NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Can't see DeForest?

Can't see DeForest for the trees? Borrow the pink elephant's glasses!

On my way up to Tomah to meet Katrina I kept my eye out for my favorite landmark, the Pink Elephant in DeForest. The first time I saw it I fell in love, took a picture and posted it up at work.  What else would any retro-loving, cat-eye glasses wearing Optician do?  Rumor has it that this elephant was part of a chain of ARCO gas stations in the area, all with pink elephants.  This appears to be the last surviving member of the herd and a Shell station is the proud owner.

DeForest, middle of nowhere just north of Madison, is also home to Ehlenbach's Cheese Chalet and I decided it was time to pay them a visit since it was just a hop over the bridge to the other side of the interstate.  Inside you will find over 100 different kinds of Wisconsin cheeses and Wisconsin-made all beef summer sausages. They also have many gourmet items, candy, domestic wines, Door County coffee and a wide variety of gifts and Wisconsin memorabilia.  My favorite discovery was the cuckoo clocks, but I didn't have an extra $1600 to get one so I kept it simple and bought some cheese.

There's just as much to see on the outside as the inside, including a mural which I'll save for Monday, a mouse climbing the store's sign and Sissy the Cow, who I did not get a picture of but borrowed one from Panoramio.  She is another fiberglass landmark...perhaps she and the Pink Elephant catch glimpses of each other across the interstate and dream of breaking loose and getting together for a chat.  I'm sure there's more than cheese and fiberglass in DeForest, but it'll have to wait for another day.

Not that I'm planning on stealing Judy's signature, but I couldn't resist this one time....

Dreaming of heading down the highway with everyone else, perhaps?


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Slippery Mile at Mirror Lake State Park

Since I had to take my daughter's car back up to her after the repairs were done, I chose a day when the weather wouldn't be too bad and planned a winter hike in a state park to break up the drive to our meeting spot in Tomah.  Turns out I should maybe have done a little more research because Mirror Lake State Park is catering to the cross country skiiers at this time of year and only the trail to Echo Rock and a little stretch along the lakefront are open to foot traffic, but I made do and put together about a mile hike on Saturday.

Cross country skiiers only on this trail...which was unmarked where I picked it up so I had to retrace my steps.

I had to walk along the outside of the trail because under the light layer of snow it was nothing but bumpy ice from previous melted footprints.  That slippery mile seemed a lot longer when you're struggling to keep your footing!  A few folks were out ice fishing and it was actually warm out in the sun.  Shacks will be coming off the ice probably because we're supposed to be warming up for at least a few days this week.

Mirror Lake is a 137-acre impoundment of Dell Creek that is about 4 miles long. The dam of Mirror Lake is one of the oldest man-made dams in Wisconsin. The west end of the lake was a popular resort area from the 1800’s until the 1930’s.  In its heyday, this area was the playground of influential people including Al and Lou Ringling with their Ringling Dance Pavilion.

The Blockbuster hit “Public Enemies” starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale was partly filmed in Mirror Lake State Park, namely several gunfights and car chases.  Guess I'll have to rent it now and see if I recognize anything, because apparently Echo Rock Trail's hilly terrain is from the film. When I came upon the trail to Echo Rock things were pretty quiet, no car chases or gunfights anywhere.  It was a nice spot and I had it all to myself.

The trail loops around back to the campground area and passes the Ishnala Bridge.  I didn't linger too long, but snapped a couple of shots while thinking about how nice it might be to come back in the spring with Wayne and do some kayaking in the area.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Happier on a Bike

This one was a delightful surprise find alongside the Glacial River Bike Trail that runs through Fort Atkinson. I agree with the sentiments at the bottom as I am always happier on a bike than behind a desk as well.  Of course, I'm always happier quite a lot of places than behind a desk, and I'm sure there are those that would be happier behind the desk...though I can't imagine who those people are!  Writers maybe? Thoughts?

