Monday 9th September 320 KM 200 M
My alarm goes off at 6:55, so I can say goodbye to Darcy and Van who usually leave home at 7. Dave would be leaving around this time too but will be heading with me to the DMV so that I can transfer and license the car to myself and in the process receiving new number plates which Dave will then put on the car. Dave is watching the news and luckily I need to get ready. It’s so negative and I don’t think I will be watching much TV-apart from Family Feud, due to Steve Harvey being a legend. By the time we have left the suburbs and arrived at the DMV in La Crosse, there is already a bit of a queue (line) but thankfully it doesn’t take long for the paperwork to be organised, with the assistant doing a really good job. Dave is also pretty quick to put on the plates and I’m so excited - I legally own my first car in America. It’s not the flashiest or newest vehicle but should (hopefully) be good for getting me around the mid-West of America for the next few months. Dave and I then head to the Associated Bank branch just across the road so I can process a cheque as payment for the car-money which will be used to help pay for Maggie’s college tuition, which is so expensive in this country. As we say goodbye I embrace him and thank him for the car - and the price - and he reminds me we will be seeing each other on Sunday as they will be heading to Green Bay for the Vikings game as well as to catch up with Maggie. Before I head to Green Bay I need to do three things: breakfast, car insurance and car (phone) accessories. First I head to a diner for breakfast, where I manage to start organising insurance. Secondly I make the two minute drive from the diner to Target to purchase the accessories so I can charge my phone in the car whilst at the same time listening to music. As I’m heading to pay for my items I receive a phone call with the price for insurance. I can’t believe how expensive it is. I thought it was only health insurance that is costly in America but clearly I am wrong. I don’t have time to shop around so I just purchase the cheapest cover. When I’m back in the car it doesn’t take long to get my phone charged and connected. I listen to Soundcloud weekly podcasts quite a lot, continuing with Armin Van Buuren’s show from Amsterdam, Holland called ASOT, A State Of Trance. As I’m heading to Green Bay I first take interstate 90 east before taking a number of country roads. Although they are slower I enjoy them due to the nice farmland views, reminding of trips around Punjab, India. As I’m driving a notice a funny noise coming from the vehicle. I’m worried that the car is already breaking down! I pull over at a service station and luckily it’s some tangled blue mettle wire that somehow got stuck underneath. Phew. It’s pretty easy to get it off without any damage taking place and once after filing up the car with petrol (gas) it’s all plain sailing again. After the country roads it back on another interstate (10) to take me Appleton, then interstate 41 for the final stretch up to Green Bay. I’m going to be renting a room in a shared house in Ashwaubenon from Yvonne, a retired old widow, who keeps two renters to pay for her property taxes and maintenance costs as she is on a social security income. It’s great that I’m finally getting my own accommodation. Brad and Sandy are so awesome for letting me stay in “Jaz’s room”. If I hadn’t got a place organised they probably would have let me stay even longer as they are really nice and generous but thankfully a good person answered Will’s Facebook post where he was asking people if anyone knew of a place for a renter. It doesn’t take long to empty my small rucksack that I have been using for my travels and then I’m off for lunch as it’s mid afternoon and I haven’t had anything to eat since breakfast. Whilst Will and I were organising a phone and opening a bank account last month, we ended up at Chilli John’s for lunch. It was hearty, delicious and of course cheap so I decide to pop in again and it’s the same server again. Karen is pleased to see me and I fill her in with my travel stories. She is a kind and genuine person taking an active interest which just lifts me from my tired mood after so much travelling. As I’m handed the cheque I’m given a discount card to use next time and combined with her really good service I generously tip her, resulting in a brownie been handed to me for desert. Considering the portion size and the fact that I’m gonna start a health kick I’m not gonna be eating it any time soon but what a lovely gesture. Karen is an unsung hero, helping out in her local community, ignoring all the political and media nonsense. I then head off to Howard to pick up my rucksack and suitcase from Brad and Sandy’s, who are both working away, but luckily their neighbour and friend Mackenzie is house sitting and is off work today. I get back to the house and end up falling asleep on the bed as I’m so tired. After waking up I unpack all my things, so that after nearly 9 months of travel I’m finally in longer term accommodation. It’s an evening of watching YouTube and listening to music. I’m starting to feel settled but looking forward to lots of rest this week.
