What could be more fun than to mix sightseeing and seeing “old” friends again? We got the fun of experiencing both today. We found out our pals, Jamie and Donna, were here in Wisconsin staying over in the Wisconsin Dells and we found the equidistant meeting point of Fond du Lac to share an enjoyable lunch together, visit and plan on the next reunion!
Many of you may recall, we first met Jamie and Donna when we were still living in the San Antonio area and had the other RV, or Class C. We were all staying at Fiddler’s Cove in Coronado, outside San Diego, CA. That was back in 2006, and fortunately we have reconnected numerous times throughout the years. When we met, they had just started their full-time life in their Simba Motorhome, but now are also in a Tiffin motorhome they also fully enjoy!
Fond du Lac means “first on the lake”, sort of a loose take on the French which translates literally as “bottom (or far end) of the late”. The city is located at the base of Lake Winnebago. And geographically, Lake Winnebago dominates east-central Wisconsin. It’s ten miles across and 30 miles north to south and is a very shallow lake having once been a glacial march. However, it’s among the largest freshwater lakes fully locked within one state. This lake is on the western rim of the dolomite rock layer known as the Niagara Escarpment – which stretches almost 1,000 miles to Niagara Falls.
I did read something funny about the name of the lake and its name being a linguistic mix-up – or was it a deliberate pejorative snub from the French? They dubbed the Native American tribe they discovered here the “stinkers” and then an updated transliteration was “stinking water”! So whatever Winnebago is translated as, it comes from the Native American tribe that lived along the 88 miles of shoreline comprising of 138,000 acres as their home.
We chose the Shreiner’s for us to meet for lunch with Jamie and Donna after reading it was “arguably THEE Winnebago culinary institution, a hearty American-style family restaurant serving meals since 1938. The menu is broad, the servings copious and the specials Midwestern.” Unfortunately, when we arrived, so did the busload of tourists being dropped off at the front door. But, apparently they were used to this and herded them in with us only having a minimal wait before we were seated and this allowed us time to visit without interruption. The meal was good, the company better and we all enjoyed our few hours together before we each headed off on our respective areas we were staying.
After lunch we took a short detour to the city of Ripon – and no political statements intended for anyone, so please recognize it’s part of our history and one we are proud of being able to see. Ripon is known as the “birthplace of the Republican Party” – certainly not the same one of today; but the birthplace of the original Abraham Lincoln, Republican Party. It seems other towns have laid claim to this same “birthplace notoriety”, but in 2004, the U.S. Senate passed a bill recognizing Ripon’s status and even the U.S. Postal Service commemorated it with a postmark! As an aside, Ripon also became the birthplace of another political pioneer – Carrie Chapman Catt, one of the founders and first presidents of both the American Women’s Suffrage Association and the League of Women Voters and under her lead that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally passed. We managed to get a few pics that better explain the process of the party’s establishment. As they say “the elephant started here” in Ripon!
We returned to Fond du Lac after the 40-mile round trip detour to see some of the highlights of the city. First stop was to Lakeside Park to visit their lighthouse built along the lake edge and the pretty park it sat within. Even managed to spy a few murals along the streets in town and got some pics. Our next destination was to the Octagon House, a private 12-room private home that was originally raised as a stockade against Native American attacks. After the Civil War, it became a node on the Underground Railroad and has many passages and tunnels and even one hidden room. Last stop along the way was the stately mid-Victorian Italianate villa – the Galloway House. This beast of a house was finished in 1847, features 30 rooms, four fireplaces and a lot of Victorian opulence. Surrounding the grounds is a turn of the 20th century village containing 23 restored dwellings and structures. Due to the time, we only drove by it to see the house, snap a pic and then drive eastward to Sheboygan!
However, one more detour caught our eyes – the Wade House and the Old Plank Trail. Back in the late 1800s when Fond du Lac was trying to get established in the lumber business going on around it, a road was built entirely of wooden oak planks from the edge of town all the way to Sheboygan (close to 30 miles). Of course this road no longer exists, but there is a bike path built on the same route that definitely caught our eye and we took a detour to see the Wade House built in 1848 as a sawmill and was a stopping point along the route – a beautiful home.
Well, remember the stop there at the Brat place, Meisfeld’s? Well, after indulging in two of their brats, we were hooked and wanted to stop back by on the way back to Kewaunee and buy some more “for the road”! And that we did – let’s see, we have now added to the “collection” – jalapeno cheddar, beer, butter and onion, cordon bleu, along with some of the original, master champion ones! We have enough brats for our own festival, haha! Oh, and we also bought some of the local cheddar cheese curds to sample – they are the finished product of cheddar, before it’s made into blocks – absolutely delicious and VERY addictive!
We then took the quicker, faster, less scenic route home and finally got back much to Zookie’s great glee around 5:00 p.m.
Till the next time . . .