Category: Travel

What happens in the Dells……..a trip report

Another quick trip down to Glacier Canyon Lodge at the Wilderness Resort in the Wisconsin Dells. If you haven’t figured out by now, I like to play. Be it trips to Disney, riding my bike or heading to the waterpark, I find I’m a much saner, calmer and happier person with frequent doses of playful fun. Luckily my ten your old son is still at an age that he enjoys time spent goofing around with Mom, even if this trip did include him bringing a friend for part of the trip.

The Wilderness resort is a mega complex with three large indoor waterparks, three equally large or larger outdoor ones, not to mention the upscale adults only Sundara Spa complex, a couple of golf courses and another lodge area on the shores of Lake Delton. Obviously, a trip to the Wisconsin Dells in mid-November means sticking to the indoor parks. All three have giant water slides – body slides, tube slides and specialized slides with names like “Fantastic Voyage”, “black Hole” or the “Hurricane’, there’s a large indoor wave pool, lazy river and interactive water fun play areas. Be prepared for lots of stair climbing. Of all the slides, “Black Hole” is my favorite with “Fantastic Voyage” a close second.

Usually I also enjoy their lazy river, but felt like this trip it just wasn’t heated to an enjoyable temperature. In fact, I would say the same for the various hot tubs – really should have been hotter. Not sure what the issue was, but hope they solve. I’ve been to Wilderness on other winter weekends, and hope this isn’t a new cost cutting measure – as it would make me question spending my playtime there in the future. While I’m criticizing this otherwise great resort, I’d also suggest making one of the hot tubs adult only or at the very least enforcing those large “No one under 6 allowed in hot tubs” signs. The hot tub picture below was taken on Friday afternoon before the weekend crowds, when the hot tubs were literally shoulder to shoulder (both around edges and in the middle) with people.

Sunday brought a sunny, unseasonably warm day, so while my Mom supervised my son and his friend in the waterpark, hubby and I went for a 7 mile walk around the Wilderness grounds and surrounding area. We hadn’t brought the bikes, but still had a little chuckle around this set of signs.

Here’s some outdoor shots from the walk. The outdoor parks had sad, lonely feel with their empty pools. The new, but closed Zipline tours were taunting me. I’ve been dying to try them. In the past when I had opportunities to zip in Hawaii or Mexico or wherever, I weighed more than the max allowed weight. Now that I comfortably make the weight limits, I still wasn’t able to go. We’d been to Wilderness last July, the weekend before these zips opened, and now here we were back the weekend after they closed. Sigh. I’ll have to get that bit of fun and excitement on another trip (and Hawaii and Mexico zip lines are still on the to-do list!)

Decided we must plan a grown up weekend at Sundara some day (maybe next anniversary?), I’m a spa addict and that looked awfully nice – not to mention based on all the steam rising from the surface of the water, their outdoor pool is very well heated – no cost cutting over there! As golfers (he’s avid, I’m a duffer), we enjoyed walking the cart path of one of the courses shut down for the season. Lake Delton looked gorgeous – some of you may remember this as the lake that broke about a year ago, washing away a couple of huge houses. Lake has been fixed and re-filled. Loved this carved tree trunk at one of the lakeside houses

Last few pics are from our unit at Wyndham’s Vacation Resort at Glacier Canyon. As I’ve mentioned before, I own a decent amount of points (all purchased via ebay) in Wyndham’s timeshare system – as does my Mom. For this trip we had a three bedroom unit. Very, very nice. Master bedroom with the tub for two, king bed, walk in shower, second bedroom with another king, third with two queens. Nice shared bath for those two rooms. Sleeps 10 (via a hide a bed in living room). We had my son & his friend, my Mom, hubby and I. Kitchen very well equipped with service for 12, plus all the typical small and large appliances. Though honestly we ate out much of the time. Kept the fireplace going in the evening which was a cozy touch. And naturally, one section of the closed zip lines passed right by our balcony – taunting me further!

The Dells are a bit kitchy. Son finally got his trip to a Ripley’s Believe it or Not on this trip and was unfortunately more fascinated and interested in reading all the signs and exhibits than I hoped would happen. We found the “resort” my parents had honeymooned at 54 years ago – a bit worse for wear. Have to say, kitchy, touristy or not, for a fun filled weekend, close to home they fit the bill. (Which is a good thing, because in late January we’ll be back for one of my son’s gymnastics meets – though after 4 trips to Wilderness we will be trying a new resort that trip. Not to mention hoping to get some skiing in at Cascade Mountain).

