Thursday, October 11, 2012

Potosi, WI to Warrens Cranberry Festival, Part 7

We left Blackhawk Park Thursday morning and drove 67 miles to Tomah Recreation Park, the first of our group to arrive, but within a few minutes others arrived from Potosi and Janesville.  What timing!  Seventeen rigs in all from the Rocky Roller and Bell Ringers Good Sam Chapters. 

Most arrived on Thursday the balance on Friday.  One of our number met with an unfortunate incident, fortunately no one was hurt but their “almost new” rig was pretty messed up.  They were exiting a rest area from the truck/RV parking while a car was also exiting from the car parking and the driver of the car reached down for something while the vehicle was in motion.  He completely missed the yield and smack.  Our friends have to get the RV fixed before they leave for Alabama in a few weeks so it will be a hectic time for them.

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This get-together has been in the works for months a joint effort between the Bell Ringers and Rocky Rollers Good Sam Chapters.  We chose to camp at the Tomah Recreation Park because the City of Tomah was offering shuttle bus service departing the park from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. each of the three days of the festival.  Buses pick up and drop off continuously during those hours.  Taking the bus was definitely the smart thing to do.  The parking was unbelievable.  Every available space was used and prices ranged from $1 for a motorcycle to $12.  The price difference was in proportion to the distance from the event.  P1030842

The view from the bus.


Except for three days a year, Warrens is a town of about 250 residents.  For those three days Warrens hosts about 110,000 visitors, 1,300 art and craft booths, 350 flea market and antique booths and 100 farm market booths, as well as food vendors.


Behind Tom you can see some of the thousands filling the streets, lawns, and sidewalks throughout the town.


The booths were crammed between homes and businesses and some aisles were so narrow. Just wide enough for folks to pass single file in each direction with a passing lane in the middle. (I wish I would have taken more photos.) In these narrow quarters people were carrying some pretty huge items.  I saw one lady with a huge wooden daisy about 5 feet in diameter. While others had large metal lawn ornaments.  And I can’t forget to mention carts (as pictured above) being pushed or pulled up and down the narrow aisles.  Groups of people would dress alike to make it easier to find each other.  We saw groups with crazy hats and headbands and one group of women with those long novelty bikini body t-shirts. 

From what I understand the art and craft booths are not juried and are intermingled with the flea market and antique booths.  Making it confusing for the buyers trying to find handcrafted items and also making it hard for the crafts people to compete with mass produced items.  I found it all very interesting from a perspective of having run a art and craft fair. 

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Largest Cranberry Craisin™ Whoopie Pie in the World--This pie, we were told, was held together with steel rods and was inedible as it had been sitting in the sun. 

If the group goes again, we probably would go, but we may not go to the festival.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Potosi, WI to Warrens Cranberry Festival, Part 6


Near boat ramp, Blackhawk Park


Foggy morning Blackhawk Park


Foggy morning Blackhawk Park 2


Repurposed boat motor as mail box


Red bellied woodpecker mid-air


Fisherman on the Mississippi


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Potosi, WI to Warren’s Cranberry Festival, Part 5

Or Up One Side and Down the Other

rte blackhawk cg and backOn Wednesday, we took a tour of the area, heading south from the campground to Hwy 82 and across the river to Lansing, IA.

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 Steel truss Hwy 82 bridge across the Mississippi.

Postcard Horsefall




Friends told us a “must see” was Horsefall’s Lansing Variety store.  A writer described it as a cornucopia of merchandise. And it was both.

Wow! Housewares, clothing, lawn ornaments, toys . . . you name it.  The goodies spill onto the sidewalk, too.  



Great river road sign MinnesotaAs we drove, taking in the fall colors on the bluffs along the river, we watched for a place to pull off and view this portion of the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge.  We were pleased to find two improved wildlife viewing areas after we passed into Minnesota, complete with wooden viewing platforms, telescopes benches and signage. 
















The signs explained the purpose of the Refuge and what you might see.


Looking to the Wisconsin Bluffs, this is the vista from one of the overlooks. We did spot white pelicans and we think swans, as well as eagles, hawks, geese and various ducks.


We stopped in the apple capitol of Minnesota, La Crescent, to purchase some apples. Along the way were several markets featuring apples, fall produce and other tasty treats.

Then it was back to Wisconsin via Hwy 61. Three states, 74 miles.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Potosi, WI to Warrens Cranberry Festival, Part 4

After setting up camp, we headed out to get groceries.  On the way we wanted to stop at Goose Island Park, in Stoddard, WI. As the information I read stated that there was an interpretive hiking trail, we were looking forward to a little walk in the woods.

