The flight to Houston was very comfortable as no one had wanted the bulkhead seats, and we were able to sit 'up front' for half an hour. The seats on Southwest, however, are all the same size, and rather more comfortable, so the flight on to Midway was not as cramped for Dana as is the norm, as we tend to be booked on the smaller 'embraer' aircraft. The car hire office was on site at the airport, and we followed the signs to the garage. The 'compact' car ordered was a Ford Edge, which is about as far from a 'compact' as an eight wheeler is from a mini! The radio was blaring and while Dana was familiarising himself with the controls to drive the beast, I was pressing the touch screen computer and went through every window to find the 'off ' option. The car roared into action, and we drifted forward to the 'way out', where we asked the not too friendly exit guard how to turn off the noise polution. As Dana questioned, 'how do you...', I realised my mistake. Just under the spaceage screen was a rather large button, with the words, 'On/Off' rather clearly printed! Oh well!! Fortunately, it was a short trip to the hotel. Leaving the highway, we meandered through a very pretty neighbourhood, where the bright scarlett obelisk of our temporary home lit up the night sky, and I made a comment about how we were obviously entering the 'red light district'. Check in was painless, or seemed to be, as I sat in the car and watched the receptionist give Dana directions to our room. With the time approaching 1am, entering the room was challenging, and we turned the key card every which way, in order to get the light on the door to turn green. We jiggled the door handle and were just about to return to the reception, when I asked Dana to check if he was sure that room 101 was correct. I did not see his eyes roll, but assumed this was what they were doing, as he muttered that he had only just been given the information, and despite not having a good memory, it was not that short. However, the door to room 102 opened on the first attempt and my previous comments, regarding the reputable nature, or not, of the premises, were reiterated as I stepped inside and viewed what could have been used as the set for 'Fifty Shades of Gray', minus the shackles (although goodness knows what was under the bed!).
Saturday morning was bright, although we could not see at first, due to lack of windows, but there was a peep hole in the door which let in a small ray of sunlight. I am not entirely sure whether the small circle of clear glass was for looking out, or in. We walked around to the reception area, where we met another couple, who also seemed totally bemused by the Champagne Lodge and Luxury Suites! As I was attempting to help Dana with removing the lid to the orange juice jar, the other gentleman said, 'let him alone, he is managing quite well', to which I replied, 'No, he couldn't do a thing before I came along...and driving, didn't have a clue before I got in the car and gave him instructions. The lady accompanying him smiled weakly. Perhaps they were our neighbours. Perhaps she wondered why we had booked into the CL and LS, as it was written on the long fat obelisk.
After a 'continental' breakfast, we set on our way to Wisconsin, and drove through several tolls. Our car was experiencing hypocondira. Although it seemed to be running without a problem, it insisted we run it through a 'health check', every so many miles. The sign would come up on the screen, and it would tell us that it needed attention. In typical motherly fashion, I pressed the 'ignore' button and waited for the next time this wayward mechanical child feigned illness.
Wisconsin was very green, although the lack of cows was most conspicuous. The cheese capital of the United States, seemed to be lacking a bovine presence. Not to be deterred, we continued our journey towards Milwaukee. Obviously, with a double helping of coffee, and an additional cup on the way, I had to make a pit-stop. Samantha had given us her list and one of the items was a 'cheesehead hat'. The people at the Wisconsin Welcome Center were most obliging, and told us to go to the Brat Shop. 'Is that where they sell things for spoilt children', received a blank stare, as my sarcasm fell on deaf ears. With my thirtieth state in the bag, we travelled on up, and enjoyed the countryside. The first sign of civilised life was a small shopping mall, the center of which was a Texas Road House. They must have known we were there! We stopped to ask a young man, who was collecting rubbish from the car park, if he knew the whereabouts of the said Brat House, and he mumbled that it was just across the highway. Dana said that we had been told that it was the place to buy a cheesehead hat. The lad shrugged his shoulders and said, 'It's a bar. I think they have dancing. You can dance there, and have a drink. It's a bar'. Dana looked at me, and I at him. Perhaps in Wisconsin the Ford Edge is the car for rockers. As Dana and I are as far from rockers, as the Ford Edge is from a compact car, we found this to be very amusing. The Brat Stop was, indeed, a bar, as well as a restaurant and a shop. At the counter, there was bacon sizzling, and sausages cooking, together with samples of cheese, and other sumptuous delights. We were quite sorry we had eaten so much for breakfast! Above the fridge was a row of 'cheesehead hats'. Shaped in a triangle, and full of holes, this spongy head wear item is apparently worn by fans of the Green Bay Packers.
