After leaving the winery in Alma country, we ventured back onto Great River Road and drove south towards our next stop: Lansing, Iowa.
Initially, we were going to spend the night in La Crosse, Wisconsin. However, hotels and inns there were a bit out of our price range, and the more we read about it, the more touristy it seemed. We wanted the towns we stayed into be affordable and a little off the grid, so we decided to spend an afternoon there instead of staying.
While we agree it was the best decision for us on this particular trip to book our B&B in Lansing, we almost immediately found ourselves wishing we’d arrived in La Crosse sooner, or planned to stay there instead. There was SO much to see and do!
We stopped for lunch a couple of miles outside of the downtown area, at a little place called The Hungry Peddler. The food and drinks were just what we needed (good old diner cookin’) and the décor and service were top-notch!
Bellies full, we made our way into the bustling downtown area and parked the car outside of an ice cream shop. We had no plan in mind, and decided we’d just explore a few nearby blocks and pop in wherever we felt like.
We didn’t make it too far from the car because, hello… ice cream!
We sat and enjoyed our cones outside before taking a stroll down the street and into a beautiful used bookstore (Pearl Street Books.)
It’s always the best/worst idea for us to stop into bookstores when we travel, because we love them to pieces, but we have a habit of spending ALL of our time there. Once, we took a trip out of town and stopped in a bookstore for a “quick look” and neither of us realized we’d been there for over TWO hours until one of us pulled out our phones to check. Oops! I digress…
Surprisingly, we spent an acceptable amount of time at this bookstore and didn’t buy a single thing. We ventured onward to Bodega Brewpub, a sleek and bright bar decorated with hundreds upon hundreds of empty beer bottles, and offering hundreds upon hundreds of drink selections. Seriously… they were organized by style in a thick binder!
After a quick drink, we found ourselves just a few storefronts down at Deaf Ear Records. It was a decent record store where Jeremy picked up two albums he had owned way back when but lent out and never gotten back.
The sun was starting to lower in the sky when we stepped back out and we decided it was time to hit the road. We were driving for about five minutes when, all of a sudden…
Once we arrived at the Thornton House Inn in Lansing, we were greeted by the kindest innkeeper. He gave us a tour of the house and some of its very interesting history.
It was built by a doctor and an area of the kitchen was actually used to practice. It was kept in the family for some time before it changed hands a bit and ended up in his care.
We would have been perfectly content spending the rest of the evening walking through each carefully decorated room and reading about its history (which we did do, later in the night) but we really wanted to experience a bit of Lansing before it got too late!
After unpacking, we left on foot for downtown. We’d been driving along the Mississippi River for a couple of days, yet hadn’t gotten a chance to see it up close and personal, so I practically ran towards it when it came into view again.
We watched the sunset over the river, and over the bridge that connects Wisconsin and Iowa. It was such a peaceful few moments that we very much needed.
Our innkeeper had highly recommended the Safe House Saloon for dinner and drinks, and considering Lansing’s size, it wasn’t hard to find!
I wish I’d captured more of this place because it was a real gem. The door is an actual safe door, and when you walk in, each booth is made a little more private with draped curtains. The bar top is made entirely of pennies. Peanut shells litter the floor, and antiques abound.
We ordered a small pizza to share and Jeremy was totally impressed with their beer menu. I haven’t mentioned it up to this point, but when we travel, if I’m drinking, I order a Bloody Mary nearly everywhere I go. Some people judge a new restaurant on their setting or their service or their presentation. For me, the quality of a restaurant’s Bloody Mary is the ultimate test and this one was a contender for top dog because not only was it a solid drink, it was garnished with CHEESE CURDS. That is all.
We made our way back to the inn with full bellies and a bit of a buzz, and decided to spend the rest of the night on the enclosed porch, having some of the best conversation of our entire trip, before heading in and exploring the house a bit before going to bed.
The next morning, we ventured downstairs for breakfast – an impressive spread freshly prepared by the innkeeper – and enjoyed it outside in the early morning sun. I had noticed during our stay that décor featuring pugs was peppered throughout the house and asked if he owned one. He lit up (because yes, he does own one) and began telling us all about Olive, his eight-year-old pug.
Of course, we couldn’t leave without meeting her, so he brought her outside to say hello as we finished our breakfast. She was so sweet and while petting and talking with her a bit made us miss Rosie that much more, it was also nice to interact with a pup for the first time during our journey.
Shortly after, we packed up and started for our last stop: Dubuque. Read about the last stretch of our journey here!