My Internet service has been down for a day. It took me almost three hours this morning to establish that it's because the kids are home from school. Well, not exactly because of that, but let's just say there's a bit (pronounced gigabyte) more Internet activity (think downloads of movies and graphics, Internet radio, PDF files, fancy wallpaper and signatures, RAM-eating games, and most importantly, endless instant messaging) than there ever was before school let out. So what happened is that we exceeded our daily download limit of 200 MB, and it's taking the system 24 hours to "recover." Like it's writhing on the ground, unable to send or receive, gagging on downloads, and it's all our fault. What I gathered from the carefully worded advice I received from the tech support person at Hughes.net is that my system would "recover" a whole lot faster if I just got out my Visa card and bought more bandwidth. In fact, I could cure it altogether! We're download hogs, and it's going to cost them ever so much more to accommodate us. It's clever of them, really, to make you sit and stew in your own Net-free juices for 24 hours, then make about five calls, wading waist-deep in automated menu choices that have nothing to do with your problem, trying to track down the branch you should be talking to, sit on megahold for 15 minutes, before finally get a human being (albeit somewhere in Mumbai) who seems to have the answer to your problem. At that point, you're on your knees, waving your credit card, pathetically grateful to hear a living human voice, and ready to do anything to get back online. I didn't cave, this time, but it was unnerving. I need to go back to Wisconsin now.
Brigadoon...er, Bayfield, Wisconsin is just lovely. It has given no ground to chain eateries and very little to condominiums (there's only one modest set that I saw). It perches on a high bluff over Superior, chock full of Victorian manses, drowning in lilac hedges, a serene and regal lady gazing out her parlor window at the ever-changing inland sea of Superior. I stayed at Gray Oak Bed and Breakfast, and slept like a baby in my room on half of the top floor. I felt like Queen for a weekend, eating my raspberries and cream and scones in my room. The Chequamegon Bay Birding and Nature Festival sure knows how to treat a country mouse, and I thank Neil and Susan for extending their considerable hospitality to me for the weekend.
There was a special magic in looking out my window to see the biggest American Chestnut tree I'd ever seen-maybe the biggest in all Wisconsin. Growing far north of the chestnut's usual range, it somehow escaped the killing blight that to this day beats back sprouts from chestnut stumps all over the country. Long may you run, noble tree.
I ate every meal but two at Maggie's Restaurant, on the recommendation of the incomparable Jess Riley. Yes. The food was rich, well-prepared, satisfying, fast, and fresh. I got the whitefish twice. Might as well eat what's coming right from the lake. I did draw a line at whitefish livers. Nah. I'll pass. Liver, bleeeagh, but fish liver?
Beyond my lovely inn, Maggie's fabulous food, the lake, and the nice folks who struck up conversations with me wherever I went, my favorite thing in Bayfield was a little red fox kit who was born under the toolshed of one of the houses there. Her bigger brother had left, presumably to hunt with his mother, and this little girl was waiting out the evening until Mom returned. The homeowners told me that one night they'd seen the vixen bring in a grilled chicken breast. I told them I admired their restraint, not feeding the foxes (I'd have a really hard time not accidentally dropping a chicken neck or a few giblets here and there). They were every bit as thrilled to have foxes under their toolshed as I would have been, but they had a lot more sense than I do. May they be blessed with foxes every spring.