Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: bike, vacation

GRABAAWR – Merrill to Stevens Point

Well, it was another stormy night. No metaphor… just STORMY!!!
I’m a pretty deep sleeper, especially when I’m pedaling all day and camping at night.
So I was pretty unaware of the storms that passed through overnight. But I was awakened
by my friend Chris who called me from her tent very early in the pre-dawn hours telling me
that the storm was bad and we should go inside the school for safety. Of course, my initial
groggy-sleepy response was “It can’t be that bad, roll over and go back to sleep.”

A few minutes later, we were all being evacuated from our tents by the ride organizers.
Loud voices outside the tents telling everyone to move inside quickly. Don’t pack, just move!
Apparently, we had had a large storm go over, with another even bigger one headed our way
in minutes. When I peeked out of my tent, I saw that the storm was a lot worse than I was
aware of. Huge puddles, branches down, tents blown away, and more! It was kinda crazy…
but by then we were safe in the school waiting for the “all-clear” so we could get onto the road.

It was during this “forced” safety delay that I ran into another biking friend of mine.
I met Sue a few years ago on another Bike Wisconsin ride, and have ridden with her
in the Northwoods before. I didn’t know that she was going to be here on this ride,
but it was great to see her smiling face in the crowd. And to know that we would have
a great time riding together again… she has such a wonderful perspective on life.
Always with a smile on her face, and willing to share it with others.

On our way out of town, on the other side of Merrill, Chris and I were stopped by a white SUV.
Apparently the driver was a local TV reporter who wanted to interview us about the ride
and the storm. So we said yes… and made an appearance on the local Channel 9 Nightly News!

Early on, we stopped off to take a tour of the local Van Der Geest Dairy. A fully functioning
dairy where 3,000 cows go through the system three times a day – running 24/7, around the clock
milking cows! I guess it all ran smoothly, and the cows weren’t being harmed… but it wasn’t really
a great “advertisement” for milk. After seeing how the cows are literally herded through the system
never leaving the building, never having fun, never getting the chance to play outside?!

Luckily the storms had passed through… and the rest of the day was beautiful.
Gently rolling hills along the Wisconsin River.Plus, our first rest stop was “announced”
with some of the best signs I’ve ever seen on a bike ride route…

Of course I couldn’t be rude… so I just had to stop for pie! And I couldn’t quite decide,
so I went for the homemade pie trifecta! Peach, blueberry AND rhubarb!!!

More hills. More scenery. More pedaling… quickly working off all three pieces of pie!

We stopped off for lunch and rolled further down the road. It’s so much fun to see how
the river has changed from its meager beginnings, especially after all of the rains!

Towards the end of our ride, the route took us right passed the Mullins Cheese Factory.
Of course we had to get some fresh cheese curds. We are in Wisconsin after all. When we
checked the temperature it was 101-degrees. It never feels quite that hot when you’re riding,
but as soon as you stop moving, the heats hits you and the sweat starts to POUR off my body.
The squeaky-cheese curds were great… until I found out that they had deep-fried cheese and
I didn’t even know it until Chris asked why I didn’t get them. I didn’t see them on the menu?!

On our way into Stevens Point, we passed a big pile of rocks on the side of the road.
As we got closer, you could see that it wasn’t just your normal pile of rocks. Someone had
been having fun and playing with the rocks… stacking piles of them along the roadside!

Categories: bike, GeoCache, vacation

GRABAAWR – Rhinelander to Merrill

After another wonderful evening with some of my Northwoods friends,
it was back on the bike this morning heading from Rhinelander to Merrill.
The day started out a little overcast, and still gray from another overnight rain.
We set out knowing that at some point we would get rained upon. Inevitable.
Actually, my sunburned skin is pretty happy that today might be overcast & cloudy.
Even the rain doesn’t seem too bad… gives my skin a chance to calm down a bit.

The first water stop was a few miles into the ride and the clouds were darkening.
We decided to move on quickly hoping to make it to the next town before the rain
No such luck. We got soaked, despite our efforts to “duck out of the way” under some
trees and roofs along the way. When we made it to the little town of Tomohawk,
we stopped for lunch, and a chance to dry of a bit. By the end of lunch, there was
literally a puddle under my chair from my raincoat dripping. Luckily, a piece of pie
made the day much better. While we ate, the rain stopped as well.

