Strange Encounters Of The Wisconsin Kind

One of our favorite drives in Wisconsin begins just west of LaCrosse. We take the Bangor exit and head south on a road that twists and turns along the hillsides. Eventually, we end up in Wildcat Mountain State Park, which overlooks the Kickapoo (don’t you love saying that name?) River Valley. A few years ago, we came through there in the fall, and the autumn color was breathtaking. But even when the leaves aren’t changing, it’s a beautiful drive. Hubby Bryan and I both had big smiles on our faces as we traversed the winding roads.

From there, we went through Reedsburg, where we have sometimes stayed, although not this time around, and on to the nearby Wisconsin Dells. Although the Dells are renowned for their kid-friendly waterparks and tourist attractions, we stay there because the motel rooms are plentiful and affordable. We also like to stop in at the Essen House — a subsidiary of a German restaurant in Madison, Wis. — which features German cuisine and imported beer on tap. This time, however, when we drove by we were dismayed to see that the place’s German theme had gone tropical and was now called Gilly’s Island. Since the Bavarian architecture still dominated the place, curiosity made up stop anyway, and we found an odd mix of old-world charm updated with tropical fish and plants. Needless to say, the servers no longer wear lederhosen and dirndls, but we were happy to find they still had a couple of German brews on tap. It was, overall, an odd experience.

I believe it was at Gilly’s that we first heard the question that would plague us for the rest of this four-day trip. Wherever we went, as soon as people found out we were from Minnesota, they’d ask, “What do you think about the Favre deal?” It seems Wisconsinites are quick to wash their hands of the once-revered quarterback, but they sure aren’t tired of talking about him.

We had to be asked this question at least 25 times during our long weekend. Bryan or I would invariably answer, “Do you want him back?” Which reminds me of an e-mail I received this week: It shows Favre at the press conference announcing his coming out of retirement with the headline, “Vikings take advantage of Cash for Clunkers program.”