They say Karma’s a bitch……

Or payback is hell.

But the brilliant thing is that the flip side to bad karma coming back and biting you in the ass is that sometimes getting what you deserve or earned is a good thing. And that appears to have happened to my son and I this weekend.

Last December armed with our first ever Disney annual passes, my son and I had a 5 day pre-Christmas trip to Disney World planned. This grown-up but kid at heart Disney fanatic has always wanted to see the parks and the resorts in their Christmas finery. Each day was well planned with dining reservations, carefully researched park plans to avoid the “extra magic hour” crowds, not to mention a list of shows and resorts to visit. And then the great snow of December 19th hit Milwaukee. Closing the airport. And for the next 2 1/2 days my very patient 9 year old son and I were in airport stand-by hell. Somehow our Friday 6am direct flight turned into a 7pm Saturday connecting flight through Atlanta. We tried to stand by on every flight in between. No luck. And then of course, our flight to Atlanta was delayed and we found ourselves stuck in Atlanta, a city we never planned to visit for the night. Sunday morning brought more stand by flights, and a melt down and tears from the grown-up, and continued brave face from the 9 year old. Finally at 2pm Sunday, 62 hours later we were in Disney.

And I swore I would make it up to my son. (OK, yeah, me too) Upon returning home, using frequent flier miles, timeshare points and of course knowing we had annual passes, I booked a Halloween trip back to Disney.

From start to finish this trip was a dream. Flights going and coming were on time. Car rental no line, no problem. Sure a 6am flight made an awfully early start, but we managed – and boy, did we manage getting all the highlights done.

Some of the highlights: While the parks were fairly crowded, it was primarily Food & Wine Festival attendees and folks with young children. Which meant lines for the attractions requiring folks to be over 40″ tall were not bad, not bad at all. So much so, we hit all our favorite rides, most with literally no wait. On rides like Everest Expedition, Test Track, and Rock-n-Roller Coaster we employed single rider strategy. If you aren’t familiar with this, some rides have a third line in addition to the normal line and the fastpass line. You will not be sitting with your party as they use the singles to fill in the odd numbered groups. However in most every instance we were in the same “car” or train or whatever that is called. Others, such as Tower of Terror (my #1 fav ride) simply had no waits. You could ride them as fast as it took to walk through the queue. All said in our three days, the final tally was Everest Expedition 6 times (son did 7), Tower of Terror and Big Thunder Mountain 5 times, Test track 4 times, Splash Mountain, Kali River Ride, andStar Tours 2 times plus a trip on the Great Movie Ride, The Backlot tour, Soarin’, Maelstrom, Mission Space, Haunted Mansion, Pirates……Oh, and I got to be one of the “actors” in the Pearl Harbor scene on the Backlot tour!

Of course, I had to get my fireworks fix. The first day we were worn out from our 6am plane flight and considered skipping fireworks. Instead we headed to Beaches and Cream for burgers and ice cream. Remarkably we had no wait for a table, and finished dinner just in time to walk in the back entrance of EPCOT and snag a great view at a spot between USA and Japan. The park was crowded but somehow, just as the announcer blew out the fires, there was a two person opening along the fence. The next night was Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party where we enjoyed Halloween Wishes from our fav spot front and center of the castle. Finally the third night, son wanted to repeat the Beaches and Cream / Illumination plan. This time we scored a spot between China and Germany with a perfect view of Illuminations but also a goo view of Wishes just to the left of Spaceship Earth – huge bonus for this fireworks lover.

One of my favorite memories was the morning after Mickey’s Halloween party, when my son in all seriousness asked, “Mom, did you feel like a kid again last night?” I replied, “What do you mean?”. “well, you were wearing a costume and went trick or treating”. And, yes, he was right, I did feel like a kid again, and both he and I thought that was pretty darn cool.

Finally, in keeping with family tradition of documenting our accommodations. Shots from the 1 bedroom unit at Wyndham Vacation Resort at Bonnet Creek. I own a decent amount of points in the Wyndham timeshare system (all purchased on eBay, which is a whole other story). Their new resorts are quite nice, and the point system allows me to book 3-4 night long weekends. (Like the one in November to Wyndham Glacier Canyon at the Wisconsin Dells or the December weekend at Wyndham Grand Desert Las Vegas – which will include doing the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon. The location of this resort is pretty incredible – within the World, next to the Caribbean Beach Resort, very close to EPCOT, the Boardwalk and Hollywood Studios. Will return to this one!

