Out with Olin (edited with photos)

Yesterday, I made a semi-random trip to Lacrosse to pick up a dorm fridge that I had gotten from the Swap Shop, the intra-office Classified list. I brought Olin along to have him fitted for his new glasses frames, and decided to bring along my bike and the pedal trailer, as well, since it was a beautiful day and there might be trails to ride.

As we came to the intersection just south of New Albin on the way up, we met the engines of a freight train, and paced them through town and for ten minutes or so from there. Olin was absolutely thrilled because there were quite a few crossings, so the bell and horn were sounding. He loves trains, but the engines are always the most exciting part. That was kind of the start of a day full of strange but fun “I Spy” moments with Olin. (Those of you on facebook have sen this clip!)

We went out to Onalaska for the fridge, which I found out from the seller had only actually been on the Swap Shop list for a couple of hours before I e-mailed, and then there were like 15 other responses after me. I was worried for a little while that it would actually be too big (as there’s apparently a size restriction) but the internet says it’s 3.1 cubic feet, and we have a max of 5, so hopefully it will work.

We went to the optical shop next, and got Olin fitted for a new pair of glasses with a different frame that’s designed for kids with low-set ears, and some lighter lenses. The hope is that he will wear his glasses more willingly (and lose them less!) if they’re more comfortable and he doesn’t have to keep pushing them up. They’re supposed to come in 7-10 days… We’ll see. For what they cost, I kind of want to glue them to his head.

I promised Olin that if he was patient at the optical shop, I would take him to the farm store afterwards and look for a toy lawn mower. (There were some really cute Ertl ones there the last time I was in a Farm & Fleet.) There were no mowers of any sort in the toy section, which was very disappointing, but he talked me in to getting him a gravity box, and a tractor to pull it, and a school bus; that’s not as much of an investment as it sounds, when they’re 1:64 scale and mostly plastic. His excitement over them was easily worth the $17.

After the farm store, we decided to find somewhere to ride our bikes. I knew there were bike routes in the area, and we saw quite a few people out on their bicycles, but I was kind of holding out for one that wasn’t just a painted line on a city street… I don’t like taking the kids through traffic on the trailers; I’ve had one decide he was tired of riding and leap off while the bike was moving. Just the one, but still….

Anyway, I went looking for Riverside Park. I was too far north and got lost in a warehouse district that looked very much like it belonged in GTA: Vice City. We did manage to escape before someone in a Hawaiian shirt hijacked the van, though, and found the park despite it being rush hour and the ridiculous amount of road construction.

We parked next to a restaurant that just happened to be a freight station, have a couple of old passenger cars out front, and a Santa Fe Flyer on the sign… That prompted a long-winded discussion about the Daylight special and everything Olin has ever known or thought he knew about passenger trains and stations culminating in him saying triumphantly, “I know everything!”


So, we rode the bike over to Riverside Park, and made the rounds. Olin wanted to go throw grass in the river – that was his entire goal from the moment he found out there was a river.

“Is it a big river?”

“It’s the biggest river on the continent…”

“I’m gonna throw grass in it.” Cue kindergarten-level mwahahas and I-know-I’m-naughty shoulder-scrunching.

Unfortunately for Olin, there was no opportunity for grass-throwing. The whole riverfront was either paved or blocked with big fences, or both. He did find a fountain to drive his school bus around, though. He asked if he could get in, but tested the water and decided it wasn’t worth it. Around that time, of course, a rather unkempt-looking guy came over, stripped off most of his clothes and left them on a bench, and proceeded to take a bath in the fountain!

IMG_3878[This was shortly before our friendly transient arrived. Olin was having a wonderful time driving his school bus around, stopping at every ‘crossing’ (brick joint). I didn’t want to stop him, because he had no idea that we were intruding, but I also didn’t want the poor (bathing)guy to be any more uncomfortable than he had to be.]

Olin was oblivious, but I was seriously weird-ed out, and talked him in to leaving the fountain by offering to take a bike ride through the city to look for “city buses.” He spotted a couple, as well as some construction equipment that he identified by make and type (and corrected me when I wasn’t accurate enough…). I wasn’t precisely sure where I was supposed to be riding, as there didn’t happen to be a marked bike lane on that street, so I convinced him to go back down towards the river.

We went under the bridge, which was kind of neat. I pretended I was a photographer and took some random shots of the sunset, while Olin played in a puddle and went looking for bugs. [I did’t save any of the sunset shots because they were terrible, unoriginal and not worth the effort, really.] He spotted a cat and went over to pet it, and discovered an old lady feeding a bunch of strays. Olin watched six or seven cats emerge from the grass before his excitement overcame his caution, and he scared them away again.IMG_3893


That was kind of a neat photo op, but I really wished I had a longer lens. They were very skittish and I couldn’t get as close as I would have liked. I couldn’t really re-frame my shot, either, because they startled at every movement. Oh, well. The idea was far more beautiful than my talent at short notice.


We headed back to the park and discovered that a band of pirates had taken over the amphitheater. Olin insisted that he was scared of pirates, but I talked him in to staying long enough to discover that they were barbershop-singing pirates – the Coulee Chordsmen, to be exact. And, yes, they did The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.


Four songs in to the program, Olin decided he was bored, so we took the long way around back to the van, loaded up, and went looking for supper. He wanted to have supper at the Freighthouse (which is what we found out the restaurant was called) but it was a dress-up, fancy-type place and was both crowded and very loud.

When I asked him what he wanted for supper, he described it as “Um, that stuff that’s made from pig.” Not bacon. A hamburger? “Yes, like from a cow, but from a pig,” and “those, um, flat string things.” Pulled pork barbecue. Aha. I was not, however, willing to take the 7-year-old to a barbecue joint just then.  He settled for A&W instead, and got a strawberry shake since they didn’t have barbecue.

He drank the shake first (like ya do) and his medication wore off at just about the same time as the sugar hit his system. He looked at me with wide eyes, said, “I got sugar. I’m HYPERRR!” and then proceeded to flap his hands and bounce in his seat and flop around and verbalize every single thought that entered his brain. In the form of a question. All the way home. I’m glad he had his seat belt on, or he’d have been bouncing around the van like a radioactive particle.

The incessant interrogation usually annoys the daylights out of me, but he was such a caricature of his usual hyper-self that I couldn’t help but laugh about it. He was… Intense. It took him an hour to calm down once we got home.

Tim helped me get the fridge out of my van, and then we started watching The Hurt Locker, which is not a movie you can just stop in the middle of and go to bed, so I was up ’til 2AM doing that…

And now, I’m at work.

What a day! That was “pretty good, on the scale…”

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