Tuesday 24th December 640 KM 400 M
I’m ready to leave Tom and Peggy’s by 8 as the Megabus coach service that I will be taking to Madison will be departing at 8:30. Tom kindly drops me off at the coach stop downtown with the coach already there. It’s looking pretty busy and after picking up more passengers in St Paul I find myself sitting next to a rather large gentlemen, consequently with not much space. The journey is spent with a combination of napping and listening to music. There is a lunch stop along the way with the driver having to go back to pick up a passenger that ignored the return time. Upon arrival in Madison my good mate Tristin picks me up and after a couple of places we find somewhere to have lunch. Tristin’s girlfriend Vanessa comes and joins us but sadly isn’t feeling well. But both Tristin and Vanessa are also going to the Rose Bowl so I will catch up with her more in California. Back at his house I say goodbye to Tristin thanking him for his amazing hospitality this year. I keep on thinking that every time is my last one in Madison but somehow I’m being drawn back to this great college town. The drive back to Green Bay is pretty easy due to there being hardly any traffic with a short stop in Oshkosh for petrol (gas). I return to the house with no one present as my host family are with their extended relatives exchanging Christmas presents. I work on my website for a while before their arrival. It’s great to see them again and everyone is excited for the big day tomorrow, especially young Jack. But I’m in trouble with Heather for commenting SKOL on social media during last night’s game. As a Packers fan living in Minneapolis for many years Heather despises the word and for the future I’m not to use it again no matter how nice of a Vikings fan that I meet! Dinner is last night’s leftovers with the rest of the evening spent working on my website and catching up with Heather and Nick whilst they build Jack’s Christmas present, a miniature train track. I do some reading before heading to bed.
Wednesday 25th December
I have a nice lie until around 10 before getting up for breakfast and then showered and changed. I was going to join my host family for a Christmas gathering at Nick’s uncle’s place but I’m feeling a bit under the weather from the past week of travels. Plus I don’t want anyone else to get sick and I’m not a big Christmas person. It turns out to be a nice few hours working on my website, which takes a while to complete the photos section for December due to a couple of technical issues. However I still enjoy the process and once my host family are back I spend the rest of Christmas Day with them, catching up on my travels and informing them of my upcoming trips and eventual plans to leave Green Bay. After dinner we all watch the original version of The Grinch before Nick takes Jack to sleep. Heather and I continue watching TV whilst chatting about a number of things. There is Christmas Day special NBA game between the Clippers and Lakers which turns out to be a really good game with the Clippers narrowly defeating Lebron James’s Lakers. Heather provides me with some medication for my cold before heading to bed and I’m not back in my room not much longer thereafter. I do some reading before heading to sleep.
Thursday 26th December
I wake up feeling worse than I did yesterday. I don’t want anyone in my host family getting sick, especially Heather with her recovery from chemotherapy treatment so I’m gonna quarantine myself in my room for the next day or two. I take a few DVDs from Nick’s collection in the basement to keep myself occupied. As I’m sick I don’t have much of an appetite but I know I should eat something so pop into Fresh Thyme supermarket in Ashwaubenon for some ready made soup, choosing the organic lentil soup in a 32oz container for both lunch and dinner today. I also do some toiletries shopping at the Dollar Tree and Walmart for my upcoming road trip. Back at the house I fall asleep early evening whilst watching an episode of Family Guy. Although I’m feeling sick I feel pretty well rested with all the sleep that I have been doing over the past couple of days so decide to watch American Beauty, a favourite film of mine. It’s an amazing social critical film with a dark comical twist on suburban life and the American dream. The move finishes around midnight and then I do some reading, completing the trilogy series of Conversations With God, a truly fascinating collection of books. I turn the lights off at 2 but it’s another hour or so before I fall asleep.
