Recreation should be priority for all in New Year
It’s time to keep the momentum going.
Even though it finally snowed Monday, Dec. 29, the last couple of weeks have brought some hopeful news for outdoor recreation, as I wrote about last week. The continued protection of wolves and the reauthorization of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund were good ways to end the year.
Now is when we think about making something of ourselves for another 52 weeks. Here are my own outdoor resolutions for 2016.
(1) I’m going to visit at least 10 new outdoor recreation areas in Wisconsin and write about them here.
(2) Yellowstone or bust. The Yellowstone Trail, one of America’s first coast-to-coast highways, runs right through Stevens Point. I’ve never been to Yellowstone, but it will happen in 2016.
(3) I’m finally going to read “Last Child in The Woods,” an important work about getting kids involved with nature, and do more with my own kids. In reviewing 2015, I realized I got a half-dozen good camping trips in with the family (as a whole or with at least one of our two children). We also did a lot of other outdoor activity. It’s just never enough, and 2016 will be better.
(4) I’m going to finish making those two pairs of snowshoes that are waiting for me in the basement. I can’t promise that I’ll get to use them before 2017, but I’ll do my best, and I vow that they’ll at least be ready when next December blows in.
(5) I’m going to join at least one new outdoor-related organization and pick up at least one new hobby. When I do, they will, of course, be noted here. I’ve got ideas in mind, and I’ll leave it at that for now.
(6) At least two politicians, and probably more, will be skewered in this column. While many of our elected leaders do a great deal for the outdoors, many others are problematic, to say the least. I will strive to keep the politics to a necessary minimum here, but in times of real need for the outdoors, that’s always going to be a judgment call.
(7) That’s a horrible picture on top of my column. I’m wearing a tie. That will be fixed.
I do promise to keep the column focused on supporting the outdoors, keeping readers informed, and having a good time above all. Those are general resolutions, and I’ll take stock at the end of the year.
Keep me honest, folks. Write to me at email@example.com and let me know what we should be talking about.
In the meantime, let’s talk about what’s important to us: parks, and a little bit of Wisconsin brew.
Beer, outdoors author needs no urging to have fun
One of the fantastic things about being a writer is that it can be very entertaining, and outdoors writer Kevin Revolinski, Madison, will be the first to tell you that. He makes his living writing about travel, the outdoors, and beer.
I had mentioned Revolinski’s book “The Best in Tent Camping: Wisconsin” in a column earlier this fall. It’s the first book I bought when we moved here, and I’ve relied on it for ideas on potential spots for outings.
Revolinski appreciates the variety and independence of being a writer. On the other hand, he’d be the first to tell you it can also be fairly grueling.
A native of Marshfield, Revolinski just finished a 27-brewpub tour that took place over 28 days, beginning Nov. 25 in Madison and concluding in his hometown.
“Especially in travel writing, it you get into a circuit of junkets, it’s actually fairly miserable,” he said. “You can’t eat ‘gourmet’ food every night. It makes you crazy.”
“I long for a bowl of cereal at the end of a long week,” he said.
But it’s a job he loves, and with good reason, despite the effort involved, for instance, in a brewpub guide he’s been doing for 10 years and is effectively in its fourth incarnation.
“It’s like writing the phone book. You’re putting down travel details, and it can become tedious at times,” he said. “But then you meet new brewers and hear the story of how they got into it, and it’s fascinating. Maybe it’s someone who moved here from Germany or the Czech Republic and decided he was going to make his own beer.”
Revolinski has also written “Best Hikes Near Milwaukee,” “Paddling Wisconsin, Camping Michigan,” “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Madison,” and “Backroads and Byways of Wisconsin.”
“Wisconsin’s Best Beer Guide,” newly updated for 2016, was the reason for his latest tour, and he has similar titles for Michigan and Minnesota.
He has been writing full-time since 2004, when he finished up a job as an English teacher in Italy.
“That’s when I decided I was not going to teach any more. I’m just going to see how long I can work this travel-writing gig,” he said. “I lived on the very cheap for a while, but I said that as soon as I came to a month when I couldn’t pay my expenses, I’d find something else.”
That month never came, he said.
“It was partly due to the fact that I had some luck, and partly because I was living pretty cheaply,” Revolinski laughed. “No car; renting a room down in Madison in essentially what was a college house.”
He started with magazine and newspaper work, moving into travel guidebooks when he pitched an idea to a publishing house while planning a trip to the Caribbean. The publisher was coincidentally looking for someone to contribute to a book about the region, and his book writing took off from there.
“You can’t even believe where that stuff comes out of,” he said. He once answered an ad on Craigslist for someone to update a description of five camping sites. “I didn’t think it would lead to anything, but it paid me a few hundred dollars. After I turned it all in, they got me a GPS device, and they said they were thinking of doing a hiking guide to Milwaukee.”
Although he didn’t do that immediately, he has since, and the outdoor work has become a staple for him.
He’d previously taught three years of high school in Illinois and Texas, as well as teaching English as a second language in Panama, Guatemala and Turkey. A graduate of St. Norbert College, he had started as a chemistry major but switched over to English and history during his first year.
When I read that Revolinski would be at the Blue Heron Brewpub in Marshfield Dec. 22 signing books, I thought it would be a great time to get a jump on my own new year’s resolutions. What’s not to like about going to a local pub to talk to the guy with one of the greatest jobs in Wisconsin?
It was my best decision of the month. Revolinski and his wife Tip, who’s from Thailand, are an engaging pair, and he was more than happy to sit down and have a beer and chat about writing.
As a bonus for making the run over to Marshfield, I got to try the Blue Heron’s fantastic “Pappy’s hush puppies,” served with Wisconsin honey and paired with the pub’s holiday ale, Dubbel Your Honey. They were worth the trip, so having the opportunity to get to try a new regional favorite was like the star on the Christmas tree.
I had so much fun talking to Revolinski and his wife that I think I stiffed the bartender on my appetizer and beer, so I’ve sent the Blue Heron a note to ask them how to make good. And now that I’ve published it here, I’m committed to making my next trip over to take care of the issue in person.
It might require trying one of their other brews.
It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.
Happy new year, everyone.