While in Tomohawk, we also decided we should check to see if there were any
GeoCaches anywhere in town. And to our surprise we found out there were three
to be found. The first one was hidden in a tiny little container stuck on the under side
of a park bench along the main street.

The second one was apparently hidden by the same person, in the same manner
at the other end of town… and by “town” I mean like four blocks. Seriously.

The third one was a little tougher to find and it forced us to get off the main drag.
We had to check out some of the local woods to find the GeoCache. Chris found a
large box hidden in the nook under some tree roots. The box was filled with crazy
trinkets for you to exchange with.

Then it was back on the road… pedaling further. More rolling hills… which I love!
We don’t have many hills here in Chicago, so I’m much more accustomed to the flat cornfields
and even  flatter lakefront. So when I get to play on some rolling hills, I’m a very happy biker!!!

Further down the road, we found some incredibly beautiful horses standing on the side
of the road. At first we thought they might be statues… standing so still, standing so tall.
But of course, we had to stop and play for awhile. After getting off our bikes, and a little
encouragement, the horses finally came over to see us. There were two of them,
named Lincoln & Ford. They are Fiersian Horses – and they might be the most beautiful
horses I’ve ever seen?! And the friendliest. The owner came out to chat with us and explained
that the breed is know for being so sociable & friendly.

In the last stretch of our ride, the sky grew dark again… impending storm approaching.
We’re smart enough to know when it’s time to seek cover. So we did. Minutes after we were
safe under the roof of a deserted store front, the rain came pouring down… lightning…
thunder… and HAIL. Yes, hail. We missed the storm and watched a lot of other bikers
riding through it as we sat their in the dry entryway. When it cleared up, we started out again.
Only to stop a few more miles down the road under a forest preserve pavilion with a bunch of
other “stranded” bikers also waiting out the storm. This is where we met Liz. One of the most
upbeat & bubbly people we have ever met. Many people can become a little downtrodden
with the storms… but not Liz. She was just excited to be having this adventure!

By the time we made it to the finish school, we were finally dry and ready for dinner.
It was very hot & humid… with another round of storms predicted for overnight.
But nothing that a large hot fudge sundae couldn’t help with… especially when you have Liz
with for the trip. We invited her to join us for ice cream, and she never stopped talking!!!
Recently retired and ready to take the world by storm! Too funny… such wonderful energy!

Categories: artists, bike, friends, nature, vacation

GRABAAWR – Eagle River to Land O’Lakes to Rhinelander

After a fun night with friends, and a yummy dinner, I was more then ready to get started
riding today. And with the sun shining bright, Chris and I were more than excited to tackle
the Century option. Sure, we could ride the easier 48-mile route, but why would you want to?!
It’s gorgeous up here in the Northwoods… and we’re here to ride, right?!
After a good breakfast in Eagle River, we set off for a wonderful 100-mile bike ride!

When you’re pedaling through the Northwoods, it is so breathtaking With a beautiful hint
of evergreen scent permeating the air. Road after road of beautiful trees and rolling hills.
Along the way, there are always plenty of things to see & stop to look at. Like this little stop
along the road that told us we would see where the Wisconsin River originates from. And
since our entire week’s bike ride was going to follow the river, we felt we needed to see it.

The hike back was pretty short, but beautiful. The Northwoods were beautiful & lush.
I was actually a little surprised when we finally saw where the river begins…

So apparently, the Wisconsin River starts here… with a small, somewhat anti-climactic
trickle of water coming off Lac Vieux Desert through a very industrial-looking dam.
The dam may not be much, but the lake is pretty beautiful.

While in Land O’Lakes, the sky opened up and looked like something right out of Montana?!
A lot of “big sky” moments up there. An incredibly beautiful day for riding a hundred miles!

The route took us down the center of town, past two of my favorite Land O’Lakes businesses.
The Dari-Maid which sadly was still closed that early in the morning. As well as the Artistree
Gallery where some of my fellow Art Detour artists work and show their artwork. Sadly,
Artistree was also closed… so I didn’t get to stop in and chat with Wendy who runs the place!

