We make plans, and they change.
That is... this story.
Following my departure from Dubuque, my airbnb host (Jason) followed through with his promise to secure housing for me in La Crosse with his aunt and uncle.
What I did not realize is that Jason made it seem like we had known each other for quite some time.
In other words, we were friends. Well, not exactly.
I met Uncle Jim just after 5 p.m. He had been engaged in some lawn maintenance when he approached me. (Aunt Christy was attending a coworker's going away party. She would not arrive until later that evening.)
They lived in a beautiful multi-story home located in a precarious section of the city where many streets meet and intersect.
I could tell Jim was determining whether it was okay for me to stay.
I entered through the garage, and he showed me to my quarters in the finished basement.
My room was immaculate.
I also met his granddaughter Ryleigh, a lanky adorable girl, and their pooch, who went by the name "Boo-Boo."
Once the shock wore off -- that I would be staying here -- I settled into my sleeping quarters. Jim suggested I take a shower, and get comfortable. I took his advice.
Meanwhile, he prepared the burgers (venison and cow).
When I walked up stairs, I met Robbie/Robby (a Millennial co-worker of Jim's). He was tall and lanky with a head full of dark curly locks and a long, disheveled beard.
We began small talk as Jim poured me a thick and outstanding Russian Stout (from Bend, Oregon).
The two men engaged me in a lengthy discussion on my journey while Jim prepared all the fixings for dinner. Meanwhile, Ryleigh played with her horses, and kept reminding her grandpa to stop saying the word "sh**."
Huddled around the large kitchen island, we ate.
Hot discussion topics included: cheese curds, brats, and La Crosse tourist spots.
The word "dude" was also thrown around quite a bit between Jim and Robbie/Robby.
Later, Christy, a striking woman with a picture perfect smile, arrived.
She did not exactly fit the description of a "nana."
She joined us at the island, and offered me some carrot cake.
Inquisitive, she asked me more questions than I did her. Normally, it's the other way around.
We all stayed up until just after 10:30 p.m.
The group disbanded when the Millennial departed (due to an early morning work day), and I was set to depart (in the morning) as well.
Christy walked me downstairs to my room to see if I needed anything.
I offered her money for letting me stay at her place: she declined.
Not wanting to ruin the bed, I slept on the outside of it rather than inside the sheets.
I was only staying for one day, or so I thought.
Change in plans...
I awoke to a thunderous downpour sometime after 6 a.m. I ran outside to cover my bike from the rain, but it was a bit too late.
Drenched in my pajamas, I jumped in the shower.
I packed to go, and went upstairs to make some chai.
Christy and Ryleigh were awake.
"Nana" prepared a huge breakfast for me while Ryleigh had fruit and yogurt and donuts and all kinds of interesting breakfast options.
We watched the weather on television and online.
Jim ventured into the kitchen, and he brought out his laptop to review the weather patterns.
I did not exactly want to ride out in the rain; I mentally prepared myself to do so.
Then, they decided they would let me stay another night.
What a relief!
Apparently, they could sense the dread on my face.
With that settled, I relaxed.
Jim had planned to take Ryleigh to purchase some more horses and/or riders for her collection.
I went with them.
Christy stayed to finish up some things around the house and so on.
As the three of us drove to Ryleigh's favorite horse shop, Jim gave me a visual and verbal tour. I learned where French Island was located; I learned about the huge Oktoberfest parade; I learned about Wisconsin's infamous reputation as a "drinking" state.
Following Ryleigh's purchase of two female riders (think Barbie, but with horses and stables and equestrians), Jim drove us...
Breathtaking views -- nearly 600 feet above La Crosse -- enveloped us.
Ryleigh and I took pictures while Jim explained coulees and why the area is called the driftless region.
I profusely thanked Jim for taking me up to see that spectacular view.
Next, we pulled into a fast food joint where the waitstaff greets you on roller skates.
I ordered a turtle sundae; Jim ordered Ryleigh a kid's meal.
We had our food to-go, and feasted at a nearby park.
Following my dessert lunch, Ryleigh and I ran around the obstacle course and practiced our walking skills on a wooden balance beam.
It was nice feeling like a kid again.
Then, we drove home...
Christy, Jim, and Ryleigh had plans to have a pizza dinner with their middle daughter, Elizabeth. I, too, was included.
During that three-hour window between lunch and dinner, Jim helped me work on my bike. He patched up my ripped seat (with handy-dandy duct tape), and he helped me remove and reattach a bolt from my battery.
Jim also moved his 1960 Jeep, so I could park my motorcycle in the garage.
Following some generic motorcycle maintenance, I took a power nap.
When I awoke, we loaded up in the car and drove over to the pizza place.
Dinner lasted over an hour. Most of it involved playing pretend where "Beth" explained how she ended up with Christy and Jim as parents.
Following our meal, we had scrumptious ice cream from Pearl's, and I was able to get to know "Beth" a little bit more.
(The two of us both share a love of travel and wanderlust.)
When we said our goodbyes, we walked over to the free outdoor concert venue.
On our way there, Jim took me inside the posh, new Charmont Hotel.
The place looked like a storybook pinterest moment.
As we approached the free outdoor concert venue, we learned that it had been canceled.
Change in plans...
We ended up renting a movie that I had suggested to Ryleigh earlier that day called Hoodwinked.
It was a personal favorite of mine that my best friend (Jenn) introduced me to years back.
Christy, Ryleigh, and I watched the movie while Jim did "man stuff."
(I have not forgotten about the band Hot Tuna: Jim!)
At the close of the evening, I ended talking to Ryleigh's mom.
Then, it was time to go to bed.
Feeling fulfilled as a human being, I retired from a glorious day of playing family with my pretend family.
(I cannot thank Christy and Jim enough for making me feel like an insider while staying with them.)
I did not sleep in the sheets...
lest I ruin the immaculate bed!
Until we meet again, my friend.