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Took me long enough, but I have the best of my pictures up from our trip to Wisconsin. Click here and then click on Feast 2006. Voila!

Ok, that was all.

Kneeling in front of a coffee table to use a laptop grows tiresome, but otherwise I am doing quite wonderfully!

We had a great Last Great Day (haha, relgious puns, so fun), including one more fine sermon. I unfortunately spilled a glass of water all over my notebook, Bible, and myself, but that’s ok. Before church we walked around in the farmfields and whatnot, and I got some neat pictures if I do say so. I really will get those up here eventually, honest. After church we walked with the group on the 400 Bike Trail again, and this time I got some pictures of Canadian geese! Makes me feel very at home. We all got together one last time for dinner (we have a lot of those “just one more time” dinners…nobody wants to leave), had one more round of pool, said our goodbyes, etc.

On Sunday, we loaded up and moved out on our way to Madison for the symphony, with a caravan of no less than three mini vans following us. We had lunch at the same great Sunroom Cafe were we ate on Wednesday (hummus tobouli pita, and Italian hazelnut soda, baby!). I also FINALLY found that famed used book store, after asking a bazillion people. Just as a point of interest, it’s called Avol’s, and it’s off State Street. Now you know. It was incredible, but seeing as how I’d already bought 20-something books (the final count is a little hazy), I restrained myself and didn’t actually purchase anything. If anyone thought the girl hugging the books in the corner was weird, they had the good grace not to say anything. After that we went to the Symphony, which was beautiful! John Meyer (supposedly the world’s best double bass player? I’d never heard of him) was the soloist, accompanied by the Madison Orchestra. Meyer’s composition was so-so, but the Beethoven was good (obviously). After that, there were the final goodbyes said, and we drove down to Chicago.

On the way, we were slowly approaching a horse trailer as we motored along, and we could see movement inside. As we got closer, lo and behold, there was a lama! He was wandering around inside the trailer, looking out the back, and looking very lama-esque. I wonder if he talks with a Chicagoan accent. He looked very street-wise, although a big 18-wheeler passed his car and he leaned away in some anxiety.

We got to our grandparents’ house around 8, hung out, then fell exhaustedly into bed. This morning we hit Hobby Lobby just one more time (I’m sorry, we couldn’t resist!). Ed stopped in at the Chicago Fresh Market, ascertained that they did indeed sell wasabi peanuts, and chatted with the clerk about his own Fresh Market. Then there was more chatting with the relatives, and we just now left their house a little before 8. A rainy night in Chicago traffic was filled with minor adventures as always, and we are now safely ensconced at a motel just across the railroad tracks from Bell’s Pistol Range. Yeehaw! It’s actually quite nice, however, and their wireless internet enables me to update. Tomorrow we get up at the unholy hour of 3:45am, to catch the bus and then our 5:30am flight back home, so that Mom and Dad can then drive me back to Campbell in time for my class. ‘Twill be grand to be back, though!

The Continuing Adventures of Stephanie, World-Traveler. Or at least State-Traveler.

Yesterday was so much fun! After services (we have church everyday during the Feast of Tabernacles, for those readers who didn’t know), we headed to Devil’s Lake State Park with Mr. and Mike Szalankiewicz, and Dustin and Luke Goodfellow. We hiked Devil’s Lake two years ago, and it was probably the best hiking I’ve ever done. It’s the perfect distance, there’s beautiful scenery, and it’s challenging without being so hard that you can’t take anyone with you. This year was AMAZING. The weather was absolutely incredible; a sign said it was 35 degrees when we came down off the mountain, with winds up to 30 mph, but we were working hard so we weren’t cold and it made it so much fun. When we got to the top, a snowstorm was blowing in off the lake, only the snow was blowing STRAIGHT UP. Then the sun came crashing through the clouds and just shattered right through the snow. The descent down the mountain is basically hopping from boulder to boulder; you have to see the pictures to believe that someone would actually call it a “trail”. There are markers to tell you which rocks to step on and stuff. We weren’t quite sure if everyone in our party was going to make it down, but fortunately nobody was too scared of heights and we all got down safely. Then we whooped and hollered and jumped off rocks and followed the railroad tracks back.

