Road Trip – Wisconsin

It all started when Sahil started the thread to plan a trip to Mt. Rushmore during the week of July 4. After many hours of planning Sharad and Aum walked out of the trip and Sahil was not interested in doing it with just two people. So, I was left high and just wanted to go out of the home.

My time to go back to India is near and I am just feeling a little off, just want to go back home and was in no mood of staying back at my apartment and watching TV for 3 days straight. So, I did some research and came up with a road-trip into Wisconsin and maybe even upto Niagara falls all via Road. It was an interesting trip in the end and this is how it went.

Day 0: July 1

It is Friday and I had decided to go through with trip. The first step was to go and rent the car from Hertz. Which looked like a 15 minute process took almost 2 hours come through and at a given time during these 2 hours I had decided not to rent the car. However, I was determined to make this happen and was patient to go through the process. Eventually, after 2 hours I was driving out with Sahil driving the Nissan Altima back to the place.

The next step was to prepare for other stuff – packing clothes, soda, iPods, tablet, phone wires and anything else. All went well and I finally slept around 11 to be ready to leave around 6 next day.

Day 1: July 2

I started the day early on Saturday and had plans to visit 2 places that day – Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue, Circus World and Riverside and Great Northern Railways. I never went to the Circus World and ended up being at the Medellin Park in Chicago.

From Big Cat Rescue, I had to back track a few miles to reach the Riverside and Great Northern Railways (bad planning on my part as I did not find out which was first on the route). However, from there on I decided not to go to Circus World and moved on to Chicago. A detailed description of my experiences is in another post here.

Day 2: July 3

Once I decided not to go to Niagara Falls, I had to find things I could do on Sunday. Having looked up at what all places Chicago has to offer like the Navy Pier, Sears Tower and a few museums – I decided that those are going to be redundant and not something new. Bhua suggested that we start the day by visiting to a Gurudwara and visit a Dairy Farm and decide what to be done for the second half. I have never been to a zoo in US so decided to visit Michigan City Zoo in Indiana.

The first half of the day was pretty good and especially being able to be at the Gurudwara and being able to attend the “Ardas” and have “Langar”. It felt so good, Even the experience to the Fair Oaks Dairy farm was so good – it was a new experience for me and learnt a lot on how things work in a Dairy Farm (just so many cows). The zoo was also nice and a different experience. A detailed description of my experience is in another post here.

Day 3: July 4

I woke up late on this day too and was already late for Bhua’s house. So I left the house hurriedly not knowing what was in store for me. Day brought me so many surprises – cops, lead to a deserted industrial area in Indiana, A wonderful house, an exotic trip back on my route to Plymouth and a companion on the road. You can read all of that here.

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Road Trip – Trip back home

Day 3 started with a hurry. I had not unpacked my bags, but some stuff did have to be packed back. I was late in getting up and was in a hurry anyways. After being late by 30 minutes, I left bhua’s house and was on my way.

Wierd Tomtom and Cops

As I joined the interstate 65 and was running Northbound, it was all fine until the point when my GPS threw me on another state highway. I was not sure why this happened, but was sure this was going to take longer even with so little traffic. But then I saw a truck behind me with lights flashing. And, I knew I was busted for driving fast. This was a first time and I had no choice to pull over. I stopped the car and waited for the cop to come over. He took my license and car rental details and came back after 5 minutes. Then after a few questions like where I am coming from, Where I am going, I was warned that I should slow down. Lucky for my he did not issue me a ticket and let me go. With a sigh of relief, I went on my way only to find myself driving in an industrial neighborhood which was completely deserted. And then I realized what could have gone wrong. And then I turned over to my GPS and saw that I had selected “Avoid Tolls”  and thats whay GPS was all over the place “What an Idiot” (for myself). I corrected it and I was back on Illinois Tollways. After another 45 minutes I was at Ashi Bhua’s place. Meeting her was very nice and after another hour I was on my way to next stop.

House on the Rock

It was 4.5 hours drive from Bhua’s house. 3.5 hours was on interstate I94 from Milwaukee. But then I turned on to another state Highway. With a speed limit of 70mph, it was not crowded at all. I just put the car in cruise and was cruising on the highway all the way. I did have another car with me – a Red Dodge Durango that was around me for almost 70 miles on that route. We were in front of each other overtaking cars and just flying. We parted ways, as I took exit to the house.

