It has been way to long since I last traveled. All this was due to covid which is still ravaging the country. Despite that we booked a family trip back in the spring. Pat was really interested in getting everyone together since it has been so long. She decided on Door County, WI and this would be my first real vacation since this started.
I planned my trip to arrive early and stay late. Flying from Portland I was upgraded to first class on the flight over. After getting the rental car I did some shopping for cannabis now that Illinois is a recreational state. I spent the night in Rockford, IL before continuing to La Crosse the next morning.
Got in almost at 7 last night. The evenin seemed to fly by with food, drinks and conversations. It was really great seeing everyone and hanging out. I am sure the grin never left my face. Solid 8 hour drive to The Badlands today so I have my work cut out for me.
Last weekend we (Nancy, my dad, Pat, Matt and I) went to Wisconsin for the high school graduation of my cousin David’s oldest son, Andy. It was going to be a giant party at the park across from Rose’s house as we would need all the space we could get. We flew out on Friday morning to Milwaukee and from there we drove across the state to La Crosse. On Sunday we would head back to Madison to visit more family and catch the plane out of Milwaukee on Monday.
I couldn’t wait for the long four day weekend in Wisconsin. I was looking forward to introducing Nancy to the rest of the family and for her to see were I spent many summers, a few Thanksgivings, and Christmases thrown in for good measure. Once we landed in Milwaukee the first thing we noticed was the severe temperature drop. We just left temps approaching 100 degrees in DC and Milwaukee was a brisk 60 and cloudy. When we got to Rose’s house a few hours later everyone kept apologizing for such cold weather. I was loving it, I could have used a sweet shirt, but I was not going to complain about the cool weather. I didn’t complain about the cool temps in San Francisco either.
After getting the rental car it took about three hours to reach La Crosse. We arrived at Rose’s house and walked right into a party. We were offered something to drink and gladly took up the offer. Not 10 minutes after we arrived others started showing up to welcome us back to Wisconsin. In no time the house was filled with guests and everyone was having a great time. Some of these guys I have not seen in five years so it was great to catch up with everyone. Nancy, Matt and I spent most of our time outside on the deck, even thought it was drizzling. It was just great to be outside enjoying the company. Eventually we got the fire pit going and enjoyed a toasty fire with our drinks. We did eat as well, someone brought authentic German potato salad and it brought back memories. That and the brats and locally made hotdogs and I was in heaven. Even had a few local brews from the New Glarus Brewing Company, the Spotted Cow was taste. Late into the night we bullshitted.
The sleeping arrangements at Rose’s house are limited so us kids shacked up at David and Teresa’s house just down the street. David came back to pickup us up so we wouldn’t have to stumble, I mean walk in the dark. On the way back we got lost so we stopped by The Ridge to get some directions.
Five years ago, the last time I was in Wisconsin, turned into an epic and memorable trip. Not only for me but for my entire family as well. It was Mike and Roses 40th wedding anniversary so I went up to help celebrate. After a welcoming house party we headed to The Ridge for a few more drinking. I really wanted some scotch but they didn’t have any so I got tequila instead. This was my fatal mistake, Jose and I just don’t get along. Every five years I need to challenge that friendship and this trip was that time. I remember my cousin Kenny and I sitting at the bar just knocking back the drinks. Needless to say the next day, not just the morning but all day, I was feeling rough. I pretty much missed the ceremony and party afterwards. I felt so bad, I was ashamed I drank so much. My family took it all in stride and they have never let me forget about that night.
Nancy has heard the stories over the years from different family members so as we drove to David’s house she wanted to see the now infamous bar. The place looks exactly like I remember it five years ago. We bellied up to the bar in the same spot and ordered a round. For a mere $10 we got four drinks, including the Spotted Cow. After the round we finally found our way back to the house and headed to the basement for a night cap. By now it was late and we were all exhausted so to bed we went.
The next morning I woke up and was feeling great, no hangover this time. All morning we did was we could to help get ready for the party. From what I heard 200+ people from all over Wisconsin were showing up for this party. Teresa’s family is rather large and four of the kids were graduating at the same time so they rolled the parties all in one. The party was held at the local park which has ample space to accommodate this large crowd. We spend the afternoon mingling with family, drinking a little, and stuffing our faces with pork BBQ. A friend of David’s spent Friday roasting and entire pig for the party and it was awesome
By late afternoon most of our family was off at church or…..doing something else and it eventually was just Nancy, Matt, my cousin Kenny and I left at the party. Not knowing anyone else we headed to Rose’s house for a private party, we cracked open some beers and enjoyed the view from the deck. Ever since I was a kid the view has been the same, an panoramic view of green fields and farms with a blue sky and white fluffy clouds as far as the eye can see. I was happy Nancy got to see this fond memory of my childhood. It was amazing but as darkness approached more people migrated to the deck, by 8pm it was full. We talked, drank, and eventually got the fire pit out to make some s’mores. Afterwards imagine if you can, 10 drunks walking from Rose’s house to The Ridge. It was a crazy site seeing us all walking down the street. At The Ridge we had another couple of rounds and called it a night.
Sunday, our last day in La Crosse. Teresa cooked a great breakfast of sausage gravy and biscuits which kept us going most of the afternoon. After we got a tour of the local fire station. David is a volunteer firefighter and is very proud of his work and the new station they have on the ridge. Saying our goodbyes to David and Teresa, Rose and Mike, and finally Marvin we headed for Madison through the rolling hills of the back country. Highway driving might be faster but it certainly lacks the stunning beauty of the state. On our way we stopped in Coon Valley to visit their recently completed war memorial. The memorial lists all those from the local area that have fought for our nation starting with World War I. I got to see my Dad’s name engraved in marble.
When we arrived in Madison we visited with Pat’s sister Eillen and her husband Gerry who cooked a wonderful meal for us weary road warriors. Same pattern as the previous two days: drinks, food, and then more drinks outside. It must have been well after 10pm before we called it a night. There was no spare bedrooms at Gerry and Eillen’s so Kenny and Patti, who live in Madison, offered their place to Nancy and I for the night. Their kids started summer camp so the four of us had a few more drinks and talked late into the night before catching some zzz.
The next morning was very low key, which I loved. In their living room is a high square table that Kenny, Nancy and I sat at all morning talking, getting a little work done and generally just shooting the shit till 11am. Precisely on time my Dad pulls up in the rental and we head towards Milwaukee to catch our flight. It was a short drive and we made it to the airport in no time, got through security (even with my refusal to use the millimeter wave machine and have some dude feel my junk) and waited for our flight.
Finally got home about 7pm and Nancy and I just relaxed the rest of the evening. It was a long day of travel and after three days of drinking our bodies craved rest and relaxation. I only wish we took off Tuesday so we could recover properly from our little adventure up north. It was great seeing everyone up there for the weekend and we are looking forward to seeing most of my Wisconsin family at our wedding were we will tear it up in a foreign country.