How do I begin to describe our little piece of paradise in Wisconsin? It begins during the 5.5 hour ride. Which may sound like a long drive to some, for what can you do in the car but mostly nothing? Unwind. Talk to your family (ok...maybe just your husband since this is 2010 and the kids are watching a movie). Listen to old music. Flip through a magazine while keeping the driver entertained. The peacefulness starts to creep into my psyche about 4 hours into the drive. When I begin to realize that Illinois and the realities of our life there will be temporarily on hold for a few days. When we pass the last size-able town and the landscape starts to change a bit. After we've crossed the Wisconsin River about ten times and start to see more pine trees and fewer dairy farms. My mindset begins to change, my jaw becomes less tense, and my shoulders relax a bit.
The real kicker is when we pull onto our street - that's when the sensory overload begins. A deer scampers out of the way. Pine scents so strong I breathe it in with the windows up. Freshwater breezes greeting my face. Listening to the cacophony of spring peeper frogs and the loons calling out to one another. And the stars. Oh, the brilliant stars. Like I've never seen before, lighting up the night sky as far as I can see.
If those stars align, we arrive early in the evening before sunset, and that is pure magic. We unwind on the dock with an adult beverage while the kids swim and fish. We watch the show put on by the resident water skiiers and wakeboarders, hoping they don't spray us for fun as they speed by. Then hunger creeps in, and what are we to do with only a single frozen pizza in the freezer? Head to one of the local bars, of course. Knockers it is.
Knockers. Where the Big Ones Hang Out. Only in Wisconsin. The proprietor, Barry, greets us with a friendly hello. John the bartender pours everyone their favorite beverage while educating tourists about popular fishing holes and watching Wheel of Fortune with the locals. Knockers is like a well-worn baseball glove. It fits you perfectly, is pure comfort and can handle any of the curveballs that life throws your way. We've made many a memory at that place, and will continue to do so as the kids love going there to challenge Mom and Dad to a game of euchre, play Barry's arcade games, dine on their delicious, unique pizza, and watch the sunset over Dam Lake.
My favorite thing in the world in WI is the pontoon ride. I would ride on that boat all day if my husband would drive me. I like to sit and look at the landscape. Take pictures of the wildlife that abounds through the channels. Soak in the sun in the middle of the lake. Stop at the beach. Play a round of cards. Go for a swim. Sit on a float. Read a book. Listen to some tunes. And later this summer - grill a burger. Yep, that man of mine is installing a gas grill on the front of the boat. Maybe we'll just start living out there. Who needs a cabin, after all?
Ah - the cabin. It is perfect for us, better than anything I ever imagined that we'd find.
Perhaps the best part of our cabin visits is the day before we leave to return to Reality. I used to loathe that day. And sometimes I still find myself getting subconsciously grouchy as I begin the laundry and start pushing leftovers on everyone. But since we started staying through Monday or Tuesday, I now cherish those days. Everyone else on the lake bugs out on Sunday afternoon to get back to work on Monday, except us. As I write this, it is a beautiful Monday afternoon at about 2:00 and there is one boat on the lake. It's ours. My husband and Miller went fishing, leaving me to the solitude that can only be found on a weekday around here.
I could probably write forever about what this place means to me, but I wouldn't even come close to doing it justice. So instead I'll just have to break it down into parts. Including, but not limited to:
Stone Lake Beach
People in Wisconsin
More to come on those topics and more!