Saturday 24th August
As I am woken up around 5am due to a combination of heavy lighting and rain, I start watching some of the cricket - England look like they will lose the game and thus the Ashes will be retained by Australia. I fall asleep (due to tiredness not because cricket is boring) and by the time I get up it’s half 8 or so and time for breakfast. I’m heading to Riding Mountain National Park and due to the weather I stop at DollarRama to pick up a cheap poncho. It’s only 100km away from Brandon and so I arrive around 12:30pm. The rain is pretty heavy but by the time I get to the trail I have chosen to hike it’s pretty calm but gloomy skies. It’s a 7km hike, taking me nearly two hours to complete and providing me with views of Lake Kinasao. Due to the poor weather it’s really quiet - I don’t meet anyone at any stage whilst on the trail but the local town is pretty busy with what seems day trippers from Winnipeg. I’m meeting Leo back in Brandon at a coffee shop so I decide to leave mid afternoon. I arrive first at the coffee shop, which is also a bakery, and as it’s my first visit, the friendly staff member (Shelby) gives me two baguettes for free. There are so many mouth watering options on display so I ask for a Canadian delicacy and the cake that Shelby recommends is super delicious as is the Danish pastry that they make daily each morning. Afterwards, Leo provides me a quick tour of the town. Afterwards we head for a quick pre meal drink at The Dock on Princess. We are heading to a Brazilian barbecue at one of his local Brazilian mate’s apartment, Ivandro whose wife is also Brazilian and they have two daughters - with the eldest 15 years old and the youngest only 15 months old. It’s a great meal - lots of food just like last night and Leo’s Jordanian-Canadian girlfriend Rand turns up to join us for dinner too. We talk a lot of politics, economics and culture - it’s a really enjoyable discussion/debate. By the time we get back to Leo’s apartment it’s nearly midnight and time for bed.
Sunday 25th August
I’m up around 8 and to my surprise England are still batting. They need to chase down 359 to secure a famous victory and for the series to be tied at 1-1. A loss will mean a 2-0 lead for Australia, and as current holders of the urn, thus the Ashes remaining down under. England quickly loose two wickets and it’s not looking good so I decide to head down highway 10 Manitoba south towards Turtle Mountain Provincial Park for further trekking this weekend. I’m listening to music in the hire car as the phone reception isn’t that great but mange to get a signal during the journey and notice on the ESPN Cricinfo that England need only a further 13 runs to win the game - unbelievable! I turn on the VPN address changer on my phone and load the Australian Channel 9 app - to my surprise it’s streaming live not too badly. Ben Stokes (the guy I have history with from the Caribbean a few years ago) is batting and is keeping the run chase, as well as England’s ashes hopes alive. Nathan Lyon (aka Garry due to him having the same hairstyle as a former Aussie Rules player and current commentator Gary Lyon), the Aussie off-spinner, misses two great chances to win the game - first he fumbles the ball on an easy run out of the other remaining England batsman (Jack Leach) and secondly his appeal for lbw is turned down and Australia cannot review. So for non-cricket tragics here goes an explanation of leg before wicket - if the ball hits your leg in front of the stumps, and the bowler appeals (usually him screaming the word(s) or something similar to the cry of howzat/that’s out) to the umpire directly watching in front and they also believe that’s what’s happening to the ball, then the umpire will raise his finger and say “that’s out” and the batsman is out. As England were down to their last wicket, if the umpire had given Stokes out then Australia would have won - but he doesn’t - and the plot really thickens because each side each innings gets two opportunities to challenge the umpires on-field call through a DRS (decision review system) process - and had Australia not wasted challenging for unsuccessful appeals, they on appeal would have had the on field decision overturned as the video replay shows how the ball was going onto hit the wicket - and it was Garry who had bowled this ball the very next ball after he should have run out Leah at the non strikers end - amazing stuff and now I’m finding I’m so anxious and tense that I can no longer drive safely/properly. I’m approaching a really town called Boissevain so I pull over at a petrol (gas) station and see Stokes hit the winning runs in what can only be described in a once in a lifetime innings/climax to an incredible game of test cricket. This is why I love the game and go on cricket tours - you can’t beat test cricket - ever - and Boissevain Manitoba will be forever remembered by myself when against great odds after being bowled out in the first innings for only 67 runs that England managed to defeat Australia to keep their Ashes hopes alive. The hire car needs more petrol (gas) and as the attendant is filling up I tell him about what’s happened - not that’s he’s probably much interested in a foreigner telling him the result/finish of a foreign game - but it’s something I need to do. After paying inside, I head to Turtle Mountain Provincial Park, which is more or less on the Canada/USA border. I think of heading to the International Peace Garden for a quick visit before trekking but once I’m told it’s $20 