Fishing Grapevine Lake, Texas

We fished on our own a few days from the banks, but with no fishing boats to rent on the lake, we decided to hire a guide. We called Greg Stewart from and booked a Sand Bass (White Bass) fishing trip.

We met Greg at the Dove Loop Ramp and he took great care of us. Jack decided not to join us because it was going to be six hours long. We fished the banks for the first hour, then headed over to a place right in front of the dam where they are aerating the water. Thousands of minnows can be seen at the top of the water amongst large pools of air bubbles. And where there are minnows…the bass come as well. We used Lil’ George lures and cast across to the other side of the bubbles and pulled the heavy lure through the minnows. We caught over 40 sand bass and one large mouth. We kept 12 bass that were bigger than 10″ and smaller than 14″. The lake has a slot-limit that you cannot keep fish between 14 & 18 inches and only one that is bigger than 18. We didn’t land any of the big ones, but still had a wonderful time.

At one point, all three of us had a fish on and we were so close to scoring a “Triple Play.” However, Greg was the only one of us that actually landed his fish.

Greg was a blast to be with. He did a great job of working with Ben on his casting technique and quickly realized that Ben and I taunt each other. Greg joined in and we were all laughing as we pulled in the fish. We are looking forward to grilling the bass in the next few days.

SCORES Round 1 Round 2
Brian 15 11
Ben 13 5
Greg 5 8

Both Ben and I are confident that if he had really been trying, Greg would have kicked us pretty hard.

Naked in WalMart & Survivor at Lamberts

We arrived safely in Grapevine, Texas, after a four day journey from Wisconsin. What an interesting way to travel. The first night we stopped just north of the Wisconsin-Illinois line at a WalMart Supercenter. We pulled into their parking lot, parked over to the side and went to sleep. The next morning we awoke, had a few hours of school (and work for me) before heading on down the road. We traveled about 6 hours into St Louis where we stayed at the Eureka WalMart on Hwy 44. The next night was at a WalMart in Tulsa, Ok.

I can’t tell you the number of times we laughed out loud about living at WalMart. One morning, while taking a shower, I laughed out to the rest of the family, “I’m NAKED in a WalMart Parking Lot!!!!” This new life has experiences we just couldn’t have planned for.

Along our trip south, we met up with Elizabeth (she lived with us for six years in Poplar Bluff) for her birthday dinner in St. Louis, the Sousan’s for dinner at Lamberts in Springfield, and the Cox’s for breakfast in Tulsa. I met Chad Cox back in 1987 when I stayed with his family after a concert at Victory Christian Chapel. Chad was in high school then. He’s now married to Debbie (the granddaugher of Robert Lindsey) and they have three beautiful children. You can enter the strange and profound mind of Chad at He and I argue all the time! We love it.

After dinner at Lambert’s, the Sousans (from “70s Music Show” in Branson) were getting ready to leave and I said, “Wanna come over to our house and watch Survivor?” In the Lambert’s parking lot we expanded both slides of the front of our RV, turned on the TV and settled in for the premier of Survivor: Cook Island. What a blast! As they were leaving, Jon pointed to the few cars parked closest to us and said, “So, do you like your neighbors?”

Wisconsin Maritime Museum, Manitowoc

It was hard to leave Wisconsin…much of the reason is because of the beauty of Door County. We started with 8 days in Door County, over to Shawano for 10 days and then decided to go back to Door County again for 5 more days. Next year, we might just go up for the entire month of August.

On our way out of Wisconsin we stopped in Manitowoc at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. The drive from Door County down to Manitowoc was incredible as much of it gave a majestic view of Michigan Lake.
In the museum, we were given a 45 minute tour of the U.S.S. Cobia, a WWII and Korean Electric Submarine. It was fascinating and both of the boys loved learning about life in a ship under water.

Wisconsin Does Too Have A Thumb!

Heading to Wisconsin whips up lots of memories. My childhood lives there. I can hear my dad’s voice interrupting his station wagon load of mostly curly headed kids, coaxing us to, “Smell that air! Smell how fresh the air is!” To which we moaned, “What? Smell the air?!” It smelled more like cow poop – but that was dad. How I miss him. Ask Ben and Jack if they’ve ever heard me say, “Smell the air!”

On the road to Shawano we came upon signs for Door County, Wisconsin’s “thumb.” Once upon a very long time I played at a club in Baileys Harbor with my band, Blue Blazes, and I’ve always wanted to share it with Brian. Then in perfect gypsy-like fashion we made a detour. The next thing you know we’re snuggling the RV between the towering pines of Egg Harbor Camp Ground in Door County. Now that is my kind of camping.


Not Brian’s ideal kind of camping, I would soon discover. He prefers the concrete pad, all roomy, level and clean. Not a bad thing but c’mon! It’s Wisconsin…we’re camping…in the Northwoods…on the verge of Autumn. Our planned few days off the beaten path turned into eight, as we just couldn’t pull ourselves away from the awe-inspiring beauty of that special place. It is truly one of Wisconsin’s greatest treasures.

We were delighted to have my brother, Pat, his wife, Christine, and their two adorable boys, Milo and Leo, visit us from Green Bay. We only had one afternoon so we fished off the Pier in Fish Creek and returned to the RV for a very fresh fish fry complete with Wisconsin sweet corn on the cob! Yum!! Pat is a very talented musician and a very gifted teacher. Christine is also a wonderful teacher. These two take two dozen or so high school students to Belize each year, to give you an idea of how amazing they are. My only regret is that we didn’t break out the guitars around the campfire. What were we thinking?

