MONDAY, JULY 18, 2016
It was déjà vu returning to Madison. It has been 12 years since I have been here. A little known fact for some of you is that I used to live there in 2002-2004. Everything felt like a dream once we were edging further and further into the city limits. The airport I had flown in and out of, the top of the capitol building which punctuated the city center where they have a farmer’s market, the unique Frank Lloyd Wright style homes. I had definitely been here but it was far away in my mind. It was hard to see myself there now in this point in my life. Envisioning the me that was there was out of my reach too. It is not something I would have changed about my past, but I can see in hindsight that it was not my future. The plan was to find and secure some Rocky Rococo pizza, preferably with saucer sized sausage and greasy wet pepperoni loaded on top of the gooiest mid west mozzarella on a bed of a perfectly sweet ridiculously thick square crust. From the time I tasted that slice of heaven on earth, I could not get it off my mind. I love pizza. That is perhaps not a little known fact. I own a t-shirt with an illustration of a slice of pizza, and now socks, thanks to my favorite lady boss! Could I eat it every day? Uh yeah. Look, I am a simple gal and pizza is the way to my heart. I even called Rocky Rococo years ago to see if they delivered it dry ice style like some of the great confectioners and chefs do now. Sadly the answer was no. Sadly, I even thought about going to those depths.
We scouted the closest locations and found it. As we pulled into the parking lot, I almost couldn’t wait for Thomas to park the car. I was close to doing the movie standard jump and roll. Nothing had changed about the RR vibe. We were greeted by the unassuming red and green decor used in the logo as well as the incorporated smiling face of Rocky. Our cashier was a bit preoccupied or at the end of her thoughts. It was a pretty large Rocky Rococo and there may have been a kid party or event midday in the theater in the back. There was a lot of coming and going for an otherwise quiet Monday lunch rush and somehow giving our order was like a vaudeville sketch. We said one thing, she repeated something else back to clear it up, she repeated it incorrectly, we tried again and she seemed like she understood the order. Mind you, this is Wisconsin, so almost everyone seems extra friendly and kind, you don’t ever get fussy. This is not an attack on her abilities. Somehow there was a major crossing of communication wires. When we walked away from the counter, the understanding was that we had 3 of the 4 slices that we ordered, leaving Thomas waiting on one of his.
The entire place was mostly ours and we picked a booth across the way at the far wall. Once we are at the table I am chomping at the bit and we open the boxes to sort out what is what. For those of you unfamiliar with Rocky’s, they sell whole pizzas, but they also cater to the piggy individuals like myself and box each pan slice. Not quite sure if what we have of the order is right. I think there was a sausage and pepperoni and a plain which we didn’t order and one of Thomas’. After a few minutes, Thomas checked at the counter for the slice he was waiting for. In the meantime, our friendly cashier came over. Somehow she ended up coming back over with another slice for the order she thought Thomas was missing (even though he had retrieved it at the counter in her absence) and the correct missing slice of the sausage and pepperoni I originally ordered, on the house. I think? It was extremely confusing. All I know is that I had the 2 slices (which is practically 4 slices) I wanted and we ended up with an extra slice. My eyes are not the same size of my stomach. I did a horrible thing and forced myself to eat a little of the second slice. What a glutenous animal I am. The beauty of the boxes: automatic doggy bag - you can carry your partly eaten slice of pizza with you for the next 2 days for later consumption.
Otherwise, it was another fairly quiet day full of driving with our usual quips and random banter and off road sightings. Today’s destination was Alexandria, Minnesota. During my scheduling of this leg of the trip, I specifically was trying to identify those places that the Grahams had pictures and video footage of as documentation. One of the places that that several pictures were taken was Lake Carlos State Park in Minnesota. I had provided my travel itinerary and requests to my contact at the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD) to inquire about lodging. It was during this process that I received the invitation to present this project at the park at the Interpretive Center. Speaking in front of a group still causes me quite a lot of anxiety. I almost wasn’t sure if I was going to agree to the presentation. I came up with a few good excuses in my mind, like time, which was plausible. There wasn’t a lot of free time on this trip but the benefits would outweigh the sacrifice in taking the time to present. I had to talk myself down and went from one extreme to the other in my mind. At first I was stressed. Then I tried this mental trick to act unconcerned about it. I know this project inside and out.
The drive was not as long as the first day since we decided to keep going for it to alleviate the addition of long miles today. Luckily the hotel in Minnesota had a restaurant, Rudy's Redeye Grill, attached to it and we made it an easy choice to eat there for dinner once we settled in. This place was cavernous. Bar side alone was the size of typical restaurant. Adjoining was the more formal, public entrance with another full sized area for diners. Tonight there were a handful of folks if that many, once we were seated. I would assume that on a non Monday night, this place had to get packed, otherwise it seems like overkill. A popover with butter was served with my meal. Tarnations… I haven’t had an overgrown roll like this before. I ask myself why is this new to me? The roll was a temporary distraction from my presentation worries but I knew once this meal was over, it was time to prepare to whatever degree I was capable of tricking myself into. The stressed side of my brain ultimately beat down the laissez-faire. The one thing I told myself when I switched out some images on the current presentation file I had was to keep it short and to the point. That helped my brain settle down a bit, but eventually I had to let it be what it was going to be. An hour or so whizzed by and I called it. Bed time.