I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d anticipated, largely in part to my previously mentioned laziness, and also, I’ve been fairly busy. With what? Dicking around in Minnesota and Wisconsin for the last week and change. Words I never thought I’d say: I LOVE Wisconsin (although I had no ill feelings towards the place previously, I just didn’t anticipate the appeal it would hold for me)! Per usual, I have no idea which Day we’re on, but I do know that it’s America’s Birthday today. That’s all I’ve got for you, but of course, I’ll go back and count and figure it out. I’ll start from today and work backwards, once again. Actually, before we get started on that, let me just pick up a smidgey where we left off…. the red line on the shitter’s mylar does not indeed mean “one more use,” it means empty that turd bag immediately. I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say I drove quickly (and delicately) to the nearest gas station after I came to this realization.
Okay, Day 19, and we’re in the Bay of Green Bay, right on Lake Michigan, courtesy of the ever-generous Boondocker’s Welcome participants (and thank the sweet baby Jesus, they didn’t want to talk too much). I’m terribly excited to be somewhere for 2 nights in a row and not have to drive anywhere tomorrow, regardless of the weather forecast predicting rain and thunderstorms for the duration. They never get it right, anyway, and if they do, I’m happy to just read, and/or watch Netflix downloads (I’ve discovered that Netflix downloads expire at a certain point. I’m not entirely sure how long you have to watch them, but I downloaded Season 1 of All American, and only made it to episode 6. I had planned on watching one last night, but all of the rest had expired, so we took a little field trip to the Kaukauna Public Library today to partake of their interwebs and get those episodes back). Anyway, we stopped in Green Bay proper before heading out to the peninsula for our squatting accommodations, and it’s much smaller than I’d anticipated, especially for being home to an NFL team. But they have a lovely almost 5-mile greenway by the Fox River that Gatsby and I took a nice long stroll on. I figure in addition to the bevy of CBD oil he gets on honour of this holiday, the more tuckered he is, the better. Saturday night wasn’t so bad in Stevens Point, WI, but last night in Neenah, not even the combo of AC (don’t worry, it still doesn’t blow cold air yet, but more on that in a bit), the MaxxAir fan, Dohm white noise maker, my phone’s sounds machine, and Total Recall (the Arnie variety, not that rubbish newer version) could quite drown out the cacophony. We were surrounded on all sides.
Yesterday, Day 18, was not the most pleasant. Despite being balls hot and completely sunny, my solar didn’t charge to more than 61% (it’s really fun having van issues with a new van! I will say that my build guys have been phenomenal as far as customer service and troubleshooting go….. they sent me to a local outfitter in Hudson, WI to try and get things resolved, and even offered to fly out to fix the issues, but that involves more logistics than I want to be involved in for this trip (I know – who AM I that I don’t feel like planning things?!), but that story is for Days 12 & 14). The overnight at a brewery that was basically in a strip mall in the wrong side of town. I had some beer there, got sunburnt, decided I didn’t really want to overnight there; drove around hoping to find a park nearby that didn’t have any “No Overnight Parking” signs, to no avail. I believe that overnight street parking was fine in that town, but I didn’t choose that option for two reasons: 1) the ‘burbs are generally pretty awful as far as fireworks go…there’re always three or four assholes who think their homemade 2-3 bangs per minute top a professional show and keep that shit going ALL NIGHT LONG (why are fireworks even legal? FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THE TERRIFIED DOGS AND COMBAT VETERANS, leave it to the professionals/use the silent ones), and 2) I didn’t want to be a creepy lurker just randomly parked in front of someone’s house, even if I have a right to be there. Much like Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched, I would be both very aware of and very perturbed by someone unknown parked out front of my house. Suffice to say, I don’t have very much urban boondocking confidence yet. Really, I don’t have much any boondocking confidence in general, other than the Harvest Hosts variety. Anyway (somehow magically having broken off the front to one of my drawers thanks to Gatsby's giant, drugged ass, leaving exposed screws sticking out, and wouldn’t you know it, they were torx screws? Guess who doesn’t have a torx bit, so enjoyed taking them out my hand? Hint: it was me. Luckily, I did bring my drill and a bunch of phillips head screws, but it was steaming hot, and I was legit crabby at this point), we ended up back at the brewery, parked by a dumpster, both boiling and still listening to fireworks explode. Because the solar didn’t charge me all the way up, and because between the fireworks and the fact that it was approximately 8 million degrees last night, we had to keep the AC on to at least partake in the moving of the hot air, so the power ran out at about 4am, leaving me with no water, no coffee, and no sense of humor.