Before our hike we thought we would take a look at Goose Island Campground, one of La Crosse, County’s parks.  We went to the campground office and chatted with the attendant, asking her if we could take a drive through the campground. As we drove through we disturbed a large hawk who flew ahead of us for a while then lit on a wooden swing frame.  We tried to identify it and be think it was a Rough Legged Hawk, but don’t quote us on that. The campground was quite spread out, with roomy sites, however, we did not like that there were, what appeared to be semi-permanent sites.

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We did have a nice walk on the trail but the only indication that there was any kind of signage was at an overlook.  There were some mounts for signs but the signs were completely gone.  We did see eagles and a red bellied woodpecker. Oh well the walk did us good.

Potosi, WI to Warrens Cranberry Festival, Part 3

After a leisurely drive north on first Hwy 133, then Hwy 35, we arrived Blackhawk Park COE Campground (in center of image below) just 3 miles north of DeSoto, WI.

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To access Blackhawk Park, exit west from Hwy 35 onto Co. RD BI fir .7 mile to park entrance. Blackhawk Park offers a mix of shaded, open, waterfront and tent sites as well as day use areas for picnicking and boat launches. The park is only about 20 miles south of La Crosse, WI.

  We found an open site. As it had been chilly and we thought the sun would be nice.  The long spaces can easily accommodate any size rig.  P1030801

The park has created a numbered list of trees indigenous to the area with numbered examples throughout the park, as well as an information sheet for geocachers.

But the main pastime at this park is fishing.  I must say, from what I observed, the fishing was good.  Folks would take their boats out in the morning and return in the late afternoon with a 5 gallon bucket of fish.  Then the whirring would begin.  What was this sound?  Electric knives. In the past, when we actually kept the fish we caught, Tom would use a (manual) fillet knife, so this was new to us.  Of course we never caught fish in the quantities these folks had. 

One day the man across from us wore his knife battery down carving up his catch and had to borrow another from a friend.  He had quite the setup for filleting.  He devised a board mounted to the boat trailer frame.  This board had a whole on one end, under which he would hang a bucket for the bad parts.  On the other side of the board he had a dishpan with water for the good parts.  The middle section was his workspace.  Very efficient. The catches included crappie, sunfish and bass.  No catfish as we would have expected.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Potosi, WI to Warrens Cranberry Festival, Part 2

We began the next leg of our trek to the Warrens Cranberry fest, leaving Potosi, WI, on a perfect fall morning.  This portion of the trip would take us almost 87 miles to Blackhawk COE Campground, DeSoto, WI. 

What a beautiful drive along the bluffs on the Wisconsin side of the Mighty Mississippi.  The air was crisp and the fall colors were more pronounced than they had been just a few days ago. We took our time as the roads were almost traffic-free, allowing us to enjoy the scenery.

Casseville was the first town we passed through.  This little town boasts a few attractions worthy of note.  The Cassville Car Ferry is the only means of crossing the Mississippi River between Dubuque, Iowa and Prairie du Chien, WI.  There is a fee for making use of the ferry but it is a unique experience that we have enjoyed on previous trips to the area.  The next Cassville attraction is Stonefield Village.  A re-created 19th century rural village operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society.  Finally, Nelson Dewey State Park offers camping, views of the Mississippi from a 500 ft. bluff and history, featuring the home of Wisconsin’s first Governor, the park’s namesake and nearby Stonfield Villiage.  I hope to see all Cassville has to offer one of these days.

As we continue northward we passed through Prairie du Chien.  We had toured the area previously so continued on.  Of note in Prairie du Chien is Villa Louis estate of fur trader, lumberman and land speculator, Hercules Louis Dousman; and the Fort Crawford  Museum

As we traveled along we stopped at as many scenic overlooks and historical markers as would permit a pickup and travel trailer. We discovered that DeSoto, WI was named in honor of Fernando DeSoto, the first white man to see the Mississippi River.  Additionally, DeSoto was originally the site of a Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) village called Winneshiek.

Our destination for this leg as I mentioned earlier was Blackhawk COE Campground 1 mile south of Victory, WI.

Potosi, WI to Warrens Cranberry Festival, Part 1

Weather forecast for our upcoming club outing offered a mix of warm and cool temps and some rain. 
We had a beautiful drive to Grant River COE Campground in Potosi, WI.  There were clear skies and mild winds.  Not so for those who traveled earlier in the week or even later that day.  We were told that the cross-winds were so strong that some felt they would be blown off the road.  We were fortunate, though.
After arriving, Tom discovered the site he selected was not as he expected, it was more shaded. He wanted to select another site from the Non-Reservable sites but I insisted we keep the one we had.
 We had a fairly private setting as we were adjacent to the woods on one side and there was nothing between us and the Mighty Mississippi but a few hundred feet of lawn.  Another plus to our site was our proximity to the train tracks. Our campsite one of the furthest from the train tracks as you could get. This is important as the track is frequented by very long freight trains that make the ground tremble under your feet.

