Echoes of the Past: A Sneak Peek Into the Hotel Chequamegon


The Hotel Chequamegon

I had the opportunity recently to stay at the Hotel Chequamegon (Cheh-wa-meh-gone) in the northern Wisconsin town of Ashland. I’d driven by the hotel many times on Highway 2, and always thought it looked like an interesting place to stay. I was happy to have this chance.

From the outside, the building and its white mansion-like expanse is reminiscent of the grand hotels of the past. In fact, it’s patterned after the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Lake Huron. Inside, it has a whiff of the fictional Overlook Hotel from “The Shining,” but without the requisite creepiness.

DSC04553Although it looks like it’s been on the site forever, the hotel is young. It opened in 1986 only about a half-block away from the original hotel. According to a helpful historical fact sheet provided to me by the desk clerk, the original hotel was built in 1877 by the Wisconsin Central Railroad when Ashland was a transportation hub for lumbering, quarrying, and mining.


This chair in the hotel parlor is from a castle in France, 1880-1890.

The original hotel met its demise by fire on New Year’s Day in 1958. To build the current hotel, wood salvaged from the nearby ore docks was used. Although many of the Victorian antiques look like they came from the original hotel, those were burned, except for the lobby clock, which sits in the Ashland Museum. Apparently it was a “thing” in the past to save lobby clocks from burning hotels. The antiques were either donated or gathered from far-flung places with the help of eBay.

My quiet room had tall ceilings and a view through equally tall windows, which looked out on the Lake Superior bay that gives the hotel its name. The word “Chequamegon” is an Ojibwa term that means “spit of land.” There used to be a narrow spit visible from the hotel, but it was eroded by wave action in the 1800s.

DSC04551The basement level is home to Molly Cooper’s Bar and Grill. It was closed in the morning when I was snooping around, but looked like it would be a fun place to eat, with views of the lake.

Although there are rumors the hotel is haunted, I had no notable experiences in my first-floor room, other than a bathroom door that closed unexpectedly. Alas, the floor was just crooked. No spooks.






A mural in “downtown” Ashland that honors the lighthousekeeping history of the area.


A Winery Tour in . . . Wisconsin?

Wollersheim Winery 023Wisconsin is known best for its beer and cheese. The state offers wineries, too, and I took a tour of the most productive facility this past week. Wollersheim Winery sits on the banks of the Wisconsin River in Prairie du Sac, just north of Madison, Wis.

The winery first came to my attention a handful of years ago when I attended a retirement party. At the bar, I decided to be adventurous and try a white wine I had never heard of before, a Prairie Fumé. When the fruity, citrusy wine hit my tongue, the heavens opened wide and I heard angels sing.

I knew I had found a new favorite. I asked the bartender who made the wine, and she told me about Wollersheim Winery. I made a mental note to visit it someday.

A Fumé wine is a close relative of a Sauvignon Blanc. They’re basically the same thing, both made with the same type of grapes and semi-dry, just with different names for marketing purposes. (For the curious, see the story here.) But to me, a Fumé is a bit mellower and melon-y.

Apparently, my taste buds have a lot of company because the Prairie Fumé is Wollersheim’s most popular wine and one of the most popular in the state.

Wollersheim Winery 018The land the winery sits on has grown grapes on and off since the 1840s, whenever the weather has allowed. The vines on the property now were planted in 1972 when the Wollersheims bought it.

Wollersheim Winery 020I found the winery easily and parked in the lot below. The winery’s website says it takes 10 minutes to walk the path from the lot to the winery (which is uphill, BTW), but I estimate it would only take any relatively able-bodied person a couple of minutes. However, I suppose if you stop to read the historical sign along the way that would add more time.

I entered the winery, and to my delight, discovered I was the only one signed up for a tour. My private session commenced with a video that described the history of the winery. Then the tour guide took me to a window overlooking the huge wine vats, where we spoke more and had plenty of time for questions and discussion.

