Milwaukee Fatherhood Collaborative
Wisconsin Fathers for Children and Families
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Day 1 - Platteville - 19th June 2006
Today, the first day was an adventure in it's own right. Never having done this before, there were many logistical and timing issues that needed to be worked out. And the only way to work them out, was to walk them.
The Big Red Bus is no speed demon, so the start time was late as the journey from Grafton took longer than expected. Also I'm extremely grateful to Craig Reber for taking the time to find us at the edge of Old Man River and doing an article on Walk For Children with the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.
We took the photo op. at the start and then with enthusiasm, plodded up the first hill, only to miss the turn off an backtrack a few 100 metres. The delayed start also had us walking in the heat of the day and in this remote corner of Wisconsin, where we actually walked on some dirt roads, places of refreshment were few and far between.
The walk itself is supposed to be a social - speak to the people - walk, not a quick march from A to B. Unfortunately, as we are working the bugs out, the first day ended up walking straight through without any breaks, though this was a good thing as it proved what we can do when we need to.
It was ironic that early on as we were chatting about what we hoped to achieve, we turned a corner to start walking on Fairplay Road. It must have been a good omen as in Australia, all we ever ask for is "a fair go", we're hoping this walk will highlight that Family Court is not a level playing field. All we ask is for fair play.
From Sandy Hook, Lock & Dam #11 we made it to Platteville. Thanks to Mike Landwehr for walking with me and to Joe Vaughn for fantastic support. And a special thanks to Chad at Country Kitchen who unexpectedly and generously picked up the tab for both our breakfast before the start and dinner at the end of the first day.
One of the other "discoveries" is that the actual distance walked is further than the measured distance. Although I used mapquest to determine the distance to walk each day, that distance is based on the quickest, usually highway, drive time. We take the back roads for safety reasons. You also don't meet many people on freeways! Today's walk ended up around 24 miles, about 30% further than calculated.
The impression of the "meet and greet" on this first day - the generosity and friendliness of the Wisconsin people. Of course, I always knew this but it just reinforced my personal view that the vast majority of people are good people (just like the vast majority of parents are good parents).
The first hiccup in the adventure has come with my planned second days walk. I won't be continuing until tomorrow (Wednesday) with the walk to Calamine. This will put me a day behind after only one day, but more on the reasons for this later. (For those Dad's who have been through the meat grinder, I'm sure you can guess why!).
Hard things have never scared me before, so I'll just have to do some "midnight rambling" (courteous of the Rolling Stones) to make up ground.
Talk to you Wednesday.
Day 2 - Calamine - 21st June 2006
Wednesday proved to be as experimental as any day so far in this first week. Though it took me 3 hours to commute in the bus back to Grafton for my mid-week overnight, coming back on Wednesday was 3 and a half hours. The Big Red Bus doesn't punch into a head wind as quickly as it cruises with a tailwind. My apologies to Stephanie and Brian) that we missed, but in all of this it's a bit hard to predict the exact time.
A big thank you to Chad at Country Kitchen, it's the selfless little bits that people do that make this all possible.
Stepping out of Platteville was a felt great, after a couple of lungful's of truck diesel and near misses at the Wal-Mart crossing, and ambling into Belmont for a hearty dinner at the local tavern. The delightful Melanie, the social worker by day, informed me that in her county judges routinely gave parents equal placement, I hope this is true and I have no reason to doubt her. No if only we could educate the rest of Wisconsin judges.
After Belmont, it was on to the Pecatonica Trail. The trails are great to walk along, no more keeping an eye out for cars, and the old railway tracks have a pleasant gradient. I cruised through to the small town of Calamine where if you blinked, you'd miss it, even at a walking pace. Joe met me there as solid and supportive as ever. It was dusk and we had to fit three walking days into two, so it was decided to push on to Darlington where we'd parked the bus.
The stint from Calamine to Darlington was exciting as well as risky. It was dark with no moon, and when the foliage crowded over the trail it became pitch black. A couple of unseen potholes jarred the back and a couple of badly placed rocks threatened twisted ankles, I was worried that I'd made the wrong choice.
Amazingly, the fireflies came to my rescue, they lined the grasses on each side of the track and guided my way. At times it looked like the lights on a landing strip and I imagined I was a 747 gliding in to the North/South runway of Sydney's Kingsford Smith airport, home at last.
It was quite uncanny and an omen that what I was doing was right. Countless times a firefly would spark and in the pitch black, reflect it's light in a puddle so I could avoid at minimum a wet soggy foot and at maximum a twisted ankle.
I reached the Big Red Bus in Darlington at 11:30pm to the tune of Joe snoring away on the lower bunk.
And for those friends back home, Tanglewood revisited, the memories of those good times will never fade.
Day 3 & 4 - Monroe - 22nd June 2006
Thursday was a long day. After only 5 hours sleep, it was up at 5:00am to shuttle the bus to Monroe and no time to lose on the track as a deadline for meeting the Monroe Times photograph on the track and a 6:00pm rendezvous in Monroe with a group of Wisconsin Father's members and Representative Davis.
The cool of the morning was good to stride out in and breakfast was taken at Gratiot. The first photo is the most obvious one so far in the trek. The public is in no doubt that we love our children, now to convince the Family Court that Fathers are part of the public and that we love our children too.
As the logistics have evolved, it's become clear that sun up is the best time to walk and midday is the worst time to walk, but today could not avoid the midday stretch. Fortunately a smiling face and an ice cold lime soda at Browntown made a welcome oasis.
The end of a "no time to talk, only time to walk" day, brought me to Steiner's Road where I met Bryan Holland and his family, including his 7 day old son. He walked the last stretch into Monroe with me and both the conversation and the encouragement were welcome. Again it's support and help from good salt-of-the-earth type people like Bryan, that confirms I'm doing the right thing, to walk to remove the hurdles that keep children and their Dad's apart.
