Wednesday, November 22, 2017

On Travels in Wisconsin

The blog has been quiet since last week because I have been traveling, and the winter weather clothing requirements of my destination meant I had to leave the laptop behind (while still meeting carry-on standards).

FLASH: Hey--wouldn't it be better if airlines made CHECKING bags free and made you PAY for carry-ons? Sure would make getting on and off the plane a lot faster.

Back to the post. I traveled to Wisconsin with General Dan, a reprise of a trip first covered here on the blog two years ago in "Dispatch from the Road: Wisconsin Wonderland".  I've decided not to re-read that post so that it doesn't shape what I write about this one. But I'm sure there will be commonalities.

I flew to Wisconsin on United through Chicago (O'Hare). My God, O'Hare is a big airport. We seemed to taxi on the ground there for twice the length of the flight to Milwaukee. General Dan picked me up at the airport in his land-yacht of a pick-em-up-truck (full, cavernous, heated backseat) and then drove to Dan's hometown of Hartland. That's right. Hartland. Can this be any more stereotypical?

With Joan at her coffee shop
In Hartland, we stopped in at Joan Curnane Folvag's coffee shop, a repeat of our trip here last time. Joan and I went to high school together, and she is a Hartland hero for having brought the first real coffeeshop to town. She's decided to sell it now and relax a bit--I don't blame her. Her oldest son popped in for a visit--strapping senior in H.S. headed to the University of Minnesota next year--where he'll join the Golden Gopher Marching Band (trombone). Ten minutes with him had me far less worried about America's future.

We then moved on to our destination for the night, the house Dan's father (Tim) shares with his wife Linda. Dan's mom died ten years ago or so, and from what I've been able to discern over the years, she was a force of nature. Having myself joined the family of a deceased legend, I feel a kinship with Linda. She and Tim have built a great life together, living in her house in Wisconsin for most of the year, and his condo in Florida over the rough winter months.  Both of them are salt of the earth--kind, conversational, and warm.

With Steve Hampton.
The Hampton's, Representing
Late Friday afternoon, I posted an update in Facebook that was read by my old Navy boss Steve Hampton--who actually lives in Hartland these days. Steve called, and I asked permission of my hosts to bag out for 90 minutes to go have a drink with Steve--who came and picked me up soon thereafter. We alighted to Palmers in downtown Hartland where a fetching bar-tendress served us an afternoon libation. It is always great to be with Steve. I worked for him in the early 90's on USS THOMAS S GATES (CG 51), which was perhaps the most talent laden ship of the twentieth century Navy. He taught me everything I know about killing missiles and airplanes (well, he and Mudge did) , and we've been good friends ever since. After a bit, Steve took me back to his house, where his knockout wife Terry met us in his beautiful house. Hampton's marriage to Terry is a tribute to the possibility that some women really DO seek out a sense of humor, because if she were trying to maximize looks, Hambone would not come close. I keed, I keed.

Steve and Terry have two grown daughters and live in what appears to me to be Bruce Wayne's mansion. We went for a tour, and I swear, I figured there would be a bat cave. Perfectly decorated--both in general and for Christmas--it struck me as a wonderful place to kick your feet up.

General Dan, with an Old Fashioned
Having overstayed my welcome, I asked Steve to drive me to dinner at the Hartland Inn.  Here, two of Dan's sisters met up with Tim, Linda, Dan and I--along with one sister (Liz) husband (Steve). This dinner is their way of really turning on the Wisconsin charm--and it is a request of mine. The Hartland Inn is a legit Wisconsin Supper Club, which has to be experienced to be understood. I absolutely love this place. Everyone seems to know each other there, and I swear, walking into the bar is like walking back fifty years in time.  I didn't even open the menu, because I found what I wanted to eat on the "specials" menu appended thereunto. I ordered a New England Clam Chowder and Beef Stroganoff--both of which went down smooth. The only problem was that during the pre-dinner bar time, I ate somewhere on the order of  3,000 small pretzels, and I finished up the evening uncomfortably full and very heart-burny.

