Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Sisters on the Fly, Big Bang Bob and other Dynamite Connections

 Hello from the Boulder Junction, WI Library and my sister's diningroom table,

Thank you for the free WIFI, and recharging station, Boulder Junction and Seester Mary!


Don't you think it is interesting the connections we make while traveling.  Or even in our hometowns, the  brief interactions that enrich our lives.  It is like the good wishes, prayers, and love in our lives is attracting to us just the people and and stories that will help us, or somehow become part of our journey.

There was a saying on a Dove Dark Chocolate wrapper that read: 

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe.

I like that.   When I left the Fairgrounds in Chippewa Falls I drove to the KOA in Hayward, WI.  It wasn't far.

I was attending a Wisconsin area Sisters on the Fly (SOTF) event.  SOTF is a membership organization that is nation-wide.  It started in Texas when a few women decided to start camping and learning Fly Fishing (hence the name).

Now there are over ... I don't know, 18,000 members?

I arrived at the KOA a day before the event started.  I knew that there were several other Sisters that were also arriving early.  

Fortunately I had enough cell service to check the facebook page for the event.  Someone said what site she was in and welcomed other sisters to come hang out.  That was all I needed to join the party, a simple invitation.  I met Barbara and that is her banner above that I photographed.

Somewhere along the way I met Becky from Minnesota.  She likes to hike and wanted to go hike Copper Falls which was an hour's drive away.  Barb and I volunteered to join her.

My father was in the CCC's as part of the effort to employ young men during the Great Depression.  He worked at Copper Falls State Park.

As we walked the stone steps and crossed the bridges I wondered if his hands had help to make these great and lasting walk-ways.  There were a lot of falls to look at and the trail did a great job of giving us different vantage points for each one.

It was great sharing the beauty with others and getting to know Becky and Barbara.  They both have done some serious (Camping style) back packing and Barbara had done some horse camping.  She still has four old horses.

Every evening the sisters would gather in a spare lot provided by the campground for our use.  We chatted and introduced ourselves and if we stayed long enough into the evening the circle would break up into smaller groups chatting away.

One morning Becky wanted to go to breakfast and I joined in that two.  It was a great little restaurant/bar a few miles away.

One day I went off on my own riding bicycle.  I rode into Hayward, watched some of the Lumberjack show (what atheletes!) and as I started to bypass the downtown I got a big flat.  The tire was shredded, not just the tube.  Luckily I was on my two-wheel bike with the standard 26 inch wheels.  If I had that happen on my trike with the 20" front tires I would have probably had to call a sister to come get me.

Google said I was only 1/2 a mile from a bike shop.  It was getting late in the afternoon, I was worried the shop would be closed by the time I got there.  But it was still open and the two women in the workshop took care of my tire while I waited.

The KOA was more expensive of a place than I normally stay.  It was very well run, quiet time was quiet time, and even with ... there must have been over 100 families there with children, the grounds were clean and neat.

The manager of the KOA took our group picture.

It was getting toward the end of our gathering.  I was sitting around talking with a few women.  Karen has been working on simplicity, or minimalism.  She said she starts days with 10 little stones in one cup and each thing she gets rid of she moves a stone from the starting cup to the done cup.  Until she has found 10 things to give away or toss.

I was inspired.  I had packed up a picture that George had drawn from a picture we saw in Sports Illustrated or somewhere.  We had gifted the picture to my dad who was a fishing enthusiast.  The picture made dad giggle and when he passed or my Mom passed, the picture came back to George and I.

My son had agreed to take the picture and I had carefully wrapped it and put it behind the three-drawer dressers in my Weeroll. 

The thing is, when I visited Jeremy, I forgot all about the picture.  I had other stuff in boxes I gave him, but the picture was still hidden in my trailer.

Then a few weeks after I had found the picture.  It was water stained, not worth the care to mail to him.  I decided after talking to Karen to take the picture to the dumpster.  

