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Posts Tagged ‘backroads’

  1. Surrounded by Molds

    February 1, 2015 by admin

    IMG_9969 We wanted an adventure on a recent weekend that was somewhere new and something unique.  It took a bit of research as we’ve already been to a ton of places within a two hour radius of our home.  But perseverance uncovered what we hoped would become a very interesting day trip.

    Just outside of Sparta is the FAST Corporation.  The company makes fiberglass statues and when they are done with a mold, they store it on their surrounding property with the hope to reuse it at some point.IMG_2765

    Tip1:  A sign at the entrance cautions that molds are favorite nesting spots for wasps in the spring.  Since we visited in the dead of winter, this was not an issue.

    When you first pull into the free parking area, your eyes are drawn to the welcome sign and a small grass yard with some abandoned statues.  We had a moment of worry that this was all the corporation had to offer.  And then we did a 180 and realized that we were surrounded by molds of all sorts and sizes.  Let the adventure begin!

    Tip2:  There are no public restrooms on the property during the weekend.  You might be able to use the FAST restroom during business hours.

    Our family spent a transfixed hour romping among the molds.  We saw everything from dogs to dinosaurs to indians to ET, the extra terrestrial.  It was oddly peaceful and a lot of fun to try and guess why someone would order something like a gigantic devil’s head.IMG_2766

    Even though we were dressed properly for a winter outdoor explore, the weather certainly influenced the amount of time we spent here.  We imagine you could easily take two hours to walk around this property in the warmer months.  This TR family is eager to return and discover molds we may have missed on our first visit to FAST!IMG_9988

  2. Backroad Bonus: MUGS, in Ripon, Wisconsin

    September 5, 2014 by admin

    Although we do have our list of go-to chains that have decent vegetarian/vegan options on their menus, we do so love to find new places that are off the beaten path and that might serve up a good meal.

    After several trips to the Ripon, Wisconsin area, we finally stumbled upon a good lunch stop downtown.429920_10150597134698106_1715193449_n

    Located just a few blocks off the Ripon College campus, MUGS is a coffee shop/ sandwich shop that fits the bill for our family.

    MUGS is a cozy place that is well suited for studying, or just settling in with good book or the daily crossword. From the number of large tables in the dining area, we imagine many Ripon students head to MUGS for study-time and group project planning. (We arrived prior to the start of fall semester, so there weren’t any crowds.)

    We loved seeing several vegetarian and vegan choices from grilled cheese to a delicious hummus veggie wrap. All this served up with great coffee and fresh-made chocolate milk. They also have Chocolate Shoppe ice cream on hand, along with a small number of desserts.

    The pricing fits the student budget too- which means it works well for our hungry family. Most sandwiches were under $5 and included a side of chips. Large coffees were around $2.  The friendly staff was helpful and accommodating.  They didn’t hesitate to modify their grilled cheese for our Bluey.  We could see ourselves as regulars if we lived in the area.  As it is, MUGS will be our go-to cafe when we are next in Ripon.

  3. Backroads Bonus: Pockets in Aurora, IL

    August 24, 2014 by admin

    It can be hard to find a good place to eat when traveling.  Many places we consider are either too expensive, not at all nutritious, or lack vegetarian/vegan options.

    And then there’s the trick of convincing the kiddoes to give a new place a try.  On some days they are very adventurous and eager to check out a new menu.  Other IMG_7408days they want the satisfying security of going to a known restaurant.  We can easily fall into a pattern of seeking out the short list of national and regional chains that offer foods we know our kiddoes happily eat.

    But we are also working on expanding their palates, as well as encouraging their eagerness to try new places.

    We found great success with this endeavor on a recent jaunt to Aurora, Illinois, where we discovered Pockets.

    Pockets is small chain in Illinois featuring a menu built around the idea of… pockets!  Pitas, calzones and stuffed potatoes make up the bulk of their menu.  But they also offer salads and pizza, along with soups and a few sides.

