Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Milwaukee Memories Day One

Our first day back to Milwaukee in many years was full of memories. 

Our first stop, this beautiful Saturday, was to the Brady Street Festival. Why? Because it was at this street show that I tried to sell any of my handicraft for the first time. I had no idea of how to get a booth at an art show or street festival, but I had been making some wire and plastic dip earrings and had enough to set up a small table display.  At the time the Brady Street show was a Hippie gathering and I figured I could just find someone to give me a space.  As it turned out, just about the time people were setting up, the sky opened in a gully washer of a rain storm and most of the vendors and organizers left.

Not being able to find someone in charge, I set up my table in a doorway that had an overhang and managed to make some sales. I was actually filmed and was on the nightly news as an example of a determined young artist!

I can still remember the thrill of going home with some cash, and being very excited that people had been willing to give me real money for something I had made. By the next summer I had learned how to find out about the shows in advance, who to contact and how to apply for a booth.  But Brady Street was my first.

This Festival was not big in the 70's and is even smaller now. There were no original artists there. The closet thing was a few selling some cheep hand strung bead jewelry and candles. Most of the vendors had T-shirts, imported clothes and food.

I did talk with a guy named Todd that had this very tame beaded lizard named Simon. For a small tip, he let me hold it and have Craig take my picture. 

Brady Street took up an hour or so of our day.

What next?

One of the places from our past, that we drove by, was the Wisconsin Club. It is an old mansion that has been a landmark for many years.  

It is a gated semi private venue. On this day there were several large limos in the lot. Ordinary people like us were not allowed onto the grounds, but we did drive by.

The Wisconsin Club is significant to us because that is where we met fifty-one years ago. I was sixteen and Craig was eighteen. I had been nominated for a college scholarship by my art teacher. The bank that gave the scholarship did so every two years for a different  field of study, and had a dinner for all of the nominees. Two years before, Craig had won the scholarship in "Space Science", and was seated at the head table and introduced as such.

I had just broken up with my boy friend of several years, not because he was bad, or because I didn't care for him, but because I was determined to go to college and I knew that was not his path. Had we continued to date through our senior year, we probably would have gotten married right out of high school and I would have had a pretty Italian baby by the end of a year.

My father, who had died that year,  always told me to get more education and to seek an intelligent partner. What better proof of intelligence than winning a four year college scholarship? Craig was going to be the first of many bright young men I would date.  Little did I know he would be the only one, and we would be married a few years later.

The story I have told many times over the years goes something like this:

As we were walking out of the dinner, Craig passed me and I said "Congratulations on your scholarship." I guess we liked what we saw, because walked out together, and not wanting the evening to end, went down the street for coffee.  It must have been one of those magical late autumn nights when the air isn't hot, but is still warm enough to enjoy a walk.

As we drank our coffee, he discovered he did not have any money to pay for it! 

So I bought him a cup of coffee, and he followed me home. That is to say, he took the bus home with me and walked me to my door. 

His home was several miles from mine, but fortunately it was on the same side of the city, so he was able to walk there. If he had lived on the other side of town, we may never have seen each other again.

The house that Craig grew up in on 46th street

The house I grew up in on 69th street a couple of miles northwest of his

To finish the story of that time, Craig sent me a check for twenty one cents to pay for the coffee, and we started to date.

We visited a number of places in the rest of the day. I will write about some of them in another post.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Catching Up again - Madison

It seems I'm always catching up on what we are up to.  That's OK as far as I'm concerned, because this blog is meant to be a log of things we have done and places we visit. Our family members usually know where we are, or if they need to get in touch can give us a call. I usually don't post on busy days, because when I come home and get dinner made and the dishes cleaned up, I want nothing more challenging then a TV program or a few pages of a good book before I sink happily into La-La Land.

Our next planned stop after the Dells and Baraboo was Madison Wisconsin. Although we both received our degrees from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, Craig attended UW in Madison for one semester. He had an academic scholarship, but did not have enough money to live on campus and had to live at home in Milwaukee, as did. But he loved the Madison campus and on our return, wanted to walk around and see the growth and changes.

He also has a cousin that lives in the Madison area. We got together with him and his grown kids for dinner one evening, and a couple of other short visits in the days that followed.  We have kept in touch with Cousin John over the years, and it was so good to be able to spend some time with him in person.  He is a very intelligent man, was an investment banker before he retired,  and I enjoyed hearing his stories and insights on some of the events in the financial world in recent history. Yes, I listened to a Conservative! Because he knew what he was talking about and agreed the current situations did not pop up from a perfect world when the current president was elected.

John suggested we tour the Capitol building that has been restored to some of its past glory, and to stay for the Wednesday night concert on the square.  We did both.

