Big city friend Susan takes her memories and more from northeastern Wisconsin

Shirley and I went to the same Illinois high school. While she remained in Illinois, Anna moved to Wisconsin. Over the years, we’ve met halfway with our spouses to enjoy lunch together. Last week, my old friend decided it was time to get together, and I drove four hours from her Chicago suburb to my farm in Wisconsin.

I’ve thought long and hard about how to entertain my friend. Instead of doing the usual touristy things, we were visiting places in the country. After all, Shirley is surrounded by cityscapes, and what I was going to show her was in my own backyard.

We spent our first afternoon together chatting. Shirley had enough driving for the day. Her adventure on the road began with an unplanned detour. Because of that, she drove five hours to get here instead of the estimated four.

The next day, we got into my car. First stop was Theobald Gardens Farm Market at W4942 WI-54, Black Creek, WI. As I picked out six ears of corn and a small watermelon, Shirley gasped at the size of the product. Her first purchase was a large pumpkin. I was surprised that it was only seven dollars.

“I would pay $30 for one like this at home,” she said. “I can’t wait to carve this with my grandson.”

She was amazed at the size of the cabbage and cauliflower. ‘These are huge!’ So I wondered. One of each will return with her to Illinois.

We continued our backcountry journey by going to Black Creek. Our stop there was at Wagner Market. We were surrounded by more products there, but what Shirley packed were bottles of jam, TOE Jam, for example. This unique blend of mandarins, oranges, and elderberries has been going south as gifts for family members.

On the outside patio, Shirley finds patio decor that reminds her of the fun time she had with her late husband. Carefully, we loaded the 4-foot blue and white lighthouse, its solar light safely tucked into the box with the nannies.

We stopped at my house to unload before heading to the Oneida Farmers Market. There Shirley found a handmade baby hat for her future granddaughter.

At two, I took Shirley on a fun adventure at the Green Bay Botanical Garden. Since this was a Thursday in September, there were not many visitors

We would walk around and look at the flowers and plants. We would first guess the name of the plant before reading the plaque next to it. Sometimes we were right, and other times our guesses were completely wrong.

I led the way to the new Bell Children’s Park, and this was my designated stop. I’ve read and heard about it. On that day I will see it in person.

We both marveled at everything that was put into this park. I especially liked the view from the tree house. Much can be seen from above.

I have to admit that after all our daily adventures, I’m starting to feel tired. But I wasn’t too tired to miss a ride down a twisty slope. It’s been a bit of a challenge. First, I had to climb to the top of the slide and then figure out how to point my legs down in the right direction.

It was so cool to ride that slide, so I went up for the second time.

Our lovely afternoon at the Botanical Garden ended at the entrance as Shirley and I signed up as members – memberships can be used at other gardens around the country, even those in Shirley’s neighbourhood.

Before Shirley headed home the next day, we stopped at Simon’s Specialty Cheese Store in Appleton. My friend found so many delicious cheeses that she will take her back to Illinois.

This little vacation for Shirley will lead to more in the future. I’m glad I was able to introduce her to the charming and delicious parts of Wisconsin. Her family will also benefit from all of Shirley’s special discoveries.

Susan Manzke, Sunny Book Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;;

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