Camping, Chicagoland and Frank Lloyd Wright

Meadow loves to climb on anything she can get her little legs on.

I guess she had an inkling that she'd be stuck in the car for the next few hours.

Scott had a few jobs in Illinois. I happened to have off so Meadow and I joined him. 

We decided to break up the drive by camping halfway down.

Usually when we go camping we explore the nearest town and end up going out for dinner. I said this time we should actually eat at the campsite. We love to cook at home, but when it comes to cooking on the campfire we are clueless. 

We found some recipes on Pinterest and decided on campfire nachos. We also picked up goodies for s'mores.

Meadow always has to sit sideways in carts.

We decided on the southeastern most park in Minnesota, Beaver Creek Valley State Park. The park is located in the Driftless Area. I love the giant hills and valleys of this region of the Midwest.

We picked this park because it was the only one in the area with walk-in sites. After checking out the walk-in sites and seeing as their weren't many people at the park anyway we decided to go with a drive-in site.

Meadow helped us set up the tent.

We had no one around us. It was so quiet that I felt like we were the only ones at the park.

For lunch we had peanut butter and banana sandwiches on pretzel bread.

As Beaver Creek Valley is a small park there really was only fishing and hiking to do. Because of its size we decided to hike the whole park. 

It seemed like we were hiking up hill forever, but once we reached the top the view was worth it. 

The area around the park is large corn farms. You can hardly tell the park is there until you drive into the valley below.

The bridges were a little scary with two people on them.

The trail was called Hole-in-Rock Trail. Indeed there was a hole in a rock.

The first half of our hike was one of my favorite hikes to date.

It was also the most extreme and felt like real hiking.

We made sure to wipe our feet to prevent invasive species from spreading. Thanks for the awareness Blake.


The trails off the picnic area had a few lookout points. We thought the Plateau Rock Trail sounded best.

Scott took hold of Meadow Bear so I could dry all the sweat off my back. Plus I didn't feel like climbing up another hill with weight on my back.

The overlook was covered by trees. Meadow cried the whole way up so we were a little disappointed. I'm not sure why the other trail didn't have any overlooks on the map.

I was so sweaty after this. Total waste of time.


On the way back to our site we checked out the "Big Spring." It wasn't all that big.

Then we had to test out our fire skills to get dinner started. 

When figuring out camping meals I found a recipe online for making nachos on the fire. We have never brought our cast iron skillet camping before and I'm not sure why.

I started cooking this when the fire still had quite a big flame. The nachos were super smokey. It was hard to force down. Next time I'll wait until the fire has turned to coals.

We needed to save our wood for breakfast, so we headed into the tent when it got dark. The entire woods was filled with fireflies. I had never seen so many in my life. We tried to get a photo, but couldn't capture them.

I hadn't seen so many since I was kid.

Meadow woke up a few times at night. I'm glad no one was near us. 

Yesterday Scott was sitting on the picnic table when Meadow stood up and walked towards him taking her first steps! She kept doing it all day. Who knew the uneven forest floor was easier for her to walk on than hardwood floor.

She also bonked her head in the excitement. Poor girl.

She may be behind most babies, but I'm OK with her crawling for a while longer.

We had our oatmeal breakfast before packing up and heading out.

This turned out much better than the nachos.

One of the cool features of Beaver Creek Valley are the creek crossings. I've never seen something like this before.

We drove into Iowa for a bit before crossing into southern Wisconsin. We decided to eat lunch in Prairie du Chen.

Worst lunch ever. I can't even remember what the place was called.

It was up there with the worst restaurant in Florida, Saltwater Cafe. We ordered something for Meadow off the kids menu. Mac and cheese, a breadstick and applesauce. What kind of meal is that?

Scott's first shoot was in Rockford. My friend Donna grew up here so I asked her if she had any recommendations for things to do. She mentioned that there was a Frank Lloyd Wright house you could tour. Searching online they only offer tours the first and last weekend of every month. I was hoping we could catch a glimpse, but this was as close as I could get. 

Donna also suggested Lino's. It happened to be senior night and there was a pasta special going on. We were the only people who ordered pizza.

Good old-fashioned midwest thin crust pizza. Super cheesy, super saucy.

We drove around the city to check it out. There was a little Swiss cottage you could visit. Had we had more time I would have gone. 

I wouldn't call the Tinker House little. I think this side is deceiving.

Scott had to work in the morning, so Meadow and I stayed at the hotel. After our junky breakfast (didn't Scott learn from our Florida trip not to stay at the Holiday Inn Express?) we swam in the pool. 

Meadow and I had leftover pizza for lunch.

I took Donna's advice and got me some Beefaroo.

Since we were going to be in the Chicago suburbs I said we had to stop through Oak Park.

We were staying in Naperville. Soon we'd find out that it's quite the journey from there to Oak Park, which is on top of Chicago.

Frank Lloyd Wright lived here until 1909. We couldn't afford the tour so we perused the gift shop instead. 


He designed many homes in this small 'burb.

I find it funny to call a city that has 11,000 per square mile a burb. That's denser than Minneapolis as a whole.

We walked around the neighborhood picking out all the FLW desgins. All the homes in this area were amazing. 

I guess in the spring they have tours of the private residences Wright designed. I told Blake we had to go for his birthday.

