Good Bye Frozen Tundra, Hello Emerald Coast

February in Wisconsin is cold. The January thaw has come and gone, the temperatures are frigid, the snow is piled everywhere, and dressing in layers has gotten as old as our long underwear. Oh, how we envy the snow birds. They enjoyed the warm weather and beautiful changing seasons with the rest of us, but then headed to a warmer, sunnier climate to sit out the arctic winter months. We, too, can escape the frozen winter and spend the month of February relaxing in comfort in a well-appointed condo on the beach, sitting with our toes in the sand and soaking up the sun. It is as simple as taking a tour.

Lamers offers a month-long tour to Panama City Beach every February. The cost of the tour includes motor coach transportation to and from Florida and private seaside condominium rental at the Boardwalk Beach Resort. There are scheduled shopping trips, outings to restaurants and farmers markets, and optional events like dances and shows. This extended tour offers winter weary cheese heads like us the perfect way to try out the snowbird lifestyle.

I took a week of vacation and flew down to join my mother, who was taking this particular tour, for some quality mother-daughter time and to take advantage of the fact that short-term guests are allowed at no extra charge other than a small parking fee for the rental car. There were group outings on the bus scheduled frequently for tour members, but having the rental was very handy for venturing further afield.

Although February is off season for the area and many of the restaurants and beach side clubs were closed, we found several local restaurants to enjoy. From sinfully delicious french toast at Andy’s Flour Power Cafe and fresh donuts from Thomas Donuts, to zesty Sonny’s BBQ and fried seafood enjoyed while watching the sun set over the gulf.

The comfortable two-bedroom condo was very well equipped and our private balcony overlooked the spacious pool area and hot tub. We were just steps away from the beach, with easy access onto the sand from the pool area. The pounding of the surf and the cry of gulls lulled us to sleep every night. We explored local light houses, neighboring beaches, ate seafood while watching the sun set over the water, collected shells, and enjoyed the mild seventy-degree weather and sunshine. Immense satisfaction was gained simply by observing locals going about their daily life bundled up in coats. What a fantastic way to spend one of the coldest months of winter.

For further details about Lamers Tours please visit their website at: To find out more about the Boardwalk Beach Resort and to see what the property has to offer, visit their website at: General information about Panama City Beach, FL can be found at:, and More information about the restaurants mentioned in this article can be found at: ,,, and


Exploring on Columbus Day

Climbing the Tower at Holy Hill in Hubertus, Wisconsin

The decision was made to brave the rainy fall weather and go exploring in honor of Columbus Day (we were bored, had the day off, and wanted some adventure) so we climbed into the car and set off on a two and a half hour journey to Hubertus, Wis. I had been seeing posts on social media about the Tower at Holy Hill. It was being touted as one of the top spots in the state to admire the blazing fall colors and I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. A bit of minor preliminary research on the website gave me hours of operation, a bit of background, and a warning about steps and weather closings. Yup, time for some adventure!

My daughter, my granddaughter, my son and I climbed into the car and headed down the highway in the fog and the rain. We had some minor navigational issues, but Holy Hill is easy enough to find if you aren’t gabbing and you pay attention to the road signs. The weather was much clearer in that part of the state and the sweatshirts stayed in the car. We lumbered up the steps from the parking lot to the main church entrance, and from there we went into the Tower and started climbing. The lower level steps were wider, but as we climbed the staircase narrowed considerably. I am uncomfortable with heights and open stairwells, but on a scale of 1: comfortable to 10: super scary, this climb was 5: only slightly nerve-racking. Due to the recent weather, the tower was quite damp and the handrails were wet and sticky. Most of our fellow climbers were courteous when it came to taking turns on the stairs and waiting on the landings.

And then we got to the first open-air landing. It was beautiful. The wind was blowing through and the church bells were ringing in the adjacent tower. The view through the window grill was breathtaking. You can see forever when you are that high, and the trees were exploding with the red and gold colors of fall. And then I looked up. The open spiral staircase to the upper level rose up in the center of the room like a dark cloud on my super sunny day. I didn’t want to go any farther. Thank goodness for small children!!! My son took off up the steps but my granddaughter decided she had had enough and didn’t want to go any higher. Thus begun our slow descent. Granny first, toddler in the middle, and mama taking up the rear and offering encouragement. Isn’t coming down always harder than going up? My right hand on the railing and my left hand reaching behind me to keep a firm grip on the poor girls rear end to make sure she wasn’t getting too far from me. Mama had a death grip on the

rail and a death grip on her baby. We made it all the way down though!!! Phew. What was I thinking?

After that, we wandered into the church and admired the vast quiet space. There were beautiful stained glass windows and row upon row of smooth, ornate pews. We pondered trinkets in the adjacent gift shop and visited the tidy, well-appointed restrooms. Other than the case of descending heebie-jeebies, it was a lovely way to spend the morning.

There are a few particulars to keep in mind if you decide to visit. The Basilica and National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill are thirty miles north of Milwaukee. From Hwy 41N you simply get onto Hwy 167 and take the Holy Hill Rd exit 57. Travel west for six miles and the entrance will be on your left. If you get turned around, just look out over the treetops and you can see the beautiful spires of the church towers rising above the trees. Parking was simple and ample for a Monday morning, but I am sure weekends are a bit more crowded. Parking and admission are free, but an offering is encouraged for help with maintaining the Basilica. You must keep in mind that this IS a church, and masses are held regularly. Please be considerate. There are picnic areas as well as a café on the premises. Again, you can visit their website here for Tower hours of operation, information about the café and gift shop, as well as the Mass schedule.

