May 10, 2017
With Memorial Day marking the start of unofficial summer vacation season, I bring you your next road trip destination: the Driftless Area.
Encompassing southeastern Minnesota, southwestern Wisconsin, northeastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois, the Driftless Area offers the Midwest’s most dramatic landscape, formed by drift deposits – silt, clay, sand, gravel and boulders – of ancient glaciers, all beautifully framed by limestone bluffs and hundreds of trout streams and creeks.
Driftless Wisconsin, particularly the communities of Vernon County, is arguably my favorite area in the world. So sacred to me, in fact, that I’m reluctant to let everyone in on the secret. But hey, anything for the Peepshow. Your summer drift-away itinerary follows:
Where to go
From Fast Horse World Headquarters, you’re headed to the lovely town of Viroqua, Wisconsin. Follow the Mississippi River and take a tour of the Driftless Area’s many charming river towns, like Red Wing and Lake City, Minn., and Pepin, Wis.
What to see and do
Visit the Red Wing Shoe Company’s flagship store and museum in Red Wing, to tour the facility that’s been churning out classic, American-made footwear since the early 1900s. (You’ll also get to see the world’s largest boot.) Play golf at The Jewel, one of the most scenic, well-maintained and peaceful golf courses you’ll find, winding through the deeply carved river valleys of Lake City. Pop across the Mississippi River to Pepin, for sailing lessons or a chartered sunset sail. And once in Viroqua, visit the farmers market for pure maple syrup and incredible Amish-made baked goods.
What to eat
In Pepin, you can’t go wrong at the Harbor View Café, a from-scratch kitchen offering fantastic seafood fare and maybe the best carrot cake you’ll ever taste. In Viroqua, head straight to the farm-to-table Driftless Café, a restaurant that would stand up to the best in any major metropolis, led by 2017 James Beard-nominated chef, Luke Zahm.
What to drink
The award-winning team at Kickapoo Coffee Roasters brews some damn good bean and just opened up a brand-new shop in their hometown of Viroqua. Trust me, you’ll want to bring a bag home.
What to buy
When in Wisconsin, you buy cheese. It goes without saying. And at the Westby Cooperative Creamery, cheese lovers will find fresh, squeaky curds and 10- and 12-year-old aged cheddar that crumbles on touch and melts in your mouth.
Go ahead and drift away this summer to the best-kept secret in Flyoverland. You won’t regret it.