3

Hey, Minnesota

Well hello there, and greetings from Northfield, Minnesota, home of St. Olaf College and, more importantly, the APO Region IX Conference. Rather than stay home this weekend and grade papers or compete in ballroom, or go to ASTR in Portland, I am here with a fun bunch of brothers and pledges from around the region. They are all staying at a hotel, while I am snuggled up in a lovely, soft bed at a local AirBnb, which I am trying for the first time.

This morning I managed to get a little done. I probably have to redo at least half the PechaKucha, though. But other than that, I thought about grading, packed for the trip, and did some desperately-needed apartment cleaning, so that I could leave a clean apartment by 1 PM when I was set to head out to Northfield with Melissa and Joni from the chapter in tow. We managed to leave only about 5 minutes after 1, which is amazing for APO time, and other than stopping for Dunkin Donuts in Wisconsin Dells and me almost hitting a deer (but ultimately avoiding it…the key word there is “almost”) it was a pretty uneventful four and a half hours. It did take just about a whole tank of gas, so sometime tomorrow, I will need to fill up for the trip back on Sunday. We arrived at St. Olaf at 6 PM, and then…pretty much just waited for everyone else…the next group showed up at 8, with the others trickling in after. Around 9:30, all the brothers had arrived, so I said goodbye to the other advisors and drove Melissa and Joni to their hotel with the other brothers and made sure nobody was left behind or anything, and then I headed back to this place, and got here about an hour ago. Tomorrow, wake-up is 7 AM, so I can help shuttle brothers over from their hotel to the conference site.

So, how am I feeling right now? Honestly…still stressed. Very. I should be more tired, especially after driving for four and a half hours, but after learning that I probably have to redo half of my PechaKucha in addition to getting started on my lesson plans for this week’s classes and working on the mini-reports, it’s just looming over me like a monster hiding in the little closet in the corner of this bedroom, or a deer waiting in the dark only to jump in front of my car. I told myself I would get stuff done, and have a happy, fun time here, but I feel like I should probably sneak away from at least some of the conference tomorrow and get some kind of work done hiding in a corner somewhere. Probably not grading, but maybe doing a redo of some of the PechaKucha or research for lesson plans or something.

Okay, I just yawned twice, so that’s probably some kind of cue to get to sleep.

11

Just Some Fixin’s

Today was a pretty blah day here in Baltimore: not too cold, but not sunny at all, kinda like the last few days. I’ve been basically going back and forth between the car dealership (new keys, tire pressure check, help me out with features, blah blah blah), and doing errands (haircut, bank, post office, etc.) and attempting to read at various Starbucks around town but inevitably getting interrupted by a phone call or something.

So, I decided to fix two posts that were bugging me, and I will link you to them presently:

First, my birthday post from this year. Two of the videos were not showing up, now you can watch all five of my favorite happy YouTube videos.

Second, my trip to Trempealeau County, WI and Winona, MN with Rahul. Posted originally on June 1, 2014, but I must have gotten distracted because the post ended in the middle of a sentence.

Please enjoy and take care while I brainstorm something interesting to post about for the coming week.

3

Welcome to the Dead Zone

So here I am, jollily making my way through several new counties (Ozaukee, Sheboygan, and Washington, to be precise), and racking up geocaches (admittedly, fewer than I would have wanted; I left too late and spent too long looking for a few). Most of the time, I have no problems with the geocaching app on my phone, or my phone in general.

Driving home, however, something happened around Horicon that I noticed on the way over, too.

I had entered…The Dead Zone.

 

A dead zone is an area where even though calls and texts may go through and the maps function may still work, other apps requiring GPS/network (Facebook, Email, Weather, Safari, Geocaching) are completely unusable.

And that sucks.

Since I’ve had a cell phone, I don’t recall ever being in an area without any service. On the East Coast, you’re never far from a large city, and in Texas, there are so many people and cell phone towers that even in nowheresvilles like Schulenberg and Flatonia, service is usually pretty top-notch. This is not the case, however, here in Wisconsin.

 

I first noticed it when I went to Perrot State Park. I can’t remember when I lost it, but I went through entire counties with no service at all. I got it sporadically across the border in Minnesota, but once we reentered Wisconsin, nothing until La Crosse. I didn’t stop in Horicon, but I checked online and there are plenty of geocaches in all of those places, and I wonder how people get to them without bars. I have AT&T; it’s quite possible that U.S. Cellular and Verizon are better, but probably not by much. Still…do geocachers in those places still do old-school geocaching with GPS units and packets of paper? Or is there something I’m missing?

Further research through att.com resulted in this lovely map:

cellmap

 

Above is the map of Wisconsin. You can see that there is, indeed, a humongous dead zone that stretches across the southwestern part of the state and into Iowa and Minnesota. That’s a lot of dead air space; several counties’ worth. Oddly, even when I zoomed in on Horicon, there was no dead zone.

