Battling Big, Bad Zombies in Beloit, Wisconsin


Badgers are described as “ferocious fighters with an attitude that should not be bothered.†I mention this because Vanessa and I recently spent a few days in Wisconsin—the badger state. Coincidence? I think not. Although we are generally harmless—when left alone—there are times when our tendency to be ferocious fighters comes in handy. One such time was during our visit to Beloit.

A bar with many bottles of alcohol on the wall
Cocktails at truk’t – The only way to start a visit!

It All Began with Cocktails, of course!

The trip started off in excellent fashion with cocktails at truk’t—one of Beloit’s newest trendy and delicious hot spots. Our host and friend, Stacey, was eager to introduce us to truk’t’s margaritas, and who are we to argue when cocktails are involved? 

As we sat chatting about our planned itinerary for the next few days, Stacey mentioned a couple of changes.

Stacey:  Ladies, it looks like the weather isn’t going to be very cooperative this weekend so I thought I would suggest we replace one of the outdoor activities with a visit to our state-of-the-art indoor golf lab.

Vanessa:  That’s probably not the best idea. Terri and I are terrible at golf.  Like really, really terrible. Catastrophically, in fact.

Terri:  She’s right. We suck. We tried to play at Old Kinderhook in Missouri, and no one has seen or heard from the golf pro since.

Vanessa:  We broke him.

With a slightly concerned look, Stacey explained that although the Ironworks Golf Lab has an HD simulator that lets you choose from more than 80 golf courses from around the world, it’s also an entertainment center offering several other types of games.

When you think about it,  watching Vanessa and I attempt to play golf on any of the 80 plus courses  would make the Ironworks Golf Lab an entertainment center even without other attractions. But it would likely involve a considerable amount of cursing. Which, of course, would be totally inappropriate for this family-friendly venue.

Stacey: You can use the Visual Sports Simulators and choose between other games, including baseball, football, basketball, zombie dodgeball and many others.

Vanessa:  Wait. Stop. Right. There. Did you say ZOMBIE dodgeball?

Vanessa’s hands began to twitch. Hoping Stacey wouldn’t notice, I jumped in.

Terri:  Stacey, I think you’ve found our entertainment. Vanessa’s years of preparation in anticipation of the Zombie Apocalypse have brought her to this point. She may stink at golf, but she’s an Olympian hopeful at zombie dodgeball.

Vanessa (salivating):  I’ve actually never played, but I’m ready. Yes, I’m definitely ready.

Her hands were still twitching, and I could have sworn her fingernails were turning into claws…maybe badger claws?

A badger is standing in some grass looking at the camera.
The Infamous Badger (a/k/a Vanessa)

Prepping for Battle

After a good night’s sleep in the oh-so-chic Hotel Goodwin, we woke to a rainy day as expected. No worries though, because our first order of business was to get a massage at the WM Day Spa. Everyone needs a little deep tissue work before terrorizing zombies, right?

To fortify ourselves, we stopped into Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar for lunch. This delicious little spot has burgers stuffed with all kinds of cheese. I chose the Wisconsinite; a decadent burger stuffed with cheddar cheese and topped with beer cheese and brats. Vanessa chose the Mac & Cheese, which is exactly what it sounds like—a burger stuffed with mac & cheese. If that doesn’t get you badger-ready for battle, I don’t know what would.

Oblivious to the upcoming bloodshed, our server was adorable. Besides being friendly and attentive, she and the other servers wore outfits inspired by one of the most popular pin-up girls of WWII. Lucy Winslow was nicknamed #7 by her dad when she arrived in the family after her six older brothers. The Wisconsin farm-girl served in the USO as a nurse during the war and later became a starlet. Fun tributes to her, including a life-size mural, abound throughout the eatery.

A woman holding a plate of food in front of her face.
Just too cute! Our adorable server at Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar!

Time to Annihilate the Undead

With relaxed muscles and full tummies, we headed off to the Ironworks Golf Lab. This 8,000 sq. ft. entertainment center is housed in the renovated industrial site of the former Beloit Iron Works foundry. Murals within the Ironworks complex pay tribute to the workers who kept the business alive for more than 100 years.

We arrived at the golf lab and stopped to give our names at the desk, where the manager asked what games we wanted to play.

Terri: I’d love to try football, and maybe baseball.

Vanessa:  Zombies. We. Want. Zombies.

Obviously unnerved by her intensity, the manager led us straight back to the room and showed us how to activate the zombie dodgeball game. We never saw him again.