The end of the day came with some pleasant surprises. A meal purchased for me by a group of Wisconsin Father's members, support and words of encouragement from Brett Davis, a terrific Wisconsin State Representative (notice the distance of the handshake - I had not had a shower for a few days!). Brett has a young family of his own and understands the important roll a Father plays in children's lives.
And finally to sleep in the Big Red Bus parked in suburban Monroe even before the sun went down!
Day 5 - Brodhead - 23rd June 2006
Friday was a short day and a blessing compared to the previous days.
Getting into the rhythm, we woke at 4:00am, shuttled the Big Red Bus to the end point, then returned to start of the day. Bryan had to "hurry" his V8 car because he forgot to switch his alarm off.
I departed the Old Court House at the town center and can only guess that the parking meters are expensive in town.
Sunrise over the corn fields of Southern Wisconsin. Every time I reached a rise and the visa was spread out in front of me I took a photo. After 5 photo's of the same corn field setting, I put my camera away.
As usual those that are helping did a great job. Both Joe and Bryan surveyed the day's track to discover a bridge under construction on the planned track. Fortunately there was a plank to walk to cross the stream, but it's local information like this that is so important to a successful day. It may be a short 4 mile detour in a car, but that is a long way to my aching joints.
At 8:15am my phone went and it was Paul Kern from Radio WRJN-1400AM in Racine. We did a phone interview on the air as I was walking, pretty cool! I'm looking forward to next week when I get into the Racine area.
Tony Bichel joined me for the last 5 miles or so, where we chatted about Australian idiosyncrasies, as well as the plight of Fatherless children. We paused 5 minutes from the end where a lengthy and social chat was had with a reporter from the Brodhead Independent Register.
Lunch was served at the Cardinal Lanes where there was a bit of "whispering" going around. Aparently an Aussie had been spotted in town and the word was on the grapevine. I ended up with an impromptu photo shoot with the manager, as he too was an every-second-weekend Dad and wanted to involve himself in what we were doing.
To sum up this week - The snow ball is rolling and it's getting bigger by the day!
And finally back to my place in Grafton where all the neighbourhood parent's were hanging out to check my blisters (and provide refreshments!) and the neighbourhood kids couldn't wait to bounce on the trampoline when "Mr. Peter" got back.
Day 6 - Janesville - 27th June 2006
Tuesday was a great day, up early and in the road covering many miles before the temperature became too hot.
The logistics are starting to work themselves out, with various experiments, the best rhythm seems to be, Up at around 4:00am and shuttle the bus to the end point for the day, then back to start walking at first light.
The cool of the morning and the minimal traffic make for a crisp pace and with the bird's serenading, the peace and quiet is most welcome to organise the days thoughts.
Brian King was terrific in support and much appreciated as the temperature rose again through the day and Brian was always there with a refreshing drink. Another very appreciative thing that Brian did was to host an Ice-cream and refreshment event at 6:00pm in the Rotary Gardens to benefit the Janesville Boys & Girls club.
The press were present and Al Hoch, the photographer had a great sense of humour. The photo he liked most was me walking past the donkey farm. I was just hopeful people could distinguish between me and the donkey's!
We had lunch at Footville Friendly Cafe and after the old muscle stiffened up, I though the sign right outside the cafe was appropriate, as it's what my feet felt like!
Brian walked with me for the last few miles on the bike path up the river into Janesville - Rotary Gardens. I'm sure I could taste the ice-cream a mile away. It was very welcome to celebrate the end of a good day with a Kent's Big Bar ice-cream.
Thanks to Kent's for supporting and donating to Walk For Children and to the funds we were able to raise and Thanks to John and his family from the Janesville Boys & Girls club who came down to lend a hand.
Day 7 - Delavan - 28th June 2006
On this adventure, like life itself, some days are good and some days are not!
The day into Delavan was a bit of a slog, many back roads with no shade and just black top to pound. What I didn't know was that I was wearing out my first pair of shoes. My feet seemed more sore today than other days, but I didn't suspect it was the shoes, I thought it was the roads.
The end of the day brought me to Creek Road. I was staying with some Aussie friends in Delavan and was quite looking forward to unashamedly speaking my normal language. I knew when I got to Creek Rd, it was just around the corner - about an hour away I thought.
Two and a half hours later, I discovered Creek Road was a lot longer than I anticipated!
Fortunately I didn't stoop to talking to myself, or anyone else in the vicinity, because the only response would have been "Moooo".
I also didn't think I needed to worry about any speed limit, it already felt like I was dragging the chain.
With the Delavan water tower in sight to guide me in, I was ever grateful to Julie and Randall welcoming me with refreshment's at the ready and all the gossip about who was winning the Australian Footy and what happened to the Soccerroo's in the World Cup.
Day 8 - Springfield - 29th June 2006
Departure from Delavan started slowly but gradually picked up pace. I was delighted when I reached the White River State Trail. What a beautiful trail, crushed gravel underfoot I knew should be easy on my feet, the gradient was gentle and the shade abundant.
Many people were using the trail for cycling, jogging and walking the dog, so there were plenty of "G'day's" to be said.
Not much to report on this day, it was a short day as I had to head back to Grafton in the afternoon.
With such good mobile phone coverage, I was receiving many calls. Thanks to all the people who phoned to support me and give me words of encouragement. Also to those who send me emails, I appreciate your input. One of the many I've decided to include in this days diary.
"Dear Pete, I read in tonight's Janesville Gazette about your journey. I also live in Brodhead. I'm really sorry I missed you.
I must tell you that I have just recently realized that it isn't "a MANS world" when it comes to children. My son became a father on August 23, 2005 (my mother died the next day). At the age of 28 he still had not found himself and was wondering aimlessly. When Aidan was born, my son was born. He really loves this baby. He has purpose in life, he wants to be a father in every sense of the word, including changing diapers, feeding etc. The problem is he is not married to the mother and she will not let him see the baby.
