Outside the Norm


Life Along Wisconsin’s Great River Road And Why You Need To Go


We Wisconsinites cherish things outside the norm.

We appreciate the efforts made by those who fulfill their lifelong obsessions. Many of us have felt similar urges. We know the drill. It gets us through our long winters.

As a result, our state houses a fabulous collection of European arms and armor. We have residents who collect antique cars, pedal cars and antique toys. There are even mosaic monuments made by locals who have a penchant for taking tiny pieces of glass and sticking them into cement.

There are plenty of places outside the norm along Wisconsin’s Great River Road, which is a 250-mile stretch of Highway 35 running adjacent to the Mississippi River from Kieler, Wis., in the south, to Prescott in northern Wisconsin.

For an out-of-the ordinary experience, start your tour at one of these locations:


Find your knight in shining armor

Visit the collection of historical weaponry of Wisconsin judge Gary Schlosstein at Castlerock Museum in Alma. He spent his life collecting weapons (many acquired through famous auction houses in London and New York), after acquiring a $3 Civil War musket at age 10. This unique museum, which was constructed and opened in 2008, tells the story of arms and armor through the ages (with a special focus on European arms and armor). One of the things I most appreciate about that era is the great names the leaders had back then. This museum boasts the gold inlay boar spear of August the Strong. I love that moniker – better than just plain August, right? It makes you wonder how he got that name. Was it fighting boar? And can I just start adding “the Fabulous” after my name?

Elmer has antique cars

This is the 24th season for Elmer’s Auto & Toy Museum, which is housed in five buildings and features more than 100 muscle, antique, classic cars and trucks, as well as hundreds of pedal cars, dolls and thousands of antique toys and tools. Family owned and operated since 1994, Elmer’s Museum is located on Eagle Bluff, which is touted as the highest point along the Mississippi River, with a view of the river valley that is one of the best. Bring a picnic lunch or visit one of the unique dining options in downtown Fountain City. Never got to see Shirley Temple in person? Go see her doll at the museum. Afterwards, stop for a minute and see the Rock in House on your way home and be thankful you don’t live below giant bluff rocks.

Wisconsin’s Stonehendge – only better

Kinstone is a megalithic (large stone monument) garden and working permaculture site located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in the Driftless Region of Western Wisconsin in rural Fountain City nor far from the museum listed above. This 4th generation family farmland features what may be the largest privately owned stone circle in the world. It also has a classic 7-circuit labyrinth; a thatched, cordwood chapel; natural buildings; a pond; acres of oak and hickory woodland; nut and fruit trees; and restored prairie and savanna lands. Contemplate life as you walk around and take in the stunning views and intriguing sculptures.

The mosaic tribute

A spiritual tour of Western Wisconsin should also include a visit to the Dickeyville Grotto on Holy Ghost Parish grounds on Main Street in Dickeyville. This grotto was created with stone, mortar and bright colored objects, and is the work of Father Matthias Wernerus, a Catholic Priest and pastor of the Parish from 1918 to 1931. His mosaic handiwork in stone is dedicated to the unity of two American ideals — love of God and love of Country. For his artwork, Wernerus used many items including colored glass, gems, antique heirlooms, stalagmites and stalactites, sea shells, starfish, fossils, corals, amber glass, agate, quartz, fool’s gold, rock crystals, onyx, amethyst, petrified wood and moss. He even inspired a Cataract, Wis., couple to do the same thing in the middle of the state. Paul and Matilda Wegner had no formal training in art, but they were inspired to create a similar “retirement project” at Wegner Grotto using broken beer bottles, old heirloom china and other remnants.


Meet the Writer

Anastasia Penchi

Anastasia Penchi is a self-employed writer who lives just off Wisconsin’s Great River Road. You can read more about Wisconsin’s Great River Road, and the festivals and people of Western Wisconsin, at the Web site: www.loislaneforhire.com.