Friday, February 3, 2017

Wisconsin 2016

always a nice few parked at the Wards
Our RV safely grounded in Dale, following a long string of driving days, it was pleasant to be off the road. But being parked didn’t mean we would kick back and watch the world drift by. Oh, no. We had people to see and places to go...just without towing our RV.
Over the winter we’d received news that Jennie had a new person in her life and we were anxious to meet him. Also, Caitlin and Graham had announced that they would be moving to the St, Louis area by mid-June.

happy to be reunited with Todd and Cindy
Betty, Tom, Dave, Carol taken 2009 at Tom's retirement party
We also had the usual flurry of appointments with various doctors plus and financial advisors. We looked forward to upcoming bird club meetings, visits with Carol’s sister Marge, and a myriad of opportunities to socialize with friends and former colleagues.
While our social calendar was quickly filling, our first day back was spent scouring High Cliff State Park  for vestiges of the Spring migration. Alas, as we had anticipated, birding were slow.
High on the top of our list besides family was to say hello to dear friend Betty Dunsmore (who has been just like family). You will recall, her husband (and Tom’s best birding pal) Dave, had passed away in February 2016. This was our first opportunity to see her in person and pass on our condolences. Over the next few months we were able to get together frequently, often times simply going out to get a bite to eat, as well helping out with a few things around the yard she wanted to tackle; things that Dave generally had taken care of when he was alive.

Jennie and Bob (at SAP)
Our first opportunity to meet Jennie’s new beau was over dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, Antojitos Mexicanos Kitchen and Cantina. Bob Gafvert is his name and right from the start we knew they were a good match. Bob works for Nicolet Plastics and was enrolled at UW-Oshkosh working on his MBA (he has since graduated). Bob has a young daughter, Ava, from a previous marriage. By all accounts, Alrick and Ava were hitting it off. After dinner we introduced them to, “Jim’s Place”, a bar that has been an iconic Appleton watering hole for decades.

eggs B. at the White Gull Inn - none finer!
Toft Point, Door County
More birding opportunities included a day trip to Door County, where we never go without stopping at The White Gull Inn for their world famous eggs Benedict. Their Benedict is the bench mark we use to compare eggs Benedict we’ve sampled all over the world. To date, The White Gull Inn’s offering remains the best.

Melissa at the Madison Farmers Market
Warren, Carol, Sharon; Tom, Marge - where everyone was "Bob"
Our time in Wisconsin always includes trips to Marge’s house on Lake Wisconsin. This allows us time to visit with with Marge (usually includes Tom answering some of her computer questions) and for Carol to visit her daughter Melissa in Madison. This year they got to include a morning at the Madison Farmers Market. During this same weekend visit we connected with friends living near Black Earth, Sharon and Warren Gaskill. The event that brought us together was a "Bob Fest". Initially we thought that the event had something to do with the "Fighting Bob Fest", a long standing annual political Chautauqua for Wisconsin progressives (so named for Wisconsin's Robert La Follete, Sr.). As it turned out, it was a festival dedicated to Bob Dylan, a day long tribute with many musicians playing Bob's songs outside the Spring Green General Store. On that day, everyone who attended was named "Bob".

chance meeting with Nancy and Gary
The next morning we caught up with Melissa’s dad Jerry when we met for breakfast where we happened to bump into long time friends Nancy “MO” Kendall and Gary Allord. Tom had originally met Nancy and Gary via a Vietnam veteran listserv in the 1980's while Nancy was living on the west coast. Eventually Nancy and Gary settled in Madison.
Before leaving for Dale, Marge, Carol and Tom of us walked and birded Baxter’s Hollow. As with High Cliff, the birding was dead slow - but still, it was a beautiful place to walk on a late Spring day.

Caitlin, Graham, Carol
Jennie, Bob, Jennie's mom Carol, Carol's husband Rollie, Carol, Caitlin, Graham
Early in June was Alrick’s 12th birthday. The celebration included a birthday party hosted at Bob’s house. Finally! We got the chance to meet Bob’s 4-yr old daughter Ava. What a sweetie!

