Three Days in Wisconsin (Finding Some Unusual Things!!)

Three Days in Wisconsin

(Finding Some Unusual

August 3-6, 2012

Day 1 – Beef, Cheese, Mustard and a
Grumpy Troll

by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz


Aug 3, 2012:
It was a rare occasion, an
opportunity to take a vacation.  My daughter Chelsea wanted a road
trip…she wanted her daughter Autumn to experience a “Grampz Style” road trip. 
So, on this long weekend in August, the three of us hopped in the Town Car and
embarked on a trip to Wisconsin. The goal of the trip was to hit some of south
central Wisconsin, see some “roadside attractions” and then drive to Green Bay
and up the Door County Peninsula and then back to Lexington. We drove on Friday
evening to cut off some of the long drive to Wisconsin, with an overnight stay
in Avon, Indiana. Following is the map of our trip.  Following is a map of
our trip from Lexington to Wisconsin and back.


General map of our 4 day trip – Lexington;
Avon, IN; Covington, IN; Champaign, IL; Middleton, WI;

Marshfield, Medford, Tomahawk,
Rhinelander, Seymour, Green Bay, Egg Harbor, Gibraltor and then to Hebron, IN


Aug 4, 2012:
A quick night’s rest in Avon and then on the road to Wisconsin.  Along the
way we made a few stops.  For fun, I was wearing a “Wear’s the Beef?”
t-shirt that Chelsea had given me from Wendy’s.  I had planned to do this
for a stop later in the day, but it worked out really well for our first stop,
which we just so happened to see off of the freeway, near Covington, IN. 
There is a place called the
Beef House Restaurant,
which is apparently famous for its yeast rolls.  We were way too early to
eat there, but I could not resist getting a photo with the sign!!


I think I found the beef!!


After the quick photo-op stop in Covington, we headed west towards the first
scheduled stop — to see the large Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Noodle statue in
Champaign, IL. Yes, this is a Wisconsin trip so we needed some cheesiness, and
we got it first in Illinois!!  Though a novelty roadside attraction for
someone like me, this is actually part of a
serious advertising
begun by Kraft Foods in 2010.  These 20 foot long, 9 foot tall
Noodle replicas have been placed in landmark areas such as

Fisherman’s Wharf

Wrigley Field
.  They also have one at their plant in Champaign, IL. 
Once we found the location, we noticed we could drive into the employee parking
lot  and walk right up to the noodle to get photos. Now that makes for a
Beefy Mac and Cheese (with my where’s the beef shirt!!). Here are a couple of



Kraft’s “You know you love it.” giant noodle statue. Map to this
location is below.

Kraft Factory in Champaign, IL

While in Champaign we decided to make a stop at the
Curtis Orchard. My
main reason was because of the huge Indian Statue (see below), but as we got
there, we found a number of other treasures.  The orchard has pretty much
turned the place into a Wizard of Oz themed attraction, including a Flying
Monkey Cafe!!  We stopped for photos, some apple cider and other goodies
and even followed the Yellow Brick Road!!


Chelsea and Autumn enjoy the Giant Rocking chair and find their way on the
Yellow Brick Road at Curtis Orchard in Champaign, IL


The Indian Archer, aka The Chief, was originally located in Danville, IL. 
The 17 foot tall copper statue was built

in 1949 for Herb Drew’s Plumbing and Heating.  When the business closed in
1994, the owner’s grandson

moved the Indian to the Curtis Orchard.  Apparently, the statue represents
Kesis, a famous Kickapoo Indian from Illinois.

The photo on the right is a large silo with a representation of the tin



This is painted on a barn door (notice the lock in the middle.  I am in the
picture to provide a size comparison.


Well, we have had the beef, the cheese and some fruit….time for some Mustard!! 
From Champaign, we headed north towards Wisconsin to get to the famous Mustard
Museum.  However, along the way, we ran into another unexpected
treat…another of the many Wind Farms that I have come across in my travels. 
This one is called the Twin
Groves Wind Farm
. The Wind Farm features over 240 turbines across 22,000
acres of land. It generates over 396 megawatts, enough to meet the energy needs
of about 120,000 homes. In my travels I have seen these in California, Kansas,
Ontario, Montana, Illinois, North Dakota and more.  They are always
fascinating.  I really love a couple of the shots I got of these because of
the mingling with the corn fields of Illinois.  Autumn and Chelsea were
stunned by the size of these towering wind turbines.



