Monday, September 1, 2008

Wisconsin Report Day 1: Welcome to Wisconsin

Okay, time to start my trip report! I'm going to post once for each day separately so it will be organized into bite-sized pieces, rather than one unmanageable lump. (WARNING: I didn't even bother trying to abbreviate my report of this trip. I know it's going to be long, but it's important to me to document it in this way, mainly just because I had such a great time. There are those who will be interested in a detailed description, so I'll provide it, even though words can hardly describe the experience we had this weekend! Skim if you like, but I'll provide photos along the way to illustrate. Anyway, warning over. Read on!)

Day 1:

Is anyone here aware that Happy Days was set in Wisconsin? Did anyone also know that Happy Days was made into a musical? Did anyone ALSO also know that there is an opening number in said musical is called "Welcome to Wisconsin"? Well, it was, and it is and there is. Well, I thought it was exciting anyway.

After some final preparations on Thursday morning, we headed up to the airport! We only thought of a few minor things we had forgotten (seems like there’s always something), and were there in plenty of time, only to learn that our flight was delayed an hour, pending some mechanical repairs on our plane in its previous airport. Also, FYI, stupidly, a lot of airlines now charge even to check one bag, and to check two is almost twice as much. Lame. We saved by carrying on two of our three bags, but still. The pilot was able to shave off fifteen minutes or so, so we weren’t terribly later than we had planned, when at last we landed in the midwest, stepping off the plane into a wall of humidity. We made our way quickly through the sprawling Chicago O’Hare terminal and quickly were picked up by the shuttle which took us to the car rental agency, and at last we were driving toward southern Wisconsin, Dad’s trusty GPS leading the way (when I didn’t know).

The plan was to stop briefly in Racine, in between Chicago and Milwaukee, to say hello to dear Elder Banez (an English-speaking elder with whom I lived for my last six months in Appleton), but he and his boy were sadly unavailable. As we kept driving north, at last the scenery and city names started to look familiar, and I was really excited to make our way into southern Milwaukee. We saw signs advertising Wisconsin Cheese (although to tell the truth I don’t think I’ve ever actually had “Wisconsin Cheese”) and beer and passed about a hundred people on Harleys—turns out there was a Harley Davidson anniversary convention in Milwaukee this weekend. We stopped just after 10 pm to say hello to President and Sister Barrett and their 17-year-old son Todd (fresh home from his high school football game), and had a nice, short, late visit with them. HA, they hardly recognized me with my beard and long hair! It was so nice to see them, and even to learn some things about them that I never knew (President grew up in Moab??), and try and make family connections between Granpda’s and President’s families. We then drove about an hour to the Sheboygan Falls Days Inn, but way too late to visit anyone there. The next day’s plans changed rapidly with the delay in our arrival flight, but things will be great. I was just looking forward to seeing some actual Hmong people in Wisconsin again. It was a weird feeling to be back, but in a way, no big deal. It looks the same as I left it. That night Dad bemoaned the fact that he forgot his mp3 player, which he had loaded up with books and music just for the trip. Sad.

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