Wednesday, 5/16/01 - Hanging in Eau Claire
After three loads of laundry at the Oakdale KOA, a job, and a bike ride, we got back onto the road with less than two hours to Eau Claire. We pulled into the Borders parking lot early, made lunch, sat in the sun (a much cooler day) reading and working on the computer, charged my laptop in the bookstore, skimmed several books on book marketing and travel writing, and took a nap back in the Apache. A full day of hanging in Eau Claire.
From the crowd at the bookstore, I got the feeling that the area was pretty hip. And although there was another modest turnout at my signing, it was more than in recent appearances and the women were incredibly interested. We all ended up talking for quite a while, about job opportunities using the Internet in particular.
I drove out of Eau Claire into Chippewa Falls that night, heading toward a campground I was able to locate in my trusty Trailer Life Campground Directory, having already given up on the Wisconsin campground booklet. I drove through Wisconsin farmland to a very rural campground, just as the last of the glow from the sun lit my way.
Thursday, 5/17/01 - Close to the Ends of the Earth
After taking care of the usual RV things at O'Neil Creek RV Park, such as dumping the sewer and emptying the trash and even getting a bike ride in, I pulled slowly out of my campsite and ran over what felt like a curb. What? I continued to drive slowly and suddenly the RV raised up and lowered. What in the world had I run over? There was nothing around me - no other RVs, nothing.
I got out of the RV, not knowing what to expect. Then I saw a fire ring that I must have run over and dragged a ways away from my site. I didn't remember seeing it and surely didn't see it as I pulled out of the campsite. I carefully circled the Apache, looking for anything unusual and crawling underneath to make sure nothing was damaged. That's when I saw the steps.
To say the RV steps were twisted like a pretzel is putting it mildly. I felt a wave of depression as I realized my carelessness caused damage to my beloved RV. I wanted to cry but just said to myself, "This is what happens when you are careless. You'll get it fixed. It will cost you money. But you've learned the hard way."
On the way out of the farmland and back onto the highway, I stopped at an RV place. They were swamped but were able to tell me that the steps would cost me around $30-40 and the labor, at least through them would be about three hours or $75. At least I had a ballpark for the cost and it wasn't an arm and a leg.
Still, I couldn't shake the sadness I felt at having damaged steps and the frustration with myself for not stopping the RV when I felt the first bump.
We headed North of Highway 53, then turned onto Highway 63, still in a northerly direction. When we got to Hayward, Wisconsin, our instructions were to turn right at Highway 77, going East. Then we drove for 20 minutes to the end of the earth with nothing but trees, trees and more trees all around us. We were in the North Woods of Wisconsin.
The next days would be spent at a remote and rustic resort called Ross' Teal Lake Lodge and Teal Wing Golf Club. I had met the proprietors, Tim and Prue, several times over the last few years when I taught Internet workshops at the annual conference for the Wisconsin Innkeepers Association. They attended my classes and took me under their wing at the events, insisting I sit with them at dinner, always introducing me around.
Last October, their daughter, Victoria, was attending the conference, and I had brought her to see Joan Baez in concert the night of the big awards dinner. We snuck out, saw the tail-end of the concert, met Joan Baez on her tourbus, then snuck back into the awards dinner in time for a night cap.
I finally was able to take them up on their offer to visit the resort, and I turned up the road leading to the lodge, I was in awe of all the trees.
After big hugs, Tim and Prue brought me immediately into the kitchen to feed me - a delicious, warm Hungarian goulash. Then Prue took me in a golf cart - which I'd never really ridden in before - to the golf course, giving me a tour and letting me accompany her on the afternoon beverage run.
Now I know absolutely nothing about golf, but the wooded golf course was spectacular, truly breathtaking. The course meandered through thick woods made up of a dizzying array of trees, aspen, white and yellow birch, oak, maple, hemlock, spruce, white pine, just to name a few.
Then I made my way to find my accommodations for the long weekend. I had one of two apartments situated in the lower portion of the Ross' private home. With a full kitchen, living/dining room, bedroom and full bath, as well as a working fireplace and views of the lake through the trees from all windows, I could have easily moved in permanently and be happy forever.
The lake was immense and the kind of blue that I'm not sure how to name or even how I'd mix it with paints. It was about 50 steps from my door, stretching out in all directions, quiet and calm.
Dinner at the Ross' home that night was a hodge podge of delicious offerings from thin grilled steaks to cauliflower with cheese sauce, wheat pilaf, boiled cabbage and baked potatoes. Joining us included Phil, the assistant golf manager and a golf club salesman who called himself Two-Putt Tommy, even his business cards had the nickname emblazoned on it.
Right after donner, The Berts and I turned in for the night and slept soundly, with the silence of a still night as our lullaby.