“Roughneck Grace” book excerpt from Michael Perry

It is rare for me to track down an author to his home, but that happened 14 years ago, to interview a guy in New Auburn about his first book with a major publishing house. Although dozens of unsolicited books made their way to my newsroom desk in Madison, this one seemed extraordinary because of(…)

Reader mail: national parks, Germany, Twin Cities, Ephraim

Readers, thanks for filling the mailbag. Here are excerpts. We have two winners in the challenge to write about your favorite national park experience in 50 words or less. Both will receive National Geographic books about the National Park Service during this NPS centennial year celebration. “While in Yellowstone, a bear reared next to our(…)

Take Ten: Best of Marshfield

Near the geographic center of Wisconsin is Marshfield, population 19,000 and unusual because the city sits in both Wood and Marathon counties. The long-ago railroad town’s ancestors include a former governor, William Upham, whose 1880 Victorian mansion is the local history museum. Here you will find the world’s largest round barn, whose construction was completed(…)

Chicago overnight: a frugal mix of spontaneity, research

Where to next? My reply to that frequent question inevitably prompts this follow-up: For business or pleasure? “Both” is almost always my answer. Almost all trips fit in time for discoveries, and some roads have dead ends. Here’s how a quick overnight in Chicago unfolded this month. 12:30 p.m. Thursday – My Van Galder bus(…)

U.S. Bank Stadium: Athletics meets art meets Vikings

A 17-inch December blizzard tore the puffy roof of the Minneapolis Metrodome in 2010, and three years later the Teflon-coated dome would collapse for the fifth and last time. It was hard to feel much sorrow for the loss in Packerland. The bubble of a sports stadium, open since 1982, smelled like sweaty gym socks(…)

Take Ten: Biking rails-to-trails, events

Fifty years have passed since abandoned railroad tracks were converted into the 32.5-mile Elroy-Sparta State Trail, the first U.S. rail-to-trail project, and now at least 1,900 of these recreational paths crisscross the nation. A new guidebook, “Rail-Trail Hall of Fame: a Selection of America’s Premier Rail-Trails” (Wilderness Press, $17), recognizes Elroy-Sparta and 28 other trails(…)

Holy Hill, Trek Travel, Dorf Haus, historic hotel news

Running out of ideas about how to spend precious leisure time during these waning days of summer or beyond? My “in” box contains no shortage of ideas. Take a peek. — The 70-acre Holy Hill Art Farm, a 160-year-old homestead near Hubertus, is hosting one more dinner in the farm’s barn this summer. A ticket(…)

Meet State Fair’s competitive bakers, recipe makers

In the world of competitive cooking, baking and recipe making, Patti Flaker of Wausau is a bit atypical. She had never attended the Wisconsin State Fair until this year, when she made the drive to enter the fair’s first-time Old Fashioned cocktail recipe contest. Then she didn’t simply make the recipe. She added accessories –(…)

Summer camp for adults a rugged nirvana

Before morning yoga begins, the teacher asks for introductions. On the sand and facing Little Hills Lake are a chemist, investment counselor, engineers, lab workers. Elsewhere are at least one gynecologist, agronomist, hospice nurse, baker, computer programmer, accountant and many other walks of life. We are in our 20s to 60s, and no one answer(…)

Take Ten: supper club nibbles

Ask who is responsible for the revival of interest in Wisconsin supper clubs, and I’ll point a finger toward Ron Faiola, a multimedia entrepreneur in Greendale whose “Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience” film (in 2011) and book (in 2013) started the snowball of momentum. The book is in its seventh printing, and now(…)