One simply perfect day the four of us ventured off on a 10 mile bike ride through Peninsula State Park. It was breath-taking; Our human frames dwarfed by the towering canopy of giant pines, the fluorescent green moss and wispy ferns gently blanketing the forest floor, wild meadows out the corner of one eye and the diamond sparkle of the Green Bay with its pristine dolomite pebble shoreline out the other, just having the opportunity to take that all in with my three favorite people on earth – Precious!

Speaking of my favorite people on earth…my very best childhood friend, Wendy Crawford, her husband, Sam, and daughter, Morgan, have a beautiful home in Door County.

Morgan, Ben & Jack

We were able to hang with not only them but Wendy’s mom, Sandy, and husband, Bob. Wendy and I have known each other for all but about five of our forty six years on the planet. We have experienced so much of life together that even our stories have stories. It is a rare gift from God to have a life-long friend!

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that an old musician friend of mine, Jay Whitney, lived and played in Door County. I recognized his name in a local entertainment magazine and was thrilled to see that his band was scheduled to play in the park in Egg Harbor.

Jay Whitney playing with the Big Mouth Blues Band

It was a wonderful gift to be able to see him again and catch up on life after all those years. He was as nice a man and as brilliant a jazz/blues musician as I remembered him to be. For old time’s sake I took the family to dinner one night at that famed Florian ll Restaurant in Baileys Harbor and much to my surprise, my rock and roll days there were among those being commemorated in pictures at the club’s entrance, celebrating their 50th anniversary! There we were – rockin’ with the band way back in the day. My kids’ faces said it all as they tried to reconcile the pictures of mom with short, short hair (a one-time-only-EVER-cut) and chick singer threads to the mom standing there giggling in reverie.

With countless hours of fishing under my boys’ belts, many pages of good books savored by me and numerous S’mores consumed by all, we left the Peninsula for Shawano in time for the annual County Fair, a Labor Day Weekend tradition. We stayed at the Shawano County Park on Shawano Lake, a spot that brings back the sweetest of childhood memories. To this day I roll down my window and “smell the lake” as soon as I’m near enough to draw it from the air! I wonder where I got that?

I am so blessed to come from a big family. I just love my six brothers and sisters and I thank God each day that we are all still enjoying healthy lives AND that we genuinely enjoy each others’ company. All the in-laws are great too. Shawano is home to many loved ones. My beautiful sister, Debbie, (whom I just adore) flew in from California and stayed with us in the RV. My brother, Jay, a.k.a. Mr. Bossy Pants (fondly named so by Ben & Jack), came in from Minnesota for the weekend. We spent lots of time catching up with my brothers’ families, Mike, Karen and Amanda, (we missed seeing you Sarah), and Pat, Christine, Milo and Leo. Having five of the seven siblings in one place is pretty special. We did a lot of stuff but basically we just had fun being together.

Jay, Mike, Debbie/Jack, Ben & Karen
Milo, Leo and Jack at the Fair
Aunty Deb & Ben on a wild ride
Jack, Jacob and Dustin

My cousin, Todd, and his wife and son, Denise and Jacob, hosted a “cook-out,” as we say up north, which brought together even more of us. It was wonderful to see Aunty Van, cousin Steve and his wife, Kim, Aunty Carmen, Uncle Ben, cousins Jamie and Nick (no Hillary this time 🙁 ), and a whole beautiful bunch of my cousins’ kiddos. Nothing like a cook out to bring folks to one spot for a feast of food and fellowship. It is always so good to see my family.

We had a great time, as always, with the Crawfords, spending one night together at the fair. Ben and Jack made new friends with my friend Rhonda Krueger’s daughters, Gabby and Chloe.

Gabby & Ben eating s’mores
Jack & Chloe

They buddied up at the fair but also roasted marshmallows at the RV one night before we left Shawano – until next year…

Shawano Lake, Wisconsin

Shawano Lake is home for some great large and small mouth bass, northern, muskee and small perch and sunfish.

The Northern
Ben and I went out in our rented fishing boat. Using a perch-spinner bait, we bounced the jig up and down in the water about 10 feet deep. Some hungry northern came our way! We caught five in total. The first 10 seconds are fun, but after that the fish gives up and you just drag them in. Its always a surprise to see such a big fish at the end of your line.

The Bass
Now these small and large mouth bass are fun. The most success was using a weedless jig head and 4″ Gulp bait in the lilly pads. First you have to use 20 lb braided line to keep from breaking your line. You cast into the lillies and pull the jig across the tops of the lillies and the jig will fall into the water before it is dragged back up on the next lily. WOW! When the bass hits there is no doubt in it. The strike is huge and the fun begins. Jack and I went out the last morning in Shawano and had two keepers: a 15 1/2″ & 16″ bass. It was fun!

We never got into the muskee…we’ll have to do that next time.

SCORES Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Brian 12 15 0
Ben 15 9 1
Jack 9

The Becker Fishing Contest Official Scoring System

In order to make fishing more fun in our family, we’ve created a fish scoring system.

  • Non-keeper (because it is too small) — 1 point
  • A Keeper — 2 points
  • A fish deemed “trophy size” — 3 points (17″ bass, 12″ perch, etc)
  • Catching the largest keeper or trophy fish so far that day — 1 point

Winner is the first to score 15 points or the highest score when time to leave.

Combination points are possible, i.e., catch the first keeper of the day and it is worth 3 points

  • o keeper = 2 points
  • o largest keeper so far that day = 1 point