(This is the second in a two-part series about an Iowa Roadie adventure in Buffalo County, Wisconsin.)

I am not a fan of cliffhangers. 

Remember the whole “Who shot JR” mystery? We had to wait an entire tv hiatus to discover it was Kristin, JR’s scheming sister-in-law and mistress, who pulled the trigger. It took seven books–I repeat SEVEN books–for Harry Potter to defeat Voldemort. And Star Wars fans were in limbo for three years as they awaited Return of the Jedi following the whole “I am your father” Darth Vader revelation. 

So while a cliffhanger may be a clever means of enticing the audience into returning, I personally believe people prefer not to wait. If patience were truly a virtue, there would be no such thing as Netflix binging. Rather than taking nine seasons to learn the fate of the Dundler Mifflin Paper Company, Office fans can instead watch the entire series in 4 days, 3 hours, and 30 minutes (according to Bingeclock, a google marvel and personal time management tool). 

So loyal Iowa Roadie fans (all two or three of you), I extend a heartfelt apology for writing a two-part story about our visit to Buffalo County, Wisconsin. But I believe fans of a dive bar are more likely to read two short stories rather than a novel…primarily because with less to read, there is more time to enjoy Happy Hour. 

SO…Iowa Roadie Adventure in Buffalo County, Wisconsin…Take 2. 

If you recall, my husband and I were visiting this particular area of Wisconsin to celebrate my birthday. We were staying at the Waumandee House Resort, and had visited the Brothel Bar and the Top Hat on our first night there. My initial plan for the next day was to join the Buffalo County Tavern Tour that the Waumandee House was sponsoring. For $40, one received a t-shirt, drinks on the bus, and transportation to 15 different bars over the course of about 12 hours. I thought this sounded like a terrific idea. My husband, however, did not. 

Instead he emphasized that the other tavern tour participants were younger and far more energetic than we were. (Translation: We are old and boring.) Additionally he pointed out that transportation was a black school bus with no air conditioning in 90 degree heat. Checkmate. We old, boring people need climate controlled environments. So, rather than enjoy the camaraderie of spirited young people with a zest for life (and cheap beer), we instead set out on our own tavern tour throughout Buffalo County…complete with a map from Waumandee House owner Dan who was kind enough to mark his favorite spots with a yellow highlighter. 

We began the Iowa Roadie tavern tour in nearby Alma at Tater’s Dam View Bar. Alma’s population is divided into two types of people: a new-fangled “artsy” crowd…and whatever its polar opposite is. Dressed in his extra-large denim overalls, Dam View owner Tater most definitely fell into the second category. 

Unlike other dive bars that televise sporting events, the tv in Tater’s was set to the Lifetime Movie Channel. And more perplexing…people were watching it. Now the Iowa Roadie did not come all the way to Wisconsin to watch a Lifetime movie. My apologies to the gentleman at the end of the bar who WAS engrossed in LMC’s love triangle and tried Very Hard to ignore me. But I felt it imperative to tear him away, and instead engage him in a conversation more suitable for a dive bar…which, in all honesty, could have been about ANYTHING ELSE.

Therefore I chose to discuss grape jelly. You see Tater’s Dam View Bar is sort of like the Costco of grape jelly, allowing one to buy an entire gallon for a mere $12. Imagine the number of PB & J’s this can make! However Tater informed me that customers do not buy his grape jelly to make sandwiches, but rather to feed the orioles. I appreciated Tater’s enthusiasm for bird watching, and the convenience he provided by selling this product in bulk. I suggested he begin selling other condiments as well, but Tater did not believe Alma was the right market for a vat of mayonnaise (even for the artsy folk!). 

With the ice now broken, we were able to share with Lifetime Movie Man about our Great Tavern Tour. During a commercial break, he was kind enough to highlight his own personal favorites on the map Dan had prepared, and even directed us to our next stop…the Tell Bar & Grill. 

Like many Wisconsin bars, Tell sits alone in the country at the intersection of two rural roads. From the direction we came, there was nothing to indicate the lone building was even a bar. (Perhaps this tavern goes incognito to ward off crazy people like the Iowa Roadie?) Fortunately Lifetime Movie Man had warned us about the lack of signage, so we were not tricked into just driving by. 

The Tell Bar & Grill has been operated by a gentleman named Wayne since about 2000. Prior to that, his dad owned it. The history of the bar is rich in that it used to be a grocery store, and before that, a post office and town hall. (No wonder there were no signs…who could keep up with all the changes?) The Tell Bar was decorated with an array of wildlife-themed items…including a Blatz “Fishes of the Great Lakes” poster, a taxidermied turkey, and an old newspaper article about a man killing 363 rattlesnakes. 

