WORKING THEIR WAY THROUGH COLLEGE -- IN BULGARIA. The weekend's roller coaster destination was Wisconsin Dells, now home to five wooden roller coasters and numerous other gravity rides. The Big Chief go-kart track is now the Mount Olympus water and amusement park, which is home to four of the wooden coasters, including the recently opened Hades. Fast smooth ride. Make sure you buy the unlimited rides pass so as to sample everything else on the grounds and take repeat rides as your endurance can stand.

Closer to downtown is Timber Falls, home to Avalanche, a coaster with a lot of action.

Here's a transportation secret I learned over the weekend. Amtrak's Empire Builder (.pdf schedule) makes a valiant effort to emulate the Hiawatha between La Crosse and the Dells, and it is timed in such a way as to allow residents of La Crosse and Tomah to take day trips to the Dells. Years ago, the Milwaukee Road would run extra sections of the Hiawatha for Chicago to the Dells traffic; nice to know that residents of western Wisconsin ... and some Minnesotans who don't mind getting up early ... can do a day trip to the Dells on a train.

The title of this post ... a number of the ride operators at the two amusement parks, as well as employees of other attractions at the Dells, were residents of Former Soviet Bloc countries. How things change. Years ago, when the Superintendent was in college, chances were pretty good that if you got to talking with a kid from the sand county, he or she had a summer job in the Dells or in the cranberry bogs. In fact, I knew one kid who had a football scholarship that also drove a Duck. Perhaps the academy can get away with tuition hikes and hard to complete schedules to the extent it can because registration and records no longer has to deal with disappointed Duck drivers or cranberry cultivators who might have more of their own sweat, rather than Daddy's plastic, invested in getting finished. Empirical test time ... how quickly do the Bulgarians finish college? And all of this despite a Wisconsin law ... at the instigation of the tourism business, that requires school to open after Labor Day, with this rationale.
It also would allow students to work through August at their summer jobs, learn valuable life skills and earn more money to pay for advanced education.
Yup. Apparently the valuable life skills are being learned by youngsters from the Former Soviet Bloc.

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