Thursday 9th January 1600 KM 1000 M
I leave Rhode Island for Boston Logan Airport just after 9. It turns out to be a good decision to leave a bit earlier as traffic gets heavy once I’m in Boston. After dropping the rental car I check in my bag before heading through security. I haven’t had breakfast so once I’m through I grab a couple of bagels with cream cheese from Dunkin Donuts. My flight leaves in a couple of hours which gives me time to work on my website and check my social media. All passengers are boarded on my American Airlines flight to Chicago early but it’s delayed due to a logbook misplacement. However it doesn’t make too much difference as it means less waiting time for my shuttle from O’Hare to Milwaukee airport, from where I take an Uber to Dan and Jenni’s home in Franklin. Jenni and her neighbour Jamie are cooking me a Thai green curry for tonight’s dinner whilst Dan is working and Dan’s son Anthony is playing computer games in the basement. This gives me time to relax on the couch after a long day of traveling. The food is really good with Dan arriving back home just in time for dinner. As per usual we make several new travel plans! Dan wants me to attend both his bachelor party in Vegas in a couple of weeks time plus his and Jenni’s wedding in the Dominican Republic the weekend after Super Bowl in Miami. I would love to join them for both but it all depends on how the Packers progress in the playoffs. After dinner I say goodbye to everyone and drive to Wauwatosa to catch and stay with my good mates Ed and Paige. Only Paige is at home with Ed at local bar a minutes drive away from their home. It’s great to catch up with Ed plus his mate Richard, who is keen to meet me after hearing my story from Ed. It’s getting late so we all say our goodbyes with Ed and I heading back to the house. We stay up for a bit having an interesting discussion about a number of topics before each of us say goodnight and head to sleep. I’m spending the night in Nick’s old bedroom.
Friday 10th January 200 KM 125 M
Ed wakes me up around half past eight to say goodbye before he goes off to work. I get ready to leave and once I’m organised I say goodbye to Paige whose at home today with Friday being her day off work. My first stop is Milwaukee Public Market to pick up a pie for dinner tonight, as requested by Heather from my host family. Sadly they don’t have any plus the attendant kindly rings around a couple of places to check if they have any but it’s not meant to be as delivery for everyone isn’t until this afternoon. I drive back to Green Bay stopping at a Culvers en-route to use one of the complimentary meal vouchers that my mate Justin gave to me to when I was in Detroit a couple of weeks ago. I think that because I told the manager who took my order that it’s my first ever Culvers they make it an extra bit special as it’s really good. I arrive back at the house with Heather busy on the phone. I’m having an interview outside Lambeau with NBC 26 so I freshen up and drive back to the stadium. Last time it was with a guy called Ryan with today’s interviewer being Eric. In fact I get my mate Eric to join me as he donated me a ticket to the Soldier Field game and is also taking me to this Sunday’s game too. The interview goes well although I stumble on one question which has to be re-recorded. I’m also asked about the Australian bushfires which has been such an awful tragedy. Hopefully I can create some awareness which can raise some funds for the destruction caused in regional Victoria and New South Wales. After the interview I catch up with my good mate Will for a Friday fish-fry at the Redwood Inn. This place for me is one of the best places in Wisconsin to get a fish-fry. The Redwood Inn is located near Denmark which is also where Will grew up. He takes me to the family farm now occupied by his younger brother. Back in town I head back to the house where I unpack my luggage and work on my website. Nick and Jack are soon back home and it’s good to be reunited with everyone again. Although I’m not that hungry from a big, late lunch I still join the family for a nice dinner as it’s been ages since our last one. The evening is spent relaxing before I get a message from my mate Jon from tailgate Lot 1 that he’s at the Lorelei Inn. It turns out that he and my mate Dave, who owns the Lorelei Inn, went to school together. Also Jon and Dave’s high school mate who is now a Professor at The University of Delaware is in town to catch up with old friends as well as attend Sunday’s game at Lambeau. The guys reminisce about growing up in Green Bay when the Packers weren’t successful on the field yet still sold out games. But it was easier and cheaper getting tickets than it is today. Dave gives me a poster with all the games for both pre and regular season on them as a souvenir. I say goodbye to the guys not too late as tomorrow I’m up early to go ice fishing. On Sunday I will be helping Jon at Lot 1 by pouring Shotski. He comments as I’m leaving how good I have become at bartending but I reply that I learnt from him! Once I’m back at the house I’m off to bed.
