Day 16 – A Long Day

Since I sorted and packed the car of all non essentials last evening, leaving La Crosse by 7:45 was quick and streamlined this morning. We were so happy we had made the stop and now we turned the page and set out for points East. The day was tightly scheduled.

By noon we had made it as far as OshKosh, and since we had hit the road without breakfast, we decided this would make a good lunch break. There was an Olive Garden right off the road, so we pulled in and enjoyed one of their lunch specials. It was quick and hot and filling. Just what we wanted. To my delight, there happened to be a Duluth Trading Outlet Store in the same parking lot . . . so, of course, I had to take a quick look. There was a screaming good deal on pants for my driver, so it was well worth the stop.

At 1:00 p.m. we had arrived at the Experimental Aircraft Association Museum, a private enterprise supported by a group of airplane enthusiasts. The museum houses a collection of planes and items that relate to aviation history since its inception. Some of their displays were quite good and we enjoyed the short movies they had throughout. Since the collection was much larger than anticipated, we hadn’t allowed enough time. But, we continued on knowing that just meant we would arrive at the next stop a little later. The museum was thoroughly enjoyable.

From there we strayed into the farmlands and small towns of Wisconsin in search of the grave sites of ancestors – of both of us. The first stop was in Johnsburg, at Saint John the Baptist Parish Cemetery where Randy’s great, great, great grandparents, Stephan and Katheryn Goeser are buried. ¬†Stephan was the first person buried in that cemetery in 1853. It was a beautiful late afternoon and the place was lovely. We tried to see if we could visit the church, but it was locked up tight, so we slowly walked back to the car and went on.

Just a few miles down the road we found the town of Mount Calvary and the Cemetery of the Holy Cross. Here is the site where Randy’s great, great grandparents, Johann & Gertrude Michaels, lie in their eternal rest.

And most amazing of all, just 25 miles south of Johnsburg, in the Winooski Cemetery – along a rural road near Plymoth, WI – my great, great, great grandfather and grandmother, Nathan and Persis Underhill are buried. How in the world could the same generation of ancestors for both of us have lived so close together? It almost boggles the mind. But, wait, there’s more! Randy has discovered that we have generations on both sides that were born and grew up in France, not more than 30 miles apart. It seems we were destined to find each other as our ancestors have been in similar places through generations – and may even have known each other in some of these small communities in rural America.

It was so exciting to find three for three! We have walked cemeteries for hours and hours in the past without finding any of the names we were searching for! We traveled on, happy to have found what we wanted to see!

Wanting to avoid Milwaukee’s morning rush hour, we passed through the city on I-94 as the sun was setting. It was a long day, but Racine will be a welcome resting place for the night.

While there were places throughout the day along our route where it looked like it had just rained, we met no rain at all on the road. The afternoon was stunning and our time in the cemeteries was marked by the sun streaming through the trees. It was actually quite warm – almost 80 degrees, and we did get in our exercise today. At each site we found, we marveled at how our ancestors had found beautiful places to live and die.