A few of the over 240 Turbines in the Twin Groves Wind Farm


Onward north up Interstate 39 out of Normal, IL towards Madison, WI, we made our
into Middleton, which is situated northwest of Madison on the Beltline. 
Originally built and housed in Mt. Horeb, WI (see
my original writeup on a visit there here
), the
National Mustard Museum
has moved to much bigger digs in Middleton.  There they now have a nice two
story facility with everything you ever wanted to learn about Mustard, but were
afraid to ask…or taste. According to the official Mustard Museum website,

National Mustard Museum began
the “Mount Horeb Mustard Museum” when its founder & curator, Barry Levenson,
started collecting mustards on October 27, 1986. The story of the Mustard Museum
traces its roots to a late night visit to an all-night grocery when Barry heard
a deep, resonant voice as he passed the mustards:
you collect us, they will come.” 

Currently the National Mustard Museum houses over 5400 varieties of Mustard from
around the world as well as hundreds of pieces of Mustard Memorabilia. 
Also, the place offers degrees from Poupon U.  I now have three degrees
from there (snicker).  Ironically, we so happened to arrive on National
Mustard Day!!  What a kick!


National Mustard Museum — Founder Barry
Levenson on the left along with his fancy glitter headed employee.



Barry’s mustard inspired art work “The
First 27 Virtues of Mustard”.  Barry studied under Professor Elbert
Culpepper at the new

museum of Crappy Art in Flushinghard, VA.



Got Mustard?



A couple of the 1000s of varieties
available for sale.



I think this is the only Mustard Vending
Machine anywhere…and, if you like bacon, you can also get your fix a the NMM.



Mustard displays aplenty…the one on the
left is to show the variety of containers available.

On the right are varieties produced in
every state in the US.



Welcome to Poupon U…you can actually get
a diploma while there. The diploma above is the MBA degree.



There is an official “Poupon U
dumping station” — I made a donation!!

The restrooms feature “Plochman’s
Mustard Bottle” Soap Dispensers


After being mustarded away, we were back
on the road meandering our way towards
Mt. Horeb
Chelsea was excited about Mt. Horeb due to its famed troll statues. 
Indeed, the main attraction for the town are the trolls. The town has created a
along Highway 151 with many large carved wooden trolls visible from the road.
Many of these were created by local artist
Michael Feeney. We
found a few on our visit…. 

Click here for a nice map
of the town, with all of the trolls and other



Welcome sign.  This scrap metal dragon on the right was
created by Wally Keller, a nearby resident. 

I visited his menagerie a number of years ago near Vermont, WI. 
See my link at



Open House Imports is full of troll goodies…Moonhill Mercantile
has a cool looking sign


These three trolls reside at Open House Imports


Some of the trolls of Mt. Horeb – A small troll from the shop; a
new one in town; “Sweet Swill”; another nameless one


Two views of the “Peddler Troll”


We finished off our visit and pretty much our day by grabbing
some grub at the “Grumpy
“, a local pub, brewery and dining establishment.


‘Nuff said…and shown!!


Wisconsin Road Trip – Day 2: Jurustic Park, Chain Saw Totem
Forest, Hodag and a giant badger

Wisconsin Road Trip – Day 3: Green Bay, Lambeau Field and Door
County Peninsula


Some roadside guidance provided by……


 See more of
Sumoflam’s Trip Journals

Visit Sumoflam’s “Less
Beaten Paths
” blog for more interesting places

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

Having fun in and around Ft. Worth

Another Week in DFW

Having fun in and around Dallas/ft. Worth

(Bulls, Trains and Flowers)

Apr. 11-14, 2010



by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz


April 11, 2010:After a restful evening and late-morning due to the long trip from Lexington, I spent time with my sister Sherry and her husband Brian and my sweet little niece Savannah.  We took a trip down to the Fort Worth Stockyards, had a great lunch, rode a train and had a generally great time!!  The Fort Worth Stockyards are cowboy central. As their official website states, “The Fort Worth Stockyards is the history book of the livestock industry in Texas. Each chapter is represented by the original bricks and mortar, the wood corrals, the men, and the music that are all still a part of the the Stockyards today.”  It is a National Historic District due to the old buildings and the representation of a life long gone and only shown in old westerns.