for entry I decide against it - seems like a waste of money for only a 5-10 minute look around. However upon leaving, the only two exits are either to the American or Canadian customs check points - the official on the Canadian side doesn’t seem too impressed when I tell him I took a wrong turn but fortunately I’m not detained and I’m able to quickly start trekking. I spend around three hours or so completing a circuit/loop of Adams Lake. Again the weather isn’t great but the scenery and being outdoors is - apart from all the mosquito bites - you can run but can’t hide from these pesky creatures and it doesn’t take long for me to get covered all over in bites. Once I get back to the car I have something light to eat before returning to Brandon. Leo, with the help of his girlfriend Rand has made a really good spaghetti bolognese for lunch - this weekend’s eating experiences have been wonderful and I can’t keep on thanking him enough for being such a great CouchSurfing host. Late afternoon we decide to go for coffee and cake and bump into Rand again, and a Brazilian friend of both Leo and Rand’s - Brandon is such a small place it’s hard not to meet someone that you know. Leo and I head to a bowling alley for some Sunday night shenanigans-neither of us have played for ages but I manage to win all three games. Once we are back at the apartment, Leo and I chat about our plans for the future and afterwards I wish him all the best before heading to bed - he’s a great guy and really looked after me for my visit to Brandon - cheers mate.
Monday 26th August
I’m ready to go by at 8 and I quickly say goodbye to Leo. It’s a two hour straight drive to Winnipeg airport along trans-pacific highway 1 but I decide to stop in Portage La Prairie for a hot drink. The national chain of coffee shops in Canada is called Tim Horton and as I’m walking out with my peppermint tea I hear an English accent asking me about if I had been to the test match - I’m wearing my Barmy Army Ashes 2019 t-shirt - I didn’t think I would be after the way the game was going so I’m proudly representing today. Peter and Jane migrated to Canada 17 years ago, and Peter is a high school teacher too. We talk about the amazing finish to yesterday’s game and cricket is general. Peter fondly remembers Ian Botham’s 1981 heroics - I wasn’t even a year old but will never forgot Andrew Flintoff’s world class performances back in 2005, which helped England win the Ashes for the first time since 1986/87. It’s crazy and funny that I have met an English couple on the basis of the t-shirt I’m wearing - meeting people on the basis of my clothing will be happening quite a bit as I’m traveling around America over the next few months as I will be representing both the Packers and Badgers. Once I’m back at Winnipeg airport, I fill the car up with petrol and get the bus to downtown again. I’m having trouble finding a CouchSurfing host for the night so I decide to book an Airbnb which is not too far from the airport. The hotels near the airport are expensive and bland, whereas I will be staying with a local family through Airbnb. My flight to Green Bay via Chicago is a bit early tomorrow morning but there is a Canadian riding sharing app called TappCar which is pretty similar to Uber/Lyft that will get me to the airport both in an easy and fairly inexpensive manner. First though it’s time to do some exploring - there isn’t too much to do in Winnipeg, apart from the Museum of High Rights and the Forks District. For lunch I stumble upon an East Asian/Indian restaurant called Clay Oven. I order a vegetarian thali, a combination of curries, rice, salad and fresh naan bread. It’s really nice and I also get to talk about yesterday’s test match with the Pakistani-Canadian waiter too. It only talks a short walk from the restaurant to the museum which I spend a couple of hours reading and watching displays about human rights both inside and outside of Canada. Similar to Australia, the native population in Canada suffered a genocide and thus had their human rights too restricted upon the arrival of European settlers. The destruction and denial of culture, language, identity and family through the Indian Act is a fundamental reason why First/Native/Indigenous Canadians today have high incidents of a vast array of social problems such as welfare, neglect, crime, unemployment, poverty, poor health, alcohol and solvent abuse as compared with both European Canadians and Non-European Canadians. After a quick walk around the Forks district I head back to the downtown district. I fancy another herbal tea before heading to my Airbnb in the suburbs but both of the Tim Horton’s I visit have long queues so it’s time to catch an easy single bus ride to my Airbnb. I’m being hosted by Jennifer and her husband Larry, who is also a high school teacher (Science and Math). As it’s been a long, busy day I’m feeling tied and lazy so I take the easy option of buying a pizza to heat in the oven from the local supermarket. Jennifer and Larry are great hosts. Not only do they help me heat the pizza but also offer me an incredible brownie for desert made by Larry’s mum and then over a couple of beers we discuss politics, environment and the culture. I’m up at 5am tomorrow morning so I say goodbye fairly early, wishing them all the best for the future and thanking them for being lovely hosts for evening. It’s a comfortable double bed for the evening which I haven’t slept in for a week or so and with the day I’ve had it doesn’t take too long to fall asleep.
