Wisconsin and Minnesota 2017

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Thursday, March 30, 2017: We headed north via Chicago. It was time to stock up on Malört again, ...
... so stock up we did. Bottles of Stone Enjoy By IPA and Lost Abbey Ten Commandments ale ended up in our van as well.
Instead of driving past Rockville, we went into town and ate at the Stockholm Inn for lunch.
It's a large restaurant with Dala horses everywhere.
Mmmm, Swedish food.
Of course, Debbie went for their famous Swedish pancakes. Lingonberry preserves too? Sure!
Tom took this opportunity to have cabbage rolls, mashed potatoes, split pea soup, beans, and a cardamom roll.
The gift shop beckoned but there wasn't much that we didn't already own.
These pies and lefse, however - they were tough to leave behind.
It was raining as we passed Camp Douglas. We planned to stop there on the way back when it wasn't raining.
We picked up some Wisconsin sausage and cheese curds, a delicious taste treat reserved only for Wisconsin road trips.
By 4:30, we were in Eau Claire. We passed the Red Robin, which is where Rachel and Cory met. This is relevant to our story, ...
... because we were in Eau Claire to say goodbye to Cory. He had died the previous week due to complications of surgery for Crohn's disease.
He had been an unofficial part of our family for nearly four years since he started dating Debbie's cousin Rachel, and we all loved him.
After the visitation, we headed to the hotel where our family was staying and found that it was right across the street from a Marshfield Clinic location. Marshfield is a major client of Debbie's, so this almost counted as a business trip!
We set up camp in the breakfast area of the hotel, ordered some pizza and wings, then toasted Cory with a shot of Malört. #itswhatcorywouldhavewanted
Debbie bragged that her dad now had a smart phone and actually responded to texts quickly. To prove it, she texted him and waited for a reply. Uncle Mark was all over that and bet her a dollar that she wouldn't get a reply. Thirty minutes later, Debbie had to pay up.
We adopted Rachel's friends Cassie and Josh for the weekend, so it was just a little awkward when we broke out the Cards Against Humanity and they didn't know any of us.
But it didn't take long before we were all laughing very hard, especially Cassie.
Our newest CAH rule is that each player must write their name on a white card and mix it into the deck, which is how Emmie came to have both her name and her husband's as answers when she was judging. How can she possibly choose the winner?
This card combination was a clear winner.
Some card combinations are too vulgar to say out loud, but too funny not to win. No, we won't show you what the cards actually said.

Friday, March 31, 2017: The day of Cory's funeral was sunny and beautiful. The Marshfield sign shone in the morning sun.
Visitation began at 10:00 AM at the church. Purple ribbons were available to support Crohn's awareness. Cory's favorite items were on display, including Minnesota Vikings and nerd memorabilia.
Cory's favorite cookies were spritz, so his grandmother made dozens of them (in Vikings team colors, of course) for everyone to try.
Speaking of the Vikings, here's Cory's hat and jersey. Rachel, a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, had worn the jersey the day before in Cory's honor.
Rachel's sister Megan created the photo collages on display.
Every one featured at least one photo from a family gathering we had spent with him, ...
... including weddings and Schilling Reunions.
The funeral started at 11:00 and lasted a full hour. Friends and family members spoke about Cory, including Debbie (at Heather and Rachel's request). There wasn't a dry eye in the church. At noon, we headed to the fellowship hall ...
... for a classic Lutheran church ladies luncheon. There were ham sandwiches, potato salad, fruit salad, ...
... veggies and dip, plus an amazing assortment of bars. The Midwest is the best when it comes to feeding a crowd on short notice.
After lunch, Emmie showed off the answer to the text she had sent Debbie's dad the night before too. Sneaky Emmie!
Three minutes later, he finally answered Debbie too. His excuse: he answers texts in the reverse order in which they were received, up to several days later.
There was much visiting with family.
Seven of the ten Schilling cousins had attended, which tells you something about how much that generation loved Cory.
Of course, Rachel's sisters were there with their men, including Sarah and Kelvin, ...
... and Megan and Craig.
Rachel's best friend, Kayla, and her mom were there.
Here are James and adorable Parker.
We were back at the hotel by 2:00. We met in the breakfast area again while Tom arranged to rent the meeting room for the day.
Score! We had this whole room (with private bathroom) to ourselves. We were joined by a few more of Rachel and Cory's friends.
To get the party started, we debated the merits of Disney songs laid out in a competition bracket that we had brought along. There was much debate and argument, and a few impromptu singalongs. Ultimately, the group decisions led to Hakuna Matata being named the greatest Disney song.
Of course, there was the obligatory shot of Malört. #itswhatcorywouldhavewanted
That was followed by the inevitable facial expression of disgust.
Around 5:00, Tom and Adam went out to get Chinese food for the crowd. The restaurant was nice enough to throw in a box of Chinese donuts as well.
We played some rounds of Cards Against Humanity and people headed out as the evening progressed. Much fun was had and Cory would have approved of all of it, other than the very sad part about him not being there.

