Sidetracked in the Midwest: A Green Guide for Travelers


This green guide to the Midwest states offers travelers fun and innovative places to visit—all with an environmentally conscious approach. Restaurants, lodging, festivals, parks, tours, farms, museums, nature centers, factories, shops, wilderness areas, retreats, and more are included in this guide, from the National Mississippi River Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa, to the Heartland Spa (in a former dairy barn!) in Gilman, Illinois. Intrepid traveler Mary Bergin covers Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and ...

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This green guide to the Midwest states offers travelers fun and innovative places to visit—all with an environmentally conscious approach. Restaurants, lodging, festivals, parks, tours, farms, museums, nature centers, factories, shops, wilderness areas, retreats, and more are included in this guide, from the National Mississippi River Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa, to the Heartland Spa (in a former dairy barn!) in Gilman, Illinois. Intrepid traveler Mary Bergin covers Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, plus a few cool places to visit in Indianapolis, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Nebraska City.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
In this informative and enlightening guide, author Mary Bergin describes green festivals, parks, lodges, tours, farms, museums, nature centers, factories, wilderness areas and retreats throughout the Midwest. Some of the choices are unexpected. The environmentally conscious Dana Hotel, for example, is just off Michigan Avenue in Chicago; its wood and glass are recycled and reclaimed, and the flooring of its spa consists of recycled beer bottles. Other entries are a bit more obvious (major parks), and then there are the delightful surprises. American Spoon in Petoskey, Mich., creates a jam from tart thimbleberries. Most of the company's ingredients for its various jams come from Michigan, including the sugar (from sugar beets). The North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minn., offers classes in traditional Northern crafts, from learning how to build your own kayak to sculpting art from sandstone. Likewise, the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center in Baraboo, Wis., named for the environmentalist, teaches conservation principles in a structure that has been called the "greenest building in the nation."
The Capital Times
Madison Bergin roams far and wide, thankfully with her camera in tow. I got so caught up looking at the stunning photos throughout the book that I kept having to remind myself to go back to read the text. Who would have imagined the gorgeous Honey Creek State Park Resort in Moravia, Iowa, with its mission-style furnishings, preferential parking for hybrid vehicles and the state's biggest tract of prairie just outside its front door? Already on my must-visit list for this summer is the Stone Barn in Nelson, near the Mississippi river north of La Crosse, Wisconsin, for wood-fired brick oven pizza topped with artisan meats and veggies. From there, it would be an easy drive to Lanesboro, Minnesota, to catch a play at the Commonweal Theatre, both outfitted and decorated with a wild assortment of recycled goods, including cast-off seats from the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Truly, "Sidetracked in the Midwest," another gem from Itchy Cat Press, will inspire vacation ideas for years to come.
St. Louis Beacon
I want to go there. And there. And there. And there, too.Thats my first reaction after reading Sidetracked in the Midwest, A Green Guide for Travelers, by Mary Bergin (right). My next reaction is this well-documented guide to all things green in five Midwestern states is not really meant to be read from cover to cover, as I did. Unlike a novel or biography, this book is better suited for when readers want to hunt and peck their way around the various settings in search of a perfect destination.Throughout the book, newspaper woman turned travel writer Bergin points out the unusual, fun, eccentric, and green nooks and crannies throughout the Midwest, her promotional materials explains. Throughout, she offers a mix that includes low-budget to luxury eco-aware projects in rural areas and cities, alike.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780981516127
  • Publisher: Flying Fish Graphics
  • Publication date: 9/5/2012
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,400,351
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Bergin writes weekly “Roads Traveled” columns syndicated in daily newspapers throughout Wisconsin and at Her other books include Sidetracked in Wisconsin: A Guide for Thoughtful Travelers, Hungry for Wisconsin: A Tasty Guide for Travelers, and Eat Smart in Germany.

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Read an Excerpt

Isle Royale National Park
Our 100-passenger ferry is rocking me like a drunken sailor, so I keep my eyes closed during most of this three-hour ride. Never expect Lake Superior to behave, but putting up with impudence sometimes yields exquisite rewards.

