This trip took place from April 20th through April 23rd, 2017.
Day 1, New Hope, MN to Lake Delton, WI: My wife Beth occasionally works at trade shows selling memberships as part of her outside marketing job at Costco. While attending one such show she placed a $100 down-payment with a timeshare company for a three-night stay at a Holiday Inn Express in Lake Delton, Wisconsin. In exchange for this discounted rate, she agreed to attend a two hour timeshare presentation for the company’s ski and cabin resort Northwest of the Wisconsin Dells area. In addition to the discounted hotel stay, the company was also offering us a free cruise (which we would have to fly somewhere to use) and a voucher for a free hotel stay in the future. It wasn’t my dream vacation but I certainly wasn’t going to turn down an excuse to get away for a few days!
Beth and I woke up pretty early to pack (and James would have woken us up early anyway if we hadn’t). It was only a three night stay so we didn’t bother packing or preparing in advance. There was, however, a decent amount of stuff to bring with us because of James, our eight-month old. We brought him several outfits in case he spit up as well as a big blanket to play on, several toys, a baby-chair for meals, and a travel stroller. Surprisingly, Beth managed to get all of the necessary baby stuff into a large duffle and the diaper bag (except for the chair and stroller). We are, admittedly, not very good at packing light (we like to be prepared) but there was enough room in the car for everything so I can’t be too disappointed with our efforts.
We left our house at about 11:30am; only thirty minutes behind schedule (not bad considering we have a baby). Maeby was nervous as we packed up the car and her fears were justified because our hotel for the weekend does not allow pets. Instead, she would be spending four days with Beth’s parents. It’s not all bad for her, though. The last time she stayed with her grandparents she managed to sneak half a loaf of bread and many other assorted snacks! Grandpa Ken isn’t nearly as vigilant as her parents despite being retired and home most of the time.
We experienced scattered showers all day which messed with traffic and my use of the windshield wipers but it didn’t affect Beth and James in the backseat. Yes, Beth sat in the cramped back next to James in his car-seat. I felt a little bit like a chauffer when they both fell asleep before we even reached the Wisconsin border. I do like to drive and this particular route was short so I didn’t mind playing professional driver. Beth eventually woke up and I mentioned a traffic delay my phone’s GPS was seeing up ahead of us. What should normally have been an hour and forty-five minute drive to Eau Claire, Wisconsin was projected to take three hours. I’m not sure if it was especially hard-falling rain, road construction, or a major car accident but it wasn’t fitting in my itinerary!
There wasn’t an easy path around our mystery delay so we headed towards it expecting to get stuck in a traffic jam at some point. Fortunately, the drive time estimate updated and three hours became two hours and forty-five minutes (progress!). From there it continued to drop in small amounts until finally it was down to just under two hours (back on track). It suggested we take an exit and I listened blindly like Michael Scott ending up in a lake on The Office. Our temporary detour must have been the trick to avoiding the last of any delay because seven miles later we rejoined I-94 where cars were travelling at above the speed limit. I still have no confirmation what the big delay was but I’m glad we avoided it. Our short detour on smaller country roads was actually quite nice! I enjoyed seeing the farm houses and picturesque forested land that we otherwise would have zipped past on the highway.
We reached Eau Claire, the first major city on our route beyond the Twin Cities (Western Wisconsin is mostly devoid of people), and headed a few miles off the highway to Mount Simon Park. The park sits on the Chippewa River and offers visitors trails for hiking, scenic rock bluffs, and many other activities. It was cold and rainy so we mostly stayed in the car. I had hoped, when planning this trip in advance, that we’d be able to explore the bluffs for a while and give James a break from his car-seat. Beth did give him a brief food and diaper-change break but it wasn’t the adventure I had hoped for. The most adventurous thing I did was use the small park bathroom with near-freezing water faucet. There were three guys playing Frisbee Golf despite the 36 degree Spring weather (and they looked at us all weird because we were just hanging out in our car!).
From the park I continued driving through Eau Claire and back to the interstate. The rest of the two-hour drive was fairly uneventful. Beth snapped some adorable pictures of James and I heard some cute giggles from up front. The weather improved slightly. It was still cloudy and cold but at least it stopped raining. We pulled up to the timeshare’s visitor center around 4:30pm and checked in. As part of the discounted hotel stay we had to check in there first before proceeding to the hotel, a Holiday Inn Express one block to the North. Beth was under the impression that the timeshare presentation would start when we checked in but the visitor center person gave us three times on Saturday morning to choose from for our presentation. I would have chosen 8am but Beth went with noon. Relieved that we could go relax in the hotel instead of sitting in a small room with a salesman for the next two hours, we went to the hotel and I checked us in. Beth and James made themselves comfortable while I took three trips bringing all of our stuff inside.
The rest of our night was very easy-going. We ordered food from a restaurant down the street called Bobbers Island Grill and they delivered. I had a pulled pork sandwich that was darn good. The fries were surprisingly good. Beth put all of our clothes in the dresser (something we never have time for on our longer road trips when we don’t stay anywhere for too long) and then fed James dinner. He eats breast-milk or formula first prior to half a container of baby food and a small handful of cheerios or comparable cereal. Beth has even been making some baby food herself lately with fresh fruits and vegetables using our Ninja blender. We put him down for bed a little bit earlier than normal and it was pretty clear he wasn’t fond of his hotel-provided crib. It wasn’t dark enough in our room despite having all the lights off so Beth also had me turn off the TV. He whimpered and cried for twenty minutes and then finally fell asleep. The TV was no longer a problem so we watched a forgettable movie on TBS or FX or something. It was so forgettable I couldn’t even tell you anyone in it. End of day one.