Tuesday 10th September
It’s my first day in Green Bay in my new place and with my new car. I end up sleeping in and despite the long rest I’m still tired due to all the travel that I have undertaken in the past month or so. My first task is to buy groceries. The nearest supermarket is Aldi, which also exists in both Australia and England. After some cereal, toast and fruit I’m enjoying listening to music and watching YouTube in my room. I particular enjoy watching old English comedy such as Rock Profiles and The Day Today, plus darker comedy such as The League of Gentlemen and Brasseye. Once lunch is over I’m off to an Indian grocery story in De Pere, not too far away. I really enjoying cooking Indian food and Astha Grocery and Gifts is well stocked with all the traditional delicacies. In the end I spend quite a bit of money on much needed supplies. After I get back I start cooking and Yvonne isn’t too keen on me cooking curry in her house. She also isn’t happy that I’m not working. I did tell her when I came to see the place that I’m going to be following the Packers. She thought I was working for the Packers. The confusion took place due to her age (hearing) and my accent. I’m a pretty easy going guy but also sensitive. I don’t like living or even being around negative people that criticise my lifestyle. Lots of relationships with friends and colleagues were ended back in Australia and even old high school friends from England because I wasn’t respected plus personally attacked for being who I am, which at the end of the day is just not cricket. Upon washing and cleaning up, I head back to my room to start my blog/website and then bedtime reading before I head to sleep.
Wednesday 11th September
Today is a sad day for this country - it’s the 18th year commemoration of the 9/11 terrorists attacks that took place in America. I will never forget where I was when I first heard the news - it was a branch of a travel agent back when I was living in England-booking insurance for my first ever solo vacation-a short break in Spain. Since then I have traveled around 60 odd countries, letting no extremists/terrorists hinder me from pursuing my dreams. Later that evening the newscaster finished the program with the comment “I don’t think we will ever forget the images from today”, which was sadly true and it seems unbelievable that such an awful event happened. It’s another nice long lie in and after breakfast I’m doing more reading. Lunch as well as dinner are leftovers from last night’s curry. During the afternoon I end up falling asleep. Once I’m awake I don’t have long to get ready as I have booked a yoga class. On the MindBody App, their is a special introductory offer for a studio in De Pere, right near the Indian grocery store - $20 for 20 days unlimited classes. My first class is a beginners vinyasa flow, which after so much time off is tough for me. But I’m glad I’m gonna start going getting back into it-I used to go regularly at my studio back in Perth, where I practised with Australian/Western Australian cricketers Cameron Bancroft and Mitchell Marsh. I wonder if I will get the opportunity to practice with any players from the Packers - that would be really cool if it does happen. So on Twitter I have had a number of media personalities reach out to me for interviews, one of them being Matt Ramage, who has asked me to appear on his weekly podcast “Ramblin’ Matt Ramage”. We schedule a phone interview this afternoon. It goes really well but the reception at the house isn’t that great so on the Soundcloud upload there is a bit of interference and distortion. It’s a nice experience overall with Matt asking lots of good questions overall, my personal favourite being if I’m able to stay for a Packers Super Bowl. I reply that I would be able to take some extra time off from work for such an unreal situation, but any form of playoffs involvement for this young team and coach would be really good. Based on the last couple of years a winning season should be the Packers number one priority. At the end of the interview I thank Matt for contacting me and that I would love to catch up with him again towards the end of the season. Will is gonna be at the bar tonight, with a number of bands playing in the Lyric Room. There’s been a bit of friction in the house with Yvonne not happy with my cooking and me not being in actual full time employment so after getting ready I take a seat on the couch and let her know that I’m happy to leave if she wants me to. I tell her I’m a sensitive guy and I’m not happy because she isn’t happy. She says she doesn’t want me to leave and she doesn’t understand how I’m not working. I take some time to explain the deferred salary scheme I’m on and by the end of the conversation we have reached some common ground. I actually tweeted earlier that I was in need of somewhere to stay but deleted it after a minute. I also messaged a teacher I met in a bar a couple of weeks ago who said he knew of a place but I replied back saying that things had kinda been cleared up. I leave the house for the bar in a lot better mood, meeting up Will and joking about how Yvonne will get used to me. It turns out one of the bands playing tonight are from Melbourne, Australia. I have a quick chat to a couple of the 5 member “Clowns Band”, who are touring America for 6 weeks. Last night they played in Omaha, Nebraska and tomorrow they are in Milwaukee. I really enjoy their set, with the lead singer crowd surfing and the whole band full of energy and passion. During their set, I start chatting to an Australian guy (Jeff) from Brisbane who moved to America 14 years ago. He lives in Wisconsin, and is in Green Bay for work but decided to have a (big) night out. I’m kindly donated a beer (PBR) but decide on only one beer as I’m driving. Jeff wants me to leave my car in the parking lot and says I must have at least 5 girlfriends, one of whom can pick me up! I’m being sensible Jaz, like I have been over the past couple of years and not going back into crazy Jaz mood like I was last week. I’m back in the house around midnight.
