Friday, August 14, 2009

Deerhaven RV Park, Waupaca, WI

Deerhaven RV Park

Our move from Dale to Deerhaven occurred on THE MOST HUMID day since we’ve been in the RV. One of the first orders of business after the RV was parked and leveled was to hookup to electric and turn on the air conditioning allowing us to do our interior setup in a more comfortable atmosphere.

Originally Deerhaven had been a trailer park. When it was converted to an RV park several updates were made. However, the original placement of hookups – electric, water and sewer – were not changed. Modern RV hookups require that they be situated alongside and closer to the RV's axles where connections are now standard. Because the hookup distance is longer than normal we had to park our RV further back which caused it to not line up well with the cement pad for our entrance door. It also put our extended awning into the canopy of a tree. We’re not alone as this affects many who stay here in much the same manner. Tom, having planned ahead for such occasions, had the necessary hookup extensions but even so it was still a stretch.

With 43 sites, Deerhaven is small as RV parks go. Most sites are rented by RVer’s who split their year between Deerhaven in the summer and southern or southwestern climates in the winter and have added quasi-permanent amenities. Storage sheds, fixed wooden steps and outdoor decks top the list.

The park thus far has been quiet. It boasts clean restrooms and a small Laundromat. No water slides, playgrounds or sports facilities, which is fine with us. We’ve made several acquaintances. Like Lola and Harley, a couple who summer at Deerhaven and winter in Arizona. Our immediate neighbors in a forty-foot motorcoach, Dick and Annette Rietz, spend a month at Deerhaven and who also winter in Arizona. The husband of another couple, Dick and Carol Kichefski, worked at Theda Clark Regional Medical Center when Tom worked there in the late 70’s and early 80’s. When not at Deerhaven they winter near Brownsville, Texas.

As “the new kids on the block” everyone has offered us friendly tips and helpful advice about RVing including places to overnight and favorite routes they use when traveling to and from their winter sites. Who would have thought overnights in casino parking lots would be so useful? Casinos offer free parking, security and access to (usually but not always) inexpensive meals. Trying one’s hand at the slots is optional. Someone has even written a guide to casino RV parking complete with ratings (Dick and Annette gifted us an older copy). Sure seems like it beats the heck out of layovers at Wal-Mart.

Brainard's Bridge Park

The Waupaca area is no stranger to Tom. Tom’s mother, stepfather and sister Betsy lived in Waupaca for a number of years on Leighton Road near Brainard’s Bridge Park (where Carol and Tom were married in May 1996). Arlin "Butts" (Betsy's husband Bill's father) is a former Commandant of the Wisconsin Veteran’s Home in nearby King, WI. Deerhaven RV Park is located on Butts Road, named after Linda and Louie Butts, Bill’s mother’s aunt and uncle. A good friend, Mike Scheiwe was the Hartman Creek SP summer naturalist when Merle Lang (since retired) was the park’s director.

Hartman Creek State Park

Swan Park, located on the north side of Waupaca near the Wauapaca River is primarily a sports park with several baseball diamonds and a skateboard area but offers a few hiking trails through mixed hardwood, pine, and meadows. Hartman Creek State Park, just down the road from Deerhaven off Highway 54, has several hiking and biking trails (over ten miles worth), a sandy swimming beach on a spring-fed lake, and family oriented camping. A very well maintained park and easily accessible. We thought about staying at Hartman but as with most Wisconsin state parks, it does not have full hookups.

Waupaca is developing a trail system: the River Ridge/Highway 22 Trail. It will eventually encircle the city. Thursday morning we walked sections of it including Shambeau Hill and the Oz Natural Area just beyond the northwest corner of Waupaca. There’s no shortage of trails!

Local food in the area is pretty good too. When riding the annual Highground Bike Tour from Appleton to the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial in Neillsville, one of the evening stopovers was at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King (lately the stop is now at the Waupaca VFW). Near the Veterans Home is the King’s Table Restaurant (great for breakfast) and the Clear Water Harbor Restaurant and Bar (lunches). Downtown Waupaca has the T.W. Martin’s Irish Pub (dinners).

