Where does your “Up North” begin? For me, I always began to relax as soon as I hit US Route 8. Once I started passing white arrow board signs directing people to resorts and could tune in WOJB, I felt like I was Up North. My mom’s side of the family is from Park Falls, and our family has been taking vacations to Boyd’s Mason Lake Resort in Fifield since I was a little kid. As an adult, I continued visiting the Northwoods to go deer hunting with friends from Butternut, ride mountain bikes on the CAMBA trails and explore the endless gravel roads on bikepacking trips.
In December of 2020, my wife Liz, our dog Cowboy and I moved to the Hollywood Hills just outside bustling downtown Seeley. We are now full-time residents of the Northwoods.
I began my professional career as an editorial photographer. My first “job” was as a photographer at the Bluefields Sunrise in Bluefields, Nicaragua, a Sandinista newspaper during their war with the Contras. I was taking part in a journalist exchange program while in graduate school at the University of MN in the Twin cities.
That gig only lasted a few months, but while I was in Nicaragua I began freelancing for US News and World Report. And while I was away, Liz got a good job teaching for Milwaukee Public Schools. I returned to Milwaukee rather than finish my graduate degree since I was already doing what I was going to the university to learn to do. Upon my return to my hometown, I just kept freelancing for magazines, newspapers, and wire services.
I did that for a dozen years or so and gradually got really into cycling. I commuted year-round, raced road and MTB, and eventually even quit photography and built frames for Waterford Precision Cycles. Then a buddy on my racing team told me about this bicycle advocacy job he thought I would be perfect for. I ended up getting the job to open a Milwaukee office for the Wisconsin Bike Fed. I worked for the Bike Fed for six years, then got hired by the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works as their first Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator.
While I was there I got back into photography, and in my spare time started a personal cycling blog called Over the Bars in Milwaukee under the nom de guerre Milwaukee Bike Czar. After about six years as a bureaucrat, the Bike Fed approached me and asked if I would come back and run a blog for them and give their newsletter a makeover. I agreed to bounce back from the excitement of bureaucracy to the high pay of the nonprofit world and helped the Bike Fed with their rebranding, new website and dropped their newsletter in favor of a quarterly glossy magazine.
After five years back at the Bike Fed, my wife retired after teaching 31 years with Milwaukee Public Schools. I worked a year longer with the Bike Fed, then retired as well. We left the very urban lifestyle we loved in Milwaukee to move to the Northwoods.
After living in a 2,400 square foot 100-year-old Milwaukee bungalow that required constant updates to aging pipes, plaster, and electric, we wanted an inexpensive little house that we could fix up and forget so we had more time to bike, ski, hunt, fish and enjoy life. Unfortunately, we decided to move during a pandemic that poured kerosene on an already hot real estate market. That made it easy to sell our house, but hard to find what we were looking for Up North.
We ended up with a mini-compound in the original Seeley silent sports development created by Gary Penman. With a house, a rental unit, two garages, three septic systems, two heating and electric systems, a water feature and some questionable Northwoods structural engineering, we probably have a lot more maintenance than we did in Milwaukee. But we also have incredible trails that run right through our backyard.
So while we had to buy something that really wasn’t what we were looking for, we ended up with a home that is exactly what we wanted. The ability to ski or bike right out our back door is something we could never have imagined, but we love. Despite being less than a mile from Highway 63, most nights the loudest thing we hear are the frogs or when the neighborhood owls throw a hootenanny.