Saturday 16th November
It’s Badgers game day and I’m up around 8 to get showered and ready into my game day outfit. I take a Lyft to downtown Lincoln where I will be meeting my mate Brett’s uncle for a tailgate party. I met Brett in a bar in Dallas a few years ago whilst watching an English soccer game and we have stayed in touch since. I got to meet him a couple of years during my annual spring (fall) trip to America but unfortunately he was out of town for the Packers-Cowboys game last month. Brett has kindly put me in contact with Uncle Bob whom meets me near the stadium and kindly purchases me a ticket off someone selling in the street. Apparently Cornhuskers tickets are expensive and difficult to obtain but as the team haven’t been doing too well this season they are going pretty cheap and easily. We walk over to Bob’s tailgate but don’t stay there long as it’s nearly start time. The Badgers lost their previous two road games but today they put on a good all round performance in a 37-21 win with Jonathan Taylor finishing with 205 yards on 25 carries and in the process becoming the running back with the second most rushing yards in Big Ten history with only Badgers legend Ron Dayne ahead. After the win I walk back towards downtown to watch the Hawkeyes-Gophers game. It turns out to be a great result for the Badgers as Minnesota lose their first game of the season so if Wisconsin win their remaining two games with the final game in Minneapolis against the Gophers then the Badgers will clinch the Big Ten west and make the championship final. For dinner I grab some food to go and take an Uber back to the Airbnb house. I’m all home alone and after dinner I watch some TV in my room before heading to bed.
Sunday 17th November 480 KM 300 M
I have a nice lie in then pack all my belongings to nip to a diner for a hearty breakfast. My sole task today is to drive to Iowa City where I will be splitting up my journey to get back to Green Bay. The 5 hour drive with a fuel stop is non eventful and I have a couple of radio podcasts to keep me company. It’s dark by the time I arrive at my Airbnb property and after a shower I head to a a sports bar to catch the end of a couple of games. According to Google maps, Pints is a popular sports bar but upon arrival the whole place is empty, including staff! Across the road is Buffalo Wild Wings, where I get to watch the Cardinals lose their lead to the 49ers and the Patriots hold on against the Eagles. I think both teams are looking favourable for a possible Super Bowl appearance come early February. I order some food then travel back to the house. I do some reading in bed before heading to sleep.
Monday 18th September 500 KM 310 M
I wake up to an empty house as my Airbnb hosts have gone off to work. I leave around 9 for the 5 hours drive back to Green Bay. The first hour or so of the journey is a nice country road with cornfields all around me so I stop along the way and take a short video, posting on social media “corn, corn and more corn”. As I’m passing through Mount Vernon I see signs of America’s coolest small regional town so I feel obliged to stop for brunch. The Skillet Restaurant reminds of the Pancake Place back in Green Bay, offering hearty and good value for money meals. On the way to Madison I stop in Dubuque to have a look but there isn’t much to see on a bleak winters day. In Madison I take lunch at a place rightly called King of Falafel as the falafel sandwich is really good. It’s just before 4 before I get to my host family’s place and I’m so glad to finally be back after all that driving. Heather is downstairs working and I get to the task of washing and booking flights and accommodation for the next couple of weeks. The Badgers-Purdue game has been scheduled for 3pm this Saturday afternoon causing me to cancel my original flight booking to San Francisco via Dallas as the first leg was scheduled to depart Madison on Saturday afternoon with the booking made using my frequent flyer points on the hope of a early start. Instead I will be flying early Sunday morning from Madison to San Jose via Phoenix, arriving (hopefully) at noon. Luckily both the airport is closer to the stadium and the start time has been moved to Sunday night prime time providing me with a few hours of leeway in case of any delays. In addition, the Wisconsin-Minnesota game in a couple of weeks has also been scheduled for an afternoon kick off, meaning that I can book a Saturday night flight from Minneapolis to Newark straight after the game finishes. But as it’s Thanksgiving the Delta flight price comes out to $500, which is $750 Australian dollars. However at least I have a good chance of making the Packers-Giants game the next day as I was worried the Badgers-Gophers would be a Saturday night game, causing a really tight schedule the next morning. I also book an Airbnb room near Newark airport for two nights as my flight is scheduled to arrive late Saturday night. Heather makes a really nice dinner for the all of us and I enjoy seeing Nick and Jack again too. We chat about my trips both past weekend and for the next couple of weeks for a bit then Nick takes Jack to bed. Nick jokingly comments that his family got tired hearing about my trip when they asked how I was getting on over a catch up last weekend! Whilst working on my website I watch the Monday night game between the Chiefs and Chargers from Mexico City. The Chargers have a good opportunity to level the game in the final seconds of the game but their quarterback Philip Rivers throws his fourth interception to seal a Chiefs victory. I do some reading then head to bed.
