The following story is part of a series of stories telling about how a place has had a significant part in my history. The first three installments can be read here, here and here.
After two years of disturbing events, T. (that first boyfriend) and I, had broken up. I thought the sun would never shine again. Even when it did, its light was harsh and abusive, and only made me want to close my eyes and shut myself in a dark room.
In the midst of accusations and scandal surrounding my ex-relationship, my parents had gone away for their anniversary, to Wisconsin, and came back with news. They had found a beautiful earth home on an acre of property for a third less than the worth of our home in Oak Park, Illinois.
I am confident that part of their decision was with the purpose of getting me away from T., as he could be very charming and persuasive and I was far too kind and forgiving, code words for ridiculously naive bordering stupid. Everything happened very quickly from there. Within weeks, our home in Oak Park sold for five times the amount my parents purchased it, and we were able to buy the earth home located in Janesville, Wisconsin, and have money left over.
A change of scenery was just what the doctor ordered. Moving to this beautiful yet familiar place was better therapy than I could have paid for. Somehow, as disappointed as I was about my past, I began to have hope for my future.
The closest church to the home was of the same persuasion we had been attending in Illinois. I would be working for my father for half a day, when he was in town. He traveled once a week to Chicago to work on existing projects there and was usually gone one or two days a week. Coincidentally, our new home was only 45 minutes away from New Glarus. It was during one of those first trips into Chicago, that Mom and I found ourselves on a day trip there.
But this wasn’t just any day trip. We had decided to walk the Sugar River Trail from just outside Albany, Wisconsin to New Glarus, Wisconsin where we would be staying at the Chalet Landhaus Hotel. This was just under 16 miles. We were both wearing the most athletic shoes we owned, which weren’t very athletic I might add. We had a couple of water bottles on hand and a backpack with some pajamas and fresh underwear. We were armed and ready to go.
The first stretch was about ten miles, and was fairly easy. We walked at a pace of just over 20 minutes per mile. The early morning summer sun played tricks with light and shadow on the crushed stone path. Rays of light occasionally broke through the canopy of trees and sent sparkling specks of healing from heaven into my broken soul.
After conversing along the road about everything from C.S. Lewis to Frank Lloyd Wright, (two very popular topics in our home), we found ourselves just outside of Monticello.
“There’s a nice little hamburger place in Monticello,” my mom said, “It’s just a short way from the trail. Would you like to stop and have some lunch?”
Now, we had packed lunches in the backpack, but I had to admit, sitting down in an air conditioned restaurant to some hot food sounded great.
“Sure!” We were getting a little tired, but we were more than half way there, and now we were stopping for a rest. We turned off the path and toward the restaurant. Big. Mistake.
“I don’t remember the diner being this far from the road do you?” I questioned after walking a least a mile before we even entered the town limits.
“It does seem like it’s a lot closer when we drive it. We’ll feel better after we sit down and eat.”
A few blocks later, we arrived at our destination. In a diner reminiscent of a ’50’s restaurant, we ate our lunch of hamburgers, fries and a shake, but rather than feeling refreshed, we started to feel more and more exhausted. This excursion added at least 2 miles to our journey, and the thought of walking over a mile just to get back to the trail was almost unbearable.
Soon, I heard my mother asking the waitress if she knew of anyone who might be willing to give us a ride to the Chalet Landhaus (which was only about 6 miles away.) No one at the restaurant was willing to oblige. Even the old men, who hadn’t stopped staring at us since we walked in. (In hindsight, I’m kind of glad about that one.)
Now the thought of the remaining 7 miles seemed nearly impossible. Our feet were aching, and we had no energy left.
“I think there’s a car dealership across the street. Maybe they will let us rent a car!” I said with hope in my heart.
We stumbled across the street, slap happy with exhaustion. If anyone had seen us they would have insisted we were drunk.
“My daughter and I were walking the Sugar River State Trail to New Glarus. We are almost sick we’re so tired. Do you have a car you could rent us?”
“No, I’m sorry we don’t.”
Silence, “Well, do you have a service where an employee drives a repair customer back to their home? Because we are too tired to continue, we’d be glad to pay you for your time.”
“You aren’t customers. I couldn’t do that.”
Shoulders slumped, hearts and bodies heavy, we started back on the trek towards the trail. We have since named Monticello the most unfriendly town in Wisconsin. The last 7 miles were torture, but we did it. Finally, we saw The Chalet Landhaus at the end of the trail like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
This photo of Chalet Landhaus is courtesy of TripAdvisor
The hot tub was going to feel good that night, and so was a lovely plate of Wisconsin aged cheese, crackers and fruit. We were far too tired to walk down to the dining room and eat, so I called to see about room service.
“Yes, do you have room service?”
“No, we don’t.”
“Oh…well, my mother and I just walked 18 miles today, and we’re exhausted. Is there anyway that I could order some food to-go and bring it up to my room?”
“I’m sorry, we don’t do to-go orders.”
With my hand over the receiver I whispered, “They won’t let me order anything to-go!”
After excusing myself from the phone as politely as possible, I knew that I had to take matters into my own hands. I had to go down there and convince them to give me some food. They did. Very reluctantly, but they did.
That was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever eaten. We had a fruit and cheese platter. We ate, went to the hot tub and were in bed by 6 o’clock.
Looking back on that trip, I’m glad no one gave us a ride. I think that it was a good lesson to learn that even though things are difficult, and that I may be tired and wishing that someone else would take the burden for me, God’s plan is to give me the grace and strength to carry my own burden and drop it at His feet. Still, I’m glad my father came to pick us up the next morning.
For the next story go here.