I distinctly remember squeezing into the very back of a suburban along with my brother Raphael, wearing my puffy maroon winter coat and itchy, white hat whizzing down the interstate on Christmas day. By “very back of a suburban” I do not mean the last seat of a suburban, I mean the small space behind the last seat, right in between the seat and the back door. Suburbans can hold a lot of people, but they can’t quite fit all nine of the Slattery kids, plus a mother and father. I spent four hours lying on the cold floor of the that rusty car with my mopey older brother. Even though I was cold and totally uncomfortable, I was lovin’ life. I was on my way to Grandma Slattery’s, a land of clean carpeted floors, endless candy and cookies, brats & burgers, and cable TV. It was my haven, where I could eat junk food and watch Disney channel all day long without a care in the world. As the years rolled along, annual trips to Grandma’s house were a little less crowded, but just as enjoyable. It didn’t matter if it was the middle of summer, or the middle of winter, Grandma Slattery was always ready to welcome us. A lover of road trips and extreme laziness (this being my only job at Grandma’s house) I jumped at the chance to visit Grandma anytime there was an opportunity. I’m so glad I was able to spend the time with her that I did, as our grandmother passed away last week.
The trip we made exactly one week ago for the funeral to stay at her house one last time was extremely bittersweet for me. This time, several vehicles were taken, and I (being the sweet, sweet, youngest child that I am) chose to go with my parents. With Dad charging down the interstate at a good 50 mph , I had plenty of time to contemplate. I realized that the trip alone to Grandma’s house was something I had cherished about her. So, I’d like to take you along. Virtually, of course. I’m not going to kidnap you and drag you there. As a matter of fact, I don’t even have my permit yet, thanks to my mother conveniently losing my birth certificate. But that’s another story.
We are here:
We need to travel across the land of milk and cheese to Sheboygan. This is a good four hour trip, so I would stock up on the Corn Nuts and bring along some good books. Be sure to have a small fleece blanket and a pillow. I like to stretch out in the back seat and get really paranoid and imagine the cops pulling us over and fining me for not wearing a seat belt and/or us getting into a serious accident and me dying tragically because I wasn’t wearing a seat belt. But that’s just me. You can take off your seat belt and think like a sane person if you would like.
Traveling with the Slattery parents means if you want the radio turned on, it will be on one station and one station only- NPR, where they speak of intelligent things in very whimsical, intelligent voices. BUT, if you’re lucky and you’re traveling on the right day, you may just catch a Garrison Kiellor show! This I can enjoy. BUT, if you’re traveling on a Sunday in the fall, and you’re in Wisconsin, you’ll be stuck listening to the Packers game. At this point, I think I would have preferred actually getting into a car accident/being pulled over to having to listen to the game. I am seriously anti-football, anti-Packers, and in most cases, just plain anti-Wisconsin.
Eventually, you’ll make it out of the winding back roads and onto the Interstate. On the interstate, you’ll enjoy watching every single car behind you pass you, as Patrick Slattery obliviously drives on. Don’t look at the speedometer, whatever you do. It’s really frustrating watching someone drive a car as if it is a tractor. Sometimes I have to roll the window down and stick my face outside for a good minute or two to calm myself down.
The small town of Montello marks the halfway point.
Congratulations, you’re halfway there!
I have always loved Montello. Every single time I’ve gone to Sheboygan, we’ve never failed to stop and take a quick break at the local Kwik Trip. Kwik Trip is nothing special. Its just a gas stop- there are plenty of them scattered all over the state. Its what’s outside that certain Kwik Trip.
This little beaut’s the only waterfall I’ve seen in my life. The big hole that the gushing water’s filling up used to be a granite quarry, I believe. They made the best granite around. It was so good in fact, that granite was taken from this quarry to be made into the tomb for Ulysses S. Grant. I think I got those facts right…I haven’t ever really read the tourist sign very closely. In the summer, a few swans are released into the enclosed area, and make that their home. I used to love to throw chips at the big hissing birds, and watch their ugly black feet paddle beneath the glassy surface. I’ll miss those swans.
Continue on to Ripon-birthplace of the Republican party.
My father lived in Ripon for several years working as editor of the local newspaper as a young twenty-something. He was even voted “most eligible bachelor” of the small town.
Now on to Fond du Lac. As an easily embarrassed pre-teen, I used to dread this town. Every time we passed through, we had to stop, find a place right by the road where my dad would cajole us all into doing jumping jacks while shouting “BEAT FONDI BEAT FONDI!” This was an old tradition from his high school days, when Fond du Lac and his South Sheboygan High School had some kind of rivalry. Over the years, somehow this tradition had died down, and I, in the midst of a melancholic state, had decided we needed to bring it back one last time. So, we found a little field with a small set of bleachers, conveniently set back from the main road…
“BEAT FONDI! BEAT FONDI!”
Hey, guess what? Fondi was our last stop! You’ve made it across the state!
I doubt any of you will be making this trip in reality any time soon, if ever, but I hope you enjoyed coming along for ours.
Sheboygan really is a neat place, and if you’re ever near it, be sure to take a look around. If there’s one thing you want to do, check out the magnificent Lake Michigan, a Slattery tourist spot favorite.
We always take the time to stop and stare out across the big blue expanse.
Ah, Sheboygan travels, how I will miss thee..