Sadly the Tell Bar & Grill did not offer the popular bar dice game. As I previously blogged, even though every bar in Wisconsin offers this opportunity, technically bar dice is still illegal. And while a normal person would not be able to find the Tell Bar, somehow the Gaming Commission did. Consequently bar dice is no longer an acceptable form of entertainment in Tell.

Our next stop was Urne’s Whitetail Bar in rural Durand. Urne’s is housed in a former school… who wouldn’t want detention HERE?! I was happy to discover that Urne’s did have bar dice (lost again!), as well as an excellent Bloody Mary served up by bartender Andy. Admist Urne’s schoolhouse vibe, I felt like I was drinking spiked punch at prom but without the worry of being expelled. Urne’s earns an A+ for that!

Next up was the town of Mondovi. There are multiple tavens here, but no one had mentioned our pub of choice…Gumby’s. (I was a little disappointed in Lifetime Movie Man for this oversight.) Outside Gumby ‘s was a group of young men that told my husband that he looked like Brett Favre. As we were in Wisconsin, this is the highest compliment one can receive…unless you are referring to Brett’s sad stint with the Minnesota Vikings or that lewd photo scandal. My husband chose to focus on the positive, and entered Gumby’s with a head bigger than that on a Spotted Cow draft beer.

Seated at the bar, we struck up pleasant conversations with the groups on either side of us. On our right was a sweet older couple who showed us pictures of the 70 varieties of daylilies and hostas blooming in their backyard. On our other side sat Sue and her biker boyfriend Joe. 

Sue looked like she was 12, but revealed that she was really 32. (I questioned if her drink came from the bar or the fountain of youth.) I admired Sue as she was super lucky on Gumby’s Wheel of Fortune. Instead of bar dice, Gumby’s has a giant wheel that you spin and win whatever the arrow lands at. (Yours truly got nothing.) Sue, however, won a t-shirt AND a $6 credit with which she was kind enough to buy me a pudding shot. Pudding shots are the equivalent to a Friend For Life.

So when Friend For Life Sue asked if she and Joe could tag along on our tavern tour, I had to agree. So with the couple in tow, we also visited Porky’s Pub in Mondovi (their favorite), the G-Stop in Gilmanton and Bucknuckles back by Alma. It was here that biker Joe began describing his Private Life to my husband. In Graphic Detail. (Note: A good rule of thumb for social situations is not to share details of your Private Life with strangers. Or anyone, for that matter!) Fortunately this was also the time that Sue announced that she was tired and wanted to go home to bed. (And thanks to Joe’s explicit description, we knew EXACTLY what might happen when she got there.)

Bucknuckles was also where we again ran into our dear friend Lifetime Movie Man who rushed up and gave me a big hug. (I confess that without a cheesy chick flick on television, I initially failed to recognize LMM and was a bit creeped out by a stranger invading my personal space.) Fortunately he quickly re-introduced himself, and I was able to return his big bear hug. A bond made of grape jelly is not easily broken!

After seven dive bar stops, I felt as if we had been on the original Waumandee House Tavern Tour. Despite traveling in a climate-controlled vehicle, the Iowa Roadie was tired.  However my husband insisted we stop at Cream, just a few miles down the road from Waumandee. (Truthfully I’m not sure if Cream is the name of the town or the bar. Again, this is pretty much a stand alone building in the middle of nowhere.) 

Besides free popcorn, Cream is the only place I have found coffee-flavored McGuillicuddy’s. It is also the only place that we have ever triumphed at bar dice. In fact, we won repeatedly at a game named “6-5-4.” The object of the game is to roll a six, a five, and a four with three dice, and get the highest score with the other two dice.  We played for money, each putting $1 in the pot at the start of each game. After a weekend of bar dice failure, my newfound luck was a welcome change of pace…as was the wad of dollar bills we earned. (If only we were back at Tater’s…I could have bought that gallon of grape jelly with my winnings.)

(Quick side note…I have since discovered that 6-5-4 can also be played as a drinking game, with everyone but the winner drinking at the end of each round. Alternatively, the winner may roll dice to determine how many drinks the losers must consume. It is my opinion that the losers may be the real winners in this version.)

After nearly twelve hours of visiting Buffalo County dive bars, we finally returned to the Waumandee House Resort. Here we reconnected with the official tavern tour participants (now hot and sweaty from a day spent on a black school bus) and all wearing t-shirts bearing the slogan “Liver, Stay Strong.” And while I boasted of my illegal bar dice success, they were showing off their own souvenir from the day…an old claw foot bathtub that had “accidentally” been purchased at Cream for $300.  

 Thus proving that Iowa Roadie adventures are nothing but good, “clean” fun. 🙂 Thank you Buffalo County, Wisconsin for a great weekend!

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