Winona's a Winner

Saturday, October 22, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Princess Wenonah

Day 9:  Rochester, MN to Madison, WI.  Another gorgeous autumn day in the heartland— crisp air, cloudless azure sky, and enough leaf color remaining to contrast with the tawny grasses and cornfields, painting a stunning vista. Near the river, golden limestone bluffs dotted with scrappy cedars overlook the highway. 
In search of a couple of letterboxes, we stopped in Winona, MN, a border city of some 30,000, sitting on a sandbar in the Mississippi River Valley. First settled by a band of Dakota in the early 1800s, Winona was ceded by the natives in an 1853 treaty.
According to legend, We-No-Nah, a daughter of the Dakota chief, leapt to her death from a bluff when she was not permitted to marry the brave that she loved. This star-crossed lover remains a symbol of the city that bears her name, and her statue graces a local park. The heritage of her people is honored at the annual Great Dakota Homecoming.  
High above the city, Garvin Heights Park offers a spectacular view of Winona and the surrounding area. The park sits on a bluff which is more than 500 feet high.  The land was donated to the city for an overlook park.  On this Saturday morning, it was busy with visitors.
Winona, MN from overlook
In the stadium below, we could see the preparations for Winona State University's homecoming football game today against Concordia-St. Paul.  The Winona Warriors went on to win 58 to 24.
On a recommendation from an employee in the local visitors center, we trekked over to the Blue Heron Coffeehouse for lunch.  Opened in 1998, the coffeehouse offers delicious dishes made with organically grown, mostly local ingredients.
They are also accommodating to vegetarians and customers who may have food allergies or sensitivities.  The Book Shelf bookstore is next door and shares an open space with the Blue Heron. It was a cozy combination.
Lake Winona
Unfortunately, we had to move on and were unable to take advantage of the free canoe and kayak rentals offered by the Winona Parks and Recreation Department on Lake Winona.
If the name Winona sounds familiar, you may be thinking of the actress Winona Ryder.  Her parents loved the name of their town so much, they named their daughter after her birthplace.
  • Started in:  Rochester, MN
  • Ended in:  Madison, WI
  • Miles driven: 245
  • States: 2 (MN, WI)
  • Letterboxes found: 2
  • Weather: Sunny, 41° to 61°
  • Gas: $3.429 (Onalaska, WI)
  • Purple-shirted Winona State fans going to homecoming game: 12,784
  • Wisconsin cornfields:  1,562

Central United Methodist Church in Winona with its European castle-like bell tower