Wisconsin

7th Wedding Anniversary at Ishnala Supper Club

Last year, we decided to stick close to home for our regular summer trip. Instead of traveling west, we made a “tour du Wisconsin” in the camper.

Our itinerary for our 2015 summer vacation included stays at:

We set off on June 6, our 7th wedding anniversary. First stop — Devil’s Lake State Park for the sole purpose of having our anniversary dinner at the Ishnala Supper Club in the Wisconsin Dells.

Walkway to the front entrance of Ishnala Supper Club

Do you know what a supper club is? If you’re not from Wisconsin or haven’t spent substantial time in the state, you probably don’t. A restaurant concept not restricted to Wisconsin — but embraced here more than other places — supper clubs are hard to describe. You just have to experience one for yourself, or read about them here:

We have been dying to visit Ishnala for years, and a last-minute campsite opening at Devil’s Lake on our anniversary provided the perfect opportunity.

Ishnala is nestled on Mirror Lake, adjacent to Mirror Lake State Park. The setting makes the experience. Jason and I have eaten at many supper clubs, and nothing beats the setting of Ishnala.

The bar at Ishnala is classic. First, it juts out from the main restaurant and provides an incredible view of Mirror Lake — which just as the name implies, is like glass most days.

Ishnala Supper Club Arrowhead Bar

After a couple of Old Fashioneds at the bar — the drink of choice at Wisconsin supper clubs — we were taken to our table. As we were walking through the restaurant, it slowly became apparent that we were being seated at the table at Ishnala! The table featured on the cover of Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old-Fashioned Experience. A table for two looking out over the lake! It’s perfect!

Ishnala Supper Club table featured in the book, "Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old-Fashioned Experience"

For dinner, we started with cheese curds — we need to “test” them at every supper club we visit. They were good cheese curds — not the best we’ve ever had, but we still polished them off. I had the Beef Tenderloin Medallions, which were excellent. Jason did the Prime Rib. Again, not the best prime rib he’s ever had, but still very good.

Overall, we love our first Ishnala experience. The food was not as good as it is at our local Buckhorn Supper Club, but the location and atmosphere trump any supper club we’ve visited (so far … ).

Wisconsin

Overnight Getaway to The Osthoff Resort

I used to be such a good gift buyer. Or at least I was as a young adult buying gifts for my parents. I knew my parents so well, their likes and dislikes. Buying the perfect gift was easy.

Then I got married.

Jason has been notoriously difficult to buy for. Part of the difficulty — and this applies to me as well — is that if Jason wants something, he just goes and buys it. This past Christmas, I was drawing a complete blank. Then, I remembered this …

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

With that in mind, I decided to give Jason the gift of travel and time with an overnight getaway to The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

For those not familiar with it, The Osthoff Resort is a AAA Four Diamond resort located just northwest of the Sheboygan/Kohler area. Accommodations include one-, two-, and three-bedrooms suites as well as basic guest rooms (which is what we stayed in on this trip). There are several dining options, the Aspira Spa, and lots of recreational activities, especially in the summer months.

We headed up on a Friday afternoon in early February. The drive from home was a little over two hours — just far enough to feel like we were away. We got checked in, relaxed in the room for a bit, explored the resort, and then made our way to dinner at the Elkhart Inn, just off the resort property.

Elkhart Inn restaurant in Elkhart Lake, WI

When we arrived, we were the only guests there. A smidge awkward. But with no crowd to contend with, we parked ourselves at the bar for a pre-dinner drink. I enjoyed my new obsession, a Moscow Mule!

Moscow Mule at the Elkhart Inn

For dinner, I had the Scallops in a Lemon Butter Beurre Blanc with Asparagus Risotto. Jason had a steak. Both entrées were delicious! Honestly, the only thing we didn’t love about our experience at the Elkhart Inn was the lack of people in the restaurant. Thankfully, two more tables filled in while we dined. Otherwise, it would have been kind of creepy.

After dinner, we headed back to the resort’s Elk Room lounge where we scored a seat right in front of the great fireplace. With another Moscow Mule in hand, it was quite perfect!

Elk Room fireplace at The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, WISaturday morning, we woke up and had breakfast at Otto’s Restaurant in the resort. Then we hit the road home. It was a super short and very simple trip, but it was perfect. Just Jason and I spending quality time together. Maybe it’s simply time that makes us richer …

Laura and Jason at the Elkhart Inn during an overnight trip to The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, WI

Travel

Pilgrimage to See Bruce Hornsby

Since I barely blogged last year, I figured I would backtrack and share some of our adventures from 2015. From weekend getaways to trips with the camper to sporting events, Jason and I had lots of fun during the spring and summer months. It all kicked off in April with a weekend trip to see Bruce Hornsby in concert.

