Despite being desperately tired from our previous day’s drive, we rose early to the sound of a rooster crowing and the enticing aroma of coffee. My friend’s mother had prepared a sumptuous breakfast which we ate leisurely outdoors in the cool of the morning and the shade of an apple tree.
I learned that it had been hot and dry here all summer, and that this part of Wisconsin was in the throes of a very serious drought. Our next two days on the farm were spent ambling through the surrounding countryside, which bore evidence of the desolate effect a drought can have. We wandered through fields of stunted and failing crops, and found vast swathes of cracked mud where once were ponds. Disconsolate frogs and dragonflies gathered around the small patches of wet mud that survived, and snail shells by the hundreds were the only traces of the vibrant ecosystems that had been decimated by the arid conditions.
Sprocket cast off his city ways and embraced life on the farm. He proved adept at finding the few muddy patches that remained, emerging proudly from his latest find caked in thick dark wet earth with a satisfied gleam in his eye. In cleaner moments, he frolicked with his farm dog cousin Paddy in flower-strewn meadows and happily posed for the occasional photo.
For all of Sprocket’s country gamboling, however, there remained a fascinating gulf between him and Paddy. Paddy was a farm dog through and through and I swear if he were human, he would wear dungarees and chew tobacco. Next to him, even when caked in mud, Sprocket had an air of refinement and, I fancy, of erudition. You could have a conversation with Sprocket and feel like you were both getting something out of it. Paddy just wanted me to throw a ball. So I did exactly that and we were both happy.
Further afield we found forest and all manner of woodland creatures peering out through chinks in the thick of the trees. Most were too quick for my lens, although I did manage to capture a quick photo of one cheeky little onlooker who believed himself hidden from sight. I didn’t want to shatter his illusions but Paddy caught his scent and gave the game away. We bid a hasty retreat to let the little fellow forget our intrusion and resume his bucolic existence.
My friend decided to show me around, so we took a drive and I was surprised to discover we had landed in the little township of Erin, with street names such as Donegal Road and O’Connell Street bearing witness to the Irish immigrants who had settled here. There was a long, winding lane rumoured to be haunted by a beast that chased cars off the road in the dead of night. We drove it in the daylight and thankfully had no such encounter, although my friend swore she had narrowly escaped the wrath of the beast several years before.
High up on a tree-covered hill, the spires of a church beckoned parishioners to their devotions. Aptly named Holy Hill, it is home to an order of Carmelites, or more specifically, Discalced or Barefoot Carmelites, so called because they wear sandals which were traditionally the footwear of the poor. We spied quite a few sandal-shod friars as we explored the grounds and climbed the tower to take in the view. The church interior was intriguing; almost all of it paying homage to Mary, with only one small alcove off to the side reserved for a statue of Jesus. I picked up a leaflet which told of a group of European hermits who settled on Mount Carmel in Israel in the thirteenth century and built a chapel dedicated to Mary. I don’t know enough about the Carmelite order to understand the significance of their choice to dedicate to Mary, but I admire the nod to girl power.
On the way back to the farm, we stopped by Wisconsin’s Automotive Museum and happened upon a chap who was readying one of Wisconsin’s vintage cars, the Kissel, for a vintage car rally. It was quite a treat to get up close and personal with such a rare beauty – there are only 150 ‘Kissel Kars’ known to exist today.
Back at the farm, my friend managed to catch up with her school pals who eagerly filled her in on all the gossip from the reunion she had so narrowly missed. Meanwhile, her dad busied himself by repacking the car, miraculously managing to fit all of our belongings plus Sprocket’s crate inside the back of the car, rearranging things so that I could sit up front. I bravely hid my disappointment at leaving my spot in the back seat. It was the best feeling in the world to have Sprocket sprawled out with his head snuggled into me, but he would need to get used to being in the back seat alone at some point if my friend ever needed to drive somewhere alone with him. Tomorrow we would brave the roads around Chicago and make our way further east. For now, we settled in to enjoy our last few hours of life on the farm.
Ailsa the amazing storyteller. The photos are good illustrations, but the story would be good even without them.
Thanks Trish, glad you enjoyed it. xxx
I should have mentioned my favourite photos: the animal in the tree trunk, and Sprocket in the flowery field.
