Trout Lake 2 – Michigan

August 31, 2010

My nomadic and solitary life of salad eating came skidding to a stop. For the next 4 days, I was a sedentary and social eater of meats.

Eddie and Brenda, and their friends Joe and Patty, were fabulous hosts. Eddie’s prowess with a fire pit and grill was repeatedly on display. Following the pork tenderloins, we had fish, roast beef, sausages, and elk burgers. Plus a bunch of abalone that my brother John had “caughten” in California. To accompany the above meats, Brenda and Patty provided a steady stream of appetizers and salads.

This was only my second time to the Midwest. (The first time was for a Greek wedding in Cleveland, which was a total blast.)

One thing I knew about the Midwest was that they play a card game called Euchre. I knew this because Euchre was one of the first games we put on pogo.com. When I asked, “Why are we doing a game I’ve never heard of?” the answer was, “They play it a lot in the Midwest.”

I must have turned up my nose at that because I never did end up playing Euchre on pogo.

Brenda and Eddie’s house is in the upper peninsula of Northern Michigan … on a lake. So it’s impossible not to think of the currently popular Kid Rock song about summertime in Northern Michigan – the one where he’s “smoking funny things” and “making love out by the lake.”

I didn’t smoke funny things.

I didn’t make love out by the lake.

But I did play one heck of a lot of Euchre.

John and I were partners. Eddie and Mike were our opponents. Brenda and Sara were annoyed. (We played a bit too much.)

Other activities included boat rides, fishing with JoJo, bocci on the lawn, teaching JoJo how to shoot a pellet gun, beer pong, and the wearing of funny hats. There was also a tinge of drinking.

One day Sara spent the entire day taking pictures of Desaree for her high school senior picture. They did photo shoots on the grass, the beach, the hammock, and various other places throughout the yard. I know that they spent the whole day doing this because I could see them in the corner of my eye while I was playing Euchre.

Mr. K had a great time and was well-behaved.

Mr. K was Brenda’s name for Kettle.

Kettle was not the only dog. The Breddies have a German Shorthaired Pointer named Daisy who would spend roughly 8 hours a day tromping through the lake looking for fish. They also have a Shitzu named Gerdy who sits around and looks fancy. In fact they call her “Fancy” more than “Gerdy.”

Kettle didn’t search for fish – alas, he wouldn’t even go in the lake. And he never looked fancy – quite the opposite, he could usually be found lying in a hole he dug in the sand to keep cool. But he enjoyed being around people he knew, especially Mike, and the large sloping grass backyard made for a great play area.

Joe and Patty had just completed their home at the neighboring lake, after working on it for 4 years. Joe drove me over with his quad and gave me a tour of the house and the area.

Located just 40 miles south of Canada, this wooded area with several small lakes used to be a vacation spot for the car industry big wigs in Detroit. Joe and Patty’s house was impressive. It was built using SIP construction. That stands for Structural Insulated Panels. The walls are made with panels that are about a foot thick and filled with foam, so the house is super insulated. Half logs were then put on the outside so the house looks like a log cabin. Joe and Patty did all the finish work themselves.

Joe was so friendly and proud of his home that I had the warm fuzzies throughout the tour.

And the brunch that Patty served us all at their house the next morning took the warm fuzzy thing to a whole new level.

On the last day, Eddie and Brenda took us to Miner’s Castle for a picnic lunch. Miner’s Castle is a dramatic rock formation that juts into Lake Superior. After lunch the gang would be heading to the airport.

But Kettle and I aren’t using airplanes this trip. Just the Mini. So we said our goodbyes and hit road.

Going southeast.

Oh, and one more thing …

I love Euchre!

The Breddie's backyard

Run, Kettle, Run!

Patty-Joe-John-Desaree-Eddie (Brenda playing pool)

JoJo and Daisy

JoJo and Daisy

John preparing his abalone

Mike and Cap'n John in deep waters

Sara and Patty driving too fast

Eddie, the role model

Mike and Kettle at play.

Mike at work

JoJo's catch

The tour

Joe the tour guide

BroJoe-Mike-John-Eddie-Me. Guess what we're playing.

Haircut from Brenda

Sunset at the Breddies

Trout Lake – Michigan

August 27, 2010

Wausau has a wonderful downtown. There was some sort of festival going on, so there were lots of people and kids. Kettle got much attention. Everyone was super friendly. And the weather was perfect.

