A Testicle Festival for the rest of y’all.

My first week at TobacCo, a coworker asked if I was interested in joining a fantasy football survivor league. I was unfamiliar with this type of office pool, but have enjoyed playing fantasy football in the past. One year, I even won the whole shebang. Plus, “Eye of the Tiger” is one of the best songs to come out of the ‘80s. I was all in. 

The concept of survivor football is simple: you pick one football team to win their game for the week. You can only pick that team once per season. The last man (or woman) standing takes home the pot. That’s a helluva lot easier than drafting players and tying your long-term fortune to their performance each week. 

There were teams I wanted to pick. I figured the Buffalo Bills would dominate this past weekend. Or the Chiefs. But I didn’t want to use obvious picks right off the bat, so I pored over the schedule for a few minutes and chose the Philadelphia Eagles. They were playing the Washington Commanders on the road. Seemed as good a pick as any. They ended up winning, so I knew I’d advanced to the next week and was one step closer to victory. 

What I didn’t know, until I came into the office on Monday, was that I had actually already won the league. One week and the whole thing was done. Turns out the other seven participants had all picked the Los Angeles Chargers to win. What the hell?! 

Aaron even accused me of going Back to the Future Marty McFly-style and grabbing a copy of a sports almanac with all football scores for the next 50 years. Ha!

I’ve never turned $10 into $80 faster. Great way to start a new week!

I was hoping for an easy transition back to work anyway. Tara and I spent the weekend up north and had a great time. 

“Up north,” by the way, is Wisconsin slang for the northern portion of the state — but nobody really knows where up north begins. In fact, people debate it fiercely. At least in South Dakota, East River and West River are easily distinguished by where you are in relation to the Missouri River. Up north, Wisconsin, is more a state of mind than a physical locale. It’s woods and water, cabins and kayaking. But really, it’s a matter of perspective. Because we live in Fort Atkinson, Watertown is up north. Watertown residents would say Fond du Lac is up north. Fond du Lac peeps would point to Appleton and say that’s up north. And if you live in Beloit, on the Illinois border, the whole state is up north. 

Having said all that, Rice Lake is definitely up north. We arrived at the lodge where I’d booked us a two-night stay shortly after 5 p.m. and were immediately impressed with the surroundings. It’s located right on the water and every room has a view. Very cozy and romantic. 

We weren’t able to take advantage of the deck chairs or firepit or free kayaks because the weather was gloomy the whole time we were there, alternating between cloudy, foggy, drizzly, and rainy. Sometimes all four at once. Not that we were complaining; it all felt very fall-like. 

Friday evening we hit up a local bar called The Bar. Lack of an original name notwithstanding, this turned out to be a great place: borderline divey and filled with locals. We settled in for a few hours, enjoying cheese curds and cold beverages. A local musician ended up performing three sets of mostly-’90s alternative rock; think Third Eye Blind, Counting Crows, and Matchbox 20. He was very good and happy to oblige the requests we occasionally shouted out. Fun night!

Saturday we decided to head even more up north. Drove 90 minutes to Pattison State Park, where we indulged in a four-mile hike that included multiple waterfalls and lots of fall foliage. It’s still a few weeks away from peak season, but was impressive nonetheless.

After hiking we’d worked up an appetite, so we stopped by a bar and grill for an appetizer. Too bad we didn’t schedule our trip a couple of weeks later.

Oh, and “bags” will forever haunt me now. 

Next up, we drove up to Wisconsin Point, where we came face-to-face with Lake Superior. 

I’m fascinated by the Great Lakes, probably because a majority of my life has been spent near the Pacific Ocean. They’re such a novelty to me — their sheer scope and size is astounding. Especially Lake Superior, the granddaddy of them all.  

And then, because we were so close to Duluth, Minnesota, we figured, why not? I’d remembered my friend Ashley raving about some sandwich place there, so I texted her for the deets. If you ever get a chance to check out Northern Waters Smokehaus, you won’t be disappointed. We weren’t hungry yet and still had a long drive back to Rice Lake, so we grabbed our sandwiches to go. Spent the evening playing cribbage in our room and, eventually, breaking out those sandwiches. They were incredible.  

