Friday, November 11, 2016

The Longest Stay: Wisconsin 2015, Part 3

A small but important chunk of our calendar during return trips to Wisconsin is always pre-planned. Mainly business or medical appointments. We always do a face-to-face with our financial advisors, Don Schleicher and Brian Witz at Scleicher/Witz Financial. By the way, if you’re looking for help planning for retirement, these guys are the ones who helped us make it happen. We highly recommend their no pressure common sense approach.
Medicals included our annual wellness exams, dental checkups, eye checkups, and since getting hearing aids, Tom’s audiologist. These appointments have to be made well in advance, especially when we have such a limited window of time. Yes, we could get many of the same services elsewhere while on the road. But why not keep going to professionals we know and trust?
Aside from our serious ‘business’ related dates, our fun social calendar seems to fill rapidly with visiting family, friends, former colleagues plus a seemingly endless string of events, planned or otherwise.
As we were going to be in the area longer than usual, we didn’t feel the same pressure we have usually felt trying to cram a lot into a compressed span of time. But for some reason, it didn’t translate into a slower paced visit like we thought it might!

family, good food and an appreciation for nature
First up, as always, connecting with family as soon as possible was a priority. By the time the first week passed, we had caught up with Jennie and Alrick in Green Bay (dinner at Jennie’s), dinner with Caitlin and Graham (The Happy Garden), and a visit with Carol’s daughter, Melissa in Madison. Our trips to the Madison also revolved around staying with Carol’s sister, Marge so we could get caught up (and help with whatever computer questions she might have for Tom).
Our modus operandi is to meet people for lunch or dinner at favorite locations: The Stone Cellar, SAP, Antojitos, Wally’s Still, Vinny’s, Applebees, Culvers, The Queen Bee, Pullman’s, El Azteca, Cozzy Corner, Taste of Tai, and the Bluespoon, just to name a few!

the next Joseph Alessi?
Late May we attended Alrick’s end of school music concert. Alrick had taken up playing the trombone, and as we learned while at the concert, the keyboard, too. A parental highlight was watching him play a solo piece he had written just for the concert. Parents and grandparents have a way of seeing past the infancy of musical talent. We were bursting with pride for his plucking up the courage to perform a solo piece in front of a live audience!

good to see him outdoors!
Alrick’s birthday is in early June. Every year we seem to struggle with what to give him. He spends enough time on electronics indoors and we resist buying into it. We wanted him to get him outside more often. For his birthday in 2009 we had purchased him a bicycle. However, for whatever reason, he had chosen not to ride it. But now he'd expressed a renewed interest in riding (especially when his mother rode). But he’d outgrown his "new" old bike.
We inquired at Wheel-and-Sprocket in Appleton where his original bike had been purchased. They would gladly take it in trade on a larger cross-bike. The replacement bike we found was a new used model, priced just right for grandparents and parents to chip in, including a new helmet and a few accessories. Lo and behold, he took to the bike like a duck to water, zipping around the parking lot amid mom’s dire warnings of “you’re going to fast!”, and “watch for traffic!”. Maybe now he’ll get outside more?
Mid June is the time for Lawrence University’s Commencement ceremony, and, for Tom to visit with former colleagues. It also meant that within two weeks, it would be the beginning of Appleton Farmer’s Market. With our extended stay, Carol would not only enjoy the fruits of early crops but be around long enough to enjoy fresh tomatoes, squash and canning opportunities. Most every Saturday after the market season began found us in Downtown Appleton (plus many breakfasts at the iconic Queen Bee).
Caitlin and Graham’s wedding took place in late June covered in an earlier post.
In early July we attended what used to be a weekly ritual: Monday night martinis. Started years ago, and usually hosted at Larry and Teddy Page’s house, it was a time when we got together after work to solve many mysteries of the universe and all the world's problems. Since our life on the road, the Monday night ritual remained, but for us so far away, only in spirit (or spirits). Sadly, Larry has passed away earlier in 2015. But Teddy, now living in Michigan, happened to be in town visiting family and was able to join the group. We hadn’t seen Teddy since Larry’s passing so this martini night was especially heartwarming.

Kate and Dennis
We had unexpected visitors swing by for a few days. Kate and Dennis Stalzer, from Austin, TX on their way back from pulling their Airstream to Alaska. We first met Kate and Dennis while we were in South Texas when they stopped at the same RV park. We've been fast friends ever since with our paths crossing several times. They were also kind enough to take us to and from the airport (plus store our truck in their garage) when we flew to Ecuador in 2010. Plenty of room for them to park their RV along the street at the "Ward's RV Park".

Wickus side of the Idhe reunion
Melissa, Carol, Jerry, Chris
Carol’s Idhe family reunion has been held every year in the Wisconsin Dells and was the next big event, prompting another stay at Marge’s. And as long as we were in the area, an opportunity to visit with Sharon and Warren Gaskill, and of course Melissa. Carol's son Chris was in town so the timing couldn't have been better. Carol’s ex-husband Jerry, rounded out the revelers. Always lunch at Applebee’s! (the photo is a bit scary what with someone holding a knife in a mural behind Jerry - they really do treat customers better than that!)