    IMG_7406Pockets hit all the marks for us: cost, nutrition, vegetarian/vegan-friendly, and kid-friendly.

    Upon entering, we were most pleased to read on the Pockets’ board, in big letters,  “Veggies Only? Subtract $1.20!”  Typically, we are charged the standard price of a meal whenever we request the removal of the meat.  We knew that we were in the right place when we’d finally save money for being vegetarians/vegans!

    Pockets bakes their whole wheat bread fresh.  Their kids meals come with a choice of fresh fruit and the kids pizza is on whole wheat crust in the shape of a dinosaur!  You can choose from the standard menu or you can build your own meal.

    Our food arrived within 15 minutes and we dug in.  Everyone ate up to the very last crumb.  We were completely satisfied and very impressed. The total bill was equal to our family’s typical charge for eating at one of our favorite chains.

    So now the only question that remains?  When will a Pockets open in Madison?


  4. The Secret Garden

    June 29, 2014 by admin


    As much as we love finding new places to go on our jaunts, we frequently find ourselves returning to a spot we have already visited.  It’s a great opportunity to explore further— to follow that hallway you didn’t investigate, to climb that hilltop to see the view from up there.

    IMG_6507We recently returned to Delaney’s Surplus.  It’s a cluttered shop of various spare parts, abandoned equipment, and such.  We had a great time there on our first trip, but our visit was in the middle of winter and quite cold.  So we hadn’t explored the big back open lot with large items, too numerous, or too dirty to bring into the shop.  This time, we went in early summer in order to peruse the outdoor area.

    And were we glad we did!

    We found lots of cool things outside:  huge bins of door knobs, candleholders, giant crystal plastic lampshades for street lights, strange wired pieces that would make great trelises for our garden, and much much more.  Not only that, we stumbled upon the secret entrance to Dr. Evermor’s Garden.

    Dr. Evermor is legend in these parts.  His metal sculptures made from repurposed scraps are found all throughout the Wisconsin area.  Driving up to Devil’s Lake or Baraboo brings many people past the front of Dr. Evermor’s garden, with it’s giant birds and other odd creatures guarding the gates.  The gates which are IMG_6534always  closed.

    We have long wanted to visit Dr. Evermor, but we never found the garden open.  Until we found the back door.

    Around the back of Delaney’s is a short path connecting it to the sculpture garden.  Follow the path and you will find yourself surrounded by small metal insects, gigantic birds, dinosaurs and, of course, The Forevertron.  The Forevertron is a massive piece, the center focus of the garden.  It is amazing.  Can it launch you to the heavens using magnetism?  We’re not sure, but it is awesome to see.

    Our inventive, artsy, tinkering family loved walking around the many sculptures and finding the hidden treasures tucked here and there.  We’re sure we’ll go back and attempt to see the things we may have missed.

    And this trip to Delaney’s will remind us to really look around each time we go somewhere , whether we’ve been there before or not, and to explore and discover the hidden bits that we might not otherwise see.

  5. Backroad Bonus: Steve’s Pizza Palace: Platteville, WI

    January 27, 2013 by admin

    IMG_1464We love discovering local restaurants when on the road.  When you have small kids, it is very easy to default to a known and trusted favorite – like Culvers or Subway.  Those restaurants are prevalent, consistent, and relatively cheap.  But there is no culinary experience to be had, no adventure, and no memory to be made by sticking to the same old thing.

    Recently, we made a trip to Dubuque, Iowa to visit the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.  Since we had a little extra fun money for this trip, we decided we’d eat out for lunch.  We did a quick internet search to see what sort of restaurants were along our route.  Sure enough, we found plenty of Culver’s, Subways, and McDonalds.  Although we took note of their locations, we weren’t interested in eating at those establishments, not as a first choice anyway.  We decided to head into the town of Platteville to see what they had to offer on their main street.  Since they have a small Co-Op and a university, we felt confident that we’d find something to eat.

