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Back on the Tack Jack

Just wanted to be random for today. It’s been a long one, 25 hours of it, since I flew from Baltimore to Atlanta to Madison, where I returned to a relatively clean apartment, and more junk mail and happy mail than bills.

And I’ve been making my way through this terribly informative video on Tomson Highway and Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout, which has been growing on me since I read it on Friday…so see for yourself. Warning, it is an hour long.

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Tomorrow, I’m Off…

This time tomorrow, I’ll be settling in for a good night’s sleep (or maybe staying up all night, either way) at the 44th Biennial Alpha Phi Omega National Convention in Pittsburgh, PA. I am also slated to give a workshop, which I have not quite figured out yet. Now might be the time to do that, as I pack. Then, on Friday, I’ll be driving back to Baltimore to spend 10 days with my family, who I have not seen since…well, Thanksgiving, so not too long ago, but still, I’m not sure when I’ll get to see them again after…but here’s to 2017, and even though I’ll definitely be blogging on the trip, here’s to a year with more blog entries and blog traffic.

And now, back to packing and cleaning and such.

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And I Have Emerged

…and I’m in Utah.

What?

Let me backtrack a little…

I haven’t posted much in the past few weeks because my life’s been a mess, and Tuesday night was a rock-bottom moment. I was really proud of myself for 14 straight days of exercise, and then on Wednesday and Thursday I could barely get out of bed. About all I did was teach, look at the news, and answer emails.

And then Thursday came, and I was finally off to Salt Lake City to see Julie and co. for the first time in over a year. I was nervous and excited at the same time; part of me felt like I needed a breath of fresh air and a change of scenery, but another part of me was scared of leaving all my commitments. But I got on the plane anyway, and I don’t regret it. Julie met me at the airport and as she drove me to their new house here in Herriman, I updated her on all my life and stuff, and slept well for the first time in days (except that I woke up with a sore back, probably from the six-hour flight).

This morning, I got to say hey to Julie and Nathan and hug Iris and Ramona before they went off to school, and for the rest of the day…I was pretty much on my own. I answered a ton of emails, talked on the phone, snacked on toast and Nutella, and then decided to take find a late lunch somewhere, only to discover that Herriman, while beautiful, is literally in the middle of nowhere. The closest place to eat is an hour away by foot, so I took an Uber to a Mexican place in nearby Riverton for a veggie taco plate thing and some coffee at the place next door, where I got 32 papers graded, so all of my Monday students. In fact, I was just writing the last word of the last comment on the last paper when Nathan pulled up by the coffee shop door to take me back to the house. We stayed in for dinner, and Julie made a delicious salmon with vegetables, and for dessert, we drove to Draper, another town (I’m seeing all these nice little towns!), and went to Leatherby’s – which is not a gay cowboy bar – for ice cream, I mean, ICE CREAM, and sitting amidst a bunch of nicely-dressed Mormons, tossed back and forth ideas for dirty ice cream shop names. My favorites were Sweet ‘n Creamy, Cherry Poppin’ Sally’s, and Chocolate Mudslide.

And even though I woke up in Utah, AKA Life Elevated, it was the first day since Tuesday I woke up headache-free, and the first day where I didn’t spend the majority of it thinking about the election, which is amazing.

I keep saying I’ll fix posts and put up quality content soon, and maybe I will and maybe I won’t, but for now, I’m hanging in there, getting better quickly, and hoping that I’ll feel refreshed and reborn by the time I get back to Madison on Sunday night.

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Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin: And Behind Door Number One…

And the travelogue is finally here!

That’s So Jacob Presents:

Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin

Episode 11: And Behind Door Number One… (Door County, WI)

Door County.

The Holy Grail of Exploration.

Everyone’s favorite part of the state.

The Martha’s Vineyard/Berkshires/South Bass Island of Wisconsin.

And it lived up to its reputation.

Geographically, Door County is the thumb of Wisconsin, if Wisconsin were a hand. It detaches from the mainland at Sturgeon Bay, its county seat, and continues on as a small, thin island between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, with Gills Rock at its tip, and Washington Island just a short hop away by boat. We didn’t make it quite that far, but it’s definitely incentive to come back.

Day 1: Road trip up from Madison to Green Bay, WI, where we spent the night at an awesome Airbnb right on the bay. We only stopped once for a Chinese dinner in Appleton. Mostly an uneventful day, but we did enjoy watching The Age of Adaline before bed.

Day 2: Got up at 9, but took our time and didn’t leave the Airbnb until about 10:30. A half hour later, we crossed the old steel bridge in Sturgeon Bay and were in Door County. After a quick gas stop, we drove just over the border into Carlsville, where we had breakfast at Door County Coffee and Tea Co. We were just in time for the end of the breakfast menu. The place got amazing reviews on Yelp and it didn’t disappoint. The coffee was divine, and my meal of a croissant and Spanish-style eggs was warm, thick and flaky in all the wrong places. Dessert was bread pudding made with Door County cherry jam (the local delicacy) and it was sugary and delicious. Definitely worth driving a little out of the way.

