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American pie: Wisconsin well-represented in national championships


Twenty years ago, Caroline Imig’s world started crashing. Her husband was killed in a farm equipment accident, leaving her as a single mother with five children. She tried to sell 350 acres and a herd of 120 cows, only to have a land contract buyer abandon the property without her knowledge.

“They left me in a mess,” she says, adding that the farm was sold three times before the deal was complete. She carries a wallet-sized photo of the acreage as she knew it. Then, a shrug. “I got through it,” she says, and Wayne’s Restaurant in Oconto gets credit for helping to make that happen.

When owners Jim and Karen Thompson needed a pie baker, Imig applied, and this month she earned her 21st and 22nd blue ribbons at the National Pie Championships in Orlando.

Celebrating native sons, and other attractions


Some Wisconsin destinations — like Summerfest in Milwaukee or the EAA AirVenture in the Oshkosh — become annual traditions because of their magnitude and ever-fresh approach, but these one-time or first-time events and attractions also aim to earn your attention.

Centennial celebrations for two native sons happen this year. Orson Welles (responsible for the 1941 film “Citizen Kane” and 1938 “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast) was born May 6, 1915, in Kenosha. Les Paul, father of the solid body electric guitar, was born June 9, 1915, in Waukesha.

Sign of spring? Food trucks


Maybe we should count the return of food trucks and food carts right up there with robins as sure signs of spring.

“Mobile food is not a new concept in the United States,” notes PasteMagazine.com. “From the chuck wagons of the Old West to the hot dog stands of New York City, quick, inexpensive food on the road has been a part of our nation’s history.”

New products from Wisconsin


Much of what happens during the annual Midwest Foodservice Expo is insider advice and networking for the hospitality industry and others whose work involves the preparation and delivery of good food.

Vendors hawk food trucks to chef uniforms, digital advertising systems to slush machines. Also in the mix at this Wisconsin Restaurant Association event are food and beverage samples from tiny to major manufacturers.

Exploring Machu Picchu


When pelting rain wakes me at 4 a.m. on a Monday, about all I can do is listen and wonder. The closest weather forecast online is for a city 70 miles away and 3,300 feet higher in elevation.

This is the day. There is no rain date. Our train leaves in mid afternoon.

Tips for a good trip


I sometimes welcome the unexpected in travel because that’s the foundation for fond and lasting memories, even though you might not think so at the time.

An overnight at a Buddhist temple north of Busan, South Korea, had us fumbling with chopsticks, in fear of an order to swig a slosh of wasted food, then sleeping on (heated) floors and waking to 3 a.m. gongs for worship.

Questions and critiques from readers


Time to lighten the reader mailbag — thanks for taking the time to write with your questions, ideas, critiques and praise about destinations close to home and abroad.

I certainly am not the only one whose Danube River cruise was interrupted by flooding. Kathy Thomas of Pleasant Prairie says her trip was rescheduled from summer to autumn because of high water. “I had a very similar experience to yours,” she writes. “I expected a more scenic cruise but still totally enjoyed the trip.”

Our birds of prey


Up to 2,500 bald eagles winter near the Mississippi River’s locks and dams because open water makes it easier to fish for dinner. That’s why we consider this the time of year to seek out the once-endangered raptor.

The population estimate comes from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and most bald eagles head north to nest as weather warms toward the beginning of spring.

A pro’s advice for travelers


So many travel stories concentrate on exotic and extravagant destinations that have huge budgets for marketing and promotion. We all know they are off-limits to average people because of the excess and expense.

Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel columns, magazines and books are a longstanding exception. His guidebook “Europe on $5 a Day,” published in 1956, was the first title of almost 180 that bear his name. (“Europe on $95 a Day was published in 2007.)

Beer on the menu


Cooking with alcohol used to mean little beyond a splash of beer in a crock of cheese soup or tub of simmering brats. Now ales, stouts and spirits show up in almost all courses, if you know where to look.

The Brown Bottle, a tasting room and tavern for Milwaukee’s Schlitz Brewing Co. since 1938, recently reopened after four years of closure.

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