Nov 282011
Authors: Allison Sylte

It was all fun and games…until the accident.

There I was, a wayward redhead with nothing to lose, barreling down a residential street in Appleton, Wisc. alongside 5,000 other Turkey Trotters. I wanted to catch up with my sister, who was a few steps ahead of me, hardly breaking a sweat in her yoga pants.

But then tragedy struck.

Yes, my faithful readers, you guessed it: I ran into a mailbox. And I have a colorful bruise on my arm in commemoration.

The moral of the story? Mailboxes are lethal. Here are some other lessons I learned over Thanksgiving Break.

1. Indian casinos rock!

Massive cliffs flanked a majestic waterfall, its roaring waters in stark contrast to the deep blue sky, which was only occupied by a single, hauntingly beautiful, bald eagle. As I rode by on the escalator, I could only gasp in wonderment.

This was just the beginning of my experience at Ho-Chunk Casino, a gaming paradise located outside of the Wisconsin Dells. On a whim, my cousin, my cousin’s husband and my uncle decided to take the free bus (driven by a kind man named Bob) offered by our hotel to this wonderland, where I could finally fulfill my gambling desires.

After buying tax-free cigars and vowing not to lose more than $30, I sat down at a “Dirty Dancing” slot machine, and after it asked me if I wanted to have “the time of my life,” I said yes…and it promptly took my $5.

Two beers later, I decided that it was safe to play some Blackjack. After being hit on by a creepy old redneck, I sat down, and 20 minutes later, I was suddenly, inexplicably, magically $10 ahead.

But then, after yet another beer, my cousin peer-pressured me into going all-in. And at that point, it sounded like a damn good idea…until I busted, losing everything.

Empty-handed and with a heavy heart, I convened with my comrades at a sign for “Thunder Down Under,” an all-male, all-Aussie strip show.

On the bus ride back, someone (I don’t remember who), asked what the highlight of my experience was.

“The escalator ride!” I exclaimed, without a hint of irony.

2. You’re never too cool for a tourist trap

Slightly hungover and smelling like cigar smoke, I joined my parents and sister for a trip down the main strip of the Wisconsin Dells, which in November was a desolate wasteland of cheesy t-shirt shops, closed amusement parks, tiki bars, Trojan horse race car tracks and the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

Right there in the middle of the Wisconsin Dells, was a tipped over replica of the White House with dinosaurs coming out of it. The sign said that it was “Top Secret,” but I knew that it was so much more.

And so, without an ounce of hesitation, my family and I entered, forking over the $12 entry fee without batting an eye, to be guided on what I now call the “best tour of my life.”

I don’t quite know how the White House turned upside down, or why our guide needed to look like a less attractive Indiana Jones, but I do know that simply seeing my mother shriek in terror when confronted with the sight of a giant mud creature is an experience that cannot be beat.

Some may have called “Top Secret” a tourist trap, but I know that it’s the exact opposite. After all, while it seemed iffy for a while, we more or less escaped unscathed.

3. My family is actually pretty cool

Yes, it’s cheesy. And yes, although my columns have continuously proven that I’m an awful person, my family is actually pretty cool.

My little cousins are cute, my older cousins are awesome, my aunt and uncle are way too nice, my little sister is secretly pretty funny and my parents have gotten downright tolerable.

I can’t think of any other family that would spend a holiday at casinos or in tourist traps, who would have just as much fun watching the Packers win (and me professing my love for Aaron Rodgers) as they do darting through an indoor waterpark in the heart of a cold Wisconsin winter.

After all, it’s tough to find something to write 800 words about every week, but when it comes to my family, it’s tough to condense the ridiculous stories that come out of a Thanksgiving together into my column space.

And if that’s not something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is.

Content Managing Editor Allison Sylte is a junior journalism major. Her column runs Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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