Section 1 has 3 main attractions – The Gate House; which is the entry to the house, The Infinity Room and then the Original House. As I entered the house my first reaction was “hmmm – this is different” and as I progressed I was just amazed and ended up speechless as I exited the house. I was told to take approximately 3 hours for the entire house, but I guess they under estimate the capability of the house. I was alone and still took like 3 hours; I am sure if I was in a group it would have taken anywhere between 4-5 hours to do the entire thing. I loved this so much that I have dedicated an entire blog entry to this. Read my experience here.

Final Drive back home

As I left I almost made it to the “Cave of the Mounds”, but decided it as it would have meant that I would have reached back home only at midnight. So, I asked my tomtom to take me back home and it sure did. However, it did take me to Maustan instead of the route I took while coming in. First 90 minutes of the drive back home was middle of the Wyoming Valley with twisting and turning roads and steep inclines and declines. It was just so wonderful to drive – I could not have beloved that I was able to experience this just at my last road-trip. Along the route, I passed only 3 towns (believe me – 3 towns in 90 minutes of drive – thats was very new for me) – Paine, Loganville and Reedsburg. They were very small towns and LoganVille has population of just 276 people. The street view of the town even though it was like 300 yards was just so different and pleasing to the eyes. Once I touched the interstate (I94) it was a trip back to home with expected areas and a couple of stops for coffee. However, as I joined the interstate from Black Hills, a Green colored Acura sports car joined me and as we overtook other slow moving traffic. We were next to each other for almost 100 miles – taking turns in leading the way. It all ended up around 10pm as I drove into the parking and rested from a wonderful experience.

The House on the Rock

The house on the rock is a is a complex of architecturally unique rooms, streets, gardens and shops designed by Alex Jordan, Jr. It is located in Iowa County, south of Spring Green, Wisconsin and is a regional tourist attraction. I went there is minimal expectations and it exceeded all of those. Built on top of a mountain the Wyoming Valley, it just goes to show the spirit of its Building Alex Jordan. It just goes to show what eccentric people can do when they put their mind to it. His creation does nothing to the science of mankind, but this is just superb.

During the visit my reactions were changing to an awe. The second section just blew me away and I had surrendered to the marvel created by Alex Jordan. The third section was kind of let down compared to the second one, however this section had an awesome collection of Doll Houses, that made it worthwhile. Overall, the third section in the end turned out to be a very good one.

Section 1

The house is divided into three sections and I went for viewing all the three. Section 1 has 3 main attractions – The Gate House; which is the entry to the house, The Infinity Room and then the Original House. As I entered the house my first reaction was “hmmm – this is different”. The infinity room was the very first surprise for me in the house. A room made out of glass and some metal (i suppose) suspends over the Wyoming Valley. As you move in the room you can see nothing but the valley and the room moves beneath you. The view, the design of the room itself and knowing that there is only a few centimeters of ground beneath you kind of scares you. In this next section the next few rooms are just designed in a very bizarre way. I am sure Alex would have a reason behind the designs, I just was not sure what it was. But they were different.

Section 2

As I continued with the tour into the next section, I just did not know what to expect. The entry to the section had a Water Wheel, not that was different and it made me believe maybe this section would be different and I was in for a surprise. And, after a little while I moved into “Streets of Yesterday”. And as I entered, I found myself standing in the same place for a minute just trying to understand if this was still a room or did I walk out on a street. It felt like I was back an era and standing in a small town. The street had red-brick avenues with a sheriff’s office, carriage house, shops with antiques, a tailor and what not. At the very end of the street there was a huge locomotive engine. What it did make me wonder was what was a locomotive engine doing on a street; looked out of sorts but the engine itself was a big one.

The next room was about the sea and called “The Heritage to the Sea” and I was expecting some ships, details about them and models. But, what I saw was a disbelief. It was a three-story room almost size of 4 house in length and in the middle of the room there was a depiction of a sea wave having a Whale in midst of it. A giant Octopus had itself wrapped around the whale which was getting ready to devour a boat/ship. The room was so big that there was no way that I could have got the whole thing on my camera even with my 18mm wide focal lens on DSLR. You have to got to see it to believe it. The room also had some other very interesting artifacts in it like the charges for the ticket to board the ship, pictures of Titanic sinking (I am sure that was not real because no one took a picture as it sank, but looked real). And various models of ships from 19th century. It was just great. One other thing in that room was a “black hole simulator” (I dont remember what they actually called it); but the idea was that if you drop a coin in it, it will orbit around the hold in the center and simulate a planet/object as it would orbit around the black hole before getting sucked in. I dont know if that is scientifically validated but it was cool.