I watched another short video that featured Phililppe Coquard, a Frenchman who married into the Wollersheim Family and now co-owns the business. I had the fleeting thought that it would be fun to meet him while I was here, similar to the chance encounter my friend and I had with the master distiller of Glendronach scotch when we took a distillery tour in Scotland. Although I thought I glimpsed Philippe in the distance during my time on the grounds, I did not get to meet him.

Wollersheim Winery 036I learned that the Prairie Fumé is made from grapes not grown on the property. The grapes come from the Finger Lakes region of New York and are trucked in juice form to the winery, where Philippe works his magic on them.

Another thing I learned is that the term “reserve” on a wine label means the wine is grown from the oldest vines in the vineyard.

After the tour came the tasting. I sampled a flight of whites since I have a problem with reds. I asked to try varieties I hadn’t already experienced, so that left out the Prairie Fumé and the River Gold White, which is also quite good.

I sampled their White Port, Dry Riesling, White Riesling, and Eagle White. Notable about the Eagle White is that it is grown on the property, and that part of the sales go toward habitat protection for bald eagles that frequent the area.

Of these, my favorites were the White Riesling and the Eagle White, so I bought a few bottles to bring home. Although I’ve found a source for Prairie Fumé in my area (President Bar and Liquor in Superior), I bought a bottle just because, despite exposure to these new wines, it’s still my fave.

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The historic wine storage cave.

Before returning to my car, I meandered around the property. There’s an old cave dug into the hillside where wine used to be stored, which the current owners have preserved and filled with historical placards and implements. I also took a peek into the wine bar on the second floor of the main building, which used to be a ballroom back in the day.

There’s also a distillery on the property, and I made a note to visit that next time I’m in the area.

Wollersheim Winery 017Alas, it was time for me to continue onto my ultimate destination, which was Madison. I was expecting to eat dinner alone there, but things worked out so that a friend from high school was able to meet me. Plus, it was her birthday, so I brought along the bottle of Prairie Fumé for her.

We met at Lombardino’s, an Italian restaurant that’s one of my favorites. As I waited for my friend and for seating, I noticed someone who looked suspiciously like Phililppe Coquard at a table near the back. As fate would have it, the host seated me and my bottle of Wollersheim wine right next to the Philippe look-alike.

While I waited for my friend, I snuck some glances and determined that fate was smiling upon me this day. It was indeed Philippe and part of his family dining at the table next to mine. What are the chances of that?! (I guess I could figure it out if I knew how many restaurants are in Madison and what the population is, multiplied by how many days are in a year.) But I guess it’s a one-hundred-percent chance when you’re following your bliss . . . .

Anyway, I knew I HAD to take advantage of this opportunity. So I mustered my introverted courage and stepped over to their table. They were gracious at my interruption. I let them know I had just visited their winery and then I gushed about how much I love their wine. Philippe mentioned he is giving a presentation at a Minneapolis wine convention soon.

It was all good, and I was so tickled and amazed by meeting them. Soon my friend arrived, and I pointed out who our dining neighbors were. She can vouch that this really did happen!

I look forward to visiting the Wollersheim Distillery in the future, but after this experience, my expectations are probably entirely too high for a fateful experience afterward.

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Heavenly Food: Adventures in Northern Arizona – Part 5


The Cameron Trading Post Restaurant near the Grand Canyon. Note the pressed tin ceiling.

This will be my last installment about Sedona, and it deals with the next best thing to the scenery: the food!

Our first morning in town, we made our way to Creekside Coffee after seeing it advertised on television. What a way to wake up! Perched on the edge of a hill on the second floor of a galleria, the café offers a stunning view along with just about any kind of coffee one would want, plus pastries and organic fare. Wine is also available.

Another great place for breakfast is the Coffeepot Restaurant (near Coffeepot Rock). I didn’t eat there, but my traveling partner did and said it was great. They offer 101 different types of omelets!

We usually ate lunches we packed ourselves. But the one time we ate a restaurant lunch was at the English Kitchen in Jerome. See my previous post about that divine and spooky BBQ experience.


The mussels and chorizo appetizer from the Mariposa.