Friday 27th December 210 KM 130 M
It was a good call to have a complete day of rest yesterday as I wake up today feeling a lot better. I thought about staying in Green Bay for another night but I have the energy to drive down to Milwaukee to catch up and stay with my mate Dan and his fiancé Jenny. The morning is spent on laundry and packing, working on my website and running errands at the banks. I usually pay my rent to my host family at the end of the month and today there is a nice surprise for me as Heather and Nick return a third of the money so that I can use the money for a ticket for the Packers-Lions game. LEGENDS!! It turns out that my rent for the next month will be cheaper than the ticket to the Packers-Vikings game last Monday night in Minneapolis! Lunch consists of finishing off the organic lentil soup before saying goodbye to Nick and Heather. I have a haircut at Shear Sports and then I’m on my way to Franklin, just south of Milwaukee. Armin Van Buuren’s 2019 Year Mix of his weekly A State Of Trance (ASOT) provides a great soundtrack to the drive. The traffic isn’t too bad once I get into Milwaukee and I always enjoy driving through the city on interstate 43, which then leads onto interstate 94. Dan has become a really good supporter of my crazy football adventures so I couldn’t turn down an offer for dinner and drinks in Milwaukee with him and Jenny. The restaurant they take me to in downtown is called Carnervor, one of the top places to eat in town. I can’t believe how expensive the food is but ends of up being hands down one of the best meals of this trip. After dinner we visit a couple of bars before taking an Uber back to Dan and Jenny’s lovely home.
Saturday 28th December 400 KM 250 M
I don’t have much planned today except for traveling to Detroit with my mate Justin. He’s gonna pick me up from Dan and Jenny’s after he has finished work. The morning is spent relaxing and for brunch Dan takes me to a Mexican restaurant with his mate Luke. As Luke orders a number of different dishes it turns out to be a feast rather than a meal and whilst eating Like and I get to know each other better. He’s really interested and supportive of my story and tells me of his football adventures around the country, such as attending the 2010 Super Bowl. It is well know, particularly for Packers fans, that this was the season whereby the Vince Lobradi Trophy returned to TitleTown. And of course it made me a huge Packers fan. Luke paid $14000 for his ticket, the kinda money I certainly don’t have to spend, but I’m not thinking about Super Bowl until the Packers win the NFC Championship game. And that’s if they get there. Back at the house, Dan and I watch college football. The LSU Tigers-Oklahoma Sooners game is bit of an anti-climax with Joe Burrow throwing 7 first half touchdowns. He’s definitely looking like the number one draft pick choice thus likely heading to the Cincinnati Bengals. During the half time break I show Dan a couple of YouTube videos of past Australian football and cricket matches, explaining the rules of each sport. Dan also tells me more about his home entertainment business, showing me completed client projects on his own giant plasma screen TV. Now I thought Justin would be picking me up around 5 with an estimated arrival time into Detroit of around midnight with the time zone change but he’s really busy at work and it’s looking a lot later. Justin manages a cinema theatre and a combination of the holiday season, the new Star Wars film (movie) and an absent manager has meant a extremely busy (late) day. I make alternative travel plans and once Justin calls me during a break I inform him that splitting up the journey in a small town in Michigan called Kalamazoo would be a good idea. There is a cheap motel off route 94 that we can stay in for the night before continuing onto Detroit in the morning. There won’t be much time for tailgating, although with me being sick this won’t necessarily be a bad thing. Dan and Jenny have no plans for tonight and after informing them of the current travel situation they kindly invite me for dinner, as well as somewhere to stay until Justin picks me up. It’s a weird but wonderful combination of leftover Mexican from earlier, a hearty wintery soup, amazing sea bass fish and delicious brussel sprouts. Jenny is a great cook and for desert I’m provided with a tasty tiramisu, baked by Dan and Jenny’s neighbour Jamie. The second college game today is for the national championship finale. Ohio State Buckeyes or Clemson Tigers will face LSU Tigers and I have mixed feelings about whom it should be. It would be good for a Big Ten team to have a shot at the national title but the Buckeyes beat us twice this season. Justin arrives during the third quarter with Clemson having taken a narrow lead. We have his mate Brad joining us, whom I met during the Packers-49ers tailgate last month. During the first part of the journey we are following the score with the Buckeyes taking a narrow lead but then Clemson scoring in the final couple of minutes of the game to secure a championship showdown with LSU next weekend. Eventually we get to the Kalamazoo East Red Roof Inn close to 3am. What a crazy adventure! We made it and tomorrow it’s only a short two hour drive onto Detroit.
