An Ultra Embarrassing Start to Hello Wisconsin!!!

Perhaps there should be an unwritten law about when travellers on an airplane should shout out HELLO WISCONSIN!!! at the precise moment the airplanes’ wheels touch the tarmac at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee Wisconsin?

For whatever reason the passengers around me erupted into laughter as the stewardess picked up the announcement phone to inform everyone to please stay seated whilst the plane was traveling across the tarmac to the gate and to remain buckled in until the buckle-up light was turned off. And the gentleman who just shouted the quote from That 70’s Show was a class act.

As it turns out, I was the ONLY traveler shouting HELLO WISCONSIN!!! at the top of my lungs! What an ultra embarrassing way to start off my holiday in the cheese head state.

Eventually the SkyWest CRJ700 airplane pulled up to gate 54 and the unbuckle light went off. In unison 55 buckles clicked a sigh of relief that the plane was on the ground.

Standing up, I stretched arms above head then plucked at the latch keeping my carry-on suitcase secured into its holding place. Suitcase down on the seat in beside me, I yanked over the burnt orange Dakine backpack unzipping the top compartment and shoved my copy of Finding Chika by Mitch Albom into it and zipped ‘er up. Bending over I tugged the Yeti tumbler out of its side pouch then up to my mouth and swallowed back the last few drops of water.

Departing the plane, I wandered over to the nearest kiosk to learn how-to get from A (gate 54) to B (Enterprise Rent-A-Car). Per the map, we needed to go down the main hallway to the only Y in the entire airport, veering right and we’d be out into the main arrivals area.

Next head out the double glass doors, look both ways and try not to get run over by a bus driver, taxi cab or housewife picking their friend from Detroit City!

On my way through General Mitchell Airport, I spotted a ball cap hanging on a rack at the local five-n-dime shop. Not one for buying souvenirs I really liked this plain grey and white ball cap.

It had a fitted trucker mesh and simple design. Pulling the cap off the rack, I checked it out in the mirror. Then checked the price tag $59.23 USD. The conversion to Canadian Dollars was just too much in this moment and I set the hat back on the rack thinking if I buy nothing else on this trip. I’ll pick this up on my way back through the airport on the way home.

Hat back on the rack I turned, tripped over the edging of the floor and stumbled into another traveler. Apologizing about my misstep the guy smiled and said “No worries, mate!”

Giggling inwardly for bumping into an Aussie in America I continued down the hallway until I reached the Y and veered right up the ramp and through the maze of people to reach the Enterprise Rent-A-Car kiosk.

Standing at the counter I handed over my driver’s license and credit card. Then I was informed to “head up around the corner there to the lot and follow the signs. One of the guys will help you out, sir“.

Sir, who the heck am I, John Candy? Do I really look like a “Sir”? Damn it!

Into the parkade I went until a young college aged kid arrived at my side with his black machine and announced his name as “Carl, from Illinois“. We stepped over to the rental car line up and he pointed to the premium cars. A 2021 Ford Mustang GT, a 2022 BMW 520i, and a 2021 Jeep Wrangler. He then informed the “manager’s special” was the 2020 Toyota Corolla LE. And asked if I would like to “upgrade for a fee?” I passed on the offer unless it was a free upgrade for my birthday. We both laughed and I was handed the keys to the Corolla.

Keys in the ignition, I spent five minutes adjusting the mirrors, seat and radio stations. Next I pulled out of the burnt orange Dakine backpack, a pouch of dried fruit and the Delorme Atlas Wisconsin. For whatever reason I have always loved using hardcopy road maps when traveling. Probably because I love highlighting the routes where ever we travel through.

Also when I look back at the highlighted routes it conjures up an assortment of memories about each place visited, and the people met along the way. Plus there is the added bonus in the back of most road atlas’ as they inform about trails, parks, lakes and things to do.

Per the Delorme Atlas Wisconsin, our journey should only take twenty-two minutes. The route was pretty simple. A couple of turns and we’d be out onto Highway 94 heading West towards Madison and our mom’s condo.

Instead we got a bit carried away with the multiple connector roads.

  • Airport Spur to connector Highway 94/41
  • Go North 3 miles then yield onto
  • Highway 43 heading West
  • Go West 2.5 miles then yield onto
  • Highway 41 heading North
  • Go North 1.5 miles then yield onto
  • Highway 94 heading West
  • Go West 12 miles then yield onto
  • Barker Road (Exit 297) South
  • Go 3 blocks then yield onto
  • Davidson Road West
  • Go 4 blocks and enter the complex

Sure it was simple directions. BUT the Atlas did not warn against the quadruple connector which is a massive construction zone and we drove right on through it was we were struggling with a Semi-driver who kept dodging in-and-out of traffic at 100 miles per hour!

Of course I spotted a sign for the town of Wauwatosa and realized I had gone passed the connector Highway 94. As I was sorting out where to turn around to figure out where I was and how-to get there my Samsung Note9 rang and of course it was my mom.

James where are you? You landed thirty-three minutes ago and I’ve been waiting to have lunch with you!” said my mom through the speaker. “Well I took a short detour and I’m nearing the exit for Secondary road 45.” The frustration in her voice was undeniable she knew which I now knew that I had missed the West-connector. “Why are you in Wauwatosa? What are you doing? Turn around and go back to 94,” then she hung up in frustration.

Doing as instructed, I veered onto the exit ramp for Secondary highway 45 then crossed the overpass and turned left back onto Highway 41 heading south. Within a few minutes I returned back to the construction zone-connector area and laughed understanding how I had missed the turn-off as I had been trying not to get run over by a high speed Semi-truck driver!

Within eleven minutes I was pulling into the community and located the correct parking lot to begin a week of hanging out with my mom, aunts, cousins and second cousins. But first I had to smooth over the rocky start with my mom by taking her out for a late afternoon lunch!

~ James Curtis

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