We found another great market where we plopped ourselves for lunch and blogging.

On the walk back to the car, something very important happened. Kettle pooped a healthy poop.

I was happy. But Kettle was ecstatic. He was jumping and running around in celebration.

I’d like officially recognize that moment as the conclusion of the first phase of our journey.

The 6 hour drive from Wausau to Trout Lake was fabulous. It was all backcountry roads. We were behind schedule, so I didn’t stop to take a picture of the sign that said: “Welcome to Nutterville.”

Trout Lake is a remote town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My iPhone GPS got me to the town, but failed miserably in getting me to the house. So I went the local bar in town, called, and they came to get me.

“They” meant: Eddie & Brenda and their daughter Desaree and their friend Patti, Mike & Sara and their son JoJo, Sara’s brother Joe, and my brother John. They all pulled up in a mini-van.

Hooting and hollering and cheering my name.

Which kinda freaked out Kettle.

Apparently they had just spent quite a bit of time at the very bar where I was waiting. But not with me, so we all went back inside for a drink.

After a quick stop at another friend’s, we went home to the Breddie’s, located right on the lake. Eddie and Joe cooked pork tenderloins over the fire-pit on the beach, and we had dinner at 2am.

Kettle loves it here. He runs and jumps around in the big, sloping yard. The yard goes right to the lake, so it’s a perfect opportunity for him to swim. We’ll see.

I think the next few days will require my complete attention. And connecting to the Internet here is quite difficult. So I may not post for a while. But I’ll catch everyone up once we’re back on the road!

Wausau market

Wausau – Wisconsin

August 26, 2010

The city of St. Paul is on the eastern edge Minnesota.

We went there for Japanese food.

Udon soup and steamed rice again. Kettle ate without any hesitation.

His new diet has had the desired effect. Now we’re just waiting for a poop. Any poop. It’s been a couple days.

We also visited the St. Paul cathedral. I found it impressive, but Kettle seemed more impressed with the soup.

From St. Paul we went to Wausau, Wisconsin. It’s pronounced Waw-saw.

We stayed in a motel. Sleeping in a bed for the first time in 5 days was nice. And it meant that I got to wake up in the morning to Kettle’s face staring at me.

Mmmm, Udon!

St. Paul's in St. Paul

Good morning!

The city of Sioux Falls is on the eastern edge of South Dakota.

We went there for Japanese food.

Chicken Udon soup and steamed rice. I gave Kettle the rice, the broth, and half the chicken. He was still a bit tentative, but he ate it without much fuss. He seemed to like it.

We then visited the falls of Sioux Falls. Quite nice. I recommend visiting them. If you’re ever in Sioux Falls.

Minnesota was next. Not far into the state I saw a sign for Blue Mounds State Park. I had no idea what it was, but they had camping, and it was about to get dark, so we veered off.

Now that I’ve been there, I can tell you about it.

Let me rephrase that. Now that I’ve been there, and picked up a brochure, I can tell you about it:

“The park’s approximately 1,500 acres of prairie and grassland preserves a wide array of rare and common plants and wildlife. A small bison herd grazes peacefully on a portion of this praire. Most of the park’s prairie sits atop a mssive outcrop of rock known as Sioux quartzite.”

Our camp site was nice. We were close to a river and the bison range.

That night Kettle got his appetite back. He ate a healthy portion of dog food, his first non soup/rice meal in 3 days.

The next morning we went for a short walk on which Kettle met two new forms of life:

The Buffalo and The Frog.

The frog came first. We were walking through high grass when I saw Kettle lunging at something. It was a frog jumping around, and Kettle was going after it like it was a ball. The frog then decided to freeze. I was thinking this was a bad idea, as Kettle was staring at it from two inches away, but Kettle then lost interest and moved on. Smart frog.

We then went to the bison range. From the fence we saw the herd about 200 yards out. I wondered, “What are the odds of them coming this way?”  Then they all (close to a 100 of them) started coming this way.

Running.

It was a bit intimidating. But when they were about 50 yards away they hung a left, and I noticed that they were being called in for something (breakfast?) by a bisonboy who was letting them into a different area through a gate.