Saturday 11th January
I’m up early today to go ice fishing. Eric picks me up from the house at 6 to drive us to a gas station to meet his good mate Alex, who takes us all in his pick up truck to a location a couple hours up in Northern Wisconsin. The first part of the journey is spent napping with the latter part chatting with the guys about my journey. Now the first location isn’t the best as none of us catch a single fish between us. So after a couple of hours of waiting around Alex makes the executive decision to pack up to head to another spot. The guys have asked me to keep the locations secret as at the second spot we catch a total of 23 perch of a really good size. I myself catch 7 in what turns out to be a fun afternoon of ice fishing. We all catch a lot of small perch but decide to put them immediately back into the water as our priority are the larger fish. You can actually tell the difference straight away with the bigger ones as the bite on the bait is so much harder on the rod plus it takes more effort to pull them out of the water. Once you do it’s a nice feeling such as when you have won or achieved something. To catch 7 decent sized perch I think is pretty awesome! As soon as the sun is coming down we start to carry all the equipment with the fish in a bucket back to Alex’s pick up. Although it’s a very cold day we all prepared by wearing lots of layers and Alex has a gas propane heater set up inside our shack. As we haven’t eaten much all day a random diner is our stop for some much needed food. I can’t believe how cheap the food and as Alex drove us, supplied bait and equipment, not only do Eric and I split the bar bill but also let Alex keep all the fish. It’s late by the time we get back to Green Bay with Eric kindly dropping me off back at the house. Nick and Heather are getting ready to put Jack to sleep so I watch the second half of the Ravens-Titans game. Earlier most Packers fans including myself were hoping for an upset over in California but the 49ers won in style. However the Titans do pull of yet another away (road) playoff upset by defeating the Ravens. As soon as the game is over I’m off to bed. An even earlier start awaits me in the morning.
Sunday 12th January
It’s Packers game day with a win against the Seahawks leading to a NFC Championship game in San Francisco next Sunday. I set my alarm for 5 for a 5:40am Fromigos tailgate start but as it’s my last home game in Lambeau the emotion has got to me and I can’t get back to sleep after waking up at around 3. Just before 5 I’m up to get showered and ready into my day game clothing for the final time this season. I can’t believe it’s my last game here in Green Bay and the fact that it’s in January in an NFC divisional playoff round. As it’s so early I get a prime parking spot just a couple of blocks away from Lambeau. I walk over to Badger State Brewing parking lot to find Matt, Brad and Alex setting up. They are happy to see me for what will be our last Fromigos tailgate of the season. Just after 6, Justin from local Fox 11 news turns up with a cameraman to interview me again as I made it to every single Packers game this season. The crew stay for a a while for a couple of live feeds, interviewing Matt and Brad as well a couple of guys set up next to us. Whilst we are chatting there are movies and music on in the background. Dodgeball, Get Him To The Greek and Role Models are all funny movies which keep us entertained. Eric and I nip to the nearest Pick n’ Save to get some food supplies, which are later cooked on the grill. In true Fromigos style we call out to both Packers and Seahawks fans to join us with a group of Canadian fans of both teams becoming part of our tailgate. One