I cannot believe how few rights the father really has in this state. He has established support and health insurance while working a job he doesn't like. He is not allowed to see the child and we are currently seeking a lawyer, but it is unbelievably difficult, he only makes $8.90/hr. Aidan is 3 and a half hours away.
He was not allowed to name the child nor was he given my sons last name. Even if he gets placement rights I have heard that the visits will be gradual and it is unlikely he will be able to take the baby even though he lives with me and I am an experienced mom and registered nurse. It seems as the only rights he has are to pay support.
My point in all this is that even if society sees that there is a lack of father involvement and how much social angst it creates, they don't make it very easy for men to be involved. I believe like you that a child needs both parents. As a child from a broken home and a new grandmother I really appreciate your trek to raise awareness and hope and pray for the children's sake in this country that judges, lawyers and society opens their eyes. Thank you and Good luck to you."
Day 9 - Burlington - 30th June 2006
My feet were sore and I checked my shoes and amazingly, I'd worn down the soles of my New Balance after only about 120 miles plus the break in period. It made sense now why my feet were hurting more than normal.
A late start and these worn out shoes put an end to the day just short of Burlington at the White River Trail head. It seemed a good place to park the bus for the start next Monday and the short walk into Burlington would be good to build an appetite for a hearty breakfast, so the day was closed, the second week concluded and a weekend to buy a new pair of shoes.
Lyons was a beautiful little town that I passed through and I cannot praise the trail more, it was a delight to traverse.
I spent most of the day reflecting on the emails I'd received such as the one on the previous day. I hope I can be the catalyst for change as Fatherhood is taking a beating and we need to reshape the laws so the child/Father relationship is protected and valued equally along with the child/Mother relationship. After all, it's what the constitution states.
It's what we teach our children in school, but unfortunately, its not enacted in adulthood. It seems our families are measured by money and not by time, especially the destruction of them.
Day 10 - Wind Lake - 3rd July 2006
The Wisconsin State Bird came to visit us at the start of the walk. It wouldn't have been that bad if it was just the immediate family, but the full extended family turned up.
The day started overcast, 100% humidity, the temperature around 80F and as soon as Malcolm arrived to walk with me from Burlington, the drizzle started. The foliage around the bike path was prime for mosquitoes and they were out in force, 100's of them buzzing into every orifice we had. Most unpleasant!
After suffering many miles, we were rescued by a couple of council workers with a donation of a can of "off"! "Off" was only half the instructions we gave to these infuriating creatures. Eternal thanks to the men in the big orange truck.
The walking pace was cracking early to escape the stinging beasts and the talking pace was just as fast as we formulated escaping the Family Court beast. Malcolm is certainly more experienced that all of us about the pain inflicted on innocent children by removing a loving parent from their lives, just to protect a judicial ego that got it wrong.
As the U.S. Supreme Court has stated on many occasions, it is a fundamental presumption that fit and healthy parents will do what is in the best interests of their children. Why a court thinks it can do it better is beyond me, especially when they have never read one bedtime story to your child, nor tucked them in at night, nor watched them in a ballet concert, nor taken them to a swimming lesson, nor played "duck, duck, goose with them and their friends, nor wrapped their birthday presents up, nor put a band-aid on their scrapped knee, nor.......
Waterford appeared on our path around 10:00am, which set up the pattern for the day - out of whack! We had a meeting set up at the RiverHouse at 11:30am with Representative Robin Vos, Michael Gough and the Waterford Times reporter. We were early and to some of my friends, that probably sounds incredible!
It was good to catch up with Robin again, he is a solid supporter of children having two parents, after all, we have ALL been children, and as children, we loved and needed both our parents, not one better than another!
It was great to see and have the support of Jeanie, Malcolm and Michael. There was much passion for our children expressed during the following two hours of open discussion.
The RiverHouse had a special surprise for me, Can you guess?
The rest of the day was just as much out of whack as how it began. An unusual bus shuttle in the middle of the day, and some extra miles put on to make the next walking day - Wednesday - easier. Loomis Road was a terrible road so an alternative was needed. I headed west on Ryan Road for the coast and after a long, hard, thirsty slog, the Lake Michigan coast appeared. A minor, but memorable achievement was made, from the waters of the Mississippi to the waters of Lake Michigan, I'd crossed the State West to East.
Day 11 - Milwaukee - 5th July 2006
With relief, I looked at the map and was glad I'd put in the hard yards last Monday. Today was only about 12 miles, and after looking at the map, decided I didn't need one - just keep Lake Michigan to the right and I'll get to the Summerfest grounds.
With the Big Red Bus parked in the Grant Park Golfers parking lot, a quick couple of organisational and logistical phone calls were pleasantly interrupted by very excited and out of breathe calls of "Pete, Pete". Bill Hass had sent his more energetic son ahead to tell me to slow down and wait for him.
We ambled through shaded woods of all the lake side parks, talking of many things. Bill was no different than all the Dad's so far, a caring and loving Father who has always been there, but had to wait patiently for his child to gain some age and "over rule" the family courts by showing that he too loves his Dad and wants to spend more time with him.
Thanks for the donuts!
As Bill and his son peeled off to head for the Cudahy swimming pool, I headed for Humboldt Park where I caught up with Al Holmes and Charles Richardson from the Milwaukee Fatherhood Collaborative who joined me for the rest of the day into Milwaukee and Summerfest. Curtis Marshall was also there and it was great to see him again. Curtis is dedicated to the health of our community and, as we all do, sees Father participation as a major solution to many of our society ills.
I very much enjoyed the company of both Al and Charles as we discussed the reality of Father participation, the hurdles that are preventing Fathers being involved and reasons this is occurring far too often.
Change must come in the form of equitable and fair laws and these changes need to occur through accountability of the public officials we elect. I refuse to accept that a woman should earn $50,000 for doing the same job as a man who is earning $90,000. I refuse to accept that it's OK for a boy to get 9 hits of the baseball and a girl only 5 hits, I refuse to accept that it's OK for one child to get 9 pieces of candy and another child only 5.
