It was Party Central here at the Pettibone RV Resort
in La Crosse, Wisconsin over the weekend. This place truly epitomizes what summer in Wisconsin is all about. Wisconsinites love the outdoors in the summer. Maybe it’s because summer here is so short and they want to make the most of it. Weekends are big for camping, boating, fishing, swimming.
We were lucky to arrive on Friday early in the afternoon, about 2:00. At that time, the campground was still mostly empty (except for the back section that is predominantly seasonals). That was a very good thing, as the site we were assigned was a little dicey to get into. The entrance into the site was flanked by two very large, very close trees. I knew that when I made the reservation. I was offered a pull-through in the center section, or this back-in along the river, and the woman warned me there were two large trees we would have to navigate between. We definitely preferred the river view to a landlocked one, and Fred was up for it, so we booked that one.
If the sites across from us had been occupied, it might have been trouble, but they weren’t and it wasn’t. Fred backed that puppy up and into our site as smooth as grease. We had differing opinions as to how far to the left or right we wanted to be in the site, but getting in was a piece of cake, or at least it looked like it from where I stood.
This park is on a little island in the Mississippi River. Technically the address is La Crosse, Wisconsin, but it seems equally distant from Wisconsin or Minnesota over the bridges connecting it to both. After we got settled in, I suggested we try to find a liquor store so we could get some Blue Curacao to try Linda Davey’s famous Blue Chouters.
The GPS showed one in La Crosse and one in La Crescent, MN about the same distance. We opted for the one in La Crosse. Unfortunately, the one in La Crosse was non-existent, but fortunately, it brought us right into downtown at the location of a very nice farmers market that takes place every Friday afternoon from 5:00-8:00 pm. So of course, we temporarily abandoned the liquor search in favor of more healthy choices like fresh vegetables. This may have been the nicest farmers market we have been to this year. Almost entirely produce, rather than the usual assortment of crafts and what-not. Everything looked wonderful, and I came away with more than I needed (so what’s new!).
We still needed the Blue Curacao so we came back across the river and continued to the other side to La Crescent where we found the small liquor store and the needed beverage. So Friday evening we had our first Blue Chouters, followed by an outstanding Friday Fish Fry at the Pettibone Boat Club. I don’t know if it was the Chouters or the greasy fried fish, but I had a pretty restless night. One or the other has got to go, or maybe just not both at the same time.
Our site on the Mississippi River is lovely during the week. Mostly quiet as it is not on the main channel of the river. In a way, that is disappointing as we would have enjoyed seeing more of the big boats cruising down the river. Instead, what we get on the weekends is a constant flow of party barges (pontoon boats loaded with hooting drunken passengers) and speedboats pulling either water-skiers, or floating devices with one or two kids laying on their bellies being pulled like water-skiers.
The down side to this lovely location is terrible internet service. Based on the map on the campground’s website, I thought we might have a shot at getting our satellite dish up, but these people don’t know north from south I’m afraid, and there doesn’t look to be more than one or two sites that would have a snowball’s chance in you know where to get reception. They do have free WiFi in the office/bar and the adjacent patio area, and for a fee you can purchase reception at your site. So we thought, ok, no problem, we can do this.
What followed though has been a week of frustration. The fee-for-internet service charges $2.95 for a day, $4.95 for 2 1/2 days (for those “weekenders who arrive on Friday afternoon and leave Sunday) or $13.95 for 10 days. Well, alrighty then, Fred signed up for the 10 day package. And Friday, he was happy. Saturday was another story, as he was unable to connect to his paid-for internet. I tried with my computer, and sorry to say, I had no problem. This only made it worse.
And as we are fairly close to the office, I have also been able to get onto the free site quite often. Fred can get onto the free site most of the time too if he sits outside at our picnic table. The problem with that is it is difficult to see the screen, even with his “computer shade” that we bought long ago so we could sit outside and enjoy the outdoors while surfing.
The one benefit of having to walk to the office/bar Saturday morning to use the internet was our discovery of their weekend Make-Your-Own-Bloody-Mary bar. Wow, what a set-up. These people know how to do things. A table was set up with a large tub containing dishes filled with all sorts of condiments: pickled mushrooms, peppers, olives, pickles and even cheese cubes, beef stick pieces and okra!. Four different kinds of bloody mary mix, including two homemade concoctions from the bartenders and every other additive you have ever wanted to include in your drink. For $4.75 you got a large mug of ice and vodka, along with a beer chaser. You then proceeded to the table to devise your own personal drink. Of course, pictures are included herein.
We hated leaving Boo Boo behind in the rig when we went to the bar, but we were very surprised when we got there. We all know that most campgrounds have a “no dogs allowed” rule in the office, or in the restrooms, or in the pool area, or in the ____________ (fill in the blanks for any building on the grounds). So we really had to laugh as dogs and their owners wandered in and out while we were there. As soon as Fred saw this, he made a beeline back to the rig and retrieved our little pooch. And of course, as you can imagine, she was quite popular with patrons and employees alike.