After a nice day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday were brisk and rainy.  During breaks in the rain folks came out to walk their dogs or just stretch their legs, some went on shopping excursions,to the Potosi Brewery and others visited the nearby casino. We, big spenders that we are, went to the casino, each armed with $20.  We both got bored before we blew the whole works, returning with about half of what we started with. We returned to the trailer and spent the afternoon playing Farkle and Five Crowns.  Supper that night was at a favorite restaurant of the groups’ for fish fry.  A campfire followed, but Tom and I went in early as it got too cold for us. 
Finally Sunday the rain cleared out as did some of our club who had commitments at home during the week. We stayed until Monday morning before heading north along the Great River Road.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Circle the “Wagons,” It’s Time to Camp

The last outing we had was the SE Jumbo, in July at Walworth County Fairgrounds.  This included two Good Sam chapters, the Rocky Rollers (ours) and the Bell Ringers. Over 20 rigs were in attendance for the weekend.  The weather was hot but most of us found shady spots in the park-like setting.  P1030651 crop

Our usual place for Friday fish fry has closed and the group could not come up with a place that could accommodate 40-50 people so we scattered.  Tom and I and our friends Jim and Sherry headed to the local Chinese restaurant, Moys, in Elkhorn, WI.  We had a great meal and we took half back with us.  A campfire rounded out the day’s activities.

Saturday morning our chapter made Omelets In A Bag.  For the cost of $2.50 you could have 2 or 3 eggs and any or all of the fixins’, toast and coffee.  Various indoor and outdoor games were played after lunch and after that our chapter served Root Beer Floats. Supper was pot luck, followed by a campfire.

After a month and a half hiatus, camping has resumed.

Over Labor Day weekend, we attended the Illinois Samboree.  There were about 130 rigs at the Marshall-Putnam County Fairgrounds in Henry, IL  The number of attendees was down considerably since we last attended in 2010.  Wisconsin made a good showing, though, with 17 rigs (5 Rocky Rollers, 3 Bell Ringers) present. 

We had a good but,somewhat soggy time when the rains produced by hurricane/tropical storm Isaac showed up Friday evening and hung around all of Saturday and until about 4 p.m. on Sunday.  We all got a scare when the tornado siren went off Saturday afternoon.  I monitored the weather radio and plotted warnings on a map.  Fortunately the really bad stuff stayed away from us, however, a tornado did touch down about 15 miles as-the-crow-flies from us.

There was rig decorating competition and I decorated our trailer but did not win as we were competing with entire chapters. This year’s theme was “Island Paradise.” The rain and a shoe-string budget did not help our decorations. Oh well.P1030769

Looking forward to a couple more outings yet this year. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Long-Hot Summer

The Summer of 2012, for most of the U.S., was extremely hot and dry.  Wisconsin was no exception. We watered our trees and shrubs using a root feeder and kept the flower beds and vegetable garden watered but not the lawn. Our grass was totally brown except for the weeds. If it wasn’t so hot, we could have used the opportunity to spray them with lawn weed killer while they were easy to spot.

We had big plans this summer with the grandsons.  Unfortunately the heat and my shoulder injuries curtailed our plans.  So we hunkered down in the AC for the most part. The boys did go outside in the evenings to play ball or ride their bikes up and down the street.

We did take the boys fishing at Clear Lake in Milton, though.  Javie had been fishing once but Sergie had not.  We had them make a few practice casts in the front yard, then packed up the van with poles and tackle and made a stop at Kwik Trip for $4.00 baby worms.

We chose Clear Lake because we remembered that, years ago, we had good luck when we brought our young nephews there to fish.  We were not disappointed.  The boys caught so many teeny, tiny sunfish, perch and bass that we could hardly keep up removing the hooks and baiting the hooks. (That would be Tom).  P1030741P1030743

Now that the weather has cooled, the boys are back in school.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Adventures in Child Care

When our son, Joe, asked us if we could watch his girlfriend, Mary’s, two boys every weekday for a few hours we did not hesitate to say yes.  For the summer Mary has the boys except every other weekend.  Both Joe and Mary work 2nd shift so they asked if we would watch them from 2-5 every weekday. (They will make arrangements if we have something else going on.) Mary’s mom would pick them up after she gets off work from Beloit, take them back to Beloit till Mary got off work in Janesville, then Mary would pick them up in Beloit and then they would go back home to Janesville.  After mulling this routine over for a few days, we decided it would be better for the kids if we watched the kids on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2-11.  It just did not seem like much of a summer for the boys to spend all that time on the road. So we began this new endeavor this past Tuesday.  