Self-Image Mindshift


This weekend brought a couple of unrelated incidents that made me realize how my mental image of myself has, or maybe more accurately, is changing. Hubby and I were down in Chicago celebrating our 10th Anniversary. First up was a surprise trip to the spa for a massage and facial. When the massage therapist asked me if there were any areas in particular for her to focus on, I caught myself saying, “Well, I have a tendency to hold tension in my traps and my IT bands really need work”. Say what….

After the massage as I was waiting for the facial technician in the “relaxation” room, it hit me that I really was relaxing, fully comfortable in the robe they had supplied. That I hadn’t had to ask for a larger robe, or sit there in one that didn’t quite close – or worst of all, sized up by the receptionist at check-in and offered to swap out the usual robe for a plus sized one. Instead I was perfectly comfortable sitting there waiting in the normal robe, which actually felt large, wrapped over completely in front. Such a nice feeling, couldn’t help but smile.

Then again none of this really should have surprised me. Hell, we’d brought our bikes on this trip; planning to take advantage of Chicago’s Lakeshore trail and a promise of sunny not too cool weather. That would never have happened 15 months and 65 pounds ago. Yet as I’ve made these changes to healthier foods, healthier eating, regular exercise, gone down several clothing sizes; I’ve never really thought about the changes to my mindset to the way I thought about myself, the boxes I put myself into.

But this weekend, I realized that I think of myself as a bit of an athlete. That being active is not something I do, it is something I am. And that while my weight loss journey is not over (35 pounds to go), I have taken great strides forward, I have changed not only my body, but my mind.

Which leads to this morning’s ride. The trail along Lake Michigan is a gem. One enjoyed by a wide variety of people. Sure there were plenty of people out for a casual stroll, but for the most part on this Sunday morning the path was populated by other athletes – folks out for a serious work out. Some passed us, plenty we passed. It felt good, I felt strong. We rode 32 miles on the trail – a loop north to Foster Avenuse and south to about a mile past the Science and Industry Museum. But best of all, I felt like I belonged.

Streetscaping – Chicago Style


For the last several years, I have been impressed with the street plantings around downtown Chicago. An incredible mix of annuals, tender perennials/tropicals, and perennials all planted in an almost overwhelming abundance. Business took me to Chicago for the day with a stay at the Blackstone Hotel on S. Michigan Ave. I had the opportunity for an early evening walk north on Michigan, through Millennium Park and back.

On the cab ride from our office to the hotel, my eyes had spotted this dark leaved, yellow flowered Dahlia, and my first order of business was to grab a photo of this beauty. However, as I began my stroll, a familiar scent grabbed my attention. Nicotiana, flowering tobacco, planted as a center piece in giant street planters. (immediate mental note to get some seeds for next summer, one of those plants I used to grow each year in my first garden, but long forgotten).

These long beds appear to be newly planted, but I can’t wait to see them in their August Splendor. Cannas, Gingers, ‘Lime Zinger’Xanthosoma, Castor Beans, Cleome, Verbena Bonarensis…so many of my summer favorites.

The lions of the Art Institute were standing proud with a long line of these attractively planted containers.

And then finally, a chance to sneak to the center of the street and grab a shot of that Dahlia. I so love the dark leaved Dahlias, and my last gardens have been too hot for them to thrive. Hmm, maybe this slightly cooler climate will have its benefits. Another attractive red flowered version was planted within Millennium Park, but it was that yellow one that really spoke to me, that I must track down and use in my garden.

The light was beginning to fade by the time I hit the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. My first though on seeing all the buds on the Echinacea was that I was too early to see the garden in its full glory. But then I began to notice how well this garden is planted for interest all summer, the Baptisas just past their bloom, the Stachys in current bloom, Amsonia hubrichtii ready to do its yellow leaved fall show.

But perhaps my favorite photo of all…this little behind the scenes glimpse of the gardeners’ tools. The wheelbarrow, the watering cans, discarded pots and flats and trugs of many colors. I look so forward to seeing the progress of the hard work these tools represent as I visit these gardens over the course of the summer.

%d bloggers like this: