Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Wisconsin Roadtrip Redux

I have reasons to be driving in northern Wisconsin. On any map, it looks like just a little hop but that’s no accurate. I’ve logged about 1500 miles in the last week.

My route has taken me away from those interstate highways, with their familiar and comfortable blue signage and understandable clover leaves. This time, I’m navigating on state roads and county roads and seeing a lot of the state. Where my part of Indiana is all flat and corn, here the fields rise in gentle, rolling hills and there’s much green everywhere. Tucked in, here and there, are picturesque farms with red barns and silver silos.

I have a loose agenda so the drive has been a leisurely trek with a few pull-offs just for fun. I arrived in All-Lakes-All-Over-The-Place, where the gas stations sell more bait than junk food. I also found Campfire Giant Roasters, tennis-ball sized marshmallows. I had never seen them before but up here, they tell me, they are a staple. A friend told me that if I saw ‘cheese curds’ for sale, I must get some. “You’ll like them,” she said. And she was right. My further route is along Dirt Road X which winds all over and around the lakes. It’s nice to take my time and not need to rush. I can’t help but remember that last time I drove so much through the Dairy State, Cheese State, Brew State, among others

Way back in the early 90’s, the hub and his dad purchased some sort of teeny airplane. A single seater. Fixed landing gear. And apparently to them, really cool. However, before the ink was dry on the payment check, someone…no one ever manned up here…set it down a little hard and the landing gear punched through the wings. What a mess. Some quick research, I was told, found the only two places in the United States that could mend the wings: waaaaaaaay down in south Texas and ‘just outside of Minneapolis.’  It was further determined that one could crate up the plane and ship it…of course THEN you risked it shifting and becoming unrepairable…or you could drive it yourself to the airport with the skilled technician.

It was then decided that the hub would rent a truck, load up the plane, and drive it. He said, “Don’t worry about it. YOU don’t have to do anything. My brother and I are leaving Friday and will be back Sunday night. YOU don’t have to do anything. I’m just telling you so you’ll know.” And did I mention: YOU don’t have to do anything.

I believe he forgot to run it by his brother. So, when I got home from school, in the driveway was a truck and a foot tapping attorney. “Where have you been?” as I was late. The quick version was that I needed to suit up for a long haul and we needed to get on the road.

Our transport was the smallest diesel you can drive without a special license. The hub announced that he would do all the driving and I was coming along for company. Oh, ok.

We headed north and hit Chicago rush hour on a Friday night, in the rain. Trucks DO get a special lane through the toll booths but it took about 2 hours to drive 40 miles. Once we escaped, we headed to the Wisconsin State Line. When it was time for gas..diesel, we turned into a truck stop fueling place, complete with showers and gambling machines. It was bright and clean and had only one restroom marked TRUCKER. Mike stool guard as I entered and utilized the facility. About midnight, with Mike showing no sign of stopping, I asserted that I would be a much better companion if I had a few hours to sleep so with a grimace on his part, we pulled into a small roadside hotel near Eau Claire.

The next morning we were off again, headed to Minneapolis and “right beyond it.” It was a bright and sunny Saturday and, coincidentally, Tennessee Ernie Ford passed away the day before. So, almost every radio station was playing tribute songs. And, in those days before CDs and MP3, I wanted the radio to break up monotony. Alas, on this rental truck, the radio was stuck in the SEARCH mode, so every 10 seconds, the station would switch and we’d hear another snippet of Ernie. Or polka music. There’s ALWAYS polka music wherever you go.

We drove through Minneapolis and just beyond. We drove some more. And then some more. When we saw the sign for Fargo, North Dakota, 45 miles, Mike announced that we had arrived.

We found the airport where several large Norwegians stepped forward to view our truck’s contents. They did not, by the way, help unload our load. Some low level discussions and some exchanging of cash and we were off on the return trip. We arrived back in Kokomo Sunday night, a bit road weary and in need of a bath.

When repair was completed, Mike and his dad flew up there and both flew back, wingmen once again.

I did not get to enjoy Wisconsin slow scenery on that trip so this time, I’m all about seeing the sights. All over, it's gorgeous and green.

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