Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin

10
Mar
19

Loss and the Long Road – Part One

May 4-6, 2018 and May 11-12, 2018

It was a cruel irony that the wagon I had ordered to pull Yukon along the Mississippi River on a weekend Great River Road adventure showed up the day after I had to let him go. I sat and cried, like I had so many times since the previous day, before cramming the box into a dark corner of the garage.

I came home on that Friday to find Yukon’s injured leg was swollen to double its normal size. As I was palpating his leg, I felt a large, hard mass in his groin and my heart sank. I knew what it meant, but wasn’t fully ready to let go.

The next morning, I woke early and carried my goofy dog that I loved so much to the car. We were heading to Kruse Park Dog Beach on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of Yuk’s favorite swimming spots. I walked with him slowly down the steps to the sand, despite his condition, he was amped to be near one of his favorite things, water. He enthusiastically chased ball after ball into the waves, his back end collapsing time and again, my heart breaking over and over each time. I’m not sure what others at the beach thought as I held my wet dog, sobbing before deciding it was time to leave. He was unable to walk up the stairs so I carried him, tears blurring my vision.

His body may have been broken, but his spirit was definitely not!

I didn’t want to go to sleep because I knew what the next day would bring. Yukon was my first dog and I’d never had to make the decision to end the life of a beloved pet. We were all exhausted and finally I had to force bedtime. I pulled a huge, thick ribeye out of the freezer before lightly grilling it for my pal’s final meal, then sent my vet a Facebook message and he agreed to meet me at the office in 20 minutes. I held Yukon as we took X-Rays, my fears were confirmed he had a large mass in his groin and two smaller metastasized tumors in his lung. While I knew the answer, I asked my vet, “What would you do if he were your dog?” To which he replied, “He has no quality of life and he’s in an incredible amount of pain.” It was at the same time the most difficult and the easiest decision of my life. Mira and I by his side, me whispering “I love you, buddy.” in his ear, the euthanasia drug was injected and after a few labored breaths, Yukon was gone.

See ya later old pal!

A short five days later, I had plans to take on another section of the Great River Road. I was devastated by the loss of Yukon and was ready to cancel plans and lie in my dark bedroom, clinging to Mira. Then I realized that sitting and moping would accomplish nothing, that one of the things that was helping through this loss was the many photos and videos I had collected during out many adventures together. Dammit, Mira and I were hitting the road in honor of our buddy!

Mopey Mira

When work ended Friday, I rushed home to pick up Mira, gather some things and hit the road. That night’s destination, Davenport, Iowa. We arrived late and after chowing down on some Capriotti’s and shedding a few tears while staring at the television, Mira and I cuddle close and got some much needed sleep.

One little monkey jumping on the bed!

Since our first adventure on the Great River Road, I had armed myself with more information (ordered maps, guide books, etc.) and had a pretty good idea of which route I wanted to take on this weekend trip. We started northbound from the point we began our southbound leg on the last visit to Davenport. Our first stop was Centennial Park, I pulled into the entrance to find the mighty river had broken free of its banks and inundated the park. I was still able to find a place to park and Mira and I were able to walk along the flood waters dodging debris as we went.

Mira hanging out in front of Centennial Bridge – Davenport, Iowa

Mira, I don’t think that’s what Tina Turner meant when she sang “Rollin’ on the river”

Flooding and debris along the river in Centennial Park

Driving north along the western side of the Mississippi, we enjoyed the short glimpses of life on the river (well, I enjoyed them while Mira snored in the back). The only definite stops I had planned on this drive were Effigy Mounds National Monument and Potosi Brewing. We crossed the river at Dubuque, Iowa before heading to the first of these stops, Potosi Brewing, which is conveniently located right on the Great River Road.

Postosi Brewing Company

After learning of Potosi while planning, I called to make sure Mira would indeed be allowed in the outside eating area and double checked again when we arrived. The hostess said they normally didn’t allow dogs out there on the weekends , but since it was 50 degrees and sporadically drizzling, they’d make an exception for my furry beast. Mira settled under the table as I ordered a Tangerine IPA and some chicken fingers (I know, super adult). Eating quickly as not to freeze, we headed across the road to get a photo with the giant Potosi bottle before once again hitting the road.

Mira, dogs don’t like beer!

“Giant, scary beer bottle…I’m outta here!”

Because of the high water levels, the ferry across the river I intended to take wasn’t in operation so I crossed the river once again at Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin and headed north to Effigy Mounds.

As fascinated as I’ve been about the indigenous tribes that inhabited the desert southwest, I’ve never learned much about the mound builders that once dwelled in my own “neighborhood”. Once inside the visitor center, I chatted with the ranger working the information desk and stamped by National Park Passport. She recommended a trail that Mira and I would enjoy. We wound our way up the switchbacks, squirrels flitting back and forth through the green forest. The mounds were hard to comprehend from ground level, huge earthen mounds that from the air resembled birds, bears and nondescript, circular mounds. It’s unclear the exact reason for the mounds (in some areas they were burial mounds), perhaps territory delineation or ceremonial/sacred sites.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

We reached the top of the climb through the mounds to reach Fire Point Overlook, a broad vista overlooking the Mississippi. We chatted with a couple of people that were heading in the other direction before making our way back down toward the parking area. Mira has always been a conversation starter, which is good for a solo traveling introvert like myself. A couple in the parking lot stopped me and asked if they could pet her which she of course loved. Mark and Cheryl were up on vacation from Iowa, staying in Prairie du Chien. We chatted forever about dogs and travels and motorcycle touring (Cheryl did quite a bit of solo motorcycle travel) before heading our separate ways.

The view from Fire Point Overlook

My hope for accommodations was to camp on the river at Perrot State Park but when I arrived, every single campsite was filled. As the sun was dropping toward the horizon, I checked a couple other campgrounds which were also full, camping on the big river would have to wait. I wasn’t even able to get a motel nearby and ended up driving an hour east to Tomah, Wisconsin. As much as I wanted to camp a bed and a shower sure felt great after a long day of driving!

Tired little dog, sacked out at the Tomah, WI Super 8




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