Today the road has brought me to Belleville, WI.
From the moment I saw Cameo Rose Victorian Country Inn, owned and operated by Gary and Dawn Bahr, I knew it was going to be the next B & B I would visit. So I took advantage of an unseasonably warm early October to have one of my more enjoyable adventures.
I hit the ground sprinting on this jaunt as I partook of my first activity before I even arrived at the inn. That activity was Cave of the Mounds located in Blue Mounds, WI.
Cave of the Mounds was discovered in August 1939 when a quarry blast revealed the mammoth caverns. From that discovery, the caves have now become an educational tourist attraction.
There are more than just the caves to explore. Several trails are available for hiking as well as a gift shop and a sluice (bags of dirt are available in the gift shop for sluicing). But the caves are what everybody comes to see.
Tours have resumed at the caves, but they’re a little different from pre-pandemic times. Now the tours are self-guided, though guides are available at certain points to answer questions and information kiosks are available to educate you throughout your tour. So, on one hand, you may not get as much information, but you can leisurely enjoy the caves and see the awesome formations of nature.
After enjoying a pleasant walk through the caves, I made my way over to Belleville to check into the inn.
Cameo Rose is located on a secluded acreage just outside of Belleville where one can enjoy true peaceful solitude. Unlike many B & Bs which were private homes, Cameo Rose was specifically built to be an inn so you get a traditional country inn set in the modern times.
I was greeted at the door by Dawn who has a wealth of information about the area. She gave me a tour of the home and led me to my base of operations: Battenburg Lace Whirlpool Room. It’s a spacious room with a king-sized bed, rose wallpaper, wine-colored carpet, a fireplace, an easy chair, some antique fixtures and a large bathroom with a soaker whirlpool (no soaps, oils, or shampoo).
While I got comfy, Dawn brought me a pumpkin spice bar and a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade. After drinking that cup, I don’t think I’ll ever drink anything less than the real McCoy again. I unwound for a bit before heading out to nearby Mt Horeb for a bite to eat.
My dinner would be at Grumpy Troll, a famed local eatery. Like many businesses, Grumpy Troll is suffering some understaffing due to COVID, so you might need to have a bit of patience. I opted to sit at the bar to avoid a wait for a table.
I ordered the namesake burger which was nice and juicy, but, surprisingly had no vegetables which was the only thing missing to make it a perfect burger. However, it did fill the cavity and give me the juice I needed to close out the night at Screamin’ Acres in Stoughton, WI.
Screamin’ Acres is a haunted attraction created by Jacob Eugster in 2011. Originally, it was intended to help Jacob pay off his school loans, but it has morphed into one of the top seasonal attractions in the area.
I started my night getting “disinfected” when I stepped into a machine that buried me in bubbles which felt refreshing on a muggy night. From there I had a brief wait in line before beginning the attraction.
You will definitely get your money’s worth out of this one as it will take at least an hour to make it through the haunts. Time clocks are at the start of each attraction so the staff can socially distance groups for an enjoyable experience. Screamin’ Acres has an impressive attention to detail with each attraction having its own in-depth story and you can read about those at the link provided a few paragraphs ago. The actual haunted house portion was my favorite due to its properties which made it feel like an old, creaky mansion.
I was surprised by the lack of jump scares, but chalked it up to COVID precautions to keep the actors distanced. For a truly unique experience, you must try the “superhaunt”, Death Trap.
Death Trap uses natural human fears and reactions to spook you. This season the title is Shock Therapy, though given the tight squeeze to get through some of the parts of this haunt, claustrophobia is another fear that might plague you. The title is very true as I got zapped by some chains right off the bat, though the sensation is the full body equivalent of sticking your tongue on a 9 volt.
I truly enjoyed the challenge of attempting to dodge the many jolts waiting for me before escaping. I then returned to Cameo Rose for the night, but Screamin’ Acres is definitely a fun group activity to get the blood pumping.
I enjoyed a truly restful night on the soft memory foam and didn’t wake up until the next morning.
Due to COVID, the dining room is not currently being used at Cameo Rose so you can enjoy breakfast in your room or outdoors in various spots on the property. Dawn prepared a 4 course meal with fruit, an apple nut muffin, sausage, and mango stuffed French Toast followed by mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert. The meal is perfectly portioned so you won’t feel overstuffed and the sausage is amazing (it’s organic). I felt amply fueled to visit The House on the Rock in nearby Spring Green.
If you’re in the region, you must visit the House. It was built by Alex Jordan as a private home for himself back in in the 1950s. But it was so original that people clamored to see it and Jordan eventually opened it up to the public and it became his life’s work.
Jordan built the house himself purely out of instinct and a knack for tinkering as he had no knowledge of architecture. Outside of its fascinating construction which includes a room dubbed the Infinity Room (it looks like it goes on forever), the house also contains some of the most incredible bric a brac you’ll ever lay eyes on.
Jordan was one of the world’s foremost collectors and his house expanded to huge rooms containing the many items he discovered over his life ranging from rare treasures to the bizarre and fantastical. You’ll see a suit of armor made for a dog (built by Jordan), radical combinations of instruments that will play for a token, intricate dollhouses, a main street from the turn of the century, a room containing 5 massive organs, the world’s largest carousel (and it has no horses) and so much more.
You could spend the day immersed in this incredible place and still return again and again to find something new.
I spent several hours here myself before returning to Cameo Rose to organize some photos and then I headed off to worship at St Francis of Assisi.
Father gave a pretty poignant sermon about having the faith of a child. When you’re a child, you instinctively trust your parents and you trust God without question. But in the process of growing up and learning how to support yourself, that faith wanes. Not necessarily in a bad way, but in a way where it becomes harder to “let go, let God” because you train yourself to feel like you have to do something instead of simply trusting and being led to the right spot. I assuredly have a lot to digest with this sermon.
After worship, I went to Paoli Schoolhouse American Bistro, the favorite restaurant of Gary and Dawn.
This restaurant is actually in an old schoolhouse and provides an intimate gourmet experience. I had the filet mignon in a marrow demi-glaze with whipped potatoes and Brussel Sprouts. I had never eaten sprouts before, but they taste like leafy broccoli. The potatoes were light and fluffy and my filet was cooked to perfection. This was truly dining.
After dinner, I retired to Cameo Rose for the night.
The trip seemed to end as quickly as it began. At first light, I was writing and editing. Then I got cleaned up for breakfast.
I decided to eat in the gazebo this morning and Dawn had prepared crustless quiche with a cacophany of ingredients, wheat toast, cinnamon scone with raisins, macademia nuts, and white chocolate chips, fruit, and a Neopolitan sundae for dessert.
I was so relaxed, but reality beckoned. But if you want to get away from it all and have a lot to get away to, make a reservation with Dawn and Gary to stay at Cameo Rose.
Until the next time. . .happy travels.