We left Keller in the early afternoon and headed down to the stockyards to enjoy lunch and then take a leisurely train ride.  I had been there once before, but only on a drive thru.  This time we were able to take our time.  What a blast.  Following is a pictorial journal ofthis part of the trip….


Forth Worth Stockyards greets you

















Of course, the whole idea of the stockyards is stock…cattle….and what is cattle without a little BULL…Longhorn style….



Which one is the real bull? (Actually, the “bull” on the right is my brother in law Brian!!)


All of this dealing with bull made us hungry for some so we headed to Riscky’s Steakhouse in the Stockyards for some wonderful steaks…



Started in 1927 by Polish immigrant Joe Riscky, who originally came to Texas towork in the Armour packing plant in 1911,

Riscky’s is one of “Cowtown’s” Steak and BBQ of choice.  We loved it too!!



Couldn’t resist the “Cowboy Cactus” silhouetted in the window at Riscky’s….and sister Sherry had so much steak she grew horns!!!


After eating we noticed that time was flying by….indeed, even a pig was flying by….so we needed to head to the train for our little jaunt into Fort Worth….




After a bit of grub (that’s what they call food in these parts),we headed for a fun little train ride through Fort Worth.  Nothing fancy,but more for the atmosphere.  In the stockyards there is the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, a nice little rail ride that takes one along the historic Cotton Belt Route and over the Trinity River in Fort Worth. The train we rode was a 1953 GP-7 Diesel Locomotive train that pulls 1920s and 1930s era Victorian style cars.


Here I am up on the front of the old 1953 GP-7 Locomotive that would pull us along on our trip. 

I also liked the side view with the old fashioned lamps reflecting off of the windows


This is a view into the last cabin in the train.  Lots of old decorative seats.


The train is not air-conditioned, but has open air windows, which was nice on this April day.


As we prepared to go, the engineers chatted out front.  I leaned out of the

coach to get the photo on the right…


A couple of scenes from the train: Downtown Ft. Worth on the left and colorful pallet stacks on the right



Not everything was “scenic” on the ride.  The train went by heavily traveled

roads and we even saw a man that was living under the bridge. There were

some industrial areas as well.  But the ride was pleasant nonetheless.



Downtown Ft. Worth with the Trinity River heading through it. 

Riverine Egrets relax on the banks of the river.

We got a warm hello from some kids who apparently live along the route.



As with any tourist activity, there is always the profit seekers.  There

were photographers hawking their wares. 

I got photos of both of them and DID NOT charge them a thing for my photos to be posted here!!


I am “Enjoying the Ride” as is what looks to be a Texas cowboy.  Brianschmoozes with the Conductor.



Trip was finally done and off the train I went…..And, uhh, tell ever wun Gomer sez hey!!


Sherry and Brian took us back home on a side trip to see some other interesting sites in Ft. Worth.



A building and a statue with no names.  I have looked for information on

these and couldn’t find any.But, they are in Ft. Worth.  If anyone knows,

let me know so I can add information.


From downtown, Sherry and Brian took me to see their trailer…yes, they have gone “Flamingohead” on me and have a nice trailer.  Many times during the year they enjoy the ride Living in Aluminum.  Here is their place…but, it ain’t home because we all know it ain’t home until you take the wheels off!!



Sherry, Brian and Savannah show off their Ultra Lite.  Ahh, living in aluminum.  Hope they give me a call from Freedom sometime!!



Found in the same trailer storage area as Sherry and Brian’s trailer….theowner of this MUST be a fan of Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours!!!