Graham explaining the finer points of a dive mask
Early June was also when we presented our 2014 South Africa birding trip program to the Northeast Wisconsin Birding Club in New London at the Mosquito Hill Nature Center. What turned out to be a packed meeting room included three (Harold Ginke, Melissa Bruder, and Pat Brust) of the ten trip participants - Melissa and Pat having driven up from Milwaukee.

large hail
The weather in June can be unpredictable and a sudden and explosive storm one afternoon gave us a bit of a fright. We've dealt with all manner of weather while on the road but aside from concerns over tornadoes, a hail storm ranks right up there for potential for damage to an RV. Tornado sirens in Dale had sounded but before we could seek shelter at Todd and Cindy's, a thunderous sound on our roof (at least thunderous when inside an RV) was deafening. Tom grabbed a handful of hail from the yard to measure. Fortunately, none did damage to the RV but it gave us quite a turn.

happy at The Happy Garden - and SAP cupcakes to celebrate
We'd gotten to see Caitlin and Graham at Alrick’s birthday party but finally, we were able to spend time alone when we met them at their favorite Asian restaurant, The Happy Garden. We heard all about their plans to move to the St. Louis area where Caitlin has family. Caitlin had landed a job (two jobs, actually) teaching in an area school district while Graham would look for work (he has since found work). Initially they would be living at Caitlin’s mom’s until they could buy a house (they did so later in the year!).
We also caught up with them at their apartment in Oshkosh when they were smack in the middle of packing. We offered to help but they had everything under control. We retrieved a table they had borrowed (said table is now stored at Marge’s along with other of our belongings). Moving is such an exciting time - but exhausting! This would be the last time we had a chance to see them before they departed. Happy for them - but sad to see them leave the area. But then WE leave the area so who are we to be sad!?
A few more social gatherings followed in quick succession. We met Larry Darling and Alvina Tan at Vinny’s Pizza and Pasta in Medina just up the road from Dale. Larry is the recording engineer at Lawrence University and Alvina is his assistant. And, if you recall from earlier blog entries, Alvina is the one who took in Hamish our cat when Hamish needed to be ‘rescued’. The next day we lunched with Greg Madson at Mi Casa Mexican Grill. And then the next day, it was back to Vinny's to meet with Matthew King, a fellow member of the bird club and who had been on one of our Costa Rica birding trips in 2015. Matt wanted to pick our brain about what it was like to live in Costa Rica and Ecuador with the intent of perhaps moving to either country to work (something more and more of our friends are thinking of doing).
By mid June, Caitlin and Graham had picked up and packed up a U-haul truck and completed their move to St. Louis. So now, we have kids in WI, CO, and MO making it a bit more challenging to stay in touch. But then we do still have wheels, don’t we!

It's only been 50 years? Is that all?
The Appleton Farmers Market was in full swing again so we spent for as many Saturday’s as possible, strolling the market and eating at The Queen Bee. On one such occasion we met one of Tom’s high school classmates, Sue Sweet Dawson. Sue had missed several of Tom’s HS class reunions including the most recent 50th. It had been 50 years since they had seen one another. Alphabetically speaking, ‘Sweet’ and ‘Sykes’ sat next to one another during homeroom. Lots of reminiscing to be sure!
Returning to Antojitos for another meal, we were joined by friends Jess Miller and her long time beau, Jim. Part of the talk revolved around their desire to ‘hit the road’ and do something similar to what we’re doing (more and more, this has become a recurring theme with our friends). The next day, another visit to another favorite breakfast stop, SAP Brunch, Brown Bag and Bakery, where we chatted with former Lawrence colleagues, Antoinette and Keith Powell. It’s so much fun to meet people over meals…but it’s not doing a whole lot for our waistlines!

Fathers Day
On Father’s Day, Jennie stopped out in Dale to celebrate with breakfast at Wally’s Still.
Apparently, everyone else had the same idea so waiting for a table turned into a much longer ordeal (although while waiting we did enjoy a Wally’s famous Bloody Mary). The wait proved too long so we walked back to the RV where Carol and Jennie threw together breakfast - which in Tom’s opinion, turned out to be better than what Wally’s was offering!

At the beginning of July we were back on the road to Marge’s. This time, we included a stop at Wollersheim Winery (where Carol used to work summers leading winery tours). This trip, along with Carol visiting Melissa, included a day trip by Carol and Marge to the Janesville area to visit their sister Linda.

Carol, Linda, Marge - and 'the pan'
As part of the visit with Linda, the sisters went shopping and while perusing shelves laden with pots and pans, Carol stumbled across a used (.50-cents!) cast aluminum pan and lid - virtually identical to Tom's "magical popcorn pan" that went missing during one of the massive garage sales we had when we were selling our house in Appleton in 2009. Ever since then, the disappearance of the pan has been the subject of debate...but no more! Now Tom can forego making microwave popcorn and again enjoy freshly popped corn the old fashioned way!

