Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

On the road to & from Wisconsin September 14, 2020


Eastbound traffic along Interstate 90/94 was particularly heavy in eastern Wisconsin on Labor Day. We were driving westbound back home to Minnesota.


IF UNSCIENTIFIC OBSERVATIONS hold any value, then I assess that media reports about more people traveling via vehicle on Labor Day weekend held true.


Electronic road signs in Wisconsin are often creative and humorous. I consider humor an effective way to convey a message.


Randy and I were among the thousands hitting the road on the long weekend. Our destination: Madison, Wisconsin, some 260 miles/four-plus hours south and east of our Minnesota home. We drove there to see our second daughter and her husband and our son. We realize there’s some risk of COVID-19 exposure involved given their jobs. But we can’t not see them. Well, I suppose we could, but…

Typically, we explore Madison’s art and food scene. But that last happened during a mid-February visit, pre-virus spread here in the Midwest. Or at least knowledge of the spread. We limit our exploration now to whatever we can do outdoors, like walking the city bike trails and exploring other natural areas.


This farm site near St. Charles, Minnesota, in the heart of Amish country, is particularly lovely.


The drive to and from Madison is an easy one with four-lane highway or interstate all the way, except for a short stretch in Minnesota east of Owatonna. We left mid Saturday morning and expected uncrowded roadways. Instead, traffic proved plentiful as people embraced summer’s final weekend. Lots of pick-ups pulling campers. Westbound traffic was especially heavy on Saturday, eastbound on Monday. The opposite directions we were aiming.


I love this stretch of valley east of La Crosse for its scenic farm sites and landscape.


The scenery en route is particularly lovely, especially along the Mississippi River bluffs nearing La Crosse, Wisconsin. East of that river city, picturesque farms define the valley.


In Monroe County, rock formations rise from the land.


And later, rock formations rise alongside Interstate 90 like ships upon the sea.


I never tire of seeing these unusual rocks.


And then the Wisconsin Dells, with equally intriguing rock formations and tree buffeted gorges, offer another visual respite from the traffic. Even with all the detracting-from-nature waterparks.


Crops are ripening in Minnesota. This was the scene Labor Day afternoon as we returned home.


One of the aspects I most appreciate about Madison is its closeness to the rural landscape. This barn sits atop a hill just outside the city along I-90/94.


Rural Wisconsin as photographed from I-90/94.


I always appreciate the rural landscape of fields and barns.


Near Madison, this sign from a cattle breeder wishes travelers well. This makes me laugh.


And the humorous signage in Wisconsin. When you’re living in the middle of a pandemic, humor helps. To break up the drive and to break away for a moment from the seriousness of life.


On the drive home on Labor Day weekend, we were concerned about possible Interstate closure in La Crosse due to a visit by Vice President Mike Pence. Thankfully his visit did not affect us and we noticed nothing unusual except this flag on an overpass and a few strategically placed law enforcement vehicles.


TELL ME: Have you “gotten away” recently? Close to home? Or more distant?

Please check back for more posts from Wisconsin.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


22 Responses to “On the road to & from Wisconsin”

  1. Marilyn Donnell Says:

    Thanks very much. I have a photo very similar to photo #6, and have wondered where it is located. The Dells makes great sense! That means my photo was taken in summer 1990 – only time I’ve been to see the Dells.

  2. Kevin Kreger Says:

    I’m wondering if the 4th to last picture (old barn with silo peeking above it right next to the freeway) is the place that is referenced and pictured from the reverse side in the book: Visiting Tom : a man, a highway, and the road to roughneck grace
    by Michael Perry.

    I highly recommend the book, even if your picture isn’t the actual one shown in the book, available at the local library.

  3. valeriebollinger Says:

    We have noticed an increase in traffic just around our town and on nearby roads during road trips…even to the cities.
    Nice photos.

  4. Liz W Says:

    Have you ever driven through Vernon County, WI which is just east of LaCrosse? Gorgeous scenery, interesting history. Very Norwegian. Your photos are lovely, and bring back so many memories of taking that drive literally a hundred times or more over the years to visit family in IL and MI.

    • Several years back we got off the interstate and twisted and turned our way through the hills and small towns east of La Crosse. I really want to revisit that area as we didn’t take the time I would have liked to truly explore. The then teenaged son was with us and did not share our interests, meaning lots of wanted-to-stop opportunities missed. It’s a beautiful area.

  5. Missy’s Crafty Mess Says:

    Beautiful rural scenery! We’ve been going for Sunday drives around town but we haven’t been anywhere else.

  6. Your post makes me reflect on my many road trips and the memories made. Like the memorable road trip in the late 90’s in November from Minnesota to San Francisco that took 4 days with 3 drivers out and 4 drivers back. We made sure to drive through Globe, Arizona to experience the West one more time before spending 4 days moving cross country by Ford Ranger to Florida (looked like the Clampetts – ha!). The places, the miles and the memories of so far seeing 32 of the 50 States. I love when someone experiences MN and realizes it is not all flat land with farms, which there is plenty of that beauty to see too. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

    • Thanks, Renee, for sharing your travel adventures. That’s one long road trip from MN to San Fran.

      And you’re right about MN being diverse in landscape. We have prairie and woods, river valleys and plains…such incredible natural beauty within our borders.

      I hope this finds you well, and safe, in Florida.

    • We are safe here in the Tampa Bay area with Sally – just rain for days. We are praying for everyone being affected by Sally right now – she is a slow moving beast with lots of rain. (((((Prayers and hugs everyone)))))

  7. Got away last weekend and canoe paddled. Read my post for part of the adventure. I have travelled that Interstate many times myself. You did a great job of capturing it in photos and observations. Made me homesick.😊

    • I read your post yesterday and the canoe event looked like a wonderful get-away.

      Sorry to make you homesick for this region of the U.S. Hopefully my images also helped ease that a bit.

      • Audrey, Homesick for me is really not so dramatic or traumatic. Most of my adult life I have been able to live the moments in time knowing that those places I hold dear,like MN, will be there when I need them.😊 Thanks for continuing to support my blog, there are many days I have considered stopping even more this Spring as I had not been able to do or write about the things I am passionate about. Let’s hope in the coming weeks and months we all can find a new balance.

      • I think many creatives are feeling like you feel. Friends who are perpetually positive are struggling. There’s just “so much” right now that we can feel overwhelmed.

        I encourage you to continue writing.

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