Today the road has brought me to West Bend, WI.
It’s nice to get back on the road after the winter months. Though, honestly, I was originally going to take this trip back in January as the Midwest had been experiencing a very mild winter. However, the night before my trip, the state of Iowa got crippled by a monster blizzard which stopped my excursion cold, if you’ll pardon the expression.
Mercifully, the owners of the inn I planned to visit were gracious enough to let me move my reservation to March so I wouldn’t be out the money plus the good people at Holiday Inn of Cedar Rapids gave me a refund on my nonrefundable rate without my having to ask so it all worked out for the best. Thus, I finally found myself on the road to Hidden Serenity Bed and Breakfast, owned and operated by Chris and Sally Cochran.
The trip didn’t start off the greatest as I had to listen to my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes make an ignominious first round exit from the NCAA BB tournament due to a combination of ice cold shooting and the refs missing some blatant fouls that would have likely led to us winning in spite of our shooting woes.
A meal at my favorite hole in the wall, Iowa’s Best Burger Café, and a free upgrade to a king suite at the Holiday Inn at Cedar Rapids helped to improve my mood as well as grant me a satisfactory night of rest.
A grim and rainy day met me the next morning and followed me all the way to West Bend. Hidden Serenity is located on a secluded acreage outside of West Bend and the bright white house shone like a beacon in the gloom.
I pressed the doorbell which chimed out a charming tune and the door was answered by Sally who showed me around the common areas and, to my delight, offered me a free upgrade to the inn’s honeymoon suite, the Kettle Moraine. After showing me all the ins and outs of my room, she left me to my own devices.
Hidden Serenity isn’t your typical B & B abode. The Cochrans built the house in 1997 from wood on their acreage and it was their private home where they raised “four extraordinary children”. The Cochrans also hosted exchange students for years and have a travel bug that might even exceed mine. But once the children had grown, they decided to start sharing their home with the public, filling the house with fine furniture and they are currently in the process of renovating the basement area into a spa complete with hot tub, sauna, and massage room (this is currently in use).
The house evoked memories of my visit to Otter Creek Inn in Eau Claire, WI in the sense that the house has more of a lodge feel with its massive great room which includes a pool table guests can actually play. The house is also a unique fusion of rustic and luxury.
The Kettle Moraine has the same blend of swank and hominess possessed by the rest of the house. A soft king-sized bed is the centerpiece of the room, but it also contains a pair of comfortable leather easy chairs with a beautiful view of the forest. A faux fireplace graces one of the walls and the mirror above it contains a hidden LCD TV. The bathroom contains heated tiles, a rainfall shower, and a two person slipper tub.
I didn’t have too long to putter because I had a massage scheduled at 4:40pm. I met my masseuse, Joann, who led me to the basement and the massage room. As I readied myself for my massage, I noticed the starlit roof which made me feel like I was in a planetarium. Soon all thoughts fled my brain as Joann worked the kinks out of shoulders and the aches out of my feet.
Feeling good and relaxed, I headed out to get some dinner at the Jail House. Sally had told me that the place might be jumping and right she was. Luckily, on Fridays, the Jail House only accepts reservations for parties of 5 or more so people can move in and out more quickly. I was told I’d have to wait 30-40 minutes which I was fully prepared to do as I had a new volume of Sherlock Holmes pastiches to read. However, I only ended up waiting for about 20 minutes before being seated for dinner.
I opted for a Southwest Salmon served with homemade black bean salsa, a bowl of seafood chowder, and a side of steak fries. The broth of the chowder was a little thin and could have used a bit more seafood, but had a good taste, especially when enhanced with a bit of pepper. The salsa and salmon were excellent. The salmon had a sweet chili glaze and was just slightly blackened which made it incredibly flavorful.
After dinner, I returned back to the inn and I advise caution as there are no street lights, but a path of lanterns does light the way to Hidden Serenity once you get close to the inn.
I started watching Cinderella Man, based on the true story of James J. Braddock, a promising boxer who saw his career derailed by injury and descended into poverty due to the Great Depression. He staged a miraculous comeback which saw him upset the virtually unstoppable Max Baer for the world heavyweight championship.
Slumber beckoned to me throughout the film, so I stopped it and went to bed.
And sleep I did, not awakening until nearly 8am which is practically unheard of for me. I spent a little time watching the The Price is Right channel before heading to the dining area for breakfast.
I saw the inn’s other guests being entertained by Chris as I took a seat. Soon a plate of fruit and a small pot of herbal tea was placed before me. The tea was an amazing blend of rosemary and peppermint which I contentedly sipped while nibbling on kiwi, oranges, strawberries, and blackberries.
Course number two was Polish sausage with peanut butter cream cheese stuffed French Toast served with the inn’s own maple syrup (also available in a peanut butter variety) and a maple vinaigrette salad. For dessert, there was a concoction of blue Jell-O and Blue Moon ice cream which was a tasty treat of an exclamation point to the meal.
After breakfast, I headed out to West Bend to Blades Barbershop for a bit more pampering.
Blades updates the traditional barbershop experience for the modern times. I decided to have a shave and a haircut with Julie Kidder. I was long overdue for a haircut and felt the relief of having a pound of hair cut away from my head. But the shave was the real joy. Julie treated my face with some tonic before lathering me and scraping off my beard with a straight razor. I truly felt clean shaven afterwards and she mentioned I had an extremely thick set of whiskers (no hyperbole as I can grow a full beard in roughly 2 weeks).
For once, I decided not to book any other activities. I just wanted to relax so I returned to Hidden Serenity where I walked its trail and then returned to my room to finish Cinderella Man. With the movie over, I drew a bath and added a bottle of peppermint bath salts and just soaked until the heat left the water.
With the bath done, I was ready to head off to worship at St Frances Cabrini. It was a nice service with Father’s sermon focusing on how the time is now to change your heart as the theme of Lent this year is about conversion. I also found it apropos as the Catholic church is making a concentrated effort to evangelize and St Frances Cabrini seems to be ahead of the game with literature encouraging their parishioners on how to welcome those curious about this branch of Christianity and not to be afraid to explain the ritual parts of the service to those unfamiliar with them.
After getting my praise on, I needed some dinner. My first choice, Main Street Café, was closed so I went to Omicron Family Restaurant. There’s nothing fancy about this place. It’s just good, old-fashioned comfort food and I enjoyed a Gyro sandwich before returning to Hidden Serenity for a bit of writing and beddy-bye.
I was pleased to wake up to a sunny day which would make for a very pleasant drive home. I really didn’t want to go home, but reality was calling. But at least I could enjoy one more nourishing breakfast before I started the drive.
Today’s repast started with a bowl of carrot cake oatmeal. So tasty!! This was followed up by a custom made omelet (I had mine with the works. Ham, bacon, cheese, onions, olives, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms) with a bit of fruit and asparagus. Last, but not least, was a pair of chocolate cake/fudge bars drizzled with chocolate and (I believe) caramel. A fine, bracing meal to get me on my way.
This was a fine return to the B & B world and I consider Hidden Serenity to be my own personal Walden. So if you want to get away from it all and I mean REALLY get away from it all, book a stay at Hidden Serenity and enjoy some rustic luxury.
Until the next time. . .happy travels.