In the evening some of us got together to go bowling after dinner at Erin’s Irish Snug Pub, which was delicious. Ed won, but I came in second so I felt less woefully sports-challenged than usual. Later I finished Hornblower and the Hotspur and started on Hornblower During the Crisis, which C. S. Forester was working on when he died. It was never finished, and leaves you hanging somewhat horribly, but it’s still pretty great.

Today we headed out to an apple orchard we always visit whenever we’re here. After a few detours (we are such a navigationally challenged group, it’s not even funny), we finally found it and practically bought the folks out. They have the best apples I’ve ever tasted; it’s like taking a bite of autumn. The honey crisps are my all-time favorites. From there we headed to Carr Valley Cheese Factory, also a traditional destination. Both of these places are literally out in the middle of nowhere, smack in the middle of the Wisconsin countryside. Carr Valley is a tiny cheese factory that makes the best cheese in the world, bar none. I don’t even like cheese, and I love their cheese. I bought a ton for folks back home, and so did Mom; our trunk is full of cheese. We realized towards the beginning of the trip that we had simply bought too much stuff to possibly fit it in our luggage, so we grabbed some empty boxes at the grocery store, filled them up with stuff, and mailed them home. This is a very good thing, because our rental car is pretty tiny. Poor Dad, whenever we get a rental car his knees are practically under his chin, even when we get a full-size.

This evening was our (also traditional) dinner at the beginning of the Last Great Day, which was wonderful. No one really wanted to leave, so we all piled into someone’s hotel room to talk longer. Every night someone has their hotel room door open, and since we’re pretty much all on the same floor we just sort of gravitate there to chat. After the High Day ends tomorrow, some folks are going to start for home, so it was our last evening all together. The rest of us are sticking around until Sunday so we can go to the symphony in Madison. From there our family is heading back down to Chicago to spend the evening and all day Monday with our grandparents before flying home at the break of dawn on Tuesday. Technically, before the break of dawn; our flight leaves at 5:30am. :/ I want to make it back to CU in time for Honors, though. I only have one skip in that class and I used it on this trip already. Plus it’s such an awesome class I hate to miss any classes.

I have to admit, I’m getting to where I’m ready to go home now. I’m starting to miss my own bed and the pets and good old CU and Co. Oh, it has been a wonderful trip though! And it’s not over yet, mwahaha.

Tuesday was pretty quiet; we played putt-putt golf with some folks (Ed won, the little whippersnapper) and went to Gander Mountain and stuff. Gander Mountain, for those of you in the south, is one of the all-time coolest outdoor supply stores ever. It’s a chain of stores, but they’re not in the southern states yet. They have EVERYTHING. Looking for a duck blind? Check. Mummy sleeping bag? Check. Fur pelts? Check. Of course, it’s all horribly expensive and the only thing I bought was some beef jerky, but that’s ok.

On Wednesday, church was going to be late because we were going to have a phone hookup with Australia. 8:30pm here is roughly 9:30am there (..or something like that) and we didn’t want to make them get up too early. So, at 9am we set off to Madison to see the Olbrich Botanical Gardens and Conservatory. It was about 40 degrees and raining, but it was still incredibly beautiful, and I got some amazing pictures which I will post shortly. From there we had lunch in downtown Madison in this little restaurant called the Sunroom Cafe, which is a tiny little place up above some other stores. They sell amazingly delicious, all-organic food. I had a chicken salad sandwhich with tabouli, although I wavered between that and the hummus pita for quite a while. It was like this secret little coffee shop nobody except the natives know about. Mom found out about it somehow on the internet. Anyway! After that we walked a few blocks through Madison to the Overture Center, which is comprised of several gargantuan concert halls, a couple museums, and an extremely fancy restaurant. We toured the building, then ran by a few small shops back out on the street. Someone in our group had found a used book store, so of course I went to check it out. I ran in the first place that I saw had a lot of books, thinking that was it. Unfortunately, it was a “Feminist Bookstore” (no joke, that’s what the sign said…on the OTHER side of the store opposite where I came in). I didn’t find this out until I was browsing titles and came across AN ENTIRE ROOM of lesbian books. So, that was mildly terrifying, and I hastily retreated. Never did find the used book store. Sigh.

