Day 6: Small Town

Today, we said goodbye to the Quad Cities and headed to Wisconsin.  One of my cousins is getting married Saturday and we are excited to see lots of family and friends this weekend. 

Since the wedding is in a small town in southwest Wisconsin we are staying in the one hotel in town.  It's a Super 8 and thankfully the rooms are big, there's an indoor pool (small, but wet), complimentary breakfast and complimentary internet that is currently working.  Our cell phone reception is almost non-existent right now, but we will manage. 

I have definitely come to realize that I am a big city girl who enjoys the country.  I just wish I could bring the big city amenities to the country.  However, our first day in the small town of Darlington was quite enjoyable.

I have actually been looking forward to my yearly visit to this neck of the woods because of the Bargain Nooks.  Bargain Nooks are stores that support the Hodan Center, A Community Rehabilitation Program for Adults with Disabilities.  They accept gently used clothing donations and they receive a steady flow of donations from Land's End.  I like Land's End clothing and merchandise, but since I am a bargain shopper I would much rather buy their quality apparel at one of the five Bargain Nooks in Wisconsin.  The stores are located in Mineral Point, Platteville, Darlington, Mount Horeb and Spring Green.  They are a great place to buy nice winter coats (we don't need those anymore), swimming suits, luggage, etc.  I try to go to at least one whenever I am in the area.

After we checked into the hotel and got everyone settled, I headed into Darlington to visit the Bargain Nook.  I found some nice swim shirts for the kids ($3-$5 each), a cute summer dress for Abby ($6), a nice black swimsuit ($5), some cooler lunch bags ($3 each) and a backpack for outings ($3).  The only catch with the great prices I got is that the backpack already has initials embroidered on it.  WJM.  But, my name is Julia Margaret, so I just need to pick a word for W.  Wonderful, wise, wild, winsome... 

The friendly clerks were more than willing to help me find a place to get pizza in town to take back to the hotel for supper.  I ended up going to Casey's, which is a gas station, convenience store and... pizza place.  I ordered the pizzas and then went behind Casey's to the local Piggly Wiggly (connection to our Memphis visit on Day 2).  The clerk there was kind enough to give me the shopper card discount on my items since I was from out of town and I found out she had recently visited Texas and really liked it.  (She visited in February.)

I may not have had all the options I am used to in Houston, but I had the convenience of everything being close and very little traffic.  Everyone has been friendly and more than willing to help.  I believe that if you need help with something "it never hurts to ask."  Plus, when you are polite, courteous and genuinely grateful, people are usually willing to help you out.  For instance, I had some apples along, but no knife to cut them to give to the kids with the pizza.  Some of the staff of the restaurant next door to the hotel, where we will attend the reception tomorrow, were standing outside so I politely presented my dilemma and asked if there was any way I could borrow a knife.  One of the gentleman stepped back into the kitchen and came out with a knife for me.  That's small town hospitality and this big city girl appreciated it.

Some of you may be big city people like me and some of you may prefer the country or a small town, but I think traveling to places that are not like where you live is a great learning experience.  I think we can all learn to appreciate places even if it would not be somewhere we would want to live.  Of course, you may find that you really like the change of pace.  It is also good for kids to experience big cities as well as small towns.  Big city kids need to get out and see farms, animals, cornfields, and a less stressful driving experience.  Small town/country kids need to get out and see tall buildings, lots of people, public transportation and busy roads.  The earlier we experience different surroundings, the less intimidating they will be when we are adults.  Also, the more we try new experiences like that, the easier new experiences of any kind will be for us.  For example, the first subway system I ever learned to use was the tubes in London.  Since then I have used the Metro in D.C., the subway in NYC and commuter trains in NJ.  They each have their unique terms and routes, but the general concept is the same and makes learning a new system less confusing or intimidating.

So, what new place are you going to visit?  Are you willing to go visit a town or city that is different from where you live?  What do you think it will be like?  After you go, think about your preconceived ideas of the place and compare them to what you actually experienced.  Was it what you expected it to be?  These are all great questions to ask ourselves as well as our children.  Make learning a part of any travel experience, big or small.

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