and a Wisconsin weekend away
We met George in 1994 at MIT playing Magic: The Gathering; he came to our wedding in 1998; we threw him a going-away party when he left for Thailand in 2003; and we visited him and Patty this January in Thailand. So when he announced, via Facebook (a first for us), that he and Pat were celebrating their wedding in his parents' town of Valders, Wisconsin, in April, we knew we had to find a way to be there.
We flew from Boston to Chicago after work on Friday, April 12th. The plan was to get a connecting flight to Milwaukee and rent a car there, so we only had a short hour-and-a-half drive to Manitowoc, but due to cloud cover in Boston, our plane was delayed and we missed the last connection out. We had to rent a car at O'Hare on short notice, but Advantage came through--$25 a day, plus $25 for the different drop-off, and lots of folksy down-home service. So their shuttle is in an odd spot, and they close at 10:30 at night--we managed on both counts, and we were off in our mid-sized sedan for the longer-than-anticipated drive with barely a hitch. We had to stop at Culver's for some frozen custard and a walleye meal (with a side of cheese curds) so Robert could eat and not get drowsy; both kids slept, on the plane and in the car, and we pulled into the Manitowoc Holiday Inn just before 2:00 in the morning. Samantha has discovered a new love for her carseat--she loves sitting in it, she tolerates being buckled in, and she is pleasantly amused by short drives. Short ones. When she woke up forty minutes before we got to the hotel, she was decidedly not amused; she screamed the rest of the way. Still, we were all tucked up in a king-sized bed not much later, and all was well.
(Hotel lobby. Marcus loved the waterfall.)
The next morning we went out with flurries to Warren's Restaurant, which George had recommended as being a nice diner with good food. The owner came over to greet us, as we were seated wondering at the prices (not quite Thailand, but worlds cheaper than Boston), and asked why she hadn't seen us before. We had a nice chat. The kids loved the coloring books and wall of crayons and toys. Robert liked his pumpkin pancakes and I had a really good corned beef hash with eggs.
From there we stopped at Hartman's for donuts and individual (if you are a giant) coffee cakes; we got a box of a dozen and brought them to George's parents' house, because George had said to get there between 10 and 10:30 for Robert and the other groomsmen to get dressed and head over to the church for a rehearsal. We arrived at five to ten, because I am of course pathologically early, and we completely surprised George's wonderful mother, who was reading a book and having a cup of tea. She basically asked us who we were and why we were there, but once we explained, she invited us in and we placed bets on when George would arrive.
That would be 10:55, in a rush, yelling that he needed to print out the Thai version of his vows so he could practice some more. Meanwhile, we visited with his parents, Sarah and Dan, and heard all about his mother's life--working at Jordan Marsh in Boston, visiting Alaska, moving to Chicago, having kids extremely close in age, adjusting to life in the midwest, raising George. . . we got some pretty great stories, all in all.
Robert, George, and Pat's brother Petch, who was going to give her away, left eventually to go to the church, and more and more of George's relatives started arriving. His sisters, his sisters-in-law, his nephews and nieces--the house was full, and Marcus got a bit shy, though he really liked George's nephew Ben, who was ten, and together they looked at a box full of stickers Sarah got out for them. Samantha discovered the joys of an old house, in the form of small rocking chairs and old wooden toys, and the donuts and coffee cakes were appreciated.
We rode to the church with Sarah and Dan, and we sat on the groom's side for the short, simple ceremony.
There was a Thai part where they washed their hands in scented water. Robert and George's brothers Bob and Danny were the groomsmen, and a local friend of George and Pat's and two of the older Thai exchange student girls were the bridesmaids, in Thai-style outfits.
The reception was at a country club in Manitowoc; there were mini corn dogs and cheese curds at the cocktail hour, and a smoked salmon spread and cheddar spread which the kids devoured. I think they ate their weight in cheese and hot dogs and salmon then.