Paul and Nick
More time with friends and colleagues. Bill and Jeff, Nick and Paul (who introduced us to The Cozzy Corner), Graham and Caitlin to celebrate Graham’s birthday, a drive to Plover for lunch with Tom’s sister Betsy, and brother-in-law Bill, dinner a few times with dear friends Dave and Betty (either at their home or George’s Supper Club), and an overnight with Arlrick at the RV (first ever!). The overnight included a bicycle ride on a section of the Wiouwash State Trail with Alrick turning into quite the speedster (and impressed that “Pa” could keep up).

out with the old, in with the new
Speaking of bicycles, while we were dealing on Alrick’s bike, Tom, with a little encouragement, took an interest in what new cross-bikes had to offer. He’s always ridden a road bike but since we’ve been on the road, it seems that most of the road riding opportunities were off-road. Maybe it was time to let go of his much loved road bike, his Trek 5500? Purchased new in the first year Trek introduced an all carbon bike with STI shifters, it was his baby. But it didn’t take long to negotiate a good trade price (the bike was still worth a lot even at 20-plus years of age) and make a switch to a cross-bike.
A week later, after a painfully abbreviated ride for Carol on her woefully older Trek cross-bike (covered barely a mile) it was back to Wheel-and-Sprocket for a third time where Carol traded for new bike with a frame and seat specifically designed for women. First ride out? She went twelve miles!

Birding by Beer at Debs and Stuart's
August 1 was the bird club’s annual meeting, “Birding By Beer”, hosted by Stuart and Debs Malcom. Always a fun affair and usually, if we’re still around, one of the last events we attend. But, we still had all of August and September, so yes, we’d be around a good deal longer.

Betty, Scott, Carol, Tom on the Red River
Early August we spent a few days at Scott and Betty’s Seaborne’s cottage on Big Lake. Scott and Tom were best friends growing up in Appleton. Many chunks of summer were spent hanging out with what was then Scott’s parents cottage. The place hadn’t changed much other than it now being co-owned by Scott and his sister, Lynn. It was old home week, enjoying the lake view and exploring some favorite old haunts, like the Red River, site of many rafting trips. The small town of Gresham hadn’t grown much but there were new art galleries in the area to explore. And of course many tall tales of days gone by.

Tom, Carol, Marti, John
Dale and Penny
A few days later, the second annual Appleton Music Fest was in full swing. Dozens of music acts up and down the avenue plus at outlying venues. A great time hanging out with friends, Marti Hemwal and John Peterson. A few days later we met at the Stone Cellar with our former state representative Penny Bernard Schaber, along with our former co-members from Penny's campaign ‘kitchen cabinet’.

Carol, Tom, Maryann, Janet
Steve the pizza guy
Back to Madison for lunch with friends Maryann and Janet, two wild and crazy sisters. Then topped that evening off with dinner at Mary Ellen Volbrecht and Steve Hiniker's home in Madison (friends from our old Audubon days). Steve dazzled us all preparing pizzas in his outdoor oven.
The fun just kept coming. Dinner at Antojitos with Jess and Jim, more reunion committee meetings, meals out with the Ward’s and more happy hours at their place in the gazebo.

Carol, Warren, Marge, Tom, Sharon
Phillipe Coquard (wine maker) and Carol
Mid August we were back at Marge’s to link up with the Gaskills and Marge at Wollensheim Winery, Carol’s former employer where she lead wine tours for a few summers. The place had expanded immensely. Our main reason for the visit was to attend the grand opening of the Wollersheim Distillery. A few days later, we're back in Appleton at the Stone Cellar to visit former neighbors from E. South River Street. The irrepressible Rita who still drives a vintage Buick Riviera, and Mito, taking a break from Albania, where he's been working for the Peace Corps. Mito is a former student employee of Tom's when Tom worked at Lawrence.

Mito, Rita, Carol, Tom
In September, Sally and Dick Werling, former fulltime RVer’s we met while parked in Texas, passed through Appleton on their way to Door County where they annually spent a few weeks attending art classes at The Clearing. Dick carves wood and Sally quilts. Both masters!

Tom, Betty, Dave at Leigh Yawkey
Jennie, Alrick, Graham, Caitlin
September was also the time for Tom’s presentation to the bird club on our most recent trip to the Amazon (Ecuador), a small Sykes family reunion at the Ward’s, and since we were in Wisconsin in September, a chance to visit the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau for its annual Birds in Art show with dear friends Dave and Betty. We also finally were able to schedule a meeting with our former cat, Hamish, now living with his cat caregiver, Alvina. So happy to see Hamish in such a loving and caring environment...even if Hamish was typically Hamish (shy and retiring). Alvina has taught Hamish to sit on command. Imagine a cat following ANY kind of a command...willingly.

Carol, a reluctant Hamish, and Alvina
Back to Madison for Melissa’s birthday party and one last chance to drop off or retrieve belongings from storage at Marge’s. Then Tom’s reunion (an older blog entry).
In early October, as planned, we departed for South Africa. By the time we returned in late October, we had just enough time for lunch with Caitlin and Graham, pack up the RV and begin heading west to a new volunteer position. November 2 we were on the road to Arizona having spent the longest time in Wisconsin since we began full timer RVing. We managed to cram in a whole lot with almost every day as busy as the next. We needed a vacation from our retirement! However, that wasn't to be - stay tuned.

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