Return to your own back roads

By : 
Sylvia Leitzen
On Your Own Back Roads

So much has changed. Southeast Minnesota Historic Bluff Country has changed. I have changed. Which to address first?

I will address the easiest one. I am older. Note I did not say wiser. After leaving Southeast Minnesota Historic Bluff Country 12 years ago, I have now retired and am living in Caledonia. And, much to my surprise, I have been asked to join the Board of Directors of Southeast Minnesota Historic Bluff Country. So, I'm back, hoping to regale you yet again about all the fun, wonderful, educational places to go and experience right here in Historic Bluff Country.

Southeast Minnesota Historic Bluff Country has changed. We are now relying on the communities much more than the individual members. It makes my writing easier. I can now rhapsodize about all the attractions, restaurants, natural wonders, etc., and not worry if they are members or not.

With that in mind, I will tell you about my recent visit to the International Owl Center in Houston. Yes, this is the place that has been on the news recently about receiving over 4,000 drawings of owls from children from all over the world. It is a remarkable place with truly learned volunteers and workers, and the owls!

Full disclosure, my granddaughter is crazy about owls. She has been for a very long time and she is only 4 years old! She has many owl stuffed animals and their home has owl hot pads, owl dish clothes and an owl cookie jar. Let's just say she has influenced their decorating.

On Jan. 20, Wayne and I headed down to Houston to sit in on the presentation given by the International Owl Center. We met up with Eric and Cindie. Alice the Great Horned Owl has retired but is held in very high esteem and without her, the center never would have happened. But now there is Ruby, part of the presentations, and Rusty and Iris, who are on a live cam. All three are great horned owls and are stunning to see, although while we were there, Ruby did poop on the floor twice much to the delight of the kids attending.

Uhu is an Eurasian eagle owl, Piper is an American barn owl and JR is the newest member of the crew and is an eastern screech owl. Along with being able to see the owls pretty darn close up, there are feathers and models of other owls to be seen. There is also a gift shop with books and novelties for all ages.

The International Owl Center is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with live owl presentations at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. This is a very interesting and fun way to spend time. The web site for more information is

While in Houston you can visit one of their coffee shops — one is a roasting facility, go to the Houston Nature Center or just plain enjoy the small town.

March is a time to hope for spring. Although, if you remember, we had quite a bit of snow last year in March.

For another reason to celebrate, there is St. Patrick's Day! The day when everyone feels just a little Irish!

I don't know how you celebrate St. Patrick's Day but there are many choices in Southeast Minnesota Historic Bluff Country.

Don't feel like traveling far? Then check out Rushford in Fillmore County! There is such a wide range of dining establishments available there. You could eat well at Shawnee's and Stumpy's, grab a pizza and ice cream and then go bowling at the Creamery and Nordic Lanes. Or perhaps you want a special occasion meal? I heartily recommend Il Luigi. We stopped there shortly after I returned from New York City and I will honestly tell you that anything I ordered there rivaled the meals at the Italian restaurants in NYC. And those are just the places I have been to recently! I can't forget Java Street where I have enjoyed many wonderful mugs of coffee.

If you are in Houston County, try out Caledonia and two great restaurants, Good Times and Elsie's, neither of which will not let you down.

Once again bowling is available at MAAD Alley LLC in case you want to work off the calories or just have a fun time and not worry about the score. The Wired Rooster has delicious sandwiches and once again fantastic coffees and teas available. If you are here for lunch, The Farmhouse is a cozy and warm place to experience. I haven't been to all places available in Caledonia but look forward to the experiences.

And those are just two towns to check out. So c'mon, let's celebrate in Southeast Minnesota Historic Bluff Country! If you want more choices, please contact Historic Bluff Country for more ideas or hop on our web site at