Roadside Roadhouse

We got on County Highway B about a quarter mile from the cottage by the Red Barn Campground and rode our bikes east on it. There was a decent shoulder on the freshly paved road and not a lot of traffic. The SSW breeze coming off Shell Lake gave us a slight tail wind on the slow grade up to the intersection with Highway 253. Deborah had left the cottage a few minutes before Sherry and me to get a head start on us, since she knew we were stronger cyclists. We did not catch up to her until we were almost to 253. We crossed 253 and started down the steep downhill on B to its intersection with Highway 53, a very busy road, especially on a holiday weekend.

“Careful crossing here,” I called to everyone as we braked at the bottom of the hill approaching the stop signs that marked the busy road. There was a large median strip on 53, so we crossed the highway in two stages, first waiting for southbound, then northbound, traffic. It was slightly uphill again on the other side of 53, but only for a couple hundred feet. As we crested the small incline, we came upon a couple of dogs running free along the edge of the road – what looked like an Australian shepherd and a German Shepherd. Sherry had ridden ahead and so encountered them first. When I saw they didn’t pay much attention to her, I relaxed a little bit, knowing they weren’t aggressive. Deborah was a few feet behind me on her bike.

“I wonder whose dogs these are,” I called back to her over my shoulder.

“Don’t stop,” Deborah said.

“I am not gonna,” I replied. “But they are kind of a hazard running in the road like that. They might get hit by a car.”

Our first stop was Rummel’s. Someone, presumably Rummel, had converted half their house into a bar. It was a very rustic operation, but totally legit. We steered our bikes into the gravel parking lot and locked them to the “Leinenkugel’s” sign post, on which was nailed a simple placard that read “Rummel’s.” It was highly unlikely anyone would steal our bikes, but being city folk, it was kind of an instinctive behavior to lock them. The parking lot contained a few cars and ATVs. Rummel’s sits next to a popular ATV track. Several humming bird feeders dangled next the entrance to the bar.

As I pushed open the door and stepped inside, several faces turned to look at me with bland expressions of unrecognition. As I usually do in such cases, I nodded and raised a hand in greeting to them, as if they should be expecting me. The bartender, Russ, recognized Sherry and I from prior years’ bike rides, as it was a regular stop on our journey.

I approached the bar.

“Oh, they have a patio,” Deborah said. “Let’s sit outside.”

“OK. What do you want to drink?” I asked Deborah and Sherry.

“I’ll just have iced water,” Deborah replied.

Sherry thought a moment and then said, “Yeah, I’ll just have a water too.”

I turned to the bartender as the women head toward the door to the patio.

“Give me two iced waters and two PBRs,” I said to Russ. “But first, do you happen to have the county sheriff’s phone number handy? We saw a couple of dogs running free on the road down by 53 and I wanted to call them in. You don’t happen to know whose dogs they are do you?”

“What kind of dogs?” Russ asked. I told him. “No, I don’t think so.” He rummaged for a phone book behind the bar and when he found the right number he read it off to me as I dialed it into my smart phone. It was the Shell Lake sheriff’s dispatch. I told the woman on the phone about the dogs and they said they would send someone out to have a look.

I hung up. Russ served up the drinks. I paid and took the drinks out to the patio in two trips.

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