La Crosse Getaway 2023

This past weekend my partner and I traveled to western Wisconsin, destination the Mississippi River city of La Crosse. While the main purpose of our trip was to attend a retreat, we stayed a extra couple days to explore the area. Chalk it up as our first significant adventure of 2023!

Franciscan Spirituality Center

We began our weekend attending a Courage and Renewal Retreat at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse. Although FSC requires a four-hour drive from home, it’s a place I’ve been to in the past and like to return to. This was my partner’s first visit, and I wanted to her to share the FSC experience with me. This gathering was based on the Circles of Trust retreat design developed by activist/author Parker Palmer. Besides attending the retreat, our group also got to take a brief tour of the magnificent Mary of the Angels Chapel.

From the Franciscan Spirituality Center website:

The Franciscan Spirituality Center is a sacred place of peace and hospitality for those seeking spiritual renewal, personal and professional growth, healing, transformation and deeper self-awareness. We offer retreats and programs, spiritual direction for groups and individuals, mindfulness workshops, various yoga classes, opportunities for artistic expression and an innovative three-year training program to help people become compassionate, nonjudgmental listeners.

From the Mary of the Angels website:

Mary of the Angels (Maria Angelorum) Chapel in St. Rose Convent was consecrated August 2, 1906, and serves as the place of prayer for Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Here sisters have welcomed thousands of visitors to experience their Franciscan hospitality and prayer. 

Mary of the Angels and the Perpetual Adoration Chapel together comprise 6,000 square feet of St. Rose Convent. Their Romanesque architecture was developed by architect Eugene R. Libert. Adolph Liebig decorated, Bernhardt Hillig, Sr., painted and Egid Hackner designed statues, built alters and carved wood.

Roll On

While searching for interesting events happening while we were in La Crosse, I discovered a Saturday night concert in Caledonia, Minnesota, only a half-hour’s drive from La Crosse. It featured Roll On, an Alabama tribute band. I’ve always been a big Alabama fan, so this event made it to the top of my must-do list of fun things to do on this trip. While quite a switch from the serious nature of the retreat. Going out to hear some of my favorite Alabama songs done by this enthusiastic tribute band made for a nice way to spend the evening!

Online promotional description of Roll On:

Roll On is a seven-piece band fronted by lead vocalist Tom Uecker (Outside Recess) whose Randy Owens vocal likeness will no doubt leave the Alabama fan in awe!

Based in Minnesota, this band is a top-notch group of musicians having fun with the great hits of the iconic country band, Alabama. The harmonies and instrumentation of Roll On create memories of some of the greatest songs of all time includeing: Dixieland Delight, Roll On, If You’re Gonna Play in Texas, Feels So Right, Love in the First Degree and many more. All will enjoy the American country and southern rock sounds that made Alabama’s music hit the charts with over 40 number one hits!

Wisconsin Great River Road

After the retreat and concert, we decided to do a day trip from La Crosse to Prairie du Chien. We drove much of this trip on the Wisconsin Great River Road, a National Scenic Byway along the Mississippi River. 

From the Wisconsin Great River Road website:

Throughout history, the Mississippi River has influenced many lives: the Dakota, Chippewa and Hopewell cultures; early French voyagers; and settlements of Swiss, German, French, Italian and Swedish heritage. Noted for this history, Wisconsin is one of 10 states along the Great River Road National Scenic Byway.

Traveling 250 miles along the Mississippi River and through more than 33 historic river towns & villages, the Wisconsin Great River Road still links resources, people and history today … this is Wisconsin’s National Scenic Byway.

Villa Louis Historic Site

During our visit to Prairie du Chien, we stopped to see the Villa Louis Historic Site, which I’d never visited before. While in the Villa Louise vicinity, we also stopped by the Dousman House, a 19th-century railway hotel.

The Villa Louis website describes this historic mansion:

Early settlers to Prairie du Chien, the Dousmans made their fortune in the fur trade, land speculation, and business. Engaging interpreters will take you on a journey through time as you tour the family’s stunning 1871 Italianate style mansion, one of the most authentically furnished Victorian houses in America. Built over 150 years ago in 1871, the home boasted the innovative modern conveniences of indoor plumbing and steam heat, making it comfortable as well as stylish. Today the mansion has been meticulously restored to its historic 1890s appearance, standing as a showcase of Victorian architecture and design. 

From the Dousman House website:

In 1864, the Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien Railroad operated between Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien.  They constructed their Railway Hotel on the banks of the Mississippi River at Prairie du Chien.  Since it was at the west end of their tracks, they named it the ‘The hotel at the end of the road’.  Ground Breaking for the Dousman House construction took place while President Lincoln was in office. In 1867, the name of the Railway Hotel was changed to The Dousman House. 

Mississippi River Sculpture Park

The Mississippi River Sculpture Park is just east of Villa Louis, located on unfenced land and open to all, The Prairie du Chien city website provides background:

There is simply no other park like this in the Midwest.  The Mississippi River Sculpture Park is in Prairie du Chien, the second oldest permanent settled community in Wisconsin. This city-owned park is on an island surrounded by the waters of the Mississippi River and is open 365 days of the year, free of charge for all. 

The Mississippi River Sculpture Park has six life-sized sculptures: Chief Black Hawk, Dr. William Beumont, and son, Israel, a Victorian Lady, a voyager, Emma Big Bear, and Marianne LaBuche. Each one intricately sculpted to illustrate the history and prehistory of this area. 

Eagle’s Landing Winery

To top off our adventure, we crossed the Mississippi River to visit a small winery in the picturesque river town of Marquette, Iowa. Their website states:

​​​Eagles Landing Winery is a small family-owned winery located in the northeast corner of Iowa in downtown Marquette. 

​We are nestled in the breathtaking rolling hills of the Driftless Region, along the Mississippi River next to the Great River Road. 

Eagles Landing Winery has been making wines since 2003. Our wine making philosophy is simple:

  • Patience, Patience, Patience.
  • Meticulous attention to quality.
  • Laser-focus on drinkability and taste.

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