Speaking of Antsy McClain, the trailer next to Sherry’s was purchased at

McClain’s RVs!!  I even found the place in McKinney!!

Never thought Antsy would go this far!!


As the sun set on this nice April day in Fort Worth, I am reminded again of mysweet sister, her great husband Brian and darling little Savannah.




April 12, 2010: A trip to Weatherford and Mineral Wells was on the agenda.  I have covered this trip in the past, so not too much here to add other than the spectacularly colorful trip.



Can’t miss a Cool place on the way…I went by here before, but wanted

to point out that they are “Shut” despite being “Now Open”

This is in Cool, Texas.


Perhaps the nicest part of the trip to Weatherford/Mineral Wells, were the wildflowers along the road — mainly the famed Texas Bluebonnet and the Indian Paintbrush.  This was a great day to be on the road!!



Indian Paintbrush — beautiful flowers


Loved the delicate strands of spider web on this small yellow wildflower



I loved the intense blues and reds along the road.  I tried to capture theflavor.


Texas Bluebonnet


Some roadside guidance provided by……


Please feel free to make blog comments at

 See more of Sumoflam’s Trip Journals

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

Change is in the air: Jobs, inaugurations, our future

Today is an historic day for the United States and I am sure that 1000s like me are writing.  But, all I will mention is that while we are getting a new President today, my life is experiencing change as well and I want to focus more on that subject as it is also a cause for reflection.

I am taking a break from updating my relections for 2008 to comment today on change in my life.

The last 5 weeks has been challenging for me and my family. As the economy as faltered, Japanese translation work has fizzled and I have spent the last 5 weeks without any substantial income other than a few nights of pizza delivery for Papa Johns.  With lack of income comes worry, stress, marital strain (though my sweet wife Julianne has been a gem), lack of confidence….  As we struggled to shuffle what meager funds we had to pay our car payments and mortgage, we realized that the world truly is changing, and in many ways, for the worse.  So, it has become a time to really sit down, refelect and count our blessings.

Yesterday was one of those days.  For the last 10 years (including last year, though in Canada and separated from family), we have had pretty much ample income to live a fairly comfortable life.  Granted, we have few of the “worldly” possessions such as big screen LCD HD TVs. new fancy cars. giant house, etc.  But, we do have a comfortable home with a fabulous fixed interest rate, we do have reliable transportation, and most of all, 5 healthy children and 5 healthy grandchildren.

But, we have not had a job. We are still paying a very high price on health insurance through COBRA.  Things are truly challenging.

Back to yesterday…   Last Friday I went to a company called ACS (see for a job interview.  The job I was interviewing for was a call-center position for tech support for iPhones.  Sounds exciting perhaps.  But, I must admit, there was a part of me that was very discouraged.  Why?  Basically, I am going from a $25/hour Japanese translation job to a $9/hour call-center position.  I have not had a job that paid less than $25/hour in nearly 15 years. Nor have I had a job that paid me less than what my wife was making. 

Nevertheless, I am a realist.  The economy in the U.S. is in shambles.  Thousands of other “white-collar” workers have lost their jobs and are looking for new work.  Many of them are holding back for that “perfect position” that they are cautiously confident they will get.  But, in reality, those jobs aren’t there.  Thus, many are losing their homes, their cars, their marriages.  Some are even taking their own lives.

Not this guy.  I am facing the hard cold wall of reality.  I refuse to lose my home…the only home Julianne and I have ever owned.  Not a fancy place, but it is ours and we are paying for it month by month and doing it on time.  We are not in foreclosure and will not be.

You readers may be asking, “Why does a guy with so many skills, a Master’s Degree, fluency in Japanese, etc., take a job like this?”  The answer: Harsh reality.  I choose to survive and to keep what I have. 

I choose to not lose dignity over this.  I am not too proud to start all over again from the bottom and work my way up.  For, not only am I providing for my wife and myself, but I am setting an example for my children, most of whom will now be making more than me.

