Charli’s Welcome to Washburn Guide

On April 27, 2012 I arrived in Washburn, WI with all that remained of my worldly possessions in the back seats of my daughter’s and son-in-law’s newly purchased used Toyota RAV and a borrowed mini-van. My “Monday” possessions, the few unnecessary fragments that didn’t fit–like the extra can of Bon Ami in a zip-lock bag and my forsaken workout clothes–would arrive in my own car on Monday next. Awaiting me on my new twin bed was a 5-page, stapled “Welcome to Washburn Mover’s Guide.”

The Guide has as many holes as a white pine pursued by a pileated woodpecker. If you are moving to this north coast Wisconsin town with friendly folks and tree-knocking birds, here are a few key things you need to know:

The area code is 715. When you are new to the area, seeking the phone number for Internet installation, have only a cell phone and the Guide offers seven digit numbers—you’re screwed. Or, to use the mistranslation of my new Peruvian son-in-law when he was pulled over for a broken taillight with an expired visa, “you’re pooped.”

Internet access. Yes, I live entangled in the web. Come on, I’m a writer and writers need to be read. You can’t get into my journals and notebooks unless you physically enter my room past the pack of four big dogs, and even if you did, you wouldn’t be able to decipher my penmanship (or, is it a lack thereof?). So, to bring you my journaling live, I need Internet. According to the Guide, to get Internet on the north coast of Chequamegon Bay you have to call the Utilities listed and ask. Internet is not distinguished from gas, land-lines and electricity. Let me narrow the selection to these three, which is really two choices:

  1. Centurytel (800-201-4099). As of 2012, the current name is CenturyLink. When I called (the number listed in the Guide; not the one I discovered and list here) I got someone in Utah who connected me to the “Legacy side” which seemed to be east of the Mississippi, who knows. My cell phone died mid-order so I had to call Utah once again and this time they connected me to Georgia, completed my order and placed my DSL modem in the mail. To further the name confusion the rep informed me that Verizon owns CenturyLink (or the other way around the blueberry bush). But I did see a CenturyLink truck on Hwy 13 yesterday. Why is my modem coming from Georgia?
  2. Cheqtel (does not service Washburn). Despite being listed in the Guide and located in nearby Ashland, Cheqtel returned my voice-mail inquiry to say they do not offer Internet in Washburn.
  3. Comcast (800-581-0081). Ok. I had Comcast in my previous life. I had a bundle in Minnesota, a two-year deal and I canceled six months early. They told me (in Minnesota) that they did not service this area and they waived my early cancellation fee. But hey—the Guide lists them and I’ve seen double the Comcast trucks (that means I’ve seen two) on Hwy. 13. But, shhh…don’t tell them I’m getting a modem from Georgia.

Postal service for zip code 54891. Did you know that you can get a P.O. Box anywhere in the United States? I got a Washburn, Wisconsin P.O. Box with a Minnesota driver’s license. I was headed into Bayfield to get one there when I decided to really settle into Washburn–after all it is Bayfield County and that’s close enough. It was a big epiphany I had while driving the 12 miles to Bayfield. Washburn feels tangible; it is in rhythm with my small-town soul. Bayfield is always idealized in my imagination, a place I love to visit. Washburn will be a more realistic setting for me as I absorb details of daily living—like neighbors talking outside my open window about the three bears that wandered into town. Eavesdropping while writing scenes; can’t beat that as a novelist. The cool thing is this: the ideal place I love to visit is now only 12 miles away!

DMV (you know, Department of Motor Vehicles). You cannot update your motor vehicle here, by the way. See listing for Sheriff’s Department to accomplish that pony trick, but only after you have secured a WI Driver License. And if you do have a pony, inquire at City Hall about pet licensing. Got that? Then let’s progress to hours. According to the Guide, DMV is open in Ashland (not Washburn) every first, second and fifth Wednesday and Fridays. I drove to Ashland May 2 (the first Wednesday) only to discover a locked door and the following posted openings: every Tuesday and Thursday. Bummer. I drove back May 3 (Thursday) only to be told that I needed more than a Washburn P.O. Box and a Minnesota Driver License; I needed my social security number, birth certificate and proof of Wisconsin residency like a renter’s agreement, hunting license, pay stub, etc. Here’s the deal—I’m living with my daughter and son-in-law; I’ve lost my house to mortgage fraud and I gave up my job when I lost my house. I don’t have a renter’s agreement beyond paying my kids for my room, but wait—I am getting internet utilities from Georgia! That spares me from declaring homelessness and gains me residency in my room while I write my novel.

Sheriff’s Department. After, and only after, gaining residency—a Wisconsin Driver License—can you get Wisconsin plates. It’s rather urgent for me as my Minnesota tabs expired. Every year I do this. Why? Who knows…? Every year I am so dang certain I have renewed the tabs when a friendly officer flashes his or her lights at me to inform me that I have not. The first year I forgot, my co-workers and I were returning from the “Vagina Monologues” and the friendly officer called for back-up. Apparently our “I love Vagina” pins and stickers made him nervous. No friendly officers bothered to tell me this year until one Minneapolis street cop ticketed my parked car as the Fusion waited for its Monday delivery to Wisconsin. Now I know I’m illegal, and I’m nervous driving. I’m already driving around with two high strung German Short-haired Pointers and a pound of pink sand from the north coast beaches, and that is distracting enough. I hope I don’t end up at the Sherriff’s Department before I can get those plates. If not, I’m pooped!

The move is complete, the journey has begun. Bayfield Co. Chronicles is my journey journal, exploring the memoir-side of writing as I co-create the writer’s life. There is no messed-up guide for that, so I’m on my own to make my way! Let the scribbles begin!

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