We saved the piece de resistance of dining for after a full day of hiking near the end of our trip. We made dinner reservations at Mariposa, a Latin-inspired grill. We chose partly for the scenery — the restaurant has a wall of windows that look out to the red rock hills. The only glitch in our plan was that it was dark by dinner time! Duh.

But our view of the food more than made up for the lack of an outdoors view. And even though something went wrong with our reservation through Open Table, the hostess was able to find a spot for us.

We started off with cocktails. After hiking past juniper trees all day, I opted for a drink made from juniper berries (in the form of gin) called a juniperita. Other ingredients include St. Germain liquer, lemon juice, and agave. The lemony sweetness was the perfect refresher for my desert-worn pallet.

For an appetizer, we shared mejillones con chorizo, a mussel and sausage dish served in a white wine bouillabaisse with charred corn. O.M.G. – the sauce was divine! We dipped our bread in it, and could have been happy just with that. The sausage complemented the mussels surprising well.


The grouper.

For entrees, Linda had grouper, which was the fish of the day. It was served with Campari fire-roasted tomatoes, charred corn, white wine and herb butter, frijoles negros and quinoa pilaf. She allowed me a wonderful taste. I had skirt steak served with roasted rosemary potatoes and frijoles negros.

Have you ever had a steak that melts in your mouth? It’s a rare thing, and that’s what this was. I had a hard time eating it because I kept making noises of gustatory satisfaction.


The skirt steak.

Although tempted, we opted out of dessert because we had a plan, and we made our way back to our resort. Although it was only 43 degrees outside, a hot tub awaited steps away from our unit. We hearty Minnesotans donned our swimsuits and ran out to the hot tub with wine, chocolate truffles and mint fudge in hand.

The candy was from the Sedona Fudge Company. Life doesn’t get much better than when it’s spent in a hot tub under the Arizona stars, accompanied by chocolate and alcohol. I truly felt like I was on vacation.


The Navaho taco (front) and other fare from the Cameron Trading Post.

The last notable eating spot we had a chance to sample was the Cameron Trading Company Restaurant near the Grand Canyon. Want a Navaho taco that’s bigger than your head while viewing Navaho blankets worth thousands of dollars? This is your place then.

Established in 1916, the trading post was the place where Hopis and Navahos bartered their wool blankets and livestock in exchange for dry goods. The restaurant’s ceiling of pressed tin is flanked by walls featuring cabinetry and stained glass from years past. A huge stone fireplace decorated for Christmas warmed us while we ate.

I had a Navaho taco, which is the most popular thing on the menu. It’s composed of a large round piece of fry bread, smothered with a combination of ground beef and beans, topped with lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese and crowned with chopped green chilies. Spicy salsa is served on the side, but it was too much for my bland Minnesota taste buds.

So ends my accounting of this meander. I would go back in a heartbeat. There are more rocks to see, trails to hike, places to eat, and energy vortexes to experience. Thank you for journeying with me through words.


The Cameron Trading Post Restaurant fireplace.

Grand Canyon Joy


“Wherever you have friends, that’s your country, and wherever you receive love, that’s your home.” A Tibetan saying.


The Observation Tower on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

“Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” Dali Lama.

“Whoever gives you love, that’s your parent.” Dali Lama

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

These quotes, which are worthy of pairing with Grand Canyon scenery, came from “The Book of Joy.”


The Grand Canyon in Arizona.

The Vortex Made Me Do It: Adventures in Northern Arizona, Part 4

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Linda (left) and I on Airport Mesa, before we knew it was a vortex area.

You know how, when you go on trips, you sometimes end up with a running joke in your conversations? The joke can be related to an event, a person you met, or a hapless comment made along the way. Well, for Linda’s and my Sedona trip, our running joke was The Vortex.

Because Linda and I are from Minnesota, we were mainly familiar with Polar Vortexes. You know, that’s when all the cold air comes down from the arctic and tries to freeze everything in its path. Although we had heard of Sedona’s reputation as a vortex center before we began our trip, we didn’t know any specifics.