Haha, thanks Trish, it felt a little bit like a scene out of Snow White or something, with all these little creatures popping their heads out of the darkness of the forest 😉
Your language in this post is beautiful. Even without the beautiful photographs, you bring alive your experience for the reader. Thanks 🙂
That’s really lovely feedback, thanks so much, Deliberately Delicious. I really appreciate it. xxx Ailsa
I am always looking forward to see where you go to next and what you are up to. Seems like you are having tons of fun. Glad we can experience it with you through your blog.
Oh teedeevee, I’m having so much fun it should be illegal. Thanks for coming along for the ride! xxx
I love the little details of the countryside, and your photos in this post. I can really imagine being there.
Thanks Denise, this little patch of countryside is just as lovely as you imagine it to be 😉 xxx
Looks like you’re having a great time on your road trip. It’s really a shame about that drought…
Yes, Kathy, it’s been such an incredible journey. It’s sad to see the effect the drought had on the surrounding countryside, and the farms were suffering too.
Caught up at last! Am so enjoying your road trip Ailsa, and your great photos remind me of my own cross-continental drives, way back when!
Hurrah, glad you’re up to date on my misadventures, Wanderlust. I bet you’ve had plenty of amazing trips too, judging by your blog. Love the Goddess and the Machines! xxx
I’ve had a blessed life, Ailsa, I admit it with lots of wonderful wanderings, many of them by road, which is really the most wonderful way to travel because you can stop wherever you want, whenever you want – to nose around, and that’s what i love to do.
So glad you enjoyed the Goddess and the Machines. She’s my newest pinup girl 🙂
I’m glad you enjoyed it. Does your dog always accompany you when you travel? Great story.
Hi Agnes, he’s not my doggy, he’s my friend’s, and I was accompanying him as he gets carsick and my friend asked me to come along for the trip to keep him company. How could I refuse? 🙂
I love your photos! You really have a gift for capturing a time and place within the collection. Beautiful. (I’m partial to the beautiful dog photo, too)…
Thanks for the compliments, Silversound7, I can’t claim much credit for the doggy photo, Sprocket’s terribly photogenic, it’s impossible to take a bad photo of him! 🙂
What experiences you are having on the road trip Ailsa . Get a real flavour of it all with your descriptions and photos ! Now where’s my atlas again …
Haha, love it, poppytump. If my writing inspires you to get out your atlas, it makes me very happy indeed! xxx
You really know how to tell a story! nicely captured!
Thanks so much, deepa, I suspect storytelling is in my blood, I love a good yarn! xxx
It’s like I visited the place with you. Liked it a lot.
Hurrah, Trish, that’s the best compliment any writer could hope to get. Thank you so much, I’m very glad you enjoyed it! xxx
What a delightful post!
Thank you so much! 🙂
What an interesting travelogue. Your photographs are fabulous (I’m a sucker for nature and animals) and I enjoyed reading about the city dog and farm dog.
Thanks, A Table in the Sun, and I love that you call it a travelogue because that’s what I call it too, with a nod to the great travelogues of old. I’m very glad you enjoyed it, and yes, Sprocket and Paddy were endlessly amusing. Dogs usually are!
I love how you give details to your photos and your travels. They keep me interested and entertained. I am learning a lot from your post.
BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!
Thanks so much, Francine, and I’m very happy you’re along for the journey as I write it! xxx Ailsa
Sounds like an amazing trip!
And love that picture of the oldtimer!
Thanks, Dip It Black, it is indeed turning out to be an amazing trip, and dear Sprocket has made it that little bit more wonderful! xxx
I love it!! love your words with pictures. Makes me smile!! Love the part when you speak of the admiration for Mary… Go Girl Power 🙂
Haha, excellent, Lori, Girl Power indeed!
What a beautiful descriptive adventure; thanks for taking me along! Where, may I ask, are you from originally? I detect an accent in your writing. 🙂
Haha, well detected, Darla – I’m from Ireland, so yes, there’s a distinct accent in my writing! 😉
I love how you tell a story of your real life trip and the scenes as you go through your day. I love the photos. The little creature peering through the cracks is amazing. The stain glass window is just beautiful. What a trip you are on; I can’t wait until the next days chapter, but will have to wait for now. Thank you for sharing your trip, I love going on it with you 😉
Thanks Dana, that little guy peeping out from the tree trunk was hilarious, I felt like I was in an animated film. All that was missing was a little fairy dust! Thanks for coming along on the adventure with me! xxx
That stained glass window is so beautiful, Ailsa. Thanks for sharing your adventures. Your photos are great. Love that little woodland creature’s inquisitive face there. 🙂
The church was really impressive, ad, and such an unexpected find in the middle of rural Wisconsin. I love places like this! xxx
Dear little thing peeping through the crack in the tree…..I’m loving your tales, enjoying your travels. Next chapter please!
