Day 8-10: New Glarus, Chicago

It is September 5 and I’m still working through posts about our vacation that took place in July.  This needs to stop.  New Glarus is as good a place as any.

New Glarus Brewing Company

We’ve been meaning to go to New Glarus for years – specifically to the New Glarus Brewing Co brewery, home of my very favoritest beer, Spotted Cow.  New Glarus offers a behind the scenes “hard hat” tour of their facilities every Friday, but as it sells out literally months in advance – currently the next available tour is November 11 – we had to be satisfied with the self guided tour through their new, sparkling clean facility.

Mash Tun

Giant copper mash tuns shining in the sun

Wish List

30 liter pilot brewing setup where they make the R&D series each year.

The self-guided tour begins and ends at the gift shop, where for $3, you can purchase 3 3 oz samples and a sampling glass to take home. We enjoyed ours on the patio in the sunshine – a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Sunshine samples

Smiley

Happy E

As for New Glarus itself? There’s just not that much there there – it’s more of a daytrip than a destination. We enjoyed our stay at the Helvetica Inn, but very quickly ran out of things to see and do. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we both wished we’d stayed another day in Madison and made a side trip out for the brewery.  Lessons learned!

From here, it was on to Chicago by way of the kitschy Baumgartner’s Cheese Shop, where we ran into the same Food Network crew previously encountered at Fromagination!  I’m really not sure how they picked Baumgartner’s, as it is a very different kind of cheese shop than Fromagination.  We’re now doubly interested in the show – and hopeful that we’ll turn up as extras!

And then Chicago – I spent two days at WordCamp while Shane slept in, shopped, and generally wandered around.  We connected with friends and fantasized about life in Chicago.  We were harassed by fluffy cats.  It was a great end to a great trip.

Fluffeh

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Day 4: An Evening of Leisure

I’ll just come right out and say it: we’re not good at relaxing. We’re good at doing nothing. We’re good at procrastinating. But we’re not good at relaxing. We went to the beach a couple of years ago and managed 15 minutes of sitting by the ocean before we got bored and reverted to walking around and eating boardwalk food.

All of this is to say that I wasn’t expecting to spend an afternoon on the beach after our morning of hiking. We had lunch. We splashed around in the lake. We laid on the beach and read. We went back in the lake. We laid on the beach until our suits dried out. I finished an entire issue of Vanity Fair. Shane finished The Corrections, which he’s been working on since the fall. We laid on the beach for the entire afternoon.

Before heading back to the campsite, we walked the Tumbled Rocks trail. While we walked, a woman swam across the lake.

Purple Quartzite

Not so much hiking as walking

Devil's Lake

Dinner at the campsite: New Glarus Belgian Red, picked up at the Ice Age Campground store, and local kielbasa with Brussels sprouts – a good German dinner.

Belgian Red

Honest Wisconsin Dinner

Not content to turn in, we left the park for a round of miniature golf at an only marginally maintained course nearby. Seriously, it was basically the worst course ever. I’m certain that’s the reason I spent so much time in the rough.

Teeing up

Day 3: On to Devil’s Lake!

Given our failure to make drinkable coffee, our first stop after packing up camp was Kavarna Coffeehouse in Green Bay – yet another example of the sort of place I wish existed in Ann Arbor.

Photo by paul goyette

Good coffee, a delicious-looking menu, and ample seating on two levels for those wanting to put in a couple of hours of work, catch up with a friend, or catch the occasional local band. We just needed a quick caffeine and internet fix, and Kavarna did just the trick.

From there, we made a quick stop by Lambeau Field, literally jumping out to snap a picture, then jumping back in the car. I’d show you the pictures, but they’re basically what you’d expect given the circumstances. Neither of us have any particular love for the Packers anyway.

Vince Lombardi Statue

Photo by jimmywayne

Let’s not talk about our side-trip to Oshkosh. A consistent theme of our days in Wisconsin was driving on ripped up, formerly paved roads, and Oshkosh had many of them. It also has a totally nondescript, exceptionally boring Brooklyn/gangster-themed restaurant, and a coffee shop with almost adequate sandwiches. We couldn’t get out of town fast enough.

Fortunately, our next stop was our destination: Devil’s Lake State Park. I’d been to Devil’s Lake a handful of times in high school and college, and had very idyllic memories of hiking, the lake, and failed attempts at rock climbing. I was concerned that it wouldn’t live up to my memories, but we loved it right away – that is, once we stopped to imagine ice age glaciers.