We had dinner at the aforementioned horrendously expensive restaurant, which is something we only do once a year on this trip (if that). It was good, just…expensive. And of course the obligatory teensy tiny portions. We all had a blast, though, and got to tease Luke (our church Luke, not Campbell Luke or Fresh Market Luke; I have to specify) about his deconstructed eggplant, which is not from this planet, I’m convinced.

Since it was still extremely windy and snowing, Dad, Ed, Luke, and Dustin gallantly offered to bring the two vans from the parking garage several blocks away to the Overture Center where we all were. We thought this was a splendid idea, so we waited as they set off. And waited. And waited. Finally I called Ed on the cell phone to see what the hold-up was. He said there was some difficulty paying at the garage, but they were on their way. So we waited. And waited. And waited. I called Ed again. He said they were on their way, but “We lost Dad.” … I asked him to elaborate upon that statement. He said that Dad was alone in one van because Ed was riding with Dustin and Luke, and Ed had the only cell phone. Dad turned, they followed, they lost him as he went through a light, and now they were trying to find both him and us. I said ok, just pick us up then we’ll worry about Dad. By this time we were all standing on the blustery street corner of Madison, with night falling and cars everywhere. So we waited some more. And waited. I called Ed and said he definitely should have passed us by now. I lost the signal, and just as I looked up, I see Luke’s van blasting by. So I got to do that whole running-madly-down-the-street-to-flag-down-the-car thing, which I’ve always loved to do. There was more confused chattering as we all hunted for Dad, when we spotted him waaaay down the street. We hurrahed jubilantly! But then he turned. Curses! We made another mad dash down the street to catch him, and it was ok because he was just turning around to get back to us, so we all made it to our respective rides.

By this time it was quite late, and we weren’t sure we’d make it back in time for services. However, some people who shall remain nameless can really put the pedal to the medal when it’s required, and we arrived 10 minutes before church. Threw on a skirt, grabbed the Bible, and all was well. A great time was had by all, and the phone service with Australia proceeded without a hitch, which was highly unusual but not unwelcome.

It’s your friendly neighborhood traveler with another update!

Today we went on the Wisconsin Ducks, which we had done a few years ago, but which was still fun. The temperature dropped again! They’re actually predicting snow on Thursday and Friday! While this is, of course, awesome, we didn’t really bring snow-appropriate clothing. I hear layers are in, though. (Not really…I have no idea.)

Mom and I hit some of the shops today, mostly just looking, but I did find this absolutely adorable ancient tiny copy of The Idylls of the King by Tennyson at an antique shop, for a mere $4, so of course I had to buy it. I love antique stores; if I were rich I would probably furnish a good bit of my house from an antique store.

This evening the Canadian church members put on a dinner for everyone at the restaurant that’s here in the hotel (since today, aside from being Columbus Day, is also Canadian Thanksgiving), and it was so nice to eat with everyone. There are about 25 of us, so we took up the entire back room (again, very Marshbanks-esque). A grand time was had by all, then as the younger folks departed to the game room, Ed revealed a hitherto-unknown talent for pool. Seriously. All of a sudden he can play brilliantly. I’m slightly envious. He’s never even really played before! Up to this point, we’ve just sword-fought with the pool cues. Ah well.

