Land of Lakes, Cheese & Porn?
Ripon Travel Blog› entry 4 of 16 › view all entries
Miles Traveled: 173
Roads Traveled: I-94W/I-894W/US 45W/US 41W/SR 23
Time on the Road: 3 hours
States Crossed: Illinois, Wisconsin
Tanks of Gas: .6
CD’s Listened to: O.A.R, Johnny Cash & Pride 2007 CD
Land of Lakes, Cheese & Porn?
From the title alone, you can guess that I am in Wisconsin. Sure, lakes and cheese and oddball pronunciations of normal words (love the long “o”), but porn? Yup, porn and lots of it. As soon as I hit the Wisconsin border, it was nothing but sexploitation as far as the eye could see. Standard yellow and black neon “ADULT” signs sprouted up at every exit. I honestly believe that there are more adult video and toy stores here than when you exit Hamilton County (greater Cincinnati region) and enter into Newport, Kentucky. They should consider changing the state motto from “Forward!” (yeah, that is really their entire motto) to “Smut-ward!”
Besides the porn, there wasn’t much going on. I was driving a seemingly desolate and dark stretch of US 45W. I drove next to a family of vacationers in the stereotypical oxymoronic min-van, camouflaged hunter hill-jacks in a rusted out bumper-less pick-up truck accessorized with a gun rack and antlers, more than one over-privileged youth speeding excessively in mom’s Beemer, a god-forsaken AAA bus tour, a greyhound, the normal caravan of 18-wheelers that pick up time on the overnight and of course, those who relocate via a flat bed and/or hitch. It has always been this last category that has piqued my interest. I have asked these questions before and once, even called a mobile home park to find the answer. My queries have always been met with a chortle or look of disgust/disrespect and I mean no harm by it. I just really want an answer. If anyone can help me solve the mystery of owning a trailer park abode, I would love it! My non-malice oriented questions deal with the strategic maneuvers of moving day. I want to know the following things:
1) When you move do you actually pack or just duct tape all the cabinets shut and secure the furniture to the wall with bungee cords?
2) When you settle into your new plot of land, do you take your cinder blocks with you, buy new ones or does the trailer park in question provide them?
I hope that some day, someone will be able to shed some light on this topic and tell me the god’s honest truth about this matter without copping an attitude.
After driving in the dark for almost an hour, I finally pulled into the town of Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin. It seemed like a normal small town exit with various fast food joints, gas stations and big box chain stores. I thought that everything would be fine this week; that is until I realized that I was still about a 30-minute drive away from Ripon. I took a left off the exit and onto SR 23. This is the most isolated and uninteresting span of blue line that I have ever encountered. Nothing but farms and used cars parked in the residential portions of front lawns, most of them had for sale signs. This is an area with one county sheriff that strolls though each town once a week to check in with the locals. As I got closer to my destination, I started noticing hand-painted population signs for each town. In my usual fashion, I am dying to know who is responsible for climbing out on the sign that currently reads, “Welcome to Rosendale, Wisconsin - Home of The Badger - Population 923” and changing that number every time someone moves, dies or gives birth.
Remote and secluded, this is a town that has been untouched by a CVS or even a Wal-Mart (don’t worry McDonald’s and BP seemed to find it on the map.) According to the welcome sign, Ripon’s population, at last count, is a mere 7,452 people, which includes the 1,000 students that attend Ripon College. The undergraduate student body at The University of Cincinnati upon my graduation was four times that of this entire town. Although the campus is beautiful, it has an eerie air about it. It is always deadly quiet. Scary quiet. Too damn quiet. It feels like I am trapped in the perfect setting for a college/sorority-based slasher film (ch-ch-ch-ch ha-ha-ha-ha.) You can even leave the locals here as movie extras. I am not sure why, but all of a sudden I feel compelled to run up the stairs instead of out the front door and into my car. Don’t worry. I won’t drink, do drugs or lose my virginity here (as we all know those who sin are the first to die in any horror film.)
Despite its supernatural feel and outright creepiness as town, I have learned a few fun facts about Ripon. The college was founded in 1851 and the city of Ripon was founded in 1854. How this happened, I am not sure. Ripon hosts their own version of Oktoberfest every year, but it takes place in September and hence, it is called, SeptemberFest. They set up a biergarten in town and new for 2007, they are holding a “cookie toss” where you can win a t-shirt that says, “I tossed my cookies in Ripon.” On the global front, they are also going to make an attempt to beat the Guinness World Record for number of people doing the Twist at one time, which, coincidentally, is currently held by their sister city of Ripon, England. Ripon is the home of Speed Queen Coin Operated Washers & Dryers (anyone who has ever visited a laundromat has definitely used one.) The National Forensic League is headquartered here and probably the most fascinating fact about Ripon, it is the birthplace of the Republican Party. Therefore, if my brother, the living embodiment of Alex P. Keaton, ever came to Ripon it would be like a Muslim making his trek to Mecca. Praise be to “G-Dub” or “Allah” or whichever fictional deity you deem fit!
The Campus Experience
Small schools are funny. Not funny, ha ha, but funny like when Britney Spears had a meltdown and chopped all her hair off. Funny on the verge of being slightly tragic. Mind you, I was very excited to be back on a campus where the daily student uniform consists of jeans, sneakers and a hoodie. However, the lack of diversity is absolutely frightening. I can vaguely recall my first year roommate who came from a small farming town in Pennsylvania. She had never physically seen nor met a person with a different skin color or a person with an “alternative lifestyle.” She should have gone to school at Ripon. She would have fit right it. (Don’t worry. My neo-Nazi KKK roommate got what she deserved. I decided to play “Fat girl in a little coat” ala Chris Farley in Tommy Boy, with every piece of clothing she owned. I admit it. I stretched out every size 2 sweater and piece of knitwear in her wardrobe!) Earlier today, my Dad asked me, “How's Wisconsin?” and I replied with a one-word answer, “Homogeneous.” I have seen only a handful of non-white students roaming around this campus and the two gay males that I have spotted have been shunned by the rest of the community (there was even a cartoon in their campus paper depicting an event of this nature.) After getting over my own amazement at the carbon copy student body, I came to find that these students are the most overtly friendly 18-22 year olds I have ever encountered. Unlike a large school where you are a number, not a name, these students are fully aware of outsiders on campus. At larger schools you can easily weave in and out of classrooms and common areas without so much as a head nod in your direction. At Ripon, on the other hand, I cannot even leave my guest suite without someone deciding that they need to talk to me. They need to find out WHO I am, WHY I am here and HOW long I am staying and every conversation ends with a big genuine smile and “Well, if you need anything at all, I am down the hall in room 110.” In exchange for the friendly interrogation, I have learned the entire life story, in 30 seconds or less, of every person that I have encountered here in Ripon. Ripon, Wisconsin is a lot like Cheers, where everyone knows your name…and your eye color, shoe size, blood type and social security number.