At the time of this writing I’m sitting along a lovely shoreline on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, looking out the windows of my motorhome at perfection… blue skies filled with dramatic clouds… and wanting so badly to go out and play. The last month has seen me through several states, and lots of time with friends and family along the way. It’s hard to sit down at my computer to work when I’m with people I love. So friends, forgive me once again for my silence. I’m sitting still and alone for a few days in order to enjoy this beautiful part of the country, AND get caught up on my work. Maybe another three posts in three days. We’ll see.
So… back to the midwest! At last writing I was wrapping up a very “unique” week in Sturgis South Dakota. My ultimate destination for the months to come is the northeast corner (or should I say quarter) of the country, but a trip south to Nebraska was next on the list.
I was born in the Cornhusker State (Go Big Red!) and although I haven’t lived there since I was seven, I have many wonderful childhood memories of my youngest years there… building snow forts with my brothers, summers on the lake, visiting my Grandpa Reisner on the farm, the sound of ice cubes crackling and the tickle of “fizz” on my nose when my Grandma Weesie poured Coke in little tin cups for me and my brothers, and all the Holidays and Husker games surrounded by the warmth of family.
Not long after I set out on my journey last fall I got a sweet note from my Aunt Sandy telling me how tickled she was that I was taking this journey. I sent a note back telling her I had every intention of swinging through to pick her up on my way to Minnesota where her daughter Anne and her family live. That time had finally come, so I plotted my course and headed southeast. I didn’t take the quickest route through Sioux Falls, but dropped down into Nebraska and journeyed through the countryside. One word… CORN. Miles and miles of corn.
That’s not to say I didn’t find beauty here. I enjoyed the tranquility and was in awe of the vastness of these farmlands. My favorite vistas were the slow rolling hills filled as far as the eye can see with corn rows, and dotted with farmhouses, old barns and silos. I can’t count the number of times I wanted to stop for pictures only to be faced with that common feeling of frustration with no place to pull off the road. I’ve shared that frustration many times in my blogging, and it hasn’t gotten any easier for me to drive right by a great image. I have to say that for every wonderful image I have gathered along the way (thousands!), there are 10 times as many I can only take along in my memories.
When I arrived in Fremont I turned west and drove out to North Bend for dinner with my second cousin, Tom Wolf and his wife Deanna. It’s always good to spend time with them and get caught up on family events, and reminisce about the years gone by. After a wonderful meal and warm hugs I headed back to Fremont and the welcoming arms of my Aunt Sandy.
The following morning we all boarded The Beast (me, Jazzy, Sadie, Sandy and her Golden Retriever, Penny) and headed up the highway. In addition to lots more corn we came upon some cool old churches along the way. Where I could, I stopped to snag a few shots. At this point I can’t even say exactly where these churches are along the country highways of Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Anne’s family lives in Duluth Minnesota, but were spending the weekend at their cabin on Lower Eau Clair Lake in northwest Wisconsin, so that’s where we headed. I had not seen Anne since our Grandma Weesie passed away several years ago, and really only knew her children from pictures. I could write volumes about the fun and laughter and games and stories, and our dogs at play! I so enjoyed seeing my “little cousin Annie” in her roll as Mom to her great kids, Lucy and Alex and as a loving daughter to my Aunt. (Anne’s husband Mike was off on a guy trip for the weekend, so I didn’t get to see him until later.) The weather wasn’t great, but we did get out on the boat for a tour around the lake which I thoroughly enjoyed since we saw both Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle as well as a Great Blue Heron and some Loons.
When the weekend was over I left my motorhome behind and drove my car into Duluth for an overnighter, some sight seeing along Lake Superior, and a bit more family time. I was amazed to realize I had not seen Mike since I photographed their wedding a LOT of years ago, so it was great to finally catch up with him. Anne and Sandy and I took a drive up along Lake Superior. This was my first real “Great Lakes experience” (other than Lake Michigan from downtown Chicago at night) and I couldn’t get past the feeling that I was standing on an ocean shore. Waves roll in to sandy beaches or rocky shorelines, and there’s no land in sight as you look across the lake. The only thing missing was the sticky salt. The lighthouses made it all the harder to shake that feeling. It was truly a strange sensation.
After our priceless family time in Duluth the girls and I drove back to Wisconsin, reconnected with The Beast and headed north to the southern edge of Lake Superior where we camped in Port Wing. I was quite taken with the amazing old barns along the roadways in Wisconsin and took advantage of the limited opportunities I had to pull over for a shot.
While “docked” alone with a good WiFi connection at a tiny little campground in Port Wing I made a promise to myself to stay INSIDE to catch up with all the work I was behind on. I know most of you think I’m on a perpetual vacation, but I’m not. And staying inside when there’s so much to see outside is extremely hard for me. I had a very productive day, but ended up regretting that I didn’t put off work for one more day when a big storm set in that night, ruining my plans of kayaking the Brule River the following morning. I would have postponed my plans to move on, but I had my daughter, Elissa, booked on a flight to Milwaukee two days later and had a lot of beautiful ground to cover on my way to see her.
I actually drove out to the Brule hoping the skies would clear by the time I got there, but no luck. While there though, I did take the time to drive a bit further out to a place Anne told me about, Amnicon Falls State Park. Definitely worth a look-see. It was yet another reminder of the diversity of our landscape.
More barns along the way, and as you can see the skies were clearing before my morning road trip was over… making it all the harder to pull steaks and head on down the highway.
My next stop was Bayfield, Wisconsin, a beautiful port on the southern end of Lake Superior I’d been reading about. Near here, along the shoreline, were fascinating sea caves and arches that I was looking forward to exploring in my kayak first thing the next morning before heading south to meet up with Elissa. Sadly remnants of the storm still lingered. I got up before sunrise and backtracked more than twenty miles along the shoreline to the ideal launch site to see the caves. I was met in the parking lot by a park ranger who informed me of the small craft advisory in effect. I’m no fool. I drove away feeling horribly disappointed. Two missed opportunities in two days. And as I drove the skies cleared, and clouded, and cleared again. Ever changing.
On the way back to Bayfield it was thoughts of my daughter awaiting my arrival at a friend’s house in southern Wisconsin that put a smile back on my face. When I got back to the campground I happily pulled steaks and turned south. With lots of ground to cover and another night in between us, I entertained myself with thoughts of Elissa, and little else.
Next stop… Brookfield Wisconsin, where our dear friends Don and Lissa Berg were hosting my wonderfully spirited, precious pride and joy… Elissa!!!