When both Mum and Dad want to be fully involved in the raising of their children, I refuse to accept that it's OK for the child/Mother relationship to be worth "9" and the child/Father relationship only worth "5". Teaching this blatant discrimination to an innocent and venerable child is fundamental flawed to the very core of our society.
When it is in our ability to teach fairness, it is unacceptable to allow the teaching of inequality in childhood when the expectation will be of equality and fairness in adulthood. Any publicly elected official who has the ability to make change so equality and fairness are taught to our children, but chooses not to, should be held accountable.
I would loose my job if I practiced unfairness and inequality in my workplace and our politicians should incur the same fate in their workplace if they choose ignore the current unfairness and inequality that is being taught to our children in the homeplace.
Day 12 - Grafton - 6th July 2006
It still staggers me to believe I've walked so far. It's about 240 miles and tomorrow I'll be very close to a third of the way through the adventure.
Today had lots of nostalgia about it, I started off at lakefront and ambled around the waterfront as it is not only very pretty and peaceful early in the morning but the Milwaukee Community Sailing School has a special place in my history here.
For those that know me, it is not surprising I loitered around the yacht basin and marveled at all the different types of sailboat that were there.
I traversed the bike path from lakefront to Estabrook Park in Shorewood where I used to live. I satisfied my hunger with a Gyro from an old haunt, it brought back the good old days (and the garlic breath!) Following the river was very pleasant and the familiar surrounding felt comfortable. Many times I've jogged through the parks to keep fit and ridden my bike down to lakefront to go sailing. As I headed up past the Lincoln Park Golf course on Hampton, many times I've played Australian Rules Football with the Mighty Milwaukee Bombers at Kletch Park. (www.milwaukeebombers.com)
It was an uncanny day also, there were many periods of quiet, but every time someone stopped to talk, my phone went off, and every time I was talking on the phone, someone stopped to chat.
As I walked on up Range Line Road towards the Ozaukee Interurban trail, I traveled along the same path as I walked on New Years Day, only 6 months previously when this journey was being hatched. I'm grateful to Thomas and Karen for the shady tree and the water bottle refill.
The days walk was a long one but a memorable one, all of it on black top and the constant slapping of my New Balance on such a flat hard surface brought on a couple of new blisters.
Kelly and Dennis, thanks for the Gatorade and chocolate bar, they seemed like gifts from heaven just at the right time. And to the kids at the Theinsville Community Centre, good luck and have fun, it was nice chatting.
At the Cedarburg joining point - the Fire station - the smiling faces of "Mr. Scott", Mr. Brian", Kimberley, Zack and Clair wearing our Day 12 sponsors t-shirts was a welcome site. My neighbours have given me great support in my endevours and this was just one more example of helping me over the line (though towards the end I'm not sure whether it was me that was dragging the chain or 5 year old Zack!)
Thanks also Dick and Bob Rieck and Kelly and Tyler for sponsoring the Grafton Day. I couldn't have done it without you blokes starting the snowball rolling.
Day 13 - Slinger - 7th July 2006
An early start bore fruit on this day. It was great the previous day to actually just "walk home" for the day. I had dinner in my own house and slept in my own comfortable bed. My neighbours were great and they support me completely in this adventure.
A good nights sleep and a home cooked breakfast had me stepping out with spring.
A call from Jane and Kidd on Radio 99.1 WMYX was great to receive as I was contemplating the universe. Every day is different and today just proved it again. A Cedarburg resident who "sneaks" out every morning at 6:00am to get his morning paper, was quite surprised this morning to see a stranger out on the road! He wasn't prepared for it and neither was his nighttime attire!
I guess from now on he'll dress in something more suitable to get his paper!
The whether was agreeable and the miles were covered quickly, I reached the Ackerville tavern (the only place in town) at 11:00am as it opened. I put my feet up and had a well deserved rest while chatting to the locals and re-hydrating myself with a cold Pepsi.
Another amazing thing about this day was not one dog came racing out to either see what was going on or nip at my heels! It's always a bit of a worry to find out whether it's a friendly dog who is just bored, or an angry dog protecting it's territory. Fortunately I've avoided the latter so far.
About a mile to go to Pike Lake State park and a break for the weekend, and a special weekend it was and I'm sure you can guess why. Pike Lake and my first sojourn on the Ice Age trail was great. There were many people out enjoying the day and not surprising to me, there were many Dad's out with their children, fishing, picnicking, making sand castles, swimming and just hanging out.
In a study of fathers' interaction with their children in intact two-parent families, nearly 90% of the fathers surveyed said that being a father is the most fulfilling role a man can have.
Source: Yeung, W. Jean, et al. "Children's Time with Fathers in Intact Families." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Chicago, IL, August, 2000.
This truth does not change because a spouse files for divorce. The vast majority of Fathers want to fully participate in their children's lives. It's about time the Family Court recognized this and came into line with today's social realities.
Day 14 - Pewaukee - 11th July 2006
What a beautiful day. More tracking along the Ice Age trail. We were led through some wonderful forest and appeared in a clearing with a great view of Holly Hill Monastery. A climb to the top was in order and what a huge view over all 360 degrees.
I could see where I'd come from and where I was going to.
The meandering and diversion through Holy Hill was welcome early in the day as energy is abundant then, ask for the same thing at the end of the day when energies are lacking and the answer will be different!
I received many phone calls through the day as preparations for the Madison/Capital building were growing. It was becoming obvious that Madison was going to be a big day and I'd have to do some adjustments to my walking schedule to meet the Madison requirements. Two very long days were looming! I needed to meet each days target and then do some more.
It rained for the first time on my journey and to my surprise the rain was welcome. After many hot day (and I'm sure many more to come), the heat generated by the walking was balanced by the cooling effect of the rain, so I actually ended up quite comfortable. The dampness was evaporating off me at the same rate as the rain was creating it.
