Mary Bergin travels into Wisconsin's nooks and crannies and finds extraordinary beauty, charm and wonder blooming at every turn. We've mentioned her book briefly before, but it deserves to be said again: Sidetracked in Wisconsin is a winner. It recently was honored by the Society of American Travel Writers' Central States Chapter as the Best Travel Book of the year. It is delightfully illustrated with many of Bergin's photos, so it's no surprise the organization also named her Photographer of the Year this spring. Regular readers of "The Traveling Shepherd" know Bergin is skilled at finding great stories all over Wisconsin. She was born and raised here and, as she says on her Web site, roadstraveled.com, she has "no intention of calling anywhere else home." Her 242-page book is organized by quadrants, highlighting dozens of reasons to "get sidetracked," as she puts it. But making great travel experiences out of lists is as fruitless as expecting to have a gourmet meal emerge from a list of the contents of a corner grocery store. Bergin's curiosity, insight, experience, research and sensitivity spell the difference between a cart full of groceries and a memorable feast. Her reports are marked by the great respect she affords people who build, manage and interpret places others pass by. Bergin introduces us to them, tells their stories and reveals glistening gems. Check out A World of Accordions Museum in Superior, the nation's oldest continually operating bowling alley in Fond du Lac, the cheese-maker outside of Dodgeville whose work is served at America's best restaurant or the Markesan Book Castle, which was once a manure storage tank. No matter where you go, you'll enjoy having Mary Bergin show you a gentle, pleasant and proud Wisconsin.
--Gary Knowles, Shepherd Express