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On the Road with Barry: Green Bay

Day 1

Man in sunglasses, floppy hat and a t-shirt smiling at the camera with Lambeau Field's entrance visible in the background.

The trip this time is a little bit different. I’m making a stop in three major Wisconsin cities. I’m flying into Milwaukee, driving to Madison, then to Green Bay. (Just in case you were wondering, the Brewers are out of town, the Badgers haven’t started their season yet, and the Packers are in pre-season training camp. No sports joy for Barry on this trip.) I flew out at a seriously early time so I could get into Madison in time to get a lot of work done before it got too late. I landed in Minneapolis with plenty of time to make my Milwaukee connection, but we sat on the tarmac for three episodes of Parks and Recreation and several plays and rewinds of Cavatina (main theme from The Deer Hunter. If you know, you know. It’s a beautiful piece of music, although it always makes me wonder why I watch the movie knowing that [spoilers ahead] Stevie was going to lose his legs, Mikey was going to have PTSD, and Nickie was going to, well, you know…).

Anyway, I didn’t make my connection to Milwaukee and ended up not going to Madison until Sunday, which worked out great. More on that later. In the Minneapolis airport, I was silly and thought I could maybe make my connection and rode a golf cart. I did that movie thing where I flashed some cash to the driver and said, “Can you get me to B3 in a hurry?” It actually worked and we flew through the airport, but alas, I was too late anyway. Fun ride though. The driver was also not allowed to take cash tips, and he may have been disappointed by my offering anyway. In Milwaukee, I may have set a record for consecutive fails at consecutive automatic water faucets….

Day 2

Madison, Wisconsin. Lovely little city by the lake. It really is a nice town, what I got to see of it. The client had sent in a video with street crossings that our Admissions Committee had extra questions about (we ask clients to share a video of them navigating in their home/regular environment so the committee can get an idea of the person’s skill level). I was blessed enough to be going to Wisconsin right around the same time the questions came about, so we met and got to work. It rained on us, not hard, but enough to make my Texas family and friends jealous/envious/wrathful. It hasn’t rained in Texas (at least my little corner of if) since God was a boy, so seeing it and being in it was heavenly. The client and I made a new video showing off her street crossing skills and I headed off to Green Bay. Title Town, USA. Home of the Green Bay Packers. Named after a meat packing plant, the Packers headquarters are situated right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It’s quite a sight to be driving along looking at houses, then, all of a sudden, Lambeau Field pops up. Pre-season camp is in town starting Wednesday, so I expect traffic to get a lot worse.

Day 3

Rain. Lots of rain. Again, I love the rain, but it’s not great for mobility instruction. There are things we can do like mall travel, or a trip to the grocery store. Which is exactly what we did. We spent a lot of time in the Meijer in which Shayna and her mom do most of their shopping. There are a few different ways to grocery shop with limited vision including pulling the cart from in front and using your cane, having someone else pull the cart while you hold on from the back (with your cane in the basket/buggy/cart [however your geographical regions refers to it], clearly visible), or holding on to someone’s arm while you shop together. There are other options like online shopping, grocery delivery, etc. We did a real thorough orientation to the layout of the store (perimeter then interior) noting the major sections of the store, including customer service, and then located some items based on our learned knowledge of the store.

Woman walking with white cane down sunny sidewalk with wood chips and bushes in the background.After Meijer, the rain still falling, so we went to the mall in Green Bay. Let me tell you, the mall is not my favorite place to train. It’s a seriously complex place to travel for someone with little or no remaining vision. Very few straight lines, audio information coming in from all directions, people everywhere, etc. So much so that many people with limited vision with whom I am familiar spend little time in malls, choosing rather to shop online, or learning specific routes to the specific stores to which they want to travel and then get back out. Which is what Shayna decided to do. As it turns out, the four specific stores in which Shayna was interested were all in the same hallway. Besides having to travel through the food court, fraught with peril, the route was not too difficult. Two main ingredients factor in to successful mall travel: 1. Motivation. Shayna was motivated to find these stores. 2. Orange Julius. Barry was motivated by the presence of an Orange Julius (nectar of the gods) directly in between stores 2 & 3. Christmas shopping in the mall when I was a kid always included a trip to Orange Julius with my dad while we watched my mom and brother orbit around us. They got Orange Juliuses as well, but after the financial carnage was complete. Anyway, Shayna was successful in locating all of the stores in which she was interested and we made it out of the mall virtually unscathed. We will return here later in the week to make sure Shayna is good with this route.

When I’m on the road, I like to eat local; someplace I can’t eat at home. I totally bailed on this plan and ate at Jimmy John’s tonight. Nothing wrong with Jimmy John’s, but I can eat there in Nacogdoches. I was tired, hungry, and wet and I got a JJBLT and went to the house.

Day 4

Sunny and delightful in Green Bay. Shayna and I started off by going around her block. Shayna has lived in Green Bay her whole life, and received O&M services in high school. It has been a while since she had any formal training, so we started with the basics like holding the cane properly, having an adequately wide arc, using cardinal directions, learning street names, and similar things. There are good sidewalks in Shayna’s neighborhood, so we were able to walk around the block on sidewalks all the way. She did well on the first trip, so we expanded our route and went around two blocks this time, working on residential street crossings. Shayna did well again, but has a little trouble with veering. So the story on veering is that everyone veers at some point. Even the best travelers on the planet veer sometimes. Better than learning to not veer is learning what to do when it happens. We spent a bit of time on veer recovery strategies, then upped the difficulty by adding crossing at lighted intersections. Shayna had a lot of success, but was ready to not cross any more streets today. We made a plan for tomorrow and called it a day.