Saturday, April 1, 2017: We stayed checked into our hotel but snuck over to Minnesota for the day. We left Eau Claire bright and early at 6:30 AM.
An hour later, we took a brief detour through Baldwin, Wisconsin to visit the drop zone where Debbie used to skydive back in 1986.
It's changed quite a bit now, but the basics are still there: the hangar, the landing zone, the planes with open sides.
What's this? A clear door where the exit is? In our day, we didn't have doors. We just flew with the side of the plane missing. Kids these days, I swear.
The sanitation facility, affectionately called the turd swirl, still sits ominously across the street, warning skydivers to be careful to land in the field, not in something worse.
Minnesota welcomes you. It always does.
There's the main 3M building, a St. Paul landmark for as long as Debbie can remember. This is where Debbie's father worked his entire time in St. Paul.
Where'd the Metrodome go? It was torn down in 2014 and replaced with the US Bank Stadium in 2016.
After nearly two hours of driving, we arrived at our breakfast destination: the Pannekoeken Huis in St. Louis Park.
There are only a couple of locations still open, so we make a pilgrimage to this one nearly every time we are in Minnesota.
By 9:30, we were at the Minnesota Zoo, a place Debbie hadn't visited since Claire was little and Jill was a baby.
It was a perfect day for visiting - unseasonably warm and sunny for the first day of April in Minnesota.
Here's the entrance to the Russia's Grizzly Coast exhibit.
Yep, that's a grizzly. He's sleepy.
Here are a pair of wild boars.
These kids were getting up close and personal with the Amur leopards, ...
... so we waited for our turn to see them up close.
This gentleman is a takin, described as a goat-antelope from China.
Here's the prairie dog exhibit, with bison in the background. We had seen plenty of both on our trip to South Dakota the previous November.
We had also seen lots of pronghorn like these on that same trip in Custer State Park.
These are dholes, also called Asian wild dogs.
Here are some caribou.
This is an Amur tiger, the largest cat there is.
Look! A beautiful drain hole cover!
It was a little too early in the day (and we had too many places to go) to stop for a Summit Brewing beer, but it's nice to know that it was an option.
We saw many great things in the aquarium exhibits. Seahorses are the best, naturally. As Tom always says, chicks dig 'em.
Almost as awesome and even more interesting to look at are the weedy seadragons.
Jellyfish. We cannot resist photographing them.
This was a little nursery of sorts for corals and anemones.
Here are their much larger brethren.
We have no idea what this little guy is but we sure got a great photo of him.
This petting pond was perfect for the kids.
Rays swam by constantly.
In the large tank, we saw sharks and turtles.
Here are a zebra shark with a white-banded triggerfish (Debbie's favorite!).
Here are a white-spotted pufferfish, ...
... a yellow-tailed (or pearlscale) butterflyfish, ...
... a clown triggerfish, ...
... and some powderblue surgeonfish.
These large fish (use the tot for scale) are orbicular batfish.
This is an epaulette shark, named for the large spot on his shoulders.
Here's a pennant coralfish, similar to a Moorish idol.
By 11:00, we were back outside enjoying the antics of the snow monkeys.
We headed back in to see the African penguin exhibit. Several years earlier, we were seeing them in the wild at the place shown on this sign: Boulders Beach in South Africa.
Here's the exhibit - you can get really close to the penguins.
Or you can just use the excellent zoom feature on your camera.
These colorful fish are African cichlids; always a favorite at aquariums.
Next, we visited the Tropics Trail, where we saw this white Bali mynah bird.
Here's a northern white-cheeked gibbon.
It was feeding time for the many types of ducks, and the gibbon was interested in joining them.
