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

So I must admit that I didn’t really know that much about Louisville before going there.
I knew there was a river. I knew there were bridges. Only because I knew I would be swimming in it and under them. But I didn’t expect for the Ohio River and their multiple bridges to be so beautiful… or wide?! The Ohio River was almost as wide as the Mississippi River at this point. A little daunting for my upcoming open-water swim!!!

 

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Categories: bike, friends, vacation

After a long & wandering road trip, we finally arrived in Louisville, Kentucky.
We tried to avoid the construction traffic everyone was complaining about. And somehow we wound up in the middle of nowhere relying on Siri and Google to send us in the right direction. Along the way we had a ton of fun, saw some wonderful landscapes, and even a wonderful Amish community. Sometimes it’s fun to get “lost” along the way!

After we checked into our hotel and lugged all of our luggage and gear up to the room, we took a little walking tour to see the town and grab some food. It was fun to see the excitement at Fourth Street Live… Louisville’s center attraction. Lots of neon. Lots of music. Lots of food. LOTS OF EXCITEMENT!!!

It’s a little nerve-racking knowing that in just two days this will all transform into
The Finish Line!!!

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Categories: vacation, weather

It was a beautiful drive up north to Minneapolis today. The sky was clear and it was surprisingly warm… nearly 90-degrees?!!! What? It hasn’t been this warm forever!!! As I continued north, the clouds started getting thicker and more dramatic. Beautiful.

I got a text message from Sarah telling me to be careful driving in the thunderstorm. Of course I said “What thunderstorm?” And then about 30 minutes later, and a few miles further north, I found out. As the beautiful cloud cover was replaced by a huge deluge… serious wiperblade action. As much as I wanted to take some pictures, I thought it better to keep my hands safely on the wheel.

Categories: family, special events, travel, vacation

Yesterday we all “played hookie” and spent the day at Six Flags Great America. A wonderful day of roller coasters, ear-piercing screams and theme park food. This was our third “annual” excursion with my niece Taylor. Each year she gets a free ticket for reading a certain number of books in school. And with the new school year right around the corner, we needed to squeeze this in quickly. So Monday was the day!!!

Taylor is now tall enough to go on EVERYTHING!!! Once she was measured and given the coveted red wristband, she was ready to tackle everything… first up, the “Superman” roller coaster. They hook you into you seat and then rotate it forward so you’re “flying” face down just like Superman. So yes, the track is above you so you can’t really see it while you’re riding it. And yes, Taylor was quite the trooper… a few hysterical ear-piercing screams along the way… but all smiles at the end.

Then we calmed it down a bit with a spinning, rotating “lobster” ride. The perfect time for a quick photo shoot of Taylor and her mom Jen… my sister. But once the ride got started, my cousin Kim wasn’t quite so calm any more?!!!

Sure, who am I to pass up a foolish photo-op?!!!

Next up it was the “Batman” roller coaster. Taylor started out a bit more determined… kind of enjoying the fact that this is a regular sitting roller coaster. Okay, sure there’s no floor and your feet kinda dangle over nothing, but still better than flying face down!!!

Whew… made it… bottom lip still quivering just a little…

Next a quiet ride along a lazy river in the “Logger’s Run” boat ride. We got a little wet when we made the big splash – and it felt great as the day was warming up as the sun kept popping out more & more.

And then “Goliath.” The newest roller coaster at Six Flags Great America. Hyped as the tallest, steepest & faster wooden roller coaster. I’d say it was good, but not great. Always fun the first time, but I doubt it will hold up to the test of time. And I must admit… I expected taller. I expected steeper. I expected faster. What I DIDN’T expect was so many upside-down flips!!! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE flipping upside-down. I just didn’t expect it.

Then we tackled a few more rides like “The Revolution” and “American Eagle.” Taylor conquered The Eagle two years ago, so this time it was no big deal. A little more rickety than any of us remember, but still a lot of fun. Followed by lunch and a little relaxed time eating in the Pavilion.

Next up was “The Viper” – another older wooden roller coaster wit a lot of pop-out-of-your-seat-hills. Which I love. And quickly enough, “The Viper” became Taylor’s favorite roller coaster of the day!!!

Mom & Taylor both enjoyed their trip on “The Viper”… a little exhausted, but fun.

A little post-ride selfie with my cousin Kim.

Looming on the horizon was my FAVORITE – “The Raging Bull.”

Locked in and ready to go… clickety-clacking up that first big hill approaching the big drop. It was at this point that we saw Taylor having a little melt-down. A little anxiety kicking in as she was trapped, go upwards and not too pleased with it… as a single tear ran down her cheek. We were all concerned that maybe we had taken her one step too far??? But she knew it was “may favorite” and I think she knew that she just “had to” go on it!!!

Soon enough the ear-piercing screeches began again… shrieking over every hill & twist…

Relieved that she made it to the end…

Whew…

Thumbs up if you liked the ride!!!

