John Steinbeck on Wisconsin

John Steinbeck on Wisconsin:

It is possible, even probable, to be told a truth about a place, to accept it, to know it and at the same time to not know anything about it. I had never been to Wisconsin, but all my life I had heard about it, had eaten its cheeses, some of them as good as any in the world. And I must have seen pictures. Everyone must have. Why then was I unprepared for the beauty of this region, for its variety of field and hill, forest, lake? I think now I must have considered it one big level cow pasture because of the state’s enormous yield of milk products. I never saw a country that changed so rapidly, and because I had not expected it everything I saw brought a delight. I don’t know how it is in other seasons, the summers may reek and rock with heat, the winters may groan with dismal cold, but when I saw it for the first and only time in early October, the air was rich with butter-colored sunlight, not fuzzy but crisp and clear so that every frost-gay tree was set off, the rising hills were not compounded, but alone and separate. There was a penetration of the light into the solid substance so that I seemed to see into things, deep in, and I’ve seen that kind of light elsewhere only in Greece. I remembered that I had been told Wisconsin is a lovely state, but the telling had not prepared me. It was a magic day. The land dripped with richness, the fat cows and pigs gleaming against green, and, in the smaller holdings, corn standing in little tents as corn should, and pumpkins all about.

John Steinbeck

I don’t know whether or not Wisconsin has a cheese-tasting festival, but I who am a lover of cheese believe it should. Cheese was everywhere, cheese centers, cheese cooperatives, cheese stores and stands, perhaps even cheese ice cream. I can believe anything, since I saw a score of signs advertising Swiss Cheese Candy. It is sad that I didn’t stop to sample Swiss Cheese Candy. Now I can’t persuade anyone that it exists, that I did not make it up.

Beside the road I saw a very large establishment, the greatest distributor of sea shells in the world–and this in Wisconsin, which hasn’t known a sea since pre-Cambrian time. But Wisconsin is loaded with surprises. I had heard of the Wisconsin Dells but was not prepared for the weird country sculpted by the Ice Age, a strange, gleaming country of water and carved rock, black and green. To awaken here might make one believe it a dream of some other planet, for it has a non-earthly quality, or else the engraved record of a time when the world was much younger and much different. Clinging to the sides of the dream-like waterways was the litter of our times, the motels, the hotdog stands, the merchants of the cheap and mediocre and tawdy so loved by summer tourists, but these incrustations were locked and boarded against the winter and, even open, I doubt that they could dispel the enchantment of the Wisconsin Dells.

-John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley (1962)


Enough Already

I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets cabin fever about this time each year. Other years we have broken the monotony by taking a trip or doing something intended to break up the depressing lack of light and never ending cold.

This year travel hasn’t really interested us so I have been looking back at some prior Winter getaways for inspiration.

Before we went RV’ing we took a January trip to Florida, particularly the Everglades and we travelled through Tampa on the way down.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge

We made a point of viewing as many birds as we could. Long lenses help a lot. And… we made sure to stop off at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on our way.

Prior to this visit I was pretty much unaware of the interesting Anhinga. These diving birds spend a great deal of time drying out their feathers after fishing!

Shorebirds of every variety intrigue me, as you can tell.

It’s funny how just looking at critters can make me feel warmer even if the temp outside is a frigid 3º F.

Spring can come anytime now.

On one of my Paris trips I did a whole gallery of people taking pictures. I guess Peggy got the bug from me, because on this trip when I was shooting so was she…..


I’ve been in a foul mood for a few day. A casual friend disappointed me and I’ve not wanted to write about anything. So, I decided to share a few photos till I get out of my funk.

I took this one in 2013 on a nature excursion cruise near Everglades City, FL. Mr. Egret in his white suit seemed just the right subject for this b&w treatment.


Activities, Images, Old Diary, Travel

Egret in Monochrome

Old Diary, RV Living, Travel

Recreation dot Gov

I’m happy to share this even if I’m not traveling as much as in the past. used to have an app for reserving their campsites and a year or more ago they withdrew the app. cIM19a1dRbWHPdQjRGA_thumb_d44e

I haven’t been visiting their site very much lately, but after seeing video of flooding in the Davenport Iowa area I got to wondering whether the campground at Potosi WI would be flooded. Upon arriving there my webpage announced the release of a new APP!