As I was walking... (it was so hear wrenching!  My dad, my husband, my son all wrapped up in this picture I held in my hands.)

A couple of sisters were finishing up their packing, getting ready to leave.  I told them how I was walking this picture to the trash and it was so hard to part with because it was so full of the love of our family.  And Mary (one of the sisters, these two were actual real sisters to each other) said, "That would look great at our cabin.  Don't throw it away, I would love to have it.!"

Oh my!  I almost started to cry.  

Wow what a chance encounter.  These two sisters will now have the fun picture on their wall and I can think it is bringing smiles to someone still.

And I am no longer towing it around with me!  Lighter... do I feel lighter?

When I was in Madison, WI, I attended the wedding of a daughter of a friend and got to re-connect with some friends from where George and I lived for 27 years.  When I left the wedding, I had walked away and my purple raincoat was sitting on the back of the chair.

I had talked about going up to Hayward and it just so happened that Vicky and Kyle had just moved into their summer home in Hayward area.  So they called and I arranged to visit them and get my purple raincoat.

I just expected to stop and get a little tour of their home (which is lovely and on a big lake).  But Vicky served me coffee and sweet bread and then they offered to take me on a ride around their lake in their nice new pontoon boat.  

How cool is that!  It was a gorgeous day for a ride on the lake.

The boat has some hydraulic jacks under it.  So when he parks next to his dock he doesn't jump onto the deck and tie the boat to the dock posts.  No, he pushes a button and the jacks go down, lifting the pontoon up out of the water.  

I was impressed.  I had to get down on my hands and knees and look below the boat.

I had parked on their road because I was towing Lilac and didn't know if I would be able to turn around in their driveway.  There were some construction vehicles also on the road, so I drove down a bit to get a stretch to park without obstructing traffic.

When Vicky and Kyle and I walked to my car there was a woman and what looked like a police officer trying to peek into the windows of my Weeroll.  It turns out that the woman panicked when she saw my truck and trailer by her house and she called the police.   Geesh!  The policeman asked if I was "Susan".  He had already looked up my plates.

After the Sisters on the Fly Event my next stop was South Trout Lake Campground.  I had arranged to arrive a day early so that I could learn a bit from the previous Campground Hosts.  I was feeling kind of nervous, this was my first Campground Host gig.   

All I knew was that I had chores to do and in exchange I would get a free (non-electric) campsite.

I arrived and pulled into my site.  Over came Pat and Bill, the current hosts, to introduce themselves.
Bill offered to show me how to clean the bathrooms in the morning.  That would be my first official day and the day that they pull out of the host spot and I pull in.

That's a picture of Pat below.  A couple days after I started we had a "Host" meeting at one of the other campgrounds in the State Forest here.  That is where I took the picture and met some of the other hosts.

One of my duties each week is "Wood Shed Duty".  Every day the wood shed is open from four to seven and we hosts take turns doing it.  My day is Wednesdays.  I like that it is regular, it is easier to plan around.

Shortly after I arrived at South Trout I had my 69th Birthday.  The day before my sister came and went for a hike.  She brought me a much loved bag of tree nuts, granola bars, and dark chocolate.  Yum!  Thank you, Sister Mary!

I got a message from Diane who I had met when I arrived at a trailhead last year and she and I hiked together.  She asked if I was available to bike the next day.  "YES!" I replied.

We met in Boulder Junction and biked to Sayner.   We passed through some of the prettiest parts of the trail.  The wood thrush was often singing in the trees as we wound our way among the tall trees.

In Sayner, Diane insisted she was buying my lunch.  I hadn't even told her yet it was my birthday!  When I did, she told the waiter.  And after a lovely lunch he delivered a lovely large peice of cheese cake with a candle in it!  We shared it and almost finished it off.  

Thank you, Diane!