Nick and Paul
at the APD with Lt. Steve Elliott
Back once more in Appleton, we caught up with dear friends Nick and Paul for lunch (since then we’ve learned that they are finally going to marry! Hooray!). That same day we finally connected with Beth Jasiak, assistant to Appleton Police Department's Chief of Police. We've known Beth for several years through our work with the K9's For A Safer Community committee which raised funds for the APD to add K9 units. Tom's initial contact with Lt. Steve Elliott lead to the formation of the committee and ultimately the addition of APD K9 units. The committee is still very active continuing to raise funds for new/replacement K9's not only at APD, but at area police departments as well.

a boy and water...
Making plans to see Alrick got to be a bit tangled given Alrick’s involvement with summer camp and attending a band camp, however, we did arrange for a whole day with him along the Lake Michigan shoreline. This included a visit to the Manitowoc Maritime
Museum and tour a WWII submarine (USS Cobia).

he really did have a good time and couldn't stop talking about it afterward
In spite of chilly weather, Alrick managed some beach time before we stopped at the museum. He was initially reluctant to tour the submarine but after visiting some of the other exhibits like the Children's Waterways Room (we literally had to drag him out!), once the tour started, it was all hands on deck.

Teddy, Jen, carol, Greg, Dick
Still more socializing. There were the usual happy hours with Todd and Cindy at their house, breakfast with Todd and Cindy at Wally’s (on a day when Wally’s wasn’t quite so busy!), and then a few days later, we met with the old "Monday Night Martini Club" at Greg Madson’s house in Appleton. In part this was a celebration of Greg’s retirement (Greg spared no expense at laying out a large spread). And, as luck would have it, Teddy Page (now living in Michigan) happened to be in Appleton visiting family and was able to join the crowd.

Carol, Tom, John, Marti
Off to Antojitos for a third evening meal, this time to meet former LU colleague Marti Hemwall and her husband Atty. John Peterson. After last year's solemn promise, we finally had drinks at Cleo’s Brown Beam Lounge, another iconic Appleton bar where it’s Christmas 365 days of the year. Their signature drink? A ‘dirty snowball’: 1 shot vodka, 1 shot dark creme de cacao, 1 shot coffee liqueur, 1 shot cream, ice - blend to mush. After a few snowballs, everyone was feeling in the pink.
Another locale we’d wanted to try for lunch was the Green Gecko Grover and Deli. Our chance came up when we agreed to meet birding friends Jack and Marci Fry who wanted to know about birding opportunities in the southwestern U.S. We’re always happy to share what we know (as many others have shared with us).

Ava, Bob, Jennie, Alrick
Alrick’s UWGB band camp was coming to a close, capped off with a final evening performance so off to Green Bay to attend. Alrick’s trombone playing has certainly improved! How exciting to compare his playing from last year to this year. Hopefully there will be other band camp opportunities (although now we understand he's excelling in a Forensics competition).
One more stroll around the Saturday Appleton Farmers Market where we never know who we’ll bump into (mainly lots of Lawrence University staff and faculty). Breakfast at the Queen Bee where Marti and John happened to wander in and join us.

one last get together at SAP
It was just after mid-July but now our time in the Appleton area was quickly drawing to a close. Our plans to travel to the PNW on our return to Arizona, plus our appointment at Kings Campers in Wausau for body work on the RV signaled it was time to leave. One final breakfast at SAP with Jennie and Bob and then we were off to Wausau.
Work on the RV was going to take approximately 3 days and require us to move the RV a few times. First to Kings Camper, then in a day's time over to a body repair shop, Then back to Kings Camper where we would spend our last night in Wisconsin. While the work was being done we stayed in a motel in Stevens Point (insurance paid for this, thank you!) that allowed us to do some area birding (mainly the Buena Vista Wildlife Area) and have time to visit with Tom’s sister, Betsy, and her husband Bill who live in Plover. We even squeezed in a stop at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.

raised walk and gazebo at Monk Botanical Gardens
One last discovery while we were in the Stevens Point/Wausau area was the Robert W. Monk Gardens, a 21-acre property on the west side of Wausau. The goal of the property is to promote understanding of the aesthetic, economic, and ecological role of plants - but the property also is haven to wildlife. A number of community events all year 'round provide plenty of attractions for young and old alike.

body work in progress
Our stay this year, while shorter than usual, was no less busy. We managed to spend precious time with family, reconnect with many friends, get in a little bird watching (we added two new birds to our state sightings!). The work on the RV took a day longer than expected due to the discovery of cracks on the rear cap. But, with all the work finally complete and after a night parked on the Kings Camper lot, on July 18, just over two moths after our return to Wisconsin, we again found ourselves heading west. This time to revisit the Pacific Northwest.

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