This post is linked to Oakland Daily Photo's Mural Monday.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Simple Treasures in Tiffany

Since we warmed up 20 degrees on Friday to a respectable 23 and had an inch of snow overnight I hopped in the truck and drove out to the tiny town of Tiffany, Wisconsin.  Tiffany is just outside Beloit, but worlds apart, and quite the little gem.  It has two historic bridges to its name, and I was delighted to discover they built a little park between the two of them for me to park my truck in.

The first bridge is a metal 8 panel bolt connected Pratt Through Fixed Truss bridge built in 1910.  Whew! That is quite a mouthful!  It's only wide enough for one car at a time, but the farm ducks? geese? preferred to cross underneath it.

Out of the water, guys, that gal's getting too close for comfort!

The other bridge is a stone semicircular fixed deck arch bridge, 5 spans, built in 1869 and may be the oldest stone bridge in Wisconsin. I followed the fowl (ha!) across the road but gave them enough space that my presence was better tolerated this time.

While crossing the road another car pulled off onto the shoulder and just sat there.  I thought they were waiting for a car to cross the metal bridge, but then they continued to sit after it passed.  Then I heard the rumbling...and got my camera up in time for a quick shot of the train coming in!

While looking stuff up online I found much nicer shots than this, taken in summer from the middle of the creek on a beautiful day with some great water reflections.  Hmmm....I think a return trip might be necessary! But, in the meantime, I made do with my dreary winter sky while I was there.

After walking under the bridge I couldn't help but be tempted to walk up to the top of the bridge.  It was a bit steep and slippery on the way up, so I walked down the tracks and the long way around back to the truck.  A friendly farm dog came out to see who I was but left me alone when he saw I had no intention of coming onto his property.  The horses likewise gave me the once-over from a distance but didn't even bother to do more than swish their tails at me.

I tried a different route back to Hwy 43 which took me over the tracks and through the little town of Tiffany.  Much to see for a tiny farm town.  I especially enjoyed the Christmas yard decoration next door to The Bootlegger and the White farm tractor from the '70's across the street from it.

"On, Piglet!"

One more oddity for ya'll before I call it a day.  We're kinda famous out here for our "truck in a tree" on Hwy 43 at mile marker 6 outside of Clinton which is just a few miles from Tiffany so I pulled over so you can have a quick look-see. American ingenuity, gotta love it!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hanging Around Custer and Hill City, May 2011

While visiting the Custer area in 2011 we stayed in Custer at the Big Pine Campground.  This was our second stay there, and we're pretty satisfied with the place.  We like to stay at the very back of the campground for the privacy, and we saw deer in the pines through our rear window every morning and evening.  I'd rather stay at the Bismark Lake Campground which is part of the Black Hills National Forest and right outside Custer State Park, but at 37 feet we're just too big to be getting around in there, plus I think $19 a night is a bit steep for no facilities, you have to use a private outside waste station nearby for a fee, no electric, no showers or flush toilets, nothing! Beautiful little campground though, and so convenient to CSP.  It would be an excellent place to workamp and when we trade down to a 30 footer and go full time it's going on my wish list!

Besides being engrossed with the wildlife at Custer State Park we took the time to go into Hill City and walk around this time.  If you're into shops, they've got them! I'm not much of a shopper on vacation, but I did enjoy this sculpture of "Iron Star"  by John Lopez on the sidewalk. Apparently Hill City has a Sculpture in the Hills show and sale and this piece was such a hit in 2009 that the Arts Council purchased it and installed it downtown probably not long before we saw it. Now I'm thinking if we go back this way again we should time it for the sculpture show...

Even the guys like art like this
Rare sighting of me in background!
Great details hidden in this sculpture.

To see a gallery of John's work go here, it's worth the visit. I know I'm making a list of places to see more of his work, just like I did for Peter Toth.

Hill City is also where you can hop aboard the 1880 Train and take a ride to Keystone and back. My mom and dad took the trip while we got ahead of them in our truck and waited down the track to see them pass by.  It was pretty neat listening to the whistle coming down the track and we heard it long before we saw it.

I'm betting there's more to discover in Hill City.  Anybody have any tips they want to share?

