There's a little blonde hottie talking head on CNN now named Christi Paul. While pretty, she's no Ralitsa Vasiliva. Outside it's snowing just a bit. The DNR office is just down the road and we're going to be starting later than usual so I'm enjoying some coffee. Being a bit of a coffee snob, I've eschewed the Maxwell House and brought my own stuff from home.
The drive up here to Hayward yesterday was pretty uneventful. It was long, though – somewhere between 4.5 – 5 hours. While the weather held up for us, we didn't leave Madison until 2 so it was dark as we drove north of Eau Claire on 53. It was a stretch of road that I'd not been on in some time. When I was a kid, my parents owned some land up here by Stone Lake. It was an old resort that sat on ninety-some-odd acres, including a bit of shoreline on Lake Big Sissabagama. I had a flashback as we sped by the highway 70 exit which led to Stone Lake. The town of Stone Lake is very small and is a bit of an adjunct to the larger Hayward. Every time I was with my father driving through town, we'd stop at the Stone Lake Pub. And there was an ice cream parlour up on the hill in the center of town. When we needed something that the hardware store couldn't provide, we'd generally head to Hayward, although we made the odd trip to Spooner as well. Hayward was and looks still to be the Wisconsin Dells of the northwoods. (i.e. – a tourist trap) There's a giant muskellunge, they hold lumberjack games here, and the Birkebeiner takes place here as well. Plus there are oodles of lakes for fishing, boating, and the like. During the winter there's cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. Year-round, of course, folks drink.
After checking in, I discovered that I was given a non-smoking room. No big shakes. Dan and I headed out to find a tavern where we could find stiff drink and watch the Packers. I had found the Old Hayward Eatery & Brewpub on the Net so we headed over there. The place was like a mortuary. They weren't serving food because no one had come in for dinner. The bar was open and there was a trio of locals at one end. Dan got his usual bottle o'crap while I tried the porter. I found it to be quite tasty as I struck up a conversation with the bartender, Heidi, as she set down a tray of jello shots in front of us. Old Man Standiford had sent me an e-mail the other day saying that I should check out a tavern called Anglers. Heidi gave us directions there and I found out that she knew Randy, our DNR contact up here. Dan and I finished our beers and headed out. Unfortunately, the directions were wrong or I didn't hear her correctly because we couldn't find Main Street where Anglers was. We drove around aimlessly for a bit before heading to a tavern near our hotel which advertised a Packer Party. We wandered in and found several people milling around, drinking, and cavorting. We got a couple beers and settled in before the big screen TV. It was a long drive and we were hungry so we asked if they had food. Alas, they only had frozen pizzas. I personally wasn't going to eat one so we headed out again. We failed once more to find Main Street and ended up going to Coop's Pizza Parloure. We cozied up to the bar and I was happy to find that they had some tasty imports so I ordered an Erdinger Dunkel Weiss. For dinner, I had a pizza and corn nuggets. Having never heard of corn nuggets, I had to order them. They turned out to be balls of creamed corn that were breaded and friend. Nothing special but they tasted alright, especially when dipped in Tabasco sauce. The pizza was surprisingly tasty and I must admit that I made a glutton of myself. There was a kid at the bar with us – and I say "kid" because he didn't look to be 21 – who started talking to me. A commercial for a spray-on bed liner came on the television and he started telling me that it was a good product as his stepmother's truck had had it applied. He then began rambling on about how much trouble he had fixing the brakes on the truck. And then he went off on the Packers. And blah blah blah. I certainly didn't mind his friendliness; it's just that he was so young and he had already taken up the role of the old-timer sitting at the end of the bar who just blathers. Too young to talk about the Packers of yore or to have a full arsenal of hunting and fishing stories, he went with what he knew. After eating way too much and getting another set of directions, we took off again for Anglers, which was looking more and more like it was a chimera. And again we didn't find it. So we stopped in at Cruzin's or Cruzer's or something like that. It too was quiet. A trio of women were just getting up to leave when we entered. As we drank our beers, the bartender was cleaning up so we left after having had only 1 brew. Walking outside, we hopped into the car. The seat felt weird and there was a mysterious air freshener in front of me. Dan and I sat there for a moment before realizing that we'd gotten into the wrong car. Laughing, we got out and wandered to my car. Both were maroon and both lacked a front passenger side hubcap. Hmmm…
We started heading back to Highway 27 when I saw Main Street and made a hasty turn. Anglers was right there before us. It turned out to be a nice tavern. Not a dive yet very northwoodsy. There were at least a couple deer heads mounted on the wall as well as one from a moose and a bear. Plus there were countless muskies, ducks, pheasants, etc. stuffed and mounted behind glass in these cubby holes in the wall. In addition, there were pictures everywhere. Pictures of Native Americans (who presumably were forced off their land by Hayward's founding fathers), pictures of hunters, trappers, and fisherman from the first half of the 20th century, and various photos of Hayward. Like the pizza joint, the whole place was wood from ceiling to floor. The joint was warm, welcoming, and had good beer. So Dan and I took up residence there for the Packer game.
I woke up this morning in a sweat. My room was like a friggin' sauna. Looking at the thermostat, I found it set at 60 but the temperature of the room was 80. Ugh. And I have no Internet access. Dan does, however. Luckily he brought a long CAT5 cable because the bridge is nowhere near the desk. While I personally don't really need Internet access in my room, my company expects me to respond to e-mail at night. So you'd think that, since they make the hotel reservations, they'd ensure that I'd have a nice smoking room with Net access. But no. I don't wanna hear anything about late replies to time-sensitive e-mails when I can't get a fucking wired room.
Well, I'm off to shower and get ready. A full day here in Hayward today beckons.