It was like they did the whole thing for just Kettle and me.

We like Minnesota.

But we can’t stay long. The gang has already arrived at Brenda and Eddie’s (the Breddies) in Northern Michigan. So Kettle and I have got to keep moving – we’re late!

Stopping to smell the corn

Missouri River

A different angle

Sioux Falls 1

Sioux Falls 2


River near camp

Bison Herd

Bison going by

Midland – South Dakota

August 24, 2010

Yep.

Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse monument (in progress), and the Badlands.

All very good.

But about Kettle …

The dehydration scare has subsided, and he has most of his energy back. But he’s still very irregular, and he’s eating and drinking about a third of his usual.

So after a quick stop at Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore, we drove into Rapid City, found a Hunan restaurant, ordered sizzling rice soup and a large steamed rice, and went across the street to the park. I blogged while Kettle stared at his soup/rice/water mixture. He finally ate it.

We then did the Badlands.

We then hurled ourself deep into South Dakota, ending up at a KOA  campground in a town called Midland.

The site was a half mile from the highway, there was lots of grass, it was surrounded by fields, and it was along side a wide irrigation canal. The campground did not have a fence, so you could walk endlessly out into the fields. The smell and general feel of the place reminded me of the duck club that my dad belongs to in Los Banos, where I occasionally attempt to hunt with my dad or my friend Tom.

The duck club, though, doesn’t have a Doggy Heaven play area.

It got cold that night. Kettle still didn’t want to go in the tent, so he stayed outside wearing his coat. (I didn’t think putting him in the car would be a good idea with his current “issues”.)

I woke up in the middle of the night and peeked out the tent. Kettle immediately stuck his nose in and let me know that he needed to GO! I didn’t take the time to get dressed, just threw on my tongs. Kettle proceeded to haul me to the edge of the camp site.

That was fine, but then he kept going.

With his current condition, he has a lot of trouble deciding where to go. He was moving fast, with his nose to the ground, so he clearly had to go bad. But for some reason he felt like he should be as far away from the camp as possible.

I can respect that.

But I was cold!

I was wearing tongs, boxer shorts, and a long sleeve shirt. My feet were wet from the dew. And I was in the dark somewhere in South Dakota being dragged by my dog to some other part of South Dakota.

Hopefully not towards an irrigation canal.

I finally forced him to stop and turn around, at which point he picked a spot and went.

The result, once again, was disappointing.

For me, anyway. Kettle seemed happy with the placement.

No, we can't get closer - they won't let you on the bus.

A ways to go yet.

Yep.

Sculptor - Tourist

Eat it.

Where'd you take me again?

Pretty cool, though.

Looking good in the Badlands.

I'm ready to go now.

No pooping zone

Yep.

There’s something I didn’t tell you.

Since camping at Falls Creek, Kettle has had the runs.

Perhaps I should not have let him drink out of the river. Anyway, the cure I know for doggie diarrhea is to feed him rice. And so I had a new mission for today: find a Chinese restaurant.

Down the road, in the city of Gillette, Wyoming, near the Rockpile Museum, I found a place called Hong Kong Restaurant. By this point I was quite worried because Kettle hadn’t eaten or drank anything since the day before, and what little was left of his pee was brown. I ordered a wonton soup and a large steamed rice. I took it outside and filled a bowl with the rice, the broth and some meat from the soup, and some water. It took some encouragement, but Kettle eventually ate the meat and half the rice, and drank all the liquid.

Because I was so relieved that Kettle had eaten, I was better able to deal with the disappointment that the Rockpile Museum was closed for the day.

We got back on the road, heading for the Whispering Pines Campground, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, halfway between Deadwood and Mt. Rushmore.

We of course stopped in Deadwood. We walked down the main street, with its saloons, casinos, ice cream parlors, and gift shops. At the end of the street, some guys in cowboy outfits with guns were beginning a performance. One of them told the crowd to be sure not to enter the street or they might get shot by accident. Apparently Kettle didn’t get the sarcasm because when one of the actors did shoot off a gun, Kettle charged off in the opposite direction. I was barely able to hang on.

The Whispering Pines Campground was a pleasant surprise. There was lots of grass, and we had a whole section to ourselves.

