Once again this summer I was fortunate to be able to take five weeks off. I don't get that much vacation since I am still new at my job but my boss lets me take leave without pay during the summer while things are slow. So I have the whole month of July off - five weeks in fact. Of course we planned a major mountain trip for most of that time (stay tuned for reports). But I had been invited back to the midwest by my family in early July. To add to that Shannon had just moved to Chicago after graduating from the University of Iowa. We decided to make a quick trip to the Midwest and do a grand tour. We would visit my family in Milwaukee. Then we would visit Shannon at her new place in Chicago. We would end up visiting Sandy's family in Madison. We planned nine days for the trip. With travel days that gave us two or three days in each location. Pretty hectic but we had a lot of ground to cover. We are quite a distributed family. With parents in Milwaukee and Madison, siblings in Madison and Chicago, and kids in Chicago, Killeen and Clarkesville, our family is pretty widely scattered.
We flew into Milwaukee late on July 2nd. It was even later than planned since our United flight was delayed (now there's a surprise!). When we left Boise it had been the one of the hottest days I could remember - 108 degrees. When we got to Milwaukee it was 60 degrees, windy and rainy. The cool was welcome but since we had tickets to an evening outdoor concert in two days I was wondering if we should have brought more warm clothes. After a gourmet dinner at Denny's we settled in for the night at the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport.
Next day we visited with my parents. My brother and his daughter came up from Illinois. Sandy spent the afternoon with my mom learning how to crochet. She had bought a book of patterns and really wanted to learn how to make Granny Squares (insert your own granny joke at Sandy's expense here). Meanwhile I tested my dad and Mike with some online science tests. My dad did well on the general test but I was surprised that my brother aced the one on black holes and general relativity.
In the evening we went out for dinner with our friend Mary Beth. She is living in Milwaukee after moving from Boise by way of a couple of years in Madison. We went to Barbiere's Italian Inn. When I was in college at UW-Milwaukee I used to play a lot of softball and Barbiere's was the standard after-the-game place. I spent many hours of my youth there. The original restaurant is on Bluemound Road near Miller Park and is still there. They also opened a new one in South Milwaukee a few years ago and we went there since it was closer. But even though forty years have gone by the food was as good as I remebered it. I ate way too much but it was wonderful. Since MB's birthday is in late June and mine is in early July we traded presents. I got some cool Bluray discs. One was the movie Gettysburg, which I really want to watch again since my birthday this year was the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the battle. I also got some cool science videos from the series Nova: The Fabric of the Cosmos and Fractals. Plus a science fiction series - Falling Skies. I will have plenty to watch when I finally get back home.
Next day I spent a lot of time with my dad helping him with his PC. IT support staff are always in demand. To his credit he is eighty seven and he is still learning how to do new stuff on his computer. We had our concert in the evening. Our brother-in-law Keith was giving us all kinds of scare stories about parking downtown because of the fourth of July. For a while he had us worried and we were looking at taking a shuttle or leaving super early. But since Mickey and I had gone to Summerfest to see Rush five years before and didn't have any problems finding parking we decided to risk it.
We drove down to the Summerfest grounds and found a place to park about six blocks away. No problemo. We were there plenty early. The Summerfest grounds were packed. Although there were a lot of good places to eat the lines were so long we didn't even try to get anything. Even the lines to buy concert tshirts were really long. And that's where we almost had a disaster.
I really wanted to get a tshirt for the concert. But the lines at the official tour tshirt stand were really long. I thought I was very clever when I noticed a stand nearby had a couple of Rush concert tshirts along with a lot of other stuff. They weren't crowded at all. So I went back and bought a tshirt there. After the fact I think they were seconds. The print I have is slightly tilted. Not a big deal but I think that was why they were at the other stand. But as I walked away with my Rush "Clockwork Angels Tour" tshirt I heard someone say "Hey Steve". When I turned around a guy handed me something and said "I think you might want this." It was my Rush ticket! It was in the same pocket as my wallet and when I paid for the tshirt I must have dropped it on the ground. The guy must have seen it and picked it up. It had my name on it - that's why he knew it when he called me. Whoever you are - I am totally grateful!!! I can't imagine sitting outside while Sandy went in to listen to the concert. It could have been a real disaster. But thanks to my anonymous benefactor, I was saved.
The Rush concert was awesome. This was the fifth time that I saw them in concert. I saw them in Boise in the eighties (Signals tour) with my friend Brian. I saw them in Boise in the nineties with Tim and Mickey (Test For Echo tour). Mickey was only about five at the time and fell asleep right in the middle. The ability to sleep through a blaring rock concert is a skill that I am sure has stood him in good stead in his career in the army. I saw Rush again with Mickey five years ago at Summerfest. And two years ago Sandy and I saw them at The Gorge. This was probably the best of all the times that I have seen them. It was impressive how after all these years Geddy Lee was able to hit those high notes. And when Geddy Lee hits a high note, it's a HIGH NOTE, although his voice did start to fade by the last half hour of the show. Sandy liked the concert too, especially the first set. I've even started to turn her into a Rush fan. But after a while she began to wear down. The whole show went three hours. As far as I was concerned they could have played all night but I suppose some people would disagree. For me it was an incredible evening.
Next day we were back at my parents house. There was quite a gang. All of my siblings were there, along with all of their kids. That's the whole Lieske clan other than our kids. We took a lot of group pictures. Everyone else stayed for a BBQ but Sandy and I needed to leave early. Our plan was to drive down to Illinois and spend the weekend with Shannon. We wanted to allow plenty of time to get to downtown Chicago without running into heavy rush hour traffic. So we said our goodbyes and hit the road to head south.