February 6, 2013

the road to liw

Blogger's Note: During my travels the past few years, I had the opportunity to visit various booked-related hot spots. With this month being Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthday month, a LIW post seemed fitting. Originally posted on my now-defunct blog, Lit Adventures, this is one of my Literary Adventures. Enjoy.

U.S. 14 runs through Walnut Grove, Minn. The section of
road was the first to be named Laura Ingalls Wilder
Historic Highway in honor of the author.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder home site in Walnut Grove, Minn., boasts a slightly less obvious feature for fans of the Little House series. The original section of Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway runs through the center of town on U.S. 14.

Established in 1995 by Minnesota Statute 161.14, the highway bearing the author's name began west of Walnut Grove near Lake Benton and ran east to Mankato, Minn.

Since then, Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway has extended to include other roads in Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin that link to sites important to the books. The highway presently leads visitors to:
  • Burr Oak, Iowa: One of LIW's childhood homes, not featured in the series.
  • De Smet, S.D.: Setting of By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years and The First Four Years.
  • Pepin, Wis.: LIW's birthplace and the setting of Little House in the Big Woods.
  • Spring Valley, Minn.: Adolescent home of LIW's husband, Almanzo Wilder, not featured in the series.

View the full map of the highway here, courtesy of Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove.

Driving along any part of the highway, it is easy to pretend you are Laura, tucked into a wagon with Pa and Ma up front and your sisters beside you. Though modern changes are in place -- from the roads and electrical wires to the occasional gas station, not to mention the car you are likely riding in --  you still get a feel for what the real view might have been like in select scenes from the book.

While driving along it, what most struck me was the sheer pride in knowing an author who matters so much to me apparently meant something to enough other people, they named sections of highway after her. Though her books left behind a legacy of their own, the highways are another way to uphold it.

I wonder what it would take for Nebraska to name a road after me.

Suggested Reading:
Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway Guide: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, USA by Mike Gleue
Little House Guidebook by William Anderson and Leslie A. Kelley
Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Pepin, Wis.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Walnut Grove, Minn.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, De Smet, S.D.
Ingalls Homestead, De Smet, S.D.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Park & Museum, Burr Oak, Iowa

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