And yet “The Viper” was still Taylor’s favorite… so why not do it again?…

This time she was ready. She knew what to expect. She was ready…

And then the screaming kicked in once again…

But still lovin’ “The Viper.”

Our last ride was “The Condor” as our day was all too quickly drawing to a close. We all assumed the park was open until 10:00pm. We were all surprised to find out it closed at 7:00pm. So a fond farewell from Kim…

And some “glamour shots” of the park as the sun was hitting everything just right.

And there it is, another year under out belts. Another great trip to Six Flags Great America. And Taylor was a trooper… as was her Mom. The deal was that Jen would go on any roller coaster that Taylor went on. And I think this was probably the most roller coasters that Jen has EVER done in one day!!! It was a great day for everyone.

So Taylor… keep reading so we can go again next summer!!!

 

Categories: nature, vacation

After nearly three weeks of working every single day, we finally got a day off today. The semi-trucks are all packed… and we headed off to the beach. We decided to hit Dewey Beach, just south of Rehoboth. We were pleased with how un-crowded the beach was. The day started out cloudy & overcast…

Still nice enough to stick my “painfully-white” feet into the ocean…

After about an hour, the clouds started to pass, and the blue skies were filling in.

And what’s more fun on the beach than making sandcastles?! Well these were a few I found along the way as I strolled along the ocean.

 

Categories: bike, vacation

GRABAAWR – Richland Center to Prairie du Chien

The last day of any long bike ride is always bittersweet. It’s kind of exciting to finish
the journey. But sad that you have come to the end of your journey. That the fun & excitement
has come to an end. That your vacation is over and tomorrow it’s back to reality.

So it’s always important to cherish the final day… and the final miles. And today we set off
again with some cloudy skies as we cross the Wisconsin River… one more time.

Enjoying the moment with my friend Chris (right) and our Wisconsin biking friend Sue (center).
Gotta love the arm up, hold the camera and shoot your own self-portraits!

So we headed out early, knowing that we would still have a long drive home ahead of us
at the end of the ride. But never too early for more pie.. this time from the ladies at
St. John’s Church. Great food. Great ladies. Raising money for a great cause.

The day was fairly overcast, with fewer scenic stops along the way. Unless you consider
a large state penetentiary as a scenic stop?… keep pedaling, keep pedaling. But I did love
some of the “lawn art” we saw today… including this “wonderful & patriotic” angel?!

Plus, many of you might be aware of my strange fascination with roadkill. Ive spared you
the gruesome photos… just know that I do stop & take pictures of of them along the way!
Throughout the week there have been so many to see. Deer, raccoons, opossum, turtles,
birds & more. But it seemed so oddly fitting that the “final” roadkill of the week would be
one of the orange Bike Wisconsin flags that had fallen off one of the SAG trucks!

And there it is… Another wonderful week on my bike! Just over 500 miles of fun!!!
Pedaling across the state along the Wisconsin River with my friend Chris.
We both had a wonderful time seeing the scenery, smelling the Northwoods and sharing
this wonderful experience together. I’ve always said that biking is the best way to travel.
You get to see things, smell things an feel things along the way that you would never get
to see if you’re zooming by inside a car. So many great chances to enjoy the beauties of nature.

 

Categories: bike, vacation

GRABAAWR – Baraboo to Richland Center

Today was another beautifully sunny day. We were ready for another wonderful day.
And started off a little earlier than normal for a little longer mileage today. But even though
we may have started earlier, it’s never too early to take a break and cool off with your feet
in the water! If there’s a pier… we’re always ready to stop… I’ve always said that
“the best part about biking, is stopping.” And if you don’t take time to stop and enjoy your
surroundings, you’re going to miss a lot of life passing you by.

Today’s route was wonderful. And took us through one of my favorite Wisconsin State Parks.
There was an option for the riders to go around the park on the easier route, over through the
park up & over the bluffs on the more difficult route. Of course we chose the more beautiful
and more difficult hills route. And it was well worth the extra effort. After the one big hill climb
up the bluffs on the west side of the park, it was a beautiful downhill ride pretty much through
the rest of the park. Of course we did have to stop long the way… there was another pier!
And it overlooked the bluffs we had just ridden up & over.

Shortly after exiting Devil’s Lake State Park (with one of the best downhill coasting rides ever)
we found ourselves waiting for the Merrimac Ferry. And since we were waiting, it seemed like
the perfect time for a huge ice cream waffle cone!

On the other side of the river, it was back to farmlands and beautiful skies!

And although the pictures don’t really show it… it was pretty windy today.
And of course, we were riding straight into the wind! Figures, huh?! So it was very hot,
and very windy, and we were working extra hard on a long mileage day. There were plenty
of times when I looked back and found Chris tucked in and drafting behind me. So we made
frequent stops for more Gatorade, a quick run through some sprinklers and even some pie!
As we rolled through Spring Green, we stopped at a couple art galleries, a few little shops and
saw this sign that quickly pulled us in… for some Bumbleberry Pie ala mode!

