Saturday, August 15, 2009

It Sounded Like Baraboo... Whatever THAT Is (Day 33-35)

Day 33 started with a visit to the Foreverton -- the world's largest scrap-metal sculpture, which sits inside Dr. Evermor's park. However, calling it simply a sculpture is not doing it justice; it's a complex, magical assembly of salvaged machines, gears, cables and engines, welded and bolted together to create a fantastical Victorian apparatus from some Jules Vern or H.G. Wells novel. And the ham that he is, Tom Every, the 71-year-old artist behind the Forevertron, creates an elaborate fable behind each of his artistic inventions, often referring to himself in the third person, under the name of his alter-ego -- Dr. Evermor. "The Foreverton is designed and built in a time frame of around 1890," he explained, "whereas our dear doctor is a scholarly professor who thought he could perpetuate himself through the heavens on a magnetic lightning force beam inside a glass ball inside a copper egg!" (Quote from

Aside from these sci-fi devices, adorned with things like "lasers" and "decompression chambers," the massive park behind Delaney's Surplus Store was filled with other metal sculptures of all shapes and sizes... although his ex-wife Elenore told me, "Dr. Evermor keeps wanting to make them bigger and bigger." A lot of the pieces resemble odd-looking bugs or birds, including a menagerie of musical birds made out of old tubas, saxophones, banjos and trombones. There's also a huge Chinese dragon which can be played like a colossal xylophone... which Elenore demonstrated for me with great flare.

By the end of the day, I left the confines of Dr. Evermor's creations and reached the town of Baraboo, which is the birthplace of the Ringling Brothers Circus. I celebrated this historical tidbit by doing a series of tumbles and flips down the street. Then, after loading up with some Taco Bell food, I hiked another 4 miles north and ended up camping next to a cornfield across the road from the Ho-Chunk Casino. (I called the casino before setting up my tent to see if they had any inexpensive rooms, but according to the deadpan clerk on the phone, the cheapest they had was $135 plus tax.)

The next morning, it rained, rained, rained and... it rained. I hid in a Burger King in the Wisconsin Dells area for several hours as droves of tourists came and left, but the rain would not stop. Finally, unable to wait any longer, I threw on my rain gear and dove into the wet abyss. I knew I was in expensive tourist country (Wisconsin Dells is like a crappy Disney World in the hills), so I figured the chances of me finding cheap lodgings was slim to none. But on a whim, I decided to pop into the office of the locally-run Holiday Motel to see what the rate was. The rotund Spanish lady behind the desk looked at me, dripping all over the place, with reserved curiosity. When I asked her what the rate was, she said, "Forty Dollars."

This number I found quite pleasing... but to push the envelope, I asked, "Is that plus tax?"

She paused for a moment, then relinquished, "Well, you pay cash, it can be forty dollars even." I smiled and slapped down two sawbucks and she handed me a rusty room key.

The next day, with an end to the rain, I left the motel and traipsed through the heart of the tourist trap known as the Wisconsin Dells. Aside from the endless numbers of oddball motels, there were fun houses, water parks, roller coasters, waterski shows, monster truck rides, and of course, boat tours of "the dells" -- the small, secluded glen surrounded by unique sandstone rock formations that often resemble things like clouds, castles, or a grand piano. I approached many of these theme park attractions, considering buying a ticket, but the prices were all outrageously high and the quality seemed amazing low. But I had a ten dollar bill that needed to be spent, so I went to a Taco Bell and got the Volcano Combo Box for $6.09.

After my meal, I went to a gas station on the outskirts of town to pick up a few items for the next leg of my walk. I told the cashier about how my bike trip turned into a walking trip and she quickly offered up an abandoned bicycle they found a few months ago behind the store. As much as I appreciated her kind benefaction, I was now embracing the simplicity of walking again and declined the free, albeit rusty, bike.

I then marched along Highway 12 for another fifteen miles, traversing the rolling Wisconsin farmlands, and knowing quite well that the hills and bluffs will be getting bigger and tougher as I continue northwest. After passing through the small town of Lyndon Station, there wasn't very much to see in this farm country... except, I did find a pile of very odd picket signs on the side of the road. It appeared as though they were discarded signs from some farmer's market or something, but on their own, strewn along some stark, less-traveled road, they seemed singularly odd and whimsical. I couldn't resist picking up a random sign and picketing passing cars with stoic certainty. I firmly help up a sign that read "SAUSAGE," without a single indication of irony.

After tossing the sausage sign aside, I walked into the night for a few hours more, finally camping in some trees just south of the town of Mauston, WI.


  1. Mark, just checking in to let you know that I ck your blog everyday to see if you have posted. You're a good man, stay healthly. "Forrest" PS (how do you deal with insects at night??)