Sunday 29th December 200 KM 125 M
It’s Packers game day and the last game of the 2019 calendar year. I arrived in Wisconsin on 7th August and since then I have attended 32 football games. The 33rd is important as a Packers win today in Detroit guarantees a second round seed so a first round playoffs bye plus maybe even a first round seed dependent upon the Seahawks defeating the 49ers in the regular season’s final Sunday night prime time game. Once we are all showered and changed into our day game clothing we check out and pop into the Denny’s diner just across from the motel for a simple, hearty breakfast that should last us a while. The drive into Detroit is non eventful with no major traffic and Justin takes us to a free parking spot not too far from Ford Field. I purchase a ticket off Stubhub as soon as we arrive into Detroit, but the boys fancy scalping for a better deal, which I would have probably done if I had been feeling better. It’s not too cold today but I still don’t want to be out and about trying to find a deal. As it turns out the price of the seats don’t drop much at all, even during the course of the game. My seat is in section 244 and I’m pretty happy with my purchase. There are only a few empty seats around me as the stadium gradually fills. Ford Field is a nice, enclosed stadium but unlike U.S. Bank it’s a lot quieter. Maybe if the NFC was on the line combined with the Lions having a better season it might be louder. The Packers start sluggish going into the second half 17-3 down courtesy of back up Lions quarterback David Blough scoring a touchdown after a trick play with wide receiver Danny Amendola and Kerryon Johnson with a 1-yard touchdown run. Similarly to the Vikings game last Monday night, the Packers offense scores two touchdowns in each quarter in the second half with Rodgers improving from a first half of 90 yards and 6 of 18 completed passes to 233 yards and 21 of 37 second half passes. By the start of the third quarter I have moved down to section 128, where Justin and Brad are seated to witness the final breathtaking moments of the game. Rodgers leads Green Bay on an eight-play, 68-yard drive in the final one minute, 27 seconds of the fourth quarter to set up a game-winning 33-yard field goal from Mason Crosby as the clock is ticking down. As soon as the ball goes through the posts all Packers fans around us are hugging each other. They are great scenes that I will cherish for a long time. We stay in the stadium for a bit after the game to take photos, starting with the group of guys standing directly behind us. A couple sitting a couple of rows further behind us are from Townsville, Queensland, Australia and it’s great to share my story with them. I take a photo of them with my flag, which is quite popular as another Packers fan takes one with it too. We walk back to the car with Justin driving us to a bar in the suburbs where we meet some of his extended family. Us boys are pretty hungry as we haven’t eaten since breakfast so order quite a bit of food with only a small amount of leftovers. The fish and chips that I order is really good, in fact even better (and cheaper) than some of the Friday fish-fry’s I have had back Wisconsin. After I have eaten I go back to Justin’s car to get out my laptop, booking flights for the next couple of weeks. As the Packers now have a first round bye I can attend my mate Amanda’s wedding in Miami on Friday after the Rose Bowl then hop on a Megabus to Orlando to stay and catch up with my good mate Aaron at his dad’s place in Orlando on Saturday. The following day (Sunday) we will drive up to Aaron’s place in Jacksonville and I will fly to Boston next Monday lunchtime to spend time with my buddy Tim from back in Perth. After a few days in Boston I will travel back to the mid-west, flying into O’Hare and then catching a bus up to Milwaukee to pick up my car at Dan and Jenny’s place. I love my travels! For accomodation tonight we will be staying at a hotel near the airport as it’s cheap and also convenient for tomorrow’s flight to LAX. On the way to the hotel we watch the start of the Seahawks-49ers game and after checking into the hotel I’m straight to bed. My situation hasn’t improved and I end up falling asleep during the game. In fact I wake up in the final moments of the game with the Seahawks justing fall short of a touchdown that would have sealed the win. It would have been great if the Packers could have got the number one seed but maybe the Seahawks can win their wildcard game, defeat the 49ers in San Francisco in their divisional round and then head to Lambeau for a NFC Championship game. That would be a pretty amazing scenario with the Packers having to defeat the likely visitors to Lambeau in the other divisional round being the New Orleans Saints. As soon as the game is over I’m back to sleep.
