From the Road

(I began this post yesterday morning on our way to the waterfalls outside Manketo, Minnesota, but due to the PAINfully slow internet at our hotel last night, I'm actually posting this from my desk at home. We arrived in Fayetteville at 11:00-ish this morning and was greeted by an overjoyed black lab who really hasn't let us out of her sight. As much fun as we have on our vacations, it's always nice to have Langley to look forward to when we pull in our driveway.)

A few observations about Yankees:

--- they don't know how to do BBQ, even though they try, bless their little hearts.

--- in all the Quick Trips we've stopped in to get our big Cokes for the road, all the cups have been plastic, which we all know causes the ice in the drinks to melt faster. The styrofoam cups we have in the South don't do that because Southerners know how to keep their beverages icy cold and fizzy.

--- Yankees aren't interested in hearing about your family tree or which county you hale from. They are a very "yup" "nope" people. 

--- again, bless their little hearts. 


Now on to our visit to Minneapolis yesterday.  Needless to say, Joe was less than thrilled about being in a big city and I actually had to agree with him on this one. I think I'm turning into a Surbanite. I mean, big cities are fun in small doses, but the noise and towering skyscrapers get to be a bit much after a while. We did go by the Vikings Football stadium, but after visiting the awesome Lambeau Field, the Vikings stadium was too glitzy and a let down. We were all less than impressed.

After we finished up with the city, we checked into our hotel and then headed back out to some beautiful biking/hiking trails where we stayed till almost 8:00. The boys had a blast, especially Joe. He's been so much fun: the further we get away from cities, the more relaxed he becomes and silly. The kid has a terrific dry sense of humor and loves getting to ride his bike in the afternoons. The trails we found yesterday were beautifully maintained, making me wish I'd brought my running gear. There weren't many people on the hiking trails, but the bike trails were packed. There were hard core bikers mixed in with families with small children and everyone was so nice. Yankees are nice folk, but like I said above, they're not a people to sit around and gab with strangers.

After we finished up with the bike trails, we headed back to the hotel, David grabbed a quick shower before the two of us headed out to the Mall of America to buy me some warm clothes. It's COLD up here in Minnesota! But the mall was truly amazing, everything that a mall should be.  I do miss the malls of Northern Virginia with their big selections of stores and shops that we like to shop in. There was an L.L. Bean store, a gigantic Forever 21 store, a Microsoft store (with an Apple store just across the hallway) but the best store was the Lego store! It was fantastic. 😉

Today we're beginning our journey south and back home, but first we're making a stop at a waterfall that David found that we can hike to and stretch our legs. 

Fast forward a full day of driving across Minnesota and Iowa and into Kansas City, MO., where we are staying the night tonight:

The waterfall was beautiful, located just outside Manketo, Minnesota. There were actually two waterfalls, a small one that fed into a larger one. I just "happened" to have my tripod in the car and Joe shlepped it down to the banks of the waterfall so we could get our annual Austin Family Adventure photo. And yes, I'm wearing a fleece on the first official day of summer. 😉 After that, we had a quick bite to eat in town before turning the Mighty Subaru south and home.

 The first set of pictures are from Minneapolis, the second set is from this morning at the waterfall. And tomorrow . . . .HOME!




Travel Day

Today was all about traveling. After making one final stop at Lambeau Field for David to exchange a pair of shorts, we hit the road heading to Eau Claire, where we are staying the night tonight. Along the way, we hit the small towns of Appleton, Osh Kosh (B'Gosh!) and Waterloo, where Trek bicycles have their headquarters. I liked the smaller towns with all the main streets looking like Main Street U.S.A. with old buildings and houses along the street decked out with flowers and manicured lawns. The people we met on this trip so far have been super nice. David has playfully accused me of striking up conversations just so I can hear their accents, which remind me of music, very melodious and lyrical. They do have a very clipped way of speaking which I attribute to the cold weather they experience up here for the majority of the year. I mean, would you want to keep your mouth open any longer than necessary to speak when it's 80 degrees below zero? Compared to the accents at home, where it's just too darned hot to speak fast, these guys up here in the Frozen North could probably set speed records for the way they talk! But it is fun to talk to the folks up here. 

Last night, David and I did a little exploring along the bay in Green Bay and discovered an amusement park that was straight out of the 1950's. There was a wooden roller coaster, a giant slide like we used to have in Lawrence years and years ago, a Tilt-A-Whirl (I thought of you, Mom, when I saw that and wished you were there to ride it with me!), but best of all there were the giant swings that I absolutely love, the kind of swings that take you up high and swing you waaaaaaay out. Needless to say, David bought me tickets so I could ride and oh my goodness, it was so. much. fun!! I only managed one ride because I was pretty dizzy after the first one, but I blame it on being on the road for most of the day. If I was at home, then I could've swung all day long.

The sunset was beautiful across the water on the Bay. We talked about what it would be like living in Green Bay, which we both loved. If we could just somehow get around our severe distaste of cold weather, I think we would move up there if we could. There's a very down home kind of feel to the town, which is just a little bit bigger than Fayetteville and it seems to have good family values. And there is Lambeau Field and the Packers! But the winters would be brutal and Florida has an awful nice ring to it, too, when it's 80 below, snow piled up higher than the front door and the wind is blowing a gale.

