Sunday, May 22, 2011

Shunpiking with Sheila

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

About six months into our labor of love – this backroads blog and our photo website, we received one of our most gratifying comments. It was simply signed “Sheila K” and it said “Wonderful, amazing pictures and stories. Traveling the countryside with a sister and enjoying the beauty around you is a blessing. I look forward to Monday for only this reason - your blog. You are both very gifted ladies.”

Joann and I eagerly read any comments we receive, and often question each other about the author of comments. Did either of us know a Sheila that would have left such a nice comment? We couldn’t think of anyone we knew.

Several months later, Joann called our sister Linda about something unrelated, and the subject of the blog came up. Joann told her about the nicest comment we had received from someone named Sheila K. Linda said, “That’s my friend Sheila from work.” As the conversation progressed, Linda said that Sheila would like to go shunpiking with us, and that she would like to come along, too.

Finally, the following September, we made a plan for a Sunday morning. Joann told Linda that we were pulling out at 5 AM, so they had to be at Joann’s house or miss the “bus”. They both arrived on time and we left at the appointed hour.

At close to dawn, we were nearing our first stop when Sheila said, “We’re almost to LaValle; you should check out the old mill there sometime.” We laughed as we told her that this was to be our first stop. We have been there several times, but locations are different depending on the season, time of day, and weather.

After the mill, we started our normal meandering along backroads. We usually go out with at least a half-baked plan. Sometimes it only includes our first stop and the general direction we will take after that. This was one of those days.

Shortly after sunrise, we could tell that it was going to be a sunny day. We knew it wouldn’t make for the best pictures, but you have to take the day you get, so we decided to make the best of it. Along one of the backroads, we found a fence that had a boot on every post. We’ve seen this several times in different states and it always makes us laugh. Where do they get all of these styles of boots from, and what makes them want to do this?

When we were all hungry for breakfast, we found ourselves near the Juneau County Fairgrounds. We had our muffins near an old schoolhouse on the grounds. The sun was already up and there were butterflies visiting a stand of woodland sunflowers next to the car.

In a small town where we stopped for a coffee refill, we came across an old phone booth. Joann and I had been to the town before, but somehow, we had not noticed the old phone booth. If it wasn’t for a coffee stop, we might have missed it again. Linda had to try out the phone booth, and Joann snapped several pictures. She told Linda she could show her kids since they have probably never seen an old fashioned phone booth.

At one stop, we found a llama and several donkeys in a field. The llama was very protective of the donkeys and we enjoyed their antics. The donkeys were curious about us, but the llama didn’t want them getting too close.

In another small town we stopped to check out an old creamery. We found the creamery, but the lighting wasn’t very good, so we made a note to return and continued on. As we were trying to leave town, we found that the planters along the street were antique items. We loved the rusty old wringer washing machine planted with pansies and vines.

During the remainder of the day, we visited more farm scenes and old buildings. In one old building in Vernon County, as Joann was taking her photographs, Linda and Sheila couldn’t resist peering in the windows of the office to see what they could see inside.

It was one of our normal long days of photographing and Linda and Sheila said they were exhausted when we got back to Joann’s house.

Now that the weather is nice, meet up with some friends and hit the backroads. There are a lot of cool things to see.

Happy Shunpiking!

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