One of the phone calls I received was another radio interview, which lasted about 30 minutes. It was great to walk and talk at the same time. The openness of healthy exercise in the country seemed to make the conversation flow more easily and freely. Not only am I grateful for all the people who are helping with the logistics of getting from A to B, but I'm grateful to all the newspapers and Radio stations who are contributing to getting the word out.
One radio interview reaches far more people that two hours of traffic exposure on a busy county highway. I can walk more peacefully and safely, knowing that all the Dad's that work in the Media are helping me to get the word out that Dad's and kids are good together.
Enough rambling, I was hungry and needed refueling!
So a pizza was in order. Some amazing co-incidences existing. I randomly pick a place for lunch and I end up meeting the owner of the pizza restaurant. I apologized for smelling up his restaurant and he turns around wearing a "Super Dad" t-shirt. We chat and he is also entwined in the Washington County Family Court meat grinder with the same court ordered social workers, GAL's and mediators that I had to deal which. It was amazing how similar our stories were and our opinions of these people right down to the "Queen of False Allegations"!
Is there no integrity left in the system? What surprises me is that every person has been a child and every person has had a Mother and Father. I wonder what the Father's of these court appointed people think when they see their own children work so hard at denigrating and disrespecting today's Fathers of our children.
The day concluded at Wales where I intercepted the Glacial-Drumlin Trail which would take me west to Madison.
Day 15 - Helenville and more
- 12th July 2006
What a tough day! Plans for being in Madison were forging ahead at a great rate. The excitement was building which is a great thing, but it required me to be there earlier than expected which was a bad thing!
As usual, every day is different. The Glacial-Drumlin trail is a beautiful trail, DON'T FORGET THE BUG SPRAY, or it will be a miserable trail. The start of the track is paved and the bike riders love it, but for walkers the black top really heats up and you can feel it through the soles of your feet.
Then from Wales the track turns to crushed gravel which is a bit more forgiving on the feet and not as absorbent of the heat. As great as the track was, I had to travel a long way on it today to meet the Madison requirements.
Starting off at 5:30am I was basically non-stop all the way through to Cottage Grove where I arrived at 9:00pm tired, sweaty and foot sore. There were many people jogging, riding and taking the dog out towards Madison as Cottage Grove is virtually a suburb of Madison now.
The only pause in the day was a couple of Pepsi's at the local tavern where I chatted with the owner, a delightful man who was French/Morroccian, followed by another interview with the Lake Mills Leader newspaper.
At a bridge close to the end of the trail was a very sad memorial to a Dad. It is not for me to elaborate on some children's grief, only to inform that their are now some children who will have to live without their Dad.
Walk For Children is all about making changes so that Dad's are included in their children's lives, not excluded from their lives. Sadly the current system via the use of legal maneuverings such as unpunished false accusations can enable that exclusion to become permanent. Ultimately, it only punishes the children.
At the end of the day, a perch on the stool at the ShortStop Inn right next to the trail head to refuel myself was most welcome, then no more than 20 steps back to the bus to conclude the day. Boy, was I stinky by the end of the day, not to mention having fed most of the mosquitoes along the way.
Day 16 - Cottage Grove (Olbrich Park)
- 13th July 2006
I was glad of the casual distance to walk on this Thursday and the casual pace that occurred due to the inclusion of one of our members children.
It was great to walk with the kids as they certainly provided a different dimension than I had been used to. The entertainment was most welcome. It was interesting to see the enthusiasm difference at the beginning of the day's walk and the end of the day's walk! Apparently it's very hard to walk in today's fashionable "do not tie" skateboard shoes?!?!
It was a great sight to turn the corner on county hwy BB and see the Madison Capital Building across the lake on the final stride to Olbrich Park. As my Father told me, "if you want something changed, talk to the person who can write the check". It's the legislators in Madison who write the laws. If women are ever to expect equality in the workplace, then we need to teach equality in the homeplace.
In off air conversations with Connie and Fish at the Z104 studio earlier in the morning, Fish mentioned that earlier in the week the male to female wages comparisons had just come out and women in the workforce were still not on an equal footing with men.
Day 17 - Madison - 14th July 2006
Another milestone has been reached in this walk. Though it was a very short day of only three miles, I was accompanied by many people - Fathers, Mothers and children.
We spent most of our time in the Capital Building reinforcing that the child/Father relationship is just as important as the child/Mother relationship.
I'll let the photo's tell the story of the day.
Day 18 - Waterloo - 17th July 2006
Every day is tough, and then some are tougher. The walk into Waterloo was about 27 miles, a longer day than normal, it was in 100 degree heat, which is a hotter day than normal, it was all on blacktop roads, a harder surface than normal. I was exhausted at the end of the day, and then the Waterloo Tribute wanted an interview.
As I've said many times before, every day is different and this day certainly was different. I think I perspired my whole bodyweight in sweat. At each "re-hydration" stop I consumed huge amounts of fluid much to peoples amazement. Even at the first stop for breakfast at the 4 stars family restaurant at 6:30am, I was "stocking up" on fluids as I knew it would be hot.
The day was unremarkable for scenery or conversation, just remarkable for constant sweat. The sunscreen sweated off in the first 10 minutes, the bug spray sweated off (though no bugs were crazy enough to be out in the sun) but each stop appeared as an oasis on the horizon. I'm not a great fan of air-conditioning, but the Mobil Gas station on the corner of county hwy T and NN was exquisite, the tavern in Marshall was a haven and the subway shop in the BP gas station in Waterloo was a delight.
The stop at the Trek corporate headquarters was a required and nostalgic stop. It was about 10 years ago that I rode my Trek 520 4000 miles across America. It was great to have a chat with the people that produced my transport for that adventure. The Trek people were wonderful and gave me all the time in the world, time I took advantage of as their offices were air-conditioned!
