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August 7, 2010, was Vicky's 50th birthday, so Val and I planned a surprise visit to the West Farm in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, to help her family celebrate this special occasion.   But since Vicky had such an intense working schedule, we had to let her know our plans.   Val drove to Florida and we made a few local trips to nearby attractions in the little Toyota Scion before departing on the camping trip to Wisconsin in the GTRV Westy, which we parked in the driveway at the farm.   Our traveling adventures are covered in Wisconsin 2010.

Val and I arrived at the West Farm about 11 am on Wednesday, August 4, and Lucas gave us a tour of his greenhouse and the gardens.   Vicky, Isabella, and Amie came home about mid afternoon and we spent the remainder of the day walking in the gardens.  In the evening, their two canoes were loaded on their truck, Isabella mowed the lawns with a riding mower, and we watched a beautiful sunset about 9 pm.


Val and Lucas in Greenhouse


Isabella working in the kitchen.


Amie and Vicky watching.


Lucas with his award-winning duck painting published in a calendar.

A lot of activity goes on in the horse corral.   Captain (Vicky's first horse) is usually surrounded by a harem of ponies and carriage horses.   Vicky teaches the girls the proper maintenance of the feet of horses, grooming, the feeding program, and organizing the tack room.  After all this work, the girls usually end up in the pole barn where the covered wagon and freezer pops are stored.




When Tom arrived at home from work, things quieted down in the house before dinner.  Games, puzzles, and music are the next activities.  Lucas and Isabella take violin and piano lessons, with Lucas expanding his musical talents into other various instruments.  We enjoyed several violin trio performances.



Preparations at the end of the busy day included loading the two canoes on the truck for the canoe trip on the following day.  With still a few moments left, Isabella runs the riding mower on their extensive lawn, while Amie, Vicky, Lucas, and Val watch and we all enjoy another beautiful sunset on the farm.




The following day was beautiful for canoeing.   I did the car shift, driving the truck from the Barron County Johnson Landing to the Red Cedar Landing downstream takeout, where I got several photos of insects and scenery.  The rest of the crew loaded the canoes and had a little wind, but the weather remained very comfortable.


Val and Lucas begin paddling on the river, with Tentha in the middle.


Vicky, Isabella, and Amie paddling the second canoe as they get into the current.


 It was about a 3-12 hour trip to the next landing where the truck was waiting.  It took a while to unload the canoes after their landing and another hour or so was spent playing in the river and gathering creatures and water plants for the greenhouse pond and inside aquarium.


On Vicky's birthday, Val's treat was a dinner with fabulous food at the exclusive Big Kahuna Lounge.  We were seated on the patio overlooking beautiful gardens and a calm lake.  The children sat very patiently for a good while, but eventually were allowed to run around on the outside terraced gardens.


We visited the D. D. Kennedy Environmental Area on the Apple River maintained by he Polk County Parks Department.  The park had a lake, waterfall, benches, bridges, and blacktop trails completely around the lake with interpretive signs along the way.  We took numerous photos of flora (including Indian Pipes) and fauna.  Tiyena, one of the Rhodesian Ridgebacks, enjoyed running around the grassy area.  This park is part of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail system.




On the way back home, we stopped at a park along the road and played in the Apple River, even though we did not have appropriate wading shoes.

That night, Vicky and Tom used the little tractor to remove a huge circular bale of hay from the pole barn and put it in the horse corral.  The horses couldn't wait to sample the tasty treat which Vicky said might last a few days.   After she cleaned up one of the horses, she loaded up the trailer and truck for Isabella's riding lesson and then we drove to Barron high school track for the all-night "Relay for Life" marathon fund raiser for cancer research.  Lucas and his friends were setting up the shelter for their station along the track and Tom drove in with his "OL ' 55" restored Pontiac car.



We left the relay and proceeded to Rice Lake where Isabella was to have her riding lesson at the fairgrounds track, but her instructor did not show up. Vicky let Isabella clean her horse's feet and groom him and then conducted the class herself.



Early the next day, the West family returned to the farm for a little rest before the next big event - the annual "Moravitz Car Launch" for the "Make a Wish" foundation in Turtle Lake.  The location was a huge gravel pit with a big hill for launching vehicles into the air to land somewhere down below where there was a water-filled pond.  We did not see any vehicles ending up in the water, but there was a mess of smashed vehicles lined up around the perimeter of the landing area.

Tom was in charge of the pyrotechnics display area near the top of the big hill, and Lucas was his assistant to keep fireworks going to entertain the crowd.  Since we were seated directly in front of the fireworks deck, Vicky had sound-muffling ear covers and she took videos of several air-borne vehicles, including a school bus and a "Beetle" which were sponsored by local businesses from the area.  Tom had Vicky's 50th birthday publicly announced at the car launch.



This was the "Chicken" entry in the car launch.

After several launches, we left at an intermission and went to swim for a few hours at Pipe Lake, which also had a nice beach area.  After arriving home and relaxing, we were still hearing booms from the car launch until late in the afternoon.


Vicky had a special 50th birthday celebration programmed and choreographed by Lucas and the girls.  This involved an elaborate set-up from the first floor, up the stairway, and climaxed in the foyer on the second floor.


That Saturday night a big storm knocked out the electricity around midnight and a gas generator was being used to keep the refrigerators and freezers running.  The storm front finally retreated in the morning and electric was restored about noon.  While the electric was off, Vicky, the girls, Val, and I went for another "field trip" where Tom had mowed "trails" in the tall grass throughout the farm and it was very enjoyable hiking with hardly any annoying insects.




After a lunch snack, the West family all went to a 50th anniversary party for some of their good friends, so Val and I went on another hike to the lower field down by the lake.  It got very hot so we returned to enjoy the air-conditioned house and work on our computer.  But shortly after Vicky and the children returned from the non-air-conditioned party, and the kids wanted to go back to Pipe Lake.  Since the adults wanted a little shade, we decided to return to the Apple River, where everyone had a great time playing in the rapids, netting creatures in the water, and having loads of fun.


On our last night, Tom worked on his computer while the rest of us watched and enjoyed a video of the new "Alice in Wonderland" movie.  The whole visit to the West Farm was a great week-end 50th birthday celebration.  Happy 50th Birthday, Vicky!

West Farm 2010 / Home Page / Trip Index