You’re going to laugh, but…well, you’re going to laugh. I have been having awesome hair days every single day since we got here! I’d forgotten how much even my HAIR likes the midwest! When we moved to North Carolina, it was horrified by the humidity and pouted for days, and now it is rejoicing in the cool air of Wisconsin. If climate/landscape were the only consideration when it comes to moving, I would never go back to the south. Fortunately (unfortunately? so-so-ately?), we have a house and a wonderful college and even more wonderful friends in the south, so I won’t be leaving permanently any time soon. Doesn’t mean I can’t bask in this exquisite weather, however. I’m thinking about going for a walk…it’s in the upper 40s or so.

Oh, ’tis glorious! Today we went to the Fireside Dinner Theater and had a wonderful meal, and then we saw the musical 42nd Street, which was fantastic!! I felt like I was on Broadway; the dancing and singing were performed by professionals from New York. It was done in theater-in-the-round style, and we had great seats. It was absolutely lovely, and Sarah would have ADORED it. I just can’t say enough good things about it! *jumps up and down*

Ok, calmer now. Whilst driving around the Wisconsinian countryside, I feel more and more at home. I got a whiff of skunk today. You wouldn’t think you could ever miss that smell, but in small doses it’s more interesting than horrible, and it reminds me of Indiana. Then we drove by some cattle and it was the same thing all over again. Cows and horses don’t smell bad, at least to me. They smell so big and warm and hayish.

I have consumed insane quantities of popcorn today. I realized I had definitely been around Campbell folks a lot lately, because the thought crossed my mind that I shouldn’t get too close to Faith before I realized that she was more than 1000 miles away. :p

Oh, hey! I forgot to mention I finished Dracula a while back, and it was absolutely grand! I had forgotten how good it was. I remembered halfway through that Quincey Morris died! I love Quincey! He was my favorite male character in the book, aside from Professor Van Helsing. He’s so wonderfully practical and funny and full of action and never overly emotional. As Van Helsing says, “His head is, how you say, on a plane with the horizon.” Which is pretty much the best way to say someone is level-headed ever. Plus he died heroically, and I am a major, major sucker for the heroic deaths. I mean, lives too. But especially the deaths. They’re so noble. But anyway! Yes, read Dracula.

I’m almost done with Hornblower and the Hotspur by C.S. Forester, which is one of the favorite books that I brought with me on the trip. I love good books so much, I’m tempted to sleep with it under my pillow. But that might be awkward.

Wow, I get quite pensive late at night. This shall be somewhat less poetic but more informative than my last entry. The Feast is always so jam-packed with stuff that I forget half of what we did when it comes to writing it down afterwards or telling people or whatever, so I’ll just sum it up here real quick!

Mom and Dad left the house at a horrendously early hour on Thursday, and Ed and I flew out several hours later. We navigated the airports successfully and got to our flights on time, although we had to hustle in Atlanta. Why is it all flights get directed through Atlanta? There’s a saying that you have to go through Atlanta to get to hell, which I found amusing. We arrived in Chicago – O’Hare (a name I really like) and found Mom, Dad, and our luggage (in separate locations, but that’s ok). Are there rules about how many paranthetical statements you can have in one entry? The temperature in Chicago was 40-some degrees colder than when we left NC, which was pretty much awesome, at least for a while. Ed and I had to wait outside for a long time at the car rental place and it was beginning to get a wee bit less fun, but we constructed a giant windbreak out of luggage and were reasonably cozy.

Anyway! We then drove the hour or so to my grandparents’ house in the suburbs of Chicago, and from thence we went to a restaurant for dinner with the whole family. It was the first time in 5 years that all of my dad’s brothers and sister have all been together, with their spouses, in the same place, so that was cool. Socialized with the relatives, then hit the sack. On Friday we hung out more with the grandparents, then headed up to Reedsburg, Wisconsin. Or we tried to. We became sidetracked by several stores, one of which was Hobby Lobby. Now, I have never been inside a Hobby Lobby, so maybe they’re all this awesome, but this store was HUGE! And beautiful! And everything was cheap! Mom and I split up and ran around the stores like crazed geckos. They had absolutely exquisite journals…I sort of bought 3. But they were $1.99! And one of them had an old map on the cover! IN LATIN!! You see why I could not resist. The others were just as lovely.