The hosts have breakfast at the Holiday Restaurant in Woodruff, WI on Tuesdays.  I go to the gym and then meet them there.  They tell stories of their travels and their trials with campers.  I don't know if I will continue to go.  I like the food, (one veggie skillet gives me three meals) but the stories are scarey.  People partying all night in the campground, naked bodies sleeping on the ground in the morning...  my oh my!

Oh and I should tell you about Big Bang Bob.

I was doing woodshop duty.  It had been busy, but now there was a lull and I was sitting quietly in my chair, the wood cart in front of me about three feet.

A little car pulls up.  And just as it comes to a stop, "BANG!"

Right next to my chair something had exploded!   

I tried to see the driver through the glare on his windshield.  Long hair, sun glasses... Was that a gun that went off?   I looked next to me, there was no debris from a fire cracker or any bullet...

I looked at the man again, he was just sitting there looking at me.  

"Are you shooting at me?" I asked him.

He shook his head slowly.   

He then walked over slowly.  "I swear it wasn't me," he said.  "I saw something explode next to your chair."

We looked, I looked around.  

"Hi, I am Bob."

"I am Sue," I replied, both of us still wide-eyed in shock.

He wanted wood.  He had to go pay for it at the visitors center.  While he was gone I saw that one of the wheels on the cart was very flat.  Ohhhhh, that was the problem!

When Bob came back to get his wood, we chatted a while and it turns out he bikes and hikes.  He told me about a trail I had been wanting to do.  He offered to do it with me sometime.  He gave me his campsite number.

And so we hiked the Fallison Trail together.  It was lovely.  And a few days later we hiked the Star Lake Trail, which was amazing.

Now you might be thinking that romance is in the air.  I mean that would make a good, "How we met" story.  But it isn't.  We just like to hike and bike and he is intersting.

His name is Bob Shiel and he has some songs on Youtube.  He has published several albums and written a book on Bob Dylan that is 500 pages long or so.  He taught English as a second language.
But there is even MORE to Bob.  He as participated in many Native American ceremonies and he carries a pipe that he received during a pipe ceremony with him when he travels.  Boy, the interesting people you can meet in the craziest ways.


I went Kayaking with the Rhinelander Newcomers.  I invited Diane along and she brought an extra kayak for me to try.  A sea kayak, she called it.  It was nice.   My sister brought over one of her kayaks and I took it out on Trout Lake once.  It is a big lake with wind,  when it is calm it is at night when I am tired or in the early morning when I am cleaning the pit toilets.

Below is Diane on the left and my sister Mary on the right.  

This week Barb, who I hiked with at the Sisters on the Fly event, came over with her husband and camped at South Trout Lake after learning about the area from me.  They had a great time and I got to have a nice evening by the fire with them.

Next week another Sister on the Fly is coming to spend a few days.  I am looking forward to showing her some of the cool places I have discovered while here.

Well, I gotta go.  I am at my sisters house and there is left-over birthday cake to be eaten!  Adios.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Overcoming Fears Building Strength

 Greetings, still from the boonies in Northern Wisconsin,

During this trip I have had the opportunity to connect with two men that have been recently widowed.  Connect in that we text each other almost daily.  It is a way of knowing that someone knows what we are doing and is interested.  I have felt that since I have been on my own for over four years now, I have some wisdom I can share about the grieving process and about the transition from a two-person household to a one-person household.

I already wrote to you about Terry, who texted me he was having a beer in Gatlinburg so I rushed to get to a pub myself so I could have a beer too and it would be like having happy hour together.  

I should arrange more of those with friends.  Sometimes it works out well, we can exchange pictures of our venues, the food, and stories.

The other friend that I am texting regularly is Steve.  His wife passed suddenly and recently.  So his journey into grief and through grief is different than mine or Terry's.  Without time to say goodbye or to anticipate the end of married life, he was hit hard.  I have enjoyed our interactions, and I tell you this because he has been inspiring me to do some things I had been afraid to do.

