Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sclemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated. We're gonna do it!

We done did it. Milwaukee that is. I've been laid low buy a nasty cold that seems to finally be going away. Traveling will do that to you. So about our adventures. Well, for starters, we missed our flight. How you ask? There were a number of small delays that added up, but the nail in the coffin was the stupid "Park n Fly." I usually park at but I was in a hurry and the entrance for Park n Fly was first. Bad move. USPark, you pull up, get directed where to park, and there's a shuttle ready to pick you up usually before you can get all the luggage out of the car and you get whisked away to the airport. Not PnF. There was a sign directing you to a section waaaaay in the back that had zero empty spots. We drove up and down looking for a spot, finally cramming the car into a spot in the "compact" area. I had to squeeze out the passenger side door since I was too close on the driver's side. We scanned the lot - no shuttles, so we hoofed it to the entrance, and finally board a shuttle. The driver drives around picking more people up. The last was an elderly couple who took their own sweet time getting organized and finally on the shuttle. I wasn't wearing a watch and for some reason clocks are not conspicuoius at Louis Armstrong international. We sprung off the shuttle, flew to the United counter, no line at the self-check-in kiosk! I punch in the flight info... "Too late to board. Please speak to a representative." Wha? I pick up the receiver. As I'm talking to the rep. I notice the tiny clock in the corner of the screen: 2:15. Our flight was at 2:30. I guess we are too late. Our only option was to fly stand-by on the flight at 7:30. We'd also be stand-by on our connecting flight from Chicago. I figured, if we could at least get to Chicago, we could always pick up a rental car and drive the 1-1/2 hr to Milwaukee. My nerves were shot and we had time to kill so we had a beer. After calming down and the beer, we decided to walk around. We still had our bags with us. Walking around took all of 10 min. so we stopped back at the ticket counter. I've never flown stand-by before and had no idea how this worked. Greg on the other had, used to always fly stand-by when his father was a commercial airline pilot. He knew the lingo to use to get the info we wanted. Our flight was 92% full and it "looked good" we could get on. They can't say for sure you can get on but Greg seemed pretty happy with the answer. We decided to check our luggage so we wouldn't have to schlep it around. We might not make it to Milwaukee but our luggage would. Hung out and had coffee at a cafe that said they had free wi-fi but we weren't able to connect. After we were bored of that we went through security. We decided it was time for a second beer... hey, we are on vacation after all. The lounge was packed and the woman behind the bar couldn't chew gum and walk if her life depended on it. Even though it was only around 5:30 I was feeling peckish, so we moved on the the "cafe" where we picked up some dinner and cold Abita beers (at $5 a pop!). As it got closer to 7:30 we sauntered over to the gate and chatted with the ticket agent. We were first on the stand-by list. The last 3 letters of our last name were cut off and he took a guess "Hackenberry?" He was a jovial chap and we chatted for a bit and I told him maybe we should change our name to "Hackenb" since it is so long.

They start boarding the plane. We hear "Hackenbee party please approach the podium"-such the jokester. Finally! We are on the plane! We left behind schedule, about 15 late. When we land in Chicago several hours later, we run though the airport to our connection. Just as we are approaching the gate we heard "Hackenberg, party of two" I yell "we're here!" they scan our boarding pass and we walk through the door. Down the stairs. Across the tarmac. Past a few other commuter planes. Up the stairs. We were only in the air 15 minute but take-off, landing, taxing added about an hour to the trip. I figured out that had we flown in and out of Chicago and drove, we could have slept in an extra hour on the return trip. Why I booked a 6:30 a, return flight is beyond me, must have been $. I won't go into the return flight, exacerbated by nasty weather, but I won't be flying United anytime soon if I can help it. I'm not sure what I did to piss off the travel gods, but my flying mojo this year has not been what it used to be. One last tip on flying- always, always bring something to eat. You never know how long you'll sit on the runway or be circling and there ain't no food on domestic flights no more.

