Sunday, August 22, 2010

Life on the Lac

One of our goals on this trip after rendezvousing with mi lap-dancin' madre y sister at Jackson Hole was to visit our friends on Loon Island. Tim and Carol are summer residents on a lake-front spot named after the water-bird, the loon. Has nothing to do with any wacky behavior that they might exhibit. Loon Island is on the shores of pristine Big Crooked Lake on the Ojibwa Indian Reservation in north central Wisconsin.  Nearby is the better known, romantically-named "Lac du Flambeau", one of the area's lakes christened by French explorers who came here to trap beaver and gamble at the nearby Indian casinos. "Lac du Flambeau" means lake of flames or torches. Drunk trappers mistook the sparkling waters for flames.  The early French, unlike Tim and Carol, were a bit loony.Here you see the all new for...and the tow vehicle, the 2004...parked on the property. We barely squeezed it in through the trees and weren't sure we could ever get the damn thing back out. First night at Big Crooked we drove into the village of Minocqua, one of many well-maintained, boutiquish little towns, each and every one on its own lake.But amidst all the T-shirts, fudge and scented candles for sale, you are constantly reminded that this is Packer Country. You know, them big, steroid-enhanced goons down thar in Green Bay, making millions of dollars banging their heads together come the fall.And you're constantly reminded that this is also snow country. So much winter snow, in fact, that the parking meters are not on the street but up on the sidewalks next to the shops. That's so the snowplows can keep the streets somewhat cleared without knocking over the meters. It's this heavy snow and long winter season that drive people like Tim and Carol to Arizona where the only snow is on the tips of the  mountains surrounding Tucson.The night we were in Minocqua, the locals put on a free waterski show. By the way, this is the nation's oldest, continuously-operating show of its kind. Older even than the one in Cypress Gardens, Florida. Here's a guy in a powerful ski boat popping a wheelie or a propelli or whatever you might call it. Ain't this exciting? Can't you just feel it? How does a guy or a gal get a drink around this town? Well, this be the place. We had dinner and drinks at a local microbrewery then zig-zagged our way back through the woods to Loon Island. Here's Carol zipping around the lake in one of her many boats. She's lived up here for years. Tim aptly refers to her collection as a one-woman Navy.We boarded one of Carol's cruisers, broke out the wine and snacks, and enjoyed life on the lac.  Carol makes sure we're eating.Tim, hands folded in prayer, hopes we make it back to shore.That large black, white and tan sleeper on the floor is Carol and Tim's young Australian shepherd named "Oso", the bear. Sweet dog. Sleeps most of the time, like Daisy.Carol, we're out of wine! Full speed ahead, back to the landing.There's Daisy, plowed as usual and Tim lecturing her on the demons of drink.Here's our dog, always the fashion hound. This is her tres chic PetSmart life jacket. Don't know why she wears it. She can out-swim all of us. And then there's Tim, ever the fashion plate, seen here in his "go to hell" rec-wear with matching hat and finger splint. (He broke his finger recently while attempting a high speed waterski jump. He's lucky that's all he broke.)When we first arrived at Loon Island, Carol said that we'd be eating every two hours. We thought she was kidding. She was. In fact, we ate every ninety minutes. We said, "Look. We're from Arizona. We don't have to survive a bad winter. Don't try to fatten us up." She took umbrage at that and we were forced to go the next five days without food or drink. Carol's a tough cookie. But seriously...the food just kept coming. Here it is, on the dock.Here it is, in the house.So much so we had to invite the neighbors over to help us clean our plates. This is neighbor Katie. She and her family are from Chicago and they come up to enjoy their cabin next to Carol and Tim.These neighbors came by boat.This is neighbor Dave who has a cabin on the other side of Carol. He and his family also live in the Chicago area. This is Dave (and Nancy, his wife's) daughter, Jess (sp). She's about nineteen months pregnant with twins. Nice people all. And lots of fun. This is Paul, constantly on the lookout for hostile Ojibwa who might be canoeing in the direction of the food. And tell me Daisy doesn't do just fine without that fashionable life jacket. This dog takes to water like Limbaugh to Oxycontin.Daisy and I in one of the many boats. Paul bought me that thing around my neck. I squeeze it and it blows up my bra and just makes me as sexy as hell. Oso trying to get a little. Daisy trying to get away.Tim is forever banned from piloting Carol's boats since he deep-sixed this one last summer while driving and checking out the chicks on shore. And you think texting is dangerous.Paul, yours truly, and Oso still looking for a little tail from Daisy. Actually, Daisy is trying to teach Oso to swim. He's scared to get in over his head.Paul, the ex-Marine, with a big ooh-rah after having taken down a hostile Ojibwa with this stick.This is neighbor Katie's husband Pete coming in for a landing on his jet-powered water ski.This is Katie. It ticks us off to see a family like theirs that is so sports-minded, athletic and good at all they do. Paul says the only thing his family is good at is drinking.  Here's Daisy keeping an eye out for that horny Oso and constantly sitting on her little va-gi-gi. Daisy says, "Ma, do you think this diaphragm will fit? I think I'm gonna need it."A hostile about to ram the dock and steal the food.These hostiles are so wily they even swim in.That's Oso wondering "Where's that sweet little Daisy?"This is Dave, Nancy (with the wine glass) and friends just hanging out which is what everyone up here does best. What more could you ask for? 'Course, John Dillinger had come up here back in the '30s just to hang out and found himself in a shootout with the FBI at this nearby resort called Little Bohemia. But he escaped. Some months later, outside the Biograph Theatre in Chicago he nodded back to the attractive "Lady in Red", inadvertently sending a signal to waiting and heavily-armed FBI agents.  And that spelled the end of old John. Back to Little Bohemia.You can still see the bullet holes in the lodge. We didn't because we didn't even get out of the damn truck. It was too humid.Carol is not only a gifted hostess and chef, but a talented floral designer. The only thing we do well is eat. 'Nuf said says Daisy. Where's Oso?Heading south from lake country to a spot called Babbaloo or Bugaboo or something like that. But first want to give a big, heartfelt "thanks" to Tim and Carol for their hospitality and friendship. See you down the road and back in the southwest...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bars, Bears and Bare Birkebeiners