Tuesday 19th November
Despite a long sleep I’m feeling tired from my travels over the past few days once I am awake. At 10 this morning I’m meeting up again with Rich Ryman from the Green Bay Press Gazette for my second interview. I don’t have much time after breakfast and getting ready so I’m quickly on my way to Lambeau Field. We were originally supposed to meet up last week but Rich was on vacation. It’s good to see him again and I can’t think him enough for his original article that has led to media publicity and consequently ticket donations, tailgate invites as well as generous offers of places to stay in Green Bay and around America, drinks and meal shouts. Our chat lasts for around half an hour and it’s based on my experiences so far and how the rest of my stay in Wisconsin is looking. For our first interview I mentioned how a winning season would be a nice outcome based on the past couple of years for the Packers combined with a young new coach and team. The fact that both the Packers and Badgers are 8-2 is pretty remarkable. As a result my travel plans have changed as playoffs for the Packers is looking highly likely. My original plan was to fly to South Africa after New Years to watch the South Africa vs England cricket series but with the slight chance of a Packers Super Bowl I’m probably going to miss it. I have requested to take 10 years government long service leave with the Western Australian Department Of Education at six months half pay so that I can stay in America if required up until Super Bowl and then do some travelling around Africa and Central America, see family in India and England as well watching the England cricket team play in Sri Lanka. Rich records a brief summary of our extended conversation followed by some photographs in the atrium. I thank Rich for his work then drive to volunteer at Paul’s Pantry. I’m back on trolley (cart) duties on what turns out to be a busy morning pushing trolleys and transferring food from the trolleys into people’s vehicles. I have a late lunch with Heather back at the house and the rest of the afternoon is an extremely relaxing one as it consists mainly of watching Family Guy and napping. After dinner I watch more of The Devil Next Door on Netflix whilst Nick does some work on his laptop and Heather takes Jack to bed. Nick joins me later in the lounge and we switch to watching some Rick and Morty, which arrived today in the post on DVD. We both really like Rick and Morty and animated comedy in general. After a couple of episodes we say goodnight before going to sleep.
Wednesday 20th November
It’s Wednesday so I’m going back to Bay Port High School to teach cricket during Pirate Time. The weather is a lot better than last week so it’s a pretty quick journey to the school. Upon arrival I can’t but help notice how the school is buzzing from last Friday night’s semi final win against Kimberley in Oshkosh and the number of students queuing (lining) up to buy tickets at the front office for this Friday's state championship game at Camp Randall. I pop into Principal Mike Frieder’s room to tell him I was listening to the game last Friday night in Lincoln, Nebraska and additionally that I’m gonna be attending the game as Badgers play Purdue the next day. Furthermore I ask him if it’s okay if the Green Bay Press Gazette come to the school as Rich Ryman yesterday told me it would be great if they could film and interview the students about me teaching them cricket. Frieder is very supportive and I ask him if it’s possible for a donated ticket for this Friday's game and he kindly says that he will arrange one for me. James is in his classroom doing some work on his computer during his prep time then we nip into the social studies staffroom for a chat over coffee and kringle. I only have a small piece as it’s pretty unhealthy but it would be rude to turn down anything from Uncle Mike’s bakery as everything they produce is so heavenly. For both Pirate Time sessions we have a dozen or so students with both games in tight and tense finales. At the end of each session we play a game of “Quick Cricket” whereby batsman have to run irrespective of whether they hit the ball or not and it turns out to be really popular with the students. As per usual I thank them at the end of each session and acknowledge Green Bay Cricket Association - yesterday Rich Ryman didn’t even know that there was one! I pick up lunch from Panda Express as James is taking a sub (relief, cover) class to bring in some extra cash over the holiday season. On Friday he will be supervising students on the coach to and from the school to Madison in what will be a nice little earner for himself which will no doubt be spent on his family. The last session on a Wednesday is