(Just Posting this on 7/18 as I am still figuring out my road rhythm. Will try to post more often.)
Day two started with me waking up in a comfortable bed. I was hoping that the first night on the road would have been spent in the camper, I am still not sure how Mabel will like sleeping in it, but I am grateful for the hospitality. The Ford dealer opened at 7:00 and we were there at 7:15 with the car on the left around 7:30. Some front-end work needed to be done to cure the “Klunk” and it took longer than expected because a part couldn’t be sourced locally and the driver hit traffic on the way out. Col K helped hitch up the camper, plan my route towards the Wisconsin Dells, and we were on our way. The trip feels like it has finally started. Since Mabel was at the car dealer for so long I soon stopped at a park to let her get some exercise, and boy did she ever. Moving things around in the back of the car had my attention and allowed her to sneak off to chase birds. Mabel was 100 yards or so away from me when I realized she was gone and the look on her face was pure joy. She zipped by the car at speeds not usually seen as the birds hung low to the ground. Before I knew it, she was 100 yards away in the other direction so I took off in a clumsy chase. Finally she stopped, (I didn’t catch her) panting after using up the pent-up energy from sitting in a car dealership. Hwy 33 provided the scenery as I progressed towards Cashton but a slight deviation took me to Norwalk, one of the many small Wisconsin towns I will be sure to see as I head south. A quick look at the map had me back on track but not before I got a glimpse of some Norwalk life. There are many farms on the route; some nice, some not. Some owners are prideful and place signs at the front of the driveway announcing their names, the names of their children and possibly the grandkids. The farms that aren’t so nice usually fill their yards with discarded farm implements and don’t bother with name placards. One home was having a yard sale, a lady and two children behind three tables filled with colorful items, maybe toys. The house needed some love and the yard was filled with old stuff (sorry no better word for it). I was cruising through at the speed limit and trying to keep my eyes on the road but it was quickly determined there was no need to stop. But I did wonder why they were having the sale, what they would do with the money (was it to be spent for necessity or leisure), who would stop to shop, and how did they fall on what I perceived as hard times. Maybe they were happy living like they did and I shouldn’t transpose my definition of success on their situation.
We have lived in Minnesota for 18 years and have never visited the Dells so it was a surprise as I drove through the main drag and past the water parks. In a way, it reminded me of Las Vegas as each park announces their opulence with large signs and fake concrete facades. There was an Egyptian theme, Army Theme, (Helicopters complete with a platoon of mannequins riding in the back of a deuce and a half) and a jungle/safari type just to name a few. No need to stop as who would I swim with and I don’t think they would have a life jacket for Mabel. She can swim, we saw her in the creek before leaving on this trip but I think park management would frown at a dog in the pool.
Merrimack WI provides a ferry across Lake Wisconsin and it is free of charge (take that Shelter Island Ferry) so Mabel went on her first ferry ride. It holds around nine cars and takes maybe 10 minutes round trip. We were in the front so the metal grate blocked our forward view, Mabel slept anyway, but it was a nice ride. Our next stop would be New Glarus as I hear the make good beer down that way. So good they don’t allow sales in Minnesota but everyone in Minnesota seems to have it, right neighbors! The single lane road through Black Earth was again very pretty and dotted with farms. I liked the town with its Swedish themed buildings and Mabel was a hit with everyone we passed.
It was getting late so we tried to find a camping spot for the night and I noticed the New Glarus State Park. We dove to the park, just south of town when we should have called for availability. Lesson #1 of the road, “Call before you go”. They were booked but the attendant helped find a spot at Yellowstone Lakes State Park which turned out to be a good distance West. But the drive was nice, rolling hills and more farms and it was a spot to sleep. Who wants to set the tone of the trip by sleeping at a Walmart Parking lot the very first night? Not me. The park was nice, the spots secluded, and I backed the camper in taking only a few tries. We had a home for the night! At first glance, the slope of the site was quaint but I soon found out that spot levelness is essential to cooking, especially when boiling water. Rule of the Road # 2, “Look for level.” My camper has stabilizers, not levelers so cooking was a slight challenge but we had some hot dogs and I walked while Mabel smelled around the camp. Col K summed up a dog’s sense of smell when he said, “when I walk into a room and pot roast is cooking I smell pot roast, a dog smells the beef, potatoes and carrots.” Makes sense to me.
Sheri and I had a great conversation even with spotty reception. I think often about the connectivity I enjoy on this trip and how it differed from 1960 when Steinbeck took his travels. We can stay in touch through the internet, cell phone, Skype, and face time, eliminating the need for pay phones. I haven’t seen a pay phone yet but will take a picture when I find one.
Off to bed, the second day under a Wisconsin sky but feeling like progress has been made as tomorrow we push to Illinois.