Monday, April 30, 2012

36.5 hours

900 miles, 4 states, 7 quilt shops! My first bus tour shop hop!

Back in early February, when I went to hear Jennifer Chiaverini, I learned there would be a bus tour of several quilt shops at the end of April. The nearest shop to my farm of the 8 shops involved is Olive Juice Quilts in Onalaska. If I decided to go I would register with them and join the group at or near their shop. I let that idea stew for a bit, and knowing everyone else who would participate probably would be with friends, family, guild members, or other gals they'd taken classes with, I decided to put aside my fear of going alone and registered.

This past Saturday, April 28, I had an appointment with this bus. When I spotted the name printed on the side of it I relaxed. I am not superstitious but I do believe in serendipity. Having a son named Phillip, I heard a whisper that all would be well. (Over the course of the next day and a half it would become evident that we were in especially good hands on this bus with our driver, Bill.) We numbered only 20 plus the 2 "bus moms" from Olive Juice.  Despite the rain and cold, we were a merry band and we traveled luxuriantly.
We were to meet the bus in the Woodmans parking lot in Onalaska, not much more than a mile or 2 from the quilt shop. The drive from the farm to Woodmans,  during the day in nice weather, is about 50 minutes. We were to be there by 6:15 AM! It was dark, cold, rainy and there are 2 rather steep descends into valleys to negotiate. And there is always the possibility of deer on the road in the dark. I gave myself 70 minutes to be safe. Good timing! Since we all arrived a bit early, we got an early start.
I had brought bottles of water, nuts, crackers, and granola bars. I knew all of our meals were included except Saturday night's dinner to be caught quickly at a Culvers en route. But there would be hours on the bus between. What I did not know was that there would be snacks provided nonstop on the bus and there would be a food table at every quilt shop!
Day 1:
Saturday morning: The Calico Shoppe in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Quilted Treasures in Rogers, Minnesota where we were given lunch.
Saturday afternoon: Calico Hutch in Hayward, Minnesota, dinner at Culvers, then Pine Needles in Decorah, Iowa where we had dessert.
We departed Decorah just before dusk, just before 8 pm. Our ride to Comfort Inn Dyersville, Iowa, would take about 2 hours.  On a stretch of road noted for its high deer population, a few were spotted. Then, unfortunately, one ran directly in front of our bus. Nothing could have stopped our enormous vehicle from hitting that deer. I am truly grateful that I did not see it because the sound and the vibration of this accident was enough to shake me, to shake us all. Bill controlled the bus with great skill and strength of mind then pulled over when it was safe to do so to examine what damage if any the bus had sustained. If that poor deer had hit the windshield we all thought.... The bus appeared stained but uninjured, the deer an instant fatality, thankfully. We drove at a rather slow speed for the next 45 minutes, many of the ladies talking about similar experiences they had had with cars and wildlife. Some mentioned hitting skunks and the resultant lasting effects. It took nearly all of that time and conversation for the sounds of that event to stop echoing in my mind.
Dyersville, Iowa was put on the map. so to speak, with the movie Field of Dreams. The most obvious difference between this town and so many others we had traveled through that day was the presence of several large motel chains. I had a large double all to myself since the woman who had been slated to room with me had cancelled at the last minute. There was a train track nearby, which had some late night traffic, but otherwise, the night passed remarkably quickly. After a full breakfast provided by the motel, we were off again before 7:30. We pulled into Manchester, Iowa about 8 am. What a sweet, neat, lovely little town. The ladies from The Quiltmaker's Shoppe were outside their front doors waiting for us. By the heavy buying and enthusiastic eating it was clear we were all well rested and more than ready for day 2. Our next stop was a good 3 hour drive, so back on the bus many of us plugged in our iPods and closed our eyes. We traveled through Dubuque, where we recrossed the Mississippi, this time into Illinois,  on this bridge.

Soon we drove through Galena which got us all looking out the windows and talking about our experiences in this historic town now a tourist destination. It was a quiet few hours as we made our way to our next stop and lunch.
The Quilter's General Store is one of my favorites shops in northern Illinois.  Before going in Bill used my camera and one other and graciously agreed to take a group photo.

Do we look like we're having a good time? Do we look cold (it was a brisk 45 degees)? Is it evident that several of the ladies would rather have had a chance to hit the lady's room before the photo??? (not everyone likes to brave a potty on wheels.)
Our last stop was to be Mill House Quilts in Waunakee, Wisconsin. Full from lunch and knowing our last stop was upon us, we settled back for a nearly 2 hour quiet time. Alas, along this busy highway  Bill couldn't help but notice that our bus could hardly keep the minimum speed up the slopes, gently told us we had a little trouble and that it was necessary to pull off and talk to the dispatcher for a confab. It was agreed we could drive, albeit slowly, the rest of the way to our last stop where we could stay if we had to until our bus was seen to or another could take its place. Mill House Quilts is an extremely lovely place to be delayed, so none of us was too concerned. It was just a hose that had to be replace in the engine and after saying goodbye to our last shop we settled back for the 130 mile drive "home," where we pulled into Woodman's lot just 36.5 hours after we had left it. Another large bus was in the lot exactly where we intended to pull in and a handful of people departed. We joked about whether they looked like casino folks and who we thought may have spent more on their bus trip. Bill was given a large round of applause, an fat envelope with our monetary thanks, and we all hugged our bus moms and said things like "See you at Olive Juice" and "Hope we travel together again soon."
New friends, rekindled enthusiasm, a treasure trove of purchases, a delightful time.

I forgot to mention that I won a bus raffle prize. And embarrassingly enough, I pulled my own name! I won a Moda Candy Bar. How much fun is that???


  1. Bravo Sharon!!! So glad you made the leap and went on this trip on your own!! Sounds like it turned out beautifully, other than the poor deer being hit. Glad you didn't witness it happening.
    New friends, fabric shopping, shared stories - it sounds like such fun! Thank you for taking us along for the ride!! And so glad you had a good time!

  2. I have never heard of a bus tour shop hop! Well done on having the courage to go by yourself. It sounds as though you had a wonderful time (apart from the deer incident)and that it was quite an adventure! Judging by the photo the group look most amiable!

  3. So glad to hear that you enjoyed your shop hop! I hope you found lots and lots of good stuff to add to your stash! :)

    If you're going to be in an accident with a deer, a huge tour bus is probably just about the best vehicle to be in, I would think. I'm glad you didn't see it happen.

    Congrats on winning the candy bar!

  4. I am exhausted just reading about this adventure...but big BRAVOS to you for climbing aboard the bus! Sounds like a fine adventure, and I hope we get to peek at all the goodies you found along the way.