Birthday weekend round-up Part 1

After work on Friday, we picked up two of our close friends and hit the road, heading to southwestern Wisconsin to spend a couple of nights in Dodgeville.

Saturday morning we headed “downtown” (since I live in Chicago, quotation marks are definitely needed when talking about the downtown of a town of 4,000) in search of coffee, tea and breakfast goodies. I wore my Freddie’s overalls (they were my weekend staple), a vintage cowboy shirt, some Bakelite bangles and a wicker purse, which is the reason I’m no longer fretting about a brown purse for VLV right now. See? Brown lucite handle and accents on the front. Suitably brown enough for now.

 Jen plopped on the curb with a donut. If you’re ever in Dodgeville for any reason, stop at Quality Bakery. This was a whole wheat chocolate donut and holy donuts, was it awesome.

We then headed to House on the Rock, which was the primary reason we went on this trip. If you’ve never heard of House on the Rock, well, does this enormous metal planter in the parking lot give you any indication that it might be a weird place? It is. Frankly, I don’t think weird even begins to cover it.

Oh, I spied a vintage pickup in the parking lot so of course I had to get a photo with it. I love old pickups. (Seeing myself in that Pendleton 49er makes me want to kick myself for not buying the sad one I saw at a thrift store earlier this year since it did have one button, and this one is missing one button. Argh! If you ever find just one single solitary Pendleton 49er button, let me know. I can’t bring myself to replace them with different buttons for some reason.)

I went to snap a photo of Mel and Emma, and Emma joked that they should stand next to the bin (and apparently look goofy).

When you enter House on the Rock and pay for your admission, they give you several mysterious tokens with no explanation. I felt like we were being dispensed pieces of eight.

There are three sections you tour through. The actual house itself, which sort of reminds me of a more maze-like, lounge-oriented, grotto-ish, carpet-covered Graceland without Elvis’s touch. And then two enormous warehouses full of… strange stuff. Lots of strange stuff. Really, really strange stuff.

In the house, there’s a special place called the Infinity Room. In my photo, it looks rather unassuming. But it’s a room that gets progressively more narrow as it gets out towards the end, essentially getting down to the point where only a mouse could travel.

It also extends 218 feet out over the valley below! See the person to the right looking down? That’s a lookout down below, like the opposite of a skylight. You can see that in my photo as well, where the railing is.

Photo credit: House on the Rock

When you continue along the tour, you really start to see the odd collections in the two other sections, which are kind of setup in rooms like a museum. A strange, creepy museum.


It was in these sections we figured out what those tokens were for. You could use them for antique (or pseudo-antique as they may have been—apparently the creator Alex Jordan had a lot of the items fabricated if he couldn’t get originals) arcade-like machines…

… or automated musical machines, like calliopes!

There are so many strange things going on at House on the Rock that I can’t even begin to touch on it all. An enormous carousel full of unusual animals… another carousel with antique dolls sitting on the horses… a horse-driven funeral car… a 3-storey fiberglass whale… an organ room with spiral staircases that don’t appear to go anywhere… I could go on and on. It’s definitely one of the weirdest places I’ve ever been in my life. My photos don’t do it justice!

Once we had a rest after that sensory overload, we went out to dinner in a small neighboring town, Mineral Point, at Brewery Creek. We pondered over the flags out front because Emma noticed one was the Welsh flag. We talked to the owner, and discovered the others were Manx, Basque, and Flemish. He switches them out periodically as they get ratty from blowing against the shrubbery over time. Ostensibly they represent nationalities who are big into cycling. Interesting flags aside, their food was really good and included lots of local yummies like blue cheese from Hook’s Cheese Company, whose factory was literally down the block. I wish my photos inside turned out, because it was in a stone warehouse from the 1850s and had a gorgeous wooden bar at one end.

Right after midnight Saturday night (so technically Sunday) we had cake for my birthday. Yay!

Our Sunday plans included breakfast, a hike if the weather was nice and heading back home.

The weather cooperated in a major way. We went for our hike at Governor Dodge State Park. I absolutely love parks in the off-season. This park is particularly popular and the one time we’d been there before, the beachy area near where we hiked was absolutely jam packed. Not this weekend! Jen even dipped her feet in the lake, even though the water was way too cold, of course.

The weather was absolutely fantastic, in the 70s and partly sunny (though quite windy due to the major temperature shift). A rare treat for early April!

A bit later I’ll do the second round-up post, just with my photos from the Instagram app on my iPhone, which I got addicted to over the weekend. (Talk about amping up the weird factor in House on the Rock.)