Milwaukee was quite lovely. We had lunch on the banks of Lake Michigan, and walked around the bay. Dana has never seen a Great Lake before, and although I had no idea what to expect, I was quite astounded. We could have been at any port, by any ocean! I received a message from my friend Lesley, in England, who reminded me that I was actually in 'Happy Days' territory. With the 'Fonz' now grown up, with kids of his own (depending on which TV shows you watch) and young Richie Cunningham relinquishing his alias and directing his own movies, we had not given it much thought. The visit to the cheese castle was interesting, and once again, we realised we should have gone before lunch, although it did not stop us sampling everything on offer. We left and walked straight into the last drops of rain from hurricane Isaac, which apparently was now just a merely depressed!
We drove back through downtown Chicago, and arrived back at our luxury bordello, where we chose to take advantage of one of the facilities....the large television..... which no doubt covered up another window. Dana decided to go into the shower and turned on the 'rain forest' tap, which sprayed the whole room, and then some! With the excess of water, turning on the sauna shortly thereafter, was not a good idea, and stiffeling steam filled the room. It was then that I decided to take some photos of our wild boudoir. Unfortunately, they cannot be published as Dana exited the shower just as I started to click and despite the fact that I had my back to him, as mentioned before, the back of the bed, and various walls were covered with mirrors! I am not sure if he was more unimpressed with my happy snapping, or my hysterical laughter when I said that there would be a mass exodus from face book if I posted them!
The next day after breakfast, we headed towards Indiana. Entering into the Crossroads of America, I squealed. I am not quite sure as to why I was so excited, but it was yet another place that I had heard of, never dreaming of visiting. The scenery was spectacular. Another state, and another Welcome Center, where we asked for the best view of Lake Michigan. There were several areas to choose from, but the best, in their opinion, would be The Dunes. As time was marching on, we decided to cross over into Michigan, and hit the beach on the was back!
As we reached the Michigan boarder, my phone signalled that it needed an alteration. Upon further investigation, I noticed that we had gone forward an hour in time. I have never crossed a time zone on the ground, so my excitement was at fever pitch. As we reached yet another Welcome Center, I called Samantha. 'What is the time there?', I asked her. She replied that it was 11.20. 'Well it's all very well you telling me it's still morning there, it is 12.20 in the afternoon here!' She replied, quite nonchalantly, that I must have crossed a time zone. 'Yes, and I am exhausted. I can't get used to this hour change!' Samantha, unimpressed, asked if we were going to stop for lunch. 'I can't think about lunch now. This time travelling is really very tiring!' The lady behind the desk looked at me and smiled. She asked Dana, 'So how far have you travelled. Where are you from?' I am so glad Dana attempted to explain, as he received the blank stare, and I received the sympathetic look. Unfortunately, Dana continued with the story of how we are collecting states, and how I am in a race with my daughter, (which she emphatically denies) and when he realised that the lady behind the counter was about to call 'security!', asked where would be the place to get a good cup of coffee! Good save! It appeared that there was a coffee roaster, not too far away, in a town called Sawyer, who had set up a small vendor bar. Dana's father's middle name was Sawyer, and it was the name his mother called him, so we felt it was worth a trip! The coffee was very good. No flavour other than coffee, and the cow that provided the milk had obviously not feasted on a ton of vanilla, or hazelnuts! After swapping business cards (we had Joe's, not our own!) we left for the beach.