At that moment, the room-sized screen came to life, and the ever-so-creepy zombies determinedly marched their way toward us; slowly at first, and then faster. Grabbing the dodgeballs, we began throwing them at the screen. And I began screaming.

Terri:  Why don’t these suckers fall down when I hit them? They just keep coming and coming.

Vanessa (throwing balls madly): You have to hit them in the head! Have you never seen ANY zombie movies?

I kept screaming as the zombies crept toward me, faster and faster. Until I started knocking off one, then another…then another.

Terri (screaming):  DIE, ZOMBIES DIE!

Vanessa:  Jeez, Terri, are you ok? You seem a little…wound up. You know it’s just a game, right?

Terri (yelling):  I AM THE QUEEN OF THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!

And that’s why we’ll probably never be invited back to Beloit.

A carnival ride with a clown statue in the middle of it.
Zombies: They just keep coming!!

If you go…

First, you have no choice but to go to the Ironworks Golf Lab to either work on your golf game or annihilate zombies like we did. (You know which one to choose, just do it.) www.ironworksgolflab.com

While you’re in Beloit, don’t skip a visit to Beloit College’s Logan Museum of Anthropology. Inside, more than 350,000 objects from more than 125 countries and 600 cultural groups are housed in a glass cube. On campus, you’ll also find Native American burial mounds—seriously, who knew? www.beloit.edu/logan

Also on campus, the Wright Museum of Art is home to more than 6,000 pieces of work from a range of cultures and art movements, including American Impressionism, German Expressionism and Japanese modern prints. www.beloit.edu/wright

You have to eat…

No matter where we go in this world, eating and drinking are part of the experience. We don’t care if it’s a lopsided part of the experience…we’re just doing what we need to do. (That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.)

truk’t – For tacos, whiskey, margaritas and much more, check out truk’t. Tell them we sent you but if they suddenly seem reluctant to serve you let them know you’ve only heard about us but never met us. Works every time.  www.trukttacos.com

Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar – I’ve already told you why you need to go here. Just do it! www.l7burgerbar.com

Clara Bo & Gatsby Wine Bar – OK, the food is delicious. But that’s not all. As soon as we walked into the door, we felt as if we’d wandered into the 1920’s. We’re old, but not that old. Nevertheless, we totally enjoyed the food, the opulent décor, the music…well, actually, everything. Do not miss this experience! www.clarabo.com

A woman drinking from a glass in front of a wall.
Martinis and more at Clara Bo’s! (Also known as ‘research’)

You have to sleep…

There was a theme throughout our time in Beloit: unexpected. It began (obviously) with the chance to throw dodgeballs at zombies, but it was a defining thread during our visit. Beloit offers an ingenious blend between the city’s tried and true traditions and modern luxury. Nowhere is this more evident than at the Hotel Goodwin. This impossibly chic boutique hotel is inspired by the 19th century Goodwin House. Each room is distinctive with eye-catching art, turntables and unique record collections. (Sadly, we’re old enough to know about turntables. If you’re not, ask your grandparents.)

A record player sitting on top of a rack.
Hey Kids! This is a turntable!

Don’t miss dinner at the hotel’s Velvet Buffalo Café where there are 120 bottles of wine to choose from. Seriously, they actually booked us in a hotel that offers 120 bottles of wine. What were they thinking?www.hotelgoodwin.com

 For more information visit www.visitbeloit.com.

 

How Cheese Curds Saved My Life: A Girls’ Getaway in Janesville, Wisconsin


Often in our travels, Vanessa and I seek out ways to connect with the local community. Sometimes it’s through cultural events, other times it’s in cooking classes (which is a story for another day) and once in a while, it’s through crafts. We tried glass blowing in the Black Forest region of Germany where the language barrier almost cost me my front teeth—yet another story. In Texas, we were given paint brushes along with copious amounts of wine—I’m sure you can imagine how that turned out. Most recently, we were given pieces of glass and a myriad of sharp tools.

Seriously. What were they thinking?

A woman with a big cheese hat on her head.
Cheesy maybe? I. Don’t. Care.

There’s Nothing Like a Girlfriends’ Getaway…with Cheese!

We were in Janesville, Wisconsin for a girlfriends’ getaway. Our visit started off splendidly when our host and now dearest friend, Susan, arrived at breakfast carrying two bags of cheese curds—the best food known to woman. This was Wisconsin after all…the largest cheese producing state in the country.

