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Exit 1 from US 61/151 N 42 31.261' W 90 37.029 Grant County
Grant County (Dubuque) - Rest stop 166

       When people in Wisconsin consider our western border, we mostly think about Minnesota, to which we feel a strong cultural and geographic bond. Yet we do share a somewhat smaller border with the state of Iowa.
        The Grant County rest area is located in the Southwest corner of Wisconsin. It lies within a few miles of both the Iowa border and the Illinois border. The closest city is Dubuque, and the closest Wisconsin city, a town really, is Dickeyville.
        This is a rather small rest area for a state border, but it sits upon a collection of state and federal highways, rather than the Interstate. Most Wisconsin rest areas come in pairs, with each member accessible from a different travel direction. The Grant County rest area sits alone and is accessible from both directions - all directions really. This is due to the nature of the state and federal highways that cross here, which do not have the limited access of the Interstate.
        Being a smaller rest area, with limited space inside, and some of that serving as the welcome center counter, it is not as fully featured as some of the other welcome center stops.  Vending machines for soft drinks have been moved outside into a small shelter, instead of being installed in the entry vestibule, as is usually the case. It's always handy to be able to pick up something to drink,and some small snack, before going on your way.
      Travel tends to be a process of accretion. We acquire memories, expenses, souvenirs, a bit of fat from all the unwholesome road food,  as well as lots and lots of clutter. When pulling over at a rest area, everyone gets a sudden urge to clear out their travel cluttered car. Rest stops provide recycling areas, usually several. This area has collections of bins located near the entrance, in several spots by the parking areas, and by the picnic areas. The main station sits near the front entrance, just across from a small flower garden.
        As with all of these rest areas, everything is clean and well maintained. The grass and brush is also well trimmed, except for a small area of natural prairie. We do have somewhat of a tick problem here in Wisconsin, particularly by the river. This is part of the reason so much care is taken in maintaining the grass.

Amenities

  • 29 car and 18 truck parking stalls
  • Men's and women's restroom
  • Family/assisted restroom
  • Handicapped accessible
  • Diaper changing facilities
  • Drinking water
  • Vending machines
  • Travel and weather info
  • Telephones plus TTY
  • Picnic tables and shelters
  • Pet exercise area
  • Recycling areas

Features

  • Rest area opened in 1993
  • Frank Lloyd Wright "Prairie Style" inspired building design
  • 6-sided theme carried throughout the building and site
  • Converging, cantilevered deck reminiscent of the "Infinity Room" at the House on the Rock
  • View from deck towards the Mississippi River and restored prairie

        Most rest stop have a restored area of plantings to reflect the native state of the location before settlement. In the case, an entire field has been restored, out behind the pavilion. It may be walked or experienced directly, or may be viewed from the prow like deck of the observation area of the pavilion.
        The outside deck is large, and is reminiscent of the prow of a ship. The field below is filled with wildflowers, and the natural grasses of the area. The deck rises a good ten feet above the restored prairie it surveys. There is no seating out here, as this is meant to be an observation area rather than a lounge or picnic area. The safety barrier sits about chest high, making accidental falls unlikely. It is also just the right size to make a handy arm rest.

Parking

        If you can't park, you can't rest. As is the case with all Wisconsin rest areas, the parking here is divided into sections for regular vehicles,and for large trucks. For standard vehicles, regular angle parking is offered. Truck spaces are pull through, so no backing is required. While most Wisconsin rest areas have their car and truck areas separated by the pavilion itself, here they are both in front of the pavilion, and separated by a median strip. There is room here for 29 cars and 18 trucks, not particularly large, but considered adequate for this area.
        All traffic in the parking areas is one way, going with the flow of the nearby freeway. For safety, the lots are well lit, and well patrolled. As this is not an Interstate, and is not a particularly tourist attracting area, most traffic is local or business. This is a big reason for the relatively limited parking areas, the less elaborate welcome center, and the general small size of the rest stop. As a rule, it is rare to have a rest stop this close to a city of any size.
        Officially, parking here is limited to six hours. This is not meant to be a parking lot or a campground, not to compete with such places. Unofficially, travelers are allowed to stop as a safety precaution, which sometimes includes catching a bit of sleep.
        For the purposes of the rest area, you are considered to be camping if you unhitch a trailer, extend slide outs, or start to set out chairs and awnings. Picnics are encouraged, but for a BBQ there is no place to dump hot ash.
        In general, rest areas are meant to make traveling pleasant and safe, and to be available to all travelers.