Tuesday 27th August 1450KM 900M
The alarm on my phone goes off at 5am and it’s time to get up and quickly get ready. I order transport to the airport through the ride sharing app “TappCar”, which is efficient and easy and similar to Uber/Lyft with payment automatically taken from a credit card.-handy as I have no local currency left. Whilst I’m heading through security I’m flagged for additional screening and told that all liquids must be able to fit into a small resealable bag - all of my toiletries don’t fit as I have no check in baggage so I have to throw some away, which is a waste of both money and resources. I feel that in this area America is more progressive on liquids as compared with Canada you can take as many as you like as long as each item isn’t over 100ml - good on ya yanks! It’s a small United plane to Chicago, with a 1-2 configuration so I’m grateful to be on my own right at the back which is handy as I sleep for most of the flight. My connecting flight up to Green Bay is at 1:30pm, meaning having to hang around O’Hare airport for a few hours. Luckily the inbound flight arrives early and immigration was processed back in Winnipeg so the plane arrives into the United domestic terminal which is really handy as the next flight to Green Bay is about to leave from the gate next to which I have arrived. I run to the agent and get myself bumped on this flight so I can arrive back earlier. Also handy is having keys to Sandy’s car and as she is working away I’m able to pick the car up from the employee parking lot at Green Bay airport and head for breakfast. I decide upon The Pancake House - Brad and Sandy took me here a few years ago on a Monday after a Packers game and I remember the food being hearty, cheap and filling. For $8 I get a vegetarian omelette, with hash brown as well as a side serving of a toasted bagel with cream cheese. Due to the early start I haven’t eaten anything this morning so despite being served two portions of food, I manage to eat all the food that I have ordered. After lunch it’s time to look for a car, visiting a couple of car dealerships. However there aren’t many vehicles in my (budget) price range. On Thursday I’m being filmed by Rich Ryman and his crew and as my last haircut was in Colombia over a month ago, I visit a barber shop as recommended by Will. Afterwards I pop into Keggers to visit him and he’s super busy as he was up in his cabin for a few days last weekend. Will advises me to visit the DMV in Green Bay to determine whether as a foreigner I can register and license a vehicle in Wisconsin and also provides a contact of an elderly woman looking for renters. First I head to the DMV and a kind gentlemen advises that I can register a vehicle in Wisconsin as I’m on a visitors visa and not a business visa, which would require my employer to organise. This is great as Brad and Sandy’s good friends Dave and Darcy have an older car that they no longer need which is in good condition and at $1500 is a steal. One of them was gonna drive it to Green Bay this Labor Day Weekend as they are heading here to drop their daughter Maxwell off at university for her freshman year but the car needs registration and license with the title of the vehicle in person at a DMV and as they are based in La Crosse that is where I’m gonna have to go. Dave rings me later and we agree that I will come and visit and stay for a night with him, Darcy and younger son Van after the first Badgers game in Madison. There is a daily coach service from Madison to LaCrosse. Then the next (Monday) morning either Dave or Darcy with myself will go to the DMV in La Crosse so the title can be transferred to me and thus license and register the vehicle before driving the car onto Green Bay. I will have to purchase insurance too. This all sounds like a lot of work and stress but I’m really enjoying having things organised for my stay in Green Bay. The elderly woman looking for a renter is called Yvonne, a retired widow with a spare room to rent in the suburb of Ashwaubenon-not too far from Lambeau. Coupled with the fact that the room is spacious in a clean house, available and cheap I offer to take the room there and then. Yvonne accepts and as I’m moving in Monday 9th September after arriving in Green Bay with the car I have purchased from Dave and Darcy in La Crosse, she asks for a month’s rent as deposit. There is an Associated Bank branch not far away so upon return with the cash I’m provided with a receipt from Yvonne and the room is mine-result-car and accommodation sorted-now all I need are tickets to all the games! It’s been a busy and long day so I head back to Brad and Sandy’s home up in Howard. Brad is back from work and he embraces me upon arrival - I’m so grateful to have so much love and affection - I’m like a younger brother to them, which means a lot to me. I have the evening to myself as Brad is having dinner with a client so I head to a local diner where my sever used to work for the Packers and proudly claims that he has held the Vince Lombardi trophy which is apparently heavy. After dinner I decide to stop by at Boehmers bar for a beer. I tell the bartender that I’m a teacher that has recently moved from Australia to Green Bay to follow the Packers and according to her most of the patrons tonight are teachers on a start of school year induction social. Next to me are a couple of women and I ask them if they are teachers and they say yes. For the next