Isle Royale National Park is an archipelago of 400-some islands, the longest of which is 45 miles. Backpackers and kayakers can roam for days and not repeat their route. The worlds longest-running predator-prey research project, involving moose and wolves, began here more than 50 years ago. Day visits to Isle Royales Rock Harbor are possible but illogical. Why endure the six-hour boat ride, with only two or three hours to explore? Ferries cruise roundtrip daily. Four-person seaplane service from Houghton, Michigan, cuts the trip to the park to 35 minutes but is more expensive than the ferry ride.

You dont go to Isle Royale unless youre committed to being there, concludes Phyllis Green, superintendent. Her park is one of the least visited in the National Park Service.

Isle Royale gets about as many visitors in a year (16,000) as the Grand Canyon averages on a summer day, but the average Isle Royale stay is four days, compared with about six hours at the Grand Canyon. One out of four who visit Isle Royale will return another time, and this ratio of repeat business is one of the highest among national parks. Youll see kayaks and canoes, but not autos, bicycles or pets. Only 17 types of mammals make Isle Royale their home, says ranger Mark Kudrav. Mosquitoes and black flies irritate in swarms until late July, but Lyme disease and poison ivy are not a problem. Ticks threaten the health of moose but not humans.

Most visitors come to backpack and camp; some will hire a water taxi to take them miles away and then hike back to Rock Harbor. A popular starting point, Chippewa Harbor, is a 12-mile walk. The trek back can be tranquil or arduous, depending upon weather and a hikers preparedness. Camping is rustic. A few campsites have three-sided shelters, to screen out insects and wildlife. Bring your own tent and gear for wilderness camping. The less adventurous bring their own provisions and rent one of 20 roomy housekeeping cottages with kitchenettes. Rock Harbor Lodge accommodates still others in 60 motel rooms; you can add hearty meals to the daily rate. A snack bar cooks up lighter fare; all menus depend on provisions delivered by ferry.

Most people find theres more to do than they expected, says Kim Alexander, lodge manager. Park rangers organize hikes and evening talks about the islands history or habitat.

The first time you see visitors, theyre backpackers, he says. Then that 50-pound pack gets heavy and they come as lodge guests during their next visit.

A few miles away, at Edisen Island, Leslie Mattson shares his love for commercial fishing with the occasional visitor; he and his wife, Donna, maintain a small home at waters edge. A short hike uphill leads to the parks oldest lighthouse, built in 1855. Head in another direction, and youll find the headquarters for the predator-prey research.

Excursion boats also take the curious toward Lookout Louise, where on a clear day youll see Canada. At Hidden Lake, hear the birds sing and watch for moose at the shoreline. Wild orchids and roses dot the landscape in summer.

The waters surrounding Isle Royale have been the site of 10 major shipwrecks. Scuba diving is a popular sport; wetsuits or drysuits are a must in the 45-degree water.

The ferry ride back to Copper Harbor is smooth and beguiling, just the opposite of how this trip began. Lake Superior changes that fast. The park is open from mid-April to late October. Campsite reservations are not accepted for groups of fewer than seven; its first-come first-served.

Isle Royale National Park
800 E. Lakeshore Drive
Houghton, Michigan 906-482-0984

Rock Harbor Lodge, the only motel and cottage accommodations on the island, is open from late May to early September. Reservations are necessary. 906-337-4993

The Isle Royale Queen IVs three-hour ferry rides from Copper Harbor, Michigan, run from mid-May to late September. Ferry service also departs from Houghton, Michigan (a six-hour trip), and Grand Portage, Minnesota (three hours, but to Windigo, which is at the opposite end from Rock Harbor). Reservations are necessary. 906-289-4437

North House Folk School
Grand Marais, Minnesota
Forty miles south of the Canadian border, a Minnesota village of 1,400 overlooks a shore of near-paradise.

Were a long way from everywhere, observes Greg Wright, and most people who stay for more than a vacation dont come here by accident.