Next up, we drove over to Jacksonport to check out Whitefish Dunes State Park. It was a small park, but you barely had to walk 200 feet down the trail to encounter a gorgeous, practically deserted beach with the clear blue waters of Lake Michigan lapping at its sandy shore. We basked in the warm sunshine and got just a little burnt, and I got a hundred pages or so read in an hour.

Driving up the coast, we then entered Baileys Harbor, and even though it was hard to find, we made it through the windy roads to the parking lot for the Cana Island Lighthouse. What we didn’t know was that to access the island, you needed to cross a causeway of dirt and rocks, with water gently lapping at your toes. Managed to make it across to the island pretty much unscathed. It cost us $7 per person to explore the tiny island, and $5 to climb the 97 steps inside the lighthouse.

But it was totally worth it. The lighthouse is remarkably well preserved, with a beautiful view from the top, impeccable masonry, and stone paths down to the lake outside it. Plus, there were two geocaches hidden on the island. It was just so much fun to explore. Inside the lighthouse, we learned about how the Fresnel worked, as well as the history and lifestyle of the lighthouse keepers. They saved several ships from being wrecked, but not others. They also kept a logbook. Curiously enough, it was recorded that a female with a power canoe stopped off at Cana Island on her way from New York to Chicago.

Walking back across the causeway was not as easy of a feat. I sort of gave up halfway through when I began to sink into the muck. I waddled back to the car in wet shoes. Gross.

The day was winding down, so we decided to go as far up as Sister Bay, where we saw Al Johnson’s, the famous Swedish restaurant with goats grazing on the roof. It’s true! After a quick browse in the gift shop and a walk along the waterfront, it was time to turn the car around and head home. On the way out of Door County, we went down the bay side, stopping off at a few farm stands, sampling butters, jams, fudges, and salsas. I added to a jar of cherry salsa to my souvenir bag of food (coffee from the place we ate breakfast) and we were off home. We made one more stop for gas in Allouez, and had pho in De Pere, at a place which took way too long, and got back to Madison close to midnight.

Overall, I would highly recommend Door County. Hopefully I can go back soon.

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Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin: A Park and a Half

Summertime is prime time for exploring Wisconsin, and with tomorrow being July 4th and therefore prime time for all the Wisconsin spots worthy of exploring to be full of people, we decided to spend today exploring one of our great State Parks.

That’s So Jacob Presents:

Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin

Episode 10: A Park and a Half (Roche-A-Cri State Park, Friendship, WI)

I wanted to spend the day, or at least part of it, doing something fun out of Madison. Unfortunately, I woke up with a splitting headache that had me on the couch until mid-afternoon, Fortunately, I was feeling well enough to rally by around 4 PM, and we were on the road to Roche-A-Cri State Park, a place I’d seen on the map and randomly picked to visit.

Roche-A-Cri (French for “crevice in the rock”) State Park is in the tiny town of Friendship (population: 725) in Adams County, about an hour and a half north of Madison. Fortunately, the park is open until 11 PM due to the campgrounds being so popular, so we had plenty of daylight and sunshine to explore.

Getting there was a little difficult at first. We took a back road through the Dells, and didn’t see any signs for the park until about one mile away. Once we got in and parked, though, it was a pleasant surprise at how peaceful this little park was. We paid the $5 admission fee and left it in an envelope at the park’s entrance (all WI state parks cost money to enter – if you park on the grounds) and set off on the shady trail.

Being a rather small park, we weren’t expecting too much. The longest trail, the Acorn Trail, is only about 3.5 miles long. But it was perfect for an hour and a half walk-around. We walked about half of the trail, only seeing a handful of other people, and then made our way to the observation point at the Indian mounds. The signs warned us of a strenuous climb – 303 steps, on an elevated staircase. The sign wasn’t kidding! Once at the top, though, we were treated to incredible views, and actually had the viewing platform all to ourselves – just as we left, a big family was coming up the stairs, so we crossed paths but otherwise it was quiet and serene.

We headed back along the trail to the car, stopping off at the petroglyphs for which this park is known. There is a huge rock, several stories high, with petroglyphs carved both by Native Americans and travelers from the 19th century (and probably some modern vandals, I’d suspect) and some fading red pictographs. We read the plaques about them, and were able to make out some of them, including a signature left by a traveler in October of 1845. It really was impressive and I’ll get the pictures up soon.

