Monday, September 29, 2014

Searching For Roy...

While in the Midwest, in late September, it is always fun to look out for Fall colors.  Of course, when you make travel plans, depending on the weather and temperatures, you can't always predict what the schedule will be, so arriving a couple days early and the local color (northern Illinois) limited to very  early yellow tints, we decided to go on a road trip north into Wisconsin, and also had fingers crossed for northern lights too...  Oh, and the "Roy" in the title???  It is a play on the spectral colors in a rainbow, or the output from a prism - in order, the colors appear red, orange, yellow, green blue, indigo and violet.  Taking the first letter from each color, you get Roy G. Biv!  So our little road trip was in search of the Fall reds, oranges and yellows!

With the trees just starting to turn in St Charles, it didn't take long to see them more vividly a we moved north of Madison.  Bodies of water seemed to be a good place to view deeply into a stretch of woods, as at left.  Taken from the moving car at 70 mph, the motion of more distant woods were also well-frozen.  Other than our trip to Minneapolis this Summer (when we came up for the idea for this road trip), it didn't take long to get into territory I've never been in before, and it was quite scenic.  Any examination of a map of Wisconsin shows it to be covered in lakes (like Minnesota!), so views like this were common.

While stopping for a bathroom break and snacks in Tomahawk, we found we had to drive a mile or two off the interstate to hit the small town.  It is a really pretty area, as is all of northern Wisconsin, with lakes and rivers abounding.  It looks like its major commerce is the summer recreational and Fall hunting activities.  Anyway, we found a quiet side road with some nice colors to do a "group portrait" with the car on the way back to the main drag.

We didn't have firm plans or reservations anywhere, just drove till we found a pretty area.  It turned out the stopping point was a wide spot in the road called Minocqua.  Looking on the map, it is almost 50-50 as much lake area as land area, it seems!  Besides the fall colors, we were also looking for aurora, and much further north and we'd be in the upper peninsula of Michigan.  We even did a reconnaissance trip north of town to find the south side of a lake to shoot aurora shots from for the best northern horizons, to not have any northern sky blocked by trees...  Alas, while we were ready, and the earth's magnetic activity was approaching storm level, the clouds and rain that night prevented seeing anything...  We did find a nice spot to stay, which even had a jacuzzi in it to relax Melinda's sore back - injured in a fall a few weeks earlier...  We were kind of sorry we didn't plan to stay for the weekend - it was the 50th anniversary of "Beef-A-Rama", highlighted by the "parade of roasts", and cook-off contests...  Sounds like a destination to consider in the future!

Did you ever take a family vacation, and for hundreds of miles, see signs advertising some tourist trap or another?  I recall Wall Drug, on a long-ago trip to South Dakota, or "The Thing" not far from us in southern Arizona...  Well on this trip, it was the "Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty"!  I'd never been to a cook shanty, but it seemed appropriately kitschy that it seemed worth a visit.  While searching for an aurora observing location, we passed it, but were disappointed to see it was closed Wednesdays...  But it was remarkable in it's oversized signage, huge fiberglass sculptures of Bunyan and Babe, and the appropriate "log cabin" building.  It was spectacular in its kitschiness!  The next morning we were searching for a Perkins we had seen somewhere and saw that the "Shanty" was open for breakfast - we had to go!  I'll have to admit, it was pretty cool - $10 gets you a table where they rush you freshly cooked donuts, and everything you might want for breakfast served family style.  Included were 'taters, scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, flapjacks and French toast, and what appeared to be good-ole Tang.  And, of course, you were surrounded by the décor of carriages, oxen yokes, antique Americana of all kinds hanging off the walls and ceilings.

I'll have to admit it was worth the price of admission.  They even have a gift shop (of course!) to sell souvenirs, and big-as-your-outstretched hand cookies and muffins.  I was talking to the woman behind the counter and their big business is through the Summer when the crowds line out the door and around the parking lot.  Once Labor Day hits they lose most of their wait-staff to college, and the summer vacation crowds thin out.  They were already closed a couple days of the week (this the 3rd week of September), and they would be closing for the season soon.  I'm sort of glad we had a chance to experience it!  I even was inspired to get documented by the statue of "Babe".  It isn't often the photographer gets photographed!

The goal for the next day's drive was to head generally SW towards Door County, heading out the peninsula that extends nearly 100 miles into Lake Michigan, Green Bay guarding the path.  So we meandered on small roads without much traffic, still enjoying the sights along the way.  Melinda shot the 2-frame mosaic of the small lake complete with beaver lodge shown at left.  Assembled with the freeware "Microsoft ICE" program.  At left a close-up of trees from Green to yellow to red...

It was a very pleasant drive - I think we were near the peak colors, certainly in the northernmost extend of our trip.  The road was lonely and winding - perfect for occasional stops to take a picture.  We shared it with few cars, and more than a few motorcycles that had similar ideas.  Not a lot of reds among the maples, but lots of red in the roadside ditches in the clusters of sumac shown at right. 

We didn't tarry long in Door county - nearly drove its full length, getting as far as Ephraim before stopping for more aurora searching on Thursday night (without success).  We hustled southwards Friday - homecoming activities calling our names, as well as wanting to visit friends in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin before the final 2 hour push for home, arriving just about sunset.  It was a fun trip - all told in 3 days of driving, we figured we went about 900 miles, and would be glad to repeat it another time to explore some new territory we've not seen before.  Now if we could just close the loop on getting those auroral views!

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