But I tend to exaggerate, or so I've been told. 

Anyway, on to the pictures. A few from last night and a few from the road today, where we ran into a massive thunderstorm that spooked a herd of cows, sending them galloping for cover.

And galloping cows is a pretty funny sight. 

Lambeau Field

What can I say? 

We left Milwaukee this morning, much to Joe's relief, and headed towards the legendary Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. Even though I know just the basic rules of football, I was still pretty excited to get to see this historic place, but David . . . 

David glowed from the moment that we saw the exit sign on the highway till just a few minutes ago when he turned off his light to go to sleep. He was like a kid in a candy store or on Christmas morning. He kept saying over and over that this was his best Father's Day ever, literally beaming the entire day, which of course made me grin all day, too. 

I could go into more detail, but I want to have the pictures do the talking tonight. Even Joe got in on the fun, donning a cheesehead " . . . only because it's Father's Day and you asked me to". He's a good sport, that kid. He finally got to have his mountain bike ride later this afternoon also, the two of them running into me as I was hiking back to the car, both their faces covered in bugs, but both happy as can be. Joe approves of Green Bay, stating that it's much more our speed and "I'm a suburb kind of boy." 

On to tonight's installment of photos, complete with our little storm trooper donning his own cheesehead (when two little boys saw me taking the picture in the Packer's store, they couldn't believe that a grown up liked Legos, not to mention Star Wars Legos! 😉), checking out the bike trails and doing a little trick riding. 

And now it's my turn to turn in for the night!

Lincoln, Chicago, Silver Lake & Finally Milwaukee

What a busy couple days we've had. I'm sorry I missed writing yesterday, but by the time we finished walking around Milwaukee, it was waaaay past my bedtime and I was exhausted! But suffice it to say, that after waking up to storms yesterday in Springfield, Illinois, we visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library (very well done and we all learned a lot) and fought Chicago traffic (David did the driving, but I still had the sweaty palms)! After surviving Chicago, we stopped at some beautiful mountain biking trails just shy of Milwaukee, and Joe and David couldn't wait to get out and bike, so that was what we did. The trails were gorgeous, nice and smooth without any roots, rocks or underbrush like the Arkansas trails have. Both boys had a blast and it felt really good to stretch my legs even though every time I stopped to take a picture, mosquitoes the size of small horses would fly in and attack my legs, arms, face, ears . . . just about everywhere there was open skin. Blech!  We finished up at the trails and drove on into the city and found our hotel, a renovated life insurance building that was built in the late 1800's. The attention to detail was amazing! It was a gorgeous building and hotel to stay in. Here are a few of the pictures from yesterday. Just click on the thumbnails to see larger.

For today's adventure, we had a delicious breakfast over on the east side of town, the side of town that Joe told David later that he preferred to the Big City side to town where we hung out last night. Normally I don't take pictures of my food in public, but my fruit covered waffle was just too pretty to pass up. At least I didn't take the "foodie" picture with my phone and then Instagrammed it like so many other folks do! ; )  After breakfast, we wandered around downtown for a bit poking our heads into the Public Market and spending about half an hour in a motorcycle shop that sold Enfield motorcycles. They look like the old motorcycles from the 1930's and '40's. Very cool and very retro and a lot of fun to take pictures of!  Both boys were impressed with the machines that were for sale, but we only bought a couple t-shirts, much to the owners dismay. 

Then it was time to hit Lake Michigan . . . or at least the bay that fronted the Great Lake. It still amazes me that it's just a lake. It's soooo big! But there was an art museum along the waterfront (sorry, Mom and Dad, but we did not set one toe inside!), a war museum, and plenty of people and boat watching to be had. It was a beautiful morning to be out walking and enjoying the sunshine and blue skies. If the weather had only kept up . . .  then we wouldn't have been caught in a torrential downpour later in the afternoon after we had just begun mountain biking and hiking at a new spot on the other side of the city! We looked like a family of drowned rats! But again, it was a beautiful spot to get soaked to the skin. David said as we were driving back to our hotel, that he imagined the Pacific Northwest to be like the woods that we had just been in: a thick canopy that sheltered you from the worst of the rain, dense woods and packed dirt for the trails. He had a blast getting drenched, Joe and I weren't real thrilled with wearing sopping wet clothes all the way back to the city. But we all perked up after hot showers and some good BBQ for supper. Hard to imagine that there is good BBQ up here in Yankee Land, but there is. 

Tomorrow, we're heading over to Green Bay and Lambeau Field. I'm actually pretty excited about getting to see that historic football stadium and of course, David can hardly wait! And poor Joe, all he wants to do is avoid cities and just ride his bike. Which we promised he'll get to do tomorrow, too.  

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you all about one of the neatest things about Milwaukee that really impressed the three of us (besides all the gorgeous buildings that have been renovated). There is a river that runs through the heart of the city (I forget the name) the allows large boats to pass up and down, but instead of having traditional drawbridges that go up and down, the city engineers came up with raising the actual street to allow the boats to go downriver. The very last picture in this series shows just that happening. We all thought that was a rather ingenious and very clever idea. I bet Stephen would be fascinated by the concept. 

All righty, it's time to hit the hay. Till tomorrow then . .  .