couple of hours I chat to four teachers from the Bay Port High School - Ryan (History) and Amber (Special Education), who are married and Amber is pregnant too. Then there are Aaron (Math) and James (Sociology). They are all really nice and I end up shouting Aaron and James a drink each. James is bit of a character and we get on particular well, no surprises there. We all share social media contacts and James and I share phone numbers - he is gonna speak to his principal to see whether I can come and speak to some of his classes and do some voluntary work, which I’m really interested in doing. I only have a couple of beers as I’m driving plus I don’t drink much anyway before saying goodbye and heading back. It’s been a busy but really good day of safe, easy and quick travel back to America, organising long term accommodation and transportation, catching up with old mates and making new ones.
Wednesday 28th August
Today is gonna be more chilled due to all my recent international travel. I’m up around half 7 and I startle Brad when I shout “Morning Bradley” as he’s heading off to work. After a bowl of granola cereal I’m passing the time through a variety of relaxing activities such as reading the news on my phone, listening to music, playing with Dickens (who I also startle through a rather loud sneeze) and packing my backpack for my next trip away coming up this weekend. As I’m purchasing Dave and Darcy’s car in La Crosse, I need to withdraw some money using my Australian debit cards and then put the money into my Associated Bank Account. The local branch is not far from the house - it’s within a supermarket from whereby I purchase some groceries. Once I have eaten lunch it’s time for a nap - I fall asleep for a couple of hours and when I wake up Brad is back in the house from work and comes to my room to tell me that Sandy needs picking up from Appleton airport - she couldn’t get a seat on the Detroit-Green Bay leg so has had to fly into Appleton instead, not far from Green Bay (38 miles/60km). I make myself a sandwich and then get ready to go and pick her up, with the journey taking around three quarters of an hour. It’s just not Sandy but also her colleague/friend Lara that I’m driving back to Green Bay. Our first stop is Green Bay airport as that’s where Lara’s car is parked. Then Sandy and I head to downtown Green Bay as the Farmers Market is in town, right on Broadway where Will’s bar is located. We decide to pop into Keggers, and as soon as we have stepped in behind us is Brad and a client of his visiting from Mexico. It’s a small PBR for me and one of Brad’s colleague, Jessica, turns up too. I tel them all about the teachers I met in the bar last night from Bay Port High School. Jessica says she knows someone’s husband that works there - turns out to be James! As Green Bay is such a small place I expect this to happen quite a bit over the next few months. Sandy and I finish our drinks then head for a quick walk around the farmers market before going for dinner. We choose an up-scale restaurant-I’m not feeling that hungry due to the mid-afternoon sandwich so a small plate is enough and it’s really good food. On our way back to the house we stop at a dive bar, a nice local place and Sandy and I have a nice chat after a number of different topics over some cheap drinks - a glass of Miller beer and vodka with soda water comes out to $4.75 - I tell the bartender (Missy) that those prices would be illegal back in Australia due to it being viewed as contributing to drinking and alcohol fueled violence. Sandy thinks it’s both equally amazing and crazy that for the ten days travelling I wasn’t staying with family that I spent nine of them Couchsurfing and only one using Airbnb - my last night in Winnipeg. I show her how the Couchsurfing app works and some of my reviews from both the Couchsurfing and Airbnb apps. We aIso chat about the opioid crisis in America. I tell her about a guy I camped with at the Electronic Daisy Carnival who become a heroine addict after the government made it difficult for doctors to prescribe opioids. It’s really sad and disgusting that medical professionals that people trust so dearly with their health were collaborating with the pharmaceutical industry to cause behaviour that would ruin people’s livelihoods like the guy I was camping with for the weekend. The worst thing I have ever witnessed is see my father die in front of me as a 9 year old child on Christmas Eve nearly 30 years ago and seeing a grown man break down in tears saying he is messed up and needing help whilst shooting up heroine in front of me in a tent at a music festival is the second terrible event I have visibly faced. As the second bar we wanted to stop by is closed, we head back to watch TV and have a drink. I really like Steve Harper, and Celebrity Family Feud doesn’t start long after we have settled on the sofa. The news at ten turns out to be pretty interesting - there is a Chick-fil-A opening up near Appleton and they are giving the first 100 customers free food for a year so people will be camping overnight for tomorrow morning’s grand opening. I message an article link to Will and he replies everybody is into something - I think it’s crazy what they are doing but those people as well as lots of other people probably think moving from Australia to Green Bay to follow the Packers and the Badgers is pretty crazy too. Will is definitely right - everybody is into something.