Kettle drank more water, but wasn’t too interested in the rice, so for my own dinner I went to the campsite’s “restaurant” at the general store and ordered a steak. I kept some of it for Kettle and threw it into the rice. That was the jumpstart he needed to eat the rest of the rice.

I worked on my blog, then, when everyone at the campsite had gone to bed and it seemed safe, I took out my mat and did yoga for an hour on the grass under the moon and stars.

When it was time to call it a night, I tried again to get Kettle to come in the tent. He wouldn’t so I double-checked his leash and went to bed.

The web site for the campground said to be sure to fasten the tent securely because strong winds will sweep through the valley. Whatever.

OMG.

Howling Pines is more like it.

How close is South Dakota to Kansas? I was sure I would be writing my next blog entry from Oz.

But the tent held.

And in the morning Kettle was wind-blown but still there, and as close to the tent as possible. I bet he’s not too sure what to think of our little adventure right now.

Closed on Sundays

Things that happen when you drive a lot ...

Entering the Black Hills

There's a new dog in town.

Feel free to think of a caption for this.

Our next home

Our spot

Our mess

Our general store and restaurant

Sheridan – Wyoming

August 22, 2010

Next stop: Billings, Montana.

For lunch, anyway.

Requirement: a table (for my laptop and the food) outside (for Kettle) in the shade (it was about 100 degrees).

The requirement proved to be difficult to meet, but I eventually found a nice market with a deli and picnic tables outside – in the shade, barely. I ordered a turkey sandwich and blogged as fast as I could … time was running out fast because the shade was running out fast.

I lost the shade before I could finish my post but was able to take my laptop to a bench along the wall, which bought me just enough time to finish.

Exciting stuff.

When I went to the car, I found that another white Mini had parked next to mine. In San Francisco, I wouldn’t think twice about such an occurrence. But on this trip I had not seen another Mini, any Mini, since Reno. So I took a picture.

My other task during lunch was to pick our next destination. I chose a KOA Kampground in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Yes, Wyoming again.

But there was still one last stop in Montana: the Little Bighorn Battlefield (you know: Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Custer’s Last Stand). There were real horses roaming around the battlefield – a nice touch.

Okay, now back to Wyoming.

The KOA campground was the best of both worlds: the low impact of camping with the convenience of a toilets and showers. But next time I’m not choosing a campground located right on the highway. I have enough trouble sleeping in a tent without a truck going by every few minutes.

The place was pretty full, mostly with RV’s, but with a few tent campers as well. Two nice ladies from Maine were in the tent next to me, about 50′ away.

Kettle slept outside, secured to his long 25′ dog leash. To facilitate tying off the leash, I have a 4′ cable with a loop on one end and a clasp on the other.  I run the cable through the loop in the leash, then tie the cable around the tree. This way the leash is secured to the cable which is secured to the tree.

It’s a very simple process, but, if you do it in the dark, I suppose it’s possible to do something wrong.

Some time in the middle of the night, after one of the trucks woke me up, I decided to go out and pee and see if Kettle wanted to do the same. I went to the tree to find the leash so I could follow it to wherever Kettle might be.

The cable was securely around the tree, but the leash was not there. Nor Kettle.

Nor my stomach.

I scanned the area. There was just enough light to see  the tent of the two nice ladies from Maine.

Kettle was lying outside their tent, looking at me, wagging his tail.

“Heya. Nice to see you.” he seemed to saying.

You too, Kettle.

The next morning, one of the ladies said that when she stepped out of her tent that night, she was quite happy to see my dog there guarding them.

Now I can now relate to a parent who tells her child, “You did the right thing, but never do that again!”

Another town, another market.

Office Dog

Mini's Love Company

Driving Tour

Historic horses

Crazy horse.

We're back.

Camp site at Sheridan, KOA

Exactly.

We came. We saw. We camped.

But let me tell you how this came to pass.

You see, we were on a mission. Debbie, a longtime friend, e-mailed me saying that the dude ranch she used to work out at was not far from Bozeman. She said it was beautiful around there, if I wanted to go check it out. She gave me directions that looked a lot like this:

If you head east on 90, it’s south of big timber. It looks like you could take Swingley Rd just east of Livingston (another awesome town) and then go right when you hit state hiway 298. I never did that, it must be a new cut-through – we always drove all the way to Big Timber and then turned right. If you go, you have to pass the “town” of McLeod and keep going aways, it would be on your left and called the X-A. I don’t know if it’s even a dude ranch any more. It’s a dead end road so you’d eventually reach the mountains and have to turn around.

