Sunday, September 14, 2008

Riding the World's Steepest, Shortest Railway

Dubuque, Iowa is the ‘Home of America’s River’ sitting on the Mississippi River at the corner of three states. One bridge out of the city will lead you to Wisconsin, while the other will take you to Illinois. The city is home to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, the Diamond Jo Casino and you can still take an ole’ fashion trolley ride and stop at the soda fountain for a root beer.

But the biggest, little attraction in town is the Fenelon Place Elevator, the world’s steepest, shortest scenic railway. Alex didn’t hesitate to climb aboard. In about three minutes, one small car makes a vertical climb up 189 feet as the second car simutaneously lowers back down. The two cars act as a balance against each other on the rugged original pulley system. The unique little elevator was built in the late 1800s for the personal use of a rich banker whose home sat on top of the hill with a view of the banks of the Mississippi, but whose bank sat in the downtown at the bottom of the steep incline. He just wanted to come home for lunch daily. So, to save time, he built the elevator for his own pleasure.

These days, even Alex and I can save calories, one way or round trip, for just a couple of bucks.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wisconsin Dells...the happiest place in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Dells is located in central, southern Wisconsin and is known for its beauty and family fun activities. The Dells were formed by glaciers during the ice age 15,000 years ago. With textured ridges, these steep cliffs are topped with tall evergreen trees. Since the 1950’s families have migrated to the Dells in the summer time to enjoy the Tommy Bartlett Water Ski Show and take a ride on the ducks, amphibious vehicles that ride on land and float on water.

In the summer of 2008, storming in the area caused the central lake in the region, Lake Delton, to breach and drain into the Wisconsin River. Some houses floated away and while others dropped into the empty lake. Alex met up with family shortly after the water dropped and was relieved to find that most of the family fun activities were still operating. Today, Wisconsin Dells is the “Waterpark Capital of the World.” While Noah’s Ark is the biggest water park in the world, there are indoor options too such as Great Wolf and the Wilderness Resort. The parks combined two of Alex’s favorite things….water and slides.

When I was a kid, Story Book Gardens was my favorite place. Humpty Dumpty sat on a Wall, Jack climbed his Beanstalk, and Alice wandered in Wonderland. Today the old exhibits are covered with fresh paint, and the Timbavati Wildlife Park have joined the fairy tales. So, now you can still see Three Blind Mice, but you can also ride on the back of a camel, hand feed giraffes and watch aardvarks, sloths, porcupines and tortoises take the stage. While it’s definitely not Disneyland, it's one of the happiest places on earth….or at least in Wisconsin.