The next few rooms in this section had some modeled airplanes, cars, houses – nothing out of the ordinary. And I guess I realize why this was the case. Alex Jordan wanted the visitors to be prepared what was coming next. The next few rooms were a tribute to music and were named “Music of Yesterday”. Just like the “streets of yesterday”, this was another wonder. From one room to another there were music instruments orchestrated to play great rhythms. All of the rooms had a dazzling display of machines and some noticeable ones were included the Blue Room with a mechanically operated orchestra and the overpowering oriental music of the Mikado. Mikado was the best. I put 2 coins; special coins provided at the entrance when purchasing tickets and it started to play music with the Chinese guy in the middle have facial expressions. To top it all, the music felt like it was Dolby effect. It was followed by a room having details on the aviation – it was simple (compared to other stuff) but good.

The next stop was “The Carousel” and they said it was the biggest and had 20000 light bulbs. Quote from their official website

The sheer numbers of the world’s largest carousel are mind-boggling: 269 handcrafted carousel animals (and not one of them a horse), 20,000 lights and 182 chandeliers are all aboard the world’s largest carousel

Before you make assumptions, the picture has a bit of artistic touch on it (slow shutter speeds). But The Carousel was simply majestic. The whole room was lit by the lights from the carousel. In addition to it, there was another set of musical instruments that was playing along and made it such a wonderful experience.

Section 3

This section had many things – large clock with very large bells; a very big ship engine; big organs (not playing nay music); a circus room inspiration point. Most of these were nothing compared to what I just witnessed in the previous section. I guess the previous section things were moving and things were playing music. I felt it was interacting with me. Then this one was just incognito. It was good, but just not as good. One thing that did make up for the rest of the rooms was the collection of doll houses. Named as “The Doll House Room” it is considered to be the largest collection of doll houses in the world with houses was various era. I just could not believe my eyes as to how much real they all looked. This section just made up for this section.

Wrap up

As I was wrapping up the visit to the house, I just was hoping that I see something additional that is extra out of the ordinary. However, Alex had put everything he could think of in this house. As the picture here describes his house, the only thing I do not agree to is “and still”. For me the house was interacting with me as if saying to me “go and tell the world that I exist as a vision from an eccentric and lat people know what Alex did for me (house).

I just cant thank enough my Dolly Bhua that she told me about this place and I was able to see such a marvelous place. I did have a regret that I did not know of this place when Preeti and Aabhya were here. I just hope, I do come back some day with my family and share with them what I experience in “The house on the rock”.

Road Trip – Day 2

This trip was getting interesting all the time, given how it all started this was no surprise. After a good Day 1, I was not tired but slept very late around 1am. So, my start of the day plan was all messed up. Woke up late and when I met Bhua we were already late for Gurdwara and we had to hurry up.

Gurdwara

It was about 20 minutes drive from Bhua’s place and as I pulled into the drive way, I was surprised to see that it did have the Gurudwara touch in the building architecture. A few pictures of Gurudwaras that I saw for Minnesota were like any other building. I know I attended the “Ardas” in many months. It was followed up with “prasad” and “langar” which was breakfast. The chai was great. I guess the feeling and being lucky of having “Guru ka langar” was so good.

Fair Oaks Dairy Farm

From Gurudwara, we moved over to the dairy farm. We decided to go with Bhua’s instinct but then mid-way followed the Google Mas Navigation and thay took us to another place. Finally, after going around in circles for about 30 minutes we found our way to the place. And we started off the tour.

We started off with a 4D presentation/movie about the farm and it was a very nice experience. It was kid stuff but made us laugh too. And it did tell us a lot about the farm. Then we went on the bus tour which nice. They showed us one of their farms and what all happened there. There were like 3000 cows on the farm (all mooings :)). We saw how they milked the cows and how well they are trained. It was a wonder to see cows move into place and then move out by themselves. I had never seen cows do trained things and this was a first one. They also had a place where they showed us how they rapidly cooled the milk from 101 deg to 36 deg. We could touch the pipes with milk flowing. They shared with some statistics and told us that every day they shipped almost 60000 gallons of mile from the facility. That is a lot of milk :). They had a maternity barn and when we arrived back from the tour a Cow had just given birth. We spent a few minutes there (in a way I am glad I didnt witness a birth; dont know why). Then we went over to there inhouse ice-cream and cheese shop. Tasted a few kinds of cheese and eat an ice-cream. All the pictures are available on my facebook album.