The internet situation doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it does Fred, who spends a great portion of his time amusing himself with it. And they do have cable TV at the site (all 16 channels :), although we have definitely weaned ourselves off the TV with the five week absence while at Bong. So I would have to say I’ve been enjoying our stay here a little more than Fred. I must admit that after six days, the internet situation is also getting to me as well since we’ve been spending most of our time at home. There’s just not that much stuff to do around here.
The one highlight of our stay has been the wonderful assortment of birds we have attracted to our feeders. One of the first things Fred did when we got here was put out the feeder pole, even as I was completing the inside set-up. And we were overjoyed to see Goldfinches gobbling seeds there even before we were completely set up. With each passing day, more and varied birds have found their way to our backyard. And an enjoyable absence of the flocks of grackles and blackbirds and pesky squirrels that have seemed to plague us lately.
We even managed to log a couple new birds onto our Life List: the Hairy Woodpecker and the Red-bellied Woodpecker. I had already suspected we would see woodpeckers, since one of the two trees closely flanking our coach had the tell-tale signs of horizontal rows of woodpecker holes spiraling down the trunk. I just didn’t know what kind they would be. We’ve actually had a total of four woodpecker species come to visit.
The first to arrive were the Downy Woodpeckers. As more and more of them came together, I remembered with amusement the first time we had seen this bird. A rare sighting of a single bird at a nature center in Kerrville, TX that we had to really work to find. Here they became commonplace very quickly. I even began to think of them as my personal pet birds. They come early in the morning and continue throughout the day and evening.
As I initially confirmed the identification of the Downy in my Sibley’s guide, I noticed on the facing page an identical woodpecker called the Hairy, whose only difference was size at about 2-3” larger with a correspondingly much larger beak. So imagine my surprise and glee several days later when the larger woodpecker showed up at our feeders allowing me to add the Hairy to our list. And we were able to make the positive ID because at one point, we had both birds at the feeders at the same time. That same day, we were visited by a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
We were sitting in our chairs watching the activity at the feeders, Fred with camera, as I excitedly oohed and aahed at every new arrival. I commented that this is our kind of birding. We didn’t have to get up early in the morning, and they were all coming to us. At times I got so excited that our neighbor came over to see what was going on and contemplated pulling his chair up behind us to take advantage of the show. We invited him to do so, but he decided he didn’t want to haul out his camera equipment. Oh well.
Another new bird in our backyard was the Red-bellied Woodpecker. At first it reminded me of other woodpeckers we have previously seen, but when I pulled out the Sibley’s I realized it was new. This one is more elusive and the only picture Fred got was through our back window. It doesn’t visit as often as the others, but I am happy to add it to our list anyway.
It has been fun to watch the assortment of birds frolicking on the feeders all at one time. We’ve had Chickadees, Goldfinches, House Finches and even White-breasted Nuthatches all eating together. I’ve never seen Nuthatches crawling upside-down down a feeder pole before. Trees yes, feeder poles, no. They are funny to watch.
As I said, the weekend here was crazy-busy, crowded and noisy. But the peace and quiet during the week was nice. Unfortunately for us fulltimers, summer in popular recreational venues provides obstacles to our lifestyle. Perhaps the current economy has some impact on that as more people stay closer to home. Wisconsin and Minnesota have long been popular “outdoors in summer on the weekends” places. And I’m only now beginning to see what that really means.
What it means to me now is that campgrounds are full. And I don’t just mean full as in “too many people to be comfortable”. Now it means full as in “no room at the inn” full. As we get ready to leave here, we are planning our rendezvous with Margaret and Ian in North Dakota. We decided to just shoot up there quickly, making only two stops until we meet in Dickinson, ND. Much easier said than done.
We identified two geographic stopping points and researched places to stay. After making phone calls to our carefully chosen places and being turned away, I moved down the list to second and third choices. Sheesh! In fulltiming we like to say it’s smart to move mid-week rather than on the weekends. But you still have to have some place to stay on the weekends, whether you get there on Tuesday or Friday. And up here, the weekends have been booked up solid for months in advance.
I did finally manage to find us sites which will log a little extra mileage off the beaten path, but at least it won’t be a Wal-Mart parking lot. And based on this experience, both Margaret and I have actually looked ahead and made reservations for places we want to visit in North Dakota. I can’t believe we have made reservations taking us through August 12. We almost never
plan that far ahead (except the Rio Grande Valley last winter). But we really needed to. And when we meet in Dickinson, I’m sure the four of us will sit down and make our plans for South Dakota since we will be going into more “summer vacation” territory.
And so tomorrow, we’ll pull up stakes and head to Minnesota for the weekend. And not a minute too soon. It’s only Thursday, and already the weekenders have been rolling in this afternoon. Is there a holiday I’m not aware of?
And I have only one thing to worry about. Will it be as easy to pull the rig out of our site between the two trees as it was for Fred to back in?