    As we walked down Main Street, we were happy to stumble upon Steve’s Pizza Palace.  Situated in a 2 story historic building, this very large restaurant had a ton of atmosphere (walk around and see if you can find the boat).  A quick glance at their menu assured us that everyone would have plenty of meal choices.  We decided to give it a try.

    Our kids wanted spaghetti with marinara.  Oddly enough, there was no kid’s menu, or items on the regular menu, identified as a child-friendly choice.  We thought we were stuck with an adult portion of $8.95 pasta with red sauce.  But TR Mom thought to ask if there was any way to get a smaller size.  Our knowledgeable waiter quickly pointed out that he could do a kid’s portion and wouldn’t charge extra for their drinks.  Excellent!  TR Mom and Dad both chose a Veggie Pita.  Again, our waiter helped by pointing out that the pita only came with tomato, onion, and sauce.  He recommended we order additional veggies for it and we followed that advice.  The kids wanted French fries, and again, our sharp waiter suggested we add them to our adult sandwiches to save money.  Sold!

    Our food came out quickly.  The portions were HUGE and quite tasty.  The pita bread on our sandwiches was fantastic and our kids loved the breadsticks.  The french fries were tremendous!  Our only complaint was that the marinara sauce was a bit heavy on the pepper and that spiciness turned off our Bluey.

    We thoroughly enjoyed our meals and our exceptional service at Steve’s Pizza Palace.  Our kids had a great time and we know we’ll be back soon!


  6. Backroad Bonus: Paradigm Cafe, Sheboygan, WI

    August 17, 2012 by admin

    We didn’t set out for the Paradigm, but when we found ourselves hungry and in Sheboygan.  We lucked upon the Goodside Grocery and asked about where to find a good vegetarian lunch.  Although the two women at the grocery mentioned several other places in town, they kept coming back to how good the Paradigm was.  One started quoting her favorite veggie sandwiches off the menu.  We were convinced!  So we fed the parking meter and headed around the corner to the Paradigm.

    We were expecting maybe a small hole in the wall cafe, but that’s not the Paradigm.  What we found wasn’t just a coffee shop, but a great café in a fabulous space.

    The Paradigm features numerous hot and cold sandwiches, soup options, and a wide array of coffee drinks.  We greatly enjoyed the house hummus that come with a generous portion of homemade pita chips!

    Small wonder that the food is so good, since they run a scratch-made kitchen in their little corner of Sheboygan.  Whether you go for a mexican flair of the Blackjack– black beans and cheese squeezed into a fresh pita; the garden fresh goodness of the Zeus– cucumbers, hummus, kalamatas! and more; or something else- there is so much to choose from its hard to settle on one item.

    All is served up in a huge, open space.  There are large farm tables mixed in with smaller ones, couches to lounge on, and a reading space with a pretty good library of books and magazines to check out while you’re there.   There are also numerous board games stacked up on shelves and the space to play them.

    There’s a nice stage area in front of a large dance floor, so we bet the place gets hopping on weekend nights.

    We loved the seating and the fact that our kids were in a large safe environment where they could wander a bit, if they wanted.  Add in the wonderful selection of vegetarian options, a good coffee menu, and fast service and you’ve got a great place to dine!

    I guess there’s other vegetarian places to go to in Sheboygan, but it’ll be a while before we tire of the Paradigm and choose to explore more.


  7. Back Road Bonus: The Twisted Cone Cambridge,WI

    June 18, 2012 by admin

    We’d passed this little ice cream shop during the winter when it was closed for the season.  It sits on a great piece of back-road, US 12.  We frequently take US 12 down to the Lake Geneva area, or to Kenosha, and even Chicago.  It’s a great little road that usually allows for a quick but memorable trip.