Michigan City Zoo

I have not been to a zoo in a long time, and never to one in US. So when I had some time on hands, I decided to go visit one nearby (Washington Park Zoo) in Michigan City. And it was once again a visit worth while. I reached the place after a drive for about 50 minutes from Bhua’s house and when I pulled in, I was surprised to see it was a huge park and one areas in the park was the zoo. There were once again so many people and many of them were out picnicking. There was a big beach nearby and a band was also playing. However, given the Zoo would close at 4pm and I reached here at 2.30, I headed straight for the zoo. As I entered, I started with Big Cats again. But this time, I was excited because I saw fascinating creatures and not in tall fences. So this meant I had a clear shot at them and could get some good close-ups using my 55-200mm lens. I took almost 175 picures only a few have been uploaded to a Facebook Album here.

Wrapping up

After spending about 2+ hours in the zoo, I drove back to Bhua’s house and retired for the day. On Day 1, I did call up other Bhua’s to see if I can meet them or not and now I was getting call-backs. Finally after much thinking and talking it was decided I would stay with Bhua for the night and go over to Ashi Bhua’s place next morning. Bhua also suggested to visit House on the Rock. It seemed nice, but as I went over to sleep I had no clue what I was in for my day back to Plymouth. The evening went well and I worked with Bhua on a couple of things – recording from tape and some additional tips and tricks on her Android phone. Finally, I went to my room but sleep was avoiding me this time and I slept only around 2.30am.

The next day had many things were in store for me, which I had not thought about. All of that in another post.

Road Trip – Day 1

Big Cat Rescue
Image by Пероша via Flickr

This is a description of my Road Trip to Wisconsin during may last month of stay in US. During this trip on day 1, I went to a bunch of places in Wisconsin and one place in Chicago. However, the important part was that many of the places I decided to be, some of them were spontaneous and I was out there going for it.

I covered for 240 miles in around 3.5 hours to reach the Big Cat Rescue and it was a wonderful drive. During the long drive, I did have to take a couple of pit-stops. the first one was at the Three Bears Lodge. I have made several trips to Chicago and always wanted to stop here. This was not planned at all and when I saw it, I just had to stop because I didnt knew if I would ever come back to this place again. So I had to see it. And this was a good pit stop as I came to know of a lodge that has a lot within itself – indoor/outdoor water park, nice cafeteria, places to stay. I liked the place but this did not have any place for a good coffee.

My next stop was at Mauston and this was triggered by seeing a food outlet for Dunkin Donuts. I stopped at DD and ate my favorite breakfast – Bagel and Cheese. took a coffee, refueled and I was on my way to Big Cat Rescue. when I reached Big Cat rescue it was still around 10.30 in morning and there was just one other car around me. This was a nice place. They had a lot of cats including Leopards and Lions. I would have enclosures without grills that would have allowed me to take better photographs, but it was what it was. I spent almost 30 minutes taking pics and observing cats, but they were not doing much. It was hot almost 80 deg and cats just wanted to rest in shade. Three of them didnt even show up, they were just sleeping in their den. You can view some of the pictures on my facebook album. The best part of the trip was the drive from I94 to the place. It was simply awesome – it was scenic as I was driving through some villages and was winding roads at a speed of 35m/h. It was so very different. I always wanted a road-trip through grasslands and this was just a preview of that.

As soon I put the address to Riverside and Great Northern Railways, I realized that I will have to back track on I94 for about 10 miles. But, it was worth it. When I reached the place, I saw it was not a museum that I expected. I realized that people there were all volunteers and were a part of a restoration society who were doing this to keep alive a piece of history. I took a tour of the entire place and came to know of how it all evolved and how things work around there. I saw many steam engines (small ones), where they were built, the boiler room, the room where coaches were constructed. It was fun and educational. I also took the ride in their train and I was surprised to see that the train went relatively fast at a speed of 9mph. Given it is a short gauge train it was definitely faster. I took a bunch of pictures and you can view them on my facebook album here. I spent around 90 minuted at this place and it was all good. Given this place, I did feel if I would have brought Aabhya and Preeti they would have enjoyed too, but I was unable too. even if i tried it was impossible because they are closed during that time of the year when there were here last year.

