Passat to Galena

A high-tech ride to a historic town

Finally. The car gods of power, performance and handling met with car gods of comfort, style and practicality to work things out. At last, we’re presented with an automobile that combines the road feel of a sports car, acceleration of a small jet and high-tech refinements of the Mars Rover with the spaciousness of a family sedan, smart instrumentation, classic good taste and green zone energy efficiency. Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, it’s no surprise that Passat captured the coveted 2012 Motor Trend Car of the Year Award.

This car is powered by an eager two-liter, 140-horsepower, four-cylinder TDI Clean Diesel turbo engine. It performs perfectly, as if were built especially for the spectacular highways of Wisconsin’s Driftless Region. The Passat’s six-speed automatic transmission shifts effortlessly, quietly cruises over rolling hills, negotiates sweeping curves through steep river valleys and dashes across classic American heartland. The gauges are big, bright and easy to read. An in-dash display offers full details on fuel economy, temperature, direction and performance. On a bright sunny day you fully appreciate Vivaldi on the concert-quality eight-speaker sound system and the optional power sunroof. In cool weather you’ll be happy you chose heatable front seats.

We decided to explore the historic Galena, Illinois, area just across Wisconsin’s southwest border. The region shares much pioneer and mining heritage with Wisconsin. It was the home of the Civil War hero and eighteenth U.S. president Ulysses S. Grant. Following his service in the War to Preserve the Union, Galena leaders purchased a brick home and gave it to him in 1865. Grant and his family lived there until he was elected president in 1868. They returned occasionally until 1880. The home today is preserved as a mid-1860s residence, has many of Grant’s furnishings and is open for public tours. 

We stayed at the Eagle Ridge golf resort set in the hills about seven miles from town. At 6,800 acres with twenty-three miles of roads, four championship golf courses, a full-service day spa, restaurants, lounges, a general store, a lodge and more than three hundred rental homes it’s almost the size of a minor European country. There’s enough to do right at Eagle Ridge that you could easily spend a week there and never have to leave the property.

You’ll have to choose: a quiet, restorative weekend or one jam-packed with activities. Eagle Ridge has options for everyone. If you have little people with you, get into your swimming suits for pool fun: Movies ‘n Tubies is flicks in the pool. Next, churn your own ice cream or roast s’mores by the campfire. 

If your kids are teens, schedule spa time. Yes, for all of you! Stonedrift Spa’s experienced staff have created two services especially to pamper teens. Choose between a facial complete with recommendations for an at-home skin regime or a massage for young athletes. The latter service addresses backs and lower legs to relieve teenage stresses. Spa staff say that young golfers competing in tournaments at the resort love it. The favored adult services are Swedish massage and anti-aging facial. Reservations are a must.  

Lodging options are as vast as the grounds. In addition to lodge rooms and suites, guests may choose a one- to six-bedroom villa or distinctive home. Our villa took its charming open-range cowboy theme from the nearby riding center. It would have been perfect for three couples; each bedroom had a private bath. A stay of a weekend or a longer would be very comfortable. A fireplace, screened-in porch, hot tub, deck and patio furniture, fully outfitted kitchen and Wi-Fi made it a very relaxing private retreat. Don’t pull the blinds. There’s not another home in view from any bedroom window!

Exploring Eagle Ridge in the Passat TDI SE, you’ll appreciate twenty-three miles of scenic, twisting roads that run through magnificent wooded hills. Driving this sporty sedan around here is a treat all its own, but you may want to temporarily trade in your wheels for hoofs or hot air. Trail rides from the resort’s Shenandoah Riding Center accommodate riders of any skill level. Sunrise or sunset hot air balloon rides provide exquisite eagle-eye views of the Galena area. Photographers will delight at dawn and dusk hours as the lush landscape is painted with a golden glow. Golf enthusiasts love the way the courses take full advantage of the land, offering challenging carries over water or underbrush. Sculpted bunkers guard huge, undulating manicured greens. 

Heading to Galena is a quick country run. Adults in the back seats will be delighted with generous legroom, comfortable seats and limo-quality leatherette V-Tex upholstery.  