He told me that when they were camping on a lake he would often go for an evening swim, no mater how cold.  As a young person I was always loving the water and swimming long.  But as an old woman, I have not done it much and I miss that part of me that loved to swim and play in the water.

I took Steve's story as a challenge.  Because when I thought of it for some reason I felt a bit of fear.  And you know I desire to overcome a bit of fear often.  It is like building muscle, I have to practice or I will be wimpy.  Who wants to be a wimp!

So that very evening I went out to the boat dock, walked carefully over the slippery rock bottom.

, and finally got the nerve to lean forward into the water.  I swam out past the dock and back.  That was it, I was done.  But I did it!  I felt proud and texted Steve right away.

Yesterday afternoon I got warm from work and thought to myself that I would go for a swim.  I remembered a place I have visited on my bike that was only a few miles from my campground.  It had a sandy area for swimming and across a straight between North and South Trout Lakes was another sandy area I could see.  I told myself I would go there. 

But you know that I kept thinking of other things to do.  Time was passing and I wasn't getting any closer to a swim.  And it was getting cooler too.

As the sun got lower and lower in the West I finally put on my swim pants, pulled out my trike, and began pedaling toward that pretty swim spot.  Shortly after leaving the campground I passed a woman carrying a white jacket coming up from the lake.  She looked thrilled, she gave me a big smile and and I smiled back and waved.

When I got to Cathedral Point where the little sandy area was, the mosquitoes were hounding me.  So I quickly walked into the water to escape.   

It took a minute or two to take the plunge.  But I did it, and as I started the swim across the straight I turned onto my back and saw that smiling lady with the white sweater! 

"We know where the good spots are," she called to me.  

I was comforted by her presence.  At least one person knows I am out here, and if I disappear...  

As I swam I realized I had not swam this far in at least a year, maybe 10 or 12.  At 68 was this wise?  I kept going, taking my time.

When I got to the other side I felt like doing the happy dance.  I raised my arms.  Yay!  I made it!

It turns out the sandy spot on the other side of the straight is one of the many campsites in the State Forest that is only accessible by boat or on foot.  There was a picnic table, a fire pit, and a clothesline.  Hmmm, next time I swim across I should tow a tent, ha ha.  And some bug spray.  I returned to the water to escape the mosquitoes.

Now to swim back.  The swim back took a while, as the current wasn't in my favor this time.  But I made it!  I was sooooo happy.  I did it!  I am woman, hear me roar.  And I saw that the smiling woman's things were still sitting on a picnic table.  She was still around, I was so happy I got to chat with her. 

Kate is from the Milwaukee area, she still works because she loves it.  She is up here on her own visiting a friend.  Her energy was marvelous. I wanted to exchange contact information with her and hike or swim with her.  She told me that I was an inspiration to her to just go out and swim like that and camp by myself.  She said she used to do things like that but has gotten more afraid over time.

We didn't exchange contact info.  She was only in the area a couple more days.  But she helped me over come my fear and do it anyway.  I shared that phrase with her and she repeated it, trying to commit it to memory.

I called my sister-in-law Sue who will be coming to the Rhinelander, WI area when I am there in August.  She told me the dates she would be coming.  My nephew Tom and his wife are coming to camp a few days too.  We always have a good time.  I am happy.

Back at camp I changed clothes and went to watch the sun set and use the better cell service by the lake to reach out to Terry and Steve with a text and a picture.

Steve was in Indiana and had connected with our mutual friends, Frankie and Dennis.  He had arranged to bike with them the next morning!  I was so happy for him.  Terry was also reconnecting with friends and was enjoying some music with them. 

Life changes things, we move on, we adapt. 

That's enough for now.  But I had excited to tell you about Big Bang Bob next time.  

Hang in there, and go out and to something that scares you a little bit. 

Friday, July 15, 2022

Out in the Boonies with No Cell Service

Greetings from the North North Woods of Wisconsin.

