Bumped flights, cheese flights, other delights

Who benefits from crummy weather during a vacation? Flexible travelers, if their timing is good.

About three hours of tolerance was worth roughly $750 to me and my companion this month, thanks to a thunderstorm that canceled a couple of flights out of Dane County Regional Airport, Madison.

“This flight is overbooked because of the rain,” we were told upon check-in. “Would you consider taking a later flight?”

This was the beginning of our trip to Boston and our first “bumping” experience. It turned out well, but – like a lot of things in life – that’s easier said in retrospect.

Some travelers like to know exactly when they’re going, where they’re staying and what time they’ll arrive. If you’re passionate about these things, keep your seats – especially during bad weather.

Although the domino effect of flight cancellations worked to our advantage, we easily could have been in for an overnight delay. Northwest Airlines was ready to produce Madison hotel and restaurant vouchers on top of the free roundtrip ticket (good for wherever the airlines flies in 48 states) that the bumped passengers received.

I got the impression that we’d be on another plane in a half hour, but that flight eventually was canceled, too. So we began the booking procedure again and just barely got onto another plane. Had that not happened, we would have returned home for the night and hoped that a morning flight would get us to Boston in time for the first pitch at Fenway. (We previously had bought Red Sox tickets online.)

A flight delay, at Chicago’s O’Hare, had us getting into Beantown at 1:30 a.m. and to The Colonnade Hotel about an hour later. We were told that our room no longer was available, a particularly irksome announcement because we had done more than give out a credit card number to hold it. We had paid for four nights in advance, through Expedia.com.

The night manager was duly apologetic and immediately offered us refuge at a hotel less than a block away. It was on the house, which meant we saved about $140 to $200, depending upon how you look at it.

Besides vacation, we were in Boston for a convention, and the substitute hotel was a hub for it. We had decided to not stay there because the “convention rate” was painfully higher than what we could find elsewhere.

It was pretty smooth sailing after that, and I’m glad to recommend The Colonnade to other travelers. “Please accept my sincere apologies for the inconvenience you experienced last night when you attempted to check in to our hotel,” said a note from the managing director the next day. It was delivered with a plate of fruit and cheese – a nice touch, and a class act.

When somebody uses the term “cheese locker” in a conversation with me, I think of Baker Cheese on County G, near St. Cloud (Fond du Lac County). The little factory got a blue ribbon for its string cheese at the Wisconsin State Fair last year; my dad hauled milk there – from his cows and his neighbors’ – for more than 20 years.
We regularly used to venture past the whey station and into the chilly cheese locker to pick up butter and a wedge of Brick or American. The factory’s competition used to be just the big league producers – Kraft, Sargento. Now the small-batch producers of artisanal cheeses also are commanding a share of the market.
I mention this because the five-diamond American Club, Kohler (Sheboygan County), recently remodeled its top restaurant and bar.
The Immigrant Dining Room and The Winery Bar now are distinctly separate places. The latter features a cheese locker that contains only artisanal cheeses, 28 kinds of them (almost all from Wisconsin). That apparently sets a precedent in the state, at least in this type of bar setting.
“Cheese flights” – a sampling of various cheeses – are meant to complement The Winery’s dizzying array of wines (there are nearly 300 choices). It’s $7 for a taste of three cheeses (about 3 ounces).
The cost for one of the 27 kinds of wine served by the glass is $6 to $50 (the latter is a 1998 Meritage — Joseph Phelps Insignia).
Joe Kurth, director of food and beverage, wants the new bar to have an “upscale yet relaxed atmosphere.” It can be a place to stop for just a drink, cheese sampling, appetizer and/or dessert – or to begin an expensive evening of fine dining.
Each of the six rooms at The Immigrant continues to have its own theme, from Danish to Dutch heritage. Entrees? Grilled elk chop is $36; Alaskan halibut is $31. That’s ala carte, of course.
For more about the restaurant, bar or resort hotel, go to www.DestinationKohler.com or call (920) 457-8000.
If your budget is more meager, check out the cheese locker at Baker Cheese or call (920) 477-7871. There is no Internet site.

Last, I am glad to receive advice from Bob Lenz of Waunakee (Dane County), who raves about Ludington, Mich.
Ludington State Park, Historic White Pine Village, Stearns Park downtown, PM Steamers restaurant (good harbor view), Old Hamlin (for blueberry pancakes) and Scotty’s Restaurant (for steaks) are among his recommendations.
“Perhaps the best way to see Ludington, is to leave your car in Manitowoc, take your bicycle across on the SS Badger (it is cheaper than a car) and tour Ludington by bike,” Bob advises.
“For a Wisconsinite, it is a really nice weekend getaway. I have done it several times and really enjoyed it.”
For more, go to www.ludingtoncvb.com or call (877) 420-6618.