Anyway, we had a great weekend, full of fun adventures with friends (though oh no! we forgot to bring back any New Glarus beer). It was wonderful to get outdoors and enjoy the warm weather before it dipped back into cooler temperatures this week. Hope you all had a lovely weekend, too!

Filed: Travel and Adventures

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Golly, 17 Comments!

  • happy birthday!! Awesome adventures! Those mechanical creatures remind me of the ones in the Musee Mechanique in San Francisco, which was a similarly creepy cool place to explore! Anyway, glad you had a good one!


  • What an amazing birthday weekend, I’ve always wanted to go to House On The Rock!! It looks creepy yet wonderful. Love your outfits as always too, the overalls are genius.

    Yay for donuts! Did you get to do any vintage shopping while there? I’m always curious about small town vintage shopping.


  • looks like you had a great birthday. what an amazing place!!! I love all of the curios, the infinity corridor looks amazing and scary all at the same time! I would bring out my vertigo.

    The penny arcade looks fantastic we have one at a local cave’s.

    Thank you for sharing your weekend.


  • I want to visit this house now! I love the overalls too. 🙂


  • I’m really feeling the overalls throughout this post. I have crazy broad shoulders and can’t really wear them without looking guylike…but they’re so adorable on you!

    House on the Rock looks absofreaking amazing, also. Happy birfday, etc.


  • Thanks all!!

    @BaronessVonVintage Oh yes, that sounds right up my alley to explore!

    @The Thriftaholic (Leilani) It is totally worth going once, I think you’d really get a kick out of it. Sadly the weekend didn’t include any thrifting, I didn’t plan ahead and didn’t see anything in town, plus we didn’t have much spare time anyway.


  • Happy Birthday! That place looks amazing!!!


  • What a wonderful post. Looks like you really had a lovely time- the scenery is quite something! Actually, the coastline and trees reminds me of my own stomping ground, here on the East Coast of Canada, about 30 minutes outside of town, Hopewell Rocks, we have the highest tides in the world, and the “flower pots” bits of eart and mountain that have been shaped by the tides for centuries- one of my favorite places to go for a hike in the summer. I love nature , and I love reading posts like this to see what kind of places other people are experiencing!
    See you in Vegas!!!


  • Looks like a fabulous birthday! Those are some wonderful pictures!


  • Lovely post and pictures.
    I’d love to visit the House on the Rock…well creepy….brilliant.
    Glad you had such a great time.xx


  • Happy Birthday!! That house looks really amazing, especially those antique arcade machines!


  • Hope you had a fantastic birthday! I don’t think I could have walked out into the infinity room knowing there was nothing underneath, I know it’s probably incredibly well engineered but it still looks terrifying!


  • Happy birthday! Looks like you had a great time 🙂

    If you post a picture of your missing button I will search my collection. I buy a lot of button jars, and many are from the right time period. You never know!


  • I am totally the same way about Pendlton buttons! That’s really funny. What is it about those distinctive buttons that makes it feel so wrong to replace them with something different? I’ve even gone so far as to remove a button from a cuff or the bottom of the front to replace one higher up (putting the goofy new button on the less noticeable cuff). I wonder if you can buy repro Pendleton buttons now since they still make the jackets new?

    Ok, this House on The Rock looks totally amazing. What an awesome place. Where did you hear about it or is it just well-known in your area? That Infinity Room is nuts.

    I’m glad you had such a fantastic birthday weekend. All you photos inspire me to get out of my left over winter rut and do something fun like that.

    Ok, and your vacation wear is awesome. Those Freddies overalls are so cute. Lovely choice.


  • Thanks everyone!

    @Lenora Le Noire Yes– see you in Vegas! 🙂

    @Moe Isn’t it funny about the buttons? I actually emailed the company to ask if I could buy one button, since I knew they were the same since I also have a modern limited edition 49er too. I think they old ones are actually slightly larger, but it will be interesting to see if I even get a reply!


  • Glad to see you had such a great time 🙂


  • So glad you enjoyed your birthday weekend! I definitely hope to find myself in the vicinity of Dodgeville someday. I kept getting a Twin Peaks vibe from the pictures and descriptions; my husband would love it as he was a huge fan of the show.

    I think the wicker purse should do you quite nicely for VLV. And I wish you luck on the Great Pendleton Button Hunt. I recently thrifted a lovely Pendleton suit and in my head I kept hearing my mother’s rather reverent tones whenever she would mention the brand. I’ll bet you do get a reply.

    Finally, do you think your friend Jen would be willing to share some details about the shoes she’s wearing in the picture with the awesome donut? Love ’em! –Nikki E.


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