It has been a while.  My last letter to you was June 20th.  In the meantime I have been either busy having fun or in locations were the cell service is poor or non-existent.  

This morning while doing laundry I sat in a little kids' chair using the wifi there to check email and do some shopping.  Not smart to use a public WIFI for shopping.  I will have to change some of my passwords the next time I have a secure connection.  Maybe at my sister's house on a visit to her in Rhinelander.  It is about a 40 minute drive from camp to her house.


When last I wrote I was in Chippewa Falls about to connect with my friends, John and Sandy from the Waukesha area.  We became friends when I volunteers for Waukesha Literacy and Sandy worked there in the 1990s.  

We had a great time.  And our time there was too short.  There was so much more to explore. 

We rode the Old Abe Trails in both directions from our campsite.

By the kiosks were shoe scraping brushes.  I thought that was strange until I saw this kiosk.  They are trying to reduce the spread of the seeds of invasive and nuisance plants.

We learned that if we sat real close to the side of my trailer in the mornings and the side of their trailer in the evenings we could get out of the hot sun.

The fairgrounds was preparing for the Fair and some smaller event.  Each day a crew of young men would come out and spray wash and move picnic tables and garbage bins.

We were out biking and hiking every day, and that was good because during the day we had no shade and it got hot.

On a bike ride we passed a cemetary with strange looking tombstones.  I looked at this one and through the guy died in 1892 at 15 years old and had several children.  Sandy took a closer look.  The 15 is actually a 45.   

In Rushford, MN I had seen a tombstone of a 14 year old that had two children when he died.  I probably made the same mistake.  He was probably 44.  Sorry for the misleading report.


Instead of blasting you with a real long catch-up letter, instead I will do snippets from the past few weeks as I tell you about what is happening now.

Right now I am volunteering as a host at a small campground in the Northern Highlands American Legion State Forest.  

I picked up in my General Delivery at the Post Office in Woodruff a new screen tent (Clam) and a canopy tent, that I LOVE.

My site and all sites at this campground are without power.  The water comes from a pump.

I can probably go for weeks on my battery if all I did was charge my phone and my lights. 

No sites are on the lake, but my site is right next to the boat launch.  The lake is deep and huge (over 3800 acres).  Lots of boaters come at night to fish for musky.

Each evening I go down to the dock to text a few friends and hopefully send them a picture.  Though the cell is a bit  better there, often the pictures don't go through.

I am amazed at a few things here.  

With over 236,000 acres and more than 900 lakes within its boundaries, the Northern Highland - American Legion State Forest provides wonderfully scenic opportunities for a variety of outdoor recreation from wild and remote campsites accessible only by boat, to developed family and group campgrounds, beaches, boat launches and trails. The forest is spread across three counties near the towns of Woodruff, Minocqua and Boulder Junction. 
  • The forest is huge!
  • There are over 900 lakes within this forest and some creeks and rivers too.  The kayaking opportunities and swimming options are great and varied.  Also many of those lakes are crystal clear.
  • The trails going all the way from St. Germain to Melen are paved, winding, and hilly.
  • There are over 15 campgrounds that you can drive into.  There are many many more scattered on hiking trails and along the banks of the lakes that are only accessible by boat or on foot.
A big plus of my campground is it is right on a pretty part of the Villas County Bicycle Trail system.  It is paved, hilly, winding, and never boring.

People are asking me how I like the camp hosting position.  I say the jury is still out.  Sometimes I think I would be better off with a 20 hour a week job and to pay for my camp site.  But a big plus of hosting is that I get to stay in one place for a whole month for free.

We will see what happens as time goes on.  Well, this is enough for now. 

I have so much to tell, but this is a start.  

Have you been here?  What did you do and what did you like best?  Let me know in the comments.  Thanks for traveling with me.  I have missed being in touch.

A Miracle and a Good Laugh

 Greetings from Inverness, Florida. I have sooo many stories to tell.  So much fun to share.  But I will save you from yawns by telling you ...