Friday, January 04, 2008
Wandering through Wisconsin
Now the holidays are officially over. I saw the New Year in at Bill's Blues Bar, with Eddy "the Chief" Clearwater rockin' out on stage. I left right after midnight and walked home through an absolutely beautiful New Year's snowfall. It was magic.
On New Years Day, we had a little open house, with Hoppin' John (black-eyed peas and rice) and sparkling beverages (Spanish Cava, beer, carbonated soft drinks). Music broke out - bass, snare drum and harmonica backing vocalists and rappers. Lotsa fun.
And on January 2nd, Mr. G and fam decided to escape to the north. We headed to Wisconsin with no reservations and vague plans. The Volvo was packed with two adults, two strapping female offspring, and the two dogs (psychotic cat, obese hamsters and the three filthy bunnies stayed home).
We ended up in Horicon, WI - the town at the southern tip of the Horicon Marsh. This is a fantastic natural wonder, over 32,000 acres of cattail wetlands. It is often called the "Little Everglades of the North" and it is home to a diverse collection of plants and animals. It is also a popular stopping place for migratory birds, most notable Canadian geese. We thought that we would do a little hiking and a little bird-watching - there are lots of raptors that frequent the Horicon Marsh in winter.
It was beautiful, but wicked cold. The marsh was coated in snow, frozen solid, with dead cattails sticking up and rattling in the wind. We tried to hike, but single-digit temps and a gusty wind made it a tad too raw even for hardened Chicagoans. We hit the Horicon Marsh educational center instead, and limited ourselves to scenery visible from the automobile.
We crashed in Horicon, at the Royal Oaks Motel. Mrs. G quickly dubbed it the "Bates Motel," and it did hold a passing resemblence. The proprietor was a quirky chap, eager to please, with a classic northern Midwest accent - "Oh, geez, if I'da known yer comin' I'da warmed up the rooms, then. Its pretty darn nippy, doncha know." And so on. The accommodations at the Royal Oaks Motel were...um...basic. Indoor plumbing, a TV, rock-hard foam rubber pillows and a not-too-saggy bed. Oh geez. We decided to stay just one night.
So we got up yesterday and spent more time touring the marsh. Around mid-day, we decided to head farther north and trekked through Waupun and Ripon. The family saw the sign for Oshkosh - "Hey, isn't that where they make the famous overalls? Oshkosh B'Gosh?" So we spontaneously decided to head to Oshkosh and visit the Oshkosh B'Gosh factory store to buy some cool retro overalls.
Bad idea. Horicon was a lovely little town with a great diner (the Mothers Day Restaurant), a few bars, several churches, a John Deere factory and no fast food joints. Oshkosh is a generic middle-sized, midwest city that wasn't looking very attractive on a cold winter's day (and it had fast food joints on every corner). And the Oshkosh B'Gosh company went "blooey" over ten years ago - sold to a kids' clothing company; the factory and headquarters in Oshkosh are long gone. The adult-sized overalls are no longer made by Oshkosh B'Gosh - just kids' clothes. It seems wrong for a company to be slapping "Oshkosh B'Gosh" on kiddie clothes manufactured in China.
Our best option in Oshkosh was a Super 8 Motel that allows dogs. It was nicer than the Royal Oaks Motel, but it had no charm whatsoever. The dogs seemed to like it, though.
The 15 year old daughter was up at 8AM this morning, lobbying for an early return to civilization in order to visit friends in for the winter break. I was happy to accommodate. We are back in the E-Town abode, happy that we saw a little countryside. But happier still to be back in comfortable surroundings.