Thursday 12th September
I’m awoken by my alarm at 9am as I have a yoga class at 9:45. It’s a different style of yoga that I’m used to - kundalini - I did my first ever session in San Pedro De Atacama, Chile back in March in Spanish. The instructor Kris provides a good experience then it’s back to the house to cook some curry. Today it’s aloo gobi dahi, which translates to potato cauliflower curry with yogurt. As I do back in Perth, I make a large family sized portion so I can put it in large plastic containers and heat up as necessary. Yvonne isn’t still too keen that I’m cooking curry in her kitchen due to the smell haha. She is a nice woman but just really set in her ways and not used to my personality and lifestyle. After lunch it’s more reading, music and nap time before I get ready to head to meet Heather Heezan and her family. Heather recently became diagnosed with cancer (leukaemia) and sadly cannot go due to her illness and thus has kindly donated her ticket to me. It’s great to meet her and husband Nick and young two and a half year old son Jack in their lovely home, also in the suburb of Ashwaubanon. They have a great spirit and attitude, refusing to see themselves in a sad or difficult situation. Although Heather has stopped going into her corporate office job, she is continuing to work from home. I kindly donate a rugby league scarf from Australia, my NRL (National Rugby League) team is the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs and also a British and Irish Lions rugby union jersey from the 2005 tour of New Zealand, which is gratefully accepted. Nick and Heather first met whilst at the University of Wisconsin Eau Clair, but then went their separate ways with Nick continuing his studies to become a medical physician whereas Heather left Wisconsin for France, marrying a Frenchman in the process (poor woman no wonder she divorced him), but after 14 years apart they ended up marrying and starting a family. I end up staying for dinner and afterwards Nick and I watch the first episode of the third series of GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling). I really enjoy the show for the 80s themed style, music, storylines, acting and wresting - not at all due to the attractive female actors such as Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin. Heather ends up falling asleep with Jack whilst putting him to bed, so I thank Nick as I leave for the evening and we will be seeing each other on Sunday as I’m going to the game with him and one of Heather’s mates, who is from Minneapolis, but luckily a Packers fan too due to Heather and her family ties back in Wisconsin. I message Will to find out where he is and meet him in a nearby Asian restaurant called the Egg Roll. That man eats out so much, a lot of it not being that healthy but he runs a bar and combined with various other business ventures finds it difficult to cook and prepare food. Oh plus he is married with three baby kids too. We catch up for a bit and then I head back to the house for some more reading and music before heading to bed.