In exchange for the cheese curds, we happily agreed to pose for a photo in the Cheese Head hat. When in Rome, right? And let’s face it; we’ll do almost anything for cheese.

More cheese curds magically appeared when we stopped for lunch at the Whiskey Ranch in downtown Janesville. This time they were deep-fried. Be still my heart. Of course, we happily indulged despite the moans from our soon-to-be-clogged arteries.

A woman with her mouth open holding a fork.
The utterly ridiculous & delicious deep fried cheese curds at Whiskey Ranch!

On to Something Healthier…Just in Time!

We followed all of this deep-fried decadence with a visit to Bodacious Olive where—in an effort to save what non-fat cells we had left—owner Bekki Kennedy introduced us to the many health benefits of premium olive oils and vinegars. There wasn’t a cheese curd in sight. But we sampled from a variety of flavors in the beautifully appointed, boutique-style store and vowed to change our eating habits.

Ah, such good intentions.

A bar with many lights and a lot of bottles
Healthier Options at Bodacious Olive

You Might Need Bigger Clothes

Afterward, we went on a successful shopping spree. Not because we had to (cheese!) but because we wanted to. Always in favor of supporting small businesses, we were delighted to spend time perusing the aisles of Carousel Consignments, where Vanessa almost passed out from sheer joy. Every inch of this 4,000 sq. ft. shop on Janesville’s Main Street is filled with treasures. Literally stacked to the ceiling! From housewares to retro phones to record albums to decades of National Geographic magazines, if you’re looking for it, it’s probably here. Heck, if you lost it at some point in your life, we can now tell you where to find it.

A room filled with lots of shelves full of different types of items.
Need anything? I mean ANYTHING???

Nearby, Angie’s on Main provided even more treasures of the collectible variety mixed with newer items like scarves and jewelry—which, of course, I had to check out…and purchase. The industrial-chic Velvet & Tulle was another favorite. Located in a former butcher shop dating back more than 100 years, this charming boutique offers a unique selection of clothing and accessories in a wide range of sizes. We did a little credit card damage for sure, but that’s what girls’ trips are for, right?

A woman in a hat is standing next to clothes.
I wanted this hat. I should have bought it. I’m going back.

Shopping, Wine, Chocolate & a Spa: In Other Words, A Good Day!

We also stopped in at Raven’s Wish Gallery, where Vanessa picked up a turquoise squirrel bag for a friend. Because, of course, she knows people who love squirrels. These squirrel-lovers include a woman who feeds a three-legged creature named Captain Dan. I knew better than to even ask.

We rounded out the itinerary with a wine and chocolate tasting at North Leaf Winery where they make both the wine and chocolate in-house to create the perfect pairing. While imbibing, we even created our own wine stoppers and surprisingly, they turned out pretty well! (Craft machines…that’s us!)

We then soothed our tired muscles (you know, from digesting all those cheese curds) with wonderful massages at Bellasazi Salon & Spa. And finally, it was off to Glass Garden.

A woman holding a plate of food and wine.
In our happy place at Northleaf Winery!

Take Cover: The Shards are Flying

Our class in making art from glass was to begin at 7 p.m. Due to a GPS that insisted numerous times that we should drive across a closed road, we arrived at 7:05 to find everyone in place, glass pieces and sharp tools in hand. Not the most welcoming look.

Note to self: being fashionably late is only acceptable in New York.

Due to our late arrival, Vanessa and I wouldn’t be able to work side-by-side. We were sent to separate tables—I’m not sure that Vanessa thought of this as a punishment. She settled in on the other side of the room. I choose the table closest to the wine and cheese curds. I know my gifts…crafting isn’t one of them. Wine and cheese curds I can work like a pro.

The instructions, while clear to everyone else, were like a foreign language to me. There was something about glue and placing decorative items here and there. And there was something about clipping the glass. The one thing I took from it all was that we were to keep our pieces of glass in our work boxes while clipping. Otherwise, the tiny glass shards can fly out and possibly hit someone working nearby. (Are you beginning to understand why Vanessa sat across the room?)

Two bags of bucky badger snacks are sitting on a table.
It’s hard to be creative with cheese curds close by!

Making “Friends†with the Crafters

Having already disrupted class by arriving past start time, I made a mental note to be sure that I didn’t lift my glass and hurt anyone. I was there to mingle with the locals—not to injure them. The lady to my left, however, must have missed that little bit of instruction. Every time she clipped her glass, a shard would fly and hit me in the arm. After the third or fourth hit, I suggested that maybe she could consider clipping it a little lower in her box. She responded with more flying glass shards.