As I plodded in to Waterloo, around 3:30pm, the temperature gauge on the local bank was reading 98F. I'd had enough for the day.
So can you tell the difference between Lance Armstrong and myself?
Day 19 - Watertown - 18th July 2006
The night was terrible, we moved the bus on the previous evening to Watertown where dinner was had at Deeg's Mexican-American restaurant. Mr. Deeg's was very generous and very supportive of us parking the bus in the restaurant car park and using his restaurant as a media hub as well as "re-fueling".
The big red bus gets red hot on these 100 degree days and it makes for sleeping unpleasant, so with the early start, I felt like if I closed my eyes while I was walking, I'd fall asleep - it would bring a new dimension to sleep-walking!
A detour in the planned track proved not to be a problem, there was bridge work being done on hwy 19, but it didn't prevent foot traffic, in fact it helped as I could take a more direct route on a major road that had no vehicle traffic.
Though the day was cooler, I still felt like I had a "heat" hang-over from the previous day. And again, the end point of the day appeared as an absolute oasis - an overdose of mango slurpies at Mr. Deeg's restaurant.
(There wasn't much energy left to take photo's, and nothing seemed that appealing when the heat haze was distorting every photo).
Day 20 - Clyman and more - 19th July 2006
A 6:00am breakfast of a taco omelet was a good start to the day, though I was happy to give the tex-mex food a break for a while. The Clyman day was scheduled to be a 9.01 mile day, so I put a bit more into it to make the next day a bit easier.
There was not much in Clyman and this created a bit of a problem in finding places to "re-fuel". Fortunately, where there is no town and on a lonely highway corner, Dickie Lee's Whacky Shack was there to provide the required relief before reaching the Wild Goose State Trail.
Another great trail and something there should be more of. Wisconsin should be proud of their rail-trails and I would encourage people to not only make more use of them, but to get behind organizations that continue to develop these abandoned rail corridors. It can only be good for our children to provide these avenues of peace and quiet all through the state.
A quick stop at the town of Juneau for dinner before heading off to the final destination for the day at the trail park at the corner of Hwy 33 and 26. And just to conclude the day on a happy note, I wandered over to the Juneau county airport to refresh myself before the night closed in. Planes and flying are a fascination for me and it was fun to watch the twilight touch and go's that were part of the training exercises.
As usual, I bumped into someone who had been ravaged by the family courts. Tim was a great bloke and unfortunately was performing his second job to provide for the costs associated with family court experience. Fathers should be spending time with their children, not being forced away from their children because of the debt incurred through the family court meat grinder.
As I've said, every day is different. It's amazing what you see when you least expect it. And by the way they are pronounced "emyou"
Day 21 - Waupun - 20th July 2006
I thought my number was up. Two major thunderstorms rolled in through the night. The lightning was instantaneous with the thunder and the crack was deafening. I thought, for sure, the big red bus would be a suitable lightening rod for me to get zapped!
An early start was in order, the gravel trail of the Wild Goose trail was wet and very forgiving on the feet. The foliage was wet and the aromas of the bush was enriching. The sun was rising through the residual wild storm clouds and the bug spray was applied.
It was a great morning and I even had my own private cheer squad of a thousand mosquitoes following me - thanks to the scientist who discovered deet.
I was scheduled for a radio interview with WXRO as a good news story of local community interest. The storm knocked the Walk of the headlines, 3 inches was recorded in the listening area at Reeseville. Flash flooding was reported and there was tragedy in some peoples lives because of the storms.
There is enough tragedy and unfairness in the world created by natural events, we shouldn't be creating tragedy and unfairness through man-made events. When both parents are fit and healthy, and both parents want to fully participate in the raising of their children, creating unequal parents purposefully puts those parents in conflict and purposefully places a child in the worst possible position - a war of conflict between the two people the child loves and needs the most.
A war of conflict between the two people the child loves and needs the most is in the child's worst interests, this is directly opposite to what the family court pretends it does.
The family court is a man-made, purpose made tragedy for our children. Until equality for our children is written into law - as it is in the workplace - our innocent children will continue to suffer from the falsehood of the family courts "best interests of the child" mantra.
The following photos where quite the surprise, though I've heard train whistles while on other trails and I've seen the tracks that cross the trails, this one was fascinating. I heard the whistle from a long way off, getting closer all the time, It then took about five minutes to get the shots - the train was longer than I thought!
Day 22 - Fond du lac - 25th July 2006
The peace and quiet of the trail was shattered as I stepped into Fond du lac. After five hours of just my own footstep and my own thoughts, the trail head appeared and it was surrounded by road construction, heavy road transport at the hwy 151 and hwy 41 intersection as well as single track bottle neck of the rail transport up though the Fox valley.
The unusual and different came early in the day, as I took a curve on the trial I was abruptly halted by a sign I never expected to see. "Road Closed". I was hoping it was not a bridge out. Detours may be easy in a car, but to a walker they can knock the stuffing out of your day. I pushed on with the hope that the road works may stop a car, but a walker could scurry around the edges.
It was highway construction for the new 151 bypass. I waved and smiled at the construction crew, and they didn't seem to have a problem with my non-detour direction. I did have to keep the eyes in the back of my head open as the trucks were real and rather large. I would have been no more than a bug on the windscreen to them.
I gravitated to the lake and the Fond du lac yacht club. It was hot and the breeze off the lake brought good relief. I took a couple of hours rest just lying under the shade of a tree on a soft carpet of grass. It was the heat of the midday sun and I was content to avoid it.
The laughter of delight of the kids learning to sail rallied me from slumber. In barely more than a bathtub for a boat and a handkerchief for a sail, the kids had a wonderful time, playing on the water.
As usual, I always appreciate the unexpected...or the ridiculous. So Lake Winnebago is a fresh water lake, and I'm having lunch at a restaurant on the banks of the lake called "Salty's".
