Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cedar Hills Campground

Ready for a road trip? If you have been thinking about traveling away from the midwest this summer you are thinking about the price at the pump. Why not look in your back yard?

A short drive from Milwaukee, Chicago, or the Twin Cities will bring you to a road less traveled, the road that leads to the top of Wisconsin Heights, between Sauk City and Mazomanie off Wisconsin Hy78. Turn on Dunlap Hollow Road and pull into Carl's place. Carl's place is Cedar Hills Campground. Keep the plastic in your pocket. Carl will laugh at you if you think you can pay that way. He is still holding at $16 a night and about $84 per week. Seasonal campsites are $700 and you can leave the camper there all winter.

Carl's got a website now. I don't think he knows about it or even cares! You can't email him but he does have a phone (which he rarely answers). Carl's been around since about 1927. About all he cares about is feeding his beef cattle, filling the ruts in his road with his Bobcat, and making sure his campers are having a good time. Priorities depend on what the clock says, and whether it has just rained. Sometimes he feeds the campers too. Be there in late July or the beginning of August. Carl will give you some sweet bi-color corn that was probably picked that morning. Sorry. I'm almost drooling over the keyboard as I type this.

Oh yes. The website is here.

Cedar Hills shares that hill know as Wisconsin Heights with the Wisconsin DNR Blackhawk Natural Area. It adjoins the campground and has hiking trails, Native American Mounds, and is great for horseback riding. The most famous battle of the infamous Blackhawk War occurred here on July 21, 1832. The view from virtually every campsite is nothing short of an epiphany.

On Monday holidays Carl charges a three day minumum. The campground has some sites with electric and water. It is basic with NO camp store. Carl has ice and firewood at the office which is about two miles from the campsites and you can't count on the office being open. Be prepared. Carl's girlfriend Betty is around on the weekends to help. They are wonderful people. Once you meet them you realize that you are not a customer. You are a friend that comes back again and again.

Much of his business is river rats Hell bent on getting an all-over tan at the nearby Mazo Beach but then again people stay there to visit Wis. Dells, American Players Theater, House on the Rock, and the multitude of wonderful places nearby. Did I mention Susie the Duck Days over in Lodi, Wisconsin?


Monday, May 21, 2007

Jerry Falwell, Sun Myung Moon, Blackwater and More

Doug Boone is on my mind. He was ornery, loud, arrogant and right! He will be missed. He was the guy with sign at the corner of 9th and Georgia all by himself. He would be at the sundial on Fridays protesting the Iraq morass. That's where I met him. It takes all kinds to work for social justice. Doug was the 'in your face' guy. I joked on this page that if the Iraq War went on any longer that fatalities and injuries to protesters would be tallied. Doug Boone is our first fatality. He died from a blood clot following a routine operation.

I know firsthand about blood clots having survived three bouts with them. I would venture that Doug would want all of us to continue to Fight the Good Fight. That's what I would want too.

Jerry Falwell died. Good riddance. He singlehandedly did more harm to our country than almost anyone I can think of. I put him in the same group with Adolph Hitler and Jeffrey Dalmer. Falwell was in bed with Sun Myung Moon. The Moonie's once divorced leader gave Falwell a $3.5 million kicker in the '90's when Liberty University was about to go belly up. Moon also gave Falwell a so-called award at a White House prayer breakfast. Oh yes. They are both in bed with Dubya Bush. Falwell did everything he could to get folks to vote Republican (and so has Moon).

In a totally unrelated matter, chalk one up to the Republicans and their mantra of less government and less corporate accountability. The Food and Drug Administration has suffered with less money each year of the last ten. That means less and less food coming from China is checked for toxicity. Food from China you say? Yes. Food additives are coming from the industrial cesspool known as China. Think pets are at risk? Think again. People are too. Falwell did a lot of damage by encouraging folks to vote Republican. Falwell may even be indirectly responsible for people dying from food poisoning in the future.

Last Saturday, May 19, was Armed Forces Day. Camp McCoy over in the western part of our great state held an open house for the occasion (only at one gate, have your ID ready). Many 'consumer-friendly' hands on events took place including free face painting for the kids. Yes. They were painting the kids faces camouflage-style. That's great! Of course you wouldn't want to lose your child at Camp McCoy or on the ride back home if you know what I'm getting at.

I studied Blackwater for Armed Forces Day. Blackwater is our newest branch of the armed services. The MSM (that's Main Stream Media) is beginning to call Blackwater by their proper name: Mercenaries. The 'M'-word is pretty nasty. I grew up hearing exploits of the French Foreign Legion. Mercenaries. Hired killers. They'd work work for anyone with the money to hire them. Blackwater is the largest mercenary firm doing so-called contracting work in Iraq. There are now at least 130,000 private-firm soldiers in Iraq. They carry guns and ammo and deliver and protect things. They kill anything in their way.