And while we're talking about tips, how about photo editing tips?  I bought Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 a year ago, also bought the manual online, and find the manual and the online tutorials so overwhelmingly complicated that I have yet to edit a single photo.  I tried to edit the one with the face hidden in the sculpture due to a large sun flare spot in the image and after MORE THAN AN HOUR going back and forth between the internet and the manual I gave up and just cropped it in closer.  The program is so needlessly complicated that I couldn't even figure out how to save or dump any changes I made, much less remove the sun spot.  I got a layer open, but couldn't figure out how to adjust the color of the sunspot even with directions.  Anyone willing to give me an in-person workshop? I'm willing to drive...up to a point!  So frustrating to spend all the money on software and not be able to figure out how to use it!  So, as usual, all my photos are straight-out-of-the-camera except for basic cropping or light exposure adjustment.  Not too shabby, I know, but I've been shooting in RAW for the last 3 years and would love to be able to rework some images someday - Grrrr!!

On top of all that I have an annoying spot popping up toward the top of all my recent photos no matter which lens I use...thinking I have to send the camera in for a cleaning of its interior workings, seeing as how it was dropped in the creek, the sand, off boulders, etc.  Also thinking maybe it's time for a better camera, which will probably make for some better images but still won't fix my Photoshop problem! Why haven't I been to a Kenosha Photography Club meeting yet?  I'm thinking maybe it's time to network and get some guidance, don't you?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Feeling vintage in Frank's Diner, Kenosha

When Wayne and I headed off for our day date in Fort Atkinson recently we saw a vintage diner on a flat bed pulled off the highway near our home due to high winds.  I didn't give it much thought until about a week later when it popped into my head that maybe vintage travel trailers weren't the only retro item I could seek out on my travels this year.  Doing a little research online I found out that vintage diners seem to be heavily concentrated out east, but that they are being auctioned off on eBay and making their way west.  One blogger was excited about the built in 1939  Road Island Diner that moved from Rhode Island in 2007 to Oakley, Utah, and after viewing their website I'd be excited too!

Franks Diner Kenosha July 31 1938The only diner I can remember that I've been in is Frank's Diner in Kenosha.  I went there for breakfast with a friend a few years back and was surprised that I had never known it was there since we had lived in Kenosha for 6 years ourselves. Frank's Diner is a registered historical landmark and the oldest continuing lunch car diner in the US and has been featured on the Food Network. When the prefab railcar-style establishment was pulled into Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1926 by a team of horses, townsfolk lined the streets to watch.

In its time under founder Anthony Franks, it served the likes of the Three Stooges, Bela Lugosi, Duke Ellington, and Liberace. Now they've served me and Wayne, too, because we went out for another date this morning and decided to make it a breakfast date this time!  He said a friend in Kenosha took him here once 20 years ago, but now we've been together. This dining car has had an addition built onto the side and the back as well as a brick front added which keeps the cold out when you open the sliding door to enter the car.

We got lucky by going later in the morning on a weekday and there were two small tables left in the back.  Wayne got the corned beef hash with hash browns and I ordered scrambled eggs with their homemade bread toast and all was delicious. Their homemade bread is also used for their french toast, but they are famous for their "garbage plate" and have even been featured on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives".  I loved the old woodwork, floors and cabinetry still in use, but it was a bit chilly in there this morning with the weather a mere 1 degree fahrenheit in K-Town.  Total bill: $9.07 without coffee.

This same logo was on the outside of the building on the other side.  Had to make room for more customers!

Frank's is only one of a handful of retro diners in Wisconsin, and I'm adding these guys to my travel must-do list: Miss Katie's in Milwaukee, Monty's Blue Plate Diner in Madison, The Delta Diner in Delta, and the Broadway Diner that just relocated to Baraboo in 2012.  If you know of any others, let me in on the secret!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Feeling Irish on Mural Monday

Where do you go to feel a little Irish on a January afternoon in Wisconsin? Paddy Coughlin's Pub in Fort Atkinson! And as if their delicious corned beef sandwich that I had for lunch wasn't enough to win me over, there was also MURALS!