It is the same with many of the students at his North House Folk School, where traditional northern crafts and ways of life are taught. Students leave with more than wall hangings and harbor photography.

Imagine thinking like an Inuit when building your own kayak or sculpting art from sandstone. Weave strips of bark into baskets, shoes, hatsor make a birch bark canoe. Make mukluks from moose hide and canvas, or drums from cedar and rawhide.

Learn blacksmithing, bladesmithing and flintknapping. Make sausage, a wood stove, yurt or earthen oven. Become a student of solar power or herbal health care. Wood turningusing a lathe to shape wood into a bowlis a Scandinavian-inspired process taught here. A fall class focuses on wild rice, from harvesting to hulling.

Many of the classes celebrate cultural traditions, the things that bind us together over time, says Greg, the nonprofit schools executive director. Teachers find joy in creating with their hands and connecting with the northern landscape.

The school emerged from a community already rich in the arts. About 13,000 people from 36 states and three foreign countries found their way to North House in 2009.

Most instruction occurs in warehouses built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. When the buildings became eyesores, they were given to the community. Then came proposals to level the property and build condos, open a museum or transform the structures into artists studios. The folk school idea was floated and received a six-month trial run. They hoped for 100 students and got 200, Greg explains. Now the campus also includes converted fishing buildings and harbor docks.

The folk school philosophy emphasizes learning and creating, not grades or competition. Tuition reductions are possible, in exchange for labor. Students arrange their own meals and lodging. Choices include campsites, cottages, motels, bed-and-breakfast inns.

Craft and wood-fired baking demos, Norwegian fjord horse-and-cart lessons and sailing lessons on a 50-foot traditionally rigged schooner occur at least weekly during summer and early autumn.
North House Folk School
500 Highway 61 West
Grand Marais, Minnesota

Red Stag Supper Club Minneapolis, Minnesota
News, to me: Energy and water account for 30 to 40 percent of the average restaurants operating budget. Reduce these expenses, and its good business as well as good for the planet.

Red Stag Supper Club, the first LEED-certified restaurant in Minnesota, cuts energy bills in half and saves 70 percent on its water bill because of an eco-savvy design in a former industrial warehouse in its northeast Minneapolis neighborhood. Seating cushions are stuffed with ribbons of tape from many, many discarded cassettes. Dining tables are doors recycled from a condo project. The marble bar comes from a hotel. Corn is a key ingredient in the carpeting.

Supper club, in this location, is more about bringing people together for interaction and community than big-as-your-plate steaks served after an hours wait for a table, says Lauren Schuppe, Red Stag manager (but she adds that owner Kim Bartmann, a Wisconsin native, has fond memories of traditional, rural supper club fare).

At the Red Stag, chefs will make their own sausage, pickle 50 pounds of ramps and boil down bushels of homegrown heirloom tomatoes so that a rich and locally sourced pasta sauce is available in the dead of winter. A majority of the menus ingredients come from within 60 miles of the restaurant.

Corned beef hash arrives with parsnips and carrots. An herbal hollandaise sauce transforms poached eggs into a clever Green Eggs and (smoked) Ham. Sometimes ingredients deviate from whats local, and results are extraordinary: Consider the chunks of lobster and avocado in the house egg salad sandwich.

Cheap Date night, on Tuesdays, means a couple can order two entr?, dessert and a bottle of wine for $32. A block party in August draws together the music of local bands, roller skaters and hula hoop contestants. Red Stag Supper Club
509 First Avenue NE
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Green arts in the neighborhood:The neighborhood enjoys a flourishing arts district whose anchor is Casket Arts, a coalition of 100 artists and art-related businesses. Open studio and gallery tours occur monthly, from 5 to 9 p.m. on the first Thursday. Much of the studio space fills a former casket factory, at 681 Seventeenth Avenue NE.
More at