I want to try to give the boys a little more to do than just play on their own or watch cartoons all day.  While they have their snacks I have worksheets, coloring or puzzle sheets for them to do. I would like to get them to spend time reading. too. This week I thought we would make sugar crystals and go on a nature walk with a bingo sheet to find various plants and critters.  We plan a trip to the Henry Vilas Zoon in Madison and the Discovery Center in Rockford. Another thought I had was to have them take pictures and we would edit, print and frame some for their room at home. 

We’ll see how it goes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Maiden Voyage

We picked up our trailer on February 23.  We spent a month making stuff fit.  After having tons of cabinets and outside storage in the motorhome, we had to re-assess what we actually needed and cull what was not. It was a surprise when we did not fill every nook and cranny inside. 

Some of the items from the motorhome’s outside storage we decided not to use.  Remaining items were packed into storage containers that go in the back of the truck and larger items go in as is.

So with all that taken care of, we set a date for an overnighter. Of course we waited until the weather was back to the usual March cold after a stretch of above normal temps. We loaded our food and overnight bag the night before, Tom filled the water tank and we were set. 

2012 Mar 29-30 Trailer Maiden Voyage_9234

It was a bright, beautiful day.  We just were going to Kettle Moraine State Forest South, Ottawa Lake Campground about 40 miles away. We hitched up the trailer, put the boys in their car seats and were off.  What a nice, quiet ride.  (In the motorhome we sat next to the motor and had the constant rattle behind us from blinds, pots, pans, dishes and stove.)  Now any noise was contained in the trailer.  The hour-long ride got us there about 10:30 a.m. No reservations are needed for the end of March, so we picked out an area we wanted to be in via Google Earth the day before.  Most sites there were level and there were only 3 campers there when we arrived. We were set-up in short order, although we did need to tweak our initial leveling job. 

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The campground area is compact, but is part of the 22,000 acre State Forest which features a 3,500 acre wet prairie considered the largest native wet prairie east of the Mississippi.  54-miles of hiking trails ranging from level to hilly topography.  Campground amenities include a playground, picnic areas, volleyball courts and Ottawa Lake with a beach and handicap accessible fishing pier.  The water was crystal clear. Tom bought a fishing license and brought his pole and gear but it was too cold to be outside for long. 

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The furnace got a good test and we were toasty warm inside.  The dogs and I took a nap in bed in the sun. We played cards, made supper and watched some TV.  The only glitch we had was we forgot our planned supper.  We had a thunderstorm during the early morning hours but we were fine.  We got a break in the rain to break camp around 9 and were home by 10 a.m.

I would like to go back when the weather is better.

Monday, February 20, 2012

RV Shopping

We like to camp.  We have a great time on our monthly campouts with our camping club friends.  We also like to travel and see the country.  We have visited all 48 contiguous states and parts of Canada over the years. 

Off and on we thought of replacing our motorhome with a newer model, but ours keeps on going like the energizer bunny and parting with the cash (as anyone that knows us will attest) is a hard thing for us to do.  Weighing cost and need, when the need was not there, has kept us from taking the plunge. 

As noted in previous posts, our most recent big trip was fraught with problems.  Our 17+ year old RV is finally showing it’s age.  The engine has low miles and has been well maintained but the body and other components are still old.  So before it becomes totally devalued and it starts nickel and diming us, we decided to get serious.

The first thing to do is try to market our RV, etc..  We placed ads on Craigslist for the RV, our Suzuki Grand Vitara, tow bar and brake buddy and waited.  The responses we received did not pan-out.

Meanwhile,we went to the RV show in Madison and saw many nice, new RVs of all types. We looked at trailers as well as motorhomes with a different perspective.  What were the basics we need and what would fit our budget.  This ruled out motorhomes and 5th wheels, so we focused our attention on travel trailers.

Now we’ve really got the itch.  We went hither and yon following up on online ads and saw some nice units.  The problem was getting ours vehicles sold.  Most dealers would consider a trade for a more expensive trailer but we would have to take a huge hit on our RV, and we still had the Suzuki and other equipment to sell.

Everything came together last week when we stopped at a local dealer who was really willing to deal. He offered to send someone out to take a look at our motorhome and the Suzuki for trade-in value.  The following day he called back with the results.  We would be able to trade even, the motorhome and Suzuki for a NEW 2008 that he needed to move.  The only cost was license, and titling fees.  And that same morning we had someone purchase our brake buddy braking system.  Done deal.99948838_5thumb_550x41099948838_10thumb_550x410


Of course we now needed a tow vehicle, which we found in Rockford, a 2002 Chevy Silverado extended cab with a fiberglass topper.


We get it Wednesday. We are relieved to have it all settled.