Thursday, May 25, 2017

Houseboats on the Mississippi

"It's lovely to live on a raft.  We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our back and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened . . ." --Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Recently, the husband and I spent a couple of days driving around Wisconsin and down the Great River Road.  Some of the prettiest country I know is along the banks of the Mississippi in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and northern Iowa and Illinois. It's not the most dramatic scenery in the world, but it has a simple, quiet, ancient beauty that soothes my soul.

On this last trip north, we accidentally missed a turn and crossed the Highway 25 bridge into Wabasha, Minnesota, which proved to be a fun detour.  We wound up spending the night in Winona.  In the morning, we decided to head back across the river to Wisconsin on Highway 43.  The highway crosses Latsch Island, also known as Island Number Seventy-Two. We hopped off the highway on the island and discovered a whole world of houseboats.

Houseboats along the Mississippi River in Winona, Minnesota

The houseboats vary greatly in style and quality.  Some are two story marvels that look like "regular" houses.  Others appear to be little more than hobo shacks, ramshackle affairs built of spare parts.  Many of the boats are hooked up to electricity, and some have TV antennas rising above the roofs.  There are several porta potties on the island, so I don't think they have plumbing (how could they?).  According to an NPR story I read, some of the houseboats are occupied year round. Can you imagine how cold they must get, not to mention problems with river ice?  While not for me, it looked like a laid-back life, filled with wildlife and beauty.

The Wagon Bridge on Latsch Island

The houses are best seen from an old bridge called the John A. Latsch Historical Wagon Bridge (or, of course, from the river itself).  We drove over the bridge (five miles per hour speed limit!) into Wisconsin, but had to turn around in a fishing camp because the road was blocked.  As we returned to the island, we had a marvelous view of the houseboats.  Not worried about traffic, we stopped on the bridge so I could snap some pictures.

By the way, you may remember how I rhapsodized about some battered cheese curds in Dubuque, Iowa back in January 2016.  I can also vouch for the Leinenkugel's battered curds at the Fill In Station in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.  If you're ever in the area, check them out! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Coming Back Into the Light

It's been a while since I've written a post.  You may remember last August I wrote about my brother's paralysis and death (cancer).  At that point, I tried to make a conscious decision to live life more fully (hence the kayak purchase). Things didn't go exactly according to plan.  I spent a lot of time in Tennessee over the next couple of months, clearing out my brother's house and selling it.  Then my father began to decline further (Parkinson's).  Long story short, he passed away at the beginning of December.  Luckily, I was able to be with him.  I drove home with pneumonia (didn't know it until chills started halfway through the drive) and spent several weeks recovering.  Then my mother decided to move into assisted living, so that turned into another four weeks spent in Tennessee.  There's still my parents' condo to sell and all the possessions to redistribute.  So all in all, the last eleven months have been a little overwhelming.

Dad and me around 1960, reprinted from a color slide

The bad days, however, are becoming fewer.  I am starting to see the light again.