This is the seventh post in a series in which I will document this football season. It will broadly be about the Badgers and Packers but will more specifically be about myself in it. Football season does not just happen on the field. It is about great friends, foods, drinks, and merriment. My hope is that it will be interesting for readers but at the very least it will serve as a journal to look back on. I wish I had done this last year.
Prior to last weekend, when the weather was forecasted to be otherworldly nice, I sent an email around to my friends in Chicago from summer camp asking if they wanted to go on a day hike on Saturday. The only member of said email chain who is not Jewish replied, “I thought there was a Jewish holiday this weekend.” Embarrassingly for myself, my proposal date had happened to be on Yom Kippur so a group of five of us decided to take the trip this past Saturday instead and spend the night camping as opposed to just doing a day trip.
While I had originally proposed the trip strategically to be during the Badgers’ bye, this week Wisconsin was playing Indiana which, for all intents and purposes, is another bye. The Badgers were favored by 40.5 points and, in winning 59-7, covered with flying colors. I don’t feel as though I missed much and continue to wish that there was some way for the Badgers to play more than 3-5 truly meaningful games per season.
After kicking around the idea of going to Devil’s Lake up by the Wisconsin Dells or to Door County, we decided that the optimal destination would be Big Foot Beach State Park in Lake Geneva, WI. Big Foot isn’t as beautiful as our other options but it is eminently more accessible from Chicago than the alternatives; saving about five hours of roundtrip travel time on an overnight trip was ideal, especially since we had a bit of a slow start on Saturday. Myself and my buddies Brad, Brent, Rob, and Dan would be making the trip.
On the way to Big Foot, our first stop was at Mars Cheese castle in Kenosha, WI. Until about a year ago, the title of this cheese and meat emporium was kind of ironic as the store was sort of a dive. Recently, however, they built the store on the inside and out to resemble an actual castle and its name is quite appropriate. It has every snack food and dessert imaginable inside, beer and wine, a bakery, a butcher shop, and of course a wide array of cheese. It is the type of place that one dreams of going to at that heretofore elusive stage in life of not being on a budget. We bought a wide, but not gluttonous (by my definition, which likely differs from yours) consortium of sausages, cheese, and ancillary snacks. The highlight, in my opinion, was the Polar Bear Munch which is caramel popcorn coated in milk and white chocolate. That and the underrated Ritz crackers, which really tied the summer sausage and cheese curds together.
After Mars Cheese Castle, we headed to the Brat Stop which, as my buddy Brad pointed out, should actually be called the Brat Stay as we had to wait quite some time for our server, our food, and our check. I ordered a jalapeño cheddarwurst, which was a bratwurst stuffed with jalapeño and cheddar and topped with melted cheddar. Even–and perhaps especially–with the long wait, this was delicious. On our way out of the Brat Stop, we also picked up some New Glarus Fat Squirrel and Spotted Cow as well as some Leinenkugel’s Creamy Dark.
We got to Big Foot at about 3:00 pm, in time to enjoy the last few hours of sunlight on what ended up being a very beautiful, albeit windy, day. After sitting around for an hour or so digesting our meal from the Brat Stop, we took about a two-mile hike on paths that were aptly described as “non-strenuous.” The trails were flat wide enough for cars. Luxurious, as Kramer and Elaine would say. As the sun began to set, we gorged on snacks, cooked up some brats for dinner, and used the coals from our grill to start a camp fire. I once heard about a study that I unfortunately can’t find and link to that concluded it to be spectacularly unhealthy to eat more than one brat I think every six months, a metric that we violated in the course of a day. What happens in Wisconsin…
The duration of the night’s activity consisted of sitting in collapsable lawn chairs around the fire, sipping craft beers, and exchanging jokes and anecdotes, which were wide ranging as the five of us had collectively spent about 50 summers as campers and counselors (this is not an exaggeration…I tried to count but didn’t want to end up off by a year or two). In other words, even though we had all camped in places that are much more secluded and beautiful, it was a perfect evening devoid of any shrouds of stress or displeasure. Very little compares to time spent around a fire with great food and great company. I came back to Chicago 24 hours later spiritually refreshed and 5.5 pounds heavier (four of which I erased with a heroic workout, light dinner, and good night’s sleep). Considering how accessible it is–we could literally decide to make the trip with zero planning–we really need to do it more often.
On Sunday, I went to Schoolyard with Brent, Brad, and Habib. The Packers dominated the first half en route to beating the Rams 24-3. In losing their focus on offense in the second half, the Packers left themselves susceptible to a backdoor cover that would have been supremely annoying and thankfully did not happen. In six games this year, the Packers have played five lackluster halves. The flip side of that, though, is the seven halves that clicked in those games were transcendently outstanding and so far they have endured such that they continue to be in a tier by themselves atop the NFL power rankings. I suppose that all you can really hope for is to go 1-0 each week, something that the Badgers and Packers have both accomplished without fail this season.