Once I was done with this place, I decided to move but decided not to go to Circus World, instead thought of going to a few places in Chicago and Millennium Park was a candidate. I never liked driving through crowded downtown areas in US, but this trip I was not going to hold back to anything. So, after driving for almost 260 miles for about 3.5 hours I reached Downtown Chicago and as I expected it was scary. So many people – just way too many. I have never seen so many people in the same place in US ever. They even beat Delhi I guess. And then the driving was scary. There were roadblocks, one-way streets and cops all over. However, I managed to get myself to a parking lot and it was $25 bucks for parking. Now, living in Plymouth all I ever payed for parking close to downtown was $5 and ret everything was free. So, $25 was surprisingly expensive. I parked and hoped it was worthwhile. As I entered the park, I realized in a few minutes this was going to be dis-appointing – much like our trip last year to Sculpture Park in Minneapolis. However, this was a little better and there were some good pictures that I was able to snap. I was looking forward to going to the bridge and view Chicago’s skyline but they closed that too but not before I took some pictures. All the pictures of the park are on my facebook album.

The day was rounded up at Bhua’s place in Valparaiso, Indiana. Another 90 minutes drive to her place. And during that drive there were some showers and lightening strikes but weather cleared up and the day ended up pretty smoothly talking to her. It was very nice to catch up with her and talk to her about various things. It was there that I also decided not to go to Niagara Falls – it was just too much to travel all by myself. however, Bhua did help me plan for Sunday.

Changes

I was thinking of making change to my blog for a while now, one big thing that I have been thinking is to move the blog over to a personal hosting space so that I can manage my blog myself. However, after much deliberation I decided to keep the blog on wordpress’s common hosting site.

However, I did decide to change a few things on my blog and one of that is the name and other on how it looks.

Friendship

Friends
Image by matley0 via Flickr

How we feel is something that we cant control – or at least not at the very beginning. We may be able to over a period of time to control our emotions, but when something happens at that point how you feel tells you who you are what the other person means to you. Friendship is one such thing.

Over my life I have heard many people say “she is my best friend” or “he is my bestest friend” or “we have been good friends for an entire lifetime”. I have always just said “he/she is my friend”, i was never able to categorize. For me either you are a friend or a classmate/colleague.

Wikipedia defines Friendship with the characteristics like wanting the best for the other, sympathy and empathy, honesty, mutual understanding, trust and positive reciprocity.

I have known many people especially through school, college and various jobs but only a few people outside of my family who have moved into the second decade – Rajat, Shallja, Deepika, Samita, Pankaj and Prashanth. None of them are from my school or college. Couple of them are from NIIT and rest from my first jobs. And, then there are a few other who have come close to either getting moved over or are still in the first decade but are in the zone – Naina, Sitija, Anubhav, Babul, Bhawana, Raminder, Praveen, Nikhil, and Sachin.

Over a period of time, we have all moved on with our life and we have got busy and have spoken less over the time. However, even now when I see their name on the screen of phone I feel delighted, and I look forward to speaking to and call them when I can.

Sorry guys for the context, and no matter how much this seems irrelevant, it is important for me to get to my primary thoughts.

The friends who have moved to the 2nd decade are the ones, for who I feel happy or sad based on what I hear. I no longer expect them to call me as the first person when something big happens in their life. I am happy that they remember me and in no particular order. I believe that if they have been unable to tell me about something, they had a reason, and when we meet I just congratulate them or share my sympathies and not worry about why was I not told about it. I just do not worry about where I am in their priorities, because I know I am a part of their life and when if I am not needed today it is because my friend is struggling with a part of life where they need me to around for them to reach out. I no longer offer my support, I just offer my companionship.

 

We weren’t friends overnight, but it took time; it was built. It took commitment to make it work. The journey to this stage of our Friendship is what held the ingredients for a successful friendship. It started off with a mutual association and a mutual liking for each other’s company. It built on top of trust and honesty in all our dealings especially when at work. We made sure that we were fair to each other and kept our personal lives independent of the professional ones. It was built on understanding, that we were a part of their lives but ones priorities are always changing. It was built on faith that when we need them they will be around and if they can not be, they will tell us why.

 

So, now when I hear about a “friend”, and my first emotion is not to be happy for them, I know it is not friendship. I just know – I don’t understand why I was not remembered; how come I am not remembered every time. I know it is time to let go. I know we are not friends any more, we are just “ex-colleagues”.