In the second mural I suppose the message is that if you drink Guinness you'll be strong enough to haul the cart instead of the horse, but I like to think that the horse is so drunk he had to be toted home!  Also, if you look closely the name of the pub is stenciled on the cart behind the horse's hooves.  Paddy Coughlin's Pub also carries a wide variety of New Glarus beers.  If you remember from my New Glarus brewery tour I'm not a beer drinker so I can't be objective, but everyone else seems to love them.

To make the fun even more complete, here's a few delightful Irish sayings to tide you over until St. Patrick's Day:

"Never dread the winter till the snow is on the blanket"

“It is better to be a coward for a minute than dead for the rest of your life”

 “Better fifty enemies outside the house than one within”

“A scholar's ink lasts longer than a martyr's blood”

“Put silk on a goat and it is still a goat”

“Everyone is nice till the cow gets into the garden”

 And last but not least:
 "God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world"

This post is linked to Oakland Daily Photo's Mural Monday, head on over for a look! He posted about MLK today...I didn't think of that when I posted mine recently! And today I'm posting Irish murals instead of waiting for St. Patrick's Day. Anyone who knows me would agree that I'm impatient and impulsive!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Chilling Big in Racine

This weekend Racine hosted "The Big Chill" snow and ice sculpting competition in downtown Monument Square.  I dragged Cory and his girlfriend out for the afternoon yesterday to check it out, along with the turn of the century business district architecture and a couple of small museums.  Like Fort Atkinson, downtown Racine is only an hour drive away for us, and when we used to live in Kenosha we zipped through downtown on the way to the zoo but never paid much attention to what we were passing by.

The weather was gray and windy, but luckily over 40 degrees or it would have felt a lot colder! The ice sculptures were dripping pretty good.  To make you feel more sorry for us here yesterday was an anomaly, today's high is only 17!  Bundled up against the wind, I snapped a few pics of some of the architectural details, mostly on Main Street.  The other neighboring streets' buildings were in pretty severe disrepair and most of the storefronts were empty.  Such a shame to see them going to waste.  A lot of other Wisconsin towns are promoting their old downtown districts and encouraging businesses to move in and shoppers to "shop local".  Even Kenosha has revitalized their downtown district attracting even large retailers like Jockey, but Racine seems to be a step behind.  Hopefully they'll catch up soon.

 Racine's Heritage Museum is located in the old Racine Library, which was beautiful outside but not a lot left of the original inside and no photography was allowed.  The museum was free, but very skimpy.  What they did have was displayed very professionally, but I was surprised that for such a big city they had so little.

The Racine Museum of Art was having a free day and we stopped in to check out their small collection as well.  And...we just didn't get it, for the most part. Photography was not allowed there either, but I stole this shot from their website of the one exhibit that I did enjoy featuring Rosita Johanson.  I recognized this tribute to Frida right away, and I thought her use of thread, beads and fabric very interesting in her pieces.


No visit to Racine is complete without stopping at O&H Bakery for some kringle.
In addition to their famous kringle we picked up some other baked goods.  For dinner I had popcorn...and kringle and a cupcake.  I know, I know!  So delicious, though.  O&H will ship their kringle, a doctor I used to work for used to have it at the office in Illinois every Christmas. I cut my two kringles into servings and put them in the freezer to enjoy throughout the winter.  They had some really cute "conversation hearts" for Valentine's Day that would make great treats for a kids' party.

And, last but not least, we drove just a few minutes farther north along the lake for a quick stroll along Lake Michigan at Wind Point Lighthouse.  The light and museum were closed, but it was fun to walk the frozen beach.  I didn't get the kind of beach shots that Erin has been getting at the beach, but all the creatures are too smart to still be hanging around. 

Boy, you look at a picture like this one and sometimes you got to wonder what the heck we're all doing living here, right? It would be a lot nicer without the wind, maybe I wouldn't even want to leave!

Cory got in a car accident with Katrina's car while she was home over the holidays and it needed some windshield and bumper work done.  Hopefully all will be finished this week and I plan to bring it back to her by next weekend.  I'm looking forward to what the road to Eau Claire has to offer up that I haven't noticed before now that I'm doing so well searching out old places and seeing them with new eyes!