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Published: April 29th 2018
Dubuque, Iowa and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
I love the way the name of that Wisconsin town sounds. It just kind of rolls off the tongue. Ever since I saw that name on a map, I’ve enjoyed the name. Must admit, though, I don’t know what it means. I mean it has something to do with ‘prairie’ and the ‘du’ part I think is French for ‘of’. But I don’t know what Chien means. And its not pronounced with a normal ‘ch’ sound, but is more like ‘shane’. So it is French for ‘prairie of (something)’.
It isn’t exactly a prairie town, though. At least not like those west of us. It is situated on the eastern banks of the Mississippi just north of where the Wisconsin river empties into The Great River. It seems to be more of a port town than a prairie town, but I suppose things could have been different a hundred years ago. It is right across the river from Marquette, Iowa which is more of a touristy place with a casino, river boats, and fancy shops.
The river at this point, even this far north, is still simply huge. It is divided
into eastern and western channels and there are islands of various sizes separating the streams. The bridge across isn’t really a single bridge but several spans that kind of hop across the river. Under the bridges flow barges and pleasure craft of various sizes. I guess I’m surprised at just how much activity this river supports this far North.
And to drive up the river is to get a real inkling of how immigration settled this country. Marquette and Prairie du Chien are French, but they are just up the river from MacGregor (where we are), which is Scotch. And south of us is a Polish settlement and Guttenberg, named after the German bible printer, is south of that. Maybe the patchwork of names doesn’t indicate a melting pot so much as a quilt, stitched together from patches of different national origins.
We drove up the river yesterday on a supply run - yesterday wasn’t a down day, so much as a ‘maintenance day’ (a day to take care of living requirements, like some food and supplies.). We found a ‘Piggly-Wiggly’, which despite its name is not a butcher shop but a grocery store, and got some ice, soft drinks (zero calories), half and half, and a few other things. Based on the way they looked at me, I don’t think they get too many visitors from New Mexico. I think maybe they thought I was an illegal immigrant. But they were happy to take our credit card!
After shopping, we tried to locate a restaurant for a late afternoon lunch on the river. Unfortunately, nothing seemed available - everything was further inland. So we ate at a prominent-looking spot called Huckleberry’s. It might be a chain of sorts, but it is definitely successful and has a gift shop and bakery attached to it. There we just had to order fried cheese curds, a Wisconsin-iconic food. Although they look a little strange, they were really pretty good. High in calories too, I’m sure. And to add a bit more local flavor, I ordered the Wisconsin state drink - a brandy old-fashioned. Made with brandy instead of whiskey, it was on the sweet side, but pleasantly so. For dinner we both had the country fried chicken which, although not as memorable as the southern-fried stuff we had last year, was still a good combination of tender chicken meat and crispy-fried batter. It was a comfort meal.
And it was a welcome relief. For my morning chore, I took the LandCruiser back down the 50 miles to Dubuque, Iowa, and bought the needed tires for the car. While they were removing the spare from the vehicle, they discovered another potential problem - a barbed wire spur sticking into the tread. Fortunately it didn’t puncture the tire so my spare is still good, but it was one more sign that I needed to beef up my tires. So I bought the ultimate in all-terrain tires, 10-ply Goodyear tires designed for truck 4x4’s. These things are monsters and look like they have an inch of tread. And with the 10-ply construction, they are designed to withstand lots of bad stuff our campsites, or the road to our house, are likely to throw at them. I’m hoping that we don’t have any more tire problems on this trip - at least not on the LandCruiser. (Trailer tires might not make this entire trip, but I have my fingers crossed on them.) Despite the tread, the tires travel nicely on the highway, as I discovered coming back up the river road. Although they were very expensive, I’m betting they solve my tire issues. So one problem down...
Started a new book last night, Homesteading the Plains by Edwards et al. Unbeknownst to me, the bulk of scholarly history about the Homestead Act has been to argue that it was a minor event with little impact on establishing western agriculture. This book attempts to refute the ‘accepted wisdom’ and is showing some interesting data on the subject. I’ll write a bit more after I get a little further on.
And that was about it for the day. We are planning on getting back into sight-seeing mode this morning and it looks like the girls get to go with us! We always try to broaden their horizons.
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