During dinner, Robert sat at the head table next to Danny, and I sat at one of the other tables with a bunch of Thai students. Marcus and Samantha played on the floor in the corner near the table, both very seriously coloring and leaning their books and crayons on a low windowsill. When they did finally get hungry, Samantha liked the mashed potatoes and barbequed chicken, and Marcus ate a score of cherry tomatoes, two rolls, and a lot of broiled salmon.
They both loved the dancing part of the reception, and both attempted the electric slide, YMCA, and any number of other songs with active dances.
(The spectator section of the dance floor.)
(And some actual dancing.)
Around 8:00 we started to make our way out, saying goodbye to everyone, even though the party was still going strong, and by 9:00 we were tucked back up in the hotel zonked out.
On Sunday, with George and Pat already away for a mini-honeymoon in another Wisconsin town, and the rest of his family doing family things, we went to Late's for breakfast on the recommendation of the local bridesmaid. The service was gruff, but the waitress grew on us. We ordered a bacon-maple malted, which I found pretty baffling--I couldn't imagine they were jumping on the bacon foodie blogosphere trend, not in this place--but utterly delicious. Our children devoured it. We also got one banana-pecan pancake, a mini loaf of housemade banana bread, a bowl of oatmeal, and a double-full fried perch sandwich. Oh, and a side order of cheese curds. Amazing breakfast. Note that they accept only cash or checks, if you ever go.
(Samantha is signing "Thank you!" here, with the malted and the cheese curds.)
From there we drove straight to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, where we were the first guests of the morning. The guy at the desk made a point of saying he would go down and unlock the playroom for us. We followed a kids' tour of the museum and saw a giant propeller, like on a car ferry, among lots of other ships and model ships, and then the kids played in the (now unlocked) kids' room until it was time for the 10:00 opening of the USS Cobia, the WWII submarine that sits next to the museum. It was a private tour, and though Marcus got a bit nervous in some of the smaller, darker rooms, we all had a great time on it. Apparently Manitowoc was responsible for building 28 WWII subs, starting work even before Pearl Harbor, and then the boats had to navigate out via the lakes and St. Lawrence all the way to the ocean. They do overnight stays on this sub, and a Cub Scout troop had just spent the night the night before, with everyone sleeping in the actual berths--Robert and I were envious.
Robert wanted to check out the top floor of the museum, which had just one room and then an outdoor "observation deck," after the sub. I was skeptical--I pointed out there wasn't a lot to "observe," but whatever, I went along. We went out, "observed," and then couldn't get back inside--the door was locked. My phone was in the car because it was entirely out of batteries, and Robert's phone was on 10% of batteries, so we just barely managed to look up the museum number and call the front desk and get the bored-sounding guy to come rescue us.
After the museum, we went to Beerntsen's Candies around the corner for a fabulous sundae with all freshly-made marshmallow and caramel sauce and beautiful fresh ice cream. We got a hand-made lollipop for Marcus for the plane, and we made a final stop at a Festival supermarket to pick up some cheese curds (Robert got dill-garlic and plain, both), breadsticks, bananas, and apples (jazz--very good, crisp and tasty) to eat in the car.
We drove down to Milwaukee, both kids sleeping again, and went straight to Leon's Frozen Custard, where we had a "burger" (read: sloppy joe on a burger bun) and a butter pecan frozen custard. Heavenly.
We also got a hot dog to go for Marcus, who was still sleeping, and went to the airport to return our car and check in (the former a surprisingly smooth process, the latter a surprisingly lengthy one).
Marcus and Robert played on the ping-pong table in the middle of the airport for a bit, and then we settled down near the playroom and ate snacks, watched the kids play, and just chilled as we waited for our flight. This is not a busy airport. Our flights home, through Newark, were smooth and fast, and we got home to fifty-degree temps, and no snow.
(Left: Coloring on the plane. Right: Robert is responsible for this, as for all other crazy child bathroom pictures.)
So, in summary: We loved George's parents, we had a fun time being tourists in Manitowoc/Milwaukee, and wow, is this what fifteen years does? Congrats, George and Pat!
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Created: 4/15/13. Last Modified: 4/15/13.