Rochester surprised us, as new locations often do. We weren’t sure what we would be doing in isolation here, and yet we end our visit with a list of places still to visit. There are lots of excellent parks with walking trails. Wildlife management areas (WMA), reservoirs, state parks, and forests led us out of town.
In addition to our day on a pontoon boat on the water, we drove along stretches of the Mississippi River on both the Minnesota side and the Wisconsin side. From Winona to Wabasha, the drive was beautiful, and there was always a park along the way where we could stop to picnic and look at birds. If I came here again, I would spend more days along other stretches of the river, from Lake City to Redwing, and so on, as far as I could go. I might even spend a week on a houseboat.
Pandemic precautions take some activities off the list. One drive took us through Fountain City, WI, a charming riverside town with lots of interesting buildings from a stone barn that was barely off the road, to a gorgeous painted Victorian, and a Frank Lloyd Wright style house. I would have liked to stroll the streets doing some window shopping, and perhaps sit in a cafe along the river for lunch. These days, many stores are closed or out of business, and the streets are quiet. I was able to have an ice cream cone at the Nelson Creamery in Nelson, WI, a real treat.
The Farmer’s Market in Rochester was excellent, and we bought our first sweet corn of the season this month. We usually arrived when the market opened at 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays. Yesterday, when we stopped by at 9:15 a.m. after birdwatching, there were so many people shopping that we decided to skip it. Even with masks, it was very crowded. We all want to get outside–and get that sweet corn!
One small difference between Rochester and other places we’ve been in the US is that here there are a lot of houses that haven’t been expanded over the years. In the Chicago area, it has become a curiosity to see a house that retains its original footprint. Everyone seems to have added a second story, pushed out their kitchen wall, or added a sunroom, seeking to add more space. Here, we see houses that span at least the last century, whether large or small, standing as they were built, without additions.
We didn’t overlook the local landmark, the corn cob water tower. Until a few years ago, the tank held 50,000 gallons of water and was used by a nearby cannery. The corn cob has always been illuminated at night, an informal beacon. The cannery closed, and after some discussion about tearing down the corn cob, the county now cares for this landmark. We’ve enjoyed our stay in Rochester, and are on our way west once again.