Monday 30th December 3200 KM 2000 M
I’m up around half past nine and this damn man cold isn’t going away any time soon. The hotel provides free buffet breakfast so I load up on eggs and bagels before heading to the airport. After eating I get showered, ready and packed and then say goodbye to Justin and Brad who are just getting up. The next time I see these boys will probably be at tailgate lot 1 for the NFC divisional round game next Sunday at Lambeau. After a short shuttle ride to the airport I immediately go straight to the Delta customer service desk to try and get on an earlier flight. Luckily standby is available, at a price of $75, which isn’t too bad considering it saves me several hours of hanging around at the airport. Once I’m through security I walk straight to the gate noticing a couple of Ducks fans plus several people wearing Badgers clothing. I’m too run down to strike a conversation with anyone. In fact I missed my post game Monday morning call in on WHBY’s Fresh Take Show. It’s a bit of a nervous wait as I’m number four on the standby list but thankfully my name gets called out. As I’m on standby I don’t get a choice of seat, having to take a downgrade from a window to middle row seat. Most of the four and a half hour journey is spent either sleeping or sneezing and I feel sorry for the passengers seated either side of me. Hopefully they don’t start 2020 getting sick like I did at the end of this year. I arrive into LAX with warmth and sunshine, weather most certainly needed after the past month or so. There is a airport coach that takes passengers to the downtown Union Station from where I catch a local bus to my Airbnb accomodation. The suburb of Alhambra is prominently Asian, as is my host Claire, a dog groomer amongst other various jobs. She moved to California from Taiwan a couple of decades ago. It’s interesting that she finds the pace of life slower here whereas for me America is a lot quicker than back in Australia. I’m not feeling up to much so the rest of the late afternoon is spent working on my website. For food I don’t have much of an appetite so I order some takeout for the evening. I listen to some music whilst proof checking my website, correcting minor mistakes. I’m starting to feel tired with the time zone change but I force myself to stay up as I don’t want to wake up too early tomorrow morning. The latest edition of the UK and Irish Packers podcast is good with Stephen and Ryan looking back at not only the last game in Detroit, but the season overall and playoffs next month. Ryan astutely points out that Rodgers isn’t the same player that he was when the Packers last won the Super Bowl but is still good enough to win it again, if he can put together a complete whole game plan. Like most Packers fans and commentators, I feel that our offense has struggled for most of the season to put teams away bar a couple of exceptions such as the Raiders and Cowboys games with many games within a one scoring margin of victory. Once the podcast is over I’m off to sleep.
Tuesday 31st December
It’s New Years Eve with nothing planned for tonight. It’s due to a combination of being sick and a big day tomorrow with the Rose Bowl Parade followed by the game between the Badgers and Oregon Ducks. I’m up early to have a live call in on the Fresh Take Show on WHBY back in Appleton. However the host is a guy called Dan Flannery as Josh is currently off work. It’s good talking to him about my journey this year plus focusing on the last Packers game in Detroit and tomorrow’s game here in California. Afterwards I’m back to sleep to catch up on some rest. For brunch I decide to visit a taco truck whereby they have a Tuesday special of 99 cents fish tacos. I order five not expecting much but what a lovely surprise. They are so good and I wash them down with a nice cup of hot herbal Chinese tea, kindly supplied by my Airbnb host Claire. As I’m still not feeling well the rest of the day is a lazy day spent looking at various safaris in Africa for my trip probably later next month and working on my website. Also I book my accommodation for my stay in Boston and a hire (rental) car to go exploring for a night. I’m gonna be picking and dropping off from Boston airport which helps to secure a really good deal. My Airbnb is a twin share room as my mate Ricky is gonna be joining me. Tomorrow we will be going to the parade followed by the game together. I met him in the student section at the Badgers-Kent State game at Camp Randall back in October. Ricky had read my story online and consequently was stoked to meet me. I also managed to bump into him at the Badgers-Gophers game in Minneapolis last month too. Upon arrival into LAX, I advise Ricky to catch the layaway bus to Union Station from where he needs to catch the 76 local bus to Alhambra. Ricky does the first part well but rather than take a local bus he decides to order an Uber straight to the Airbnb. As a young 21 year old traveler Ricky isn’t that confident but no worries as not everyone is a travel savvy as me! We spend the first hour of so catching up and finalising our plans for tomorrow. For lunch we pop into a local Vietnamese restaurant. I’m the only eating though as Ricky had a sandwich at the airport plus he doesn’t like spicy food and is also saving himself for an In-N-Out burger later. The pho that I order is delicious and cheap. You know when an eatery is good when most of the clientele are of the origin of the cuisine of the restaurant. Back at the house I chill out whilst Ricky gets ready to head out for New Years Eve. I spend the evening downloading music whilst listening to some music and both sending and responding to New Years messages. I’m back at the Vietnamese restaurant to order a takeout of baguettes. They have a good special on 3 for 2 sandwiches with one for tonight and the other two for Ricky and I tomorrow morning for breakfast before we head to the parade. Vietnamese baguettes are really good as the Vietnamese people were taught how to bake by the French during the French colonial rule of Vietnam. It’s a reason why many bakeries back in Australia are Vietnamese owned and operated. The baguette that I eat back at the house washed down with a cup of herbal tea is as good as I have ever had either in Australia or Vietnam. I’m in bed just before 10 as I will be up early tomorrow for a very big and long day.