secret ... this is not an easy plant to grow!
Our final stop was Stockholm, Wisconsin. There is a huge arts community in this area and it explodes in this town. Make sure you look at their events calendar ... their Christmas event is not to be missed! My favorite store is Ingebretson's ... I must have lived in a Scandinavian country in a past life because I'm fascinated by all they have to offer. This is the same business that is on Lake Street in Minneapolis. But in addition to this shop are many more that are filled with interesting things. Don't miss the second floor of the hat shop ... the lean of the steps and the tilt of the floor upstairs makes you wonder if you were sipping a few back at Nelson's!
I always enjoy the Tibetan prayer flags outside one of the stores. The Amish shop is filled with furniture but sadly the Stockholm Pie Company was totally sold out. You have to get there early for the best pies ... they have a Sunday brunch so that's when I would go! As you can guess, this is a busy time of year there with all of the leaf-peeping.
One of the things I've never noticed about Stockholm before was the sweet campground right on the river. I'm being pressured into buying a reproduction vintage camper ... or a glamper if that's what you like to call them. I can see the appeal after visiting this camping park! Now the biggest issue is how to carve out time for yet another hobby.
So our tour was quite the success ... given the amount of packages that came off the bus. Many asked where we were off to next ... I have some ideas! But it did make me smile to see that one of our riders was wearing her pin from our fall trip last year and the new one from this year on her jacket. Over the years I've made close to 6000 pins for our tours ... yike! But it's exciting to realize that they are treasured.