Let me give you a little insight into our obsession — and that’s not an exaggeration — with Bruce Hornsby. I have loved Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s music since I was young. From an early age, their songs became deeply connected to memories of family vacations and other significant life events. Then there were the band’s songs in the movie White Water Summer, a movie which sparked my interest in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the obsession was born.

As Jason and I began our camping and national park travels, Bruce Hornsby and the Range songs were the foundation of our travel playlist — which now sits at 170 songs and can get us driving from Wisconsin to Alabama without starting over (fun fact!). Thanks to Pandora, I discovered some of Bruce’s newer solo music that quickly was added to the list. Since I’ve always associated music with my memories, I can’t listen to a Bruce Hornsby song now without thinking about all of the incredible trips Jason and I have taken.

Seeing him in concert was a matter of sheer luck. We were in Illinois to see Michael McDonald (I swear we’re only in our mid-30s) and Jason and I started talking about how great it would be to see Bruce Hornsby in concert, too. Out of curiosity, I jumped on my phone and looked to see if he was touring. He was, and the closest he was coming to Wisconsin was Iowa. Done!

We set off for Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Friday morning for the evening concert. Now, ask anyone in Wisconsin about driving through Iowa — or Illinois for that matter — and you’ll be met with pity. Both states are flat, flat, flat — nothing to see but cornfields. But we found that driving through Northern Iowa wasn’t so bad. Much more interesting topography, which made for a much more pleasant trip.

Once we got to our hotel, we started investigating good dinner spots. We settled on The Brown Bottle, a highly rated Italian restaurant near downtown. The restaurant had just opened for the evening when we pulled up, and by the time we left, the parking lot was full.

The food did not disappoint!

Chicken Parmigiana at The Brown Bottle in Cedar Falls, Iowa

Chicken Parmigiana at The Brown Bottle — I swear there was chicken under all that cheese.

After dinner, we made our way to the University of Northern Iowa campus and their Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center. From my days working at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, I knew that UNI was a comparable college. It definitely was … but it was so much better! The campus included many old buildings, and the Gallagher Bluedorn was a very impressive venue attracting some impressive acts.

Building on the University of Northern Iowa campus where Bruce Hornsby performed in concert in April 2015

What put it over the top for Jason and I? Adult beverages in adult sippy cups — Score!

Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center cup of wine while waiting to see Bruce Hornsby in concert

The concert was perfect! When Bruce chatted between songs, it reminded us a lot of seeing Richard Marx in concert several years ago — he was so funny! One of my favorite songs is Mandolin Rain, and his live version is hauntingly beautiful. Dare I say I love it more than the original?

Everyone received a copy of his Solo Concerts album which includes the live version of Mandolin Rain. So happy!

The next morning, we decided to have breakfast at a Maid-Rite. Maid-Rites are concentrated in Iowa — and when in Iowa, do as the Iowans do.

Maid-Rite in Cedar Falls, Iowa

On the way home, we made a slight detour through Galena, Illinois. Given the time of year, we thought the tiny town would be quiet. Little did we know there was a massive Boy Scout event that weekend — kids everywhere! We did a little shopping at some of our favorite stores, grabbed some lunch, and got the heck out of dodge.

Downtown Gallena, Illinois

It was so fun to take a quick little weekend trip, and it’s something I would love for us to do more often. While I absolutely love traveling far from home, there are a lot of great things happening in our own and neighboring states.

And if you ever have the chance to see a favorite band or singer live that you’ve loved since childhood, do it! I can now add Bruce Hornsby to my list that includes Duran Duran, Prince, Sting, The Police, and Richard Marx. And it’s made me love their music that much more.

Question of the Week

What was your first concert?

My first concert was New Kids on the Block — Oh, the 90s!

Camping

Obsession Perfection: The Airstream Pendleton Special Edition Travel Trailer

Anyone else as excited as I am over the 2016 Airstream Pendleton Special Edition travel trailer?