Shane Imagines Ice Age Glaciers

Oh, and once we popped open a few Wisconsin beers:

Campsite Beer

Unfortunately the beers didn’t help with the tasks ahead of us. In addition to all the other things we forgot, we didn’t have a mallet with which to drive in the stakes for our tent – or any sort of fire-starting device beyond our trusty, running low on fuel aim-n-flame. No matter: a helpful campground neighbor took pity and loaned us his axe; he also came back with the axe and some very dry wood to help us get a fire started. In the meantime, I made dinner: mushrooms, onions, and ham in a cream sauce – yes, a cream sauce in a cast iron skillet – served with a salad and English muffins. I would’ve made pasta but, well, you’ve seen what I was working with.

First Camping Dinner

We happily sat by the fire until it burned down – and even more happily turned in early.

Midwest Tour, part 2

Day 3: Lakewood, OH > Rockford, IL
States: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois

We hit the road early to cover the 7 hour drive to Rockford, stopping for bagels before driving through a torrential downpour for basically the entire state of Ohio.  We listened to NPR as long as we could, quering Twitter for information about stations along the way.  Once through Ohio, the rain lifted, and we carried on to Three Floyds in Munster, IN, for lunch and the acquisition of still more beer.  As we passed through Indiana, we wasted a solid few minutes watching our phones to see how quickly they would catch up with the switch from Eastern to Central time.  My phone won, just for the record.

Three Floyds provided us with a great opportunity to see how many business can begin with ‘Munster’ – and also a delicious plate of sausages and pickled things.  Shane was excited to have Dreadnaught and to try the Apocalpyse Cow, while I stuck with the always solid Robert the Bruce.  We got a case of Gumballhead plus 22s of Dreadnaught and Apocalypse Cow, which required a side trip to another business whose name started with Munster.  Back on the road, we carried on to Rockford, skirting Chicago traffic and stopping for a dip cone somewhere in the north suburbs.

That evening was my sister’s not-bachelorette party, so after a quick nap, we picked Jenn up and headed to the Irish Rose for dinner.  Not-bachelorette meant that boys were allowed, so Shane and my brother were there, along with Cassie, her boy Nate, and Robyn – plus Joes T and O who met us out later.  After a very tasty dinner, we rolled on to Carlyle and Swilligans, where Shane and I left the party in order to SLEEEEEEP.  It was just the right amount of boozey and fun as far as I’m concerned, but then I didn’t have Jenn’s hangover in the morning.

Day 4: Rockford, IL
States: Illinois, Wisconsin

I did, however, have some excitement in store for me.  I got up early in the morning to prep for my web-based interview that would be taking place at 8am Central time.  When I rolled into Mary’s Market, though, I discovered that my wallet was missing.  Cue much swearing and freaking out, as well as no delicious Market breakfast.  I went home, searched the car and suitcase, and then gave up and did my interview.  Fortunately I had my ID and checkbook and also fortunately we bank at a national bank, so I was able to get cash before my nail appointment (bright red!).  A few phone calls later, and MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, my wallet was located at Swilligans, where we picked it up en route to the  rehearsal later in the evening.

At this point we’d gone 24 hours without acquiring any more beer.  Can you believe it?

My parents took us out to lunch at Jester’s, a local Greek place they like a great deal.  Shane managed to mystify the girl at the counter by asking for his gyro to be made spicy – apparently they haven’t heard of harissa – but our food was solidly good with GIANT portions – something I haven’t missed from the Midwest, though the Mid-Atlantic’s not much better.  We kicked around the house for a bit, showered, then headed down to Klehm for the rehearsal.  Mark did an impressive job of wrangling the bridal party and family, including two very cute and spazzy ring bearers and two very funny flower girls.  The gardens were beautiful, and the rain held off until we packed into cars to drive 45 minutes north to the Rockton Inn for the rehearsal dinner, hosted by Bill’s parents.  These sorts of occasions are always interesting – it’s rare to actually know everyone in the bridal party, so there’s a lot of sitting around awkwardly and just talking to the people you know.  We chatted with Mark and watched Bill’s nephews, my cousins, and Belah run around and hang off Bill.

Since we were already almost all the way to Wisconsin, we decided to take a quick trip across the border in a classic Midwest thunderstorm to get my beloved Spotted Cow, which isn’t distributed outside the state.  The first stop was Cub Foods in Beloit, my go-to spot for Wisconsin beers, only to discover that it CLOSED!  From there we went to Everett’s, where we discovered Port Pizza Hop 15 and Shark Attack, some beers from Lost Abbey that we didn’t buy, and also that Everett’s is actually not in Wisconsin.  A third stop at Woodman’s provided us with a 12 pack of Spotted Cow, a wine bottle of Raspberry Tart, and Dancing Man Wheat, one of many New Glarus beers that I hadn’t seen before.  I look forward to being closer to Wisconsin if only so that I can sample these more often!

Another stormy drive home, and we crashed for the night in hopes of getting enough sleep to make it through the wedding day.  We wisely removed Gypsy‘s collar, resulting in a quiet fuzzball sleeping between us for part of the night.