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Bill Babler

UP Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota

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Just got home from Lake Superior after a 8 day get away to the UP.  First Summer vacation that Becky and I have taken in 30+ yrs.  We just shut down the lodge and the guide business and went.  Drove 2,200 miles.

The lake was simply beautiful, the only problem was it rained every day and the heat was about 15 degree over average for this time of the year.  It had been highs in the middle 60's to low 70's the first 2 weeks of August.  It was high 80's and pouring for our trip.  Madison Wi got 15 inches one day and we were drowned also.

Upper Pen was a little different than I expected.  Everything up there is OLD and for SALE.  Don't think I have ever been in a larger forest.  2 city blocks off the road and you are lost.  It is so much wilder and thicker than Alaska it is unbelievable.

There is some very nice lodging with fantastic views of the lake and the restaurants are very good.  Lots of commercial caught lake trout and white fish   The towns have wonderful hanging baskets and flowers everywhere that are spectacular.

Almost all the super markets sell wonderful sausage, cheese and smoked fish, along with lots of local wine and craft beer.  Everything we tried was fantastic.  Wild rice for sale everywhere and most of the restaurants use it in almost every dish.  I had walleye encrusted with wild rice flour one day that was amazing.  They mix the native wild rice with brown rice and serve it as a very common side dish.  it is very good.  Lots of lamb dishes, along with blue berries and in the next week or so apples.  We saw some of the most impressive vegetable gardens we have ever seen with most folks having a produce stand out in front of their home, with tomatoes, cabbage, sweet corn, peppers, melons and just about any veg you can think of.  Everything is in season right now.

I had booked a smallmouth charter but it was rained out.  That made me pretty sad as I had been looking forward to it for a month.  Main lake superior is a constant temp of about 39 to 42 degree in the summer, but the bays get into the low 70's and SM are in most of them.  I was going to fish Chequamegon Bay out of Ashland.  It is a catch and release SM fishery and said to harbor just about all the 18" to 22" jaws you can to catch in a day. 

For you farming or agri types, Southern Wisconsin is a complete dream.  Magnificent agricultural fields of corn, beans, alfalfa, red clover were everywhere and the farms were manicured as well or better than most any golf course you have ever seen. The flower gardens and hanging baskets around the homes were simply magnificent.  All the crop fields were deep, deep green shining with extreme vigor.  The alfalfa and clover were in full bloom. Thousands of acres of alfalfa and red clover, just amazing.  The corn seemed to be 10' high.  Some of these fields were over a mile long and the ditches were cut with lawn mowers or pull behind mowers of the finest quality as the road ditches and around any bins or even away from the homes was cut as well as any golf course.  I repeated that but it was something I have never seen.  Must take hours per week to just keep that amount of acreage. mowed to that amazing perfection.

The farms and small towns in Iowa were nice and the crops fine, but nothing like Southern Wisconsin.

All and all we had a great trip except for the rain and the Enterprise rent a wreck we drove.  Had to go 200 miles out of our way to exchange the first break down for the second wreck of a car but none the less we had fun.

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Another Quicky

We stopped the first night in Clear Lake Iowa. It was getting late and we were starved we asked our person at the front desk of the lodging if they had a good restaurant near by.  She asked if we like steaks and said in Mason City about 10 minutes away there was one of the best steak houses in the entire country.

We headed that way to the Northwestern Steak House.  OMG,  this boy can eat a steak but never have I had a better one than we did that night.  We got over there at 7 PM and they said the wait was 9:30.  Not going to do that and then all of a sudden the girl said she could get us in if we could sit in the back booth by the kitchen door.  Yep.

I ordered the 14oz. ribeye and Becky had the 8oz. fillet.  Both were magnificent, cooked to perfect order, not grilled but seared in a 600 degree black iron skillet and then finished in the oven at 500 degree.   Here is the kicker, as a side instead of potato I got the house spaghetti.  Looked just like regular white spaghetti on the plate with some black pepper and chives mixed in but it was without a doubt one of the best things I have ever tasted.

Asked the waitress about it and she said it is regular spaghetti but then the magic begins.  All of the steak drippings and pan leavings with pure virgin olive oil are mixed into the skillet with. 2 pads of butter, Cavenders Greek Seasoning, 2 crushed chicken B. cubes garlic and then Parmigiano Reggiano cheese from Europe finish the side dish off.  If I am ever, ever within 200 miles of that place I  will find a way to get back over there.  As a matter of fact, I just might make that a destination trip.

Just interested to know if any former's have eaten at the Northwestern at Mason City.  If you live in Iowa, get your tails over there, it is simply incredible.

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Sounds like a great trip, except for the rain.  

I have always wanted to go up there and fish for those big smallmouth.  Seems it would make sense to hire a guide for a couple of days rather than haul the boat up there.  

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That bay is massive and most of the fishing is off shore on structure in August, so just to head up there with a boat would make little sense.  I guess if you go in late June you can take a boat and pretty much fish about anywhere and do well. 

Lots of resorts on the water front and most really reasonable priced as was the food.  Compares quite the same as our prices down here, except gas and it was over 3 bucks if you did not want huge amounts of alcohol.  We tried both in the rental rig and if you used the E85 it would cut your mileage by at least 1/3.  This ran $2.69 to $2,89 per gal to the 91 that was most places $3:01to $305 no alcohol.  My navigator figured out the 91 was the best by for the money.  We drove 2 rentals a jeep limited and a Rogue and both of them would clatter and spatter on the E85, Nasty.

 

Yes I'm not done up there yet, I'm going to go back and go fishing, not to mention stop by that steakhouse again.

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Wisconsin is a pretty place for sure, I grew up there.  You forgot to mention that the barns are all well painted, Garrison Keeler could not have described it any better.  I have eaten at the steakhouse during bird season.  Good pheasant hunting in the area.  

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Glad you were able to get away on vacation Bill.  It's not something you do very often.  Sorry about the bad weather but it's been a weird year just about everywhere.  Nice report on Taney trout too.  Thanks.

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