Concerned for my safety, I slipped away from the table to visit with Vanessa.

Terri: I don’t think the lady to my left likes me.

Vanessa:  Why? What did you do?

Terri:  I didn’t do anything! She keeps cutting her glass outside of her work box and the shards keep hitting me.

Vanessa:  I’m sure it was an accident.

Terri:  She’s hit me at least five times. No one has that many accidents.

Vanessa:  We have that many accidents before noon every day. Should I remind you about our painting class…or glass-blowing…or the time that you fell off a toilet…

Terri: Fine, we’ll call it an accident.

I rejoined my table and decided to make friends with the lady to my right since the woman on the left seemed intent on killing me. She was lovely. We chatted about her family and her travels. She inquired about my life in New York and even gave me tips to make my “artwork†better.  Most importantly, she clipped her glass without injuring me. So I shared my cheese curds with her.

A glass sculpture of a bunch of different colored strips.
Vanessa’s Masterpiece! Mine would have been better if I wasn’t dodging glass shards!

All’s Well That Ends Well

Seeing that I had made a new friend, the lady on the left stopped her glass clipping long enough to comment on my artwork.

Lady on Left:  You know, that doesn’t look like much right now, but after it’s fired in the kiln, I think you’ll have a nice piece of art to put in your New York apartment.

Terri:  Thank you. That’s kind of you to say.

And I handed her my last cheese curd. Now that’s Midwestern hospitality.

A colorful building with a rainbow sign on it.
Charming Downtown Janesville!

If You Go…

From charming downtown shops and eateries to a fabulous botanical garden, Janesville makes an ideal place for a girlfriend getaway. Here’s a list of the places we visited. All of these received our seal of approval—and that’s the highest honor any establishment could ask for, right?

Angie’s On Main is an eclectic gift and consignment shop occupying 12,000sq ft over three floors. You’ll find amazing handmade items, furniture, antiques, jewelry and more. Angie even sells artwork by local children—I love that! Located at 37 S. Main Street, Janesville, WI 53545

Carousel Consignments is THE place to go to find anything and everything! I’m not kidding. It’s 4,000 sq ft of housewares, collectibles and more. Or in Vanessa’s case: It’s heaven. Located at 31 S. Main Street, Janesville, WI 53545

Raven’s Wish Gallery & Studio features contemporary art from over 75 locally and nationally known artists while encouraging everyone to live an artful life! (Good advice.) It’s also THE place to find gifts for your squirrel loving friends—apparently. Located at 101 W. Milwaukee Street, Janesville, WI 53548

Velvet & Tulle is an absolutely charming boutique with a variety of stylish, fun pieces from clothing to accessories—all of it housed in a beautifully restored historic building. Located at 217 W. Milwaukee Street, Janesville, WI 53548

Bodacious Shops of Block 42 includes Bodacious Olive, Bodacious Brew and So Chopped under one industrial-chic roof. Located just steps from the Rock River in downtown Janesville, you’ll find healthy choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Settle in at Bodacious Brew with a cup of your favorite tea or coffee. Indulge in something other than cheese curds at So Chopped. Be sure to stop in Bodacious Olive for an incredible array of premium olive oils and vinegars along with kitchen gadgets. 119 N. Main Street, Janesville, WI 53545

Lark is an excellent choice for dinner while you’re in town. Focusing on seasonally driven, locally sourced dishes, we found the menu to be inventive and delicious—and that’s an excellent combination. You’re guaranteed to leave “happy as a lark!†60 S. Main Street, Janesville, WI 53545

Whiskey Ranch Bar & Grill is a classic. Taking bar food to a new level, you’re certain to find something to please your palette. And you simply MUST order the deep-fried cheese curds—there’s really no way around it. 24 N. Main Street, Janesville, WI 53545

Bellasazi Salon & Spa has been a part of the Janesville community for more than 20 years. A proper girlfriend getaway must include massages at this tranquil oasis. Besides, everyone needs a break from cheese curds if only for an hour or so. 1423 Plainfield Avenue, Janesville, WI 53545

Northleaf Winery for wine and chocolate—is there a better dessert? We think not. 232 S Janesville St, Milton, WI 53563

The Glass Garden is the place to go to test your crafting skills. I’m not saying it made either one of us a better artist, but we’re beyond help.  25 W. Milwaukee Street, Janesville, Wisconsin 53548