Just as we were finishing up breakfast Sunday morning, the sun broke through the clouds. Figures, huh? The drive home was uneventful. We stopped at an apple orchard in Baraboo because I’d heard they sold fresh apple cider donuts. Boy howdy, do they. Warm and soft, right out of the fryer. Heaven. We also picked up a couple bags of apples. 

The whole weekend just screamed fall, guys. 

Tomorrow’s my Friday already. My parents are coming out for a visit, getting in Wednesday and staying until…well, we don’t know how long exactly. Monday-ish? They’ll be in a hotel within walking distance of our apartment. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen them — a year, actually — so I wanted to take a couple of days off even though I just started my new job. They’re not real familiar with Wisconsin, so we will be busy dragging their asses all over the place. 

Happy weekend in advance! 

41 thoughts on “A Testicle Festival for the rest of y’all.

  1. So Mark, I’ve noticed a strong resemblance in your pictures to any number of lovely places within an hour or two from me. Did you and Tara actually move back to Washington? I’m not sure that I buy that pic of Lake Superior- perhaps pilfered from the internet while you wrote this post from somewhere in the Cascade forest?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Congrats on your win! I was wondering about the San Diego Chargers. But I still think of the Boston Patriots and the Houston Oilers so who am I to quibble? My older daughter’s ex’s family were from Casco, WI which is on a little promontory. I thought it was further north than it actually is looking at a map. So much to explore in your new state.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a miracle that your post appeared in my feed AND I’m able to comment. I’m on a roll . . .
    Those waterfalls are gorgeous. What a fun Fall trip. I love the music that bar was playing. 90’s doesn’t get enough love. I can’t get over the bags thing either. What’s wrong with those people?
    We are taking a fall trip this weekend that will also involve waterfalls, nature, drinks and football. I’m super pumped!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m sorry, Testicle Festival, is this a known American thing? Is this why I’m the first person asking?
    Nice pics too – my favourite season of the year 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Cider doughnuts?! I was keeping my envy in check until I read those words and wept. Cider doughnuts are the best…after my husband’s mochi doughnuts. I really miss getting those in NH.

    That’s my kind of Fantasy sports league–one and done! Congrats.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just this morning, somebody at TobacCo brought in a box of cider donuts from another orchard. You aren’t kidding: they’re SO good! I think I only ever previously had one in my entire life. Clearly, I’ve been missing out.

      You’ll appreciate this: I took a portion of my winnings and donated to the Mandela Barnes for Senate campaign. My first official act as a registered WI voter!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I wish all the best as the NFL season progresses. I hope your get rich quick scheme [accidental success] makes you a wealthy man. I am charmed by Wisconsin and I’m betting your parents will be too. Have fun goofing off… as if you wouldn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love the pictures and description of your adventures and hope you have a great weekend with your parents.

    But I’m still stuck on the fantasy football. You participated and in one week, knocked out everyone else and now there’s no more office fantasy football for the rest of the season? Do I have that right? Oh boy, what a way to make friends with your new co-workers… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have that exactly right, lol. The person who organized it did say he’d be down to start up a new round since this one ended so quickly, but it doesn’t sound like there’s a lot of interest from the people who lost money. As for me, I’d be all in!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The smart strategy would have been to pick ANY other team. I’d like to say that was my plan all along, but I didn’t even know how to see other peoples’ picks, and certainly didn’t even think about trying to. I’m okay with blind luck as long as I walk away richer.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Duluth and the Twin Cities are a good 2+ hours apart. Minneapolis is not doing well with crime these days, but as with all big metropolitan areas, there are safe areas and less safe ones. When Mark comes to this part of Minnesota, I won’t let him go to the dangerous parts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, you went all the way to Duluth! That’s a serious weekend road trip! We go (up north) to Duluth from time to time, but I’ve never eaten at that restaurant, but I’ve noted it for future jaunts.

    Dang! We have dinner guests coming next Saturday. Otherwise I might try to convince the husband to go over to the Testicle Festival. That just begs to be part of my “Clearly, I’ll Do Anything for a Post” series, which started with the Spam Museum and will have the Twine Ball joining it as my next post…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Congratulations on the football win! I’d say you’re doing better in that than bitcoin. Right?

    That little lodge looks so darn cute! So does the norther-north visit. 🙂
    Bags and testicles. Ughhh… so many images that I don’t want to have.

    Looks like an almost amazing fall so far!

    Liked by 1 person

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