• Robert Thelen

Great Northern Adventure (In-depth!)

Since we moved away from the midwest, Sarah and I have been making pilgrimages back home, usually targeting the summer for a variety of reasons. First, my family has a cluster of birthdays in early July, so there are great reasons to celebrate. Therefore, we have had a fireworks show on or near the 4th of July for the past two decades! Second, Sarah's family are mostly teachers, so they get the summer off to do fun things! So, a summer visit is usually a whirlwind of visiting family and friends. This year, our annual trip became even more special with Maren!

Our logistics were a bit more complex, but we still packed in a lot. We found some sitters for the dogs and Patches (thank you!) and then we booked a low cost airfare (under $50 a person on Frontier!). We flew to Wisconsin, Sarah's parents drove up two cars from Ohio, including our new-to-us Subaru Forester we bought from David, Sarah's brother. Sarah's dad, Bob, spend a better part of a month doing maintenance on it, giving us new tires, new brakes, a new air conditioner, and changing out the timing belt, to ensure the car will drive for years to come! Then we drove to Ohio, spent a few days there, then drove to Norris Lake, Tennessee, where we met up with David and his family for some quality time on the Lake. Although there are some photos below, I really wanted to put everything into words.

"When you Say Wisconsin, You've said it all"

Our first leg was Wisconsin. We landed early Saturday morning and Charlie woke up super early to pick us up. Since Maren was mostly passed out, we stopped at George Webb for breakfast (Sarah's first time!). My mom created a full up nursery in our room, so we had everything we needed when we got home. Charlie also gave up his air conditioner, as Wisconsin was in the middle of a heatwave. My dad got to meet "the little one" and she got her first golf cart ride. It took her a while to get used to a new sleeping location, but after a few days, she gave us her normal 8-10 hours a night.

On Sunday, in the morning we went to my Grandma's house so she could meet her first Great-grand child. It was a special moment for everyone there. We spent a few hours with Grandma and she got to experience happy Maren, tired Maren, hungry Maren, then Happy Maren again. We then stopped by Kiltie and Maren got her FIRST taste of custard... Later that night, Sarah and I helped Charlie at the Speedway while (fireworks night), which was fun in its own way. My Aunt (Maren's great Aunt) Kerri and Hadley baby sat so we could help at Slinger.

Monday, my birthday, we went swimming in the morning then got into my Dad's truck for some fun road-tripping. We stopped at two cheese factories, two ice cream shops, AND Lambeau Field (home of the Green Bay Packers). We put on 200 miles and Sarah/Maren got to experience a real Wisconsin. It was really cool to see Maren at places that mean a lot to me and Sarah was a champ in coming along! Also, my brother got me a Vitamix Blender (which we have used pretty much non-stop!).

Tuesday was filled with trips to "the shop" to help Charlie with Slinger stuff and swimming! Maren really enjoyed swimming (and she took extra long naps afterwards, so Mom and Dad LOVED SWIMMING).

Wednesday was Madison Day! We went to the Memorial Union on University of Wisconsin's campus and just chilled for a few hours. We enjoyed some beer, the weather, and just hanging out. There is a smell there in the Summer that just makes me happy. Tom Sanders, a high school/college friend, came for a bit to see Maren! As Maren started to get cranky, we left to go to Scott's house, where we would meet up with his family and Tom and Erin for a delightful meal and even better conversation. The Sable's set up a room, with a pack 'n play, so we could put the monster down and we stayed the night and Jess stole Maren any chance she got! As you can see, we got pretty brave taking overnight trips WHILE on vacation! We woke up Thursday morning, got to hang out with the Sables, got to a local cafe, and then headed back to Oconomowoc.

Thursday, the 4th, was pretty chill day filled with walks, swimming, and SUMMERFEST! After a few swims, we went to my The Jorgensen's new house and hung out for a bit. Maren got to meet some more Great-Aunts and Uncles and a few second-cousins! After the tour, we went to Kerri's house, dropped Maren off (thank you SOOO much Kerri and family for watching her!), and went to SUMMERFEST! It was Sarah's first time at the World's Largest music festival. We got AWESOME FREE parking (a block away - God wanted us to go to Summerfest!). We walked around, listened to the afternoon bands (mostly cover bands in the afternoon), had a few beers and ate some amazing food. We got a few sprinkles. After a few hours, we had our fill, picked up the monster, and went home. It was SOO amazing taking Sarah to something that I loved as a teenager! Next year, we are taking Maren, it was just way too hot this year.

Friday was the big party. Charlie and I started the BBQ in the morning and started prepping the fireworks a few hours later. Also, Martha and Bob, Sarah's parents, arrived in the early afternoon. The party was fun, as always, with ~40 family and friends joining. The party always concludes with Charlie and I putting on a fireworks show. Maren was already asleep, but I hope she heard it!

