IL: Carlyle (Lake Carlyle) – 08/11/2016 – 08/24/2016

Parking: Dam West Campground
Rating: 10

Carlyle, IL

Dam West is the Dam Best. Lake Carlyle has the reputation of being one of the best sailing lakes in the country and it did not disappoint. The winds were great (even went out in a bit of a storm for some extra fun), and there were sailboats everywhere. Normally, we’re excited when we see one sailboat for every five or six powerboats; here at one time I counted over 80 sailboats and 10 powerboats. Awesome. We were also able to watch several races.

The campground was another Army Corp of Engineer location. So far, we have not been disappointed with one, so we are now actively seeking them out as often as possible. Dam West has large wooded sites, bike/hiking trails, a beach, a marina, and showers/bathrooms/laundry WITH AIR CONDITIONING – really good A/C, too. Not only that, but they had soft toilet paper. Most campgrounds have sandpaper (80 grit). I have actually had my butt bleed on more than one occasion when I have forgotten to bring my own because the toilet paper has been that bad. I know that I talk a lot about bathrooms, but having taken them for granted my whole life, I have learned to really appreciate an excellent one.

Carlyle, IL

Carlyle, IL

Carlyle, IL

Carlyle, IL

IL: McLean – 08/10/2016 – 08/11/2016

Parking: Super 8
Rating: 7

Here is what was going through my mind as we did this drive:

That’s a lot of corn that looks ready to harvest. It sure is flat here. More corn. Really flat. Soybeans! More corn. Really, really flat. Why are they not harvesting this corn yet? Why are there no vegetable stands? Corn. Flat. Corn. Flat. Soybeans. Still no vegetable stands. Corn. Corn. Corn. Flat. Flat. Hey, look! They’re harvesting the corn! Still no vegetable stands. Flat.

WI: Calumet (Lake Winnebago) – 08/03/2016 – 08/10/2016

Parking: Columbia Park
Rating: 10

Calumet, WI

In the PNW, we’re used to trees that are tall and straight – Douglas fir, black cottonwood, alder, western hemlock, ponderosa pine, cedar, etc. Even our travels so far have only added trees such as redwood and palm that are of similar build. In Wisconsin, we started seeing oak, maple, and ash – the kind of trees that have big trunks and fork off to make a wide canopy. At first it was just a few at a time, but by the time we arrived at Lake Winnebago, we were seeing forests of them, and their shade was very welcome. Our campground had a five-story observation tower, and from the top, the forest looked like a bunch of broccoli with at least 80 windmills (yes, I counted) waving their arms as if ready to harvest it all.

Lake Winnebago is different from the places we usually sail. We’re used to Puget Sound (900′ deep), Lake Washington (200′ deep), and Strait of Juan de Fuca (900′ deep). On our trip so far, we’ve sailed Pend Oreille (1100′ deep – they test submarines in there!), Flathead Lake (350′ deep), and some smaller but still reasonably deep lakes, but Lake Winnebago has a maximum depth of only 20′ despite having a large surface area. We had to be a little more vigilant being without charts (bad sailors!). Sailing down to Fond du Lac at the southern end of the lake was excellent – fair winds, and the marina there is adorable with an old lighthouse and an adjacent park with canals around the ball fields.

At the campground, we were able to keep the boat in the water which makes it nice to quickly be able to head out when there is wind, and it’s not too hot. The camp hosts were nice enough to let us stay in a slip instead of on the sea wall (which gets crowded with weekenders), so Eidolon was extra protected.

They had a nice shower house, but the city water supply smelled massively like sulfur. It’s safe to drink, but it’s rather off-putting initially. On the plus side, my hair has never been so detangled and smooth.

Calumet, WI

Calumet, WI

Calumet, WI

Calumet, WI

Calumet, WI

Rant:
We’ve kept the TV tuned to NBC since the start of the opening ceremony. The tape-delayed finals for the team competition of women’s gymnastics was going to start in about 90 minutes (since NBC won’t show gymnastics live on TV), but at the time, the NBC Nightly News was on. Lester Holt said (with a little smirk) that since the results have already been announced all over the media, he might as well let us know that the US women won the gold. First, nowhere else on NBC had that been reported because they were going to broadcast the event, so we were unspoiled (especially with no internet). Second, if it was already all over the media, then anyone watching the Nightly News was either already spoiled (so, Lester, you weren’t actually reporting anything new to them), or they were deliberately NOT seeking out the results so as to stay unspoiled for watching the competition. Either way, there was NO POINT for you to report the results before the broadcast of the event. Lester, you are a giant jerk, and I will now make it a point to turn off the NBC Nightly News whenever it comes on.
[edited to add: the jerk did it again a couple of days later within five seconds of starting his broadcast before I could change the channel. Of course, he had his usual giddy demeanor that he sports whenever he is reporting really bad news since he knew he was about to spoil gymnastics for millions of viewers.]

WI: Menomonie/Poynette – 08/01/2016 – 08/03/2016

Parking: Menomonie – Motel 6
Rating: 7

Parking: Poynette – Jamieson Park
Rating: 9

It has been really hot this summer, and the mosquitoes have gone through many more breeding cycles than usual, so it can sometimes be a little uncomfortable. My partner decided he had enough of the Northland and wanted to make tracks for a while. So, these past two days have been pretty much just watching the world go by my window – there’s Minneapolis – there’s St. Paul – there’s the exit for the Wisconsin Dells – not much fun for me. I picked up a few brochures at a rest stop just to see what the Dells actually looked like and to read about its geological history. I could have had the same experience by printing some images of the Midwest I found on Google and driving I-5 from a few miles north of Olympia to a few miles south over and over with the heater turned all the way up.

ND: Fargo – 07/29/2016 – 08/01/2016

Parking: WoodSpring Suites
Rating: 10

To give the Isuzu a chance to break-in its repairs a little more, we decided to head back to Fargo (just in case something happened, we’d be near the shop). We needed some internet access and to do a month’s worth of laundry, so we decided to stay at a hotel. The WoodSpring is an extended stay hotel, so it does not have a lot of amenities that a “regular” hotel would (no pool, breakfast, or facilities for children), but it’s new, clean, comfortable, and reasonably priced, and the laundry room is huge.

We had a chance to catch up on some TV, do some research on our next locations, and to update this blog.

Musings:
As much as it seems the whole country is homogenized these days, there are still little differences that sneak up on you as you travel. Brand names for the same items change (Best Foods/Hellman’s, Carl’s Jr/Hardees, etc.). Butter has gone from short, fat sticks to long, skinny ones. The grocery store no longer carries Tillimook or Franz products (especially missed is the huckleberry yogurt). I am a little saddened by the changes. But then, the billboards start showing me things that I haven’t seen for twenty years – Steak ‘n’ Shake, Fuddruckers, Piggly Wiggly. And then there’s White Castle which is enough like Krystal to gladden my heart and stomach (note to White Castle – put some mustard on those things, and they’d be perfect). Also, there is the grocery store Aldi which I have shopped in Ireland, but I had had no idea they had become so widespread in the US (except the northwestern part of the country). When strip mall after strip mall (anchored by the now ubiquitous Walmart) look nearly identical across the country, it’s nice to see at least a few regional differences.