I tried to download it, but the server seemed jammed at the time.  Still, it’s a step forward that the feds are once again opening up smartphone reservations to the camping public!

Ok, so after writing the early part of this traffic on slowed enough for me to download the application.  The first thing I found was that I had to re-register, or at least to re-partially register.  The application remembered my email address (application ID) but forced me to enter a new password after sending me an email on how to select a new password.



The Profile page looks pretty much like any other profile page.


The “welcome” page is pretty unwelcoming, you get a choice between what kind of accommodations you want and thumbnail links to recent searches, but it’s perfectly functional.



A search — as for example searching for Highland Ridge Campground in Spring Valley, Wisconsin — shows you the kinds of sites, the prices, etc..


Here’s another example, from the listing for Blackhawk Park, in DeSoto, WI.  Note the ALERT below the photo.  In this case it’s a warning about flooding.


After inserting a date you get a selection dialogue.  Note that dates before today are not shown at all.  FF indicates First Come, First Served.  A indicates available.  A blank indicates unavailable — as do dates that are lined through.


After you are done with your reservations there is a summary page for upcoming reservations.  Obviously because we have no reservations made for the future, our page is blank.

To my way of thinking, it’s a decent app.  I hope it works well for those of you who are still out there actively camping the federal properties or RV’ing your way around the country!  Happy Camping!

Family, Old Diary, Travel

Live From the Sleep Center

live from the sleep center 1I’m talking to you “live from the sleep center.”  Well, not exactly “live,”  as I’m writing this almost a week before it’s going to post — but you get the idea.

The second time’s the charm.  My heart specialist wanted me to have a sleep apnea evaluation 6 months ago.  United Healthcare ditzed around with the request, and ditzed around.  I followed up with the clinic twice, but still nothing happened and eventually I forgot about it.  When I returned to the specialist for my next appointment (last week) they re-wrote the order saying that the sleep study was necessary to put off any need for a surgical procedure — which I don’t know whether that’s actually a fact but suffice it to say in three days we had an approval.  It turns out that a prior appointment for today (they called yesterday) cancelled so instead of waiting one to two months for an opening I am sneaking in “under the cover of darkness.”

If you, like me, happen to have hypertophic cardiomyopathy and don’t know it, obstructive sleep apnea is common among HC patients  with over 40% of HC patients diagnosed with OSA.  You might want to talk with your specialist about it.

I had a sleep study done 10 years ago and never adapted very well to the old fashioned headgear that was available at that time, so I used the gear for 6 months and said the heck with it. Now doc wants me to do this all over and I guess I need to do my best to cooperate if I wanna hang around on this lovely green planet, so we’ll see what happens.

Well, my “keeper” is coming back to finish hooking me up so I better sign off for today.

Old Diary, Travel

Stay at Home

We’ve been throwing around the idea of a trip to the West Coast.  It sounded like fun for a while. But now that our taxes are filed and I had the time to think about the trip without the sword of Damacles over my head (as in “I still have taxes to file.”) we’ve come to the decision that we’re going to hang out here for a while longer.

This is an earth shattering decision for us.  I don’t “give up” on the idea of travel very easily.  I have worked out several routes, with places to stay and things to do, all I’d have to do is actually make the reservations — the work is done.  But the fact of the matter is we are still having a better time going (relatively) nowhere than we think we’d have if we travelled.  I can’t believe I’m even saying those words.

