Saturday, June 30, 2012

Twit on a Road Trip [Part 3 : Day 5]

Yes, I'm behind. Far, far behind. Good intentions to update my blog with progress have been met repeatedly with the need for rest. It's often been physical exhaustion and the need for a nap, but Day 5 (Tuesday the 26th) ended up being just as mentally tiring.

The night before, I had posted a picture of me at the ballpark in Minneapolis, and one of the many GORUCK Toughs around the country shot me a message that he was right up the road. Did I want to meet up the next morning for lunch? I had a full day ahead of me, but I couldn't pass on meeting up with a GRT.. especially not when it's Justin Grimm.

I've bled and sweat for patches.
This means more.

I had never met Justin, but every GRT knows him and his daughter. Charlotte was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia two years ago and went through some extremely arduous chemo treatments. But, the GRT family is just that, and numerous 'mini-rucks' have been staged all around the country to raise funds for awareness of the disease. Meeting Justin was a tremendous honor, and he's a great guy. Hearing that Charlotte is doing much better and finished with her treatments was such a blessing and a great way to start the day. Justin and I met up for lunch at Mall of America (across from my hotel) and spent the morning talking GORUCK and the future. Hearing him in good spirits was excellent. Promising to give out a NASA to coin to any GRT I met along my trip, I was honored to receive a Brave Charlotte patch from Justin in return. It's going in a place of honor on my ruck but won't be put through the dirt of a mudrun or GRC.

Following that rather powerful meeting, I jumped into the car. I still had two stops to make in Minneapolis. My mother was born and raised in the city, so I tracked down the hospital she was born in and the house where she lived. The house was in great shape, I took some great pictures. I'm a fan of history, so understanding that this place had special meaning for her meant that it had special meaning for me, too. Pretty cool.

Then, I jumped on the road and drove Wisconsin Rt 35 through the small towns along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. Along Lake Pepin, the road was gorgeous. I pulled into Gelly's Pub and grabbed some food. I was on a bit of a time-crunch, but I couldn't avoid stopping in the picturesque little town.

Stockholm, WI.
A perfect dot on the map.

Leaving there, I continued down the road to La Crosse, Wisconsin, a nice town on the border... and my birth place. I haven't been back in 33 yrs, 363 days, so it was quite interesting walking into the doors of Gundersen Lutheran Hospital. I asked around for some history on the hospital, but it was hard to come by. Still, it was an electric feeling to be walking the same halls as those my parents walked nearly 35 years earlier. I actually had trouble dragging myself free of the quaint little hospital, but I eventually made my way back to I-90 and east.

My home for 18 months
After another 30-minute drive, I pulled off into Tomah, Wisconsin, my hometown until I was a year and a half old. I have vague memories of returning to Tomah about 15 (20?) years ago for the Cranberry Festival (a BIG deal), but I was 'in-tow' with my parents. So, I wasn't driving or paying much attention to what was going on around me. I had no reference points as I drove into town. Thanks to my parents, I found our old house and knocked on the neighbor's door in the hopes that the old family friend would be home. She wasn't, but my mother gave me a couple places she might be... it's a small town. Though, I didn't remember the house, I recognized its place in my family's and my history. I snapped a few pictures and drove over to the Tee Pee Supper Club and asked the hostess if Jane was there.

Of course she was.

I had to introduce myself given that she hadn't seen me since I was about 15, but we had a nice chat about my parents and a general 'catch-up' discussion. It was a funny talk given that I caught her off-gaurd, but I had to pass on her offer of a drink. I still had to get to Madison. But, on the way out, I grabbed a brick off the crumbling back of the Tee Pee. That brick will make its way around Washington, DC, with me on my July 4th GORUCK Challenge. Um... don't tell anyone.

I left Tomah much as I left La Crosse... a bit sad and not knowing why. They are cute towns with everything you'd need, but they aren't very big places. They don't have huge malls or airports. Neither has much of a sports scene to talk about (though, I understand that they have a summer collegiate team, the La Crosse Loggers... I WILL get a t-shirt out of them), and they have brutal winters. But, I loved them.

I drove on toward Madison, excited about the destination but somehow upset about what I was leaving. As I pulled into Madison, I wondered what would have happened had I grown up in Tomah instead of leaving before my second birthday. The University of Wisconsin has always had a special place in my heart, and everything you hear about Madison drips in reverence. People love the place. I found out why. It reminded me much of Austin, TX, and that's a compliment. The Capitol building dominates the skyline as you drive in from the north, and the two lakes that the downtown area straddles are pristine. I checked in and headed out for food and drinks. By the time I did, the sun had set and the lights of the downtown area reflecting off Lake Monona were spectacular. Awesome city.

I stopped at State Street Brats (looks like a German brauhaus... awesome) and had some local brews and eats. Though it was a Tuesday night, the place filled up nicely, and they were bringing in the clientele with the genius-level idea of flipping a coin - drinker calls it. Correct call? Drinks are 75% (!) off. Incorrect call? regular price. When the regular price is $3 for a pint, you can't lose... even if you lose. I also ate cheese curds. I'm told they are supposed to squeak when you bite into them, but I didn't notice (that may have been a result of the Sconnie pints and New Glarus IPAs that I was drinking). Either way, it was fried cheese, and that's never bad.

I met some great people at the bar, and it reminded me how much (and why) I love Wisconsin. I picked up some souvenir shirts (Sconnie Nation, baby!) and thanked the Sconnies for the continued deterrence they provided to Canadian invasion.

Still, I had plenty to do the next day - both in Madision and out - so I retired to my hotel ecstatic to have experienced such an emotional day in my birth state and already planning a trip to re-visit (Badgers football along with a Brewers baseball game and Milwaukee beerfest? Yes, please!).
_ Best Blogger Tips

No comments:

Post a Comment