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  • Nora Koch

I Cannot Harmonize

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

June 18, 2019


We had a family reunion last weekend.


I started down my route to southern Wisconsin along the Mississippi, a trip I’ve taken many times in the past. I wanted to experience the old route one more time alone, something I did for many years before I married Peter in 2005. I have wanderlust; he does not, so I saw this as an opportunity to take my time, and ramble. I plotted my strategy for the “Long way.” Little did I know how much rambling I would end up doing! 


Disappointed to find a detour, pointing me inland just north of Alma, after a cup of curried pumpkin soup at my favorite little café, Pier 4, on the north side of town, I decided to drive to County Rd. E and go up the hill on the south end of Alma towards Buena Vista Park. Instead of going into the park I went over the ridge to find a road that lead downstream.


Once off Co. Rd. E, I followed Canada Ridge to HWY 88, but 88 came back to HWY 35 before the end of the detour, so I backtracked to the next road that headed in the general direction I wanted to go. Glimpsing distant peaks through breaks in the trees jutting out of deep valleys illuminated by the sun, I marveled. I would never have seen this landscape had I not taken that route over the top of those ridges adding at least 50 miles to what normally would have taken 15. I have no idea which roads I drove on, in those hills they twist and turn, go up and down and they are beautiful. I finally came out at Marshland, near Trempealeau.



Foolish perhaps, but so far, I’ve gotten away with it.


I had a pleasant time visiting Peter’s brother André, during dinner that night in Middleton, then headed to a family reunion the next morning after breakfast with him in another favorite restaurant the Sofra Family Bistro.


Remnants of my Mother’s family gathered at my cousin’s place near Lodi, where upon arrival I encountered both Aunt Angeline (91) and Aunt Marge (84), making dozens of cream puffs for all of us. Aunt Angeline and cousin Penny were in Wisconsin from Oregon where they moved in the early 1960s. We ate well as we always do, with my cousin perfectly grilling brats. It was great to see everyone.


Aunt Angeline had a radio show when they lived in Wisconsin. She brought her guitar from Oregon and played songs for us from way back then. She and Aunt Marge sang a little bit, as they used to when I was little, then Penny and she sang several songs, harmonizing beautifully. I tried to sing Waltz Across Texas, with her. I know that song and only know the melody, but if Aunt Angeline tried to harmonize with me, I’d dip into whatever note she was singing. I knew I found it hard to harmonize, but I didn’t realize how harmonizing impaired I really was until then.



On the way home, I took the free Merrimac Ferry, across the Wisconsin River, went to Mass at Reedsburg, where I ran into a fellow St. Michael parishioner, who was visiting her mother there! Somewhere between Reedsburg and Lacrosse, I took a wrong turn and ended up putting another 50 miles on the trip, but again saw fantastic Driftless landscapes. I have to say, it was not as much fun as on the way down. It was getting late and by the time I got to Lacrosse it was dark and pouring rain. I was glad to get home, and think I’ve gotten solo tripping out of my system – perhaps for the rest of my life.

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