Obviously started writing this before leaving for Daegu...
And so from the Netherlands to my parents' adopted home: Menomonie, Wisconsin. As usual, there was a lot of eating of tremendous food (highlights included beer-butt chicken, barbequed venison hind, Mexican seafood stew and, of course, the Oreos and Cap'n Crunch) and days with far too much tv. Also went on two trips in the trailer (that would be a caravan to those of you in the UK) with the parents and Chloe, their wonderfully daft 'Sheprador'. Sadly, we had to put Katy, our old Welsh border collie, down shortly before leaving. It was far from easy to say goodbye, but at 15 she'd had a good life, and travelled more than most.
First up was Wisconsin Dells – as my Dad put it “the Las Vegas of Wisconsin” - a staggeringly tacky resort town, with a high concentration of waterparks and screaming children. Unsurprisingly, we avoided this for the most part, instead taking a cruise on the Wisconsin Ducks and visiting the largest winery in Wisconsin. The Ducks really are quite strange, and noisy contraptions, used in WWII and the Korean War as amphibious transport vehicles – somehow there are still loads of these beasts about to take tourists around Wisconsin rivers and forests! Typically, this being Wisconsin and all, the tour guide is a student at the university in Menomonie, and knew my Dad. I am beginning to believe his is some kind of celebrity. The local wine was actually pretty impressive, and the setting quite idyllic. There was also time to admire the excesses of the campsite, where some of the caravans are more like houses, with landscaped gardens and golf carts which presumably saved the owners from the tiresome effort of walking to the pool.
The second trip was shorter, just a couple of days in Merrick State Park, not far from LaCrosse, WI. Mainly just chilled and enjoyed the peaceful rural surroundings, and a couple of good local coffee shops. And I got to drive my parents' vast car. Uh huh. I got to drive. Not one ding on my watch either. Though I think I did give Mom at least one heart attack (sorry Mom!)
While in Menomonie, I also, of course, spent some time in the Lakeside with Dad. The crowd has changed a little, but there were still some familiar faces, and some good chat to be had over a few whiskey and cokes, and I only stayed out too late once. Or maybe twice.... Also, despite the smoke filled atmosphere, I resisted the evil tobacco without even one cheat. My friend, Caitlin, doesn't work there anymore, but she and her husband, Eric, did take me to a barbeque at one of their friend's houses. A classic Wisconsin people-watching opportunity, with awesome food thrown in, and a chance to hang out with their baby, Jackson – pretty much the sweetest, most adorable baby around.
I think that about covers the main events of the visit. Just remains to say Thank You to Mom and Dad - I love having a second home in small town Wisconsin. Miss you both.