I put a few extra miles on the day by heading for Oshkosh. I knew the next day was going to be black-top, no shade, a busy road and very hot temperatures.
Day 23 - Oshkosh - 26th July 2006
Traffic was an issue on Hwy 45, the main thoroughfare between Oshkosh and Fond du lac, so again the first steps of the day were taking with the rising of the sun. An added buzz for the day was the EAA Oshkosh airshow was on this week.
The air show attracts many international people to this world class event. Uncannily, I was stopped by a number of people - all foreigners - to ask directions. They were a bit stunned to discover I was an Australian and a foreigner myself, though I did help them out as I've attended EAA a couple of times before.
The first incredible site was the accumulation of the sea planes all in one place. It was a spectacular site to see the maneuvering and taxiing of these unique transports. Being the Experimental Aircraft Association, sometimes it was hard to tell whether it was a flying boat or a floating plane.
I had a sore neck as I studied all the aircraft flying overhead.
I also had to be careful that as my eyes were in the sky, my feet weren't drifting to the river. The Wiowish trail heads out of Oshkosh through the university campus and runs along side Lake Butte a morts. I could have easily got wet.
The last enjoyable moment of the day was the flyovers by the British Lancaster bomber, a huge lumbering beast with four growling Pratt & Whitney radial engines. There are only two of these workhorses of the second world war still flying and one graced EAA with it's presents.
Day 24 - Hortonville - 27th July 2006
The Wiowish trail was a little out of the way for a track to Green Bay, but I'm glad I took this longer direction. The trail was delightful and significantly trafficked. By far, this trail had far more people using it than any other trail I've been on and the diversity was great as well. Bicycler's with kids in tow, walkers with headsets on, Dog's with owners in tow, and even horse and rider.
You can hear it from miles off, but you really don't expect it and they are BIG when you get up next to them. The blast from the horn of the freight train is perpetual and building in cresendo, then all of a sudden it's there, crossing the trail and blocking out the sun. The would not be much left of you if you didn't see one of these steel monsters coming.
Did I forget to mention, it was HOT!
Keeping my fluids up was becoming a concern, I am very lucky to have such wonderful people and Dad's supporting me though this, a couple of phone calls and I had local Wisconsin Father's taking a half hour break from there jobs and finding me with cooling, refreshing Gatorade.
And Dad, here is one for you, the old DC-3
Day 25 - Freedom - 28th July 2006
The day into Freedom was cut short by a status conference. There has been so much interest in the Green Bay day that we paused after walking half the distance. The temperatures were soaring and I was lucky to have both Bill and Randy independently "biking" liquids to me.
I'd made it through Shephensville and half way along Rock road. One of the "oasis" I paused at was the little tavern in Shephensville. Not only were the Pepsi's welcome in re-hydrating and the air-conditioning hard to pull away from, but as usual, there were inquisitive people who wanted to know what I was up to and of course family break-ups and the way the kids are treated is always a hot topic.
The watering hole I stopped at was called "Digger's" and for those in tune with Australian culture, a Digger is a person associated with the highest degree of respect and honour.
As for the golfers in their motorized vehicles with shade and cold drinks at hand, there was no honour involved, just envy and jealousy!
Day 26 - Green Bay - 1st August 2006
The day started early after some make-up time the day before, a rally meeting in Green Bay the evening before and then staying overnight at Randy's place in Freedom. We certainly had a "meeting of the minds" when it came to the effects that unequal parenting has on children.
There were to "joining points" on this days walk and both points increased our numbers. By the end of the day I felt like the pied piper of fathers as a group of around 20 of us entered Jackson Park Square to lead the large gathering of people ready to voice their opinion of family law to the rally.
There were a number of speakers and the rally continued on into the evening. It was a hot and hard day, but well worth the effort as the rewards were seeing the ever increasing number of parents, both mums and dads who realize that Wisconsin laws are failing our children.
It is a fact that equal parenting will happen, the only variable is time. Hopefully, for the sake of our children, our politicians will have the courage to make the timeframe short and save 1000's of Wisconsin children from the pain of conflict between their warring parents.
Day 27 - Zachow - 2nd August 2006
Back on a rail trail again and I was excited. This trail was well presented and had great complementary facilities. I walked the first 5 miles without even noticing that there was not a bend in the trail. I walked another 5 miles looking for a bend, but never found one.
I checked the map. This was a very straight trail! Almost a straight line from Green Bay to Wausau. Of course the Mountain-Bay trail gets it's name from Rib mountain and Green Bay.
Sometimes the world doesn't work the way you want it to. Understanding the end-point and having the tenacity to get there is what count's. I'll go even further and say that God or nature designed, on purpose, two parents - a Mum and a Dad.
The reason for this is because males and females are different, their end-point may be the same but they get their in different ways. I see this as one of the most important lessons that kids, early in their lives need to learn. When you can learn and accept that your Mum and Dad are different, but love you the same, then you can more easily accept and work with a world full of people who are different.
The end-point is the same, some use maps, some ask directions, some use the sun to determine north, south, east and west. Some take the scenic/rustic route, some take the freeway, some drive themselves, some take the bus.
The end-point for our children is well adjusted happy adults who are good contributing members of our community, both Mum's and Dad's and all their differences, are needed to get our children safely and successfully to adulthood.
To our children, Mum's and Dad's are the same, but different. To make them unequal in a child's life is disrespectful to our children and damaging in their growth to adulthood.
Back to the point of the world not always working the way you want it to. The whole effort to get to Wausau was like that, sometimes more miles were walked, sometimes less. After about 600 miles I got a whole new bunch of blisters, a new pair of shoes helped. What started off as a straight and boring track converted into a chance to concentrate more on chatting with people rather than walking to a schedule.
Day 28 - Gresham - 3rd August 2006
The towns started to all look the same (and they weren't very big either). The logistics of breakfast, lunch and dinner became a bit simpler as the options became fewer. Many times breakfast didn't exist until lunchtime and the stopping point for the day more coincided with sore feet rather than a town.
