Tag Archive | Laura Ingalls Wilder

South Dakota Potpourri-Rest Stops and More!

April 24-29, 2017

In our 6 days in South Dakota we saw a lot of interesting things between our main destinations. We encountered historical markers we had to stop and read. The rest stops alone were worth taking a few minutes to see.  We will be showing you places not covered in our other posts since the visits were short.  We covered the state from end-to-end horizontally.

On our journey we explored three rest stops along I-90 in South Dakota.

We will begin with the first rest stop on the state border just after leaving Minnesota.  This is the Valley Springs Rest Area. See a map of the other rest areas we visited, all impressive!

We are informed of what highway we are on.

The rest stops in SD are clean and attractive, also many contain a picture display of major attractions in the state.  You can see it at the corner of the building.

At this rest stop there are several markers, the first is Minnehaha County, where we were. Let’s read it.

A Purple Heart Memorial Highway marker is also there.  

Another distinguishing feature of South Dakota rest stops is the large teepee-like structure at most of them, and there is another marker there also.

The 2nd one is on the other side of the state in Spearfish . This is the Northern Hills Rest area, near the Wyoming state border.

The most interesting rest stop is  the Medicine Creek Rest Area.

Also called the Presho Rest Area, located in the middle of the state. This was the 3rd rest stop.  This rest stop commemorates when the Lewis and Clark Expedition crossed this area. There is a LARGE  Sacagawea statue on a hill overlooking the Missouri River, great view from the hill! You can see the community of Chamberlain below.

The white bridge is the historic Chamberlain-Oacoma bridge, dedicated on September 25, 1925.

The Lewis and Clark Memorial Bridge on the right, the one we crossed to get here.

Many signs and plaques to read here, an important area to be sure.


Some parts of our trip took us off the main highways and we passed many markers we didn’t previously know about.

This one is in Bridgewater, west of Sioux Falls.

Also this one in Humboldt in Minnehaha County, we saw both of these on our way to Sioux Falls on Day 5 of our trip. The famous Pumpkin Center marker. It is two-sided.

We saw this on the roadside on our way out on Day 1. Porter Sculpture Park. It is located in Montrose, SD. It wasn’t open for the season yet 😦


We wished we could have stopped in De Smet to see one of Laura Ingalls Wilder‘s former homes, but we didn’t have the time on this trip.

A seemingly infinite regression of power lines going to the horizon.

Did you ever hear that song, “Eat at Joe’s”?  Well, you actually can in South Dakota.

Here is the song if you don’t know it.

It’s official name is Joe’s Cafe in Alexandria. You can’t miss the friendly Sinclair dino at the driveway, great place for a selfie!



Here’s Joe’s, I heard it is a popular place!

We discovered this beautiful place on our way out on day 1, the Snake Creek Recreation Area.  We got video driving through it too, our first experience of the changing terrain from the eastern edge of the state. It is just west of Platte.

The long straight road after leaving here.

Soon we arrived in Winner for gas, we  saw a McDonald’s that looked straight out of the 1970’s!

Shortly after that we entered the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

In Okreek we saw Calvary Episcopal Church,  adding interest to a largely treeless land.

The landscape is beautiful too, this hill can be seen from here.

We came across two other markers in Martin on our way to Wounded Knee.

 The first marker refers to the Civilian Conservation Corp.

The second marker, a plane crash occurred near here.


That about covers odds and ends of South Dakota, more added after our 2nd trip there in 2018.



Pepin – Birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Mississippi River Crossing near Pepin WI


We crossed the bridge from Minnesota to Wisconsin from the Minnesota Great River Road and soon we were in Pepin.  This railroad community is a village of 837 on the shores of Lake Pepin (which is really a wide part of the Mississippi River) has many friendly people that we met and enjoyed talking to.  Pepin’s most famous residents were Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family in the late 1860’s-early 1870’s. Her first book “Little House in the Big Woods” takes place here.

IMG_2561Little House in the Big Woods cover

We first had lunch at the open-air Garden Pub and Grille. What a friendly and fun place! Just bundle up when the weather is cool.

Garden Pub and Grill in Pepin

After lunch we went back to the 1870’s with a visit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. She was born in this community in 1867 and they have never forgotten it.  The 2nd weekend in September the town has a Laura Ingalls Wilder Days festival, we had just missed it. Here is a video of the festival from 2012.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum

Museum Collage badge

In front of the museum is a group of pavers engraved with names of people who donated to support it.  Pave the Way is the name of their fundraiser and you can donate here.

We went in and saw a great many displays depicting life in 1800’s.  In the transportation room was a steamboat model that kids could go to the top and pretend to steer it. Boats were especially important for commerce before the railroad came.

Steamboat model at Laura Ingalls Wilder museum

Also a covered wagon which families traveled in as they settled the country. The first mobile home!

Covered Wagon at Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum

Home on wheels sign

Also fishing boats and tackle used in the late 1800’s.   Laura’s father caught fish on Lake Pepin to provide for their family.

Fishing display at Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum

Going Fishing sign

There was also a pearl button industry here too before the invention of plastic.

Pearl buttons and Shells collage

Just behind the Transportation room is the One-Room School room.

