Above Photo: A view of the Chippewa River from the Eaux Claires Festival.
When I arrived in Wisconsin almost one month ago, it was immediately reminiscent of summer camp; my biggest plan was hanging out at the lake, the campground closes for winter, and the Lake Wissota/Eau Claire/Chippewa Falls area is heavily-wooded. (The Twin Cities are an hour and a half away by car.) My friend Rick lives here, and my friend Kathy, another solo woman RVer, joined us, making our “Adult Summer Camp” a reality.
Spending the month of August here was just what the doctor ordered when it comes to weather; temperatures were in the 70s and 80s for the entire month. The locals complained some days about the humidity, which made me chuckle after what I experienced in the South. We had a few days of heavy rain, but that’s what keeps the wildfire risk so low, and the rains came mostly at night. But perfect climes are short-lived; the massive stacks of wood next to country homes and the snowmobile route signs along the roadway reveal what’s to come in short order. We took advantage of the end of summer sales and stocked up for Florida.
Subtle little differences remind you that you are in Wisconsin. The local accent is somewhat nasal. The yellow and green of the Green Bay Packers is ubiquitous. Men wear overalls – Osh Kosh, of course. People from Illinois are vilified (they are referred to as “FIBS,” which stands for effing Illinois bastards). Garage sales and yard sales are known as “thrift sales.” Small meat markets do a thriving business, and the brats are amazing. People put tater tots in casseroles. Every Friday there is a fish fry. You will eat cheese curds. A tiki bar is basically outdoor seating and a volleyball pit, not an oasis of carved wooden gods and drink umbrellas and pu-pus.
No trip to camp would be complete without field trips. Ours included dairies,
the Mississippi River,
a Civil war era mill,
and even a sunflower maze.
Our more high-brow endeavors included a trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in Spring Green Wisconsin,
and the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in Menomonie, Wisconsin.
Adult Summer Camp often includes classes. While self-taught, I devoted myself to learning ukulele chords, and practicing every day is beginning to pay dividends. My repertoire of songs is at about 10, and hopefully there will be a video in the near future. And, we took a real class – for the pups. Since we had a whole month of sitting still, I enrolled Rocket and Pinkie in a “Come When Called” class in Eau Claire, and Kathy was kind enough to train Pinkie while I worked with Rocket.
Do they come when called now? Sometimes.
Wisconsinites know that August is a great time to be outdoors, which is reflected by all the farmers’ markets, outdoor concerts, and other outdoor events in the area. We threw ourselves into the local community with gusto, attending the Eaux Claires Festival in its second year,
a dinner on a footbridge across the Chippewa River to raise money for the downtown Eau Claire association,
and a car show at Rick’s restaurant in Eau Claire, “The Classic Garage.”
Our immersion in local culture was complete at supper clubs. There are books and documentaries dedicated to Wisconsin Supper Clubs, which became popular in the 1930’s as a way to privately serve alcohol after Prohibition. Some have been remodeled, many have gone out of business, and new ones are even opening to this day, but you can’t beat a vintage throwback supper club that’s been around since back in the day. We enjoyed one in particular: Connell’s Supper Club,
very near the campground, where you still get a relish tray and a cracker basket,
the prime rib and potatoes are huge,
the drinks are strong, and the people are friendly.
The Old Fashioned is taken to new heights in Wisconsin, where you can order it sour (with sweet and sour), sweet (with lemon lime soda), or pressed (a little of both). The most popular liquor for the libation is Brandy, but you can have it with bourbon or Southern Comfort. Choice of garnish is either cherries or olives.
For dessert, don’t forget the Brandy Alexander. This is not the drink you sip through a straw!
Many of you were more than a little bit surprised that I spent an entire month in Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s weather, natural beauty, and lower price point make it the perfect place to explore while waiting for the kiddos to get back into school and for the weather to cool enough to return to the Southeast for winter.