I'm wrapping up my 2014 summer vacation today, with regular work resuming tomorrow. Before I found myself wrapped up in the daily minutia, I figured that I would record a quick recap with impressions of the places visited. Feel free to follow along with the heat map in another browser window.

Wisconsin State Fair

The first major stop on the trip was the Wisconsin State Fair. I'm a big fan of fairs, and the last one I visited was Minnesota's in 2008. The Wisconsin fair did not disappoint, but I was surprised how much smaller it was than the one I saw in St. Paul six years earlier. Nevertheless I had a great time and enjoyed listening to The Presidents play to the beer and nachos crowd.

House on the Rock

For me, this was the major reason to head to Wisconsin. Between reading about the place in Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" and hearing friends rave about it, my trip to House on the Rock was overdue.

The place did not disappoint and I'm looking forward to going back one of these days. The only major downside to the trip was me forgetting to find a CD recording of some of the mechanized orchestras in the place. Apparently CDs can be found online, and I'll be paying a premium to get an audio keepsake from the place.

For the record, my favorite part of the place was the red organ room. The image at the top of this post is one of the consoles from that room and one of the few images I captured at that place.

Wisconsin Dells

We spent a couple of days in the Dells primarily to see what the place was all about. The activities skewed a bit to the younger crowd (as in pre-teen), but we found plenty to do, including a fantasy-themed scavenger hunt and seeing Guardians of the Galaxy at a drive-in theatre.

Upper Peninsula Michigan

From the Dells, we drove a full day to Munising on the shores of Lake Superior. Holly did a boat tour of the Painted Rocks – I was primarily interested for see what was up in the UP. I found a lot of forests and some beautiful lakes and shores.

Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie was the final destination on our trip. I wanted to see what was there primarily from all my "Ticket to Ride" games and to finally drive over the border to Canada. The Canadian side of the border was a bit underwhelming, but I had a good time learning about the locks and watching a cargo vessel drop 21 ft. in front of me to go from Lake Superior to Lake Huron.

After staying the night on the northern border, we drove down through Michigan to Chicago to get the rental car back on time. The drive through Michigan (primarily down I-75) was uneventful, quick, and fairly scenic.

Overall Impressions

This trip was intentionally designed to go through several places in quick succession. Since Holly and I rarely make it outside of Chicago, this was our "scouting expedition" to see what some of the Midwest had to offer. There were hits and misses. From the places we visited, I can see myself spending more time back at House on the Rock and the Wisconsin State Fair. The Wisconsin Dells was a "see it once" experience. Sault Ste. Marie was a pleasant surprise, and I can see myself spending more time in around Munising.

The main thing that frustrated me was my inability to make some progress on personal projects while I was away. On an ideal vacation, I like to tour during the day, and work on things in the evening, and many places lack of decent WiFi and mobile data coverage made that difficult. I did spend a lot of time reading for a writing project, so that I wasn't entirely stopped in getting some personal things done. A part of me thinks that I should get better at vacationing (that is – don't plan to work on projects while out and about), but I may just be too set in my ways and have too many things outside the office to worry about to disconnect completely for a week. Part of my goal for the vacation was to clear out some things I've had to overlook for the past couple of months and return to regular life with a fairly clean slate. I've made some good progress on that front since arriving home, and the next 12 hours will be spent clearing out as much as I can and generally "getting my house in order" so that I'm not completely stressed out when I get back to the office tomorrow.

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