Grit Blogs > Travel With Marilyn

Two Writers Hit the Minnesota and Wisconsin Roadways

By Marilyn Jones

Tags: Road Trip, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Travel Writer, Genealogy Blogger, Hit The Road, Marilyn Jones,

Marilyn JonesWhat could be better than a road trip with a friend in an awesome car? Not much in my book. And so I set off to Minneapolis and Door County, Wisconsin, with my friend David Walton in a 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T provided by DriveShop.

I am an online and print travel journalist, and David is a blogger specializing in genealogy at Ancestor Sleuth Hound. Our two interests and need for research is a varied mix of attractions, cemeteries and hotel reviews; interesting to say the least.

David and I arrive at the airport (he from Kentucky and me from Texas) and pick up the car. Our first destination is The Commons Hotel on the University of Minnesota campus.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T

I drive and David navigates by setting the GPS, and we head down the interstate toward the heart of Minneapolis. Right away I notice as I pass someone or they pass me, a light blinks on the side view mirror. If I put on my blinker and someone is beside me it makes a warning sound; an excellent safety feature.

Because of the hotel’s location, designers carry the academic theme throughout the hotel. Globes line the wall behind the reception desk, lobby seating areas resemble libraries and biology labs, chandelier globes are actually lab beakers and the rooms are decorated with plaid wallpaper and argyle carpeting.

The Commons Hotel on the University of Minnesota campus

The Commons Hotel on the University of Minnesota campus

This industrial schoolhouse chic – of geek chic – is fun. During our stay, I discover even more touches winking at its campus location.

Another wonderful feature is its location. The METRO Green Line runs in front of the hotel. For a nominal fee you can ride to downtown St. Paul or downtown Minneapolis.

Genealogy Research

David writes a weekly column on cemeteries in addition to other genealogy subjects so we head for Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Established in 1939, more than 213,000 veterans and their family members are buried at this 436-acre cemetery.

Fort Snelling National Cemetery

We drive to different locations to take photographs of grave markers stretching toward the horizon. In the distance we can hear the reports of gun salutes and the haunting strains of “Amazing Grace” played by a bagpiper.

We also visit Lakewood Cemetery, park-like with gently rolling hills, monuments and varying headstones and ornate mausoleums.

David wants to find the burial sites of three men. With the help of a computer kiosk and cemetery map, we first find the final resting place of Hubert Humphrey who served as vice president under President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was also mayor of Minneapolis and served for three terms in the U.S. Senate.

The final resting place of Hubert Humphrey, at Lakewood Cemetery.

Next is the mausoleum of Franklin Mars, creator of the Mars and Milky Way candy bars.

The last grave is of Herbert Buckingham Khaury, better known as “Tiny Tim” and best remembered for his ukulele playing and 1968 rendition of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, an 11-acre park, opened in 1988 and has more than 40 sculptures. It is one of the country's largest urban sculpture parks.

We start with Cowles Conservatory filled with ornamental plants and sculptures including Frank Gehry’s Standing Glass Fish. Outside we head for the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry and wander through the park past other works of art.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

We also decide to visit the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, more than 14,000 acres of land and water stretching nearly 70 miles along the Minnesota River.

We hike along well-maintained paths. For our efforts we are fortunate to see several wild turkeys plus the beauty and peace of a wilderness so close to the city.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge 

Door County

The next leg of our adventure is Door County, a peninsula wedged between Lake Michigan and Green Bay (the body of water), north of Green Bay (the city). The drive from Minneapolis is about six hours. This is a true test of the Santa Fe. I am impressed with its comfort and near 30 mpg mileage.

We stay at Landmark Resort in Egg Harbor, a sprawling destination on 40-acres overlooking Green Bay. The two-bedroom suite is spacious, almost apartment-like.

Landmark Resort in Egg Harbor

Another plus is the resort’s excellent restaurant within walking distance. Carrington Pub & Grill is family friendly and casual, just what I want after the day’s drive. The food is good, the prices reasonable and the view over the bay magnificent.

We decide to first take a Door County Trolley Tour scenic tour to better understand the area.

Our guide, Todd Meikle, is knowledgeable and fun. He drives the 20 or so passengers through the picturesque villages of Fish Creek and Ephram, and into Peninsula State Park while explaining local history and pointing to sights along the way.

Door County Trolley Tour to the villages of Fish Creek and Ephram, and into Peninsula State Park.

Door County Trolley Tour to the villages of Fish Creek and Ephram, and into Peninsula State Park. 

This is a great introduction to the northern part of the county, which stretches 80 miles north to south.


In addition to its charming villages, beautiful beaches and lake vistas, Door County is also known for its nine lighthouses that help safely guide ships around the peninsula.

David and I decide to visit two – one on the bay side and one on the lake side.

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse is located in Peninsula State Park perched above Green Bay.

Curator and Manager Patti Podgers greets us and begins showing us around.

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse in Peninsula State Park .

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse in Peninsula State Park . 

“There were three lighthouse keepers between 1868 and 1926,” she says as she walks into the museum that reflects the turn-of-the-last century. “It is restored to honor these men who kept the lamp lit and their families.”

Today it is automated.

She shares many stories about the lighthouse and its keepers as we walk from room to room furnished with period antiques as well as many of the keepers’ possessions including a piano, guitar and cello.

Cana Island Lighthouse on Lake Michigan has been in continuous use since it was first lit, making it one of the few lighthouses in the nation where the original lens is still functioning as an active navigational aid, according to historian Dwight Zeller.

“The lighthouse keeper and his family lived on the main floor of the house and the assistant lighthouse keeper and his family lived on the second floor,” he says as we tour the house.

Cana Island Lighthouse on Lake Michigan

Cana Island Lighthouse on Lake Michigan. 

He also invites us to climb the 97 steps of the tower’s spiral staircase to reach the gallery deck.

Hands On Art Studio

I have never claimed to be an artist, but I sure have a fun time at Hands On Art Studio where I make a glass wall hanging.

Located on a farm just outside Fish Creek, Hands On Art Studio co-owner Karon Ohm says visitors can make art glass, jewelry, spin art on T-shirts, mosaics, ceramics, metal art and other art projects.

Hands On Art Studio outside Fish Creek

Hands On Art Studio outside Fish Creek 

“Children love it here, but it also gives adults permission to be kids for the day,” she says. “We forget sometimes how to have fun!”

And so our week comes to an end. I drive across Wisconsin to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, return the beautiful Santa Fe and fly back to reality.

There is simply nothing like a road trip!

For more information:

The Commons Hotel, 612.379.8888

Minneapolis, 888.676.MPLS

Door County Trolley Tour, 866.604.5573

Door County Lighthouses

Hands On Art Gallery, 888.868.9311

Landmark Resort, 800.273.7877

Door County, 800.527.3529