Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Summer Summary, the End

For the past decade, summers have been capped off with a family gathering in northern Wisconsin at a resort called Garmisch USA.  This is to distinguish it from Garmisch, Germany.

Garmisch USA was the brainchild of a series of Chicago lumber barons and their heirs, starting at the turn of the last century.  One heir, Jean Funk, had traveled the world and came back eager to recreate what she had seen.  Here she is, posing on the Queen Mary with her mother and in front of a bistro in Paris.

Garmisch is comprised of a lodge and about 20 “cabins,” if you consider this a cabin.

The “cabins” are named Blarney Castle (above), Chateau des Alpes, Edelweiss Haus, Schwaben Haus, and The Beetle, which is where we congregated thanks to my aunt’s generosity.

The Beetle looks normal from the outside.

There are two levels, each with bedrooms, a kitchen, and living area.  The kitchens look normal.

But turn around, and you’ll wonder if someone slipped LSD into your beer.

Jean must have traveled through Africa and the South Pacific, too, and brought home treasures to incorporate into Garmisch.  There are shelves and glass-fronted display cases full of souvenirs, including this uniform.  Swiss?  German? Hitler Youth?

There are closets galore, an elevator, and a hidden trap door that leads to two vast unfinished third-floor rooms full of surprises.

The grounds are sprinkled with out buildings overrun by chipmunks.

And creepy figurines, and a cannibal cauldron.

But we’re there for the family time on Lake Kabetogama.

We sat inside during the rain and talked and ate and read and played Scrabble.  When the sun was out a dozen people took the pontoon to fish and swim and gape at other enormous cabins.  We hiked and kayaked and made bonfires.  Some of us went into town to the farmer’s market and some went to my niece’s baby-naming ceremony at Lac Courte Oreilles reservation.  She and her partner and the baby are missing from this photo, otherwise there would be 17 of us.

Boy, am I ever short.  I wonder if I am shrinking or if my niece, whose shoulders I am holding, is getting taller.

No Minnesota summer is complete without a day frittered away at the State Fair.  Dubbed “The Great Minnesota Get Together,” this is your chance to socialize with two million of your neighbors in the heat and rain and to enjoy gourmet delights such as deep-fried pickles on a stick.

I arrived early to hit the booth of a local spectacle store that had advertised State Fair specials. I need a new pair of glasses and I found some great frames on sale.  After figuring in my three prescriptions (reading, computer, and driving), UV protection, antiglare, and tax, I walked away having blown the better part of a paycheck.

I met some friends and we partook in craft beers, then perused the crop art in the Horticulture Building.  Yes, all of these are made of seeds.  Winters are long on the prairie and people must amuse themselves somehow.

We swung through the Dairy Building to gaze upon the climate-controlled, revolving butter-busts of the Fair Princesses, including Princess Kay of the Milky Way.

Then it was on to the livestock pavilions.  Really, it’s a wonder these poor animals don’t die of terror after 12, 12-hour days being poked and prodded by strangers (We were there on the last day and the rabbits were being readied for transportation back to their farm; they were in larger cages during the fair).

We swung through the Department of Natural Resources for photo ops with Smoky the Bear, who turns 50 this year.  I know he’s not real, but a girl can dream. Tall, dark, and furry….

Evening began to fall, and do did the rain, as I met another group of friends for the concert in the Grandstand: the Thomson Twins (but only one of them), the B52s, and Boy George and Culture Club.

Boy George’s makeup can only be described as satanic.  His response to the audience, was “Wha’ di’jer expect?  I’m Boy Fucking George!”  It was great.

And that was my summer. Eight more sleeps, then I’m Australia bound.

Road Trips, Fireworks, and Kittens

I’ve written about snorkeling in Belize, hiking in Petra, learning Spanish in Mexico, working in Istanbul and Ramallah, and the biggest adventure of all, visiting my son in prison.

But I’m also a proponent of finding adventure closer to home.  After all, you can’t travel internationally 365 days a year, although I’d like to test that assumption.

So on Tuesday I drove 260 miles (418 kilometers) to Madison, Wisconsin to visit my cousin.  The speed limit for most of the route is 70MPH (113KPH).  On the plus side, the road is smooth, the scenery is pretty, and I just found out I have cruise control—after owning my car for over a year.  I set it to 76 in honor of the Independence Day holiday.

I90 was congested with semi trucks.  There are a lot of disturbing billboards for truck stop porno shops along the way.  Is that all truckers do when they don’t have their hands on a steering wheel?  Ugh.

This was the route Lynn and I took two years ago on our way to New Orleans.  This post describes some of the exciting places we visited, like the Cranberry Discovery Center and Jellystone Park.

I stopped at a wayside rest and learned about sphagnum moss, including how to spell it.

I somehow tore myself away from this fascinating info-plaque and drove on.

Madison is half the size of St. Paul-Minneapolis.  It has a Top 10 public university where I met one of my nieces for happy hour.  She’s always been a great person and she’s even better now because she’s doing what young adults are supposed to do in college.  I don’t mean studying.  I mean figuring out how to be an adult.  How to manage friendships, romantic relationships, inner turmoil, outer turmoil, etc.

A few hours later, my cousin and I went to Hyvee for dinner because his wife, who was exhausted from her work as a physical therapist, wanted to rest and asked him to bring her a to-go Cobb salad.

When Hyvee opened in St. Paul, people acted as if it was the second coming of Christ.  I don’t get it.  It’s just another grocery store with all the same processed food but presented beautifully. We had the all-you-can-eat “Chinese” buffet and I can tell you, they should have paid me $8.99 to eat the execrable crap they passed off as Chicken Stir Fry.  The chicken was rubbery and looked suspiciously as if it had been extruded from a machine.  But I wolfed it down because I hadn’t eaten since happy hour, where I had ordered a large basket of deep-friend cauliflower. It was terrible.  I ate every crumb.

Back at his house, my cousin and I sat on the porch in the dark, slapping mosquitoes and talking about politics and our childhoods—we grew up three houses apart so we feel more like siblings than cousins. He’s a radio journalist and just about ready to hang it up in this political climate.  “Working at Hyvee looked really appealing,” he remarked.

The next day we drove through the arboretum, had breakfast at a place called Barriques and a few hours later lunch at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner. Then we spent an hour at Olbrich Botanical Gardens.  How had I never been there?  I’ve been to many botanical gardens around the world, and this was one of the best.

Then it was back on the road, just in time to arrive home for 4th of July fireworks.  You may have read that people who have lived through war can be re-traumatized by the sounds of fireworks. Well I live in a neighborhood of many Southeast Asian immigrants and last night it was like trying to sleep through the Vietnam war.  I could hear my neighbors yelling and shouting in Hmong in between what sounded like cannon blasts until 1:30 am.

I finally gave up on sleep and got up, only to find an animal adventure under my dining room table, where my latest foster cat was in the process of giving birth.  I sat with her, stroking her head.  It was a rough night, but here they are this morning, six in a pile.  Worth it.