Thursday 16th January
I’m up just after 6 to head ice fishing. Will is picking me up from a gas station in Seymour, a 20 minute drive west of Green Bay. After buying some food and fishing supplies he drives us to Shiocton, another 20 minute drive out west. We are joined by some of his mates, including Monte, who does a Packers podcast every week. I gladly accept an invitation for an interview to his home up in Suamico tomorrow morning. Now the weather today is cold, -5 Fahrenheit with wind chills which is about -20 Celsius. It’s so cold even with the extra layer of clothing I borrowed from Nick this morning so I don’t venture out much from the shack which is heated by a gas propane heater. Instead of using sonar technology into drilled holes in the shack we set up flags for the fish to catch. But as it’s so cold we don’t get many fish taking the bait, and if they do bite they quickly make an exit. In fact we only catch a couple of fish despite having several flags raised due to fish biting on the bait. Despite the disappointment compared with last Saturday’s ice fishing it’s been a fun morning chatting about football and sharing my adventures over the past few months with both Will and Monte. For lunch we pop into a tavern in Shiocton for some bar food and after eating Will drops me off back at the gas station in Seymour. I can’t believe it’s been 7 years since I visited Green Bay, walked into Will’s bar Keggers and went ice fishing the next morning, starting not only a close friendship but also a fascination with both Green Bay and Wisconsin. Once back at the house I have a nap and afterwards finish off packing. Tonight I have asked for a few of my new Green Bay mates to come and join me at Lorelei Inn for leaving drinks. I spend the evening with Scott, Jon and Colleen from lot 1 tailgate, James and Katie from Bay Port and Katie’s boyfriend Taylor reminiscing about my adventures this season whilst also hearing stories about tailgating in the past. Owner and bartender Dave is multi tasking by spinning vinyl and serving drinks for us. I’m gonna miss them all and we get to have a group photo with my Packers flag before I say goodbye to everyone. Once back at the house I’m off to sleep.
Friday 17th January 400 KM 250 M
I have a nice lie in and then head to the Pancake Place to catch up with my good mate Sandy for brunch. As per usual the portion sizes are huge with plenty of leftovers. I then drive up to Suamico for a podcast with Monte and his Belarusian mate Yura in Monte’s house. They have a really good professional set up and it feels like being in a radio station rather than a room in someone’s home. The interview goes for just under an hour with it being one of the best I have ever done. One of the issues I have found with call in and telephone interviews is the quality of sound, which can sometimes be not that great so being in studio with really good equipment makes it so much easier. Plus with body language the interviews flow better with less distortion. As per many interviews I discuss my personal background, becoming a Packers fan, initial visit to Wisconsin, first game, planning this crazy adventure, best and worst Packers and Badgers experiences, spare time between games and predictions for the NFC Championship game on Sunday. I also get to ask some questions myself which I find in the responses really interesting to hear. Once the interview is over I drive to Milwaukee to drop off my car at Ed and Paige’s home in Wauwatosa. Ed isn’t at home due to him attending a Badgers hockey game over in Madison, providing me with an opportunity to catch up with Paige as last week Ed and I returned late in the evening followed by an early departure the next morning. Page fills me in how her and Ed’s two kids (Maurine and Nick) are getting on. Nick is working at a coffee house in downtown Milwaukee whereas Maurine after graduating last summer from college found a role assisting a utilities lobbyist in Washington DC. I’m kindly provided with a light dinner by Paige and once I have eaten I’m picked up by my mate Justin who is gonna drive me back to Green Bay, as my flight to San Francisco via Chicago departs tomorrow night from Green Bay airport. The weather creates pretty hazardous driving conditions but thankfully I make it back with no issues. After I’m dropped off I’m straight to bed. It’s been such an exhausting day.
Saturday 18th January 300 KM 190 M
I can’t believe I’m sick again. This is the second time within a month in which I have I picked up the dreaded man flu. Heather comments that it’s due to all my traveling, which is probably correct. My morning is spent relaxing before Heather cooks up a really nice leaving lunch. The soup is fantastic and I’m really gonna miss both the hospitality and generosity of the Heezen family. I’m feeling tired from all my travels so end up falling asleep on the couch. Nick tells me when I wake up that I was snoring. I’m not surprised as my nose is completely blocked. Nick nips off to the gym whilst Heather and Jack take a nap, providing me with time to work on my website. Nick arrives back from gym followed by Heather and Jack coming back to the lounge area from upstairs. The time has finally come for me to say goodbye. I enjoyed living with them, learning more about American culture in the nicest house I have ever stayed in. Just after 5 Nick and Jack drop me off at Green Bay airport with Heather staying at home. A wave of emotion passes through me as I head through security. What an incredible journey living in Green Bay to follow both the Packers and Badgers for an entire season. Although my flight to Chicago is looking delayed it’s the passengers on the previous flight that I feel sorry for. The crew on the inbound plane from Chicago cannot return to O Hare as the flight was so delayed that they elapsed their shift time. Luckily my flight is only delayed by an hour but looks like I’m gonna miss my connection. Just as I’m waiting to board the plane I get a notification off the American Airlines app that I have been rebooked onto a flight in the morning to Oakland airport via Phoenix. As soon as I’m in Chicago I walk over to the customer service desk to try and get to San Jose airport, as it will be so much closer to both the stadium and hotel Justin has booked for us. Luckily I am rebooked on a flight from O Hare to Dallas followed by San Jose, aiming (hopefully) to arrive a few hours before game time. American Airlines kindly provide with accommodation for evening at the Marriott Hotel plus a meal voucher. I take a shuttle bus to the hotel and as soon as I’m checked in I’m off to my room to head to sleep. These days keep on getting busier!