I have also chosen to look at the positive in this new challenging direction in life.  I will be working an evening shift, from 3 PM to midnight, every day.  Not fun, but I am making an income and after 90 days I will qualify for the company insurance program…effectively providing a dramatic reduction in how much I need to pay for health insurance.  Further, since this is an evening position, I will be able to do the higher paying contract Japanese translation work or web design work during the morning and early afternoon hours.  Though this work is not available now, it will ultimately arrive in my email inbox.

Along with this, I will be learning some new skills.  The iPhone is a new technology, sure to improve.  I will learn to deal with customers.  I will lear the workings of a call center.  There is potential for advancement and bonuses.

But, bottom line, I will be able to pay my bills and keep my house and my cars.  This is the ultimate blessing.

So, as millions of Americans celebrate change in the direction of the country this day (as do I with them), I celebrate my personal change.  I celebrate the chance I have for a fresh start and a new direction.  It may not be all rosy, but it certainly is a road to vitality.  Today, I do as my good friend Antsy McClain’s song suggests – I am creating some New Good Old Days.  And so is this great country.

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

The Black Friday Experience: Amazing Race, Treasure Hunt and Twitter

Over the last couple of months, I have had a number of things that were “blog-worthy”, but due to busy schedules, etc., I just haven’t taken the time to add them.  However, after today’s BLACK FRIDAY experience, I had to write and so here I am at my laptop, well-rested from an afternoon nap, ready to relate the WHOLE experience….

As a preface, my first real venture out in the Black Friday world occurred last year.  And I really only swirled the fringes of the event by getting up early and heading to Staples so I could get the 500 GB hard drive and a couple of thumb drives.  By 6:15 I was done and back home.  That was it.  

The scant experience of 2007 left me wanting for more this year and so the adventure started…

A true Black Friday experience, in my opinion, really begins on Thanksgiving Day.  It did for me, and, in some respects, was more than I had bargained for (did I really use that word???).  I awoke at 6 AM to get the Lexington Herald-Leader, our local newspaper.  I had anticipated the forthcoming hunt for golden nuggets of low-priced values all night long.  But, much to my chagrin, the paper had not yet arrived.  So, I made myself busy checking email, relaxing, etc., as I figured it would be here by 7 AM (I used to deliver the H-L in this area and I knew that was a rule).  So, at 7:30, I once again checked.  Alas, still no paper.  I called it in and got the recording and left the complaint.  (Having delivered the paper, I knew that the next step would be that the district manager or the carrier would bring me a new one.)  

By this time, my wife, Julianne, was up and prepping the turkey.  I helped with cleanup and prepping.  I peeled potatoes.  I checked again at 8:00 and still no paper.  I called again and this time, after entering the info for the recording, I found myself redirected to a Filipino call-center, where they input the data and assured me someone would bring me my treasured paper with all of the colorful ads.  

So, we put the turkey (which had soaked in a spiced-up brine all night) on the grill.  Soon thereafter we noticed that the propane was going low, so I turned it off, pulled off the propane tank and headed to Circle K.  As I walked out the front door, I again checked, but no paper.  So, I picked one up at Circle K.  My appetite for tasty morsels of values could not be suppressed!!!

By the time I had returned home, there was still no paper, so I called again, and once again got a Filipino who this time promised me a credit for the day’s paper as well as a call directly to the District Manager to make sure it was delivered to us.  Of all the days to NOT get the paper!!! Man oh man….(and it NEVER did get delivered and we never got a replacement…..)

With Propane installed and turkey cooking, I commenced my treasure hunt.  My first ad was the Staples ad since they had so kindly provided me a good experience and a nice 500 GB hard drive for my nearly 75,000 MP3 files and my close to 30,000 photo files. I perused every page and then pulled out Office Max and Office Depot ads for comparison.  I did not even look at the Best Buy and Circuit City ads as I had already pre-determined that to even consider venturing to those stores would be like hiking into the depths of a steaming volcano.  

I found numerous items and noted them in my mind as I was continuing my Thanksgiving Day honey-do duties (indeed, Julianne had asked me to be her slave this day and, having Married Up, I agreed)..

