Wednesday, October 2. The federal government may be shut down, but I’m not!
Over the last several days I’ve been visiting friends in Wisconsin – a former student and his family, and in Minnesota – my best friend from college in the 1960s.
I hadn’t been in Wisconsin for over twenty years. Rolling hills, green fields, red barns, Holstein cows, and FROZEN CUSTARD! Culver’s, Kopps, Leon’s – fantastic soft-serve Philadelphia style (eggs and cream) ice cream. Similar to an Italian gelato, and so much better than the Dairy Queen products I’ve tried.
One of the highlights of my trip was visiting former student Paul, his wife Jill, and their sons Tom and Matt, in Appleton WI. In addition to his “real” job, Paul is an excellent photographer, concentrating on local sports events; Jill is a dedicated school teacher and exceptionally caring mother. I’m very proud of both of them, especially for developing a warm accepting family despite the craziness of the world. Here’s the whole family, with a familiar old Mercedes-Benz:
Tom attends Tesla Engineering Charter School, excelling in advanced robotics and CAD; he also works with special needs children using horses as therapeutic tools.
Matt is well on his way to being a world-class diver – even tho’ he still hasn’t graduated high school. He’s also got one of the greatest smiles you’ll ever see.
(I have to admit, altho’ I had nothing to do with it, I’m very proud of Tom and Matt too.)
For you aviation buffs, I highly recommend the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) museum in Oshkosh.
Paul and I spent a day enjoying the collection of historic aircraft, including this 1937 Bugatti 100P – Bugatti’s only airplane:
Back in the late 1960s I was a student at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth TX. Best friend I had was an oboist from Wisconsin, who was working on his master’s degree. Little did I know back then, that I’d keep in contact with Jim during his Air Force years, attend his wedding to Dee, enjoy their recent visit to New England – and finally get to see them at home in La Crescent MN.
Jim and Dee took me on a memory-filled drive around the La Crescent MN and La Crosse WI areas, including the La Crosse International Friendship Garden at Riverside Park:
And up to the top of Grandad Bluff, which overlooks the two cities and the Mississippi River:
Of course, we ended the evening with a stop at Culver’s for frozen custard.
With deteriorating weather heading my way, I left the Coulee region’s beautiful Mississippi bluffs and headed west toward South Dakota.
It’s now 5pm Thursday, and there’s a major winter storm coming right toward me from the Rockies: “Atlas”, the first named storm of the season. Looks like I’ll be waylaid for a couple of days near Sioux Falls SD (east of Sheridan in the map). I’m not eager to drive in rain, ice, sleet, snow and high winds – especially as the windshield wiper mechanicals died agonizing death several days ago.
Friday, October 4. The storm warnings on Wednesday are proving true. I’ll be here until Sunday, when I hope to proceed to Rapid City (Mount Rushmore) and Wyoming (Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks). The roads in the western third of South Dakota and eastern Wyoming have been closed all day due to heavy snow and high winds. Over two feet of heavy wet snow in the Black Hills. Interstate 90 into Wyoming is blocked. Tornadoes have been confirmed a few miles south of here, and warnings continue until at least 10pm. Frustrating to have another three or four days of delay, but better safe than sorry. Good news is that I got the windshield wipers to work with a bit of aluminum foil. The Sioux Falls area is only experiencing showers and high winds – and the local cafe makes great breakfast waffles and roast turkey dinners.
Saturday, October 5. Change of plan: The government shutdown continues. Thank you Ted Cruz. Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton parks are still closed, including the highways through them; western South Dakota roads are snowbound from the Thursday/Friday storm. Over 80,000 cattle have frozen to death in this freak fall blizzard. On Sunday October 6 I’ll have to head down to Nebraska, then through southern Wyoming, on to Logan UT, then to California.