Missions are good. And it wouldn’t be too far out of my way. So we set out to find Debbie’s Dude Camp.

Before leaving Bozeman, we stocked up at the Community Food Co-Op. It’s a fantastic store which also appears to be a trendy hang-out. Kettle hung outside with the cool people while I shopped.

We also stopped at Lucky Lil’s: Casino & Liquor Store. I just had to see. It was actually quite nice inside. I bought some ice for the cooler. Only a buck for a bag.

We then hit the road. I had lunch in Livingston, about 30 miles east of Bozeman, then found the newly created Swingley Rd. What Debbie hadn’t said, because she didn’t know, was that it was a gravel road. So the 20 or so miles to get to the highway took quite a while.

But that was good, because it was so beautiful. We drove through rolling hills with mountains in the background and ranches along the way.

We reached Hwy 298 and headed up towards the mountains. Even the highway became gravel before not too long. But we kept going, and going. Up into the mountains of the Gallatin National Forest.

We stopped at the historic Boulder Ranger Station. It had something to do with the first attempts at environmental protection.

At this point we were well into the mountains of the Gallatin National Forest – almost certainly out of dude ranch territory. I was about to turn around, when we came across a sign that said Falls Creek Campground. It was late in the day, and it  was a nice spot next to a river.

There was no reason not to camp.

Although we failed in our mission to find Debbie’s Dude Ranch, Kettle and I were successful campers. Everything went smoothly. And I followed the directions and put all our food in the provided bear-safe canister.

I wonder if bears like salads.

I spent the night blogging in the dark. Sitting in the woods, with only the glow of the moon and my laptop, writing about dwarves … it was kinda  spooky.

I retired to my tent, and Kettle retired to his pad outside the tent. Laying on my air mattress, I began to wonder … if a bear does wander through the campsite, what would Kettle do?

Would he be as calm as he was with the chipmunk?

I didn’t like the probable answer, so I tried to get Kettle to come into the tent with me. But after testing the air mattress with one paw, he refused to come in. So I put him in the car with the windows cracked, and he was fine with that.

It was an important day in our journey. We didn’t get too far in terms of mileage, but we turned a corner.

We’re campers now.

Oh, and there was a Spruce Moth in my tent.

Supply Stop

What'd you get me?

2 Vices. And Ice.

Swingley Road 1

Swingley Road 2

Swingley Road 2

Swingley Road 3

Swingley Road 4

Swingley Road 5

Swingley Road 6

Ranger Station

Why not.

Lapping it up

Front Door

Back Porch

Did you hear something?

C'mon, Kettle, I'm trying to take a picture here.

Profiles in Camping

Knock it off, Kettle.

Bozeman – Montana

August 20, 2010

Today was my day off.

I spent it doing the classic combination of fly fishing, yoga, and online Dungeons & Dragons.

A few weeks ago, my roommate Nate spent a week fly fishing in, yes, Bozeman, Montana.

Nate caught lots of fish.

(By the way, Nate, don’t forget to water the plant.)

I caught none.

But I had a nice experience with Gary, an elderly gentleman who works at the fly fishing shop where I rented my gear. He is also a local school bus driver. Gary took me onto the lawn in front of the shop and showed me how to cast and what to do, roughly, if a fish bit. He also showed me how to tie a fly onto the line. His recommendation was the Spruce Moth. After I tied on the lure, he walked me over to the window and, sure enough, a real Spruce Moth was sitting there.

From the shop, I followed Gary’s directions: went south 6 miles to a town called Gallatin Gateway (home of the historic Gallatin Gateway Inn), took a right at the only intersection in town, crossed a bridge, parked, and went down to the river.

I walked in and began fly fishing.

Back on the lawn with Gary I was pretty bad at casting. But in the river, I was simply pathetic. I didn’t have a chance in Winnemucca of catching a fish.

And it didn’t help that Kettle was running around in the water.

That’s right – Kettle was in the river!

He wasn’t exactly swimming – his belly was barely getting wet – but man was he having fun! He’d run in the water, then jump up the embankment, then sprint around in the grass. And then do it again.

