Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Traveling Wisconsin State Highway 21 December 10, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:04 AM
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THIS PAST WEEKEND my husband and I moved our second-born to eastern Wisconsin, where she just started a job as a Spanish medical interpreter. Our mission focused primarily on transporting her possessions, carrying them into her second floor apartment, helping her settle in and then leaving the next morning.

That, of course, left no time for exploring the Dairyland state, much to my dismay. I had to settle for viewing the attractions and oddities from the passenger seat of our van.

I settled in for the 300-mile trip with my legs snuggled under a fleece throw and my camera resting in my lap. Whenever I saw something interesting, different or unusual, I clicked away, shooting photos through the side window and windshield which were specked with salt residue.

It didn’t take long before I started seeing roadside cheese signs and fiberglass cows and business names that I found downright intriguing and often amusing.


Wisconsin is, rightfully so, proud of its cheese as promoted in this highway billboard.

Join me for a photographic journey along Wisconsin’s State Highway 21, which slices through the south central part of the state. I didn’t take notes, so I can’t tell you where most of these images were shot. After awhile the towns blend together.

Be assured, though, that the next time we travel Highway 21, we’ll stop and explore. I saw plenty of places—cranberry bogs, an Amish quilt shop, country churches, antique stores, cheese shops, even bars with interesting names—some of which I want to check out. Meanwhile, enjoy this armchair tour, the first in my on-the-road in Wisconsin travel installments.


You can't miss these cows and cheese sign right next to Highway 21 in Omro, west of Oshkosh. A sign by the stop sign said we didn't have to stop if we were turning right, crossing over the bridge. It was the oddest stop sign sign I've ever seen. No, I was not quick enough to photograph the stop sign sign. Next trip.

Piggly Wiggly grocery stores are popular in towns along Wisconsin Highway 21. I love the cute, vintage sound of that name. For some reason, I found it humorous that the sign on the right advertises pork chops on special with that smiling pig logo looming overhead. I also hear, via a friend whose brother lives in Wisconsin, that Wisconsinites simply call these grocery stores "The Pig."

Hunting is big in Wisconsin as evidenced by the many "Welcome hunters" signs I saw. And then I spotted this sign in Wautoma, our one brief stop to have lunch with my cousin Bev..

I wondered...are gals welcome too at Guy's Discount Grocery & Liquor? Wisconsin seems more lax with its liquor laws than Minnesota. Grocery and liquor stores are housed together with no dividing walls or doors between them. In Appleton, a sign inside a grocery store advertised the city's new ordinance allowing liquor sales from 8 a.m. to midnight. From the produce department, you could walk right into the liquor department. Oh, and all the store employees were wearing Green Bay Packers jerseys.


Hands down, here's the funniest bar name I saw on signage along Wisconsin Highway 21--the Stumble Inn

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


2 Responses to “Traveling Wisconsin State Highway 21”

  1. bevalker Says:

    I recognized all the pictures posted. I will have to get you some history on the drive in resturant you asked me about.. You can also check the wautoma web site for some of the business histories. I don’t even think about some of the funny signs or nicknames that we call the stores. It’s hilarious what impressions people get from run of the mill businesses.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Bev, I’d love any info you have on the drive in so I can post that vintage-looking photo I took.

      I’ve discovered that we typically don’t notice the interesting and humorous things immediately around us because we just get used to our environment. Often it takes an outsiders’ eyes to see business names, etc., in a totally different way. I loved your part of Wisconsin and can’t wait to return and explore.

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