My father-in-law never wanted to be gone from home for more than three nights.  I’m not sure what was so magical about the number 3 but his resistance to any stay longer than that was quite marked. My own father, on the other hand, was completely the opposite.  He was up for any trip, any time, anywhere (so long as it was on this continent and didn’t involve airplanes). When I was 4 or 5 we took a family vacation to Florida and my maternal grandmother came along with us.  While there my parents flew off to Havana in a DC-3 for a couple nights and grandma stayed with me at some non-descript hotel in South Florida.  Ever after that dad was NOT keen on flying.  I’m not particularly fond of it either but my reservations have to do with the fact that at my SIZE I don’t easily fit into airline seats, and I hate being treated like cattle — which is about my opinion of modern day airports.  I admit that I would sort-of-like-to visit Europe again — but the idea of being squeezed into a sardine can to get there is almost enough to hold me back.  We’ll see how long my reluctance lasts.

There are a lot of things we want to explore in Wisconsin this year so I’m not bemoaning the idea that we aren’t going to do anything, or that we’ll be bored. Boredom isn’t anything that happens to me; I always have things I’m interested in.  It simply seems as if after 6 years of travel, that travel is (for now) not one of them.  I know that must sound insane to someone who longs to travel.  But there are multiple sides to everything.

For example, for years I had to travel for work.  Peg had her office job.  I always seemed to have the jobs that kept me out of an office and on the road, or visiting people.  I have stayed in way too many hotels and spent too many night in lonely hotel rooms — so much so that even at home I automatically turn on the TV or my iPod for the sound of human voices, human activity.  Even now!  I got to the point when I was working that the idea of NOT having to leave town was delightful; no suitcases to carry, no strangers to have to talk with, no bad meals in overpriced restaurants.

Nowadays it’s a luxury to be able to just stay home.  It’s not an attitude born out of boredom with travel; it’s about balance.  I’ve done that; I want to do something else now; or do the same thing at a different pace, or for a different reason, or with a different result.


Have you ever noticed how people — most of us anyway — seem to focus in on the things we don’t get to define the things we want most?  When you have to work in an office the idea of going places is a real thrill.  When you have to go-go-go all the time, staying put is to be desired.  Finding contentment in what a person has is a fairly rare commodity.

I do think our present location has a lot to do with my attitude right now.  For 35 years we lived in a family owned apartment complex and none of the several generations really “loved” the building — we were there because it made sense to be “with” family.  We all had our own apartments; a certain amount of privacy; a certain amount of companionship — but it was never “where we wanted to be.”  We owned two homes after that: both for a space of around 7 years.  We thought both of those were going to be “our place.” Truth was that not all that long after moving in we realized that those places were never going to be “our place” — they were always going to be just another house.  We came closer when we owned the old school building.  That allowed work and play to take place in the same location.  We had enough space outside for active gardening.  We had enough space inside for work and for relaxation.  But we had been overly optimistic about what we could sustain and we quickly realized that it was a nice place to live while we were still able bodied, but it would quickly become too much house as we aged.

I have spoken several times about the place we’re in right now.  To many it may seem like touring (in person) only 2 apartments was a snap decsision, but I had looked (online) as a hundred or so.  We know what the Milwaukee market is like.  There were no surprised and we ticked off more boxes with this apartment than we’d ever ticked off in our 49 years together.  So, being content has a lot to do with why we feel no compelling urge to travel.

Over the winter I have read blog entries by friends who were planning their summer trips, or getting ready to leave their winter destinations, even one from a couple that’s looking to sell their RV and find a mobile home.  In my present state of mind those blogs seem a million miles away. I have switched out of that planning mode.  And I don’t miss it.  Even Peggy said this morning (on our way to the doctor for an EKG) that the one thing she likes most about retirement is not-having-to-be-on-time — which isn’t so much about being punctual as it is about not having to live by a clock making appointments and making schedules.

I keep finding myself surprised that we aren’t chomping at the bit.  The Peter I know best isn’t like the Peter I find myself living with.  I don’t mind the change; but I am surprised by it.

Activities, Old Diary, Travel

Ice Fishing Anyone?

Brrrrrrr….. Thus far this winter we have been both colder and dryer than average here in Southeastern Wisconsin.  That hasn’t bothered me much.  I never spend a lot of time outdoors in winter.  (Well, not since I stopped flatbedding – cuz then I had to tarp most of my loads and that involved a couple hours in the cold no matter how warm or frigid it might be) We get out to do our chores; when the weather is into the 30’s and 40’s we’ll take a walk outdoors, but most of our walking happens at the mall or while we are running errands.