Thursday 29th August
It’s game day - the last of the Packers pre season - and for the entire NFL too. Next Thursday night I will be at Soldier Field for the opener to the NFL 2019 season so it’s exciting to say goodbye to the pre season and tomorrow morning I’m off to Tampa for the first Badgers game. So with the upcoming hectic travel schedule I plan to spend the morning relaxing. Sandy cooks up a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs with hash browns. Then I’m off to the Associated Bank to deposit some more money into my account so that I have enough to pay Dave and Darcy for the car I’m buying off them from La Crosse next weekend after the first Badgers home game in Madison. I help Brad and Sandy set up their “Lambulance” for the tailgate party - I love these guys - they bought an old ambulance and had it done in green and gold both inside and outside the vehicle. Due to Brad heading off back to work, Sandy drives myself and all the packed equipment, food and drinks to the parking lot next to the training ground the players practised on for open summer camp, a couple minutes walk from the stadium. As we are heading down the street, we pick up Macenzie, Sean’s girlfriend, a guy I met during the first pre season game at Lambeau against the Texans. Sandy, Macenzie and I start setting up and it’s not too long before Brad turns up to help us. Whilst I’m making the pop up chairs, two women come to check out the Lambulance. Cindy and Evelyn are from Milwaukee and it’s gonna be their first ever visit to Lambeau. They enjoy chatting to me and Cindy kindly reappears later with a Packers baseball cap - I thank her immensely for her kindness and generosity. Next to us, two young families for Racine join the Lambulance for pre game fun. Around 5pm, Rich Ryman and media assistant Sarah from the Green Bay Press Gazette arrive to film/take pictures of me as I tailgate for the next hour or so. The kids next to us are throwing a football so it’s a great opportunity for me to be shown how to throw a ball (properly) whilst Sarah takes a few shots. In return I show the boys how to pass the ball as if they were playing rugby, which they pick up quicker than my throwing the American way. Rich, Sarah and I leave the Lambulance tailgate area and head towards the stadium parking lot. The plan is to go up to random people, introduce myself, briefly chat about what’s going on, my move to Lambeau etc. I first chat to a local family then meet a group of young Germans traveling around America - both of whom think my move here solely to watch football is pretty crazy and awesome. Then I head towards some loud music and introduce myself to a guy organising a game called Shotski. Basically it’s a tray in the form of ski with four small cup holders. Two people are in the middle and one on each side who control this long ski type tray with everyone drinking together at the same time as the tray is going up. I’m introduced to a guy called Scott and for the first time with two other women we all do Shotski. Once I have done my Shotski, Sarah, Rich and I all agree that enough filming/photo shots have been done and we part ways. I head back to the Lambulance, where Brad introduces me to a German tour party currently visiting America. Carlos, the Mexican travel writer is there too and wishes me all the best for my travels over the next few months. I’m at my seat just as the Packers are entering on the field. Sitting next to me are the Brown family from Shawano. Mr Brown is also a high school teacher so we end up chatting about our respective education systems. Mrs Brown is a nurse and they have two young girls. Tonight there is no Aaron Rodgers so it’s difficult to determine the success of the pre season as he didn't feature in any of the games. Sean is kindly giving me a lift back again, this time with partner Macenzie and although the Packers win tonight and finish pre season 2-2 with both losses coming away, he argues that it doesn’t really mean much. Brad and Sandy are back at the house and we all have a drink in the Packers basement bar, before Sean and Macenzie head back home down the street and Brad and Sandy head upstairs to bed. Tomorrow is gonna be a really long, busy day.
