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Thursday, Dec. 27, 2007

Along the Road, 2007

Special places and standout experiences

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It is a wonderful life, especially working in travel. Both of us hit the road regularly and have the privilege of visiting some of the best destinations in Wisconsin, the Americas and the world. We wanted to share a few of those special places that impressed us in 2007 and send them your way with best wishes for great getaways in 2008.

Oregon

We didn’t pack snow gear when visiting Oregon’s Mount Hood in early October because the ski season doesn’t kick in until mid-November. So we were astounded to watch, on the morning of our drive to the mountain, befuddled TV newscasters reporting on an untimely 16-inch snowfall.

Driving on I-84 and following the Columbia River Gorge, which divides Oregon and Washington, is a dazzling and safe way to begin the trip to Mount Hood from Portland, Ore. It is designed for meandering: Take turnoffs to 620-foot Multnomah Falls, one of a dozen waterfalls en route. Stop for lunch at Full Sail Brewing Co. in Hood River, where enormous windows in the pub overlook the gorge.

Then the climb begins on Highway 35 to Timberline Lodge, elevation 6,000 feet. This National Historic Landmark, built during the Depression, is a sturdy relic of fine craftsmanship. That doesn’t mean plush: Room amenities include earplugs, since soundproofing was not a priority long ago, and just one channel works on the tiny television. Who cares? You also receive amazing, above-the-cloud views of pure mountaintop. (M.B.)

For more: www.mthood.info, 888-622- 4822; www.timberlinelodge.com, 503- 272-3391.

Dubuque, Iowa

Turkey vultures, card sharks, river rats— you have to love the wildlife in a river town like Dubuque. Witness to much of our early Midwest history, it holds great old buildings, re-purposed estates of millionaires and an unmatched view of the Mississippi.

Work your way through the neighborhood streets to Eagle Point Park for an awesome view from a rock outcropping hundreds of feet over the river and Lock and Dam No. 11. The park is the lasting gift of “make work” projects during the Depression Era and a treasure of walking trails and scenic vistas.

Drive down to the Port of Dubuque and enjoy one of the oldest brewery buildings in the Midwest at the Stone Cliff Winery. Owners Bob and Nan Smith offer tours, historic displays and wine tastings in this former brewery at the river. It’s a gem. (G.K.)

For more: Eagle Point Park: www.dbq.com/parks/eagle, 563-589-4263; Stone Cliff Winery: www.stonecliffwinery. com, 563-552-1200; Dubuque Chamber of Commerce: www.dubuquechamber.com, 800-798-4748.

Quebec City, Canada

A trip to Quebec City is a quick, lessexpensive way to feel like you’re in Europe, particularly when strolling the narrow cobblestone streets of Old Quebec. Shopkeepers speak French, boutiques and restaurants have a stylish flair and the city will soon begin a yearlong birthday party (it turns 400 in 2008).

Food lovers should venture a bit beyond city limits, to Ile d’Orleans, which is as large as Manhattan but with only one traffic light and a population of just 7,000. One bridge, within easy view of Montmorency Falls, links the mainland to this quaint island.

A gourmet trail involves at least a dozen businesses, scattered throughout the 21-mile length. Ice wine, goose pate, duck meat and yellow sturgeon are local specialties. Some people do business from nothing more than one freezer; others have comfortable seating and panoramic views of the countryside and the St. Lawrence Seaway. (M.B.)

For more: www.quebecregion.com, 877-783-1608.

Indianapolis

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is one of the finest racing museums in the world. A National Historic Landmark that turned 50 in 2006, this place is where fast cars slow down so you can get a good look at them.

At any given time the changing exhibits include trophies, racing gear and about 75 famous race cars, like The Marmon “Wasp,” which won the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911, The Duesenberg No. 12 Murphy Special, the only car ever to win both the Indianapolis 500 (1922) and the French Grand Prix at Le Mans (1921), and the car A.J. Foyt drove to win his fourth Indy 500. You can climb into a car and get your picture taken at the wheel.

For $3 catch the lap-around-Indy bus tour that takes you through every breathtaking turn—at about 5 mph. If that’s not fast enough, suit up and go for a knock-yoursocks- off ride on the track with a real Indy Racing League driver (three laps for $475) or do your own driving in a modified Indy Car at the Indy Racing Experience ($399). (G.K.) For more: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum: www.indianapolismotorspeedway. com/museum, 317-492- 6784; Indy Racing Experience: www.sindenracing. com, 888-357-5002; Indianapolis info: www.indy.org, 800-323-4639.

Bavaria, Germany

“Sightsleeping,” a new branding project in Germany’s Bavaria, directs travelers to accommodations that are both comfortable and notable tourist attractions. Nineteen properties, so far, fit the criteria.

The tourism campaign is what brought me to the unspoiled countryside of Wernberg, population 5,000, about 115 miles northeast of Munich. The 12th-century Hotel Burg Wernberg, complete with drawbridge, has been transformed from a medieval castle (and, later, a home for troubled girls) to a luxurious overnight destination on a hilltop and near a forest. Rates, including breakfast, range from $175 to $435. On site is a beautiful little chapel, which makes this a popular wedding location, and a hi-tech building for business seminars. (M.B.)

For more: www.burg-wernberg.de, 49-0- 9604-939-0; www.sightsleeping.com.

Minocqua, Wis.

Like many Wisconsin natives, I learned early in life that the finest place to vacation was “Up North,” the forested land somewhere north of Highway 29. My family bonds were tied tightly at Min & Dugan’s Deer Park Lodge on Post Lake. You can still enjoy paradise like that today—but hurry. In the past two decades, we’ve seen the transition of many mom-and-pop resorts to condos and private estates. The basic cottage with a short run to the water is approaching extinction.

This past summer my wife and I found a wonderful survivor about 15 minutes west of Minocqua. Booth Lake Landing, whose friendly owners, Dick and Sue Heil, cater to families looking for the unmatched serenity of a knotty-pine cottage, rowboats at the pier and the sound of loons to wake you in the morning. For 18 years, the Heils have delivered a top-notch Up North experience to their guests. Kids get nature lessons during the day, there is fishing advice for the asking and every night is capped with a roaring bonfire. Leaping flames and crackling logs work magic in the night and crazy camp songs, goose-bump stories and lake legends fill the air.

Ironically, as the number of resorts shrinks, the popularity of places like Booth Lake Landing grows. They have two seasonal cabins and four winterized homes on a 207-acre musky lake, so reserve your spot on the lake early. (G.K.)

For more: Booth Lake Landing: www.boothlakelanding.com, 715-588- 7939; Minocqua-Arbor Vitae-Woodruff Chamber of Commerce: www.minocqua. org, 800-446-6784.