And when you’re “that” far north, you might as well pedal across the border into Michigan!
It was just a half-block off the route, so don’t be too impressed…

When we finally made it to Rhinelander, I was a little more sunburned than I would like.
I had put on sunscreen earlier in the day, but then again, after a hundred miles of riding
& sweating, it’s tough to keep protected. Plus, my pastey white skin has not had much time to
be exposed to the sun this summer yet, so today’s Century ride was kind of a shock to my system!
Luckily, we had another evening of fun planned with Amy and another Northwoods friend.
This time we stayed nearby in Rhinelander and went to another Art Detour artist‘s house.
This time we met up with glass artist Kathy Furda and her husband Joel who took us for a very
relaxing boat ride around the lake they live on.

We then went to a wonderful restaurant, where I had grilled ELK for the first time!
Another great evening with good friends, great conversation, laughs & yummy food.
But the best part was that the restaurant was part of a local resort that reminded me
far too much of the resort in “Dirty Dancing.”

And no trip to Rhinelander is complete without a quick drive past the “official” town Hodag!
Yes, the city’s mascot is a huge Hodag! A what?… yeah, no one seems to know, really…

Luckily, Amy survived the Hodag Attack. And we made it home for a quiet night in our tents.
Getting ready for another day of riding tomorrow!


Categories: bike, friends, vacation

It seemed like along time coming… but it’s finally here!
Vacation!!! A week of biking & camping across the state of Wisconsin!

GRABAAWR : The GReat Annual Bicycle Adventure Along the Wisconsin River.

So today we traveled up to Eagle River, Wisconsin. Sounds easy, but a lot went into
getting me there on time! After finishing summer camp late Friday afternoon, I had to
clean up from camp, then get home to start packing and getting ready to be gone for a week.
And yes, I am one of those who feels that the place needs to be clean before you leave. So I
had a lot of chores, projects & laundry to do before I could even start packing. As the night
continued, I began to realize that I wasn’t going to get much sleep… if any.

Very early Saturday morning I drove to my friend Chris’s house in Elk Grove Village.
We packed up my car to drive us, our luggage and our bikes to the staging zone located in
Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin… a good 4-1/2 hours away. And we needed to be there between
8:00-10:00am to get everything in the trucks and buses to get up to the Northwoods. So it was
a long, dark morning drive to Prairie du Chien – both of us quite tired. Luckily, we were able to
get some sleeping in on the bus ride north… despite the rain we were driving through!

Once we arrived in Eagle River, we checked in at registration and stowed away out stuff
into our tents. I called my friend, potter & fellow Art Detour artist Amy Higgason to join us
for dinner. Amy lives pretty close to Eagle River and she had coordinated an evening dinner
with her, and our friends Pam & Pat. Although I was still pretty tired, it was great to start
off my week’s vacation spending my first night in the Wisconsin Northwoods with friends!
And I tried not to pay too much attention to the rain that was pouring down outside…
gushing from the gutters… questioning if my tent was still dry inside?!!!

Categories: bike, sunrise

Another early morning…

Which gave me some extra time to hang out down on Navy Pier while the sun
was making another stunning appearance over the lakefront!

Categories: creativity, summer camp

Today was another fun day at Summer Camp. It was Tie-Dye Thursday…
and you know how I loves me some groovy tie-dye!!!

Categories: clay, summer camp

Today is going to be another day of kids wheelthrowing.
But today we switch to terra cotta… so it’s going to be a messy, messy day!

Categories: bike, sunrise

The sunrise keeps getting earlier… and therefore so does my alarm clock.
Fewer people on the path at that time of the morning.
But look what they’re missing!

I started out a little earlier than usual… while it was still pretty darn dark!

And then the sun was getting ready to make it over the horizon, a back of clouds made
their way into place. Adding a little more color & drama to the morning sky.

But then as I was headed home, thinking that I had already captured the sunrise on film,
the sun seemed to be in just the right place at the right time. Creating another beautiful view
over Belmont Harbor. Perfect for bikers and joggers apparently…

Categories: summer camp

Meanwhile, my afternoon campers are working diligently on their collage projects.
They started by drawing their own pictures… including some diptychs… and one triptych!
Then they tackled the stash of magazines to find the colors they needed to create their
masterpieces. Cutting small pieces of “color” out of the photographs in the magazine.
They’re well on their way to finishing their collages… then a finishing layer of Mod Podge!!!

Tomorrow they’ll take a break for some tie-dye fun!!!
Then it’s back to finishing their collages on Friday!

Categories: stamps, summer camp

This morning, my wheelthrowing campers trimmed & finished their first stoneware pots.
And look… surprisingly, they were also stamping them!                                  Go figure…