One Room Schools sign

School room at Laura Ingalls Wilder museum

The TV in the corner plays a slideshow of what Pepin was like when Laura lived there.  It show photos of her parents Charles and Caroline (who originally from Brookfield, WI!)  Also Grace, Mary and Laura (L-R).

Ingalls Family photos

On the other side of the building were the home life displays and a few family artifacts or friends of the family. Most were contributed by residents in the Pepin community. Home Life displays at Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum

Featured is a coverlet similar to one Almanzo Wilder’s mother might have made on her loom. Also on this table is a tin lantern similar to what Ma (Caroline Ingalls) used when she went out into the winter night and confronted a bear!

Aunt Barry's Double Weave Coverlet

Tin lantern from Illustration

There was also a kitchen display at the museum too.

Kitchen exhibit at Laura museum

Kitchen table at Laura Museum

A sign about Laura in the museum.

Laura sign in Museum

We had a great visit here, it’s worth it to get a gift from their large gift shop. I got this stoneware mug made by Deneen Pottery in St. Paul. What a great memento of our visit here!

Laura Museum Mug

This wasn’t all in Pepin to see. A little further down the road from here is the historic depot and marker dedicated to Laura. It was an actual depot in Pepin, now its a museum. It wasn’t open when we stopped by though.

Pepin Depot

Laura marker in Pepin

Here there was also a marker and anchor honoring  steamboat captain Phil Scheckel.

Phil Scheckel Steamboat Captain in Pepin marker

We also took a look at some of the businesses near the Pepin Marina not far from the museum.  A row of wheel rims made for a nice frame of their downtown. Also this sign.

Downtown Pepin WI

Pepin businesses

Paul and Fran’s Grocery, LLC reminded me of an old-time general store.  The one we really enjoyed visiting was the shop next to it, T. & C. Latané.  They specialize in custom-work in wrought iron, tin and wood. You don’t see many places like that anymore. Learn more from another visitor here.

Paul and Fran's Grocery LLC and T. & C. Latane

T & C Latane card

The ambiance was just as warm inside, including the owners Tom and Catherine. It turns out she also narrated the slide show we saw at the Laura museum too! Stop in if you would like quality work done by people, not a machine. I got a squirrel cookie cutter, you don’t find those everywhere!

T. and C. Latane store inside

Squirrel Cookie Cutter from Latane

We had to take a look at the Marina too. Train tracks cross the marina entrance, there was a lot of train activity today.  You could look across the river and see the cars on the Minnesota side.

Train going through Pepin

Pepin Marina

You could see darker clouds approaching and knew the rain was about to return. We made our way north to the final Pepin point of interest, the wayside making the cabin location where Laura was born.  There is a marker there also. The rain had also started by the time we arrived.

Little House Wayside

Little House Wayside marker

Ingalls Cabin at Wayside

You could go inside too.

Laura wayside cabin inside

We take our leave of the Little House at the wayside steeped in the history of this community that played a part in the experiences of our favorite pioneer lady, Laura Ingalls Wilder! After we got back on the Great River Road, we saw a Lake Pepin marker.


Lake Pepin Marker

Beckman Mill-Heritage Day Festival in Beloit


Beckman Mill and Covered Bridge

Beckman Mill Marker

We time-traveled to the 1800’s to historic Beckman Mill in Beloit to enjoy some old-fashioned demos of skills used before high-tech and mass production.  The Amish help keep some of these crafts alive today. The centerpiece of this historic site is of course Beckman Mill, a grist mill that is still using the original millstones to grind mainly corn.  The covered bridge is a more recent addition and is quite popular!  The mill stream powers it, and this mill doesn’t use a waterwheel. Turbines inside do the turning of the grindstone. Enjoy this demonstration of the mill in action!

Buzz Beckman of the Beckman family was there and posed for a picture with us! The building behind us was where the Beckman family once lived, now it houses exhibits.

Buzz Beckman and us

We also enjoyed watching  the blacksmith making tools.

Beckman Mill Blacksmith

Another man was making flint arrowheads, wow!


Some vendors were also there that incorporated these 1800’s skills. A broom-maker had many beautiful brooms for sale.

Broom Maker

Another vendor,Terri Dodge of Double D’s B’s of Beloit (608-365-1646) sold wonderful hand-crafted soap that smelled wonderful!  We got some! They also sell honey.  Also some beautiful pottery, some was even being made as we watched! The little girl on the left won first-place in the Laura Ingalls Wilder contest at the festival.

Double D's B's

Pottery Demo at Beckman Mill, Beloit

President Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd were visiting the mill also.  They gave a 10-minute presentation in character.  They are played by Jerry and Judy Wubbena of South Beloit, Il.  Contact them for your event, 815-389-8829. 

Present Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd

We were also entertained by the Mill Road Band, playing tunes to get your feet tapping. Also dulcimer players, they played a song from Lincoln’s campaign before their presentation.

Mill Pond Band Beloit

Duclimer Players and Lincolns

The festival also featured a classic car show and wagon rides.

Horse -Drawn Rides

For an old-fashioned good time, come to Beckman Mill. They are open from May-October, mill tours on weekends.  Don’t forget a souvenier from the gift shop, your purchase supports the site’s continued operation!

Beckman Mill Gift Shop

Covered bridge at Beckman Mill

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