By that time, we were a bit short on time, so we leapt back into the car and drove like fiends, until we hit horrible traffic and basically sat there for a couple hours. As a result, we were a little late to the opening service of the Feast that evening, but it turned out ok. ‘Twas grand to see everyone again, it’s been a couple years. Today was, of course, the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. We only have one service, and it was at 1, so I went out with Mom and Uncle John and we walked all over the place. We ended up cutting across some farmer’s fields and finding this giant oak tree and I did a little tree climbing. We had services, then afterwards we went out again to walk on the 400 Trail, which is a trail which follows the line of an old railroad. It’s also 400 miles long, but we didn’t go nearly that far. 🙂 Ed and I ran around and took lots of pictures and videos, but he forgot the camera cable (ARGH) so I can’t post any yet. We might get a card reader while we’re here, since he wanted one anyway, and then I can dump the pics.

We had dinner as a group (something like 25 of us), which reminds me a lot of mealtimes at Marshbanks. We all know each other very well (most of these folks have known me since I was a baby) and it’s just lots of fun. This evening we headed out to get groceries for the room for the next week. I’m going to let you in on one of the best-kept Wisconsinian secrets: they have wonderful popcorn. Old Dutch White Gourmet Popcorn. I’m telling you, it’s wonderful. They only sell it in the northern states, unfortunately. (I actually e-mailed their distributor once to find out; it’s that good.) So I’ll pretty much be living on popcorn for the next week!

That was probably way more info than anyone wanted, but there you have it. Perhaps I’ll do another travelblog tomorrow.

Greetings from lovely Wisconsin! Wonder of wonders, our hotel has high speed wireless internet, and I have my laptop! It is also 1am here, which is 2am at home, and I have no idea why I’m up except that I slept a lot in the car. There’s something very peaceful about being in a dark hotel room with your family asleep all around you but you are Surfing the Web.

I’m just going to have to talk about fall, and that’s all there is to it. It is so good to be back in the midwest where there actually, y’know, IS a fall. There is this completely indescribable feeling I get in the fall, where there is a true fall. Do you know what I mean? It’s like you want something terribly badly, but you don’t know what it is. It’s strongest when you hear the Canadian geese calling as they fly south in the middle of the night. On land, there is nothing so prosaic and ordinary as a goose, but in the wee hours of the night when you’re a little cold because it will be dawn soon and you hear them, there is nothing so wild and free. I used to imagine when I was little that I would get out of my bed and open my window and step up onto the sill and spread my arms and fly up into the cold night air with the geese and soar out over quiet farms and empty moonlit fields and doghouses and lakes where you can see your reflection flying. That’s what fall feels like. You can get a taste of the same feeling when you’re walking in the woods and the leaves are making little wind devils and tornadoes and your hair won’t stay still, or when you see fields chock full of goldenrod with that almost impossibly blue autumn sky over them. It’s too beautiful in a wild way. The fall feeling is all tied up in the fall smell, too. It does sometimes smell like fall in North Carolina, but very rarely and it’s never very strong. It’s not just the smell of leaves; I’ve never been able to pin it down so I think it’s the smell of the season itself.

Tonight we watched the sun set on one side and the moon rise on the other; I do believe I might like a moonrise even better than a sunrise when there’s a full moon. There was a huge harvest moon tonight, so lovely. I think between the full moon and the fall feeling, that must be why I’m so restless. I should go catch some sleep now, though!

It’s very good to be back.

You seem to have stumbled upon a storytelling of ravens. Watch for falling collective nouns; you may find a wing of dragons or a charm of hummingbirds caught in your hair. Hardhats are recommended.

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