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Table of Contents


    Dana Hotel
    Hotel Felix, Frontera Grill
    Kendall College
    Lurie Garden and Millennium Park
    Shedd Aquarium
    Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
    Architectural Artifacts
    Green City Market
    Bobby's Bike Hike
    Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op Collinsville
    Cahokia Mounds Effingham
    Firefly Grill Gilman
    Heartland Spay Murphysboro
    Green Retreat Rockford
    Anderson Japanese Gardens
    Cliffbreakers Western Springs
    Vie Restaurant More Green Places to Visit
        Yoder's Kitchen
        Hidden Oaks Nature Center
        Prairie Fruits Farm
        Three Sisters Folk Art School
        Buffdale Vacation Farm
        Kohl Children's Museum
        Bradley House
        Giant City Lodge
        Hotel Arista
        Children's Discovery Museum
    North Aurora
        Oberweis Dairy
        Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

    Fern Hollow Cabin
    Waterloo Workshop
    Seed Savers Exchange Des Moines
    Iowa State Fair Dubuque
    National Mississippi River Museum Fairfield
    The Raj Iowa City
    Devotay Moravia
    Honey Creek State Park Resort Prairie City
    Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge More Green Places to Visit
        Reiman Gardens
    Coon Rapids
        Whiterock Conservancy
        Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey
    Harpers Ferry
        Effigy Mounds National Monument
        Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center
    Mason City
        Park Inn Hotel
        New Melleray Abbey
        Templeton Rye
        Picket Fence Creamery


Ann Arbor
    Zingerman's Boyne City
    Lavender Hill Farm Cross Village
    Legs Inn Grand Rapids
    Grand Rapids Art Museum
    Green Well
    Millennium Park Holland
    CityFlats Hotel Isle Royale National Park
    Rock Harbor Lodge
    Isle Royale Queen IV Macinac Island
    Grand Hotel
    Windermere Hotel Manistee
    Douglas Valley Vineyard Estates Petoskey
    American Spoon Thompsonville
    Michigan Legacy Art Park Traverse City
    Village at Grand Traverse CCommons Watersmeet
    Sylvania Wilderness Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin
    Gateway Lodge Watervliet
    Ronora Lodge and Retreat Center More Green Places to Visit
    Ann Arbor    
        MiSo House
    Boyne Falls
        Boyne Resorts
        Calder Dairy and Farms
        Ford Rouge Factory Tour
    Glen Arbor
        Cherry Republic
    Grand Rapids
        Meijer Sculpture Garden
        Snooty Fox
    Harbor Springs
        Pond Hill Farm
        Mia and Grace Bakery and Bistro
        Porcupine Mountain Folk School
        Mind, Body and Spirits
    St. Joseph
        Curious Kids' Discovery Zone
    Suttons Bay
        Black Star Farms
        Crystal Mountain Resort
    Traverse City
        The Cooks' House
    Michigan Food Festivals


    Solglimt Lakeshore B&B More Green Places to Visit
    Great Lakes Aquarium
    Northern Waters Smokehaus Ely
    International Wolf Center    
    North American Bear Center Grand Marais
    Angry Trout Cafe
    Naniboujou Lodge
    North House Folk School Lanesboro
    Commonweal Theatre Company
    Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center
    National Trout Learning Center Minneapolis
    Mill City Museum
    Red Stag Supper Club
    Casket Arts
    Target Field St. Paul
    Trotter's Cafe Montevideo
    Moonstone Farm New Ulm
    Putting Green Environmental Park Ogema
    Minwanjige Cafe Wabasha
    National Eagle Center More Green Places to Visit
        Franconia Sculpture Park
    North Branch
        Women's Environmental Institute
    Red Wing
        Hobgoblin Music
    White Earth Lake
        New Horizon Resort