Call me a First-World-er, but being somewhere without cell phone service is scary. Suppose your car were to break down or veer off the road outside Richland Center or Prairie du Chien; how would you get help? Would you wait for someone to come find you? Would you hitchhike somewhere? Would you just walk somewhere? There are good reasons for being without cell phone service; if you’re camping, for instance, in a national park or something and want to be left alone, or if you’re with other people, but to be alone, in an unfamiliar place, without cell phone service is kind of freaky.

The 21st century may have crippled society, but cell phone service is a crutch that could potentially be life-saving.

I promise I’ll have a real entry about something relevant and not superficial tomorrow.

I hope.

4

Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin: Traipsing through Trempealeau with Minnesota On the Side

On today’s episode of Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin, my friend Rahul joined me in an adventure to see four new counties plus a whole new state.

That’s So Jacob Presents: Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin

Episode 4: Traipsing through Trempealeau with Minnesota On the Side

File:WI Trempealeau.png

Trempealeau is in red, with Winona right beside it.

I rate today’s expedition somewhere between a success and a failure. In terms of success, we hiked a mountain in beautiful weather, made it to a brand new state for both of us, and had tons of fun. In terms of failure, however, no geocaches were found and the drive back was probably one of the worst storms I’ve ever seen.

Rahul and I have wanted to do an out-of-Madison trip for awhile now, and since there’s “no day but today,” I pooh-poohed the monsoon-like weather forecast and decided that I wanted to see the Mississippi River and finally add Minnesota to the list of states I’ve visited; unless we’re talking about age, 40 is a better number than 39. Wisconsin has oodles of state parks but today I chose to start in Perrot State Park in Trempealeau.

We got a pretty good morning start, leaving Rahul’s place at about 8:30 AM. Some friends of his were going to join us but they all bailed, which turned out to be nice because it was a great time for us two to get closer. Leaving Madison, we had gorgeous weather, and I thought that maybe, maybe the weather forecasters had made a huge mistake. We took a Dunkin’ Donuts break in Wisconsin Dells, and from there, drove through two counties I’d never seen before: Monroe County and Trempealeau County before arriving at our destination at 12 noon.

Trempealeau, Wisconsin, is a tiny, tiny town of about 1600 people and three decent-sized buildings. The park is right on the Mississippi; driving up to it, we raced the train running along the road. I saw a sign that read “fee area,” so we parked near a small restaurant and walked into the park, stopping to read about Perrot’s Post. We met some bikers who showed us a map and several different hikes we could do, each about 45 minutes. They recommended Brady’s Bluff, but we were right at the trailhead for the Perrot Ridge Trail so we started on that one.

The trail was sunny, muggy, and buggy. Early on, we found a fallen tree suspended beside the trail, and Rahul went and walked across it. I was not so courageous, since my shoes were older with less traction. I got up on the log, which was covered in moss, and let go for barely a second before I came crashing down. Fortunately, I have good balance so I landed on my feet. I tried it one more time but ended up just doing the sloth thing and hanging off the log.

The rest of the hike was pretty steep uphill, but the reward was plentiful. At the top, we were greeted with a view of the Mississippi floodplain on one side, and on the other, the river and the town of Winona, Minnesota in the distance. I hadn’t had any cell phone service since Wisconsin Dells, but atop the mountain I got enough bars to FaceTime my dad in Ocean City. On the way down, we carved our names into some sandstone. By the time we reached the bottom of the trail, it was starting to get ominously cloudy, so I left it up to Rahul to decide whether we were done after a little under two hours of hiking, or if we wanted to do another trail. He voted for another trail, but we didn’t make it very far before it started pouring. Fortunately, we were at a juncture where the trail went back down to the road, and we missed most of the storm due to being in the dense, aromatic forest. It was a long walk back to the car though, and we were just about out of luck, resigned ourselves to getting soaked when I flagged down a truck. A friendly local couple named Rob and Robin, who had seen us arrive at the park earlier in the day, gave us a much needed and appreciated lift back to the car.

We still had plenty of daylight left (well, more like day-mist-fog-cloud cover), so I decided that since we were so close to Minnesota that we could see it from the mountaintop, we should drive over the border just to say we were there.

So we did, and now I officially have been to 40 states. Wahoo!

Over the border, the first town we ended up in was Winona. Winona is a pretty little town, there was not that much there, but it was a Sunday afternoon and kind of gross outside so maybe people were just chilling elsewhere. I looked for a geocache or two but couldn’t find any (boo 😦 ) but we got to enjoy lunch at a lovely little cafe, the kind you expect to find in a small town, probably one of the few local survivors of the Great Burger King/McDonald’s/Wendy’s/KFC purge of the 1990s. We happened to walk in at the start of a violin/ukulele concert by some local kids and teenagers, so we enjoyed that while we ate. The kids were really good on the violins, and this one girl did an awesome rendition of “So Happy Together” by the Turtles on ukulele which was really something else. I recorded most of it and sent it to my mom, who loved it. After we finished lunch, we were briefly caught in the rain, but it was an otherwise uneventful ride back to Madison.

Oh, and next time I go to Minnesota, I will be highly disappointed if there are no ukulele players heralding my arrival.

“welcome, to minnesota…we’re not north dakota…”