Friday 13th September
As soon as I am awake I quickly switch on my phone to check the semi-final playoff score for my Australian Rules football team - the West Coast Eagles. Disappointingly we won’t be repeating last year’s amazing Grand Final (equivalent of the American Football Super Bowl) result (which I watched in Fort Worth Texas the night before I flew to Wisconsin for my annual trip to Lambeau) as we lost in the playoffs to the Geelong Cats. It wasn’t a great build up to the game with one of our key players being caught red handed trying to cheat a drugs (urine) test, thus immediately banned and looking like he will face around a four year suspension. Then it’s onto watching some cricket - it’s the fifth and final Ashes test match between England and Australia at the Oval cricket field in London. Although the Ashes have been retained by Australia, it’s an important match because Australia have not won a series since 2001 so England have not been defeated by Australia at home for 18 years. Consequently both teams have so much to play for. England have seized the initiative by gaining a sizeable first innings lead by bowling Australia out cheaply, particularly as star batsman Steve Smith only makes a mere 80 runs, unbelievably his lowest score of the entire series. I have to leave the cricket just before noon to attend a Yin yoga class at Jenstar Yoga studio in De Pere then head back to the house for yesterday’s left over curry. I spend the afternoon working on my new website whilst listening to Annie Mac, then Pete Tong and finishing with Danny Howard on BBC Radio 1. Like life itself, it’s equally a frustrating and enjoyable experience, particular as I’m not the most technically savvy person. I actually end up calling Wix technical support and thanks to Ivan (based in Guatemala) by around 8pm my website is finally up and running. It’s a pretty simply site with only the photos and videos section remaining to be completed. I reckon this will take a few days to undertake. I’m pretty hungry now and one of the messages that I received since my article was published was from a local Green Bay resident recommending a visit to the Redwood Inn for a Friday Fish Fry. Upon arrival I take a seat at the bar and start chatting to Alisa and Trevor, a couple from Pulaski, not far from where Will is based in Sobieski. I visited Pulaski a few years ago just to have a look around and pick up some doughnuts from the really good bakery based there as I was traveling from Will’s home to catch up and stay with my good mate’s Ethan and Megan, who were at the time living in Wausau. A couple of the ladies working at the bar recognise me and start asking a few questions. The owner’s son, an 8th grader, comes over to talk about rugby and my travels so far around America. As the owner is on the Packers Hall of Fame Board, the entire restaurant and bar is decorated in Packers memorabilia with my personal favourite being Brett Favre’s last game day jersey, signed by the great man himself. My order of a single portion of perch with baked potatoes is huge, and luckily by the time the food arrives I haven’t eaten for several hours. I really enjoy the meal with the only thing remaining at the end being some coleslaw! I message Will during a mid meal break to see if he is in the bar, and once he realises where I am he is pretty quick to order a carry out of single perch with fries. Judy, one of the bar staff gets the owner John and his mother Patsie to meet and greet me and come and take a photo with me. Combined with photo requests from some Friday night regulars and one of the bar staff I am starting to feel like a celebrity lol. Once I’m at Keggers, Will gratefully starts enjoying his dinner whilst I drink a bottle of Spotted Cow. I’m not there for long before heading back to the house.
Saturday 14th September
I’m up around 9 and head straight to Jenstar Yoga for a Saturday morning heated vinyasa flow class - I have slowly built myself up for this type of class - I think it’s the toughest due to the heat - you really sweat it out. I actually find it not too difficult, easily getting back into my practice. Once I’m back at the house I make breakfast then spend the whole afternoon working on my website. It’s nicely coming along and today it’s a case of uploading photos with a short caption on the Photos section - the last remaining page that needs to be updated, which will take some time, but it’s a project I’m enjoying. There is a country music show in the Lambeau parking lot and I’m meeting up with a guy called Sam and his family, who have traveled from Dallas, Texas to Green Bay for the first home game tomorrow. Sam reached out to me on Instagram, also kindly offering a place for me his spare room to stay for the Packers-Cowboys game next month - yet another generous offer. Sam is married to Zoe and they have two daughters. Zoe was like myself also born in England and her heritage is Caribbean. It’s nice to meet them all and share stories about my travels and background. During our chat the University of Minnesota Gophers game against GA Southern turns into a good finish with the Gophers winning in the final seconds of the game. We then head to Titletown with the kids, especially as the youngest daughter wants to spend time in the playground. Whilst I’m there I meet Adam who sent me a message on Instagram around a week ago, inviting me to a party during the Packers-Panthers weekend in November. A group of Japanese Packers fans are coming back to Green Bay. One of Adam’s mate’s was in a bar in Japan and there were people inside wearing Packers jerseys. Despite the language barriers, friendships were formed and the Japanese Packer fans made the long journey to Lambeau. It was a crazy weekend as Japan is even more of a work hard, play hard culture as compared to America. They are coming back for more (something which I can relate to) and it will be good to meet them and hopefully somehow I can tell them my Packers story and also my travels around Japan several years ago. We try and go for dinner at Hinterland but due to the concert and first home game we are told it’s around an hour and a half wait for a table. We all agree on curry and the Taste of India is not too far. During my dinner with the Heezan family last Thursday night, I was told they are neighbours with the owners. It also turns out that they are from Punjab so I enjoy talking in our local language (Punjabi). Overall the food is good, apart from one dish (masala) that is slightly westernised but the food, particularly the breads are authentic. Sam and Zoe refuse any offer of payment from me for the food, kindly taking the whole cheque. After dinner I order a Lyft to drop the girls at the hotel the family are staying at, whereas Sam and I head to Keggers so I can introduce him to Will and over a drink tell him about the place that changed my life. Sam gets an Uber back to the hotel and I stay for a couple more beers before retiring just after 11. Tomorrow is going to be a big day.
