From the glaciers of Alaska to the cheese of Dodgeville, Wisconsin: Vacationing pandemic 2020 style
today at 6:00 am
It was supposed to be over by now. It was supposed to be a done deal. The search for all fifty states should have been history. Then came the 2020 pandemic.
Over the last few years, I’ve been working hard at trying to see at least a portion of all fifty states. I started taking it seriously when I went to the Carolinas in 2017. Last year I picked five new states. Arkansas, Idaho, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. There were only four to go starting 2020. The first week of March I spent a couple of days in Utah. Pretty scenery Zion National Park. Nicer than I imagined. The magic number was three. Nebraska, North Dakota and Alaska.
Here’s how it was supposed to go: A trip to Omaha, Nebraska at the beginning of April. Next came a day trip to Fargo, North Dakota sometime in May. I was going to check out the Roger Maris museum. The finale was going on a week-long Alaskan cruise that was scheduled to leave on Father’s Day.
Fifty states complete! Victory was going to be mine!
But all that changed a week after getting home from Utah. Coronavirus. Pandemic. No flights to Nebraska. No flights to North Dakota. No flights anywhere! As for going on a cruise…yeah, right! That may never happen for anyone….ever.
So at this point, the magic number remains at three and is likely to stay that way for quite some time. I don’t really see the purpose of going to Nebraska or especially North Dakota if I can’t ever get to Alaska. Let’s just say that the search for fifty is on an indefinite hold…and to be honest, with more than 140,000 dead Americans, there are things to deal with that are more serious and important.
However, just because you can’t get on an airplane or a cruise ship doesn’t mean you can’t go anywhere, does it? Your car still works, right? Even in a pandemic, right? How about taking a good old fashioned road trip! You just need to be extra careful and avoid places where coronavirus is peaking. That means no driving through the south to get to Disneyworld or South Beach, in Florida. Ehhhh…it’s too hot there in the summer anyway. No heading west to get to Arizona….and talk about hot. I don’t really need to go somewhere if the temperature is 100 degrees at night.
So where oh where can a guy go to get away for a day or two?
A few weeks ago, I was checking out the travel section in the Chicago Tribune. Their page one article was about the cheeses of Wisconsin. I love cheese and I love Wisconsin, too. This might be my kind of trip! The city is called Dodgeville. They have a yearly grilled cheese festival there, so you know they take their cheese seriously.
It’s one of those one stoplight towns that makes you think of Mayberry. The population is 4,689. Cool! A small population gives you a better chance to keep away from people. Social distancing is a way of life there. It sounds a little romantic, doesn’t it?
One restaurant was featured. Their specialty is grilled cheese. On Monday’s they make a sandwich with three types of cheese melted together, on whole wheat bread, with fruit jam. YUM!!! I know, it’s not an Alaskan cruise, where you could probably request multiple grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, but we’re in the middle of a pandemic and this is the best we got!
I checked Google and from Chicago to Dodgeville is about 180 miles…even less since we were leaving from the north burbs. Three hours of driving time. It’s off to the land of the grilled cheese.
At first we planned to drive up in a Sunday, check into a hotel, spend one night and then check out the world of cheese. It would break up the driving into two three hour rides. We go online, find this hotel that had lovely photos of the room and booked it for under $100/night! Score! However….plans change, especially during a pandemic.
To be honest, we got scared…okay, maybe it was me. I’m a little leary of staying in a hotel, especially one that isn’t a chain, when the virus is still prevalent. Yeah, I know, you can bring your own sheets, pillows and towels. Yeah, I know, you can bring disinfectant, bleach and whatever cleaner you want and wipe down all the surfaces. I did call the hotel to see what their procedures were for keeping their rooms clean. Even after their speech, I wasn’t all that convinced.
So….the hotel was cancelled. It’s a day trip to Dodgeville. We leave at 10 and we’re there in time for a lunch of grilled cheese!!
It’s Monday morning. We hit the road to Wisconsin. About an hour in we need a bathroom stop and some drinks. Here comes a McDonald’s. That’s got to be safe, right? The bathroom is clean…phew! I stop at the counter to buy some cokes. There’s a woman in front of me and she’s having a discussion with the server about getting free french fries. It turns out it was national french fry day in America. The server didn’t have a clue about this. It turned into a louder discussion and a call to the manager. OY! All over a dollar bag of fries. OY! I gave up on the drinks. We can get something in Dodgeville. OY!
About an hour later, I see the first road signs to Dodgeville. Fifty miles away. I can taste that grilled cheese! Forty mile….thirty…twenty…mmmmm my mouth is watering with anticipation….ten…five…..there’s the sign…WELCOME TO DODGEVILLE!! Not bad…we’re there in under three hours.
Now it’s time to find the restaurant. Hmmm…in a town of less than five thousand, it can’t be that hard. We drive around for a few minutes, then find someone who for sure would know where it is…a mail carrier. She knew the place and in less than five minutes, we are parked in front. Ummm…this can’t be the place. It looks like a bar where the specialty is a shot and a beer, not the greatest grilled cheese in the midwest! We drove three hours for this? Well, it’s not like we’re going to turn around and head home. It’s grilled cheese time!
We get inside and it really is more of a bar than a restaurant. It has a pool table in the middle of the room. “Go grab a seat wherever you want and I’ll get you a menu.”
There’s plenty of available seating because there’s only one other couple in a booth and a dude at the bar. Good for social distancing. The menu comes and I’m expecting it to be filled with exotic cheese dishes. Nada. Nothing. Zip! I don’t even see grilled cheese on the menu. The significant other sees it in small print at the bottom. Oh man, this can not be a good sign!
The waitress comes over and I start talking to her about the Tribune article. Yeah, she saw it…the whole town did. All 4,689 of them! I mention the grilled cheese and she asks what type I’d like. They have swiss, american and cheddar. Sigh….three hours of driving and no exotic cheese. Not even the three melted cheese combo. SIGH! But, how about the jelly? She brought out a small container of raspberry jam. SCORE…I guess! We also got some french fries to go with the sandwiches. They weren’t free. I guess no one in Wisconsin was aware of national french fry day.
The meal is over and it’s time to head out. Let’s take a quick peek around town before heading back home. Hey, there’s the hotel where we were going stay. WOW. A dump would be a nice way of describing the place. SCORE! Finally, one for the good guys.
We head back and as we get close to Kenosha I say, “Hey honey, can we stop at the outlet mall?” I did find a new watch at the Fossil store for about $60!!! There’s the real score of the day!!!!!
Another hour and we’re back home in time for dinner. I don’t remember what we had, but I’m positive there was nothing cheese related in the meal.
So what’s the moral of this diatribe?
Never drive six hours for a grilled cheese? Nah…that can’t be it, can it?
Don’t try to take a vacation, even a one day vaca, in a pandemic? Nah…that’s not it either, is it?
Maybe there is no moral, it is what it is! Yeah, works for me!
In the meantime, I still need those three states. Do you think I can get a good grilled cheese in North Dakota?
Related Post: The search for all fifty states
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