Flamingos! Just like we had seen in the Galápagos Islands two weeks earlier.
These birds with the funny two-level beaks are rhinoceros hornbills.
Here's a tapir, ...
... a goral, ...
... a cotton-top tamarin, ...
... and a red panda.
The Minnesota Trail featured really cool artwork overhead to simulate being underwater in a pond where beavers might build their dams.
Here's a sturgeon. Cute whiskers, Mr. Sturgeon.
Awww, adorable otter!
This handsome guy is a coyote.
Here's a wolverine.
Numerous turkeys strutted by.
This pretty kitty is a Canada lynx.
We wrapped up our tour a little after noon and realized that we were finally hungry again.
We found a Leeann Chin for lunch, which is one of Tom's must-visit restaurants when we are in town.
Pick two entrees with your choice of rice, and you have the ideal Chinese food lunch.
Next, we headed toward the Mall of America, past the impressive Cray building.
Psych! We weren't really going to the mall, we were going to IKEA (as usual). We snapped a photo of these shelves as a possible solution to our grandchildren toy storage issue, ...
... but ended up only buying the miniature version of these that is included in the dollhouse furniture set. Here's a later photo of our haul - a very reasonable set of purchases, if you ask us.
It's not a visit if we don't visit the Snoopy statue.
Next, we went to the Taste of Scandinavia bakery, tucked inside a Festival Foods in Bloomington.
We just pointed at things until we had a box full of goodies, ...
... and here's what was still in the box at the end of the day. We don't remember what else was in there to begin with, but it probably was delicious.
We arrived at the Macalester College bookstore too late, because it had closed a few minutes earlier at 4:00, so we consoled ourselves by visiting the St. Paul Cheese Shop.
Our friend, Dan, had recommended that we look for Marieke Gouda and Pleasant Ridge Reserve while we were in Wisconsin, ...
... and we found them both here, so we grabbed a couple of wedges.
Shortly before 5:00, we were in a booth at Carbone's on Randolph. We had very limited time so we only made arrangements to see one set of friends.
Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo of Norie and Bill when they joined us for a fun dinner. We did get a photo of the delicious Carbone's Special though. We always do.
It was 7:00 PM now, and we decided to drive by Debbie's old home. It hadn't changed much since our last drive-by in 2008.
The next door neighbor's house, however, was radically different from our last photo in 2008. The new owners had put a second story on the home and had replaced the massive garden with a normal lawn.
The huge tree in the back by the alley is just as huge and sturdy as it was 40 years ago, ...
... and those are probably the same street numbers on the garage that were there in the 70s.
At 7:30, the sun was setting over the St. Croix River as we crossed the Minnesota border to head back to Eau Claire.

Sunday, April 2, 2017: We hit the road by 7:00 AM to head back home.
We stopped in Osseo at 8:00 AM for breakfast at the Norske Nook.
Oh, yeah, a lefse breakfast wrap is pure heaven.
It's always a good idea to pick up a bag of Norske Nook lefse to bring home if they haven't sold out.
We planned to stop at Castle Rock by Camp Douglas, but learned that it is closed in the winter. Dumb luck! (Not to worry - we visited it two months later instead.)
Our friend Jennifer told us about German Haus, also near Camp Douglas across the freeway, but we had already learned online that it was now closed. We got a sad photo of it anyway. We were about three years too late!
Next, we stopped by Carol's place in Lake Delton and left loaded down with lots of Elmaro Winery wine and goodies, which we photographed after we got home.
After noon, we stopped at Taco John's north of Janesville. Mmmm, those Mexican Donut Bites are the best!

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