Sunday 15th September
It’s game day, the first home game for the Packers of the 100th NFL season and the visitors to Lambeau will be our fierce rivals the Minnesota Vikings. When the schedule came out and saw Bears at Soldier Field and Vikings at Lambeau were to be the first two games I was slightly worried, thinking that we could be 0-2. Maybe it’s the thought of losing to the Vikings the reason why I don’t sleep well the previous night, despite usually being a good sleeper. I’m up around 6 and find it difficult to switch off about today’s game. I’m out of bed just after 8, making breakfast and then getting ready for the game. Nick is picking me up just before 9 with one of Heather’s college mates coming in from Minneapolis. I was told that Shannon would be wearing Packers apparel but turns out she is a Vikings fan, wearing a purple t-shirt, but despite this she is a nice person and has offered me a place to stay with her and family for the Badgers-Gophers game at the end of November. Nick parks at his grandmas house then we head to our first tailgate. We are meeting up with “The Fromigos” as Brad invited me through Facebook to their game day party. They are a great bunch of people but upon arrival it turns out I’m around four hours late as they started partying just after 5am. I’m now a lifelong member but it’s a bit too much for me to tailgate that early. It’s another great invitation and I’m gonna stop by and say hi for every home game. For the night games they still start in the mornings, 12 hours before the game starts, something which I definitely couldn’t handle. After “The Fromigos” tailgate we all head to Brad and Sandy’s Lambulance where I’m also able to catch up with Bob, Wendy and Roxanne who I first met nearly 5 years ago at my initial home game. It’s nice seeing them every year and this year we will be catching up far more often - Wendy and Roxanne will also be in LA for the Chargers game in November. Dave and Darcy are also there with Maggie, who I haven’t caught up with for a couple of years plus Sean and Mackenzie. Everyone is feeling a bit delicate today due to the big wine tasting session yesterday. The tundra line actually show up in the parking lot providing us with some short entertainment before heading onto another area. Nick, Shannon and I have a couple of drinks and line our stomachs with food before heading to our final tailgate with Scott Schwartz and the rest of the Lot 1 crew. Scott also comments that I’m late! We end up doing some Shotski’s again before heading into the stadium. It’s so much fun! By the time we get to our seats it’s not long until the national anthem with Lambeau filling up nicely. The atmosphere is as always electric. I’m slightly nervous when play gets away but the Packers score touchdowns on their first three possessions, racing to a 21-0 lead. However after that the Packers struggle with the Vikings cutting open the defense twice with two touchdowns in a 16 point comeback. It’s a tense finish with the Packers holding onto a good, tough win against another NFC north opponent. We all have a really good time and upon the game finishing, Nick has to drop Shannon off at the airport for her return flight to Minneapolis. I head back into the car park to catch up with Scott and have some more drinks. I bump into a couple of people who recently started following me on Facebook and end up having photos taken with them. A couple of fans from both sides have interesting costumes, one being the green and gold Darth Vader as well as a Vikings jester. I thought the pre-game and during game were fun times and it turns out post-game is just as good today. I end up in a dive bar in Howard called Symba’s where I make some new friends over dinner and drinks before taking an Uber back home. It’s been such a good day.