    So we remembered the Twisted Cone one afternoon when it was super hot, we all wanted to get out of the house, and ice cream sounded real good.  About twenty minutes later, we arrived.  We had a few seconds of confusion as The Twisted Cone now sports 2 name billboards.  The road hugging sign declares, “The Twisted Cone” while the rooftop sign reads, “Rock N Rollz Sandwich Co.”  Despite the obvious change in ownership or identity, they still have ice cream!  Yay!

    There is a good outdoor eating area in addition to the seats inside.  We came for ice cream but discovered, once inside, that they also serve sandwiches (one vegetarian choice).  There is nothing fancy about this place.  The music blares inside and outside a bit too loudly for our taste (especially inside).  The place is clean and there are restrooms.  The counter help is friendly and efficient.

    We had come for the ice cream and we weren’t disappointed!  The prices are fantastic and the portions are generous.  Bluey got a hot fudge sundae.  We asked for a smaller size and they were happy to accommodate, though they didn’t adjust the price.  The hot fudge was actually hot – a nice touch!  Plum and Dad got shakes which were incredibly thick and required two straws per cup.  Mom got a twisted cone of vanilla and chocolate soft serve.

    Our total bill was just around $12.  Not as cheap as a quick treat stop at McDonalds, but cheaper than Dairy Queen.  Well worth the occasional stop for the atmosphere and the quality of the treats!


  8. Backroad Bonus: Merrimac Ferry, Merrimac, WI

    June 5, 2012 by admin

    Merrimac FerryThis free ferry ride is a fantastic addition to an outing to the Devil’s Lake area.  Just drive your car aboard and in just about 5 minutes, you’re on the other side!  The ferry only holds about 15 cars so there can be a bit of a wait at the height of the day.  You can also walk aboard or take your bicycle onto the ferry.

    What a great way to make a car trip memorable!

    To make the whole adventure even more appealing, there is a little snack shack on the Merrimac side where you can get ice cream (sales are cash only!) or other treats.  They open at 11am.  The serving size of the ice cream is generous.  But the nice man tending the counter charged us less for a “kiddie” cup portion.

    Another great reason to skip the interstate, and enjoy the less beaten path.


  9. Taking the Long Way

    May 26, 2012 by admin

    Dr. Evermor's LabWe usually take back-roads in at least one direction on our jaunts.  Who knows what you’ll see?  Llamas?  Giant concrete fish?  Bald eagles in flight?  We’ve seen this and more!  Each oddity or surprise makes a trip a memory.  Our world is filled with things wondrous and bizarre.  If you take the Interstate your whole life, you miss most of the quirks that make life fun.

    We made a brief stop at Dr.Evermor‘s on the way home from a totally different adventure. What will we find next?

    Be on the lookout for posts tagged ‘Backroad Bonus’ and ‘Alternate Route.’  We’ll let you in on some of the great finds we have encountered while plying the highways and bi-ways of America.

  10. Backroad Bonus: Le Duc’s in Wales, WI

    May 17, 2012 by admin

    The back roads are filled with hidden treasures and delights.  Many of our unexpected adventures spring from finds we have chanced upon when we’ve chosen to skip the interstate.

    US Highway 18 wends and winds from downtown Milwaukee right through Madison.  We often take this meandering route home after a trip to Milwaukee.  One great find along the way- Le Duc’s in Wales.

    Le Duc’s ( is an old-time custard and snack shop.  They have a small building with an extensive menu.  We can only imagine that local young folk congregate there every Friday and Saturday night.  We stopped on a quiet Saturday afternoon and were delighted to find delicious custards and uber-thick shakes.

    Keep in mind that it is a popular spot with a very small public space.  This means that in inclement weather, you may end up in your car while enjoying your treats.  They do have a limited amount of outdoor picnic tables.  Restrooms are in the back, past the kitchen.

    We immediately and unanimously declared Le Duc’s a hit!

    Our guest who was travelling with us that day called us when she got home to get the name and address of our stop to share with her parents!

    You’ll never find Le Duc’s if you stick to the Interstate.