On our way back to the highway, we stopped at the Tally Ho Pub and Grill for some lunch. It was a quiet Irish pub with spacious table seating and very friendly staff. We enjoyed our sandwiches and homemade chips before the long ride home. You can visit their website here or find them on Facebook @tallyhoerin and say hi. (Sorry for the toddler fit over spilled lemonade…)


The Fairlawn Mansion in Superior, Wis

22196132_317460631996496_8437479552775673849_nThis Victorian house museum sits right on Hwy 2 coming into Superior, an elegant piece of history surrounded by a modern city. If you are in the Superior/Duluth area, it is well worth your time to stop and take the tour. The house is beautiful and full of history. Listen for the chiming of the grandfather clock on the first floor landing…it gave me chills. The house is full of original fixtures, period pieces, and many photos of various rooms as they were when the Pattison family lived there. This house also became a children’s home from the 1920’s to the 1960’s and the upper floors let visitors see how the children lived and what their life was like living in such a luxurious setting.

Photos are not allowed during the interior tour, but you can snap away on the grounds outside. The original woodwork and tiled fireplaces are gorgeous. There are many exhibits detailing the extensive restoration process, but in the main office downstairs you can still see the original ceiling in all it’s paint peeling glory. Unfortunately, the mansion is not easily accessible for visitors with mobility issues.


Tours run on the hour and tickets are purchased in the coach house gift shop. Adult tickets are $10, senior and student tickets $8.  There is ample parking behind the mansion. Check out the website for special seasonal events, such as the flashlight tours or holiday treat tours.

Granite Peak Fall Chairlift Rides

22308990_317457541996805_7497197945725527381_nGranite Peak Fall Chair Lift Rides will soon be up and running on weekends until October. I took my sweetie and went exploring last fall after hearing about it on the radio. Tickets for the 2018 fall season will be $12 for a round trip wrist band if you start at the base, a slight increase from last year. Children 3-5 are always free, but no under 3’s, for obvious safety reasons. Any child 12 and under must have an adult with them.

The views were spectacular, although the trees weren’t fully changed when we visited. I, for one, have never been a fan of heights. The trip up was a piece of cake, you let the chair scoop you up just like you are skiing. My only bad moment was when I realized I hadn’t taken my backpack off and I had to scramble to get out of it in order to close the rail securely across my lap. Phew…

We took a picnic lunch and hiked the trails at the top. There are many trails to choose from, for a wide range of fitness levels. There are bathrooms at the top, and the concession stand was up and running. Picnic areas and grills for cooking are also available. If you are brave enough to climb the observation tower or some of the larger boulders, you can get quite a view!22279460_317458898663336_4914441026332959742_n

The trip down was much more exciting. I resisted the urge to close my eyes and pretended my legs weren’t dangling that high up in the air. We had fun waving and saying hello to passing riders.

Come early and avoid the crowds. Parking at the base is free, but starting at the top requires the park entry fee. Lift times were 11-5, bring cash for your ticket. If you are interested in checking it out this fall, visit the Granite Peak website for specific information and dates for 2018.


Excited to attend the 2018 Iola Car Show and Swap Meet, and not just for the cool cars!

For the past 46 years on the second full weekend of July, Iola, Wis., comes alive. Iola is a small town in the central part of the state, barely a dot on the map. But anyone who owns or has a passion for classic cars knows exactly where it is. A full weekend event, car show attendees can get their fill of custom vehicles, hot rods, muscle cars, vintage classics, and more. There is food, music, and a massive swap meet where you can shop for those hard to find parts or a cool t-shirt . Hundreds of vendors display their goods in the sun, anything from radiators and headlight assemblies to toys, fuzzy dice, and even lawn art. And they love to haggle! This year’s theme was Movie Cars and Service Vehicles, so I headed on out to get a glimpse of Herbie the Love Bug and the Munster mobile.

I usually don’t go to Iola, as I am not an avid car-a-holic, but this year I had incentive! I was so excited to attend this year that I took a vacation day and planned to go out early Friday morning and spend all day if I had to. Why, you ask? Because the nicest man in show business today was going to be there, meeting fans and signing autographs. The Fonz was coming my way! I could actually get to meet Henry Winkler, face to face, pink shirt to pink shirt! And get a picture! And get his autograph! Be still my heart…

Like most of you, I grew up watching Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley. I watched Holes with my kids and have seen Mr. Winkler in numerous Adam Sandler movies. Most recently, however, I have binged watched Better Late Than Never on Hulu and of all four traveling legends (in case you don’t know: Henry Winkler, William Shatner, George Foreman, and Terry Bradshaw), I was most impressed with Henry’s gracious and thankful attitude toward his fans. What a funny guy!

OK, enough ranting. I waited in line, got my books, autographs, and picture, and grinned like an idiot for the rest of the week. Well…I’m still grinning…

Iola is fun for everyone. There are different celebrities each year, radio personalities, and really cool cars. The Wittenberg Lions Club fry up some mean cheese curds that you absolutely don’t want to miss. And funnel cake. And ice cream. This is a family friendly event, but the beer is cold and plentiful. Parking is free and there are busses running to and from the outer lots. You can also pay to park privately closer to the main gates, lawn space going for $10 to $15 for the day. Admission this year was $15 for an all-day wristband that allows you to go in and out, or $28 for the entire weekend. Friday and Saturday’s evening concerts are free to attend and there are activities for children. I bought my wrist band at the gate, as I couldn’t get my online ticket purchase to go through. I don’t know if it was my computer, or a glitch in the website.

The theme for 2019 will be “Calling All Cars Clubs” and the event dates are July 11-13. For ticket prices, event schedules, camping information, maps, and other general information, you can visit their website.

I can’t wait to see who is coming next year. Ooooo…maybe Liam Neeson.

#fonz #iola #carshow