Not everyone in Wisconsin is like minded.  We did get over to Bong State Recreation Area some time ago and there are people ice fishing all over the lake.

You can’t see much from this shot but there are at least 30 holes in the ice out there!  I’m surprised there aren’t more tents/shelters too….

When I was younger and before my hands were badly frostbitten we did a lot more outdoors in the cold.  Milwaukee used to provide wonderful iced toboggan slides.  The accompanying photo of one at Whitnal Park — the place we most often went — will give you an idea.  Going downhill was always fun; climbing back uphill not quite so much; and standing in line waiting for your next turn could be absolutely ear-numbing!

I guess you have to like fishing a lot to want to go ice fishing.  I haven’t dunked a line in the lake since I was… maybe… 12.  At Mauthe Lake, on a clear summer’s day, with my dad back at the campsite waiting for my selection of panfish that he  hoped were going to be our lunch.

Some years ago while we were still RV’ing we saw some ice fishing trailers and were quite astonished.  I can’t imagine sitting in a cold tent, or a little portable shed, much less spending thousands and thousands of dollars to buy a specially constructed trailer that will raise up it’s wheels so the base sits directly on the ice, and pre-manufactured holes in the floor for your fishing line to go through — but people do.

The same day we saw the ice fishermen we also saw a guy with his (possibly brand new) quad  — taking pictures of it.  There’s not enough snow for snowmobiling, so I guess the next best thing is to roar around on a quad pretending that there’s a lot of snow.  It seems that modern day outdoorsmen can’t do anything without an expensive tool or equipment.

As for me, I’m happy with activities that I can do any time of year, and often indoors.  I may not be as physically active but I still have a good time and I don’t get frostbitten.

Old Diary, Travel

Laguna Atascosa NWR

The 94,000 acres of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge are a haven for birds, amphibians, but also for the endangered Ocelot.  The refuge used to have a 14 mile auto route but two years ago one of the endangered Ocroadtolagunaatascosaelots was killed by a visitor on the autoroute;  the route was closed off and a few months later a second cat was killed in another part of the refuge.

Since then there have been plans drafted for an ocelote safe autoroute.  Our hopes were that by the time we returned — this year — the work would have been completed but alas that proves not to be the case.  Not only have they not completed the work, aside from agreeing upon a new plan the work hasn’t even been started.  Which means it will be another couple years before there is once again an autoroute.

Even more to the bouncy, shakey, point — the road from the South (Highway 100) is betting bumpier and bumpier with semi-tire size potholes that you could lose the front half of your car in!   I’m told that you can take General Brant Road for an easier acess to the refuge but we have yet to try it.  For now, I’m staying off Buena Vista Road!   I should shout that to myself so I don’t forget!

laguna-atascosa-nwr-1This is a beautiful refuge — in the way that natural, unspoiled places are beautiful.  Momma Nature does here what she does best and there’s teaming life here whether or not you see it.

We drove out to Osprey Point while there and saw thousands and thousands and thousands of migrating waterfowl.  One of the larger masses of birds I’ve ever seen.laguna-atascosa-map  I’m sure we’ll return with cameras but it was lovely today not to be bothered dragging around cameras and lenses and be able to just enjoy the life around me.

While we were there I was tickled to see a Mexican / Rio Grande Ground Squirrel — these are very unlike the 13 Stripe Ground Squirrels we have in Wisconsin and I was glad to see them (Ictidomys parvidens)  Don’t worry, I’m not that good at critter idenfication.  There were a group of Texas State students present on a naturalists tour who clarified my uncertain identification — thank you very much!

There you have it.  Another day not-quite-South-of-the-Border! 🙂 Still overcast and drizzle-y — better weather promised in a couple days.  It all serves me right for going out a week ago to get a better fitting swimsuit — ever since then the skies have been crying.  (But at least my trunks wont fall down around my ankles) 🙂ictidomys-parvidens

Thanks for stopping, and I’ll be here again tomorrow.