Whew, I’m writing as fast as I can! Thanks so much, I’m delighted you’re enjoying the trip almost as much as I am! xxx
Another wonderful travel journal – you bring life to everything. Am definitely feeling ‘road trip’ in the back of my mind. I have one dog who loves rides in the car – even long ones and she makes a perfect road trip companion. Love the cat drinking from the water trough – so nice of him to pose perfectly beside the flowers! 😀
Ooh, do it, Photos, a good road trip is soul food! That cat was terribly accommodating; he placed himself so carefully for me! 🙂
Lovely writing, beautiful photos. Congrats on spotting the secret tree beast!
Haha, love it, I shall forever more refer to him as the secret tree beast!
What a lovely excursion–from disconsolate frogs, to Paddy with the sheeny coat, to a bashful, Ariel-like tree dweller… magnificent.
Hurrah, thank you so much, exiledprospero, so glad you enjoyed my story! xxx Ailsa
so really enjoying your travelogue each week. Thanks.
Thank you so much for coming along on the adventure with me, Karen. It wouldn’t be half as fun without my readers to share it with! xxx Ailsa
Thanks you for this blog. “Charlie”: and I loved wandering with you.
And thank you, Kayti, for wandering right along beside me! I appreciate your company! xxx Ailsa
Such a lovely story, especially the Opossum evil eye 🙂
This post is such a great reminder that the joy of road trips is not always found at the “big name” stops! ~ Kat
This is a lovely well written essay complemented by your gorgeous photos. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Always thought I’d love to live on a farm. Still do. Super post. Lucky you :-).
Sprocket, honey? May I please have my heart back? 🙂
Haha, he’s got mine too, Sylver! 🙂
Just catching up on your travels …after following much of the same route. Spent a couple great days exploring Yellowstone last week, then drove from Billings across ND (part of the way in a full-blown blizzard!), then spent three days at the Lake in northern MN about an hour north of Brainerd with all the brothers. As usual, your amazing photos and spirited writing are a joy! Thanks.
Hey there John, good to hear from you! The ND blizzard sounds like quite an adventure, can’t wait to see the pics! Are you still on the road or back in the big city? xxx
Back in the saddle in Times Square for a few weeks, then off to San Diego and Phoenix for a week … Maybe a day or two south of the border!
I really look forward to your travelogue and it never disapoints. Love the photos of the animals especially Sprocket among the flowers looking so happy. Drought is a terrible thing and the photo of the mud cracking catches the devastation
Sprocket is so photogenic it’s hard to take a bad photo of him. Wish I could say the same about me. 😉
The photo of the mouse is incredible? Your trip sounds great.
It’s been a lot of fun so far, gkm, I think the little guy in the tree was actually a baby possum, but he was so small he looked like a mouse! 🙂
Beautiful. That soil looks so dry, though. Hope there is rain soon 🙂
Thanks Ali, I just read a report indicating that there is no relief in sight for the drought in Wisconsin – even the snowfall predictions for the winter are looking much lighter than usual. I hope they get a break soon. x
Enjoy reading your delightful travel story. 🙂 Great shots. The photo of the drought in that part of Wisconsin look sad.
Hi Amy, glad you enjoyed the story – yes, it was sad to see the devastation a drought can wreak, hope it lets up soon. xxx
Your travel writing is second to none!
Isn’t funny how ‘beast’ stories turn up all over the world? 🙂
Yaay, thanks Gilly! It’s true, you can’t beat a good beast story. 🙂
I’ll confess I just read your tale so far… backwards. (It’s episodic, so it doesn’t SEEM like it loses much, but forgive me!) It’s lovely either way. You’ve got some great photos and a great adventure to tell. Thank you for sharing this!
I love it, Josy, I must try at some point to read the story backwards to see what it’s like. I’m glad you’re enjoying it in whichever direction. 🙂
I have soft spot for beautiful stained glass and adorable city pups. Loved your descriptions and I have really enjoyed every day of your trip. 🙂
Thanks Angelia, I must admit I’ve been having rather an enjoyable time of it myself 😉
Another great instalment of your travels, I love the pictures especially the creature peeking out at you!
He was quite a cheeky little chappy. 🙂