On the bright side, the night prior was delightful. Day 17 was spent also at a brewery in Stevens Point, WI. The beer wasn’t my favorite, but I loved being tucked away inconspicuously behind the brewery. There was a nice patch of grass for us to be on, and we didn’t have everyone gawking. Worked well for a hermit like me. One thing I’ve just resigned myself to with the Harvest Host/Boondocker’s Welcome shebang is having to interact with more people than I’d necessarily like to. Having a beast as handsome and majestic as Gatsby only increases the odds of contact.
I’d like to sidebar here and say what a joy it is to drive on Wisconsin roads, particularly the secondary roads. Every drive I’ve done in this state has been totally enjoyable, minus the one day, which I believe was Day 11 and was once again incredibly windy. The roads are good, there are not hordes of people on them, and the scenery is very Germanic. I can tool along in Hecate, pretending that I’m back in Kaiserslautern on a slower version of the Autobahn. I’m into it. The people are, in general, also very nice.
Okay, Day 16 was also a treat. All of these recent days have been short drives, which is good for my spirit, but bad on my Goal Zero Yeti, since it doesn’t respond to the driving charge any better than it does the solar. Harrumph. It’s okay, Keeks, we’ll get it fixed when we’re back on the East Coast. For right now, let’s just take a deep breath. Day 16 was coming in from Eau Claire, WI where I stayed at The Coffee Grounds/K Point Brewing for the second time. I also stayed there on Day 11 on my way towards the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and both the parking sitch and the food (I’m pretty sure I had the best burger I’ve ever shoved down my gullet at the brewery, and that’s saying something, since you all know how I feel about Hot N’ Now) were so lovely, we made it a repeat thing on the outbound.
I’m going to short-change Days 12-15, because I was largely stationary, but I will say the Minneapolis/St. Paul area has the cutest stinking houses you’ve (I’ve) ever seen! They look like they should be in the Black Forest or like they were pulled from a Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Absolutely a-DOR-able. Did I take any pictures of any of them? No. I parked outside my friends Hoyt & Amy’s house in St. Paul. See, I don’t have to feel creepy skulking around their property because they know me. And they made sure to tell their neighbors about me so they wouldn’t get the heebie jeebies either. I know Hoyt from several theatrical performances together when we both lived in Germany. I didn’t know Amy too well before this visit, but I’m delighted I got to spend time with her; she’s an absolute treat! What I will delve into that involves these days are my two trips to Hudson, WI to try and get Hecate back in working AC and solar.
Day 12 was the first, on the inbound journey. Thomas at VanVanOverland was kind enough to let me borrow one of their vans for the day so I could go explore Hudson (super cute little town right on the St. Croix river). I arrived back to the bad news – nothing got fixed, and to more extensively look into the situation, I needed to unload the gear-age and come back in two days. On Day 14, we came back, and then spent the day in Stillwater, MN. Another cute little town with a nice walking trail and a cute downtown. We tried to eat lunch out on a dog-friendly patio, but the arrival of a third and fourth dog (there was already one at a table when we arrived) was too much for Gatsby, and we had to vacate the premises immediately. He tried his best. The news back at the van shop was not any better. What we’d anticipated to be a kinked line in the AC, preventing it from pumping the water from the tank to the unit was not to be found, meaning it’s the actual Fresair unit itself. The good thing is that it’s under warranty (I mean, yeah….it’s brand new). The bad thing is that my OG builders have to order a new unit. Between the ordering of the unit and having to have someone to professionally install it, it’s just easier at this point (sweatier, yes, but easier) to wait and take it back to the shop when we get back home in the fall. They can take some time to figure out what the malfunction is with my solar/battery as well (the thing with that is that it’s random about when it wants to charge, instead of just charging when it should. On a bright sunny day OR when I’m driving, that mf should be up to 100% EASILY. Instead, it might opt to charge for a minute or two and then take a three-hour break, and wind up, like we did yesterday at 61% after both 3 hours of drive time and nary a cloud in the sky. I mean, I get my ass up there on a ladder every day to make sure my panels are spotless – they should put in a modicum of effort. Not cool, Yeti; not cool. I respond well to consistency, and let me tell you – this isn’t it….this is hands down my main source of anxiety on the road, right here).
