As a gentle reminder, we are ironically slowing down our speed while we head down the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. Ironic since our speed is measured in single digits. But we don’t want to head south of Chicago until after some lock construction on the Illinois River completes 12 Sep. And Milwaukee is turning out to be a GREAT place to spend a week. Or two. And as we spend more time here and talk to people we find out MORE things that we should see. We sat down for coffee with Dave, a (hopefully) future looper and he provided a list of things we should see; Kwade and Cathy texted throughout the week with their favorite places; my brother even gave us parting advice as he left. Those inputs plus Mr. Google and our ‘to do’ lies AND school for AJ meant we had a pretty busy week. The highlights:
1. Not our number one fun thing, but our number one ‘to do’ was to go to the dentist for teeth cleaning. Searched the internet-thingy for providers in the area, found one within couple of miles of the marina that had free space for the three of us and we got our teeth scrubbed clean. We got the three bears verdict. Someone wasn’t brushing enough, someone was brushing too much and someone was just right. Putting our next cleaning on the calendar for February no matter where we are at.
2. Fish Fry. Everyone said that the thing to do while in Wisconsin, outside of Door County, is the Friday night fish fry. If you are in Door County, it is the fish boil, but the rest of the state apparently gets together on Friday evening to eat fried fish, french fries and cole slaw. A healthy, low calorie meal. So we headed off to the Lakefront Brewery (2 mile walk from boat) where we met Kathy, Bruce and Chris. It took awhile to get everyone together; apparently the other three have these things called jobs which requires their presence on Friday. Weird. So we got to enjoy the brewery, which was a great old building and it was jammed packed with people coming for fish fry. We get called and say down at German style fest tables–long wooden tables with chairs jammed right next to each other. Gives you the opportunity to meet and greet the total strangers whose elbows are hovering over your plate. We started our dinner off with appetizers of pretzels and fried cheese curds (why not start off a meal of fried food with fried food). The pretzels were giant and came with mustard and a cup of what we initially thought was port wine cheese, but was not. It was, we think, cheese, but on top was syrup or something really sweet. It was the only thing on our table that wasn’t really touched.
Dinner was fried fish. Four of the six of us had the fired cod, AJ got the perch and Kathy got the mixed plate (cod, perch and shrimp). Food was excellent. Though the food was not really the thing that would bring us back. It was the experience. A huge beer hall jammed to the gills with people. A one man polka band belting out all the hits while people dance (including the chicken dance). Fried food. Loud conversation (you had to or you couldn’t be heard). It was one hell of a good time.
3. Harley Museum. We had a toss up on which museum we were going to hit on Friday. Science or Harley. The vote was left to me, I went with Harley. Full disclosure: I am a BMW motorcycle guy. Have owned a BMW of one type or another from 1997 until this year when I sold my bike before we came on the great loop. I prefer bikes that you can ride and can ride in comfort. But it is a motorcycle museum and Harley has a heck of a history. Even being a non-Harley rider, the place is impressive. They have motorcycles from their earliest days when a ‘motorcycle’ was literally a small motor strapped on a bicycle. And then you can walk the evolution of their bikes from when they were designed and built in a 10×15 shack, through the depression, into WWII, baby-boomer years, the dark days of AMF and into the modern era. They talk about how, after the AMF debacle, they got back in touch with their customer, listened to what they wanted and began this period of success. Really interesting and worth the time.
4. Safehouse: Recommended by three different people, the safe house is a bar/restaurant that is filled to the gills with spy paraphernalia. In order to get into the restaurant, you have to know the password to the safe house. Which we did not. If you do not know the password, you have to prove you are not a bad guy by performing some random, somewhat humiliating task that is being shown, via camera, to everyone in the bar and restaurant. We got in the entry way, and were told to assume three kung-fu poses. Which we did after some fumbling. And were allowed entrance and when we walked through the door were greeted with applause from the people sitting around the bar watching the monitors.
The restaurant itself is great. They give you a card for a scavenger hunt in the restaurant; 10 things to find while waiting for your food. We ate just past Check Point Charlie and under the watchful eyes of James Bond. We did manage to figure out the password to get in the next time we return and also found the secret exit from the house.
5. Milwaukee Market. We (Donnellys and Kittells) went down to the Milwaukee Market on Tuesday night and met Kathy and Bruce for dinner. When Jan and I first met, we would spend time in Baltimore’s cross street market. It was filled with vendors of all sorts, smelled of beer and urine and had the hint of danger in the air as you swilled your $1.25 Quarts of Miller Beer’s finest lager (light) and ate freshly made sushi. That was my expectation going to the Milwaukee market. My expectations were off. This place does have a lot of vendors, you can get fresh meat, cheese, fish, flowers, chocolate and food. But that is where the similarity ends. It was clean, well lit, had a wine garden in the middle. It was, in other words, really, really nice. We walked out with lots of stuff we didn’t need.
6. People! After three and a half months of basically living with the five of us in the boat, going through sparsely populated areas and interacting with people we meet on the loop, we are back in the big city with friends and family. And we have had visitors. On Tuesday we met in a great local coffee house with David F, a Milwaukee resident who we met through our blog. We spent two and a half hours talking about the loop before we headed back to our boat to welcome the Kittell family. Kathy and the three girls came to visit, we went to dinner with Kathy and Bruce and then went back the boat and the Kittells stayed for the night. We had seven people (plus our two animals) in the boat and we all fit! Wednesday we had Brian Stout come visit for a couple of hours and by Wed night we were back to the normal level on the boat. Friday we did fish fry with the Milwaukee crowd. And next week we spend more time with Wisconsin friends. This has been awesome catching up with people we haven’t seen in awhile as well as meeting new people!
7. Jazz in the Park. We were told that the ‘Jazz in the Park’ is a great event. We were on the way back from the Safehouse and we went right by Cathedral square as the bands were doing sound checks, so we pulled up a patch of grass and spent an hour watching the bands. It was really well done. Big stage, sound, lots of people and a gorgeous sunny night out. It was also about 60 degrees, so we were chased out by the cold! We weren’t dressed for fall weather (Maryland fall) in Wisconsin!
8. Frisbee Golf and German Biergarten: We went to Whitefish bay because Jan found out it has great schools and on the list of ‘places we could move to after the loop.’ Had lunch and then went to a local park where they had a frisbee golf course AND a German style Biergarten. So we played 18 holes of golf and then got a couple of half liters of bier sitting outside at fest tables. It was AWESOME! Not quite Munich but it brought back the feeling!
9. Port Washington. We took a car back to Port Washington since we missed it on the way down. Explored for a couple of hours which was good enough. It was a cute town, but a lot of the stores were closed on Monday. The marina looked really nice. It isn’t on the list of ‘places we could move to after the loop.’
10. The bronze Fonz. Aaaaaaayyyyyyyyy!! We are in Milwaukee after all!!
Next: We are staying for another week here in Milwaukee. We need to be in Chicago by 7 September to get our mast unstepped. And we are going to be at Great Wolf Lodge1 for three days next week. And in Madison for a day. So why not stay here?
1Great wolf lodge, if you do NOT have children, is hell. Reference to the place have been found back to the original writings of Dante when he passes through the gates of Hell. The original phase that he saw when passing through the gates was “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi che intrudete in Great Wolf Lodge” but his editor, not understanding the reference to the future, changed it to the more widely known “Lasciate ogne speranza, vow ch’intrate;” or ‘abandon hope, ye who enter here.’ If you have kids, it is the perfect place to abandon your parenting responsibilities and let your kids tear up a hotel and water park. We are giving AJ some well deserved ‘kid time’ with his friends. Two days. Of hell.