Personally, I just thought the whole place was the site of mysterious energies. Little did I know that there are specific locations and different types of energies to be had.

Let me back up and define the word vortex (plural = vortices or vortexes). Merriam Webster says that a vortex is something that resembles a whirlpool. I assume all of you, dear readers, have watched water swirl down a drain. That’s a whirlpool — except that in Sedona, the swirling involves invisible energy more than it does water or freezing arctic air.

Our Vortextual Education

Our resort offered various programs for its patrons. Among the classes, which had titles like “Crafting a Festive Wine Glass for Christmas,” was one about vortexes. We decided we had to attend to learn more about this phenomenon. The presentation was given by a local Reiki healer.

She described the concept of vortexes and said the energies involved come from the rocks because of their mineral composition. She passed out a sheet that listed eight locations that are thought to be vortices and it described their different kinds of energies.

Some of the energies come out of the rocks (upflow), some flow into the rock (inflow), some are combinations of upflow and inflow, and some are horizontal (lateral). The lateral flow places involve the energy from nearby rivers and streams.

The sheet she gave us was an excerpt from a book entitled, “Scientific Vortex Information,” which was written by an author who claims to have been educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

I don’t know. The title seemed like an oxymoron. “Science” and “Vortex” don’t really go together in my world, where I move among scientists every day. I suspected there wasn’t that much science behind the information — more like wishful, imaginative thinking.

Once I got back home, I looked inside the first few pages of the book on Amazon, hoping to see proof that scientific instruments were used to actually measure electromagnetic fields at these locations, but all I saw were explanations of inflow and outflow, with nary any hard proof in sight.

But that’s okay. We weren’t in Sedona for the science. We were there for the experience. We were there for . . . The Vortex!

Our Vortextual Experiences

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Oak Creek Canyon.

While looking at the list of locations, Linda and I discovered we had already visited a vortex the previous day. The site was Airport Mesa, which is easy to access because it’s right in town.

While we were enjoying the view there, we had noticed a couple of people sitting on the rocks in a lotus position. We didn’t think much of it – maybe they were just doing it because the scenic view inspired meditation. But after reading the list, we knew better. Those lotus people were trying to feel The Vortex.

We decided we needed to try that. Our journey the next day involved a trip north to Flagstaff, so we made plans to stop at the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook, which is on the way. The overlook scenic vista is located at the top of the switchbacked road at the end of the canyon about 15 miles from Sedona. A short walk on a paved path leads to an impressive overlook.

I sat on a bench near the overlook and Linda stood near the wall. Neither of us were hard core enough at this point to get into a lotus position (which is sort of hard on a bench, after all). So we just closed our eyes and tried to feel the feels.

I felt my own internal vortex more than any external one. My heartbeat rocked my body and made it sway a little. The Arizona sun felt good on my face and the breeze whispered its secrets.

After having our moments, we conferred. Linda said she didn’t really feel anything. We walked back to our car, but along the way, we stopped to look at some Navaho jewelry being sold at stand along the walkway. I was drawn like a magnet to one ring that featured a bright blue opal. I picked it up and it fit perfectly. I had to buy it.

We joked later that The Vortex made me do it. Who knows, maybe it did? It was like the ring was calling to me.


Cathedral Rock

A few days later, after a day of hiking, we visited Cathedral Rock, which is thought to be home to an upflow/inflow combination vortex. We hiked up to the flat rock plateau below the formation.

Someone had scratched two spirals into the rock about ten feet away from each other. Linda and I thought they looked like logical places to sit for people like us who were trying to find a vortex, so we sat with legs crossed and eyes closed.

The day had been breezy, but not particularly so. A few moments after we got into position, big gusts of wind started buffeting us. They were so powerful that Linda’s hat flew off.

We opened our eyes and quickly stood, spooked. The wind stopped.

We headed down the rock toward our car. We didn’t joke as much about vortexes after that.

The Beauty Way: Adventures in Northern Arizona, Part 3

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Young lovers on Airport Mesa, Sedona.