Sunday 19th January 3600 KM 2250 M
I’m up at 4:30am to catch the shuttle bus back to O’Hare airport. As it’s so early it doesn’t take me long to get through security and not long after arriving at the gate passengers are boarding. Everything seems to be going well until everyone once seated are told by the captain that their is a mechanical issue with the plane. At first the updates are every 15 minutes before it becomes every half an hour. An hour passes with no good news. We are told to ring up an 1800 American Airlines number to try and get on an alternative flight but the customer service agent tells me that they cannot do anything and I have to speak to ground staff. Then ground staff tell passengers that if they want to be rebooked at the airport they need to give up their seat and once off the plane they cannot be reseated. So both reluctantly and nervously I’m waiting on the plane hoping I can catch my second connection to San Jose airport as my initial flight I’m certainly gonna miss. Thankfully the plane leaves two hours after I first got seated, landing into Dallas with an hour and a half spare before my connection to San Jose. Phew. This time is spent eating and updating my social media. I’m getting so many positive messages with my followers hoping that I make the flight. My second flight leaves on time with the journey taking three and a half hours with the first couple of hours spent sleeping before watching the Chiefs-Titans AFC Championship game on live streaming. As soon as I land I take an Uber to the hotel in the San Jose suburb of Cupertino. Justin is already scalping for tickets so I take a much needed shower and change into my game day clothing before hoping into another Lyft to the stadium. As soon as I find Justin we’re both on Fox 6 Milwaukee for a live interview. Once our interview is over we try and scalp for tickets but find no one with any spares. Some of the 49ers are a bit hostile with some unnecessary verbal abuse being directed towards us and particularly me with my cheesehead hat. We end up buying a pair of expensive tickets on Stubhub for around $550 each including all fees. Ouch! The game has already started and as we are heading to our seats the 49ers have already scored. Overall the first half is a really disappointing one for the Packers as the 49ers race to a 27-0 lead. Both the offense and defense is lacklustre and after all the effort and money I put into getting into this stadium from Green Bay it’s too much for me to go through the technicalities. At half time Justin tells me how he was gonna surprise me at the end of the game if the Packers won as he managed to score two face value tickets for $1000 each for the both of us to attend the Super Bow in Miami. Very ouch!! Our seats for the first half are up in the top tier of Levi’s stadium but Justin finds a couple of prime location seats still not sold on a ticket re sale site so we upgrade ourselves for free. There is a slight improvement in the Packers performance in the second half as they outscore the 49ers but it’s a case of too little too late. The 49ers are deserved winners of the NFC Championship having been the better team all season and in the two match ups against the Packers. San Francisco fans go wild once the game ends with their team in a good position to bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to the west coast of America. Justin and I head out of the stadium with most 49ers fans shaking our hands, wishing us all the best with us in return wishing them all the best in Miami in two weeks time. We talk a walk from the stadium and decide to head to In-N-Out Burger. Once we have eaten we nip into a Lyft back to our hotel and I’m straight off to bed. I’m exhausted after such a tiring journey. My Wisconsin sports adventure is finally over. I made it to all 36 games for both the Packers and Badgers for the 2019 season. What an unbelievable journey.
Epilogue - This was posted on Facebook in response to all the replies to my last game day Packers post. I feel that it’s a good way to end this blog too.
Thanks for your kind words everyone - this response is for everyone that has replied to my posts, stories and sent me direct messages of support, encouragement, donations and general wellness in undertaking my Wisconsin football adventure. Some of you I have never met in person, others during this trip and a few of you the friendship has been a lot longer. Not only did I ever think that both the Packers and Badgers would have really good seasons but also the level of publicity and support I would receive with strangers reaching out to me for tickets, tailgates, places to stay in Green Bay, Madison and around America. I said in my original interview back in August at Lambeau with Rich Ryman of the Green Bay Press Gazette how strangers can be your biggest supporters - and reflecting over the past 5 and a half months this couldn’t be further from the truth. As many of you know it was back in October 2014 after my first home Packers game that I decided to save up for a year off from work so that I could spend half of it following the Packers for a season. It had already done by a guy from Sydney and his family a few years back so I decided to spice it up by throwing in the Badgers too once both schedules were out. Family, friends and colleagues questioned this decision. I was told I was stupid, crazy and should instead settle down - have a life they want based on their own or what everyone else is doing or what they thought was best for me. Sadly this resulted in a lot of these relationships becoming increasingly strained over the past few years which was hard for me at the time as I’m a sensitive and emotional guy. They didn’t understand I had a dream to pursue, an adventure to follow, a mission to accomplish, my own life to live. This once in a lifetime trip was more than just about football. Thank you again for everyone that has been supported me. Love Jaz.