I am currently visiting Wisconsin. This was a pleasant surprise for me, I had no real concept of what WI should look like, or how the people should act, but I really like it here. Of course it is easy to like WI in June, much like it is easy to like Laramie, WY in June. January paints a different picture. My brother moved here from Korea and coincidentally my husband has a meeting in Western WI so we came along then drove across the state to see John and his wife in Eastern WI. If Kumho tires had invited GD to a meeting in Korea we might have visited John sooner.

So, what’s to like about WI? Well, to start with, our good friend Laura Ingalls Wilder was born here. And I saw the cabin; or at least a replica. Photos of that to come. The barns are marvelous throughout the state. They don’t use them for equipment storage, no they keep cows in there. Who ever heard of using a barn for livestock? Oh, sure people do, but these are sturdy three-story100 year-old buildings with excellent stone foundations not the steel buildings next to dangerously leaning two-story 100 year-old barns we are used to seeing in our corner of the state.

And the people are really nice. Example #1 we ate lunch at a diner somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  We sat at the counter next to the register. A young fellow came in to pick up his carry-out meal and the waitress asked him if he had ketchup. He said, no he didn’t. She walked to the cooler and handed him one of those refillable bottles with the pointy cap and told him to remember to bring it back.

We had seen the “watchoutforAmish” signs but had only seen a few and they were hard at work in their garden. As we were getting out of the car at the diner we heard the distinct clip-clop of a horse trotting on pavement. There was a collective gasp in our car and all four kids were both awake and quiet for the first time the whole trip. The other time this occurred was when we saw several Amish men baling hay with a team of Belgians. Very cool.

Example #2 we were in a fast food restaurant, you have one of these in your town. I won’t reveal the name but I was ordering a #1 and four smaller sandwiches and I told her I wanted two drinks, one for me and one for the kids to share. She looked at me and said, “you could order four waters and just put soda in them.” So I did! Then I asked a guy about a park nearby but he didn’t know of one. Later another man who had overheard me came to give me directions to a park. It wasn’t the park I was supposed to go to, my brother had neglected to tell me it was in Michigan, but it was a kind thought.

There are no dirt roads in this state as far as I can tell, and no interstates, making it nearly impossible to travel from east to west.  I could not have done it without Marilyn (our GPS). I think most everyone names their GPS, I have heard of Glenda and Lois as well. There are a lot of trees up here, more than we have in Nebraska.

And the crazy sights! I saw a swimming pool full of kids and a snowmobile XXing sign next to the pool. We stopped at the multi-purpose gas station in a “town” to find a meat counter with some excellent looking steaks, a full body mount of an albino deer and outside a pump for off-road diesel. Never in all my wanderings have I seen a pump for tractor fuel at a gas station. I was surprised to see how rural WI was. Most of their towns are crossroads with a church and a gas station that sells tractor fuel and steaks. There were maybe two or three farm houses per square mile. The last time Nebraska looked like that was the 1950s.

I did run into a stinker at the Ford Garage in Marinette, WI. I asked him if he could look at the cigarette lighters in the van, as they were not working reliably. Anyone who has traveled with four kids, an ipod, a video player, a plug-in cooler and a GPS knows how vital a reliable cigarette lighter is. He told me the problem was a cinch to fix, it would take no more than half an hour, but he was booked that day. I countered with the next morning and no he was booked solid until Tuesday. I turned to leave and saw all four bays completely empty and clean as a whistle with a handful of guys doing pretty much nothing at 11:00 in the morning. His kind of booked is different than my husband’s kind of booked. What a jerk. Turns out my brother had an idea which involved something that looked like it used to belong to a dentist, and now the lighter that had stopped working entirely works fine. Yay for brothers!

We also had an earache situation on the way up here. If you ever plan to need urgent care in Iowa, I suggest doing it in La Mars. You can eat Blue Bunny ice cream when you are done, because they make it there. Not in the hospital, but somewhere in the town- maybe with Wisconsin cream, although my brother says they use most of Wisconsin’s milk to make cheese. 

Granted I took a swath from west to east through the middle of the state, so I may have a skewed perception, but I liked Wisconsin.