Today’s the day.
It’s time to pony up and finally leave Michigan.
It seems to me that we have been here a while, and looking at the numbers I can tell you that between the mainland and the UP, we’ve called the state of Michigan ‘home’ for exactly 30 days. Well, not including the previous week or so we spent here prior to our U turn to North Carolina. So I guess it’s safe to say – Michigan, we love you.
However, like many young fledgling love affairs it is destined to end because, looking at our watches, we have to get a move on back south. I have to be back in Florida to complete 80 hours of work experience for my veterinary assistant course and, well, Florida is the place to spend the winter if you live in an RV and don’t want to get caught in the cold – I guess we are going to be Snow Birds this year (however I would just like to state for the record, I am perfectly fine with cold weather – however the RV, and Loops for that matter, isn’t designed for freezing temperatures or driving in the snow and ice).
Wisconsin is our destination today and once again my supreme lack of knowledge on US states comes in to play, all I can put my finger on is that Wisconsin is known for its cheese.
And really, when you love cheese and dairy goodness as much as I do, well, I guess that’s all I need to know.
Admittedly we try to enhance our library of state facts by dropping in at the Welcome Centre as we cross the state line, but obviously Wisconsin is not feeling all that welcoming today as it’s closed.
However we thoroughly enjoy the scenery on our way to Potawatomi Carter Casino in Wabeno (no, we haven’t lost our love of casino car parks yet), feasting on small towns, forest and more small lakes than you can shake a stick at.
What comes as a shock to the system is our second day drive into Green Bay – Motorways! Cars! Traffic! People! Ugly cities! Roadworks!
And I tell you, it is a shock. It’s dawning on me exactly how secluded and remote the UP has actually been to visit and the effect it has had on my senses. Driving towards Green Bay is a veritable overload to the system. I want to reach my hand out and sweep everything away from my view. It’s too much to look at and immediately stress inducing. How odd that what is seen as today’s norm for societal living actually seems so foreign and overwhelming when you’ve been away from it all for a while.
Also, I’m sorry, but from view on the bridge passing by, Green Bay truly is an ugly city to look at.
The Oneida casino is hosting us tonight, but before we make our way there, we have enough time to stop on the outskirts of the city to visit the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, a 700 acre urban wildlife preserve.
Now I have a mixed review of this place – on one hand, it deserves the credit that it is a FREE place for people to visit in a shaded urban forested park with a massive lake, they have a nice amount of educational activities and a good selection of animals for people to see, and practically everything was visible and on display.
But it obvious that it struggles for money, some of the enclosures were a little worn around the edges and the aviaries in particular smelled pretty bad from lack of cleaning (or someone just not doing their job properly). Also one of the wolves on display had some clear and visible injuries to its ears, open wounds that were just begging to become infected, and it didn’t seem that any treatment had been administered. Or if it had, it would have been nice to have seen a sign explaining what had happened to the wolf and that it was being treated because, you know, the public does wonder about this sort of thing and gets grumpy about animals that are injured and in pain (or at least I do).
Overall though, Loops and I had a pretty good afternoon of it and I especially had fun hand feeding as many ducks and geese as I could, including one with a gimpy leg who I protected from the bullying geese while he ate. I’m always routing for the underdog.
After our overnight at the casino (this is worth mentioning only because the owners have clearly seen the light and installed roundabouts there), we make our way over to Calumet Country Park for three days of camping. However, it’s only a short drive and so we take the time to stop in at two cheese shops to sample some wares.
Now obviously I have been spoiled by my favourite cheese store of all time in Shipshewana, because I was fairly put out, almost to the point of foot stamping, as to why there were just 5 or 6 sample pots and not about 30 different cheeses to try. I was very disappointed, but not enough that it stopped me from buying a block of Swiss cheese for the ride.
I also displayed my British stiff upper lip and didn’t say anything regarding said lack of samples because I was given a pin for the world map pin board in the entrance hall, where I was able to show where I had visited from. This slightly made up for the lack of cheese, but not fully you understand.
I will however name drop Lamers Dairy based in Appleton as THE place to go if you wish to purchase liquid dairy goodness. Despite the fact it being slap bang in the middle of a shopping area (not where you would expect a dairy to be), the shop actually contains a bottling plant for their milk products, which you can view through a full wall length window. Also they produce the BEST chocolate milk. And that’s not just in my opinion. According to the lady inside and on their website “Lamers Dairy won First Place for Whole Chocolate Milk in the prestigious 2016 World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Products Contest”. And if that wasn’t enough of a find, guess what Lamers brought out super early for my personal drinking pleasure?
Egg nog. Like a two months before you would see it in any store.
If you are in the area – stop in, it’s worth it. They also make their own soft serve ice cream (which unfortunately I didn’t try) and all of their milk comes from within 25 miles of the store – a big thumbs up from me for supporting local farmers.
It turns out that we still have the afternoon to enjoy and so I ask Loops to detour us a couple minutes down the road to the Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve.
The preserve is an interesting oddity, it’s a non-profit place that is dedicated to, as they put it, “developing a sound environmental ethic in persons of all ages”. It’s an open land space that also has small environmental education buildings dotted around it (one which had beekeeping equipment in it), short walking trails (free to use, there is a small donation box if you chose to contribute – we did), programs for adults (mostly outdoor pursuits and survival courses) and for school children (learning about the environment).
We stopped by on a Monday mid-afternoon and the place was deserted. We had it all to ourselves and in a way, wandering around with no-one else in sight; it almost had a slight feel of trespassing to it.
The day was absolutely perfect for a lazy stroll in the countryside, blue skies and sunshine. Insects buzzing so loud they sounded like an aerial squadron in the sky; dragonflies at the lake, half of them darting past in the blink of an eye, the other half sunning themselves of the wooden handrails. Loops and I meandered through the grass pathways cut through the swaths of tall grass and over pebble gravel tracks. We stumbled across the quintessential climbing tree, and so naturally I climbed it and hung around checking out the views from above. It might have taken me slightly longer to get back down….oh the joys of getting older! Heading back to the bus we crossed a small patch of grass, feeling happy and relaxed to have found such a gem of a place, and so of course the snake that slithered right across my path scared me absolutely shitless, to the point I actually jumped and screamed. Snakes, something I will never get used to seeing in the wild.
And that finally brings us to our three days camping quietly near Lake Winnebago at Calumet County Park – with only a handful of other campers around. Three days in which to continue working on my school work, try some new crochet patterns (I’ve moved on from granny squares to attempting to make scarves!) and ride with Loops up and down the Park’s long driveway.
Next stop south – we visit the state capital – Madison!