It wasn't just Wright's homes that were impressive.


After our walking tour we headed into the city. We finally made it to Burrito House. The last few times we were in Chicago we didn't get to go. I forgot how cheap and good this place is.

It took us another 45 minutes to get here, but it was worth it. Why don't we live in Chicago?


We had time left on our meter so we took Meadow to the playground across the street. 


The next morning Meadow did not want to get up for breakfast.

I went to work for the rest of the day.

It's nice going to the pool right after breakfast as we get the pool to ourselves. Meadow usually complains when I put her in her float and eventually warms up, but doesn't want to get out. A family came in while we were in here and two little girls came over to swim by us. Meadow loved watching them and decided she was ready to swim. She actually kicked her legs and moved her arms. 

Scott had a long day today. Meadow and I  were going to take the Metra to the city. Scott convinced us to take the car and stay in the burbs.

It was the only way she'd get out of the hotel. The area near our hotel was about as car-centric as they come. This is when I decided I hate the far western Chicago suburbs.

After Meadow and I had lunch we drove around and ended up shopping for Nolan's birthday gift. After driving around all day I never want to come back to the suburbs again. How do people live here? 

We found this local chain, Naf Naf Grill, not too far from our hotel. This made up for my lunch at Subway.

We decided against driving back to Chicago and walked around downtown Naperville instead. 

It was surprisingly pleasant if a bit raucous.  We were going to get ice cream, but I decided at the last second I didn't want it.

They really went all out on this parking garage.

The next morning Meadow didn't want to wake up again.

While I was getting ready for the pool I saw Meadow eating something. She had found my pita that I had leftover from the Naf Naf Grill.

After my last shoot was finished we drove up the Fox River back towards Wisconsin. We found a hip Mexican joint, Bien Trucha, in Geneva, Illinois.

The food was good, but they didn't have any highchairs. We grabbed Meadow's from the car and the staff seemed nervous about it.

This was really good. One of the best tortas I've ever had.

Scott wanted to go back through Iowa and go to Dubuque. I wanted to drive through southwestern Wisconsin. We went with the latter. The drive was beautiful. Some of the old farm homes were old Victorians or Italianates. We took a little detour through New Glarus. We were an hour too late to make it to their brewery. 

We got to see their hop vines at least. I'd love to go on a tour of their brewery.

It was getting late so we decided on camping at Governor Dodge State Park

Since we weren't going to have any fires I positioned our chairs to face the view.

I said we should check out the park before it got dark.

I wanted to see the beach of course.

Meadow was more interested in the park paper.

Meadow loved playing in the water. She's finally not afraid of it.

We wondered why we were the only ones at this part of the beach.

It wasn't until we left that we saw a sign saying this beach was designated for pets. EWW!

The next morning we woke up early as we had lots to do today.

Seeing as this town only had chains we settled on Country Kitchen for breakfast.

Along the road there's a massive airplane parked in front of the Don Q Inn.


I wasn't expecting the inside to look like this.

Meadow wanted to take a nap in the hammock.

After dinner the night before I went in the ranger station to pick up a brochure on House On The Rock. I grabbed a few others that looked interesting. I spotted a few on the park itself. Apparently Governer Dodge State Park was once home to a few farms.

On these farms people built spring houses as a way of keeping foods cool before refrigeration. Three of them still remain in the park.

Brooke insisted on seeing all of them.


Near the first spring house was a waterfall. Or should I say water dribble.

We had planned to drive to each spring house location, but it seemed as though there was another one off the trail for the waterfall. We started heading that way.

It turns out the trails didn't connect at all. At least we had a pretty scenic view on the way.

Meadow passed out at this point.


We thought we would try another trail that looked like it would take us to the other spring house. On the way we spotted the ruins of one of the old farms. Here I am standing on the sidewalk leading to the house.

It's crazy how fast a farm can disappear from existence.

This was the second spring house.

Meadow had the best view.


Backseat diaper change.

The last spring house was near our campsite.

This park is also a part of the Driftless Area.

This one also had a few housing remains buried in all the brush.

The House on the Rock was along the road so we stopped in to see what was visible for free.

After seeing that it cost $28.50 per person we decided to skip it.

We caught a glimpse of the back of the house.

Driving on our way we saw a sign for a scenic overlook. We were hoping it would have a glimpse of the house.

You could see the infinity room.

Meadow wasn't impressed.

Our next stop was Wright's Talesin. At 55 dollars a person for a tour (plus the no children under 10 allowed rule) we knew we wouldn't get to see the inside, but I still wanted to gawk from the outside.

The vistors center was a restaurant designed by Frank Lloyd Wright adjacent from his home. One side is a gift shop and the other a restaurant.

We went back to check out the Midway barn. It's weird to think Wright designed a barn.

This was as close as we could get to the home. We will just have to come back in 10 years.

After driving through many small towns with no restaurants we finally settled on a family diner near Lake Pepin.

I was amazed that there were so few restaurants along Wisconsin 35.

Meadow still seems to prefer pureed vegetables lately.

Since we were on the Wisconsin side of Lake Pepin I wanted to see Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthplace. We found a museum, but the map didn't say where the cabin was.

I can't wait until Meadow is old enough to read the stories so we can go on a mother-daughter trip to see where she grew up.

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