of the Canadian Seahawks fans has a Canadian flag and along with Brad and Matt in their fros I take some really cool pictures. Before I know it it’s nearly 1pm, so time for me to say goodbye to the Fromigos. I’m gonna seeing Eric later as he kindly donated me yet another ticket seated next to him for a Packers game but not the other guys. I’m really gonna miss them and as I’m leaving I can’t thank them enough for reaching out to me from the start and subsequently making me a Fromigo. I walk over to tailgate lot 1, where I will be serving shotski for 4 hours today. Now lot 1 only opens 4 hours before game day so I will be there from start to finish for the very first time and thus completing a total of 12 hours of tailgating before a game start time is at 5:40. The Fromigos taught me how to tailgate by drinking water, energy drinks and eating food. This approach works wonders for me as I have a blast serving shotski. It will also be my last time with my mates Scott, Jon, Matt, Justin, Ryan and Colleen plus everyone else at Lot 1. Towards the end it gets a bit emotional when I say goodbye to everyone to walk into Lambeau. Scott thanks me for helping out but similarly with the Fromigos I can’t thank him and everyone at Lot 1 for having me. Both tailgates made my Lambeau games so much fun with memories and friendships to last a lifetime. As I’m walking into the stadium the game has already started and as I’m heading towards my seat the Packers score a touchdown. What a great start. Eric and I are sitting on row 1 in section 112, which are undoubtedly the best seats of any game this season. Eric has told everyone seated around me my story thus they excited to meet and chat with me. The Packers offense and defense result in a 21-3 lead at halftime. Rodgers on third down is on numerous occasions able to deliver first downs, therefore keeping Russel Wilson and the Seahawks offense off the ball. The second half is a different story with the final score 28-23 for the Packers to secure a NFC Championship game against the 49ers. I’m going back to San Francisco next weekend! After the game I say goodbye to Eric and the other fans seated around us before walking over to my car to head back to the house. It’s been such a long day so I take an early night and it doesn’t take me long to get to sleep.
Monday 13th January
I’m up early to say goodbye to Heather as she is heading to Madison today for her final round of chemotherapy. Hopefully I can see her along with Nick and Jack before I fly out to San Francisco on Saturday night. I have decided that this week will be my final one in Green Bay. If the Packers do win on Sunday I will do some travelling around America and head to Miami followed by the Dominican Republic for Dan and Jenni’s wedding. If the Packers don’t win then I will just travel for a couple of weeks before heading to the wedding in Punta Cana. My first task today is to ring into WHBY to catch up with Josh Dukelow on his Fresh Take Show. Josh actually came to lot 1 yesterday where I served him a shotski and asks me how I made it through 12 hours of tailgating. I tell him of the Fromigos approach plus give shout outs to them and a few of the guys at lot 1. After the interview I book my flight to San Francisco. I’m surprised to find a ticket from Green Bay to San Francisco via Chicago with American Airlines for only $197 for this Saturday night. The rest of the day is a much needed rest day with it spent watching DVDs and working on my website. For dinner I grab take out Thai for Nick and I. After eating I watch the LSU-Clemson national college championship, in which Heisman Trophy quarterback Joe Burrow guides LSU to the title. Once the game is over I’m off to bed.