Galena has a charming, bustling downtown shopping district reminiscent of those in the British Isles. Dickens would feel at home here. The narrow street is packed, literally, wall-to-wall with shops. If you see a place to park, take it. We got lucky, and thankfully the Passat was easy to maneuver.   

For your holiday gift list, Galena Canning Company stocks lots of hot sauces, salsas and jellies—all ideal stocking stuffers. The Grateful Gourmet has child-sized cooking kits. Our dog Baileigh gives tail-wagging approval to peanut-flavored dog treats from Don’t Forget About Me pet store. Fiber Wild storekeeper Amy Loberg, a UW alum, will help you make the perfect pick for the knitter on your list.

For a unique shopping experience, head to Stone House Pottery & Gallery located in a reclaimed brewery. Master potter Charles Fach commemorates the building’s roots in the custom tile entry floor featuring hops and barrels. Doorknobs are bronze portraits of his daughter. Just as unique is a weekend session, Glaze and Graze. Once a month, with Fach’s guidance, guests decorate and glaze a three-piece dinnerware setting. The next night in the 1850 barrel vaulted limestone brewing chamber, enjoy a catered dinner served by the light of thirty-six candles on your own freshly kilned setting. 

We recommend dining at family-owned Cannova’s. We ordered the bruschetta to munch with a glass of wine. It’s a delicious starter, loaded with diced tomatoes. Followed by a small pizza and pasta dish—all recommended by our friendly waitress—we had enough food for the weekend. Leftovers made for a tasty and effortless Sunday-night dinner.

The restaurant One Eleven Main Street has been recognized for featuring local ingredients. We enjoyed a late lunch of Mac n’Cheese with smoked provolone, white cheddar and herb parmesan crust with a bowl of bean soup. Our waitress and the bus boy shared stories of otherworldly visitors who frequent the historic building. The restaurant is non-smoking, but don’t tell the pipe-smoking ghost. Ask to see the cameras-don’t-lie evidence preserved in a photo file. Or go for late dinner and maybe shoot a shot of your own!

No one likes to see the weekend end, but with Sunday comes the remarkable Eagle Ridge brunch. Executive Chef Randy Hoppman and his culinary crew create three rooms of delectable choices. Attentive staff ensures that options are fresh and plentiful. When faced with so many choices we suggest eating what you’d never make at home. The garde manger arrives in the kitchen at 6 a.m. and creates that day’s salad choices from scratch. You also have to love a server who suggests you check the huge dessert table before starting so you’ll know what you’re sweet finale will be.

We drove back to Madison following minor highways and county roads through cheese and mining territory. It was a pleasant workout for the Passat. If you want one, they come in a variety of configurations starting around $20,000. Adding options and enhancements gets to about $30,000. All of packages include a worry-ending three-year, 36,000-mile “carefree maintenance” and roadside assistance package. Our well-equipped TDI SE (clean diesel) turbo with sunroof got about 40 mpg highway and averaged around 34 mpg round-trip. It had a window sticker of $29,020, which, in our estimation, turns out to be one very sporty package.

- By Gary and Mae Patrice Knowles

Gary and MaePatrice Knowles live in Madison where he is a freelance writer and marketing consultant to clients in travel, food, hospitality and entertainment and she is a public relations and marketing communications professional.

WHEN YOU GO:

Cannova’s

247 N. Main St., Galena 

(815) 777-3735


Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa

Hwy. 20 at The Galena Territory

444 Eagle Ridge Drive, Galena 

(815) 777-5000

www.eagleridge.com


Galena/Jo Davies 

County Convention

& Business Bureau

(877) 464-2536

www.galena.org


The Grant House 

500 Bouthillier St., Galena 

(815) 777-3310

www.granthome.com


One Eleven Main

111 N. Main St., Galena 

(815) 777-8030

www.oneelevenmain.com


Stone House Pottery & Gallery

418 Spring St., Galena 

(815) 777-0354

www.stonehousepotterygalena.com

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