Welcome To My Blog

Weekends are for wandering Wisconsin. That's what Rick, my guy, and I do. Occasionally we wander during the week, too. Sometimes we just drop in on other people's lives.

This blog is my way of sharing where we've been, neat places and things to do that we've found.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Wisconsin Connections

It was the hat!

Rick found this hat with its LED flashing Green Bay Packer logo during one of the first Market Nights we spent at Spanish Springs Village Square here in The Villages. Market Night is every Monday and Wednesday when a variety of vendors set up their wares during the same hours of the nightly entertainment. 

Given that the Green Bay Packers were still contenders in the post-season playoffs, the hat attracted quite a bit of attention. In fact, one of the first persons who asked if we were from Wisconsin turned out to be a friend of friends of ours from Menomonie. His wife also knew some of the same people I knew because of my last job. Yes, it's a small world!

The second connection we made because of the hat was with a couple from Chippewa Falls. Lisa and Zach had been here since September. She came down to help out her mother. We learned from them that the best place to see the Green Bay-Dallas game was with more Wisconsin fans at Cody's Roadhouse near another one of the village squares.

So we showed up early enough to get a seat at the bar. Lisa had alerted us to the fact that there was a special bar menu that offered $2.50 sliders - a great bargain. Also, it was 2 for 1 Happy Hour from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. We cheered the Packers to victory on January 11 with about 50-60 other fans, many of whom were from Wisconsin. We came back to Cody's the following week with many of the same people from the previous week. Unfortunately, it was a loss for the Packers that day.
Many of these old bottles on display at Cody's are from Wisconsin. But that
would make sense since Wisconsin's German immigrants started many breweries
in the 1800s. In fact, one of the first large-scale breweries was Best Brewing from
Milwaukee. Frederick Pabst bought into the company following his marriage
to Best's daughter and eventually took over control of the company and
changed the name to Pabst Brewing.
During halftime we learned about another gathering of Wisconsinites - one of the Wisconsin Clubs at The Villages. 

About 160 people gathered last week to socialize. This Wisconsin Club is one
of three here in The Villages. We chose this particular one because of meeting
several of its members at the Green Bay Packer games.
It was just by chance that we happened to sit at a table and met a couple whose Wisconsin home is about a mile from Rick's. Again, a small world! The entertainment that evening was a Wisconsin trivia game - a great deal of fun. Even more fun was helping our table win the game. Some of the questions: What is the UFO capital of the world? Where is the biggest brat fest held? What year did brewing begin in Wisconsin? And where was Allen Ludden born? 

Last weekend we attended our first car show of the new year. About 250 cars were positioned around the square and on the adjoining streets. Rick said it was the best shows he's been to and I couldn't agree more. I don't like cars with "flames" and none were to be found on these cars. 

Corvettes from the 1950s are a favorite of mine, especially a convertible.  

Another Wisconsin connection - Gremlins were manufactured in Kenosha.
But the most amazing Wisconsin connection we made that evening was with George, the owner of "Whitey," this cute Volkswagen.

After a few minutes of conversation, Rick realized that he had actually met George, a retired school administrator from Kewaskum, about 20 years ago. Rick was working with the Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Council to develop youth prevention programs in Washington County. George was in charge of student services for his district in the county. The world can't get any smaller than this!

We met Lisa's mother last Friday night and took Lisa out to dinner at one of the twelve country clubs here in The Villages. Any resident (or renter like us) can dine at any of these establishments. These aren't exclusive clubs.

When we first arrived in The Villages it seemed like the people we were meeting were mostly from the Northeast. However, we've discovered that many Wisconsinites are here, too, and we'll probably meet a few more before we leave. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

History in the Making at the RV Show

One of the country's largest RV shows is happening right now in Tampa. We were there on Opening Day, January 14. It was also Senior Day so we were surrounded by our own demographic.
The Expo Hall was packed with vendors selling everything
from RV furniture to the latest cleaning agent for the RV's
outside to a fancy radiant heating system that could be retrofitted
on an RV. The jewelry booths seemed to be out of place as
far as I was concerned, but then one of the attendees reminded
me that I was wearing earrings! 
We saw a number of little dogs on the grounds. Since people in RVs could stay overnight at the Florida State Fairgrounds where the show was being held, we figured the owners didn't want to leave their pets alone for an entire day. I'd never seen a dog in a stroller until last year in Florida. I saw a few of them being wheeled around at the show.
This doggie in a baby carrier was something else. This woman
was one of the vendors in the Expo Hall.
Rick was particularly interested in a Class B camper - essentially a van camper. He had read about a brand, Hymer (rhymes with roomer), from Germany and was eager to see one of the models in person.

We found the Hymer exhibit and met a couple of executives from Hymer and Spartan Motors, the company in Michigan that is assembling the campers.

