Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mazomanie (WI) to Beloit (WI) - 113 miles

Oct. 11-30, 2011 - We have spent almost three weeks reconnecting with family and friends in southern Wisconsin.  Our RV has been tucked in a corner of my mom’s driveway.  We’ve been living out of Mom’s real house and our house on wheels!

It has been great to be home again... lunches and dinners with friends at favorite restaurants as well as a few new ones... the Friday night fish fry... buying hickory nuts at the local Farmer’s Market... apple turnovers at Skelly’s Apple Farm... hot chocolate and coffee at Mocha Moments with friends... acoustic music at Cafe Carpe and Charlotte’s Web... hikes and campfires with Ice Age Trail friends in Rock County... making homemade noodles with Mom to serve to my sisters for dinner... visiting our college campus 40 years later and being amazed by all the changes... walking into Farm & Fleet just to smell the tires while shopping for jeans and chocolate... biking the Janesville to Milton trail and reminiscing about signing that section for the Ice Age Trail eight years ago... playing euchre, our favorite card game, with friends after a delicious dinner... hugs and laughter and good times... playing checkers... pizza from Tilley’s Pizza in Beloit... a wonderful lunch and Christmas show at The Fireside dinner theater with my mom... being home for Mom’s 80th birthday party... It has been great to be home again.  

Tom had the alignment done on the RV and it is handling much better on the road.  Our plan is to head southwest on Monday, Oct. 31.  We’ll continue on to the Phoenix area where we will leave the RV at a storage lot and drive our car home.  We’ll spend a couple months at our Sequim (WA) home before we return to the desert near Phoenix to continue the RV adventure in January 2012.

Helping Mom cut her birthday cake

Our RV tucked into the corner of Mom's driveway

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Baraboo (WI) to Mazomanie (WI) - 24 miles

Oct. 5-10, 2011 - It was a short drive to Mazomanie, where we will be spending several days with our friends, Jon & Jane Moritz.  We’re looking forward to biking and kayaking and hiking with them in this beautiful place known as the Driftless Area, another reference to the glaciers grinding to a halt here during the Ice Age.

We’ll be heading to my mom’s house in Beloit on Monday, Oct. 10.  We’re looking forward to visiting with family and friends once we get back to our old stomping grounds in southern Wisconsin.

Kayaking at Mirror Lake with leaves on water (Moritz photo)

Biking the 400 Bike Trail (Moritz photo)

Turtle with an Attitude on the bike trail (Moritz photo)

Tom in morning mist on Indian Lake

Sandhill crane in reeds at Indian Lake

Wisconsin River kayak trip

Sparta (WI) to Baraboo (WI) - 81 miles

Oct. 4-5, 2011 - We woke up this morning and decided we did not want to bike a third day in a row.  Looking at the map, we realized that Devil’s Lake State Park is on our way to visit friends in the Mazomanie area.  We found a quiet RV site at Wheeler’s Campground, close to the state park.  It was a gorgeous, summer-like day; so we kayaked on Devil’s Lake.  The lake was calm, reflecting the rocky bluffs dotted with autumn color.  It was a leisurely paddle...

The next morning, we went back to Devil’s Lake State Park to hike the trails on the east side of the lake and discovered that there are steep trails in the Midwest.  We really got a workout climbing 500 feet to the bluff top on stone steps built by CCC workers during the Great Depression.  Devil’s Lake was formed when glaciers left terminal moraines, dam-like piles of earth, gravel, and rock, enclosing a lake between rugged quartzite bluffs.  It was an awesome hike.

Devil's Lake

Tom kayaking on Devil's Lake

Pat climbing through quartzite rock

Rest break after a big climb

Pat at Devil's Door

Eau Claire (WI) to Sparta (WI) - 98 miles

Oct. 2-3, 2011 - We haven’t been on our bikes since we started this trip.  So, we decided to drive down to Sparta to spend a couple days.  Wisconsin has wonderful Rails-to-Trails bicycle trails.  We love biking on them.  Within minutes of getting to Sparta, we were eating a frozen custard sundae at Culver’s, one of our favorite regional restaurants.  Within minutes of parking the RV at the Leon Valley Campground, we were on our way to the La Crosse River Trail to pedal our bikes for a couple hours. 

We were back on our bikes the next day, biking 9 miles to the first tunnel on the Elroy-Sparta Trail.  As we approached the tunnel, there was a sudden rush of cold air surrounding us.  It was an amazing temperature change from the 70-degree day we had been experiencing so far.  We’re seeing more and more signs of autumn along the trail -- chirping crickets, woolly bear caterpillars, gray squirrels gathering acorns and nuts.

We were able to spend an evening with friends, Joe and Sylvia, at their lakeside cabin.  We’ve been phoning friends as we pass through their area, hoping we will be able to connect as we give them last-minute notices.  Sometimes it doesn’t work out, and sometimes it does.  We had a wonderful dinner at their place and got to be entertained by the newest addition to their family - a 6-month old Shih Tzu named Bandit.

Pat in Sparta, Wisconsin

Pat at tunnel on Elroy-Sparta bike trail  

Woolly-bear Caterpillar on bike trail


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tomahawk (WI) to Eau Claire (WI) - 157 miles

Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2011 - Tom and I just spent the weekend in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  My niece started her freshman year at University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire and we wanted to see her and the campus.  My sister, nephew, and mom met us on Friday night at the Holiday Inn.  It was our first night in a hotel since we left home three weeks ago.  We all got the campus/dormitory tour on Saturday afternoon.  It really brought back memories of our college days at UW - Whitewater, 41 years ago.  Those were such great years.  We were young and learning to be independent while having fun and working hard to get through those college classes.  It was great to relive those memories. 

After one night in the hotel, we spent the next night in our RV which was still parked in the hotel parking lot (the price was right).  So, this is what it is like to spend the night at a Walmart parking lot!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Munising (MI) to Tomahawk (WI) - 235 miles

Sept. 27-30, 2011 - Driving through Michigan and Wisconsin in late September has been a special treat for us.  The trees are a kaleidoscope of color - reds and yellows and oranges and golds and greens and burgundies.  We made lots of roadside stops to snap photos.  I’ve missed autumn color during the past eight years that we have lived in the Pacific northwest.  There is nothing like maple and oak trees in Midwest forests to splash the landscape with gorgeous color.  Evergreen trees interspersed with the fall foliage really brings out the contrast of leaf colors.  Ahhh, autumn is a lovely time of year...

While we were in northern Wisconsin, we made a special trip to Maple Hollow.  For years, I have been buying their syrup.  It is the best syrup I have ever tasted.  When I mail order the syrup now that I live in Washington, I pay more for shipping than I do for the actual product!  It was such a thrill to wander through Maple Hollow’s store and maple forest to see the process behind the product.  I love supporting independent businesses and it was a thrill to be at their farm, shopping for their products and chatting with the owners.

During these past few days, we stayed with Carla at her Tomahawk cabin in the northwoods of Wisconsin.  It is always a pleasure to relax and enjoy life at her cabin retreat.  It has been so nice to be back in our Midwest homeland.  I love reconnecting with good friends, eating walleye and lake perch again, paddling quiet lakes, and hiking woodland trails.    

Autumn color in northern Wisconsin

Autumn color in northern Wisconsin

Autumn color in northern Wisconsin

Autumn leaves in a small creek

Pat & Tom at Maple Hollow - Merrill, WI

Pat buying syrup at Maple Hollow