Speaking of the Highground, August 6-9 was when the annual Highground Bike Tour occurred this year, a fundraiser in which Tom used to take part. This year marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ride. We stopped in Marshfield on Saturday afternoon where we knew the Eastern Group component tour riders would be staying. Nice to see some of the familiar faces Tom used to ride with – Jim Braatz, Leon Meidam, Jeff Lotto, and Jim Wilsmann to name a few. A great turn out this year. Thirty riders represented the eastern route (Appleton to Waupaca to Stevens Point to Marshfield to Neillsville), which covered over 150 miles. Not bad for a bunch of aging Vietnam Vets. And tour rides on bicycles – not motorcycles!

Wednesday we were guests of the Berks who live a few miles from Deerhaven – David, Stacey, and their five-year old daughter Natalie who will be starting Kindergarten in a few weeks. David is a former colleague of Tom’s from Lawrence University. We shared a pleasant evening meal while relaxing on the Berk’s recently constructed patio as Natalie entertained everyone with her wide-ranging gymnastic and musical skills. We hope to catch up with the Berks once more on Saturday during the Waupaca Art Fair.

Buena Vista Grassland State Wildlife Area

On Friday morning we drove to the Buena Vista Grasslands State Wildlife Area located south and west of Plover, WI (near Stevens Point). Our goal was to catch up with a few grassland birds missing from our annual WI bird checklist: Upland Sandpiper, Western Meadowlark and Greater Prairie Chicken. We managed to find all three species plus a surprise viewing of an immature Lark Sparrow. Afterward we drove to Betsy and Bill's business located in Plover, Badger Plastics and Supply, to have lunch and touch base before we depart for the winter.

Channel to and from Otter Lake, Chain of Lakes

Chic, Carol and Joan

Indian Crossing Casino, "the porch" side

Friday evening we met Chic and Joan (pronounced JoAnn) Patterson in Waupaca for dinner at the Woods Restaurant. Joan is Carol’s mother’s first cousin. After dinner we followed them back to their home on Otter Lake for a, what turned out for Tom, a nostalgic pontoon boat ride back into time through the Chain of Lakes. Lakeside views of the Clearwater Harbor Bar, the Wisconsin Veterans Home (and Commandant's residence) and the Indian Crossing Casino.

A central landmark of the Chain, the name “casino” is a misnomer - it never was a gambling style casino. It was however, a turn of the century ballroom that over the years entertained generations of people by presenting legends of the swing era and and rock n roll.

It officially opened its doors in 1925. By 1937 it was attracting many big name bands on the road between Chicago and Minneapolis. Bands that included Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, Gypsy Rose Lee, Les Brown and His Band of Renown, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, The Diamonds, Eddy Howard, Richard Maltby, Lee Castle, and Art Mooney and the Dukes of Dixieland all played at the Casino. A side note: Tom's uncle Jim Graham played at the Casino (tenor sax and alto clarinet) with the Jimmy James Orchestra in the 40's.

As the big band era faded, the emphasis turned to rock n roll. Entertainers like The Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson, Bobby Vee, Gene Pitney, Bobby Vinton, Hermit’s Hermits and the Beach Boys played the Casino.

The Casino closed in 1975 but reopened 15 years later attracting acts like Johnny Winter, Molly Hatchet, Dickey Betts and Great Southern with Mike Dowling and Randy Sabien. Currently it hosts a Wednesday night "Teen Dance", a mere shadow of what it was like in its hay day from the 30's through the 60's.

Tom and his friends frequented the Casino in the sixties. The varnished wood dance floor held sway with live rock bands from the region as well as those national hit groups mentioned previously. But it was “the porch” that hung out over a narrow boat channel which held the allure. On the porch is where rites of passage were found - beer and romance. But only if you were 18 years of age or older (or sneaked in somehow – it wasn’t all THAT difficult).

On Sunday our week at Deerhaven will be up. We'll head back to the Ward’s in Dale. We’ve enjoyed Deerhaven so much we may very well spend a few more weeks here when we return to Wisconsin next Spring.


  1. While we absolutely wouldn't trade mountain living for the Midwest again, I confess to missing seeing "the water". The mountains are more than a fair trade, but I do miss seeing legitimate lakes and rivers. About the time I get nostalgic, however, I go our on my patio, turn on the waterfall, and notice the TOTAL ABSENCE of mosquitoes and humidity! You'd love our hummingbird situation....I have 12=15 fighting for space at now three feeders, which I have to fill at least once a day. Pretty spectacular...

  2. The way you describe Deerhaven...heck, I'd like to haul our trailer over there and join you sometime! You two are wonderful at making life an adventure. Boy, I miss you already! Thanks for taking the time to write this great blog.