Once again, Mom and I were some of the last to arrive at the Little Bear East Arena Rise & Shine event. Technically, we were only 6 minutes late because we stopped for gas, but even so, we were in the overflow lot across the street from the main lineup. It was a little chilly so I was glad I found a Mackinac Island wind breaker when we arrived the evening before. We checked in, made our way into the arena for breakfast – the croissant sandwiches & coffee were excellent – and chatted with our tablemates. Overheard while eating – what does this place smell like? It’s not quite locker room… to which I answered “Ice and sweat” which was right on the money. I didn’t think it smelled that bad and it’s a great way to use the facility in the off season.
Because of our late arrival, we knew we wouldn’t be keeping up with the main group, and we’d be making a slight deviation from the route to visit the farm where my grandmother was born before heading into Green Bay. We decided to take our time and FaceTime with my niece and nephew to show them the roll out. They were very impressed and loved how different everyone’s cars were. My niece particularly like the all pink car near us but I don’t think they were still on the line when Blaze rolled out. Once the lineup finished, we headed out too, and stopped briefly for more coffee. Then we headed up along US 2 and all of the “fun” passing lanes that entailed. Getting stuck behind a beer truck would only be fun if you were following it to a party, I think, because they managed to stay below the speed limit but go faster when there was a passing lane. Go figure. But patience paid off and we were in Naubinway with the bulk of the group and the ice scraper will come in very handy about 3 days a year in Texas ;) .
When everyone else followed the 41 south from Marinette, Mom and I hung a right to get out into the country a little bit. Mom’s family is from the area and going to the town her mother was raised in was only slightly out of the way. Lena has a population of less than 800 people and my family had farms just outside town until the 1960’s. We drove out towards the farms and found the St Charles Cemetery where my great-grandparents (on both sides) are buried. The groundskeeper was working when we arrived and let us use his book to find our relatives’ plots. We found both great-grandparents and one of Mom’s aunt & uncle. We chatted with the groundskeeper for a bit, returned his book and thanked him for his time. We really were grateful he was there – without the record book, we could have spent all afternoon going through the rows to find them.
After the cemetery, we headed down Belgian Road, where the families’ farms used to be. My great-grandmother moved out of the old farmhouse before Mom was born (I think?) and had a house in town that has since been torn down. But the old house is still there. It’s been modified significantly – the old porch is gone and they’ve added a garage – but we could still see it as the old house from the pictures we’ve seen. Mom said that grandpa’s family’s property was derelict even when she was kid and we think we spotted that property as well. It’s overgrown and full of junk and a few cows so we didn’t do anything but look at it. We had to get a picture of my car in front of the old house because I drove the car up from Texas the first year I had to visit Grandma. She’d moved into a retirement center by that point and was no longer but she loved my MINI. She said if she were to buy a car again (at 97 or so) it probably be a MINI.
After taking in the sights in Lena, we realized that the time change put us an hour earlier than we thought. We called my cousin (Marilyn is Bruce from Detroit’s sister) and decided to stop there first. We unloaded the car and rested for a bit before returning to Green Bay for the evening event. Mom wanted to visit with Marilyn, so Kate, their daughter subbed in for her and acted as navigator to get me to the Titletown Brewery. Since Kate doesn’t drive a manual (shame, I know!), I couldn’t sample their brews but I did make sure to get my glass before we headed back to Appleton. Kate enjoyed seeing all of the cars, especially the Doctor Who themed one. I wanted to show her the Harry Potter car but we weren’t able to find it in the crowd. I’m not sure how far they were going, either.
Mom and I invited my cousin, her family and their dog Ollie to the morning Rise & Shine, so they could see all of the cars and Ollie could meet some of the other dogs going on the trip. Since Ollie is a Samoyed, we were going to tell people he’s actually been with us the whole time in our car. Ollie was a big hit and no one was bothered that we brought him along. My cousin’s husband left to get tickets for the tour at Lambeau Field while we stayed behind to wave everyone off. I got some great video at the beginning but when I remembered that it would take nearly an hour (I don’t have that much memory in my phone), so I only got one more shot of some of the Austin MINI Cooper Car Club ladies. We said good bye and thanks to all of the Pit Crew members we came across as we made our way back to my car. They were almost as sad to see us go as we were to leave. They do such a great job and are always smiling and willing to help. I’m hoping that MINI continues with the tradition of MTTS and holds another rally in 2018. I’d love to do it again and try to go all the way.
We met back up with my cousin’s husband and headed over to Lambeau. To my surprise, there was a whole row of MINIs in the lot and the owners were part of our tour group.
Sleeping in today felt so refreshing until I realized my MINI friends were probably already on their way out of Minneapolis with me. I will miss them but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for 2018. We leave for Kansas City in the morning and then back to Texas the next day. I’ll be back to work and regular life on Thursday.
Listened to: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (not finished yet)