The Flowage Trifecta

My work schedule lands me in Minnesota days before the Fourth of July weekend so I hit the first and nearest attraction prior to meeting up with my brother and his wife who live in the area.

Mall of America. Ehh, same ol’ shops with a few amusement park rides thrown in, most likely a draw for parents cooped up in the house on sub-artic winter days. I skip the rides, cruise the mall floors for an hour and purchase some squishy balls (which I paid way too much for) from a kiosk vendor. Turns out the squishy balls provided hours of entertainment for my Colorado grandaughter. They were worth every penny.

A quick look around at the artwork at the Mall’s entrance, a snapshot at the “Star” and I’m on my way to my brother’s home where I spend the night. Next morning the three of us hop in the car and head up to their cabin in Hayward Wisconsin.

Their cabin sits on the banks of massive 191-acre Hayward Lake, the waters of which are deep, clear and cold. But cruising on it would come after sightseeing on the Flowage.

The Flowage? Yes, the Chippewa Flowage, a 15,000+ acre controlled water flow. Basically a humongous man-made lake with 233 miles of shoreline.

In the mid-1900’s developers built small resorts along this shoreline — clusters of cabins with a “clubhouse” for the semi-isolated guests. A generation later the resorts were split apart, the cabins sold to individuals, and the clubhouses converted to bars to give fisherman and other outdoors enthusiasts places to eat and drink.

Recognizing their relative isolation along these 233-miles of shoreline, bar owners have joined together to create cross-promotion incentives to their visitors. Visiting three or more of these bars and enjoying a beverage at each will earn you a t-shirt touting your accomplishment.

But there is one resort that operates as a lone wolf, proudly offering its patrons the opportunity to earn a drinking t-shirt without ever leaving the premises. That resort is the Tiger Musky Resort and the Trifecta is their claim to fame. It’s a simple combination of three shots — brandy, tequila and bourbon, each with an over-the-top garnish. The shot of brandy is served with a live minnow swimming in it. A trifecta winner cautioned me, “You have to keep your hand over the glass while drinking it so the minnow doesn’t jump out.”

A Proud Trifecta Winner

The shot of brandy is served with a live minnow swimming in it. A trifecta winner cautions me, “You have to keep your hand over the glass while drinking it so the minnow doesn’t jump out.”

Next shot, tequila, garnished with a live leech. The same fellow comments, “Yes, get ready because the leech balls up in your throat.” (Good sign, at least it won’t stick to your throat!)

Shot number 3, bourbon, served with a live earthworm. “That one’s not bad, except for the dirt that comes with the worm.”

Surprisingly none of that enticed me to head out to the Tiger Musky Resort but I was impressed by the creativity of these northerners. Amusement parks in malls and critters in their cups. Those are the results of living in the northern climates where winters are long and hours are spent hunkered down with your best buds in your favorite watering holes.

I’m not tough enough to earn the three-bar visit t-shirt and the Trifecta is way out of my league. I’m happy to enjoy an outstanding Bloody Mary…served with a snit of beer?








Blank Slate

When people ask me what my book is about I tell them, “It’s about the first year of my life on the road in my RV by myself.” It sounds simple, but the steps it took to get in that RV and drive away were anything but!

Living the RV life was a dream of mine for decades. At times, long before I owned one, I would share it with others, “I can’t wait to get in my RV and drive away.”

They would laugh at me. I’m not sure if they were laughing at the fact that I was dreaming an impossible dream or that it was ridiculous to give up my very comfortable life to become what some call “trailer-trash”. But deep down I knew I’d be happy if my RV ever materialized. I stashed my dream in the back of my head and continued living my life.

And then it happened. A blank slate.

Have you ever had a blank slate experience? You know, that moment in time when some big change happens and life as you knew it ceases to exist?

It’s scary.

But it’s also a great time to hatch a dream.

I filled my blank slate with a monstrous motor home.

I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I didn’t know anything about buying a motorhome or driving one or living in one. All I knew was that if I didn’t make it happen then I probably never would.

