The Far Outliers spent last weekend in the stormy Wisconsin Dells, celebrating my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday with a small family reunion in a cabin at Cedar Crest Lodge on the Wisconsin River, just off Sauk County Highway A, barely half a mile from where Lake Delton cut a new path (or widened an old path) across the highway into the river. When we tried to drive out down Highway A last Monday, we were turned back by policemen at the floodpath who told us to head back uphill to Bunker Drive, which we had heard was partially washed out the previous night when part of the family drove back to Madison.
We got away at 6 a.m., stopped in tiny DeForest, WI (home of the Pink Elephant), to refill our rented Camry’s near-empty gas tank for $57.50 (@ $3.96/gal., the cheapest we found) and to have a good, meaty breakfast at DeForest Family Restaurant, and managed to return the car to O’Hare by 10:30 a.m., in ample time for our flight out. That one full tank took us from O’Hare to the Dells and back, and from the Dells to Dane County Regional Airport and back to pick up our daughter on Saturday, the day when all hell broke loose.
Soon after Miss Outlier and I returned, the sky darkened, the wind kicked up, the power went out, and the manager came around to announce a tornado warning and advise us to seek shelter in the exercise lodge, which had windowless concrete block walls in two long, narrow restrooms on the ground floor. That warning period lasted about an hour. Not long after it ended, we heard sirens again, and spent another half hour watching tree branches fall to the ground and getting to know our few neighbors a bit better. Fortunately, the wind and rain let up a little and the power came back on by the time the last of our party arrived from Madison for dinner, which featured brats, burgers, grilled veggies, salad, and a birthday cake with 80 candles (unfrosted except for some residue of candlewax on top).
Friday had been clear enough for us to drive down through Baraboo to Devil’s Lake and hike halfway up a rock face to a balanced rock. And Sunday was clear enough for me to walk a mile or so up Highway A to take a picture of the now rather beachless Aloha Beach Resort & Suites. The highway was crisscrossed with trails for Wisconsin Ducks, vehicles that have aided rescue efforts in many flood conditions, including yeoman work in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. For much of our time around the cabin, the Ducks would pass us going up Hillside Drive, but we saw one or two rush back downhill just after the tornado warnings.
UPDATE: On the way to and from Aloha Beach Resort, I passed some interesting gateways and an historical marker, which I’ll reproduce here.
Here on the Wisconsin River the lost village of Newport was begun in 1853, planned for a city of 10,000. Assuming that the Milwaukee & Lacrosse Railroad would cross the river here, over 2,000 settlers quickly came to Newport, causing a lively land boom. When the bridge and dam were ultimately located a mile upstream after an alleged secret moonlight survey, Newport was almost completely deserted in favor of Kilbourn City (today Wisconsin Dells). Only Dawn Manor, with its servant quarters, remains. Dawn Manor was completed in 1855 by Capt. Abraham Vanderpoel, friend of Lincoln and a signer of the Wisconsin Constitution. The home is built of Potsdam sandstone, white mahogany, and white pine, put together with brass screws and wooden pegs. Dawn Manor houses the art collection of George Raab, one of Wisconsin’s famous artists.
More on Dawn Manor and the aftermath of the flooding and drainage of Lake Delton can be found at random blonde thoughts.