Coming up Barnebey…

29 Sep

I think everyone who reads this already knows about what happened last weekend, but I’m going to tell you anyway, including the boring car parts, so I can move on. Whitney talked our way into one of his friends’ camping trips again. If they only let us come because he promised them his famous egg salad, they were sadly swindled. If I had helped him make it like last time, I would have talked him down from adding the 3rd and 4th dozen eggs and 2 kinds (?) of mushrooms.


My morning meeting runs late and I don’t get out the door until 12:30. Whitney says I didn’t make it to Madison until 4:30 which means I probably didn’t leave until 12:45 but stopped looking at the clock when I realized I was late and still needed to put on sunscreen! And change my pants! Where’s my water bottle?

We stop to get groceries. I split the shopping list into two lists to be efficient, but Whitney doesn’t understand and ends up with the stuff on my list in his cart anyway. Mildly amusing misunderstanding about a Styrofoam cooler. Whitney buys a new flavor of gum.

It is 4:56 as we pull out of the parking lot, which means we have exactly 6 hours to make a 6 hour, 20 minute drive to catch the last ferry to our final destination, Madeline Island. We do a lot of math in our heads over the next few hours and alternate between definitely making it with 8 minutes to spare to definitely not making it and let’s get drunk anyway. At some point it rains. Someone throws a firework at our car and that freaks us right out. We encounter a kind of traffic that I think only happens in the Midwest. Without physical enforcement (like cones), cars merge into one lane and drive that way for miles because a sign told them to. We are baffled and definitely not making it!

This madness finally ends and we get stuck behind some slow cars on a two-lane road. When there is room to pass, Whitney tries to negotiate past them by flashing his brights at a car that is using the passing lane incorrectly (not passing!). They move over and he steps on it but my car doesn’t accelerate. We cannot pass them! Now we are using the passing lane incorrectly and as the slow cars pull away from us, Whitney says he has never been so embarrassed in his entire life.

We pull off at the Bad River Casino to check my oil. It’s fine but we are out of ideas so we add some anyway. We decide we definitely don’t want to get stuck here. It has a scary carnival atmosphere, and I wish I hadn’t joked before the car broke about gambling if we didn’t make the ferry. I call my parents and my dad says I am stuck in second gear and to just drive slow. We get the hell out of there at 30 mph but we’ve already missed the ferry so it’s not clear what the plan is. We make it all the way to the ferry dock in Bayfield and hey! there’s a cool bar-hotel combo right on the water. We decide to just stay there and deal with the car later. This is when Whitney says brightly, “Things are finally coming up Barnebey!” which, using context clues, I think was supposed to mean our luck was finally turning. I think he had been waiting to say this until he was sure our luck was turning in an attempt at positive Barnebey name branding. But within seconds of that statement, we see the no vacancy sign, and now I will forever think of “coming up Barnebey” as more like the definition of “hitting a gronk.” No hotels in Bayfield are open and we have to backtrack to the Super8.

As we pull in, the car dies. The Super8 is at the bottom of a hill, though, so this is no problem. Whitney expertly puts us in neutral and restarts. Our spirits are high. We have Scrabble, tequila, sausage, cheese, and cable tv.


A game of tequila scrabble ensues. Any scores over 25 points earns everyone a shot! Two shots if it’s over 50! We finish with two in the hopper (where they will remain until the next game).


At 8 am Whitney finds a mechanic in the next town (more backtracking) who will look at the car while we go camping anyway. At 8:30 the car dies on the side of the road. I call AAA and I proudly give them my exact location (eastbound at the intersection of two highways, with the exact mileage to the nearest towns) and the guy demands to know which town we are in. He does not care that we are between two towns. He cannot call a tow truck unless he knows which town paid for the pavement my tires are touching. He finally gets out a map and figures out where we are, then says we’ll have to get towed to Grand Rapids (not MI apparently, but it sounds far and no bigger than the town we are in, or would be if we weren’t between two towns). At my insistence, he finds something open in Ashland just a few miles away! He gives me the number for Hertz and says because I am a AAA member, they will bring me a rental car wherever I am. I call this Hertz number and they are on Ashland St. in Green Bay (maybe 8 hours away), rather than the town of Ashland (which they deny exists). The Hertz lady suggests renting a car in MI or MN because there are no other Hertz’s in WI. Another lie. I give up. We get towed to the mechanic that the guy from AAA talked to mere minutes before and it’s closed. Our tow truck guy know his way around and finds us a mechanic. We dump the car and call a cab and spend $65 to get back to Bayfield just in time to make the ferry.

The ferry people feel bad for us as we unpack all our belongings from the cab and drop 4 bottles of beer on the pavement. They offer us a dolly and we pretend like it’s a car and line up next to the other cars.


Leigha picks us up on the other side and takes us to our cabin and we pack a lot of fun into 24 hours.

The high points:

I try a new beer with extra fizz at a bar that burned down twice. I pet three dogs. I have the best apple-based desert I’ve ever had (take that, apple pie). We play Pit and Apple to Apple back to back. I share a bed with Whitney.

The low points:

We don’t snuggle. The egg salad.


We hitch a ride with Molly back to Madison. From there, Leigha gives me a tour of her house, a Pepsi, and lends me her extra car to use until mine gets fixed. Awesome! This is the Midwest where people can be nice and have an irreverent sense of humor at the same time.

My car is still in Ashland, WI until noon today when it gets towed 165 miles to Wasau, WI, because the place in Ashland told me it would cost $6-$7K for a new engine and transmission. (Original price of car: $3,000.) The mechanic in Wasau doesn’t believe I need both an engine and a transmission but if I do, it will cost $3,700. Do I spend $3,700 on this car or buy another junker for $3,700? It’s kind of a toss-up. Maybe I should blow it all on slots at the Bad River Casino.

If everything works out, I will insert myself into yet another Leigha/Molly trip in two weeks, stay at a charming B&B, run a 10K, and pick up my car (with say, a three-digit price-tag?) on the way home.

6 Responses to “Coming up Barnebey…”

  1. Darcy 09/30/07 at 3:05 pm #

    So what happened with the car? what did you decide? i am nervous with anticipation!

  2. wb 10/2/07 at 4:06 pm #

    I have a few things to add:

    1. The egg salad matured throughout the trip. And, as you may remember, was a highly valued commodity by the time we got back to Madison. I believe the going rate was 5 Wheats, 8 Barleys, or 1 tuperware container.

    2. For all your egg salad talk I think I at least deserve a huevos rancheros mention.

    3. As you know, I only snuggle when my body temperature drops below 95° and for brief periods in the morning. Unfortunately the room was hot and I got up before you. On the bright side I see snuggling as a distinct possibility in our future as it should be significantly colder in 2 weeks. And that would be snuggling in a Bed & Breakfast, which is classy.

    4. There were actually 3 kinds of mushrooms in the egg salad. And I stand by that decision.

  3. wb 10/2/07 at 4:13 pm #

    I also think that you got to sit in the Pickle Chair for a short period of time. That sounds like a highlight to me.

  4. mdawaffe 10/12/07 at 12:52 pm #

    haha. that was funny. lol.


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