Door County
    Baileys Harbor
        Ridges Sanctuary
    Rock Island State Park More Green Places to Visit
    Ellison Bay
        The Clearing
    Baileys Harbor
        Blacksmith Inn B&B Baraboo
    Leopold Legacy Center
    International Crane Foundation Bayfield
    Pinehurst Inn Cashton
    Growers Produce Auction Gordon
    Down to Earth Tours Hollandale
    Grandview Outsider Art in Wisconsin Horicon    
    Horicon Boat Tours
    Horicon Marsh Bird Festival & Education Center Madison
    First Unitarian Society
    Monona Terrace
    Underground Kitchen
    Madison Children's Museum
    Bean Sprouts Middleton
    Holy Wisdom Monastery Milwaukee
    Braise on the Go
    Learn Great Foods
    Indian Summer Festival
    Oneida Harvest and Husking Bee
    Lakefront Brewery More Green Places to Visit
    Great Lakes Distillery
    Growing Power
    Schlitz Audubon Center
    Iron Horse Hotel Nelson
    The Stone Barn Plain
    Cedar Grove Cheese Potosi
    National Brewery Museum Rhinelander
    Woodwind Health Spa Stevens Point
    Becoming an Outdoors Woman
    Prairie Chicken Festival
        Mead Wildlife Center Superior
    Bay Produce Waterloo
    Trek Bicycles West Bend
    Wellspring More Green Places to Visit
    Travel Green Wisconsin
        Artha Sustainability Center    
        Inn Serendipity
        Arbor House
    New Auburn
        Jack's Lake B&B
        Shrooms Kitchen
        Sassy Cow Creamery
    Fond du Lac
        Kelly Country Creamery
    Lake Mills
        Aztalan State Park
    Maiden Rock
        Journey Inn
    Mineral Point
        Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen
        Woodlanders Gathering
        Spur of the Moment
    Mt. Cavalry
        Dandelion Festival
        Fortaleza Hall
        Namekagon Waters Retreat
        Tetzner Dairy Products
        Hidden Springs B&B

Four More Green Cities
Indianapolis, Indiana
    White River State Park
    100 Acres
    R Bistro
    University Place Hotel Kansas City, Missouri
    Steamboat Arabia
    Powell Gardens St. Louis
    City Museum
    Missouri Botanical Garden
    Schlafly's Bottleworks
    McMurphy's Grill
    City Seeds Urban Farm Nebraska City, Nebraska
    Lied Lodge


Photo and Text Credits

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Interviews & Essays

I like a good challenge, but the notion of producing a book about Midwest ecotourism seemed paralyzing for quite a while. Where to begin? What to include? Whose criteria rule?

Ecotourism standards change, enthusiasm mushrooms and expectations increase as I write this. LEED certification, for example, isnt just about buildings anymore. Now this internationally respected benchmark extends to neighborhoods.

The addition of in-room recycling bins in hotels and menus with locally grown foods in restaurants no longer are avant-garde moves, but neither should the value of these efforts be diminished. Its all goodtiny steps to multi-million dollar investments.

Going green suggests a respect for nature, selfless choices, environment above ego. How our endeavors play out continue to surprise and delight us. Were green with envy and hope about the various projects that compete for attention.

So many paths are new, with myriad ways to measure progress. A nod from the U.S. Green Building Council is one measurement of eco-progressiveness, but other efforts count, too. That includes reusing whats old instead of discarding it.

I admire developers who refurbish old buildings for creative purposes instead of simply demolishing them. The same goes for the rural innkeeper who lovingly shares simple, off-the-grid lodgingand the upscale B&B owner who agonizes about the eco-impact of the tiniest details of business.

As with my previous books, Sidetracked in Wisconsin and Hungry for Wisconsin, I consider the best mix of content to be eclectic. Low-budget to luxury projects, in rural to densely populated areas, make the cut in four categories: food/drink, lodging/retreats, nature/wildlife, the old and the new. Eco features will be evident to the average traveler.

I try to not brag too much about my beloved Madison, home to fervent food activists, a maze of bike trails and a progressive bike-sharing system, mandatory plastic bag recycling and the nations largest producer-only farmers market (all vendors also are the producers of what is sold).

Ill mention, but not dwell on, the fact that ideas and action about conservation certainly arent new in my home state of Wisconsin, thanks to native sons Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Gaylord Nelson and other trailblazers.

What I present in Sidetracked in the Midwest is a range of possibilities, examples of people who are running with inventive ideas that involve many types of businesses. — From the Author

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