Wisconsin

Miles Driven:   

No more car!

Back, after a brief hiatus (which, contrary to Wisconsin beliefs, is not a kind of cheese or a brand of beer) in which we spent a (mostly) relaxing week or so in Sugar Camp, WI, ancestral home of Jason.  As you can see from the pathos-ridden statement of 'no more car!' on the left, Karl the Mustang has been put into stasis in a barn in Upper Michigan.  Hopefully Karl will be safe from the harsh winters and equally harsh summers (remember the earlier storm pictures!) for the next four years or so.  The storage of Karl was not without incident, however, as whilst entering the barn Jason managed to run over a board with a nail sticking out of it! Poof, siiissss went the tyre........so the storage was delayed for a wheel change. Running over a board with a nail sticking out was a rather unfortunate pratfall - haven't seen that one since the Three Stooges  ;)  Right up there with slipping on a banana peel!

We all spent a few days basically tooling around the Sugar Camp area, catching up with the local relations, friends, and in Colin's case, the fish pond..  Although not a fish-eater by birth, Colin is considering a conversion.  The fish were 'out' for their first day of the year.....since the climate is not carp-friendly all year 'round, the fish spend summers in the outside pond, and winters in big fish tanks inside whilst the pond is drained and the  lake outside has a foot of ice.  The tricky part being that during the summer the fish expand greatly, and therefore during winter it's like having an audition for Jaws crammed into a tank right there inside the dining room. Crikey (yes, that was sarcasm, for those who torment me with that word - you know who you are!).

Speaking of Australianisms, check out the sign Colin is sitting on.  Any of those destinations look familiar!? 

Colin was going to pose in front of this residence before deciding that perhaps they had enough in the way of 'wildlife' already. Sometimes you have to wonder just what motivates people in life.  Other times it's simply obvious.

 

Life in Sugar Camp was not entirely a bowl or roses, however.  Poor Colin was rejected at the Rhinelander Country Club, Kiwis not being permitted membership.  Hmph.  So instead it was back home to drown his sorrows in a couple of bottles of New Zealand wine - both very good, by the way. For those with a taste for such things..... the white was a Pinot Gris from Grove Mill ( http://www.grovemill.co.nz/grovemill.htm ).  The red was a Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Glazebrook ( http://www.ngatarawa.co.nz/winebrand_glazebrook.cfm?back=index.htm ).  We bought these at the "Trig's" ( http://www.trigs.com/cgi-bin/customize?r_liquor.html ), which I am giving an official plug to as having a very good wine selection! I hadn't seen either of these two NZ wines in American shops before, and although they were more expensive than the usual selection ($20-ish US dollars each) they were certainly worth it. We managed to get through 2 of each, which should help out the NZ wine export market!!

And after a nice glass or two of wine, there's nothing like some pleasant relaxation time on the dock into the lake.  Aahhh.

 

 

(That's 'aahhh' as in pleasure and contentment, not 'aaaaarrrrggghhh' as in surprise and alarm) (Some of you may even get that joke!)

Still, after a week in Sugar Camp it was time to move on.  Jason's father was attending a conference in the Wisconsin Dells, so the rest of us tagged along to stay at the Holiday Inn in nearby Madison (thereby hitting the Priority Club Points again, woohooo).  On the way south, Colin enjoyed a picnic at a pretty rest stop. Colin is rather fond of rest stops. There was a brief excursion along a woodland path, before the idea of wood ticks took hold like a ....... well..... took hold like a wood tick.  Retreat.

We stayed at a rather nice Holiday Inn, which featured a piano bar in a very comfortable lobby.  You can see pictures of Colin enjoying the atmosphere, especially the piano.

   

It's interesting to ponder why the toilet has a poster of "Famous Composers".  Perhaps you can do the pondering whilst doing your daily 'composing'.  Enough toilet humour, onwards  ;)

There was a Model A meet going on at a nearby hotel, and it was a lot of fun to wander around looking at all the cars. The restoration levels vary from Rustbucket to Perfect, but all were worth investigating.  Colin liked the taxi best.

This part of Madison is a strange mix of development and farmland.  For example, check out the picture of the street the Holiday Inn is on...... everything from insurance company high-rise buildings to corn fields.

And you know what else you get when you get corn fields and associated items (including trailer homes)?  Yup. Tornadoes. During dinner we had an effing tornado.  I say 'effing' because I know someone's mother is reading this.  Possibly multiple mothers.  And it was a mother of an tornado too  :P  We'd just finished our main course at a restaurant down the block when a waitress came over to our table.  It was a rather nice restaurant, a bit upscale, so she complimented the atmosphere of sophistication by saying - in the same kind of hushed voice she probably uses if your credit card is rejected - "I'm sorry, would you mind awfully moving to our Secure Shelter?  We have a tornado warning".

Despite the gentle delivery, I wasn't impressed to hear THIS bit of news - we hadn't even known there was a tornado watch, let alone a warning (which means spotters have seen a tornado on the ground nearby).  So off we go to the Secure Shelter area, which turned out to be the corridor outside the ladies room.  The staff herded us all in there, saying if there wasn't sufficient room we could fill the bathrooms.  Damned if *I* was going to die in the ladies room!! Hell no!  Not even when it had fancy soap and hand moisturiser.  So we stayed in the corridor. Colin had added shelter by pulling his shirt over his head.  (Yes, this picture was taken after the event due to the fact that during the actual alarm, it was packed with people).

During the half hour or so we lurked in the Secure Shelter, a tornado apparently touched down in the mall at the end of the street we were on, 'bounced' up and over our section of the neighbourhood (the staff, who shunned the Secure Shelter long enough to peer out the front door, said the clouds passed overhead and they could see the rotation, but it was well off the ground as it went over), touched down again further away, bounced up again, and touched down a third time before carrying on it's way.  Here's a bit of a news report, which hopefully will stay up on the local page there long enough for you to read it:

http://www.channel3000.com/weather/3454057/detail.html

After the warning was cancelled, we returned to our table for dessert, which the restaurant shouted us for free.  I'm not exactly sure, as it wasn't as if their negligence had caused the tornado  ;)  Still, it was very nice of them.  When in Madison, please eat at Houlihan's - the food was excellent, the staff was very nice, and the corridor outside the ladies room was quite interesting  ;)  Just don't go in tornado season. http://www.madisonhoulihans.com/

So, with that rather special end to the US portion of our trip, tomorrow morning we're due to fly to the UK.  Believe me, the tornado has made me even keener to get on the plane, if that's possible  ;)   With any luck, the next you'll hear from us will be from a new national location!  Although I've just seen on the BBC news that England lost to Portugal in a penalty shootout (I'm talking about soccer for those of you NOT in touch with world sport) so no doubt the country may be closed in a day of mourning and we may not be able to get in.  Still, we'll try!

Take care, everyone.  Colin sends his love  :)

K.