James’s social studies class and today they are doing a whole class debate with two opposing sides arguing firstly whether memes are appropriate and secondly if abortion should take place. I’m really impressed with the research and arguments put forward by both sides, especially for the abortion topic. It gets a bit heated at times but as a teacher it’s great to see a group of young people passionate about an important social topic. Getting back home proves to a bit of a hassle as Vice President Pence is in town so some roads are blocked off but I eventually manage to get in time for the start of the first cricket test match between New Zealand and England live from New Zealand as the country is a whopping 19 hours ahead of Central American time. So a sunny spring Thursday morning in New Zealand is a cold and dark Wednesday afternoon in Green Bay which is so crazy. During the English national anthem I spot my close friend, former housemate and cricket tour companion Steve in the crowd along with my regular cricket tour buddies. I got a few social media comments saying that I’m being missed and whether I will make it to South Africa but as I have been saying to everyone over the past few months the Packers are my number one priority right until their last game - hopefully Super Bowl! England are batting first and it’s a slow start with a more disciplined and measured approach as compared with the recklessness against Australia last summer in England. For dinner one of Heather’s high school friends comes to join us all. Ben is a frequent traveler too and we swap stories particular those concerning Cuba as I plan to visit the country next spring. It sounds like a fascinating country with nice people plus the dollar provides great value for money when converted into their local currency. Heather has made some home made pizzas using healthy non flour bases that are so delicious. I’m really gonna miss living with my host family. Heather takes a lively Jack to bed and Ben says goodbye to all of us. It’s been a long day so it’s not longer after that I say goodnight to Nick and do some reading before heading to bed.
Thursday 21st November
I wake up feeling not too good possibly as I have overslept. A big weekend of travel is coming up so I don’t have much planned today. After a bowl of cereal I start watching the rest of The Devil Next Door on Netflix. As a Social Studies teacher of both the Holocaust and court trials I have found the whole series fascinating from start to finish. I think John Demjanjuk was a Nazi collaborator in a concentration camp but maybe question marks remain over whether he was the actual Ivan The Terrible. I think it’s interesting how in the last episode how his former plant supervisor at Ford in Detroit comments that John might have had a past that he wanted to put it all behind him once in America but how the American government, business and military gave former Nazis new identities (and job roles) on the premise that they would become an asset to American society or to diminish the threat to the American people. This is based on the controversial notion that the Red (Communist) Army could potentially use these influential and intelligent Nazis against the West in the upcoming Cold War so it was better for both national and world security for them to be in America. After The Devil Next Door I start watching Series 3 of The Good Place but after a couple of episodes I head back to my bedroom to lie down as I have a throbbing migraine. Luckily it doesn’t last for too long and then I nip back downstairs for a light leftover lunch. Nick is back from work as it’s a half day and spends the rest of the afternoon working in the basement on his laptop. I’m starting to feel so much better that I even get Nick to set up his cross trainer in which I complete a 20 minute workout. Towards the end I’m predictably huffing and puffing as I haven’t done much fitness work recently - in fact my last workout was in Seattle a few weeks ago. Hopefully today’s workout is good preparation for a couple of CrossFit classes this weekend. As soon as I’m done on the cross trainer I drive to Jenstar yoga for a yin class. It’s a really nice stretch and exactly what I need after a hectic travel schedule and another busy weekend looming. Once back at the house Heather is making dinner in what turns out to be yet another fantastic meal. The evening consists mainly of watching cricket - it’s day two live from New Zealand and my favourite England player Ben Stokes misses out just 9 runs short of a century. Play ends just after 11 with England emerging the stronger of the two teams. My aim is to stay up until midnight so I potentially sleep better (and less) so I do some reading before heading to bed.