Upon leaving the park, I wanted to go a different way, so we could include more highway driving especially as it got later, but I ended up missing a turn. We were about 4 miles down the wrong road when we decided to turn around. To do that, we turned into a parking lot…and what do you know, it was Rabbit Rock – not exactly a state park, but one of the rock formations visible from the top of Roche-A-Cri, one that looked really interesting. Since we happened to be there, we poked around for a few minutes before getting back in the car. Apparently, visitors are allowed to climb this rock, and while it would have been fun, it was getting close to 8 and we needed to hit the road in order to be in Madison before dark. We backtracked, turned onto Route 21, and headed for the highway. About halfway there, Ship Rock appeared on our left; we didn’t stop, but it was really impressive and colorful, both with rock strata and graffiti. It took us about the same amount of time to get back to Madison, with a quick stop at the Starbucks on E. Washington for an iced coffee because I was fading (even though it was 9 PM and we only had like 15 minutes to go; wonder how I’ll sleep tonight). All in all, it was worth the 3 hours round trip to get out of town and walk around for an hour and a half, in a quiet park with beautiful views and ancient petroglyphs.

Oh, and in other exciting news…my third 2016 pen pal response showed up, all the way from Baby Ruth in the Philippines! Thanks for the fun letter; I got it out of the mailbox last night along with my other mail as I was flying out the door for Salsa Saturday, stuffed it in my bag, and ended up opening and reading it at the club during the break between the two sets. I thoroughly enjoyed the fan mail (which is what I’ve decided to call the response letters, heh) and I will write back soon! 13 other pen pals, take note.

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Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin: Because The Devil’s in the Details

I’m a little sunburned, a little tired, and a little itchy, but I had a lot of fun today with around 25 members of my ballroom team. Join me in:

That’s So Jacob Presents:

Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin

Episode 8: Because The Devil’s in the Details (Devil’s Lake State Park)

After twenty long, hot minutes of walking in the sun, I made it to the ramp at Steenbock where the rest of the group was waiting to set off for a day of fun at Devil’s Lake State Park in Sauk County, near Baraboo. I squished into a car, and less than an hour later, we were in the wilderness. Well, us and a ton of other people, but none of us had phone service, so we all had to interact. It was a beautiful afternoon, and people were swimming, playing, and enjoying the sunshine.

A huge group of us set off together, hiking on one of the trails around the lake. Hiking is fun when there’s a ton of people and everyone’s talking.

Until someone got the bright idea to climb up the rock fall.

So, as a group we clambered up an almost vertical rock wall on hands and knees. Of course, I ended up at the back, asking myself why we did this rather than just walking up on a trail. But after several close calls, I made it to the top, and wasn’t even the last one, and the view was beautiful: a blue-green lake just shining through the trees. After a short break, the only way to go was down, and fortunately for all of us we took a conventional trail. We stopped for several group photo ops, tripped a few times, and saw a snake, but we made it down in one piece, to the North Shore parking lot. We had been hiking for two hours, but were still less than halfway there. Regardless, we took a break at the concession stand there (yummiest strawberry shake ever) and then continued along the trail towards the South Shore parking lot, where we started. Half the group took the high trail, and I joined the other half, who walked along the lake on a lower trail. There were way more people, but the breezes were nice and cool and the rocks were all differently colored pastels. There were even a few balancing rocks. Just as the group of us (five at this point) were in sight of the end, somebody had the idea to wade through the lake…so we did. As the only person in the group wearing pants, I was worried, but surprisingly, I was able to roll up just enough so that I didn’t get them wet. We beat the high-trail group back, but by this point it was 5:30 PM, an hour past our reservation time at Farm Kitchen for dinner…whoops. But, we went there anyway, and although it took almost 2 hours, the 20 of us got dinner (or most of it) and headed back.

Now, I’m just sitting on the couch, pounding some popcorn. Despite the fact that I only got through maybe half of my reading goals for the day – just 1 book for prelims and 1 play over breakfast, no pleasure reading – I feel pretty accomplished. And a little exhausted. But not too exhausted to walk down to Capital Centre for some ice cream.

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Luckiest or Unluckiest Day Ever?

Well, this was weird. Hey y’all, greetings from…Madison.

Yep, still here.

What happened today: I woke up early, got some morning research and reading done, did some scanning at the library, packed up, and took an uber to the airport. I went to check in, and rather than getting a ticket, I got a slip of paper that said…

“It’s great to be early, but please check in 24 hours prior to departure.”

I looked at my phone; my ticket is for tomorrow.

So, there was nothing left to do but go home.

I took another uber home, collapsed on my bed, and started snacking on the candy that I bought myself for the plane ride. Then I realized that my phone was missing. After going through my nicely packed bags and my apartment, I got on my iPad, and using the Find My iPhone, it said it was…in the middle of the road. Then I realized, I must have left it in the uber. I managed to get a text out to my dad, who called my phone, and the driver picked up. It took a while (and me stupidly driving back to the airport for no reason at all), but a few hours later, I got my phone back.

Then, I wasted a bunch of time and ended up only getting 20 minutes of gym time in. And when I got there, I gave them my credit card instead of my ID.

Then, rather than get anything constructive done, I’ve been watching the Spelling Bee on TV.

It’s been incredibly frustrating, but at least I was a day early for the flight and not a day late, and I got my phone back rather quickly.

And tomorrow, I get to do it all again. At least the first part.

And that’s how I spent 22 dollars on a useless ride around Madison today.