Saturday, April 26, 2014

More from a Roadside Philosopher

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

During the course of the year, Joann and I make as many photography trips as we can. Admittedly, we didn’t go out much this winter, but it wasn’t for lack of desire. It was that prolonged deep freeze in temperatures!

More often than not, these trips take us to the west, since we love the rolling countryside and the slower pace of life (and traffic!). Plus, it gives us an excuse to stop and check the blackboard for more from the roadside philosopher.

After every absence, we wonder if the sign will still be there on our next stop. But in early spring of 2012, we drove some local roads in Dane County looking for color. After a long winter, we’re always anxious to find any signs of spring.

Returning home, we made sure the route would take us past the blackboard to see what new saying awaited us. Finding a redbud tree in bloom and an upgraded blackboard display just added to the pleasure.

Every trip west has me planning how I can fit in a stop at the blackboard to check out the humorous messages with enough light to take photos. Sometimes this is a hard task, since we often drive past early in the morning when it is too dark to photograph and often return home in the dark. But, on another spring trip, we stopped early in the trip to find the message below.

At the end of the day, as we hit the highway to drive home, we realized we would be near the historic Thomas Stone barn. And again, we were lucky to find blossoming trees close enough to be included in photos.

Some years Joann has a special fall trip with a few shunpiking friends. We plan a route that will take them past some good rural scenes, and into Amish country since they enjoy that so much, and on this trip, they stopped in a small town to capture a picture of this Pabst Blue Ribbon beer ad. We can’t count how many times we drove through town without seeing it. Our excuse (and it might be a valid one,) is that we were often driving through in the dark.

Their return trip would take them close to the blackboard, so Joann planned their final stop to check out the display of humor. They were not disappointed.

On an early fall trip to the apple orchard, we managed to pass the blackboard on the way to the Gays Mills area. We always try to make at least one stop at an orchard to buy apples for snacking, and a couple of apple cider doughnuts for breakfast.

I love the humor displayed in the saying. I remember chanting “Liar, Liar, pants on fire!” when we were younger, and I can almost see the cartoon with a person running and flames shooting out of his pants.

A week after our visit to the orchard, we were out again, hunting up fall color on the backroads of western Wisconsin. We love the bright orange pop of sumac along the roadsides, and often try to find scenes that will let the sumac be featured.

On the way home, we made our now normal stop at the blackboard to check for a new saying. The saying had changed, and I have to admit it is one of my favorites so far. Maybe because I never enjoyed algebra and couldn’t imagine where I would ever use it in day to day life.

Our biggest surprise had been to find that the sign was updated over the snowy winter months. We’re very glad it is, and we suppose that other people who pass the sign also appreciate the humor during the long Wisconsin winters.

Last winter on one of our trips, we spent some time in a large cemetery in Reedsburg, and the chapel below was in the back of the cemetery. If you love churches and chapels as we do, be sure to check out cemeteries. You’ll be surprised how many chapels you will find.

And on another of our winter trips last year, we visited the historic Hauge Log church which was built in 1852. We have been to the church in many seasons, but it looks different every time. Whenever we are close, we detour to make a stop.

Returning home that evening, we made a stop at the blackboard.

We did manage to talk to one of the neighbors, who said we had the right house for the person who maintains the sign, but they were not home.

The philosopher is still a mystery to us, but we sure get enjoyment from anticipating what new saying we will find when we drive down the road to the sign. I hope the sign continues to entertain us for years.

Happy Shunpiking!

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