Showing posts from September, 2007

Say "Cheese"!

This past weekend we drove up to the Appleton, WI area to visit our son, JT, and his girlfriend, Kaytlyn. One of our favorite activities while touring around is visiting small local wineries, so the four of us were off in search of a couple that our local tourist guide said existed. It's a little like hunting but without the orange sweatshirt and the noise. We didn't drive far before we bagged the first one... Kerrigan Brothers Winery. One of the things I truly enjoy and continue to marvel at is the diversity of people I run into out there, the varied interests and passions, and the unusual skills and talents possessed by the otherwise most ordinary people. This stop at Kerrigan Brothers was a case in point. The four of us wandered into the tasting room and were greeted by a large man... Troy Landwehr. Troy is a man of many talents. In addition to being an owner and a winemaker, Troy is an artist -- a sculptor. But not just your normal, run-of-the-mill stone carver. Oh no, Tr

Harvest Moon

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 At the Soldner Farm near Beaver Dam, WI It's raining today, a slow intermittent rain that's perfect for catching up on a few indoor chores. There's no guilt about not being ourdoors this day. One of my indoor things to do is to get a new blog post added to the RV Sabbatical Journal... so here we are. But first, If you're lucky enough to have clear skies tomorrow, Wednesday night, take a few minutes to enjoy the rising of the official 2007 Harvest Moon. It will be rising just before 7pm here in Beaver Dam, almost exactly due east. Due to some celestial mechanics that I'm not going to try to explain (mostly because I don't understand it all) the moon rises sooner after the sun sets than on other "full moon" evenings during the year. This fact supposedly provided a more uninterrupted source of outdoor illumination that allowed farmers to harvest crops well into the night. Thus, it's called the Harvest Moon. So if the mosqui

Rain, Cold Fronts, Fall

September 13, 2007 -- Prairie Island Campground near Winona, MN Last night we had dinner with Jim and Sue at the Bonfire Grill in Savage, MN., and there was general agreement that it was a place we'd come back to again. After dinner and another great campfire at Jim and Sue's home, we said our good-byes and made tentative plans to meet next summer. Thank you again, Jim and Sue, for a wonderful visit. Our plan this morning was to get up whenever we got up, take our time getting the camper ready for travel, hook up the toad, and take off for Winona, MN. It was a good plan, spoiled only by the wind and rain that accompanied a cold front racing through the Twin Cities area in the late morning. Once we saw the clouds and the radar image, we picked up the pace and had everything done except hooking up the toad -- when the sky opened and the rain came down. Some time, oh, maybe 10 or 15 minutes, is required to get the toad hook-up done correctly and double-checked, so we decided, in o

Getting Caught Up

September 11, 2007 -- Lebanon Hills Park in Apple Valley, MN The last few days we've spent a lot of time with friends and now need to get the 'ol Sabbatical Journal up to date with our travels. I'm amazed by the speed time passes. It doesn't take long to fall way behind. The last post I published was on September 4th I think, and we were staying an extra day at Camp Soldner due to rain. The next day, Wednesday the 5th, we drove a little over a hundred miles and ended up at Arbor Vita Campground in Arbor Vitae, WI. We have some friends, Bob and Nancy, that recently moved from St. Paul, MN to a log cabin near Woodruff and we wanted to see both them and their new place. The place they bought is the log cabin you see in your mind when someone says "log cabin in the woods". It's a nice sized home with a high, open roof-line and a big, wrap-around covered porch -- a classic log cabin! They have a few acres which is all wooded and surrounded on three sides by

Moving Day delayed

September 4, 2007 -- In a puddle at Camp Soldner Moving day has been delayed due to rain. This part of the U.P. has been in dire need of rain for much of the summer. Except for a little rain a week ago, it's been bone dry. The Forest Service issued a total burning ban some time ago and the fire danger has been listed as "extreme". Last night a series of thunderstorms rumbled through and we woke up in a puddle of water. We're parked on grass here at Camp Soldner and the grass is getting saturated. Those are not the conditions you want when moving a 32,000 lb. bus. I can't imagine what it'd cost to get us pulled out of the mud if we sank in and got stuck. So, we're staying for at least another day. The rain is still falling as I write this, but it's predicted to let up this afternoon and be dry tomorrow. But if you've got to be stuck somewhere, what better place than this? T

The Huron Mountain Club

September 4, 2007 -- Still at Camp Soldner. The Huron Mountain Club People love secrets and conspiracies. At least they love talking and speculating about them, probably because they can say or claim anything they want and no one is likely, with any authority, to refute what they're saying. Seeds of a lovely little conspiracy are here in the U.P. in the form of a very exclusive, private, and secluded camp called the Huron Mountain Club (HMC). There's very little public information available on this organization; they have no website; even pinging Google returns almost nothing of authority or use. I can find no list of members. Yoopers are full of stories and lore about the place; how they've tried to float a boat or wade up the public waters of streams that flow from the property -- only to be stopped and turned away by security guards; how the place is used to influence members of the Supreme Court or the Fed.; how they're plotting the future course of the United State

Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park

September 2, 2007 -- Camp Soldner Saturday, a week ago, the 25th of August, we got an early start and drove to the Porcupine Mountains at the far western end of the U.P. It's a journey of about 100 miles each way, so the early start was essential if we were to spend any time there. The western half of the U.P. is more interesting to drive through, as it's higher and has more hills and elevation changes. Nonetheless, it's still a hundred mile journey and you find yourself looking for anything that moves and reading every sign along the way. One sign was notable for it's bold display of Yooper-ism. It was for a small bar and grill in Kenton. The name of the place was "UP Chucks". A little about the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park: It's about 60,000 acres of mostly original old-growth forest that grows on the sides of a couple large, steep-sided escarpments, that run parallel to the shore of Lake Superior. From the water the area supposedly looks

The Pasty

Originally written on August 23, 2007 -- Camp Soldner Some answers to questions I had about the U.P. area… (the second in a series): Question 2): What the heck is a "pasty"? One of the first things a person notices when traveling around Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula are signs everywhere promoting something called "pasties". No snickering please... the word has a short-a pronunciation, like the "a" in sap or apple, and with the accent on the first syllable. These signs almost universally claim the #1 voted pasties in Alger County (or whatever city or county you're in), or the #1 voted pasties in the entire Upper Peninsula. It's almost as if it's a requirement that anyone selling pasties MUST add "voted #1" to their sign. I'm not sure who is voting in these polls; they never tell you that. Well, my curiosity got the better of me so we headed off to our first pasty experience a few weeks ago in Mackinaw City at a place cl

The U.P.

September 1, 2007 -- Camp Soldner The Upper Peninsula of Michigan An area bigger than Maryland, this large rugged land is home to only about 300,000 people who not only brave, but seem to bask in, it's severe winters. It seems to me the only real use they have for its short, cool summer is to prepare for the next long winter. The people of the U.P. love to refer to themselves as "yoopers" (for U.P.-ers, get it?) and they have a strong regional identity that probably derived from both the physical isolation and their divergent interests when compared to the vast majority of mainland Michigan to the south. They're part of Michigan by law and on a map, but they like to think of the area as unique, independent, and separate. The lack of political power so few people have when bumping up against the population centers downstate doesn't help, and it's common to hear them grumble about state government and it's intrusion on their lives. In the last 50 years, bett