I decided on this trip to throw dietary caution to the wind, and I sincerely regret it. I ate whatever I wanted in whatever quantities I wanted, and laid in bed each night enormous and dyspeptic. I went back to Tim and Linda's house to hit the sack, but the General stayed in town and hit a watering hole to receive the adulation of the townspeople.
My Legitimacy

A little of the White Stuff
With the Karbler Siblings
Saturday morning brought a dusting of snow (lovely) and a festive lunch with all three of Dan's sisters. I was granted special dispensation to attend this "Sibling Lunch", to include actual paperwork. One thing I noted earlier in the morning was General Dan being a little short with his Dad about when we would leave for Green Bay (2 hrs away). Dan doesn't get short much. This wasn't a full on jerk kind of short, but a little chippy. So when Dan and I split from lunch with the ladies to go grab Dan's Dad, I asked him what the hurry was to get to Green Bay. "Ok. I'll spoil the surprise. We're getting a guided tour of the Packers facilities along with the pilots who will do the F-15 flyover the next day.  And we get pregame field VIP passes for Sunday."  Ok. Now I understand the chippiness.

Aaron Rodgers Locker, extreme right
We made the trip up and were met at Lambeau by "T-Bone" who is both an equipment manager and the team's military liaison. His office was a shrine of stuff that military units have given him- very cool, and he loves the military. We saw everything. The training facilities. The weight room. The locker room. The shoe room. The indoor practice field. It was a behind the scenes look that really gives one an appreciation into what goes into pulling off a professional football game.
T-Bone and the General

Dinner that night was a feast--each of us got the ribeye at The Black and Tan Grille. My primary dietary foul here was the lobster mac and cheese, which was everything a boy hopes for in his lobster mac and cheese. We then waddled back to our hotel where I passed another uncomfortable night of gastro-intestinal distress.

The game (Packers v. Ravens) started at 12, and the wind chill was 17 degrees. This is not--as Lambeau goes--very cold. But it is very cold to me. So I brought along a good deal of extra layers etc, and was well equipped for the elements. Besides a little toe cold, everything else was toasty.

Tim and Dan in The Shoe Room
The Packers got beat. I feel bad for Green Bay fans, because they suffer from a severe case of cognitive dissonance. When Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, the entire country--except Packers fans--wrote this team off. And the whole country was right. The drop-off between an all world QB and the second string guy is huge--and they just couldn't get it done. I was impressed with how well the Ravens traveled, as there were a TON of Ravens fans there. I was also impressed with how nice the Green Bay folks were to them. They kill you with kindness there.

We dined Sunday night at a regrettable spot called "Hagermeister Park". Tim loved his wings, but there was little else ordered that night worth discussion. And since I was in the land of nice people, I'll be nice and not say anything more mean about the place.

On Monday morning, we hopped over the airport in Green Bay to meet up with our new F-15 pilot buddies to walk the flight line and learn about the planes. Then we headed back down to Milwaukee to drop me at the airport to continue my travels home. Dan was to drop his Dad off back in Hartland and then continue driving to his home outside Omaha.

One odd thing to report. I did not see a single cow in the four days I was there. I think some kind of clever ruse is being pulled on the American people, and all the cows are really in Minnesota.

Another odd thing; on the drive from Green Bay to Milwaukee, I saw a number of advertisements for "adult" establishments. Video, dancing, clothing, etc. Who knew these people were so randy? I guess you've got to find some way to pass the long winter....

All in all, a fantastic trip among wonderful people. Many thanks to General Dan, Tim, Linda, Liz, Steve Carol, Steve, and Terry for making this a great trip.


"The Hammer" said...

The 'Black and Tan Grill'? What a great name, Irish history notwithstanding. Did you go by 'Cheesy Does it' or "The Dairy Godmother'?

Conservative Wahoo said...

No---but I do love that state....

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