We had a nice feast and family get-together.  A nice nap and then headed for the movies at 4.  Family traditions and lots of fun.  

After watching Bolt with the kids and grandkids, we headed home with a drive by flash of the tent-encrusted Best Buy store at Hamburg Pavilion.  We were now ready to attack Black Friday head on.

My first step was to try my hand at Twitter. I had seen the article in my store-bought copy of the Herald-Leader about how they would do the Twitter thing.  Being the old-man techno-junky, I wanted in on this new fun….

My daughter Chelsea has never had the day off on the Friday after Thanksgiving, so she had talked all day about going shopping for her daughter and nieces and nephews.  She had always dreamt of a Black Friday experience.  My wife too had caught the bug and even my daughter Marissa and my two sons Seth and Solomon were anxious to dive in this time.  We were fully committed!!

We all gathered at the house to make the preparations.  To accomplish the monumental task of getting those valued treasures in the big box caves, planning and strategy were necessary.  With pens and pads in hand, we all joined to together to peruse the ads.  We focused on opening times (Kohl’s at 4, Old Navy and Wal-Mart at 5, Target, Staples, Radio Shack and others at 6).  We organized who would go where.  Seth had to work at until 5 AM, so he would join us on the way home.  

We then compiled the lists of items from the various ads.  Compared, contrasted, finalized.  Chelsea then created the “all-details included” spreadsheet of what, where, when, who and how.  I printed it.  We knew what was needed and who would be getting them.  Our game plan broke down as follows:

Chelsea (20 something) would get up at 2:45 and come pick up Julianne by 3.  They would head to Kohl’s in Hamburg.  I would get Solomon, age 19, up at 3:30 and we would head to Staples…not just any Staples, but the one on New Circle Road in North Park (close to Radio Shack and Wal-Mart and away from the ritzier shopping areas, thus less crowding and better chance to get our valued treasures).  From Kohl’s, Julianne and Chelsea would head to Old Navy for the 5 AM opening.  Solomon and I would wait in the cold moning air at Staples until 6 AM.   In the meantime, Seth (age 21) got off at 5 and would head straight to Wal-Mart in North Park for the one REAL treasure, the $130 Kitchen Aid Mixer.  By six, 8 month pregnant daughter Marissa (also 20 something) would meet Julianne and Chelsea at Target in Hamburg for the 6 AM opening.  We would coordinate from there.  The plan was in place!!!

Things went off without a hitch.  We were all bleary eyed, but the excitement of the thrill and the cold morning air got us all going.  Julianne and Chelsea made it to Kohl’s and were 8th in line.  While waiting at Kohl’s, Starbucks had come over offering warm coffee and hot chocolate to the gathered masses (for sale of course!!).  They had their hot chocolate and then they were in.  They knew exactly what they wanted and headed straight in after the goods.  The aisles were narrow and the crowds were thick, so they maneuvered their way to the towels.  They were out in a flash and off to Old Navy.

By this time, Solomon and I had arrived at Staples, chairs and blankets at the ready.  We were numbers 3 and 4 in line at 4 AM.  A cold two hour wait would ensue.  The Wal-Mart parking lot had already become quite full in anticipation of the morning rush on their sale items.  We waited patiently and chatted with the two other gentlemen waiting with us.  One of them had waited with me last year.  They were after the specially priced laptops.  Solomon and I were after the 640 GB hard drives – $70 – (one each for Solomon and Seth) and the 1 TB hard drive – $139 – and 8 GB thumb drives for me, Marissa and Chelsea – $12 each.  

While sitting there I began Tweeting (sending messages to Twitter) and kept in communication with Chelsea and Julianne.  They were at Old Navy, which was passing out bracelets to the first 100 in line.  They were lucky recipients (and got a small MP3 player parting gift with the bracelet).  Old Navy opened their doors early and they were in going after the always valued Old Navy clothes.  