I totally bailed on my eat local plan. I ordered in pizza and watched the Cubs, who are actually in a pennant race this season. I don’t know how much time I have left on the planet (who does?) and I don’t want to miss a minute of a Cubs playoff run. I have a better chance of not actually dying than the Cubs do of making the playoffs again, so I’m gonna watch ‘em all I can.

Day 5

Woman walking toward the camera down partially open stairs using a white cane. Sunny and in the 60s in Green Bay today. The south, especially Texas, is literally burning up and I’m considering wearing a jacket. In August. It’s wild to me. Shayna and I set out on a long, straight route down Oneida Street, on of the major North/South traffic arteries in Green Bay. Lots of street crossings, lots of decisions to make, lots of learning opportunities for client and instructor. In the afternoon, we went to the Green Bay suburb of De Pere (locals pronounce it “De Peer,” GPS pronounces it “De Pear.” Who knows?) to the local library where Shayna meets every month with a National Federation of the Blind support group. It was a great opportunity to work on stairs and to work on a route to the meeting room, both activities being excellent avenues to Shayna doing things independently. After finishing at the library, Shayna mentioned that her support group would soon be doing a fundraiser by selling Seroogy’s chocolate bars. Seroogy’s is a local place that makes their own chocolate, and their stores are filled with every variation of chocolate, chocolate covered things, and chocolate flavored things that you can imagine, and some that you can’t. Now I am filled with Seroogy’s as well. They have this one style called a Meltaway bar that literally melts away in your mouth. It’s chocolate covered chocolate, my favorite kind.  I got milk and dark chocolate, one for lunch and one for dinner. If they last.

I had dinner at a local place, finally. Kroll’s is a restaurant on the east side of Lambeau Field. So close I could throw my Kroll burger and hit the side of the stadium. It was a really good burger and it came served in butcher paper. No plate, no silverware. Just a burger wrapped to go. I did have some cheese curds to go with it. C’mon, I’m in Wisconsin. What’s a guy gonna do?

Day 6

Shayna had an idea to travel a route to a family friend’s home, about a mile away from her house. I love it when clients have a specific goal in mind. Again, motivation is a great learning tool. There was no Orange Julius on the route, but I suffered through. The crux of the route is a light-controlled intersection. It’s not completely square (not many are, honestly) and this will be one that Shayna will have to practice long after I’m gone, but it’s one that she will be able to accomplish, eventually, on her own. It’s a great route, and one that she’s motivated to learn. Speaking of motivation, we returned to the mall to check out Shayna’s overall understanding of her route to her favorite stores. As you might remember, there’s also an Orange Julius in the mall, on the route, that provided my motivation. We both performed well, Shayna on her route, and me on managing my anticipation.

Day 7

Woman walking down sidewalk with grass and a house behind her. She is walking with a white cane.Shayna had a doctor’s appointment this morning, so I got an opportunity to experience something that doesn’t happen very often: awaken without an alarm. Such a luxury! I still woke up at approximately the same time, and was ready for work at the regular time, but a morning without an alarm is a joy to me. I used my time well, finishing the ever-present paperwork, working on Shayna’s report, and working on this blog. Aren’t y’all happy I had all this extra time?

This afternoon, Shayna and I practiced the route to her family friend’s home and she did great. We put into practice some street crossing strategies that I hope Shayna will practice after I’m gone. I really think she will. Afterward, I had a talk with Shayna, her mother, and her grandmother about next steps. For instance, I reminded her of her homework: practice, practice, practice. We also talked about the dog guide application process, because Shayna would like to apply for a dog in the future. Someone who wants a dog guide, whether I work with them in their home or if they attend the course on campus at Leader Dog, has to wait a minimum of 30 days to apply so we can see the evidence of their practice.

After we finished up at Shayna’s, I got a bite to eat (very uninspired Mexican food. I will admit that I’m a Mexican food snob, and what I really wanted was chips and salsa). Anyway, backing out of my spot and almost ran over someone. They did walk behind a moving vehicle, but still… I rolled down my window and apologized profusely. The lady laughingly said, “Don’t be daft. I’m just fine.” I was today years old when I was called daft for the first time. Maybe it’s like someone from the south saying “bless your heart,” which doesn’t mean “bless your heart” in the least.

Day 8

Leaving Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi behind, I made the two hour trip to Milwaukee, got the car turned in, and settled in for the flight. On my way to Houston, I get to go to Denver. From Milwaukee. Picture that route in your head and tell me how that makes sense. I get it that the airlines want full flights. I flew from Wisconsin with several folks headed to Houston (what were they all doing in Wisconsin with me?). Anyway, I went 3-for-3 in Denver restrooms, choosing working motion-detection fixtures, or holding my hands correctly, at least, so kudos to Denver!

I’m headed back to Knoxville next month during a football game week. All that Tennessee orange…  The Razorback in me recoils at that part, so you’ll have to tune in next month to see if I survive it.