September 6th, 2012

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

So, we left Rockford after a meal at Cracker Barrel that was nutricious, and drove into Wisconsin. We'd had maps of cheese-related venues in the state published by their milk board, but it had disappeared somewhere in the house, and wasn't noted in its absence until the night prior to leaving, so we hoped to find one in a cheese store on the way into the state. We stopped at three, but only the last one in Wisconsin Dells had one; the other places acknowledged that they'd had them in the past but hadn't bothered to get replacements. Oh, well.

We got odds & ends at the second of these as gifts for various people. We ended our perambulations in Wisconsin Dells, a place I'd never visited when I was a child. There's an enormous number of water parks in the area, but apparently only one of them is outdoors, so that means that they can have all-year income. Wild.

Arriving in the early afternoon, we immediately went to one of the tour groups that take visitors out in WWII-era DUKWs, AKA Ducks. These were amphibious trucks, capable of a payload of 5000#; used in a number of assaults, as well as taking men across rivers in the European Theater. It was a gas. We picked the company that took us half the time through back country, and half the time on the lakes and streams. Lovely terrain, beautiful scenery. It was fun!

We checked into a hotel with a beach fronting one of the lakes. Very pretty. However, they close the office down at 9PM, and their Wifi is problematic at best. I had trouble connecting, and later on, forestcats couldn't at all, and by the time I went to talk to them about it, they were gone for the night...too bad for us. I intend to downcheck them on Yelp, when I have the chance. In the morning, I couldn't log on again, and gave up. Phooey.

OTOH, the evening we stayed there, we got out a bit late (say, 7PM) to get some dinner, as my beloved had taken a nap until hunger woke her. When we stepped outside, there was a massive lightning display. Dozens of cloud-to-cloud flashes, with a storm front that we could still see with the leading edge threateningly forming small funnels. Just as we started to drive, the sky opened up; we even had moments of hail. Getting to the restaurant (Sprecher's, owned by the brewers of beers and soft drinks, apparently), we had to run in a downpour into the air conditioned eatery, soaked to the skin. Ack. However, the soup was tasty and hot and helped immensely. On the drive back, we continued to be astonished by the Dells' Americana, and forestcats resolved to document it pictorially in the morning.

So, this morning I drove initially, to allow her to shoot pictures as we ambled about the Dells. We stopped first at the Indian Trading Post and Museum; it's disturbing to see how they've mashed together all Native American products and traditions from Hopi to Choctaw to Mohican. They also had a lot of Chinese-made junk. Disturbing.

From there, we strolled next door to the Tommy Bartlett's Exploratory. We went in to see the unused Mir space station, but first we had to work our way through the Robot World, and the "science" rooms. I suspect that they'd keep pre-teens and tweens busy for a few hours, but we moved steadily through the "exhibits" until, at the end, we got to the Mir. It was a well-set-up display, allowing you to enter and see much of the interior. Very nice.

From there, we pulled over to photograph a building in an odd position, and then we went next door to the Wisconsin Deer Farm. Because it was just barely off-season, it was nice and quiet, and the animals were friendly. We were repeatedly accosted for tidbits from various species of deer; the more dangerous elk buck was kept behind two layers of high fencing. I found it very relaxing.

At that point, we tried to leave town and find some of the local cheesemaking facilities, but we got directed to downtown Wisconsin Dells. What was supposedly a factory was in fact a store, and after checking it out, we stepped outside to find a clock tower ringing the hour by telling the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, in a more PC fashion (all the children were led home safely and they live happily ever after...BULL). Next door was a Cajun restaurant, and I said to my beloved "why not?", and so we gave it a try. I managed to find the worst lobster bisque I've ever tasted, and the very first dish I've ever returned to the kitchen, but they replaced it with another dish, and not counting the bisque (which was more like a chowder...), the food was pretty good.

Then we tooled our way out of town, looking for that cheese factory, and as it turns out, our GPS system would have sent us in completely the wrong direction, but at a crucial turning, there was a sign, and rather than trust technology, we trusted wise businessmen, and we found the place. The staff was nice; they'd finished making cheese for the day having made a batch of 6000#, but they had a videotape to show about their processes, and they were kind enough to show it too us. Nice. This was Carr Valley Cheese; I managed to taste about 8 or so of them, loved three, liked three, and could take or leave the rest. Not bad...

Once we stepped out of the building, into a beautiful valley with picturesque farms, and horses in the distance, we were relaxing and shooting photos, when my wife noticed a pair of Amish girls who rollerskated by, on inline skates. What??? A little later, an Amish fellow drove his rig by, horse trotting, dragging behind him an odd farming contraption. This picqued the interest of my wife, and she announced that she was going to drive us around the area to see the Amish spread and to see what's what in the area. Turns out that immediately around the corner was a biannual auction of farm equipment and animals. My beloved had a massive "SQUEE" moment, and she pulled us right into the parking area. We strolled through the various farm implements, past crates of chickens and rabbits; pens of goats; past crowds of Amish men and boys, and loads of "English", with horses (Belgians and Percherons), miniature horses, donkeys; pens of cows all mooing...the auctioneer's chant drowning out nearly all but the loudest. There was some beautiful critters that were sold while we were the midst of one of the auctions of a horse, one of the donkeys, a jack, blazed out in the middle of it, and the auctioneer said pleasantly that he'd have to wait his turn. We wandered, and forestcats nearly had tears in her eyes, she loved it so much.

Wandering the farm after we stepped away (oh, they weren't done yet; not by a long-shot), it turns out that they had a harness shop on the premises. You could tell it was Amish; there were no electric lights. My wife talked to them about the possibility of finding out whether he could replace our carriage wheels, and how to get the information to him. That should work out nicely.

We were both delighted about the miraculous find as we left. Really, pure luck that we happened upon it, but it brightened an already wonderful trip for her.

We then drove through the green countryside to Baraboo, to find another place to crash. A local city information building was still open, and the woman there directed us to the Willowood Inn; our hosts were chatty, the office space, open until 9PM is decked out as a living room, more or less, they have a lending library of books and VHS tapes, and our room is decorated in a Western Style with a vast number of tschotzkes. Small, but comfy; quiet and pretty. Nice.

We took their advice for dinner and drove into town, and ate at the Little Village Cafe, and the food was good, but the desserts were exquisite! Apparently, the owners are from California, and their cuisine is considered a bit...out there? But for California Cuisine, it's pretty tame. Good, but tame.

We strolled around the park, and found the local bookstore (which has a store dog, who tries to get people to throw him a ball) having a recital by four student musicians up from Madison (piano, flute, drums, and was it a violin?) which was cool to listen to; we're likely to go back in the next day or so. Then, around the corner, was a game store, with a Magic: The Gathering tournament going on. Wild.

Finally, we got back to the room; I finished this week's lectures. Apparently, while at WorldCon, I lost track of when my essay was due for the World Music class, and this week is the last for the class. Starting later tonight, I think, I have to set aside 90 minutes to do a 100 question final exam, like I care about the grade. I get that done, and one class is finished. I also posted my essay for the F&SF class on time, and this evening I caught up on all the lectures, but I still have two novels to read for the next essay, one of which I read as a teenager (A Princess of Mars), but the other I've never heard of before (Herland), and so our busy days have left me without time to read at all. I may have to get the reading done on the flight, God help me...

Locally, there's the Circus World Museum, because Baraboo used to be the base for the Ringling Brothers Circus; there's also a clown museum, a railroad museum, a crane museum, and several other curious things to do. So we decided to take it easy and stay here two days before heading back to Chicago.