Capitalism has hit Blackwater. They have been hiring gun-toters from Chile. The Chileans work much cheaper than their U.S. counterparts which sometimes get $1,000 to $1,500 a day. One of the last groups from Chile arrived in Iraq and were presented contracts 4hrs. before they were to go on duty. It specified $34 a day. They had been promised $4,000 to $7,500 a month!
They were told to sign or find their own way back to Chile.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Cranky Pats, the Baer Brothers and more

At a recent Gallery Walk chatter turned to the state of affairs downtown, as it always does. A fellow told me: "You know, Gary, the Baer brothers are almost singlehandedly changing, creating, and rebuilding the downtown area." I told him I didn't totally agree with that, but after more back-and-forth banter I understood what he was trying to get across. Jason and Aaron Baer have invested their lives on a day to day basis to make Main Street a viable destination. Multitudes of folks want the downtown to succeed and Jason and Aaron are key players.

They own the New Moon Cafe and Cranky Pats. Let's hope that Cranky Pats stays open regardless of any conflicts between the city and the tax bill owed by the owners of the 100 block. There has to be a common sense solution crafted that leaves the Baer brothers out of the equation. Common sense dictates that the Baer brothers not be punished for the actions of their landlord.

I don't want to create a rush downtown but...

Mother's Day is Sunday. Rather than getting dressed up and taking mother out to eat in some fancy gin mill, why not change from the nice clothes worn to church, get into something comfortable and spend some time at the New Moon. The food is excellent with a large variety of beverages. A cold bottle of craft rootbeer sounds good at the moment. If you have been there on a Saturday you know what I am about to say. A baby crying, little urchins underfoot (watch where you step), and the various games and amusements that seem to appear from out of nowhere when parents bring their children. The din of conversations with light jazz in the background. There was a recent letter to the editor in the Northwestern from an elderly lady who came to the New Moon and told how impressed she was with the atmosphere there. It's multi-generational and laid back.

'Nuff said.

Bumper sticker seen on Main: I Served, Bush Deserted


Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Demise of Deer Lodge Lake

A fish tale as seen through the eyes of a child circa 1959 on opening day.

Dad promised to take us fishing the first weekend of May. In the days leading up to Saturday we checked and re-checked tackle boxes and played with the new cane poles. The new ones were in two and three sections, a great improvement over the one piece ones that had to be strapped down to the car or the boat. We still had cork bobbers but preferred the new red and white plastic ones. Buds were on the trees and leaves were beginning to come out but the lilacs wouldn't be in bloom until Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as my parents would say. The smell of the fresh wet black dirt in the garden wafted through my nostrils as I dug for worms on Thursday and Friday. I did the same Saturday morning to make sure there was enough.

Dad readied the boat and the trailer. The boat had been built by him in the years before I was born. It was painted bright green and was never in use without the obligatory coffee can and a couple of soup cans. The trailer also was a home made affair with some bald used tires. He wouldn't tell us where we were going but we knew his favorites.

We headed down Hy. 13 toward Adams Friendship. Deer Lodge Lake was a large pond with bluegills and perch. We had been there many times. The access road presented quick thinking and good driving skills. The boat had to be backed in from the state highway which had two lanes and a 65mph limit. After a few nervous moments we were off the highway and slowly backing toward the landing. Moments later the car came to a stop and a couple of very anxious kids jumped out and were greeted by...

The lake had disappeared! Gone. Kaput, like someone pulled the plug. I was amazed. I had never seen a lake bed without a lake and had always wondered what a lake looked like without water. My dad took off his railroad engineer's hat, (he wasn't one but liked the hat), and scratched his head. I ran around the perimeter to where the small dam was. It didn't look right, rotted pieces of wood the size of railroad ties. The dam wasn't any more than a yard wide.

We enjoyed the sunshine and the warming morning weather for a few minutes but it was obvious we would have to go elsewhere to fish. We headed north on Hy.13. Dad calmly explained we were going home. We pleaded with him to go somewhere else, possibly Nepco Lake, but he was adamant about going home. He promised us other times of fishing in the next weeks. I didn't understand this until I was older but his reasoning was that Deer Lodge Lake offered tranquility, peace and quiet. No other lake would be like that on opening day.

That's the end of the story. One story usually leads to another. Here's the 'nother story...

Some years later my dad talked about some high falutin' engineer or group of engineers who figured that they could build a lake much much larger than Deer Lodge Lake. He figured this engineer had probably just graduated from UW Madison, had never gotten his feet wet in a lake, and was probably still wet behind the ears. Land was bought, permits were issued, earth moving equipment was brought in and my dad kept a skeptical wait and see attitude.

Land in the area went for about $100 an acre practically anywhere outside of city limits. That would include land where the casino now stands in Nekoosa.

The new lake was called Lake Sherwood and I remember the signs advertising lake front lots for $19,995 where the land used to sell for a hundred bucks an acre. My dad was right on one count. Lake Sherwood took much longer to fill than was originally anticipated.

Not only did Lake Sherwood become a reality, another lake was built right next to it: Lake Camelot. Later even another was added called Lake Arrowhead plus the golf courses and all the other amenities.

Part of this story can be seen here. Deer Lodge Lake is mentioned in the history section of the same website: "In 1965, successful development of Deer Lodge Lake gave birth to lake Sherwood."

'Successful development' might be an adequate term. Screaming loud powerboats, lawn mowers and snowmobiles might also be adequate terms.

I have retained a file in my mind that brings back the solitude and beauty, the absolute serenity of Deer Lodge Lake.