Picnic

        Rest areas are a natural for a picnic or lunch break while on the road. They are particularly attractive when compared to the cost of food on the road. I love truck stops, but they can cost, particularly when traveling with a family.
        The picnic area here features a combination of sheltered and open benches. Most overlook the restored prairie. All are mounted on concrete bases, to that there will not be mud on wet days, or dust on dry days, and to prevent bothersome insects. Permanent mounts also prevent theft, or the moving of benches out to parking areas where they could be come a hazard.
         With the pavilion and indoor restrooms nearby, and recycling containers handy, this can be a comfortable spot to eat outdoors without really roughing it .

The Pavilion

         The DMV calls these huts. I have always called them pavilions. Whatever you call them, they are built in typical government facility fashion - They are massive.
        The building is quite simple,but quite beautiful for what it is. The DMV describes this as being influenced the the Prairie Style of Frank Loyd Wright.
        Many of the huts at the rest areas are built  to one of several standard designs. This one is unique.
        The rear balcony deck area does have something of the look of the prow of a ship, cutting across the restored prairie over which it projects.
Inside

        As a rest area located at a state border, this doubles as a welcome center. It has racks with tourist brochures and local advertisements, as were featured in all rest areas before the rise of smart phones and tablets. It also has a service counter, which is usually staffed, but was not upon my visit.
        The racks spill over to the door leading out to the observation deck. Above this is a large flat monitor which flashed views of local conditions and local businesses.
        These places never close, and are built for heavy traffic. Everything is tile, brick or heavy wood. All surfaces are smooth and solid for ease of cleaning. Lights, plumbing and other fixtures are commercial grade and are designed to make access and vandalism difficult. In these stops, the lights never go out and the doors never close.
        The basic design motif here is of a hexagon. This is carried through on the building and rafters, and also on a six sided kiosk that houses a phone, some public announcements, dispenses maps, and has space for even more local brochures and tourist guides. The kiosk sits in the middle of the main space here. Even the floor tiles are six sided. A payphone located here is a rarity, as these are almost impossible to find these days.
        Also featured here is a single vending machine, for snacks and other such items, to compliment the soft drink vending machines outside. The proximity of this stop to a city likely makes such machines less of a necessity, than at the more isolated stops out in the country.
        Unlike most rest areas, which sometimes have the appearance of bunkers, this stop has plenty of windows. A dual entry vestibule allows for some abatement of the weather, but there is only a single layer exit for the observation deck. The usual local bulletin boards, warnings, and public service announcements fill the vestibule walls.
        While these areas are not ordinarily considered to be staffed (except the welcome center at times) I have rarely visited one that did not have cleaners, gardeners, maintenance people, or some kind of personnel around. There are also regular check ins by local law enforcement.
        As a rest area located near a large city, there is not so much need for the self reliance built into the countryside or remote rest stops. This stop has access to city electricity, water, and sewer connections. It is also less likely to be useful for weary long distance travelers, which is why the parking areas are relatively small.
        There is bench seating beneath a line of windows here, which makes for some comfort while resting, checking the weather, or waiting out a storm.
         A drinking fountain,and drinking water dispenser are available for those who wish to forgo the sugary soft drinks.
         A few private areas as well as the lower area, house the grounds-keeping and cleaning gear, as well as the computer equipment and network connections. Being so close to a city, this location does not require the roof mounted dishes connecting those out in the countryside.
         This stop, like all highway rest stops was spotlessly clean.
        Finally, here is the room the puts the rest in rest area. It is the rest room, of course. There is a single set of restrooms, unlike most rest areas that have two sets so that one will always be available, even during cleanings.
        Rest rooms have diaper changing stations, and the usual amenities. This stop is close enough to a major metro area to have regular plumbing and connections to city power. So there are no recycling toilets or low water sinks.
        Dur to the present Covid scare, there are air hand driers but no towels. Soap dispensers are above the sinks.
        The entire room is tiled for easy cleaning and general hygiene. A single small window graces the room. It is of frosted glass and can not be opened. These rest rooms are open and lit 24 hours a day, every day of the year.