Two timeless American brands, Airstream and Pendleton Woolen Mills, have come together for the first time to pay tribute to our nation's parks and to great outdoor adventure. Coinciding with the centennial of the National Park Service, Airstream proudly introduces the 2016 Limited Edition Pendleton National Park Foundation travel trailer. (PRNewsFoto/Airstream)

Two timeless American brands, Airstream and Pendleton Woolen Mills, have come together for the first time to pay tribute to our nation’s parks and to great outdoor adventure. Coinciding with the centennial of the National Park Service, Airstream proudly introduces the 2016 Limited Edition Pendleton National Park Foundation travel trailer. (PRNewsFoto/Airstream)

This partnership is so perfect, I can’t believe it hasn’t happened before now.

Airstream and Pendleton Woolen Mills are two outdoor classics. Both have built distinctive brands that are not only recognizable in and of themselves, but that are synonymous with camping and our national parks. This is why it’s so fitting that the two companies have joined forces to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service … beautifully, I might add.

Two timeless American brands, Airstream and Pendleton Woolen Mills, have come together for the first time to pay tribute to our nation's parks and to great outdoor adventure. Coinciding with the centennial of the National Park Service, Airstream proudly introduces the 2016 Limited Edition Pendleton National Park Foundation travel trailer. (PRNewsFoto/Airstream)

Two timeless American brands, Airstream and Pendleton Woolen Mills, have come together for the first time to pay tribute to our nation’s parks and to great outdoor adventure. Coinciding with the centennial of the National Park Service, Airstream proudly introduces the 2016 Limited Edition Pendleton National Park Foundation travel trailer. (PRNewsFoto/Airstream)

The Airstream Pendleton Limited Edition is truly limited — they’re producing only 100 of these travel trailers (paying tribute to 100 years of the National Park Service). For each unit sold, Airstream will donate $1,000 to the National Park Foundation (the National Park Service’s official charitable partner), and they’re throwing in a one-year America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreation Land Pass.

I’ve been obsessed with both Airstreams and Pendleton blankets since I started camping with Jason. The wool blanket obsession started during our first trip to Yosemite when the seemingly thin wool blankets in our tent cabin kept me warmer than I could have ever imagined. Warm AND beautiful wool Pendleton blankets … what’s not to love?!

I don’t know that an Airstream travel trailer will ever be right for our family for several reasons. But I can definitely appreciate their beauty and place in Americana.

Jason and I recently attended our first camper and RV show in Madison. No Airstreams, but it was interesting to explore so many camper models in one shot. And while we’ll be in our current travel trailer for many, many years to come, I made note of things we’d look for in a future camper. And it can’t hurt to dream of something as beautiful as this Airstream.

Anyways, I just had to express my love for the Pendleton Airstream. Bravo to both brands — you created a classic in its own right.

Question:

Do you have an Airstream and/or Pendleton obsession like I do?

National Parks

Our First Visit to Olympic National Park

We can’t be so close in proximity to three different national parks and not visit at least one of them. For our short trip to the Seattle area in December, Olympic National Park was that one park.

Now in all reality, Mount Rainier National Park was much closer to where we were staying. But given the weather, we couldn’t even see the mountain — the cloud cover was just too thick. And based on our not-so-ideal trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks several years ago, we thought it best not to ruin our first Rainier experience.

It took us about three hours to get from our hotel to the southern edge of the park. Three hours in torrential rain. I didn’t mind, though. If it hadn’t been raining, I would have been a little disappointed in my first Pacific Northwest experience.

It became very apparent just how much rain had fallen when we got out of the car for my mandatory park sign photo. We had to jump over a full culvert. The “solid” ground was wet mush — and my inadequate boots failed to keep water out.

But I had to get my sign picture — without it, it’s like it never happened.

Picture at Olympic National Park park sign

After lunch at Kalaloch Lodge, we drove to Ruby Beach. We weren’t sure how close to the beach we’d be able to get with all the wind and rain, but we made it pretty close.

Olympic National Park, Ruby Beach

Olympic National Park, Ruby Beach

We continued our drive through mist-laced mountains and forests north to La Push. The wind was even wilder at First Beach — I had to push my whole body into the car door to open it, the wind was so powerful against it. The wind whipped Jason and me all around — It was such an awesome experience and SO worth the detour!

First Beach in La Push, Washington

First Beach in La Push, Washington

First Beach in La Push, Washington

We wanted to make it to the one open park visitor center in Port Angeles before it closed, so we didn’t make any other stops. However, we made note of the hauntingly beautiful Lake Crescent along the northern edge of the park. We WILL be planning a trip back there for sure!

This was a super quickie national park visit for us, but we made the most of our limited time. What we saw of Olympic National Park — which, admittedly, wasn’t much — was beautiful. We’ve always intended a trip just to visit the park, and this short visit confirmed that a longer visit will happen.