I was terrified to take my vehicle for a test drive let alone drive it home through rush-hour traffic. As soon as I got behind the wheel I knew I was in way over my head. And when things went awry as I picked it up from the previous owner all I could think of was how people would laugh at me for making such a foolish and grand mistake.

But within days my decision turned into creating my new future.

Isn’t that the way it is with everything?  With the job you have? With the spouse/lover you have? With the children you have? If you had known before what you learned after you made your decision would you have made that same choice? Maybe not, depending on the day, or your mood.

With any change, any blank slate, be it large or small, there’s an opportunity to practice what it takes to live our dreams. It’s just facing the unknown with bravery and persistence. It’s what we all do every day of our lives.

Chapter 1 of my book is about how I lived through the first step in living my dream. I hope it gives you the courage to live yours.

Maine Attraction: Peaks Island

Each time I visit my parents in Maine I usually have the very good fortune to accompany them on their monthly “hiking group” outing. May’s outing was a day of biking day on Peaks Island, one of many islands in Casco Bay off the coast of Portland.  
Now an artists’ community with about 800 year-round residents,  the island has been a popular summer destination for vacationers since the late 1800’s. We had to find out why.
After purchasing tickets for passengers and bikes, we boarded the Casco Bay Ferry in Portland. The ferry ride is a treat in itself, seventeen minutes of panoramic views of the islands in the bay and the Portland skyline. 
From the ferry’s dock we could smell cinnamon and hurried up the hill to Peak’s Cafe where some of us enjoyed Linda’s famous cinnamon buns. I bypassed the buns to get my buns on a rental bike at the bike rental stop just down the street. 
Brad’s Bike Rentals looks like a small garage with a front yard full of used bikes that have been lovingly recycled by Brad. There’s no fitting or personalized service from Brad, just a friendly, “Pick what suits your fancy,” grab a bike of your choice, and off you go. Bike rentals are $5/hour or $15/day and my rented wheels were a perfect fit for the outing.
We began our trek around the island on the main road around the island’s perimeter. There we found a constant view of the ocean and access to small beaches all along the roadway. We stopped at the benches which are comfortably situated every quarter mile. You can’t help but relax when invited to do so by the sitting spots and the sea.
We finished one lap around the island in less than an hour (including stops). The next leg of our journey involved cruising through the interior of the island, along dirt roads that sometimes turned into residents’ driveways and other times winded through neighborhoods of artistically crafted and meticulously cared-for private homes.
There is no doubt that extremely tolerant artists and retirees make up the majority of the year-round residents. There is a sense that you are free to wander even private property here, wherever you like to observe a butterfly, analyze the texture of a garden fence or sit on the front lawn and enjoy your lunch.
We opted to eat our packed lunches at a small park we found just down the street from the only “Keep Out” sign we encountered. We were deterred from that area only so as not to disturb the young seal pups that were nesting on the shore below.
After lunch we meandered back into town, stopped at two of the local art galleries and stepped into the lobby of the Inn on Peaks Island. The Inn is decorated in a laid-back island living style with plenty of attention to the details that whisper luxury to the visitor. It has only 6 cottage-style suites for lodging guests. It’s open to everyone for lunch and dinner, and  it’s obviously a very popular wedding venue since the nearly-permanent tent adjacent to it was being outfitted in wedding white even today in the late off-season.
Golf carts are a common mode of transportation on the island. In addition to several locals’ carts, we met a bright red Peaks Island Electric Golf Cart Tour vehicle at each of the Fifth & Eight Regiments Houses we visited. Guided tours are available if you’re not naturally inclined to exploring on your own. I’m sure that just like us they made a stop at the World’s Only Umbrella Cover Museum as well.
No outing for these seniors is complete without ice cream so they met me at Down Front Ice Cream Parlor after I returned my bike. Ice cream cones in hand, we wandered down the block to the ferry dock, and boarded for our return voyage. We took in the spectacular view of the Portland skyline and surrounding smaller islands all the way back to they city.
My trip to Peaks Island was a day filled with spectacular scenery, a touch of history, a bit of exercise, and a heaping helping of natural and man-made island beauty. 
If you’re traveling to Portland Maine anytime soon, grab a short ride on the Casco Bay Ferry to Peaks Island. You’ll be glad you did!