It didn’t take me long to give up my fly fishing career and just go play with my dog.

We returned to the motel, I dropped off Kettle, and went to yoga class. There are a surprisingly high number of yoga studios in Bozeman. I chose one called “Be the Change Yoga Studio”. It was a nice space, with a wide mix of students, and good instructors … I ended up taking two classes in a row. I came a long way for this, after all.

Back at the motel, I had just enough time to make a salad before my online Dungeons & Dragons game. About once a month, I join John (my brother), Mike, Jeff, and Donna to play a D&D campaign being run by Eric. We use an Internet service called Fantasy Grounds which provides the tools needed to play on computers remotely – such as the ability to show maps, roll dice, track stats, chat, etc.

Our characters are a group of dwarves (mostly) that are trying to … well, it’s complicated and I don’t fully understand it, but we’re trying to do something important. Anyway, we were in underground caverns, and we walked into a room. My brother’s dwarf, named Slash, proceeded to fall through a trapdoor, falling 50′. If that wasn’t bad enough, an iron plate then closed above him, sealing him down at the bottom of the pit. Then poison gas filled the pit above the iron plate, making it highly suicidal for any of Slash’s dwarven brethren, that being us, to drop down into the pit to try to get him out.

Our solution was simple. Jeff’s dwarf, named Hegri, cast a Neutralize Poison spell on himself, then used his Boots of Spider Climbing to climb down the side of the pit until he got to the iron plate, then cast at Transmute Rock spell to create a tunnel around the edge of the iron plate, then went through the tunnel, got Slash, and used a Dimension Door spell to bring them both back to the top.

My dwarf, named Afflack, did very little during this whole process, other than keep some distance between himself and the wisps of poison gas coming up from the trapdoor.

And that was my day in Bozeman.

As you’ve gathered, I didn’t camp.

But I had a reason.

I needed the privacy of a motel room that night.

After all, I was pretending to be a dwarf.

I guess I should have taken it from the other side.


Gary, Lord of the Flies & School Bus Driver


Going In


In


Going Out


Outside the Gallatin Gateway Inn


Inside


Downtown Bozeman


Kettle feeling at home

Yellowstone. The perfect place to camp.

But I had a good reason not to camp.

Thunderstorms were predicted that night.

I’m not much of a camper. In fact I’ve never camped by myself. And as far as I know, Kettle has never camped at all.

I didn’t want my dog’s first camping experience to be getting soaked because my improperly set-up tent blew over in the rain. It could sour Kettle’s taste for camping for years. So I booked a motel in Bozeman, Montana, northwest of the park – faithful that we would make it through.

Making it through the park was quite a treat. (Parks, I should say, because we went through Grand Teton as well). We did what everyone else does – drive, park, look, repeat. The difference between me and the others was that I was more concerned about photographing my dog than the landscape.

Question: To get a picture of your dog next to a wild animal, is it worth risking that your dog pulls you down a 100′ ravine because he decides to chase the chipmunk?

Fortunately Kettle showed more restraint than I did.

Anyway, the variety of stuff in Yellowstone was incredible: rivers that Kettle wouldn’t go in, water falls, lily pad ponds, geysers, and an amazing canyon.

The only disconcerting part was Old Faithful. Not Old Faithful herself, but the fact that there is a cafeteria the size of an air hangar and a parking lot that probably can be seen from space. (I may just be bitter because we got there right after it went off, so we had to wait there for 90 minutes.)

Oh, and let it be known that at 3:20 pm, August 18th, Kettle and I crossed the Ontinental Divide.

So we didn’t camp in Yellowstone, but we did eat there. On the way out of the park it was getting late, so I pulled off at one of the vista turn-outs and made a salad on the Mini.

Two and a half hours of driving in the dark later, we finally got to the Royal 7 Budget Motel (they probably added the “Budget” part later because I’m sure it was nice 60 years ago), and we spent the night.

No, it never rained.

The Teton Range behind some dog.


Check out this grass.


You can lead a dog to water, but ...


Kettle looking for a prince.


Continental Divide

It's all downhill from here.


Why do you keep looking at that thing?


Staring Contest


Kettle wins!


Dinner at Chez Yogi et Boo Boo.