Crossing into Wisconsin from Duluth was exciting for a number of reasons: 1) only minutes into the state I came across a museum dedicated to accordions, 2) the grey dreary weather was clearing, and 3) it meant I was so close to all the cheese. Sadly the accordion museum seemed to be closed so I didn’t get to see whether Nancy 3 of the umbrella cover museum was in there nor could I tag Weird Al in a photo or something. The clear weather stayed, though, which was very nice as I took the afternoon to explore the northern lakeside. Along the way I stopped at a cluster of old homestead buildings, a little bridge, and the Davidson Windmill, which was built by a Finnish homesteader and still works (mainly for demos, but hey that’s good for a wooden structure built in 1900).
The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the coastline around the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. As has been the case for a while in these parts, I’d have been able to see and do a lot more here with a boat, but alas it was just walking the beach for me. I did, however, come across many cute marina-centric little towns and a park with all sorts of old broken fishing boats on display, so I imagined myself in a weird apocalyptic end of days… oh wait… Never mind that dark loop of crazy, look there’s pie for dinner! And again for breakfast! Okay, things are looking up.
And boy did the next day of roadside attractions deliver on that pastry-fuelled positive start. Stop 1: the world’s heaviest ball of twine! And yes, this is different than the largest ball of twine- there is one in Minnesota and one (on my radar for the future) in Kansas that vie to be called the largest but I guess one is made by a single person and one by a group? Anyway, this one was giant and weighs in at over 23,000 pounds, as described by the fact sheet maintained by the man behind this landmark- JFK, the self-proclaimed “only twine man JFK- having a ball with twine!” Quite the… interesting soul. What is it with the correlation between Unibomber childlike handwriting and these odd men? JFK twine man should hang out with the Porter Sculpture Park man- I think they’d be kindred spirits.
Next up was the town of Hayward where I drove by the sad, forlorn, closed up lumberjack games site, but just next door pulled up at the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. This is, to say the least, a site that would not have been on my radar aside from the fact that it is home to a gimormous Muskie sculpture you can climb up and stand in its mouth. Oh yeah, that’s more my speed. The museum itself was full of boats, motors, record catch trophies and mountings, types of rods, reels, flys, you name it. Things I learned here: there were even more photos of old white guys that I’d predicted; I only know the brand of one kind of boat motor thanks to fun naming choices in Disney’s The Rescuers movie; the best name of a fish is the crappie; some fly fishing lures are quite amazing, artsy, and hilarious.
In town I also stopped to do laundry and found that the laundromat was next to the best dive bar of the state, the Moccasin Bar, home of ridiculous taxidermy scenes not limited to chipmunk picnic, woodland card game, animal courtroom, and much more. They’re the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question but no one knew which version I should aim to track down. So. Funny. Best way to spend my wash and dry waiting time by far.
From here I continued south to Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire, where I passed an evening sampling at the Leinenkugel brewery before a fun zoom birthday happy hour for my friend Amanda. Much needed influx of socialization! The next day before arriving in La Crosse, I did a few cheese-related stops (to be covered in a later delicious post) and later walked through the yard of the FAST fiberglass mold factory. FAST makes all sorts of statues for companies, pool slides, ads and signage, etc. and each one requires a mold, which once the contract is done gets tossed into the field of relics. Pretty weird stuff to walk through, like a graveyard of odd animals, devils, Big Boys, cars, donuts, Cats in Hats, corn cobs (perhaps from the Corn Palace???), traffic cones, knights, anything imaginable. I kind of imagined I was in (Harry Potter semi-spoiler alert) the room of requirement with all the hidden stuff in Hogwarts and I should have my eyes peeled for a horcrux. It was primo Creepy Cat photo territory (#creepycatroadtrip on Insta), like odd meets even odder.
My final attraction of the day was the world’s largest six-pack, which are 6 can-shaped tanks at a factory that makes beverages including beer, so I guess some days it really IS like a giant six-pack. After this into to La Crosse, I had dinner in a lovely and expansive park on the Mississippi, and the next day found a great spot on the river to rent a kayak for the morning for a few hours of peaceful time on the water. So nice and a little exercise before even more cheese stops. In the words of That ’70s Show, hello Wisconsin!