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On the Road with Barry – La Crosse, WI

Day One

This trip is starting off great. I’m headed to La Crosse, WI to work with David, a serial LD grad who needs some O&M training.

Because La Crosse is much closer to Minneapolis, I flew in there. I love the Minneapolis airport; so clean, big windows and very bright. It’s big, so getting in between terminals takes a long but it’s not that bad.

I have a friend from college, Jim, who lives just outside Minneapolis, so I asked him if he could meet me for lunch, and guess what? The Minnesota Twins are in town today! How fortunate am I? Jim and I met, ate and went to the baseball game. Target Field is a great stadium, it was a beautiful day, and we saw a good game, despite the Twins’ loss.

Jim is a state representative in Minnesota, the House Minority Whip to be exact, and he gave me a tour of the capitol grounds and building. I even got to bang the gavel on the house floor. Very groovy. It’s just a little over two hours to La Crosse from Minneapolis and I have plenty of light left. It was a pretty drive through the upper Mississippi River Valley.

A panorama photo of a baseball game at Target Field

Day Two

David using his rollator walker along a sidewalk

I met David and his wife at their house Monday morning and we make a plan. David has had six dogs from Leader over the years but he’s currently using what I call, a rollator. For those of you who don’t know, it’s basically a walker with wheels on all four legs, hand brakes and a fold-down seat. It’s used mostly for those who have a balance or stability issues but can be a great help to those with stamina issues as well.

David has had some health challenges recently that necessitates his use of the rollator. We’re working together this week to see if we can figure out a way for him to use a cane with his rollator to give him a preview of his environment.

David and I headed out on our first route to his doctor’s office and the hospital where he has the majority of his appointments. We met his wife for a late lunch and then we all walked back to the house to end our first day.

The weather is just beautiful, mid-60s and sunny, so lots of people are out on the street in downtown La Crosse where my hotel is located. I strolled through the streets for the better part of an hour before remembering that I was missing a televised Chicago Cubs game. I didn’t even regret missing it, the weather was so nice.

Day Three

David using his rollator walker and white cane on a sidewalk

When David and his wife, who is also legally blind, moved to La Crosse from Rochester, MN, they really did their research. They live on the corner of their block but, more importantly, they live at a bus stop. A bus that takes them to the downtown transfer station, if not directly to their destinations, to all other buses.

Not everyone who is visually impaired has this option, but it is something that should be considered if no one in the house drives. Not only are they on a bus route, but David has also met and conversed with every bus driver on every possible route.

I should tell you that David has a photographic memory. In WWII, he would have been a codebreaker. He’s got that kind of mind for numbers, names, dates, etc. All that to say David knows all the bus drivers, their families and stories from them all. Making yourself familiar with those with whom you cross paths regularly is a good thing. Think about Norm on Cheers. Everybody knew Norm. They saved his seat and knew his preferences: his likes, his dislikes, etc. When you think about David, think of Norm.

We rode the bus downtown and went, literally, all over town; a music store where David trades instruments, a 150-year-old hardware store, a jewelry shop where David has his watches repaired, the prosthetics shop and finally to David’s favorite coffee shop for another late lunch with his wife.

We ride the bus back home on a bus with another familiar driver and call it another day.

Day Four

This is the last day with David as I’m headed over to Wisconsin Rapids for the Minnesota/Wisconsin AER conference. I’m presenting there on mobility options offered by Leader and exhibiting as a vendor.

David and I rode another bus with another known driver, and we head to his gym, his grocery store, his Dunkin Donuts, and guess what? You guessed it! Another late lunch with his wife at their favorite Chinese restaurant.

I’ve had a great time here, with both of them being such great hosts. Guess what we did to finish the day? Yep, took the bus with another known driver and crossed one last street.

I will miss La Crosse. A beautiful city on the banks of the Mississippi. I’ve got a bit of a drive, but I get to see some more beautiful country. I’ve got a really good gig, y’all.

A panorama photo showing the greenery and blue skies of La Crosse

Days Five & Six

I spent the next two days at a conference teaching about Leader Dog, but also learning about things I’ve not had too much exposure to. I got to meet a load of professionals with whom I’d not have the pleasure of meeting until this conference.

Our field is so small, it’s a pleasure to make it a little smaller by getting to know folks from other regions. Got some great ideas, met some really groovy people and gave away lots of Leader Dog swag.

I’m flying out of Milwaukee on Sunday morning, and guess what? The Milwaukee Brewers are in town on Saturday night! The baseball gods are smiling on me this trip as I’ll get to mark off parks #16 and #17 in one week.

My good friend Jeff from Chicago is coming up to meet and share the experience with me. We’re both Cubs fans and the Brewers are playing the Cardinals. I found a shirt online with the graphic “I hope both teams lose” printed on it but didn’t get it ordered in time. Jeff and I would have worn them proudly.

We paid for cheap seats but sat in much better seats on the third baseline when no one came to claim them. The Brewers won in semi-dramatic fashion, but American Family Park (Am Fam) was the star tonight. Nice park. We call it Wrigley North, but not out loud in Milwaukee.

I’ll be in my home state for once next time. A camp in Leuders, TX and a client in North Richland Hills. No, the Rangers aren’t in town, in case you were wondering.

A panorama photo of a baseball game at American Family Field