Friday 22nd November 200 KM 120 M
I feel a lot better when I wake up this morning as I haven’t overslept and didn’t wake up in the middle of the night too. The first hour or so is spent getting organised for my big trip this weekend. After yesterday’s brief workout and a good sleep last night I’m feeling up for a Crossfit class so I drive to the box feeling confident, which upon arrival suddenly disappears when coach Justin tells me that today’s workout consists of 300 burpees, apparently the Deer Hunter Classic. I’m a bit hesitant at first but I have never turned down a workout and that isn’t gonna change anytime soon. I decide to take it easy by splitting the 300 burpees into 6 a minute so overall a 50 minute time frame within the one hour limit. The first 20 or so minutes are not too bad but my lack of fitness starts to catch upon me and after half an hour or so I’m finding it tough. Justin advises that I can do a scaled version so do less burpees but I’m adamant and continue through the pain barrier, taking a couple of 1 minute breaks along the way and eventually finishing just under 53 minutes. Yes a bit slow but considering all the travel and tailgates that I have been part of I’m content and glad that I turned up today. Back at the house I have breakfast then get showered and ready for my road trip to Madison. It’s a pretty straightforward drive for which I have Armin Van Buuren’s A State Of Trance weekly podcast to keep me company. The only real disadvantage of Crossfit for me is the number of frequent toilet (restroom) breaks I have to make due to the amount of water that I drink so along the way I make a couple of stops at service stations. As I’m driving into Madison I notice a car with “Go Bay Port” written on the back. I’m really excited for today’s game at Camp Randall, Bay Port Pirates first state championship title appearance. My first task in Madison is to have lunch and I decide upon a Thai restaurant based on decent google reviews. The food turns out to be both outstanding and healthy. After eating I notice a message from Rich Ryman. He has just published the second article about my journey and it’s a really good read. I cannot thank him enough for the support and exposure provided, saving me quite a bit of money. I head towards Camp Randall and as it’s not a college game I don’t find it too difficult securing a parking spot a short walk from Camp Randall. Once inside the stadium I catch up with James Radish, handing me a Bay Port football t-shirt and a hand towel made for today’s game. I immediately put the the t-shirt over my coat taking number of layered clothing to 7. But this isn’t enough to feel warm as my feet are freezing! James is on supervising (crowd control) duties and I help him out by looking for any potential troublemakers in the student section. Overall the kids are really well behaved and I notice a few from Pirate Time and dropping in on social studies classes. It’s nice when some of them say hi and wave towards me. The Pirates start well and take a 3-0 lead but Muskego score a couple of touchdowns to make it 14-3 at half time. Bay Port have a great opportunity to reduce the deficit to 14-10 but allow Muskego to score. Eventually the Pirates manage a touchdown to make it 10-21 but sadly it’s too little too late in what turns out to be a missed opportunity for the team. However to finish the season 13-1 and make the division 1 state final against the best team in the state is no mean feat and both the kids and coaches should deservedly be proud of their achievements. It just seemed that the offense were a bit too predictable with trying to play a rushing game and a couple of key slips seemed to me like the kids were suffering from a bit of nerves on such a big stage. James agrees with my game summary but what an experience for these kids to play in such a big stadium of front a 10,000 or so crowd. During half time I was speaking one of the Deputy Principals about how you wouldn’t get this kinda experience in many parts of the world so I’m grateful to be here today and being part of the Bay Port School community. Once the game is over I say goodbye to James and walk back towards my car. I’m feeling hungry so choose to go somewhere offering a Friday fish fry. The last couple here in Madison haven’t been great but after some research The Laurel Tavern seems like a decent option. Plus it’s only a short drive from where the car is parked. It turns out to be a nice meal, although The Redwood Inn is for me the gold standard so far in Wisconsin. I’m staying at my good mate Tristin’s place this weekend. Sadly he is busy working up at a hospital back in Green Bay and won’t be able to join me at tomorrow’s Badger game but still has kindly let me stay in his place. What a legend! Once I’m inside I unpack my things and do some reading before going to sleep.