This week my mom, sister and niece escaped from the Texas heat with a visit to Wisconsin. We picked them up at the Dane County airport in Madison and from there drove the short way to Wisconsin Dells.
Omit the gambling, make everything rated PG and a bit religified and you have Wisconsin’s version of Las Vegas.
The slogan on their brochure warns: “Where Nature and Fun Collide!”
Sounds kind of painful doesn’t it?
This is the “Waterpark Capital of the World” and you’ll see dozens of roller coasters, an upside down White House, a Trojan horse, Greek ruins – but if you tear your eyes away from all of this man-made spectacle there are actually some interesting geological formations to see along the Wisconsin River.
These dells (from the French dalles, or narrows) are very similar to the gorges we just visited in France. We took the Upper Dells Boat Tour which had two shore landings and lasted about two hours. The weather was perfect and my mom was able to sit out on deck and enjoy the view.
There was also a wheelchair available at one of the landings so she could travel down the narrow path through the rock formations. The scenery was enchanting.
Next time however, we should hire a private pontoon and do without the noisy tour boat.
I’d pay extra if I didn’t have to hear the tour guide’s obtuse jokes.
Right Mark? Hello? Oh, you must have your earbuds in.
Our next adventure was something my sister talked me into. Bigfoot Ziplines. The idea of ziplining through the trees and over the water actually sounded really fun to me.
The idea sounded fun. What about the reality?
We were handed this release form and as I started reading it before I signed it, I was chided by the Bigfoot staff: “Nobody ever reads that! Just sign it! What are you, a lawyer?”
Oh great. These ya heys are the professionals I’m supposed to trust with my life and the life of my family? Mark and Kailas opted out of this by the way so it was only me, Sagan, Nicole and Charlotte. I signed our life away.
We were all fitted with a harness, a helmet and gloves. They took us to a training cable where we “learned the ropes.” The gear was pretty rudimentary; to slow yourself you had to grab the wire with the correct gloved hand. One big “rule” of ziplining was never grab the wire in front of your pulley, for obvious reasons. Many (including myself) made this mistake simply because while hanging there in the air you get turned around and forget where to grab! Thankfully the kids only had to hang there and were stopped at the end by a catcher with a wooden stop that he jammed in front of the pulley. The kids loved it by the way and Sagan and Charlotte were always the first to volunteer to jump off the edge. Sagan always went before me and as I watched her fly through the air I imagined that I had to jump myself to “save her” on the other end. That’s pretty much the inspiration that forced me to get to the other side.
After this, ahem…experience, we headed back to the Great Wolf Lodge. Of course, you don’t stay in an ordinary hotel at the Dells – this one had an indoor/outdoor waterpark and if we had stayed at the hotel all day and not gone on our boat ride and zipline adventure – the kids would’ve been just as happy.
They enjoyed the rest of the evening at the waterpark and so did I (my sister bought me the margarita I’d been promised earlier).
Oh wait, I forgot (or maybe blocked it from my memory) that she also talked me into riding some insane water ride called the Howlin’ Tornado.
Now I know what that poor roach felt like when I flushed it down the toilet.
A day at the Dells goes by quickly, it seems. We had two meals there – one at the Cheese Factory (thumbs up) and one at Mr. Pancake (thumbs down). Although the Cheese Factory seems to be owned by some religious cult, they offer tasty vegetarian selections. Mr. Pancake on the other hand was loud, sticky and nothing special.
I know I have my Dells fix for a while.