Mandy and I have had some great adventures together, but nothing beats our trip down Highway 12 yesterday. Mandy is, of course, my taterbug mandolin. Saturday morning she came with Travalon, Rodney, and me on a road trip up to Stratford, a small town that holds a Heritage Festival every June. My band was one of the featured ones, along with a Scottish American band made up of a bunch of very evangelical preacher’s kids. They were quite musically talented, but their songs were pretty in your face – my favorite was one about the “ten-lane superhighway to Hell.” The weather was drizzly, and so the crowd wasn’t huge, but we were under a shelter so our stage had the biggest crowd. To my surprise, one of the food tents was Jamaican food, so Travalon and I had some jerk chicken with rice and beans. I was not expecting something so exotic at a small town festival! A hotel in nearby Marshfield donated rooms for the performers, so Travalon and I got to stay there for only a $12 doggie deposit. We had dinner with another member of our band and her husband who were also staying overnight, then we took Rodney for a walk around the neighborhood and spent some time in the hotel’s cold pool and warm hot tub.
Yesterday was our road trip adventure. We got free breakfast at the hotel and then went to Mass at a nearby church, St. John the Baptist, which was gorgeous and apparently an old German parish, since the stained glass windows had German writing on them. The priest was funny where he could be and reverent where he should be. Then we hit the road and drove to a bar from the book outside of Neilsville called The Speakeasy, with an old dance hall next door called the Silver Dome. Usually it is locked, but a guy was doing repairs in there, so he let us come in for a look. I got photos that I will post soon. They still have acts perform there during the summer; it is too hard to heat in the winter. We returned to the bar itself for a wonderful lunch of grilled chicken and corn on the cob out on their patio, with the two resident dogs keeping us company. Of course we had to stop at the Norske Nook in Osseo for pie and a walk by the lake. Then we drove to Fall Creek to visit another bar from the book, Big Jim’s sports bar. It is owned by a former professional wrestler, Jim “Pillars of Power” Gagnon. (He wasn’t there at the time.) We followed Highway 12 to Black River Falls to visit a brewery from the book, but it was closed, so we’ll have to come back. Travalon suggested we follow Highway 12 all the way back home, so we did, stopping along the way at some parks: Humbird County Park beside a small lake, Mill Bluff State Park near Camp Douglas, beside a pond with an enchanting hill in the background, and Rocky Arbor just outside the Dells, full of pine trees and sandstone bluffs. We had dinner sitting outside at a pizza place in the Dells, then we followed the road home. It was so much fun that Travalon says we should follow some other highway soon.