Saturday was our big travel day. We left in the morning, in the middle of a HUGE downpour. This was an allusion of things to come. Throughout the day, we hit storm after storm, slowing us down quite a bit. Maren was pretty good. We stopped at an Ikea for the first feeding - great place to stop - they have big family restrooms with a chair for nursing, and I got to hang out in their awesome cafeteria! We had one big meltdown, about 7 hours into the journey, while we were going 25 in the middle of the thunderstorm. But me made it to the Slammer compound around 7pm... Our longest drive with Maren EVER in the books. We were tired, but we survived!


Sunday was filled with friends! We watched the world cup at one of Sarah's high school friend's house where we had a whole pack of kiddos! It was really cool to see Sarah and her girl friends hanging out with their kids! Additionally, the US Women's soccer team WON!! Woo!

Monday was a fun filled day. Sarah and her mom went to Columbus to visit Nicky and her new baby! They got to see one of her best friends with a baby a few months younger than Maren - future best friends!!! They also got to get some awesome peanut butter from a peanut butter factory! Meanwhile, Maren and I hung out with grandpa and then headed to Dayton for our annual Dayton trip. Maren and I continued my tradition of going to Blind Bob's to have a beer and some pickle soup (which Maren enjoyed as well!). We then got a coffee and just walked around for an hour! Dayton is such a cool city. Although Maren fell asleep halfway through the walk, it was still cool to enjoy the city as a parent. Sarah and Martha met up with me just as I was meeting a mentor of mine, Mr. Walsh! I swapped cars with Martha, so Sarah and I could enjoy a little Dayton date and Martha could enjoy some Granny time with Maren. After over an hour of catching up with Mr. Walsh, Sarah and I went to a nice little cocktail bar/restaurant and just enjoyed a throwback to when we used to live in the area. On the way back to the Slamer Farm, we stopped and got some Malts from UDF!

Tuesday had some horseback riding for Sarah, some family friends visiting Maren, and just some needed chill time. Bob made some amazing beef ribs that night and we all ate way too much.

On the Lake

Wednesday was a transition day to the lake. Sarah, Maren, and I left first, since we had a few extra stops scheduled. Sarah's brother, David, has a boat and his wife, Lindsey, has been coming down to Lake Norris in Tennessee since she was a kid. Lake Norris is a man made lake (the first project from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which dammed up rivers for electrical generation in the 30s and 40s). They rent a house and then just spend a week on the water.... Sarah and I joined them six years ago, before we were even married. The transition day went well, we made it there quicker than planned and the house was AMAZING. We had our own little suite, including our own bathroom and a huge closet - which became Maren's room! It was dark, cool, and, most importantly, separate from where we slept.

That afternoon, we went on the lake and just enjoyed and nice trip to get some Ice cream! Maren fell asleep after a few minutes.

Thursday rained out most of the day. It was a delightful day though, just chilling, reading, talking, and hanging out. David, Bob, and I made a trip into town (during one of the crazy rain storms) for provisions and gas. Of course, it was down-pouring and we had to go through some pretty good little rivers to make it. I bought a bunch of brats and some supplies for frapacinnos and smoothies. The rain did clear for enough time to get some swimming in (including Maren's first time in a lake!) and some boating/tubing later in the day.

After a big ol' breakfast, Friday was a lake day! The kiddos tried water skiing, Lindsey showed us all how to Water Ski (she was awesome!), and we just swam for a few hours in a little cove. I tried to perfect a sweet front flip (never really got it) and everyone spent some time in the water. We got back, Sarah, Maren and I got off the boat for food and naps. I made some brats, and Sarah, Maren and I took a short 2 hour nap, while the rest went back out for a while. That night we all got on the boat and went to a Waterworld like floating city that had an amazing restaurant, we ate, had some beer, and talked for a while, before heading back into the sunset. That night, we packed and got ready for a morning exit.

Saturday was our travel day home. We left in midmorning and made it home by four, with only a few stops. By then, we were pros! We knew when to stop, where to stop (McDonalds or Starbucks - they got food/coffee, nice rest rooms, and big parking lots for feeding Maren), and we made really good time.

When we got home, we had to pick up the car we left at the airport, and then realized, for the first time in two weeks, we didn't have anyone to hand the baby off to. The interesting thing about being 800 miles from family is that you get used to swapping off baby responsibilities. Either Sarah or I have the baby or are listening for the her... if we go out, we get a baby sitter or our nanny, but it is on one of us. But around friends and family, there is always someone at the ready to "pass the baby". After two weeks, we got used to being around family.... it was great vacation and one that although Maren will NOT remember, Sarah and I forever will.

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