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Thursday, December 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 33.0° F  Overcast
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A vacation up north goes south
Moores vs. mosquitoes...and more
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The Integrated Stable Cradles II system on the Yakima Superjoe Pro 3 bike rack is made of durable, medium-soft plastic. Pliable enough to grip the crossbar of your bicycle. Hard enough to secure it wiggle-free for city or Interstate transport. You wouldn't expect the unit to hurt you too badly when you slam the rear hatch of your car down onto your head.

Life is a road littered with the wrappings of broken expectations. It turns out that the Yakima Integrated Cradles System II hurts like a son of a bitch when it hits you in the head. All the features of this quality product work together in producing this result.

I think I might black out. The moment passes when my own system chooses to stay awake for the sweet blossom of pain. Now comes a faint whining in my ears, like someone running a chainsaw a mile away. But that's not what it is at all.

The whack on my head has caused me to stand still long enough for the mosquitoes to commence their full-body buffet. They're flying in and out of my ears, nose and mouth, practically lifting me off my feet, which are, thanks to today's squall-line thunderstorm, soaked and freezing.

We arrived at our north woods destination 10 minutes ago. Things are deteriorating.

It's risky to read too much into any given moment. Still, I should have seen the incident back at the Minocqua Walgreen's as a sign. The same split-second I raked my debit card across the scanner, the power blew out all across the greater Vilas County area.

Daughter Maggie and I stood there in the ghostly orange light, breathing through our mouths, while the cashier, a pretty, middle-aged lady named Marla, gripped the counter with both hands like she was about to be pitched over the rail of a cruise ship.

With the cash registers down, more time passed before I could get the antihistamine on the counter into my system in order to arrest the fusillade of yellow mucus pouring from my nostrils.

I swallowed the gooey mucus the entire four-hour drive up here. Just so you know. My lungs were now a phalanx of phlegm, my breathing interrupted by a self-inflicted, death-rattle cough.

We had been looking forward to this trip for weeks.

Back at the car, the pounding in my head is making a noise that can be heard across the lake. Throwing the cabin's breakers to "on" produced no results, and now Peggy and Maggie are inside the powerless cabin, sentinels at the side door, opening and closing it behind me as I unload our bags. Despite their efforts, an average of 100 mosquitoes enter the cabin each trip.

I sprint back and forth to the car, arms flailing and swatting through the air. If someone saw me from a distance, he would be convinced I was on fire.

The antihistamine goes down well with a can of Pabst. We unpack in candlelight, smacking bugs on our own and each other's bare skin as we go. Taken altogether, our slapping sounds resemble courteous applause. Like what you'd hear at the end of an intimate chamber music concert.

All night long we endure them flying past our ears, like tiny airplanes, before coming to a landing on our necks and foreheads. In the morning the three of us look like extras from The Walking Dead. For a strange moment before I'm fully awake, the gruesome sight of my wife and my daughter makes me want to run for it.

One of our main trip objectives is to do some fishing, and so by God we launch the boat into the measly-ass, rain-dotted morning. Our luck changes for the better, twice, out on the lake. Maggie catches a couple pretty good-size perch. Then, as we round the bend into our home bay, pier lights pop on all across the shoreline. Power! Warmed by the thought of a stove-cooked dinner, I try to remember which of the breakers I left flipped into the "on" position last night.

Turns out one of them was the electric water pump. Since the actual water lines inside the cabin had not been opened up for the season, there's two feet of standing water in the crawl space beneath the structure.

I open the crawl space door and watch the overflow stream under my feet. This is no fooling around. Serious action is now required. I decide we better get the hell out of here before someone gets seriously hurt. We reel the boat onto the trailer in gale force winds, drop Maggie off at her summer job, and head back home.

It was so good to see the Dane County line it made us forget, if only for a moment, the terrible new noises coming from beneath the hood of the car.

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