Friday 30th August 1800KM 1200M
My alarm goes off at 4:25 and I quickly head upstairs for some light breakfast before hitting the shower. Sandy is up too, kindly dropping me off at the bus/coach station in downtown Green Bay. The coach arrives around 20 minutes late but I sleep the whole journey, waking up in Milwaukee. My good friend Ed Haydin, from Wauwatosa (neighbour of Jen Brown, a stewardess for American Airlines I met on the London-Chicago leg earlier this month) is catching up with me. We head for coffee (herbal tea for me of course) and I check in with him and his family. I met Ed on day two (Saturday) of ACL music festival (Austin City Limits) back in 2016 - I was wearing a Badgers jersey as Wisconsin were playing the University of Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbo. If I remember correctly we lost that day but I met some really nice people from Wisconsin including Ed and his wife Paige plus their good mates Andrew and his wife Debbie. For my last two annual visits to Wisconsin I have stayed with the Haydin family. Ed and Paige have two kids, an elder daughter called Maura who I have yet to meet, currently working in Washington and younger son Nick, who had a tough freshman (first year) at UW-Milwaukee. The family are a bit worried about him as he failed/dropped out from his freshman year of undergraduate studies. I have met him on both occasions during my visits to the Haydin family and I hope by taking a year out working in a local state park whilst also doing some evening courses at tech college that he can become more focused in both his studies and life. It’s so easy to lose focus and being less mature than women I think us men are more suspecting to such a situation occurring. I found it happened to me as a young (immature) man back in England in the early noughties, struggling with undergraduate studies/life, then a year of dead end office jobs and unemployment followed by postgraduate studies then another year of dead end office jobs and unemployment before beginning a long and successful career in high school teaching (and travel). I’m hoping to meet Nick soon so I can give him some advice and encouragement based on my own personal experiences. Next Friday, after the Packers-Bears game I was hoping to stay with Ed and Paige and go to the Brewers-Cubs game and then the next morning travel to Madison for the first home Badgers game but that won’t be possible as they are heading to Europe for a 20 day trip visiting both the Netherlands and Belgium. Instead I plan to get a bus from Chicago to Madison the Friday afternoon after the game and stay the weekend with my mate Brent, who doesn’t live far from Camp Randall stadium anf whom I met at Tomorrowland music festival in Belgium last month. After our catch up in downtown Milwaukee I’m kindly dropped off by Ed at the airport. I have booked as many flights as I could with my Qantas frequent flyer points on American Airlines but the majority of my paid flights booked for traveling around the States are with Southwest - they are cheap, checked baggage is free and I have never had any issues with them in the past. There are quite a few people wearing Badgers apparel/clothing as I’m boarding and my Instagram account is taken by a young couple, with Benjamin tagging me in a post saying that I’m a bigger Packers fan than girlfriend Jess’s mother - how very nice. Everyone that I’m chatting to thinks it’s crazy and awesome how I was at Lambeau field last night and now I’m heading to Tampa too for the first Badgers game. It’s a bit of a bumpy ride down to Tampa and my Couchsurfing host is a woman of Indian background too called Sanjal, with her apartment based two bus rides away from the airport. I’m a bit dubious about this host as she has some negative references plus I have been receiving many what’s app messages IN BLOCK CAPITAL LETTERS. My suspicions are confirmed when I arrive to a barrage of question and demands - she wants to come with me to the game having never previously been to an American football game. But the main thing is her deafness - I’m finding it hard to communicate with her thus it will be extremely difficult to pre game, attend the match and then see where the night takes me as she will be following me around just watching me interact with fans. On the plane I met Jason, Melanie and Ryan from Madison who I might be meeting up with and Sanjal is asking lots of questions as to where will “we” meeting them and starts packing a bag with items such a swimsuit in case we end up in a hotel pool party? This is far too overwhelming for me so I go onto a hotel booking app to arrange alternative accommodation. A short walk from the stadium there is a hotel duly called Stadium Hotel that has a Labor Day Weekend special for only $55 a night plus taxes. I type a message on my phone saying to Sanjal that I’m