We got in around Midnight. Picked up the rental car. Got lost trying to find the interstate so I followed the signs back to the airport to start over. Pulled over to talk to my cousin on the phone for directions when a sheriff tapped on the window. This would be my first brush with the law on this trip. Finally we were on our way.

Friday was a lovely, sunny day. My cousin Dean, who we were staying with, suggested taking us on a driving tour in his convertible. Grand idea! We followed the shore of Lake Michagan, drove around downtown. We stopped for a beer and snacks at a Mader's, German restaurant downtown. Sadly, Dean says the true German restaurants are disappearing. I guess everyone's too health conscious.

Here's some views of downtown from the pier. I finally got a new camera. I didn't take a lot of sight seeing photos though, because the camera came with a woefully small flash card and I had to use the space for the family reunion.

Downtown Milwaukee

Downtown with art museum in middle

Dean picked us up and we had to hurry back to his place because our cousin Roy had arrived. That night we went to the typical Friday night fish fry. Fried fish and seafood is popular in New Orleans because of the Catholic influence. But down here the fish is catfish. We had some lovely fried cod. Greg was disappointed they didn't have malt vinegar, but they did have Tabasco. I also had the most amazing cole slaw.

Saturday was the family reunion which took up most of the day. After the reunion dinner, a group of us went back to Dean's to hang out, drink and swap stories. That was my mother's father's side of the family. Sunday we visited my mother's mother's side of the family. They were south of Milwaukee in Racine county. It's farm land and beautiful. Rolling hills of corn, big red barns and old farm houses. And some subdivisions that are starting to creep in.

Monday Greg and I played tourist. Well first, back to my second brush with the law. When my mother passed away, I knew of her wish to be cremated. But after that I had no idea. I decided she should join her family in Milwaukee and there were two empty spots in the family plot. Monday morning we had an appointment to meet with the cemetery director to make the arrangements for mom. I had wrapped mom and her wooden urn up carefully with bubble wrap and packed her in my suitcase. I figured it would look suspicious to the screeners, so I taped a copy of the cremation certificate on it. Yes, my bag was searched. Anyway, we were running late, got off the interstate and got turned around. I started down a wide, 4-lane road, and just as I noticed the 25 mph speed limit and hit my brakes - I was doing about 40 - I also noticed the black and white. Damn. Milwaukee's finest pulled me over. He was very stern.
"Margaret (my first name) do you know why I pulled you over?"
"Yes sir, I was going way too fast sir."
"And why was that." I explained why I was going too fast.
"Do you still live in New Orleans Margaret?"
"Yes sir."
"Margaret, do you want want a ticket here."
"No sir, I do not."
He let me, Margaret, off with a warning. A stern warning. He did not crack a smile at all. No "have a nice day" or tip of the cap. "I'm sorry sir. THANK you sir." Now I know why Milwaukeeians are such good, curtious drivers. The cops don't mess around and they are everywhere.

After we handed mom off, we headed back downtown to visit The Spice House and buy some spices we don't get down here. It smelled wonderful and everything is well labeled with extensive notations. We also visited the cheese shop and the sausage shop. Today was also beer day. We drove by one brewery, but it didn't look like it had a pub and we were getting hungry. We found the Water Street Brew Pub. Greg had the "Old World Selection" Fresh Usinger Bratwurst and Stuttgarter Knackwurst are simmered in our brew and spices, charbroiled and served with German potato salad, fresh sauerkraut. I had the "Smoked Sausage Platter" Flavored with our Lager Beer, Usinger smoked beef sausage and smoked link kielbasa are charbroiled and served with red cabbage, freshly sautéed spaetzle. Yum! And we washed it down with house brews of course. We decided was needed to walk around a bit and let lunch settle. Downtown is quite nice. The river runs through the middle of it and the lake is to the east. We strolled along the riverwalk. After a while, we stopped at another brew pub and had a beer. Then we drove out to the award winner microbrewery, Sprecher. No pub but we bought some t-shirts and beer and went back to Dean's to sample.

So that was our trip. Greg held up under repeated family exposure very well. It was good to reconnect with family. We had a rather nice, relaxing time and really enjoyed the mild weather.

No comments: