Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Glarus, Wisconsin

     "Let's head north into Wisconsinland". So said I on a bright but cold November morning. After perusing the map, we decided New Glarus would be an easy reach for a brief sojourn into the "wilds"
    After an uneventful trip through the sloping and gentle hills of southern Wisconsin, we landed in the hilly little town of New Glarus ("Little Switzerland" the advertisements proclaim). The sky was  blue but the scenery was a tad bleak. It didn't help that we chose one of the flattest trails to hike (must have followed the valley - certainly wasn't very Alp like).
     Its' name was the Sugar River Trail and we only encountered one other user (a jogger). We did pass buildings which bore resemblances to Swiss chalets.
     The trees were bleak and stripped of all leaves. The trail was straight and narrow and didn't protect us much from the cold - although truth to be told there was no wind to speak of.
     Onwards we trekked - past gates,
     weeping willows,
     a cow out standing in her field,
     barns in the distance,
     caterpillars predicting a long, cold winter,
     and last of the milkweeds.
     The cold finally settled into our bones and we decided enough fresh air was enough fresh air. Back to town we trudged with a last picture by the Sugar River.
     In to town we went looking for warmth and souvenirs. Spotted this friendly bovine gracing the front of a confectionary store.
     Stumbled along up hill for awhile until we entered the booming center of town. An old Swiss hotel garnished one corner.
     We entered a nearby shop, exchanged pleasantries with the proprietress (whose accent gave away a Swiss / German heritage) and purchased a cow bell (a necessity). We were about played out at this point so headed back to the car for our return trip home. We enjoyed our brief, brisk encounter with the Swiss community in southern Wisconsin.

Halloween At Greenfield Village

     What a wonderful way to spend an evening - trick or treating at Greenfield Village with the Awkward Family.
     This year the costume theme was Star Wars (except for Matthew and myself - who came as a monster and a spider web respectively). It was a clear cold October evening so we were well layered underneath the costumes. Darth Vader had a difficult time waiting for the gates to open.
     We had to corral her for an Awkward Star Wars Gang photo. Finally the gates opened and in we flowed.
     To greet us as we rounded the first bend, a smoking Grim Reaper materialized.
     He was immediately followed by a spooky Jack O Lantern with stretching skeletal arms encased in rippling rags. Oh what fun this is going to be.
     Gaily we tripped along pumpkin laden paths - past Thomas Edison's houses festooned with all manner of Halloween decorations.
     The gypsy's / fortune teller's caravan lurked around the next corner. Luke Skywalker was quite entranced with her. Quite a line was backed up to hear their fortunes.
     We moseyed on down to where Thomas Edison was sitting in a reflective mood - wearing a lovely wizard's hat and cape appropriately enough.
     Shortly thereafter Frankenstein's creation was being recreated in a brick building - a few liberties being taken with the story. Shrieks and silly doings were the order of the day.
     At this point a little regrouping of the Awkward family demanded attention. A friendly pumpkin nodded its approval.

     Monster, myself and Obi Wan Kenobi then thought a photo with an immobile gnome might make a great souvenir. Shortly after taking the shot, the gnome got up off his perch. Had he done this sooner all three of us would have been tearing down the pathway looking for the exit.
     After this encounter we headed over the Haunted Bridge. At this point night had fallen and pictures were difficult to take but we tried valiantly.
     Headed around another turn we encountered our favorite singing pumpkins. Pictures do not do them justice. They bounce in the wind, their holographic faces flickering up and about their voluminous pumpkin selves - all the time belting out favorite Halloween songs.
     Pumpkin trees seem to be a new phenomenon. Quite fascinating the artistry is amazing.
     In between the pumpkin trees, Awkward Mom and Obi Wan Kenobi took time out to pose with King Tut (plus it was indoors - so a brief respite from the cold).
     Wandering on, Darth Vader had an encounter with Little Miss Bo Peep - successfully negotiating a treat or two.
     Further down before entering Sleepy Hollow and watching the Headless Horseman chase Ichabod Crane around on horseback (trotting to be exact - with anemic cries for help - I think the night was waning for both them and their mounts), Darth Vader managed to snatch another little treat from the good offices of Glinda the Good Witch and her magic wand.
     The little black cat seen silhouetted in an upstairs window of a spooky filled home seemed to be a good omen to the closure of a wonder filled and silly trip through Halloween land - as greenfield Village understands it.

House On The Rock

     On an overcast October day we ventured forth to a destination I had been wanting to return to for years - the House On The Rock In Spring Green, Wisconsin. My memory of it was quite faulty and I knew it had been rehabbed and renovated past my recognition. Part historical architecture - but mostly Jules Verne / P.T. Barnum fantasy taken to the ninth. It was quite an experience.
     My trusty companion agreed to give it a whirl. After breezing through the introduction and the historical significance of the architect, owner and creator of this marvel, we launched ourselves into the serene Japanese garden.
     Very lovely and very still on this rather quiet grey day. Matthew introduced himself to the guardian dragons while I meandered over delicate toy bridges under which koi swam in colorful disorder.

     For a breather -  and in between sections - we entered an outside passageway through what might be termed a Halloween hallway.
     The gargoyles entertained us no end. One respondent suggested that one looked like a giant Pez dispenser.
     Reentering the building by an old water mill enhanced by cobalt blue vases we started through the large musical machine hall. Feeling the need for a break we broke to our respective washrooms. This is what greeted me in the women's washroom.
     Old iron toys were allegedly lining the walls of the men's washroom. Unfortunately I could not enter to obtain physical evidence. Again as we journeyed onwards we encountered music machines of all descriptions as well as stained glass lamps which were a feast for the eyes.
     The halls now became serpentine ramps - interspersed with amazing displays of fantastical, magical, moving figures, and calliopes and train engines and carriages.
     It now took on a Jules Verne / Kafkaesque dream scenario. Ships of all descriptions and sizes lined the nautical hall in which a giant whale and a giant octopus were dueling it out to the strains of an octopus band. Music machines configured and thrown together with all sorts of creatures (imaginary and not so imaginary) played surreal and haunting classical music.
     Wending down another corridor we entered a huge room in which we encountered the world's largest carousal. The lights were riotous, the animal figures were gorgeous. There were no horses - all mythical or wild animals gyrated on this monstrous merry go round.
     Felt like this fellow when we were finished observing this phenomenon.
     After this we segued right into the dolls double carousal (eerie to say the least - as all the dolls were riding and apparently enjoying the endless excursion). Down we went into the hall of dolls and doll houses ( not my partner's favorite section as our time spent here was rather brief). We encountered a scary clown which unexpectedly moved when I took a picture of it.
      We immediately encountered another personality predicting clown (Matt's personality? Enthusiastic. Not a particularly accurate characterization at this point).
     To change the pace a little we went outside to view the infinity bridge. You can barely see the point of it over the trees.
     We strolled down the path until we were obstructed by a huge boulder (and I mean huge - maybe a story high). With a little nature and fresh air under our belts, we were able to return and complete our tour.
     We  now entered the circus section with its myriad dioramas of its little circuses and its life size circus.
     Alongside all these were the gargoyle carousal horses
     and clown posters (those fearing clowns would have dreaded this room). At this point my travelling pal and I were pretty well saturated and ready for the trip home. We sauntered out to the parking lot - admiring and bidding farewell to the gigantic urns emblazoned with flowers and salamanders. We need to come back for another fix of this heated and over exuberant trip down fantasy  lane. Maybe in a year.