leaving as this situation is far too stressful for me. She wants a photo of me and her but I think this is weird, coupled with the fact that her apartment is a complete mess and she wanted me to sleep in the bedroom, as her usual bed is the couch? Typically it’s the other way round with Couchsurfing. I make a quick exit and call Sandy to explain this rather bizarre but also slightly amusing situation. I also message Will and he rings me worriedly thinking that I’m running away from my new Green Bay rental with Yvonne, but I assure him that this is not the case as I’m in Tampa. It’s a short bus ride and subsequently a short walk to the hotel, and the room I’m given is actually nice considering the low scores/poor reviews on the app. I quickly shower and change so I can get involved in some pre-game shenanigans. There are quite a few fans for the Badgers with most of them originally from Wisconsin but now living in the Tampa Bay region or the state of Florida. I buy a seat on the vivid seats in the Badgers supporters section for only $22.50 including all taxes and fees and post on Facebook a photo with me holding up a Wisconsin Badgers flag that Brad and Sandy have kindly lent me. I receive an interesting comment from a Facebook friend - Christel Rahl - I met her and husband Jeff, both originally from Madison, in a Packers supporters bar in Jacksonville last September when visiting my good mate Aaron Chegini during my annual America spring break/fall visit. They have made it to the game too and we catch up during half time. I also meet a group of student’s from UW-Madison that have made it to the game and they love my story - I look forward to catching up with Bryce and Austin and the other boys next weekend. Jason, Melanie and Ryan also happen to be in same area before I’m catching up with Christel and Jeff so we have a big boys group photo taken by Melanie. It’s a pretty good first half performance against the University of South Florida Bulls with the Badgers racing to a 28-0 scoreline. After the photo I meet up with Christel and Jeff and their good mate’s Mike and Debbie. I jokingly say that we should go to Hooters at third time as the game is becoming such a walkover for us and Jeff has his pick up truck so he drives us all there for wings and beers. It ends up being a good couple of hours with all of them asking me lots of questions about my background and travels, which I always enjoy answering. Stadium Hotel is not far from Hooters and not only do Jeff and Christel drop me off, they also generously do not accept any money for the food and drinks I have consumed. By the time I’m hitting the bed it’s around 12:30am and it’s been a long but really good day, despite having to run away from a Couchsurfing host for the very first time.
Saturday 31st August 1300 KM 800 M
I’m up around 8 and get myself organised to check out of the hotel. There are a couple of breakfast places a short walk away which is handy as it’s so bloody hot. The first place is too busy but the diner next door isn’t so I end up having eggs, hash brown and toast for a mere $4.99 plus taxes. Whilst eating I’m thinking of what I should do until my flight departs at 3:22. I’m gonna head to downtown on the bus - it’s only one change and I can spend a couple of hours sightseeing before getting the bus back to the airport. As it’s so hot I’m finding it a bit of a struggle but I get to do the riverwalk and take some nice pictures of the downtown area. Tampa isn’t too big and as it’s Labor Day weekend it’s pretty quiet. On the way back to the airport I stop in a suburban Chipotle Mexican Grill for lunch. I arrive at the airport in plenty of time-there are no decent direct flights so I have to fly up to Charlotte and back down to Pensacola. Both flights go smoothly on time but the second flight is pretty bumpy. Mr Mark Zinter is ready to pick to me up upon arrival into Pensacola in his brand new UTE (pick up truck). It’s a beast of a car, more like a tank, and he asks me to embrace him as soon as I enter the vehicle-it’s good to see him again. I met him and his wife Mrs Jennifer Zinter during TomorrowWorld music festival in Atlanta, Georgia 2015 - the last one before it got cancelled. We became good friends - they used to live in New York, where I visited them twice and last year in Navarre after they moved here due to Mark’s job in the military. The Zinter’s even made it to Australia a couple of years ago to visit me, becoming my first American mate’s to make it down under. It’s great to see Jen again and the two crazy but loveable family dogs - Claus and Eve - who have both been sick this evening so are little less energetic than usual. Jen’s friend, Dominique is visiting from New Orleans, and over a couple of drinks it’s nice to catch up with very everyone. Tomorrow we are heading out to Crab Island, so it’s an early night.