We’ve already discussed Day 11, involving both the coffee/brew place worth a second visit, and the delight of the Wisconsin roads.
Day 10. Day 10 was a doozy. It had a lot going on. We started it with our drive from wherever we were up to Baraboo, WI, stopping for a hike at Devil’s Lake State Park. It was humid and overcast, but the rain held off just long enough for us to get a few miles under the boots, and opened up just as we were driving to the overnight location, which was, once again, a brewery. Now, because it was raining, the pup didn’t get to join me, as most places are only dog-friendly on the patio, and he must think he’s made of sugar and will melt. It’s kind of odd for a dog who likes to splash in the lake and join me in a shower whenever possible, but who am I to question how his simple little mind works? So I got the kid settled and went in for a late lunch and a flight. These flights had BIG pours. I’m not sure if it was the booze, or if it was something I ate at lunch, but the following hours involved a nap, some head spinning nausea, and some projectile vomiting both outside the back of the van in the rain and into my collapsible sink bowl when I couldn’t be bothered to make it outside. Remember, I am on meds that keep me from overindulging in the drink. I really don’t think I did overindulge, but something that day went very, very awry. The way I was tossing cookies, you’d have thought I’d just come staggering back from The Hill in Itaewon at 4am after drinking 7 soju bowls instead of having ONE FLIGHT at a brewery with a hearty and respectable lunch.
Day 10 was also the day that I not only rearranged the gear-age once again to better suit my needs, including making a pile of crap that is in the van that shouldn't be in the van, but that I also very definitively moved having an awning from the “wants” category into the “needs.” The reasons are twofold. 1) it provides shade from the blistering sun, as well as increased living space outside the van, which sounds like a real treat with the AC not working as we’ve discussed; 2) it’ll allow us to keep the slider open (read: a breeze going) when it rains. We’ve had a couple of rainy afternoons at this point (today is one of them – look at the weather forecasters, getting it right today); they’re both stiflingly hot, and they keep us crammed inside. If we had an awning to open, it would give us some outside space to utilize, and allow us to keep either a door or window open without being rained on inside.
Fun little story about that. As soon as I realized I NEED an awning, I ordered a Thule roof rack mounted one to be delivered to St. Paul, since I’d be there several days. I also ordered some rack mounts (which I wasn’t sure of the fit), and double checked with Oliver (my build guy), who sent me the link to the rack mounts he absolutely knows fit, so I ordered those as well. Everything got ordered on Monday. The Amazon goodies were delivered on Wednesday, and as I feared, the mounts from there didn’t work with my rack (#TheresADirtyJokeInThereSomewhere). No biggie, I figured, since I’d ordered the Oliver-approved set on Monday with 2-day shipping. Thursday comes along…..no brackets. Friday comes along, and mind you, this is my departure day; if you’ve ever met me, you know I just like to get shit done, so departures generally happen for me ass-early. But I’m waiting for the mail to come so I can get this awning put up while I have an extra set of hands to help, because rest assured, no matter how badass I am with a kettlebell, this thing is not light, and it is awkward. AF. No brackets. I have a reservation, and I have to get on the road, so I shove the damn awning inside the van (you know, because there’s sooooo much extra space for it), and hit the road. So now, while we wait for the late-arrived roof mounts to be forwarded to us at the Houghton, MI post office (tg for general delivery!), Gatsby and I get to enjoy even more limited space, and use of about 1/3 of the fridge (can’t even access the freezer) since the door only opens a teensy bit. If you know someone who is doing a van build, tell them to splurge for the awning during the build. I promise you, it’s worth the cost. I tell you, as soon as I get my hands on those brackets, I’m going to be the most social and outgoing lass you’ve ever met so that I can get SOMEONE to help me get that awning up!
Lesson learned today: must. blog. more. frequently. Alas, I can’t keep all the details in my brain long enough for a dump every 10 days, and I’m certain I’ve lost some of the sweet, sweet nuances of all the funny stuff that’s happened.
At any rate, we’ll be back with you in (hopefully) clearer weather. Don’t be a jacamo and shoot off your own fireworks. It’s really a little dick move.
God save the Queen! Or something like that.