Road trip notebook: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana

We stayed in the Northrup Ofetdahl House in Owatonna, Minnesota, last night. The house is still owned by the Northrup family, and the room we stayed in was named after F. S. C. Northrup, a now-obscure mid-20th century American philosopher who once hobnobbed with the likes of Whitehead, Wittgenstein, Schroedinger, and Mao Tse-Tung.

Crossing from Minnesota to Wisconsin along Interstate 90, you wind down steep dramatic bluffs, some hundreds of feet high, to the Mississippi River, across the several channels of the river, thence into Wisconsin. The interesting landscape continues into Wisconsin, with odd-looking hills shaped by glaciation, and some curious standing rock formations cut out of sedimentary rock by erosion.

We had a long drive today, so we didn’t stop but just kept driving. We drove south into Illinois, crossed the Fox River — we lived for a year just a few blocks from the Fox River in Geneva, Illinois — and into the Chicago suburbs. It was rush hour, and we hit the first heavy traffic since leaving the Bay area some two thousand miles ago. Finally we made it to La Porte, in the northwest corner of Indiana, an hour later than we had hoped.

We went into downtown La Porte for dinner tonight. Carol said, “Let’s go into that place,” pointing to the Temple News Agency. It was not just a news stand, it was also a soda fountain, coffee shop, and used book store. They had a piano in one room, and while we sat eating our sandwiches, two girls, about eight and ten years old, each played something on the piano from memory (the ten year old was pretty good). Half a dozen guitars and a couple of microphone stands were near the piano. I wandered around looking at used books, and discovered that they had about fifty old high school year books available for customers to look through (but not purchase). Temple News Agency is a perfect example of Midwestern Eccentric; their Web page declares, “We’re kinda like a zoo for people.” I have to admit, I felt very comfortable there.

And who found the place? Carol, of course. She has a nose for that kind of thing.

5 thoughts on “Road trip notebook: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana

  1. Jean

    And you were so close to the Indiana Dunes National Seashore — you could have camped overnight for $15. Midwestern Stunning Scenery.

  2. Bill Baar

    I was just up into Wisc on I90 at Tomah. The area along the Mississippi where you crossed into Wisconsin one of my favorite places. Next time try the river road south to Illinois and then take US 20 over to Chicago. It’s a nice drive if you have the time.

  3. Dan

    Jean @ 1 — Midwestern Eccentric was worth missing the Indiana Dunes this time. But yes, we want to go back and see the dunes.

    Elizabeth @ 2 — You write: “…you drove through WI way too quickly…”

    I fully agree. I want to go back. What we saw was beautiful.

    Bill @ 3 — Thanks for the recommendation! Someday I’d love to drive that river road — the Upper Mississippi is very pretty.

  4. Amy

    I took a very similar route on one cross-country trip and felt a pang of nostalgia when I read about Ogallala an entry or two back. Very vague nostalgia, since I can’t remember a thing about the town. But I’ve done a coast-to-coast drive four times and loved it every time. My favorite route was the northernmost, taking the old federal highways through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, through the Iron Range in Minnesota, and most memorably, along Route 2 in Montana.

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