Tuesday 14th January
Today is my final day at Bay Port High School. Geography teacher Lisa wants me to speak to her class about the devastating bushfires. Yesterday Josh on air asked me about the destruction and so today I talk about the factors I mentioned on the radio: drought, climate change, government cuts to rural fire services and arson. I play a couple of news clips from YouTube as well as a presentation I found online. The students seem interested with a number asking me good questions. In fact when I show them the Australian Red Cross donation site, one student makes a contribution immediately. After the class I watch James do some marking of end of semester exams. Next week is semester 2 so no Pirate Time for activities such as cricket tomorrow. But as I’m walking around school some of the students that played cricket say hi to me as well as the ones that I taught in James’s Sociology classes. For lunch we nip into Gallaghers for my final visit. Once back at school I pick up the cricket bag to give back to Green Bay Cricket Association. As I’m leaving I pop into Principal Frieder’s room to say goodbye and thank him for allowing me to drop into school and teach cricket during the first semester. Frieder tells me that Bay Port and Wisconsin alumni and current Raiders fullback Alex Ingold is in the gym weighting room so James and I walk over to meet him. Ingold is a nice guy, telling us of his move to Las Vegas and recent purchase of a property for him and his girlfriend in the suburbs. I warn him to stay off the strip! Unlike veteran NFL colleagues, Alex will be spending the off season staying in shape. Apparently he gets fined for being each pound under or overweight when he returns to spring training with the team in April. James walks me back to the main office from where I say goodbye and take the cricket bag to my car. Upon return at the house I take a nap and spend the rest of the afternoon working on my website. Later Jimbo and Barb bring back Jack from day care back home, which turns out to be my final opportunity to mingle with Nick’s parents. Their support has been real and genuine plus they are just really nice people. They always ask Nick and Heather about how I’m getting on. Barb has seen me on the news a few times as well as spotting me at a game in the crowd. Once Nick is back from work I embrace them as they are leaving for home to have dinner. Nick and I have leftover Thai curry before he gets Jack ready for bed. I spend the evening booking my trip post San Francisco. I’m gonna fly to Portland the morning after the game for a few days sightseeing. Oregon will be my 30th state that I am visiting in America. From Portland I find a cheap flight to Chicago from where I can take another shuttle bus up to Milwaukee to stay with my good friends Ed and Paige for a night. Next weekend is Dan’s bachelor party in Milwaukee. It will be interesting where I’m gonna travel to the following week. Nick and I chat and watch some TV together before saying goodnight and heading to bed.
Wednesday 15th January
Whereas yesterday was my final day at Bay Port, today is my last shift volunteering at Paul’s Pantry food bank. For two hours I am on trolley cart duties. I have enjoyed helping out here and will definitely drop in when I am back in town for my annual visit next year. Lunch is taken at Chilli John’s where I get to catch up with server Karen. She loves hearing my stories and is probably one of my biggest local fans. I’m provided not only with a pen but a free lunch with really kind words on the blank receipt. It’s people like Karen that make north-east Wisconsin such a great place. She embraces me as I leave, wishing me all the best for the remainder of the season as well as the future. Back at the house I take a nap before heading out to Costco to drop off the cricket bag lent by Green Bay Cricket Association. Similarly to when I picked up the bag, two Indian men emerge from their vehicles in a retail car parking lot, exchange a large bag with a few words before going there separate ways. Luckily again there are no police around! From Costco I drive to Papa Murphy’s in Howard to pick up a pizza for my final dinner with the Radish family. James has become a really good mate for me plus wife Heidi and four boys consisting of Gavin, Logan, Braedyn and baby Owen make up a loving family. After dinner we take a few photos with my favourite being a photo of me cuddling a happy baby Owen. James is 50 years old in just under 10 years time and I hope he can visit me in Australia for a once in a lifetime trip. It’s sad saying goodbye to the Radish family yet at the same time I’m grateful to have met them. They offered me superb friendship and hospitality. As I’m leaving I’m told that I can stay in their basement the next time I’m in town. My last and final stop is at the Toll house. Sandy is currently working away so it’s only Brad at home, who is getting ready for a business trip in Appleton tomorrow. We discuss my adventure as well as upcoming travel plans for the next few weeks. Brad changed my life when he told me about Wayne Scullino in Will’s bar after my first Lambeau experience back in October 2014. Wayne is an Australian guy from Sydney who moved his wife and two young kids to Green Bay to follow the Packers for a season. As soon as I heard this story, there and then I decided I was gonna save up for 4 years, take a year off work to travel for the first part and subsequently spend the second half of the year by moving to Green Bay for the 2019 season to follow every Packers game. We embrace each other as I leave the Toll house and as soon as I’m back home it’s straight to bed due to another early start for ice fishing in the morning.