Along the way there were other great things to find. Like some rusty art… and you know how
I love me some good rust! And an unusual wood plank with a smile on it that we now know is
somehow attached to a horse’s hoof so they can walk through snow & slush better. Kinda like
snowshoes for horses. Which was interesting, because my friend Amy gave me one of these
(sans metal hooks) last year for Christmas and we had no idea what it was used for…
she just thought it was great because it had a face on it?! Now we know…

The day started to get really long as the miles started taking their toll. It was hot.
We were tired. But never too tired to stop and see some cute donkeys on a farm on the side
of the road. The ride in was spotted with very picturesque farms on incredible rolling hills.
It was incredibly beautiful to ride through in late afternoon as the sun was lowering
and casting some great light across the fields.

Hill after hill, we started to wonder if we would ever make it to the camp school.
I think this was our longest and toughest day of the week. It may not have been the longest
mileage, but it just felt really longer. Okay, so we did stop quite a few times. And the wind
was a tough element to be faced with. But we just kept plugging along…
and finally made it in. Exhausted. But happy.

 

Categories: bike, GeoCache, vacation

GRABAAWR – Adams-Friendship to Baraboo

Sun shining and ready to roll…

By now we are well out of the scenic wooded Northwoods. And getting more into the flatter,
more agricultural parts of the state. The sky was clear, and another beautiful day on my bike!

As the miles continued before us, it looked something like this… with such promise!
There’s nothing better than the feeling of freedom on the open road.

After a quick stop in Lyndon Station for lunch, we decided to take a moment to see if
there were any GeoCache treasures to be found. A luckily, just a couple blocks away
was one in the town’s Memorial Park. Just another hidden scroll to be signed…

Did I mention lunch?… we stopped at a little diner in town for lunch. Where I had possibly
the best pancakes ever! They were huge, I was starving and they had fresh blueberries
in one and fresh raspberries in the other! Yummy!!!

Further down the road, we pedaled through the Wisconsin Dells – which brought back some
childhood memories. We used to vacation there a lot and it was great to be back… even if
it was just to pedal through it quickly. But not too quick… Chris and I stopped in one of the
“tacky” gift shops looking for Mexican Jumping Beans and my favorite barometer dodo bird.
Sadly, we left empty handed. But had fun sharing our memories with each other.

Towards the end of the route, we passed the International Crane Foundation. I have seen
the signs on the highway for years and have always wanted to stop. Today was the day.
It’s a very nice wildlife park where they have collected some of all of the crane species from
around the world. It seemed very educational – including an area where they have workers
in actual crane costumes helping the crane chicks learn how to survive on their own.

And it wasn’t just cranes… there were a few others hanging out with the whooping cranes!

Plus some wonderful metal sculptures – each showing a different stage of cranes in flight.
And some beautiful yellow cactus that are apparently somehow indigenous to Wisconsin…
that Chris now wants to add to her own landscaping at home.

At the end of the day, we were in Baraboo. A beautiful evening with a beautiful sunset.
And a very welcome surprise… “My Friend Julie” decide to stop by. We met Julie a few
years ago as one of the SAG Staff for the ride. She and her husband Jim have been part
of the Bike Wisconsin rides for years. However this time she had to work for the week.
Tonight she stopped by to see her husband… and ME!!! A great ending to another great day!

Categories: bike, vacation

GRABAAWR – Stevens Point to Adams-Friendship

Day after day, we continue pedaling. By Day Four, your body has gotten used to it
and you just keep going. I find myself almost “forgetting” that I’m pedaling and not
worrying about how far we need to pedal. It becomes more about the journey, the
destination, and the fun.

We stopped of along the way to check out one of those functioning “homestead” places.
Sadly, the place was there – but no functioning! No blacksmith. No cobbler. No people.
The buildings were great – and I especially loved the wonderful wood on the buildings.

Across the street was another find – a local deer farm run by the Dept. of Natural Resources.
Sadly, they weren’t open and we couldn’t get in there. We were striking out. Two for two!
At least the scenery was still beautiful…

There are so many paper mills around in the Wisconsin area, and we went past a lot of them!
This one had a pile of logs waiting on the side of the road waiting to be debarked, dried and
ground into pulp. But of course, we just had to stop and play… again. And the incredible smell
of fresh-cut pine was everywhere.

Along the route there is a lot of wildlife. Sometimes you just need to look in the right places.
Like here on top of some powerlines where an osprey has built its nest.

The ride into town was beautiful, and dinner was pretty tasty in a local park.
But when we got back to the school, and back to our tents, there was a lot of talk of another
huge storm brewing and coming our way! About an hour later, the clouds rolled in
and were quite dramatic! After the storms we have already had, we were ready to
hunker down and hope once again that our tents were water-proof!

Luckily, the clouds blew over with just a little drizzle.

 

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!