Sand Hill Cranes East Of Star Prairie

So what if gas prices are hitting $3.39 a gallon and global warming is beating down on us. Sometimes a guy has to get in the car, pop in a favorite CD (Lucinda Williams' Car Wheels and a Gravel, I believe) and head east into the countryside. I did just that Friday evening.

The drive from my house takes me up and down the hills east of New Richmond over to Cylon. This was no fact fining mission. I know these roads like the back of my hand. Driven them by car and bicycle year round for the past 20 years. There was no hurry on this drive.

I wind my way over towards Cylon to see if the bar is open. Don't know the name of the bar, but it changes every six months. Looks like it finally gave up the bar ghost and has been turned into a living arrangement of some type. That bar's had many lives. Regardless of the name, the motife has always been redneck. On afternoon biking to the east, the Cylon bar was always a pop stop. I never met anybody there that I knew, but we did have a few good laughs there.

Being that New Richmond's Fun Fest was this weekend, I'll share a Cylon bar memory from 1997. It was a Sunday after a Saturday night of Fun Festing till the bars closed. The temperature at noon was at least 95. The wife, who tends to get cranky the day after her nights on the town, asked me what I was going to do. She assumed I was going to say take a nap, but I send go for a bike ride.

"It's almost 100 degrees out there," she said, "are you frigging nuts!"

Maybe I was "frigging nuts," but the alternative of staying home with a hungover wife would certificate that I was frigging nuts. Whatever my choice, she was going back to the air conditioned darkness of the bedroom and sleep some more. So I go on my bike and headed east.

When I rode into Cyclon, it had to be 100 degrees. So I stopped at the bar and headed in for a couple of cold pops. Keep in mind, I had my spandex biking shorts and a bright orange shirt that had earned me the nickname of "the great pumpkin." Before I grab a seat at the bar, one of the five or so good old boys preached on a stool wheeled around and said, "I can not goddamn believe anyone would be out riding a bicycle on a day like today in this heat! You must be nuts."

After I ordered a Coke and turned and addressed the boys. I said something like this:
"Boys, life is all about choices. Yesterday was Fun Fest in New Richmond. After spending an afternoon in Hudson drinking beers with a couple of old high school buddies, I went home, picked up the wife and went drinking in downtown New Richmond. We proceeded to hit most of the bars and closed the night out a Fast Freddies. I was feeling no pain when I go home and neither was the wife. In fact we sat outside and had a couple more. The sun was starting to come, when we called it a night. And know you ask me how I could be out riding a bike on a day like today? As I said, life is about choices. I could choose to stay home with a severely hungover wife or I could go for a ride in the hot sun."

I took a sip of Coke and asked them, "What would you do?"

"Hell," said the guy who originally asked the question, "I'd be out riding a bike too." Everybody had a big laugh and the big guy bought me another Coke.

(My biking records show that I rode 48 miles that Sunday afternoon. The hangover disappeared some where northeast of Cylon.)

But on Friday evening there was no bar to stop at in Cylon so I headed north and drown east of Hwy 48 and south of Deer Park over towards Star Prairie. Just east and north of Star Prairie I spotted a family of sand hill cranes in the field. I have seen and more likely heard sand hills migrating in the spring and fall, but I had never seen any hanging around and raising their young. I pulled over and watched them for a while.

Then I headed into Star Prairie and parked down by Island Park along the Apple River. I hadn't stopped by this park since they spruced it up. It is a beautiful park now. They installed fishing platforms, a couple of sitting decks with bunches and paved a winding pathway along the river. After sitting on a bench in the shade and listening to the Apple work its way through the rocks and around the island behind the trout farm, I headed into New Richmond to go check out Fun Fest.

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