I monitored the first incoming Tweets from the Herald-Leader staff.  Their first messages – (from Mother Toungue) – “Where are you all?” and “I’m awake but I don’t wanna be.”  A few moments later she writes that “the line 4 Best Buy (on Nicholasville Rd.) stretches around  the corner of Office Max.”  I think to myself, “those folks are crazy…only a couple of items of each and most that wait there won’t get what they want.”  Comments about parking ensue.  In the meantime, we are watching as the Wal-Mart parking lot now overflows into the front of Radio Shack and neighboring stores.  The Staples line has also increased to over 20 people.  Radio Shack has a line too.  

By now Scott Sloan, from the Herald-Leader, is out Tweeting about which stores will open at 5 AM (including Best Buy, Toys-R-Us, Circuit City, Wal-Mart, etc.).  Julianne and Chelsea call and are already done at Old Navy, which opened just before 5.  They were on their way to Target…where the line had already circled way around the side of the store.  I comment on Twitter that “Wal-Mart is a madhouse. Avoid at all costs!!”

Side note:  Seth, on his way to work at Amazon, stopped at Wal-Mart to scout out the location of the Kitchen Aide and spoke to someone there.  Apparently, what is done at Wal-Mart is that they bring out shrink-wrapped pallets of the door buster items and place them in the aisles, with pretty much no rhyme or reason.  Folks must venture through the crowded aisles to find what they want and then literally fight their way to get the items as soon as 5 AM hits and the Wal-Mart associate cuts the shrink wrap.  Seth was told that it would be a madhouse — a scrum of sorts.

5:10 AM at Northpark.  Wal-Mart’s madness has begun.  Seth is on his way and says he will venture in.  A couple of folks from our line wander over to Wal-Mart to get a soda from the vending machines.  No shopping carts to be found anywhere.  All gone.

Over at Target in Hamburg, Chelsea and Julianne are waiting.  Chelsea ventures to the end of the line.  A new line had formed on the other door, and Julianne and Marissa, who finally joined them, wait there.  They are told that they must go to the end of the other line and wait.  Scott Sloan tweets in that the “hamburg target line stretches all the way around the building.”   But, Target is apparently extremely well organized.  The lines go in fast and there are associates strategically located throughout the store directing consumer traffic.  Chelsea heads for the mini-DVD players.  Most of the crowd is there for the video game stuff.  A Target employee directs the “running Chelsea” to take a different route.  She is able to snatch the last three $49 mini DVD players.  Julianne and Marissa get into the store about this time.

At 5:25 the Staples guys come out with little baskets to give us our product tickets.  I ask about the 1 TB Hard Drives (which were not a door buster item) and they tell me they are in lock-up.  A few minutes later they come out again with tickets for these and we would get these with the other items in the copy center.  They are very well-organized and very courteous.

Seth had arrived and made it into Wal-Mart.  He found the very last mixer (a miracle!!) but they were out of the $20 500-ct thread sheets and the $9 Kung Fu Panda DVDs.  He headed straight to Radio Shack, which opened 5 minutes early, Kitchen Aid in hand, to get the tripod flash light sets – $20 each – a couple of game things for my grand children, a tripod for my wife, and some other stuff, including a $39 16 GB thumb drive. 

Staples opens the doors at 6:03 AM.  I go for the thumb drives and a 4 GB SD Card – $10.  Solomon goes after his $12 wireless mouse, we get our $10 laptop cooling stations and then go get in the short line for our big ticket items.  I am told only one door buster item each…so I hand one of the 8 GB thumb drives back to Solomon and reluctantly hand the other one over to the store manager.  We are in and out of Staples by 6:20.  We load the car and walk down to Radio Shack.  There is mass confusion in this store, but Seth had stationed himself and had everything.  We went to the register, but one guy waits on us and then, mid-checkout, helps another, leaving us stranded.  A manager then starts the process all over.  Finally, we were done.  By 6:45 we were out of there.  We loaded the car, I tweeted our status to the Herald-Leader.  Solomon traded with Seth and took his stuff and headed home.  this madness is not for him, but he got what he came for.

Seth and I call Julianne.  They want to meet for breakfast.  By this time they had left Target and were at Gymboree.  Less crowded, but the check out process was stifiling.  They waited for 30 minutes to be checked out.  Only 3 people in front of them too….