These words from the Navaho prayer, The Beauty Way, kept going through my head during a hike among the red rocks in Sedona. It’s hard to get exercise when all you’re doing is gawking all around you. But perhaps that offers exercise of a different sort….

I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.


Bell Rock as seen from the Bell Rock Pathway.





Red rock, white trees, Red Rock State Park.

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May you walk in beauty…

Jerome – A Counterculture and Bohemian Mecca: Adventures in Northern Arizona, Part 2

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Jerome, Arizona.

While I was standing in line to rent a car at the Phoenix Airport, the man in front of me asked where my friend and I were staying. He was from Philadelphia and vacationed in Arizona frequently. When I told him Sedona, he said that we had to go visit the nearby town of Jerome. “It’s an old mining town with shops run by a bunch of hippies,” he said.

That’s all it took to convince me that we needed to go there. I’ve found that some pre-planning is fine for vacations, but that the best advice often comes from people you meet along the way. This trip was no exception.

The day we journeyed to Jerome dawned bright and mild, like so many other mornings during our Arizona stay. Linda and I hopped in our rented Nissan Versa, which dutifully took us up and down the northern Arizona mountains (even though the rental agency clerk tried to talk us into getting a larger car to handle the elevation changes).

20171205_111326A large “J” on a mountaintop was the first thing we noticed about Jerome. Then came the hairpin turns as we wound our way up to the town, which is situated precariously on the mountainside that used to yield its copper to miners. We parked in an area close to stores and hopped out to explore.

We purchased some goodies from the Connor Hotel gift shop, marveled at a poster that proclaimed the existence of a Jerome Ukulele Orchestra, and partook of a wine tasting at the Dragoon Mountain/Cellar 433 Winery outlet, which is simply called “Winery” on the outside. We had also visited their tasting room in Sedona, and were interested to see what different varieties of Arizona wine they offered here.

We sampled a flight of whites served by Barry, who wore a bandanna around his head and whose ears sported many heavy earrings. Our favorite was called “Sun.” Like the name implies, it was honey-colored with the warm flavor of roasted nuts. Hints of honeydew melon, white peaches and ginger topped it off. Unlike the Sedona winery, no guitarist serenaded our tasting. But like the Sedona winery, the view was fantastic, plus local artwork graced the walls.


The view from the winery. The impressive building on the left used to be a hotel, but is now a private home.

Lest we walk around the perilous Jerome pathways in a stupor, we decided to cross the street to the English Kitchen Restaurant to eat lunch to cut the alcohol. That turned out to be an excellent and otherworldly choice.

Sedona 2017 038We sat in an inviting booth and learned about the history of the place from the back of the menu while the smell of hickory barbecue drifted in from the restaurant’s smoker out back. The English Ktichen, also known as Bobby D’s BBQ is the oldest restaurant in northern Arizona. It was built in 1899 by Charley Hong after his original restaurant in the Connor Hotel (where we had just been buying gifts) burned down when the hotel burned. Oh, and by the way, there used to be an opium den in the basement of the English Kitchen.


The counter in the English Kitchen/Bobby D’s BBQ.

Charley died in booth #3 of the restaurant, where he frequently slept. Apparently, he is still hanging around, his presence manifested by flying salt shakers and misplaced items. The restaurant turned into the BBQ joint it is today in 2011.

When our waitress came to take our order, I asked her where booth #3 was. She pointed to the booth where we sat. “Do you want to know what side he died on?” she said, with the ghost of a smile. I could guess, but asked anyway. She pointed to the side where I sat.


But that did not make me lose my appetite. I ordered the BBQ bacon cheeseburger with fries. Oh man, oh man, oh man. That was good! It came with four different barbecue sauce choices. My tastebuds grew up in Minnesota, so that means I chose the non-spicy sweet one. Sorry, I can’t recall the name, but the sauce complemented the meat perfectly.

After lunch, we waddled around town for another hour or so. We found a shop that specialized in kaleidoscopes. Don’t see that every day.

We could have easily spent several days looking through all the shops, but the Sedona hiking trails were calling us, and we had to answer. And besides, we needed to walk off all the barbecue.