On the Road: Exploring Tomah, Wisconsin
This first “On the Road” podcast is focused on my observations and thoughts as I explored in the areas around Tomah, Wisconsin. I had such a great trip to that part of Wisconsin that just recharged my batteries and took me back to my roots. Driving home, I had time to reflect about the trip, our house in Minneapolis and the future.
As some background about these podcasts, I find myself traveling more and more these days for work and for life. As I travel, I see things that capture my eye and interest as I roll over the back roads and explore towns of all shapes and sizes. In an effort to capture some of my thoughts, observations and adventures on the road, I am going to start recording and posting “On the Road” podcasts. This is the first one!
Cranberries, Beehives and Hops
The sandy soil and marshlands around Tomah, Wisconsin, are perfect for growing cranberries. Commercial cranberry farms began in the area in the 1850’s, and Wisconsin became the United State’s leader in cranberry production in 1994. Wisconsin continues to lead the country in cranberry production today.
Cranberry bogs stretch from Tomah to Warrens and Wisconsin Rapids (northeast of Tomah). What is so interesting about these bogs is that they have a complex series of basins, ditches, weirs and drainage systems. It takes some hydraulic engineering to
Cranberries need to be pollinated, and all of the bogs had beehives stacked along the rim of the basins. I drove up to a bog and checked out a group of beehives, and sure enough, the bees were very active. I wish the cranberry farmers and their beekeepers and productive and profitable season this year!
Warrens hosts a Cranberry Festival annually on September 28-30. This year is the 150th Anniversary of the Cranberry Festival, and this area will be rocking in late September. For more information about the Festival, check out the Cranberry Festival website. If you plant to go, make sure you look into lodging options! There are over 140,000 people that attend this Festival!
As I left Tomah, I did pick up two bottles of cranberry wine. Julie and I tried one of the bottles, and we really enjoyed it. Make sure you pick up a bottle or two of semi-sweet cranberry wine if you are in the area.
While I will not turn Small Scale Life into a railroad blog and podcast (which I admit would be a lot of fun), I am a student of history and railroads. As I discussed in the podcast, Tomah, Wyeville and Necedah are important junctions in Wisconsin’s railroad network. There are three Class 1 railroads that operate near and in Tomah: the Canadian Pacific, the Union Pacific, and Canadian National. I will explain a little about the lines before moving on to other topics:
- Canadian Pacific – The line comes up the Mississippi River Valley from La Crosse to Tomah and eventually Milwaukee and Chicago. This is a busy stretch of railroad that includes Amtrak trains and includes Wisconsin’s only tunnel in Tunnel City Wisconsin.,
- Union Pacific – There are three lines in the area that are interesting. The Altoona Subdivision connects the Twin Cities to Milwaukee. In Wyeville, there are two additional lines: the Camp Douglas Industrial Lead and the Winona Subdivision. The Camp Douglas Industrial Lead heads south from Wyeville to Camp Douglas, and it serves a new frac sand facility. The Winona Subdivision heads west and connects to Fort McCoy, west of Tunnel City, Wisconsin.
- Canadian National – The Canadian National Valley Subdivision begins in New Lisbon, which is east of Tomah. It heads north from New Lisbon to Wisconsin Rapids through Necedah. In Necedah, there is a connection between the UP and CN, and it consists of a long loop track that would fit right in on a model railroad.
I was surprised by the sheer number of trains operating in the area. This part of Wisconsin was once a sleepy part of these systems, but frac sand has increased traffic immensely.
If you go to the area to watch trains, please be careful out there. Always watch for trains. They show up at any time, without warning and from either direction. Please stay off railroad property.
I am not from the Tomah area, and my family does not have roots in Monroe County (to my knowledge). However, driving around, I really felt like I was back in my family’s stomping grounds in Wisconsin. There is something to be said about getting to place where you can be yourself and be with people who share your values. There is something to be said about driving down a remote country road, waving to the driver in a passing car, and they wave back with a smile on their face!
We just purchased our urban homestead in the City of Minneapolis. As I mentioned in the podcast, the air conditioner and furnace completely died. Womp womp! It has been a horrendous stretch in the Minnesota heat and humidity this summer. Fortunately, between the time I recorded this podcast and last week, we found a vendor and replaced the dead furnace and air conditioner.
Right now, we are urbanites, but I always have an eye pointed to the east, pointed to a place where the deer run, turkey gobble and trees grow straight. I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t plan to change our latitude and longitude.
We want a simple life. We want to slow down, help some folks and enjoy the time left on this green and blue sphere. We want a place where our family and friends can gather.
As I drove around in the perfect sunlight, chasing rail lines and taking in this beautiful area, I just felt at ease, at home and recharged. Some people might need a vacation to Tuscany’ some might need the Caribbean and some might need the mountain slopes.
Give me some trees, a garden and a lake or a river. I am going to be content where we are right now, but there is a plan. I am going to start building my own Dom Waldgang. I have a beautiful piece of land with majestic trees, rivers and lakes nearby, and roots of my ancestors firmly planted in the area. Why not start building something fantastic where we can gather?