Dominick on the left is from Hymer and Markus on the right
is with Spartan. 
Now for the historic moment at the RV show - the two Hymers that were exhibited were the first two built in the U.S. and this was the very first day they were being shown in this country. We can say we were there!
It's amazing what can be put in a van camper - two burner stove, sink, refrigerator,
bathroom with a toilet and shower, dinette, double bed in the back, and lots of storage.
As we wandered around the grounds, we also met the VP of Sales and Product Development from Winnebago in Forest City, Iowa. He had been brought in to the company to change the Winnebago image. 
With bright colors, like red, and no more big white boxes, this ain't your Grandfather's
Winnebago anymore. This particular van camper was a lot like the Hymer.
The VP is doing his job well because Winnebago sales continue to increase year after year.

We still prefer a vintage trailer over most of what we saw at the RV show, but a Class B camper might be a possibility in the future. 

Monday, January 05, 2015

Farmers' Markets and Craft Fairs

It's been five days and we aren't missing the snow at all! Our hearts go out to all of you who are experiencing the brutality of winter in the north. Would you believe that it's been unseasonably HOT here, at least is was on the weekend? Today the temps are much more seasonable - in the 60s.

On Saturday we went to the Farmers' Market at Brownwood Paddock Square, the newest "village square" in The Villages. 

The Christmas tree at Brownwood. This square just opened
a few months ago. Most of the homes in the surrounding area
are less than three years old. And the residents tend to be on
the younger side of 55+.
Beautiful tomatoes at the market. These might need a little more time
 to ripen, but at least we're  not eating cardboard!
I also picked up some navel oranges - the last of the season. I'm looking forward to other varieties maturing in the coming weeks. Three years ago when we were in Seminole FL we had an orange tree in our back yard and we could pick oranges from it to our hearts' content. No such luck this year, but there are two farmers' markets each week at The Villages so we won't have a shortage of fresh fruit. Strawberries are big in February - can't wait!

Sunday we were at Spanish Springs, the village square closest to where we are and an easy golf cart ride away, for its annual Arts & Crafts Festival. As I mentioned in a Facebook post, it wasn't quite like Art Fair on the Square in Madison - probably not juried - and there were booths for Direct TV and magnetic healing bracelets and plants mixed among the artists and crafters. 
It's so nice to see color and not just gray skies and white snow
even if this isn't the typical fare at an Arts & Crafts fair.
Our place is across a major highway from Spanish Springs. So how do we get there in a golf cart? Well, by using the golf cart bridge, of course. And do those carts buzz along, especially on the downhill and the hairpin turn at the end. I don't think I'll be driving that path. I'm too fearful of tipping over!
When we first encountered the golf cart bridge as we came into
The Villages last week, we were reminded of the "welcome"
that drivers see who are approaching Disney World.
Speaking of golf carts - I really should be calling them golf "cars." Some of the Villagers have tricked theirs out to look like classic cars. We've seen a few humming around the streets.
Golf cart parking protocol dictates that two carts should park side by side
in a space that an automobile would normally use. 
This sign from one of the crafters at the Art Fair does a nice job of saying why we are in Florida at this time.

Friday, January 02, 2015

1:11 on 1/1

It's a sign - we arrived in Florida at 1:11 p.m. on 1/1. An easy trip through Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia on our way to The Villages where we will be for the next two months. The highlight was about half-way to our destination when we stopped near Nashville to see my niece, Kristin, her husband, TJ, and their son, Milo. Otherwise uneventful.

No snow, no rain, mostly sunshine all the way during our 20+ hours of driving. This trip I was behind the wheel the majority of the time. 

Our place - in the oldest section of The Villages. There's a golf cart in front of my
car that we'll be using to get around in the coming days. We have two bedrooms,
an "open-concept" kitchen/dining area/living room, one bathroom, and a
 lovely sitting room (small room you can see at the front left of the house)
with a small breakfast table. So, we have room for visitors . . . if any of you
want to get out of the cold north for a few days in the next two months!
The owners of our place are from Rhode Island and have lived here in The Villages for 10 years. Meredith, our landlord, said they came here on vacation and within six months had moved here permanently. The last two couples who rented our place also bought in The Villages and that's why we were able to nail down our rental rather quickly. Will we buy? Time will tell! (Rick says if you donate to the purchase of a place here for us, we'll name a room in the house after you. And if you don't want your name on a room, he says we'll put a brick in the driveway inscribed with your name.)

We are in the Village of Silver Lake, although there's no lake to be seen! Maybe a pond or two. We have lots of exploring to do in the coming days. Our initial assessment is that we're in the land of the big boxes and national chains. But there is an Aldi's about two miles away - so all is good!

The holiday decorations in the recreation centers and town squares are supposed to be quite nice but we'll have to check them out soon as the holiday season is coming to an end quickly.
Our neighbors across the street have decorated for the season. Apparently
there are a number of permanent residents on our street. I'm sure we'll get
to know some of them soon.
The Villages is billed as the largest over-55 community in the world and calls itself "Florida's friendliest hometown" even though no one is from here. Some have called it a land-locked cruise ship because of all the activities that are available. Others have described The Villages as "Disney World for old people." Keep checking my blog for more about The Villages.