Thursday, October 18, 2012

RV In The Dells

Early in the summer, friends Harvey and Gayle Pagel tipped us off about an RV park located outside Lake Delton where they would be parked for three months. Lake Delton is a mere ten miles north of Baraboo (original winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus) where Carol had spent her childhood. She still has relatives in and around Wisconsin Dells (a touristy town that most locals avoid like the plague). Sweetening the deal, we have several friends in the Madison area forty miles south of Baraboo. What an excellent opportunity, then, to surprise Harvey and Gayle, have time to revisit Carol’s childhood stomping grounds, and look up old friends, many who we usually don’t get to see when we return to Wisconsin each Spring.

Carol (lower left hand corner) with cousins at the Idhe farm (early 1950's)
house (present day) in Baraboo where Carol lived until her mid teens
But first, a brief detour. We departed Dale and drove northwest to Kings Campers in Wausau to have a wet bolt kit upgrade installed on our RV’s shackles. Kind of a wonky RV thing to do but it would mean a smoother, safer ride for all concerned. We spent the night parked at the dealership so when their shop opened early we would be on hand. The installation took the better part of the morning which gave us a chance to visit Rib Mountain State Park (we always laugh at the use of the word “mountain” in Wisconsin). We also had time to catch up with several of the great folks who work at Kings Camper.

new faucet with sprayer
We arrived at Country Roads RV Park in Lake Delton that afternoon and surprised Harvey and Gayle of our arrival when we walked over to their site to ask when Happy Hour would occur. Tom and Harvey immediately launched into to getting caught up on all things Cameo. Tom managed to design a system for mounting our family “shingle” on the front of the RV plus he upgraded our kitchen sink faucet after seeing what Harvey had done to his rig. Naturally this meant “guy” trips to local hardware stores.

Sykes and Pagels at the Pagels site
Carol’s great-grandparents had settled in the Lake Delton area having immigratied from Germany. Every year for as long as she can remember the Idhe (“EYE-dee”) family reunion had been held in the Wisconsin Dells area after the family farm was sold. Unfortunately we missed attending this year’s reunion but that didn’t stop Carol’s sisters Marge and Linda from bringing the reunion to us. Along with her sisters, Carol’s niece Angie and her daughter Brianne arrived plus Carol’s nephew, Brent. A week or so later Carol’s brother Bill and his wife Mary stopped by for a surprise visit.
Linda, Carol, Marge
Brianne and Angie
Carol’s daughter Melissa lives in Madison. Being parked over a hundred miles away in Dale, there never seemed to be enough quality time to visit with her but now, being parked so close, there would be plenty of time to go shopping and hang out. Such close proximity also allowed for more visits with Carol’s ex-husband, Jerry, with whom we remain good friends. (Note: since our visit to the Lake Delton area, Jerry underwent open heart surgery. We’re delighted to report he came through with flying colors!)
We have several more friends in the Madison area from the days when Carol was the Executive Secretary for the Audubon chapter in Madison we wanted to see. Making our effort supremely easier, Warren Gaskill (Rapid Improvements) and Sharon Clark Gaskill kindly offered to host two dinner parties at their secluded homestead outside Black Earth. Truth be known, Warren and Sharon are always up for an excuse to entertain and we were thrilled to be visiting them not once but twice!

David, Shelley, Mel, Sharon, Tom, Warren, Carol, Steve
The first party included Shelley and David Hamel (subject of multiple blog entries when we visited their cabin in Canada) and, Steve Hiniker and Mary Ellen Vollbrecht. Steve, was a former National Audubon Regional Representative. He was Carol’s mentor when she worked for Madison Audubon. Steve is presently the Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin. Mary Ellen (Mel) Vollbrecht, Steve’s wife, has been a long time employee of WI DNR. Under Governor Doyle, she served as Executive Assistant to the then DNR Secretary. Currently Mel is Program Manager of  WIDNR’s Drinking Water and Groundwater.

Bill and Sylvia
Diane and Glenn
Ken, Carol, Tom
Party number two included Glenn and Diane Chambliss, Ken Wood, Bill and Sylvia Marek, and Cary Hunkel. Sylvia has been teaching for over 30 years as a naturalist at the UW-Madison Arboretum. Glenn is a UW-Madison Department of Bacteriology (Emeritus). Cary is a prominent artist. Ken, who was also active in the day-to-day operation of the Madison Audubon office is a dear friend who unfortunately is struggling with cancer. While we were in the area, Carol volunteered to serve for a week as one of Ken’s “Lots of Helping Hands” and provide support that Ken might require (rides to doctor appointments, daily phone checks to see how he was doing, etc.). Since all these friends had contacts through Madison Audubon, you can imagine how lively the conversations were at both parties when a bunch of tree hugging environmentalists got together! Truly inspirational!

Gayle and Harvey at Wollersheim's
Carol on the a bluff overlooking Devil's Lake SP
We made visits to a few area landmarks. One afternoon we took Gayle and Harvey to Wollersheim Winery where Carol had worked for a few summers in the 90’s. There were shopping trips to nearby Reedsburg, repeated trips a local farm market, nostalgic trips into Baraboo, a long hike around Devil’s Lake State Park bluffs (a favorite hang out during Carol’s teen years), and an afternoon visiting Marge’s home on Lake Wisconsin with the Pagels.
Speaking of Marge’s house, we spent time visiting our stash; our cache of personal items that we had stored there after we sold our home. Each year we pay a return homage to either drop off or retrieve a few things. Amazing how one can reduce one’s footprint when one sets one’s mind.

our "stuff" stored under the blue tarp at Marge's
mainly photo albums, books, dishes, glassware
One welcomed visitor to our RV showed up shortly after we had arrived at Country Roads but in an unwelcome manner. While we’re used to having birds hang out around the RV (we put up bird feeders) we typically don’t have them hang out INSIDE the RV. A House Wren had decided that the intake/exhaust vent for our propane furnace would make a secure nest site. Good for the wren but decidedly not good for us. After the wren was observed ferrying twigs into the vent, Tom removed the vent panel cover and a fan shroud to discover that the industrious wren had already carried in enough twigs to damage the fan, let along provide enough kindling for a roaring fire. After removing the debris, Tom temporarily covered the vent with wire screen and then later with a vent cover designed to mainly thwart flying insects. While Tom worked on removing the wren’s construction materials, Carol observed the same wren attempting the same nest building activity at another Cameo parked next to us. We have to say the wren did have good taste when it came to RVs. We alerted Harvey to the potential problem for his rig...and yes, that prompted a trip to a local RV dealer (almost as much fun as going ot a hardware store) for vent covers.

arrow indicates location of vent
House Wren hard at work carrying twigs into the vent
nest materials deep inside

So typical of our stays in Wisconsin, the time flew by far too quickly. We had volunteered to help Carol’s son Chris, and daughter-in-law Robyn, with child care for the two weeks prior to school starting in Colorado. So on August 1, we pulled up stakes and headed in that direction. Quite a whirl wind three month visit but then it always is. It was bittersweet crossing the Mississippi River into Minnesota with Wisconsin in our rear view mirrors. We so cherished seeing family and friends and hated to leave but it was time to roll on.

Devil's Lake panorama
at Wollersheim's Winery
environmental movers and shakers in the 80's - find Carol
Barn Swallow youngster about ready to fledge

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