We left Minnesota, crossed into Wisconsin. Again, a new day and a new state for Daisy. We decided that "we're goin' fishin'." Like hell we are. Ain't eatin' no fish that eats leeches. Gave up that idea and decided to tour the old town section of Hayward, Wisconsin. Main Street, in case you haven't guessed.Hayward was settled by Canadian immigrants from Victoria, British Columbia at the turn of the 14th century so you see a lot of Victorian-style structures, or something like that.They also built gazebos and brought in their own water to fill in these holes in town. They call them "ponds". Wisconsinites think way outside the box. Now the damn state is nothing but pond and lakes. Oh, and by the way, we failed to mention while we were in Minnesota, "Land of 10,000 Lakes", we stopped by a Welcome Center on I-94. The sign has been changed to "Land of 15,000 Lakes". What the hey??? We notice stuff like that.Oh, again, here's Mary, Mother of God, outside the one true church. This is back in Hayward. I'm always noticing stuff like this.Them's flowers. Duh.And did ya know Hayward is home of the American Birkebeiner, a massive nude-in that takes place every year on the first of January when there's a "nip in the air"?  Thousands of visitors strip buck naked, run through Hayward's town square and jump into that aforementioned pond. (Actually, the Birkebeiner is a 31-mile cross-country ski race from Cable, Wisconsin to Hayward.)A windmill. Yep, that's Daisy sitting on a chainsaw-carved moose chair. Just after we took this shot Daisy took a big one right outside an outdoor restaurant in downtown Hayward. She topped it off with a poop-scoot, laying down a streak on the sidewalk running the full length of the restaurant filled with diners. I don't think we'll be invited back to Hayward any time soon.A pity because Hayward has one of the finest old Carnegie Libraries in the country. I obtained a library card with my fake ID, checked out twelve rare books and guess I'll try to get rid of them at a garage sale back home.We spent a couple of nights outside of Hayward at an RV park at the site of an old farm.It's called "Camp Namekagon", a Christian kids' camp with an open bar. You know this is gonna be fun.This is part of the 200-mile St. Croix Scenic Waterway running very near our camp (with bar open). And this is a kayak on the St. Croix. I'm doing the paddling and taking a picture at the same time. Paul stayed back at camp (with bar open) and babysat Daisy. A primitive campsite along the St. Croix. And if you like mosquitoes, you'll love primitive camping here. And just to prove I was there paddling the St. Croix, them's my feet. Don't have a clue why I didn't turn the camera around to get a shot of me. I suppose I thought I'd drop the camera into the drink. Now that I've lived to tell the tale, I question the wisdom of heading out on my own. Remember, the last time I went kayaking (on Lake Powell), the kayak sank. This time I hit a bridge post, got tangled up in a snaggy tree, and almost tipped the kayak over in a small rapid. Water and I don't mix. That's why I live in the desert.But, I made it. Wrapped up the five-mile downriver paddle in about two hours, pulled into shore and miracle of miracles! Probably because I took the picture of Mary, Mother of God in Hayward outside the one true church (and where the annual nude-in is held), when I put my life jacket down, I looked on the ground and there was a twenty-dollar bill and two ones.  Thank you, Mary, Mother of God. Of course, I believe our Blessed Mother wanted me to give the money to charity but I pocketed it instead and have been fighting scabies ever since. (Not really.)Here's where the miracle occured at North Springbrook Landing. Scabies set in shortly after. So word of warning: if you come into money suddenly, consider it a miracle from Mary and give it to charity. Or pass it onto us and we'll know what to do with it. (We've been eyeing the 2011 Lance. And oooh boy, she's a honey.)Oh, when I embarked on my kayak trip, the concession owner warned me about local black bears that like to eat people on the river. In fact, several black bears were in our campground a week earlier climbing trees. We did see a mother and three cubs right outside Hayward crossing a busy highway. Of course you never have your camera at the ready when a sighting like that occurs so we found this shot. It's a bear, it's black and has cubs.

Next, we're really off to Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, where we are staying with friends who winter every year in Arizona. Gotta go. Daisy says "hey".