We had a busy summer, visiting lots of national parks (ten in total this year) and doing a lot of hiking. But Sandy also brought up that it would be a good thing to take some time to visit family. She makes a point of going back to Wisconsin several times every year. I don't do so well and rarely go back. She said that her family was hoping that I could make it some time soon so I agreed that we should plan a trip. We worked out that we would go back for a week in August. When we had the dates set Shannon arranged to come up to Madison for the weekend as well so the whole family would be together.
The Milwaukee Brewers were having a surprisingly good year (for a change) so the first thing we did was get tickets for a Thursday night game at Miller Park. Sandy and I, Shannon and the Finley's all drove to Milwaukee for the game. We got there early and did a mini-tailgate, with drinks and snacks. Then we moved into the stadium for the game against the Twins. We had high hopes for a Brewer win since Zach Davies, their winningest starter, was pitching and they were playing the Minnesota Twins, who had a mediocre record. Unfortunately the Brewers didn't put up much of a fight and lost 7-2.
We spent a lot of time over the next few days at Sandy's parents place in Oregon. That's Oregon Wisconsin, which is a distant suburb of Madison. We watched more Brewer baseball and lots of football on tv. Sandy even did some sewing. We had lots of snacks and good wine. Sandy's mom always spoils me and if I spent too much time there I would gain a lot of weight. Maybe it's a good thing that I don't visit there too often. I also did some IT work on their computer. I even tried (unsuccessfully) to bring Sandy's dad into the twenty first century by getting him to stop using AOL.
The first evening we went to Fisher King Winery in the nearby town of Verona for Happy Hour. Sandy had brought a bottle or two of wine back home from previous trips but I had never tried them. Fisher King specializes in sweet wines which I don't care for very much. But it turns out that some of their wines are not that sweet. I thought that their unoaked chardonnay and their Gentle Sin blend (which they call semi-sweet) were actually pretty good.
After wine we walked across the parking lot to Sugar River Pizza. I'm famous for always ordering just plain cheese pizza but I was intrigued by their Mac N Cheese pizza. Yes, it was pizza with macaroni and cheese as a topping. Two of my favorite foods. Together. How could I not try it? Turns out it was good but I have to admit that it was a bit much. Not sure I could eat it very often. If it is possible to overdose on cheese, this would do it.
Another day I did a quick drive to Janesville, only 40 minutes away. That's where Noble Knight Games is located, one of the best game stores on the planet. They carry lots and lots of wargames, but I'm especially interested in the foreign imports and used, out-of-print games. It was an opportunity to pick up some very hard to find wargames. But while the store has an incredible website, I was very disappointed the first time I stopped by the brick and mortar store a few years ago. It's tiny, and all of their extensive inventory is in the back in their warehouse. Some of it is even offsite. It's impossible to browse. But since I knew that this time, I had spent weeks before the trip perusing their website. I knew that I had limited space in my luggage to take games back so I agonized for days over what to pick. Then I placed an order online for instore pickup. I ended up getting Revolution Road, a new game on the American Revolution from Compass Games. It's by John Poiniske, one of my favorite game designers. I also got War for the Motherland, an east front game published in the Japanese wargame magazine Six Angles. And I got 1813: Napoleon's Nemesis by an Italian wargame company in a ziplock. It was a pretty good haul of hard to get games that was still compact enough to easily fit in my suitcase for the trip home.
One day Lynn, Colleen, Sandy and I took a trip to Devil's Lake. There is a state park there with some nice hiking trails and even some rock climbing on cliffs around the lake. After some confusion over whether we wanted the south end or north end of the lake, we parked at the north end near the visitor center. Lynn stayed with the car while Colleen, Sandy and I hiked to the top of the ridge on the east side of the lake. We took the trail about half way around to an interesting rock formation called the Devil's Window. There were some nice views of the lake and the Wisconsin woods stretching off into the distance. There were also a number of interesting rock formations along the trail. Unfortunately it was cloudy rather than sunny, so it wasn't that good for pictures, but at least it wasn't raining. And hey, I got a Devil's Lake tshirt.
After dinner at Lynn and Dan's, some of us took a trip to Sassy Cow Creamery for dessert. It's in the tiny town of Columbus, which is not far from Sun Prairie. Their ice cream was outstanding and I even scored another tshirt.
That added up to a pretty full week while we were in Wisconsin. It was time to head for home where Abby was waiting for us. When we got back we only had a few days to get ready for the next big event of the summer, the Great American Solar Eclipse.