Family In Wisconsin...Paradise On The Lake
Aug 11, 2012
|After having had a whirlwind 48 hours, covering 1500 miles and 6 states, it was nice to have a short trip of only 2 ½ hours and 120 miles to our next destination, Bec’s cousin, Jill & John Leahy, and Uncle Phil & Mary in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
When we first heard the name of the suburb, it was the source of much mirth and amusement, but the poking of fun soon stopped as the sheer beauty of this amazing place hit us as we pulled into the driveway.
Located literally right on the lake front of Lake ‘Lac La Belle,’ it is truly, truly stunning and we couldn’t believe it would be our home for the next 5 days.
The surprises didn’t stop there – as we were lead to our rooms by Uncle John, our kids eyes lit up like Christmas trees. To get to the kids bedroom we had to go upstairs and through a small hallway, then through the most amazing theatre room we had ever seen – it made “Village Gold Class” cinema look positively second rate by comparison. The kids’ room and bathroom were self-contained and right next door to the cinema room.
After a nice sleep in and slow start to the morning, we spent the afternoon floating around on the lake and swimming. The pattern went something like this: jump in from the boat and swim around it, climb back on, and then jump off again and swim around a bit more. It was a terrific way to relax, and just what the doctor ordered for 6 tired bodies that had had a jam packed few days of travelling over 1100 miles through 6 states.
The evening came and, rather than cook, John and Jill took us to a quaint little local hangout called “Mapleway Bowl” for some fun and dinner. It doubles as a bar and small bowling alley that is particularly popular with locals – especially in winter, when any fun you have at night has to be inside because of the freezing conditions and large snowfalls that occur. We got to try more unique American specialties ……more pizza, deep fried beans, onion rings and deep fried macaroni and cheese. A little later in the evening Uncle Phil and Mary popped in to say hello and came back to enjoy a quiet evening sitting on the front porch and just hanging out together. It was time for a quiet drink, some good music, a good laugh reminiscing while telling stories and catching up on what’d been going since we had last seen each other 15 years ago. You would have to be incredibly hard to please, or dead, to not enjoy the “serenity” of the surroundings.
On the Friday, while Bec took Alisha, Peter and Sharon for haircuts, Billy and Liam headed off to visit the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. Thrilled to find another self-paced audio tour, the two boys headed off with earphones on and eyes darting from one amazing display to the next. On top of the thrill of the visual display, the fantastic information and interesting facts about the evolution of the of the iconic motor cycle, and the ups and downs in the company’s history, kept Billy enthralled for more than two hours. As an added bonus, Bec rang to say she and the other half of the family were running late, so “don’t rush”…….awesome…..more time to look around and check out a few more amazing displays. The two boys finished the tour and were just coming out of the Harley Davidson Café as Bec arrived to pick them up and head home…..to prepare dinner.
With Uncle Phil and Mary and the whole family including oldest boy Ryan and his girlfriend Megan coming over, John and Billy, closely supervised by Uncle Phil, began to piece together a meal fit for royalty. In what could only be described as a super, super, super sized cooking pot, Uncle John put in, at different staged intervals, potatoes, shrimp (prawns), eggs, sausage and finally mussels. Once in and cooking, they were then left to boil and finish off together while John, Billy and Ryan started on pre-dinner appetisers….wood fired, stone cooked pizza. The smells coming from the kitchen and BBQ area were just amazing. Aunty Jill worked on an unbelievable Sangria mix that meant all the food and beverage prep was taken care of. With all that sorted it was time to settle into the usual “lakeside” evening routine of relaxing on the porch with a cold drink, soft music and relaxing conversation.
Saturday morning brought with it great weather and, much to the kids delight, perfect conditions for boating and water sports. Uncle Phil and Mary again joined us on the lake as Sean and John helped some very excited kids have tonnes of fun on tubes and knee boards. After some pretty cool demonstrations by Sean on a wake board and Maddie on knee board, Peter decided to have a crack at performing some tricks on the knee board as well. After having mastered the basics very quickly, and after some words of advice from Maddie, he was ready to attempt a 360. After several, attempts and managing numerous 180’s, and skiing backwards for lengthy periods, his arms gave in to tiredness and his first 360 would have to wait for another day. Even Billy was able to show the kids he still had it, as he managed to get up on the knee board first time and ski for a while…just like old times, only not as graceful or pretty. While learning and trying new sports was great, the most fun the kids had was as they rode and bounced around on the tube. With the “tube”, or wedge shaped raft, really, being able to take 3 people on it at a time, there were arms and legs going everywhere as bodies got airborne and flung into the water providing loads of funny moments and laughs for those watching on.
With the skiing done it was time for a quick visit to Uncle Phil and Mary’s house before settling into the usual evening routine of relaxing on the porch with a cold drink, soft music, relaxing conversation and with good food. Tonight, however, the usual evening routine had a slight twist……after a great dinner, last night’s leftovers in this case, the relaxing was done not on the porch, but on the float boat, on the lake.
Sunday was a day that had been marked in the kid’s diary for months, even before leaving Australia…..a trip to the biggest water park in the world…Noah’s Ark. Again, the hype lived up to the reality and expectations were more than met. With the whole day ahead there was plenty of time to try all the park had to offer. If it was a relaxing float down a lazy river, favoured by those of us recovering from the day before’s skiing, then there were 3 to choose from. If the thrill of a hair raising ride on the world’s longest water roller coaster, or a family trip down a large tube ride, was more your thing, no problem, because there really was there was something for everyone. The day at the park finished with Peter, Maddie, Liam and Bec, yes Bec, going on a ride called “The Point of No Return.” It is the highest and longest single person body slide in the world, the equivalent of a 7 story high building. It takes its name from the fact that as you climb the stairs to the point where the ride starts, you pass a series of signs that test your resolve and stir your nerves as you make your way to the top. The last sign reads: “This is the point of no return.” Then the magnitude of what lies before you really hits home.
After a big day it was home to settle into the usual evening routine…… of relaxing on the porch with a…..oh I’m sure you get the picture…..
Monday morning was spent with Aunty Jill, as she taught the kids how to water ski in what was again a fun filled day out on the lake. Once the skiing was done it was time to introduce Billy to ‘Hog Alley’ the locals at Hog Alley to Billy. Not content to just let him sit and talk, the barmaid needed to attend to the kitchen and left him to serve drinks to the locals, which brought about a heap of laughs for everyone.
The last night with our fantastic Wisconsin relatives was spent eating out at a local Mexican restaurant. Reliving the fun of the previous 5 days, discussion centered around trying to plan just when we could catch up again, trying to talk them into coming to Australia, and not leaving it 15 years before our paths crossed again. After dinner it was home to settle into out routine again…..no, not the relaxing-on-the-front-porch one…..the pack-the-car-the-night-before-leaving-early-the-next- morning-for-a-long-drive routine. After some last minute photos and goodbyes, it was off to bed for a quick nap before a road trip that would begin at 3.00 AM and an appointment with a large stone carving called Mount Rushmore National Monument.