However, there was still one rule I stuck too - No MacDonald's! even if it was the only option around.
There has been much debate about diabetes in kids, some consider it an epidemic and I'd have to lean to that mindset as well. When I look around at all the vending machines, including machines at schools, all the "fast food" places, it doesn't surprise me that America is overweight and sugar dependant.
Many have connected the truth that without a stay-at-home parent making and cooking healthy meals for our children and presenting those meals for the whole family around the dinner table. That we now have fragmented families that are too busy to communicate, too busy to eat together and too busy to enjoy the simpl things in life - our spouses and our children.
Of course, the government is addicted to the taxation income from two parents working and will never let society return to the stay-at-home parent days. Incidentally, those days, the 50's and 60's, the "Happy Days", were the day when America grew strong.
Day 29 - Shepley - 8th August 2006
The support of Roger and his son Charlie was most grateful and as you can see, the track is still straight!
Day 30 - Ringle - 9th August 2006
I decided today to expand on philosophy of the walk. The walk was originally an 800 mile grassroots adventure to ask the questions that needed answering. After 600 miles and literally thousands of people, the questions have been answered. I've decided to include in today's diary a recording of one of the thousands of dad's who I've met. Each Dad has been a piece of the jigsaw puzzle, and now the picture is clear.
The recording says it all. To listen, click here.
The last 200 miles will be used to describe the jigsaw puzzle that all the dad's contributed.
Incidentally, the second picture of today is a curve in the track!
Day 31 - Wausau - 10th August 2006
A change over of support, with Roger and Charlie heading home and Steve Blake, the President of Wisconsin Fathers for Children and Families picking up the support role.
Steve was a welcome site as it also indicated the end of a long trail. Wausau also seemed to hit me in the face. There was lots of wilderness on the trail and very few towns and entering Wausau was like "hitting the big smoke". Wausau seemed very industrial compared to my previous few days.
After traversing the outskirts, I found my way to the RiversEdge trail, where the Wisconsin River skirts around Rib Mountain/Granite Peak. There was much rollerblading, tennis playing, golf club swinging and fly rod flashing going on. A great change from the peace and quiet of the Mountain-Bay trail. I took a pause to investigate the Kayaking setup they had on the river. I'd done a bit of kayaking in Australia and how the course was set up was fantastic.
Like all cities, Wausau seemed self absorbed. 23% of all births in Marathon County are to single mothers, 23% of all births in Marathon County are to teenage mothers.
Day 32 - Athens - 11th August 2006
Today has a different theme to the diary, can you guess what it is?
Referring to the map quite often to make sure I was on the right track, (making a 5 mile navigation mistake is a lot more painful when you're on foot rather than in a car!). It reminded me of my premarital travels. There were quite a few other phots I could have included, but 4 seemed to be enough.
There was a town that was the odd one out, Poniatowski.
I thought it may have been a city in Poland, but it is actually a Polish King
Stanisław August Poniatowski (born Stanisław Antoni Poniatowski; January 17, 1732, Wołczyn, Belarus -February 12, 1798, St. Petersburg, Russia) was the last King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1764-1795). He was the son of Stanisław Poniatowski (1676-1762), Castellan of Kraków, and Konstancja Czartoryska, and brother of Michał Jerzy Poniatowski, primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, and uncle of Prince Józef Poniatowski
The day was all flat straight and hot blacktop. I dreamed of all the wonderful places I'm prevented from taking my daughter, including her birth country, her country of citizenship and the place the majority of her family is.
Day 33 - Medford - 14th August 2006
Athens was a delightful small country town and by the way it was well kept, I believe the townfolk are very proud of their town, I'm certainly glad to have spent a little time there.
Just out of town is a bleak reminder of today's society. I believe there is a definitive link between the family courts disrespect and disenfranchising of Fathers from families and the rate of depression and suicide.
Men of fatherly age suicide at 8 times the rate of the average. There are more suicides in Wisconsin each year than their are motor vehicle deaths, and suicide is preventable. The highest catagory of youth suicide are kids who come from fatherless homes.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to put those two statistics together. Kids and Dad's are good together, it prevents suicide and as the sign says, "Suicide is Preventable"
In the face of all the facts, the Family Court still claims "it's in the Best interests of the Child" to make a father a visitor in a child's life!
I couldn't help put this one in, was it a sign? I did change to a new pair of shoes the next day!
Day 34 - Prentice - 15th August 2006
It was a wonderful time spent in Medford, thanks to all that I spent time with. A very early start saw me back on a trail and with stomach grumbling for breakfast. Unfortunately I had to bypass a number of establishments as the ubiquitous "Old Style" or "Blue Ribbon" signs indicated sunset revelry not sunrise nourishment.
There was plenty of time to reflect on the miles covered so far. As I've said previously, the walk has changed from "Asking questions" to "providing solutions"
I spent most of the day in thought about presenting my findings and formulating solutions. With the upcoming elections I'll be calling on all Dad's to support candidates that support a presumption of equal placement.
When we have a family court system that starts with a level playing field we'll start preventing one controlling parent from using the children to gain advantage in a destructive adversarial court process.
To review how you're representative voted in last years equal parenting bill AB897, click here.
I'll be asking all the Dad's I've met along the way to support candidates who believe children need both parents and to vote against those incumbents who voted No for AB897.
Day 35 - Phillips -
16th August 2006
Day 36 - Park
Falls - 22nd August 2006
Day 37 - Glidden -
23rd August 2006
Day 38 - High
Bridge - 24th August 2006
Day 39 - Ashland -
25th August 2006
Day 40 - Ino
Station - 28th August 2006
Day 41 - Brule -
29th August 2006
Day 42 - Amnicon
Falls - 30th August 2006
Day 43 - Superior -
31st August 2006