Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart

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Four Chippewa Valley Places I Love to Visit in the Summer

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Ian Kloster

Lake Altoona Beach 

There are many reasons to like Lake Altoona County Park, but I think what I like most of all is how it makes me feel like I’m at summer camp. Not sure why. The pine trees? The lake? The volleyball courts, playgrounds, damp public bathrooms, and the summer camp-like dining hall? Yeah, I guess that’s why it feels like summer camp.

Only better. Because unlike summer camp, I’m not forced to paint a rock, make a lanyard, or wrestle for a greased watermelon out in the lake. I can just do the fun stuff I like to do. And when the older guys start teasing me about leaving my shirt on when I go swimming, I can just get in my car, drive home, and drink some beer. 

In late summer when everything’s all overgrown, the farm fields along County F would be bursting with green and the clouds were just white! and the sky was just blue!

County Highway F

This old road may not trip everyone’s trigger, but it holds a special place in my golden heart. I spent many days racing up and down it, to and from my summer job. Like most recent high school graduates, I was full of directionless energy and I was pining for a girl I knew I’d never get. My little pickup truck didn’t have air conditioning, but it had a brand new tape deck from Best Buy and I can’t believe I never blew the little speakers out of the doors as I tore down the road with hot August air blasting in through the open windows. 

In late summer when everything’s all overgrown, the farm fields along County F would be bursting with green and the clouds were just white! and the sky was just blue! 

I’m talking about the kind of blue that makes you pull your truck over onto the shoulder so you can jump out and gape skyward, thinking What the hell is going on up there? Can anyone else see this?

When I find myself out there nowadays, I drive the speed limit. 

The Super Secret Cave Overlooking Eau Claire

I have a confession to make. There is no “super secret cave overlooking Eau Claire.” I’d actually like to talk about the Downtown Eau Claire Farmers Market, but since everyone loves the Farmers Market next to Phoenix Park, I didn’t think you’d read this far. 

First of all, food samples taste better under that that big green pavilion. I’m sorry, but they do. Yes, the free samples available at the Chippewa Valley’s many fine grocery stores are also tasty, but the cool air wafting through the Farmers Market is somehow able to infuse tiny morsels of free food with more flavor. That slice of all-natural strawberry wild rice cheddar cheese free range summer sausage might taste pretty darn good indoors, but at the market? It’s a spiritual awakening. Suddenly, you turn to your spouse/companion/mother and say, “Oh ... my god. You gotta taste this. Come over here now. Let me stick it right in your mouth.”

Besides the great food, I like running into friends whilst navigating the big wide aisle. In fact, there are many people I pretty much only see at the Farmers Market, which is great because they’re usually people I’d only like to talk to for a few minutes. After you catch up and make a few jokes about how fast the summer’s been going by, you’re pretty much done, and then Hey, free sausage!

The Grand Avenue Foot Bridge

I’m told the old footbridge in downtown Eau Claire connecting West Grand Avenue to East Grand Avenue used to carry trollies over the Chippewa River. Why we stopped using such a pithy mode of transportation is beyond me. But I’d like to thank whoever decided to keep the bridge after the trollies were retired. It’s a great place to sit and think. Or just sit.

There’s a couple of benches offering nice views of the river. But I suggest standing right up by the rail so you can lean on your elbows and really zone out.

If you’re lucky, a rainbow will burst across the sky behind you as you whimsically peer down the waterway just before dusk, when the entire bridge is enveloped by the majestic vastness of the the past, the present, and all that is yet to come. You’re standing in the heart of a city resting at the heart of a country stuck to the side of a tiny green planet spinning like a speck of star dust through the infinite tangle of all things the have ever been ... and for a moment, you can simply enjoy the ride.

Don’t worry if there’s no rainbow. It’s still pretty cool.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

Chippewa Valley Technical College

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.