As menitoned previously, having never experienced a 'Great Lake', I was in for a big surprise. We drove up to what looked like a seaside 'front', with sand and rocks, and the water actually had waves of a decent size. It was not exactly surfing water, but it had the same effect as any small size ocean. There was even a light house! I went paddling, and Dana dipped his toe in the water, just to say he had! It was a beautiful day, and it was very busy. Time was marching on, and I had to check us in for our return flight. The small supermarket where we bought Samantha's t-shirt, had Internet access. Unfortunately, we would have to find the hot spot, as it was 'somewhere' in the back of the shop. We all decided that it was probably best to drive down to McDonald's and take advantage of their storewide wifi.
We drove back to Indiana, and I got out of the car to take the obligatory picture. My phone was being controlled by HG Wells, as with each step I took, the hour went back, then forward, then back, etc. I straddled the State sign, and called Samantha. I was trapped in two time zones. The left half was an hour behind the right! I stated that I couldn't live this way and decided to leave Michigan. Dana, who was attempting to take a picture, called to me. 'I can't talk to you', I screamed. 'Where you are hasn't happened here yet! It will cause a paradox if you talk to me. Don't you watch Dr. Who!!!'
With both of us back in Central Time, we headed towards a casino for lunch, and after feasting on roast beef and cheesecake (being a time traveller does strange things to the appetite) we headed towards The Dunes. I paddled, once again, and the beach was just as beautiful in this area as it was in Michigan. We sat for about an hour, and then headed back to the hotel, and promptly fell asleep!
After a big breakfast on Monday, we headed for the airport, and waited for our flight to be called. Although it was 'straight through', our plane was going to touch down in Atlanta. I have never been to Georgia, and although I cannot technically add it to my list of States visited, it can go on my Airport list! I sent Samantha a message to brag! Her message back to me berated me for not telling her that I was on the plane! (Perhaps the impression of dependency is shining through!) 'I ain't on the plane yet, is it!', was met with a confused, 'who is this?' The touch screen facility on my phone is not my best friend. I do not use it very often, on purpose! Holding my phone with my thumb on the screen means one of two things; I take a picture of my feet, or I call the last random (normally solicitation or wrong) number that called me! 'You are not getting on a plane until tomorrow!' It was now my turn to say, 'who is this?' It was my manicurist, who was slightly troubled as she had rescheduled her Tuesday appointments to accommodate me, before I left for England. We confirmed the arrangements and after profuse apologies, and garbled explanations as to why I called, I said goodbye and then called Samantha!
The flight home was, thankfully, non eventful. After touching down in Georgia, we moved forward to a bulk-head, and completed our trip in style. Samantha and Edward picked us up from the airport, and after dropping off the bags at home, Dana headed into the office for a couple of hours, just to make sure there were no 'emergencies'. (Another empahtic denial, this time Dana stating he is not a workaholic!) I unpacked our small bags, and transferred a couple of things over to my previously packed larger cases. Checking, and double checking, that I had packed my dress, shoes and bag, together with the 'twizzle stick' for my head, I sat back and waited for Dana to return, rereading and ticking my 'check list', for good measure.
Tuesday morning started in a panic. I had not seen Dana load my cases into the boot of the car, so of course, I was envisaging all sorts of scenarios that would never happen. My manicurist did not know whether to laugh or cry, as I attempted to explain why I called her, but could not do so without using my hands, so her job became increasingly difficult. Back at the office, I was about as useful as a chocolate teapot, and I think all were relieved when I left, yet again, for the airport.
Saying cheerio to Samantha was rather emotional. I was leaving to take my place as the mother of the groom, and Samantha's attendance at the wedding was still hanging in the balance. My trip, the wedding, and Samantha's plight will all be stored up for.... another story!