The Herald-Leader staff continued to Twitter…Scott Sloan tells about the big lines in Kohl’s and how they were out of entertainment projectors but still had GPS systems.  He comments on Best Buy and was on his third trip into Dick’s to get golf balls. He got 90 golf balls.  Mother Tongue noted that Best Buy on Nicholasville Road = Hotel California.  You can enter, but you can never leave type of thing.

Seth and I make our way into Hamburg.  Traffic was not so bad.  I was tasked to go over to Bed Bath and Beyond and pick up some items we set aside a couple of days ago.  Everything in the store is 20% off.  Manager Steve greets us at the door with a coupon.  He recognizes me from a couple of days ago.  We commented on the Kitchen Aid at Wal-Mart.  He knew the deal and said that $130 was a killer price and we were lucky.  We are in and out with the Katana knives and 500 ct sheets and off to Gymboree in less than 7 minutes. On our way to Gymboree we noticed that the HH Gregg  parking lot was full.  I twittered that in to the Herald-Leader.  We pulled into the area by Gymboree.  Still lots of parking. Twittered that too.   

In the meantime, Julianne, Chelsea and Marissa finally make their way out at about 7:20.  We head to the back alley and drive over to Cosi for breakfast.  Didn’t know they offered breakfast, but it was really good and not crowded at all.  It was a nice time to rest and go over all of the activities thus far.  I twittered the about the niceties of Cosi…fast, efficient, not crowded.  And it was a good value.  Julianne pulled out her iPhone and got this photo of me…4 hours after we started this Amazing Race…

David “Sumoflam” Kravetz after 4 hours of Black Friday shopping

After Cosi, I thought we would be heading home, but no, we were next tasked to go to Gordman’s.  I had never been in this store.  Some nice things and really good prices.  Not too crowded either.   I got a few things and then went to the car to wait.  Chelsea and Seth came out shortly thereafter as well.  They picked up Marissa and headed home.  They had everything.  I got Julianne and we headed over to Hancock’s fabric on Richmond Road.  By this time it was about 8:45.  This store was packed.  We ended up not getting anything.  But Julianne just had a couple more things.  Marissa suggested Hobby Lobby, so we drive clear over to Brannon Crossing to Hobby Lobby.  Another nice place.  Never been there either.  We shopped there until about noon.

By 10 the Herald-Leader twittering had stopped, the mad rush was over.  For us too, dead tired, we headed home.

All-totalled, the six of us had hit 13 stores in 9 hours, got 95% of the things we had planned on getting.  All of us spent cash or used debit cards.  Nothing was bought on credit.  Together as a group we had spent nearly $1200…but we had saved and planned for this day.

It was a good experience and really was lots of fun.

To close this out, I am rating the early morning stores per our own experiences today.  My ratings are based on customer satisfaction, product availability, ease of movement in and around the store, customer service by the associates, organization.  These were not calculated in some fancy way, just my own evaluation.  A 5 rating is the best and a 1 rating is the worst.

Kohl’s – 2 (aisles too small, no ease of movement, but in and out fast if you knew what you wanted)
Old Navy – 4 (opened early, gave out prizes)
Staples – 4 (very orderly, staff was helpful, had everything, opened later than schedule, good deals)
Radio Shack – 3 (had everything but very unorganized, staff was somewhat helpful, opened early)
Wal-Mart – 1 (madhouse environment, fight for the doorbusters, long lines, no carts, no parking, we got lucky)
Target – 5 (despite long lines, things went very smooth and staff was in abundance and very helpful; had the products we wanted)
Gymboree – 1 (short lines, long wait, disorganized and understaffed)
Cosi – 5 (restaurant, good prices for breakfast, no crowds, fast courteous service, plenty of parking)
Bed Bath and Beyond – 5 (good parking, entire store on sale, courteous/helpful staff, good prices)
Gordman’s – 4 (plenty of parking, store was a bit disshevelled, prices were not that good)

Well, time to start planning for Black Friday 2009!!

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.