A ‘Bushel of Cookies,’ a Visit with a College Friend and a Stop in Walnut Grove

Having grown up in Minnesota the flat, open farmland is familiar to me, so I didn’t take many photos on our first day, which was spent driving from Hallock, Minnesota, my hometown, to Montevideo, Minnesota.

But first we stopped at Grandma and Grandpa Osowski’s in Grafton, North Dakota, where Grandma made sure we were fed before heading out and gave us a loaf of homemade bread and a “bushel of cookies,” as my dad says.

We stayed overnight in Montevideo where my college friend Sammi lives. Sam and I last saw each other nearly two years ago, and I got to meet her fiancé Jesse and their 4-month-old baby Alivia and her hair — she has a lot of it.

We caught up and reminisced about college and who is doing what from those days.

With Natalie’s graduation last Saturday, I’ve been thinking a lot about college. Some days it feels like it was a long time ago, longer than four years, and other times it feels like I just graduated.

Know what really was a long time ago? Laura Ingalls Wilder. Good segue, right? Natalie and I grew up reading the “Little House” series — I still haven’t finished it — and have watched a lot of the TV series.

On our second day we left Montevideo and headed about an hour away to Walnut Grove to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. It had a quilt from Laura, a history of the Ingalls and other Walnut Grove settlers, TV series memorabilia, a reconstructed chapel and schoolhouse.

There was also a dugout or sod house like the Ingalls lived in as told in her book “On the Banks of Plum Creek.” I remember finding that fascinating as a child reading the book. It’s like a hobbit house but with a regular door.

One of the best parts about the museum is the informational pamphlet. The museum has “Grandma’s House,” which has items that “bring back memories of many grandmas’ homes,” according to the pamphlet. It has no connection to the Ingalls and was built 11 years after they left Walnut Grove.

“Grandma’s House” also has prairie dresses, aprons and bonnets for kids to dress up in upstairs. Nat and I definitely took advantage of that, took some photos and then hurried to get out of the too small clothes as a school group came into the building downstairs.

Also on the museum grounds is an early 1900s outhouse. The pamphlet informs visitors that it is “strictly for show and NOT for use! … Step inside for a great photo opportunity!”

From Walnut Grove we drove to our third state in two days — Wisconsin. We got a campsite at Mirror Lake State Park and then headed to nearby Wisconsin Dells where we took a family vacation one summer. This time of year, before summer really gets going, the town is dead, but Nat and I got some macaroni and cheese and beer, of course. We also watched the Glockenspiel Pied Piper re-enactment, which was kind of creepy. Basically every hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. all year at the clock tower an automated Pied Piper story is told. Essentially the Pied Piper comes out and travels on a track in front of the clock as an audio voice tells the story about him leading the rats and then the children out of Hamelin.

Today is our third day on the road and we’re heading to Chicago, but we aren’t staying long; we just plan to make a few stops and then camp about one hour south of the city.

P.S. We’re using Kendra’s tent, (thanks Kendra) and our uncle Jason’s camp stove (thanks Jason). I painted the old midcentury stove without realizing it needed to be cured. The black paint now rubs off. Oops.

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