We enjoyed listening to a very well spoken guide who took us on a public tour of the capitol building. Although I had been born and raised in Wisconsin, I learned new things about the state. When the area was a territory one of the industries in the southern area of what would become the state was lead mining. The miners dug tunnels and often lived underground. They became know as "badgers." 

A badger is a fierce creature that also digs, tunnels and live underground. Wisconsin became known as the "Badger State" and took the animal as its symbol. There are many badgers in the capitol building. The one pictured above is one of four that are on the lintels above the four wings off the rotunda. 

We enjoyed the view from the balcony that goes around the outside of the dome. Although there were the usual afternoon storm clouds, the weather was quite nice.

Looking down over the grass of the square we could see a vast collection of blankets that people put down during the afternoon to stake out their places for the 7:30 PM concert. We knew we wanted to come back after dinner!

Fifty years ago, on one of our first few dates Craig drove us up to Madison from Milwaukee (about 80 miles) for pizza. I should have known he was what we now call a "foodie". He claimed a small off-campus pizza parlor named Paisan's had the best pizza in the world! At the time I agreed.  My world was small, but my previous boyfriend was Italian and we ate a lot of pizza in Milwaukee. 

image from web

We were delighted to find that Paisan's was still in business. They had moved from the small old place to a large new restaurant overlooking the lake several years ago.  It is in easy walking distance from the campus and the capitol building. 

We were delighted to find the pizza was just as good as we remembered it to be.  Wonderful thin crust, and yummy toppings. 

After dinner we walked back to the Square and found a stone wall to sit on for the concert. We had not brought either a blanket or folding chairs.

This is our view of the large crowd of people who were there! 

It was a beautiful evening, and I guess it is quite a social event.  There are a lot of food vendors, people bring picnics, and there is no ban on sharing bottles of wine or coolers full of beer. No check points or fences, and only a small indication of police presence. I guess the educated population of this university town are quite civilized and don't require protection from themselves. 

We did not stay for the entire concert because our seats were not very comfortable, we were tired, we dreaded the traffic when everyone went home at the same time, and to be honest the marimba music wasn't to our liking.

But we have good memories of the nature of the people of Madison Wisconsin, and were encouraged in our view of this country.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tick Bite and Circus World Museum, Baraboo Wisconsin

Sunday night Craig noticed a round raised area around where he had removed a tick from the back of my leg a few days before.

I couldn't see it, so he took a picture of it for me.

We had heard the term "bullseye" used in reference to Lyme's Disease, and although this did not really look like the pictures I had seen on the web, I thought I should have it checked out anyway.

Monday morning at an urgent care center in a resort area is a bit of a zoo in itself!  A lady with a sprained ankle, a couple of kids looking like they had a flu, a girl with an ear ache, a teen age boy with an ice pack on his arm, and several others, including me.

I appreciate the urgent care system, it being a lot better than waiting for hours in an ER if you don't have a local doctor, but I feel sorry for people who either do not have insurance or who are out of the area for their HMO.  I was sitting close enough to the clerk taking check-in information to overhear her telling the lady with the sprained or broken ankle she needed to pay a minimum of $200 to be seen, and that the bill would go much higher if she needed x-rays or a cast.

I am quite glad we have a supplemental insurance that we can take anywhere.  The monthly premium costs more than an HMO, but I had no co-pay, and will get no bill for my visit. 

The good news was that because we had seen the tick, and knew it was a big one, thus a dog tick and not a deer tick, there was no possibility for it to have transmitted Lyme's.  The Physician's Assistant said it looked like a bit of the tick head might still be there, but it was not a good idea to try to remove it at this point. The raised red are was an allergic reaction, and suggested taking some Benadryl that evening if the itching bothered me.  He did give me a written antibiotic prescription  but said I should only fill and use it if I thought the area was becoming infected.  Hot or pus-filled. It has not, and after one dose of Benadryl it doesn't itch anymore either.  

I'm glad I had it looked at, and very glad it was not a typical Lyme's bullseye.  

Our afternoon was much more fun.  We went to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo Wisconsin.  

We both went to the circus several times as kids, and in Milwaukee there was a fabulous circus parade every year in July from the 60's thru 2006. They would bring down many of the fancy wagons on the train. By then the actual circus was a separate business.

I remember going down to watch the unloading which was done with horses. We learned the parade just became too expensive to continue as a free public event, and was discontinued after '06.   What a loss!

The Circus World Museum is owned and run by the Wisconsin Historical Society. It is on land that was the original home of the Ringling Brothers circus, which was started there in 1884.

The museum is both indoors and outdoors. We wandered through it and read some very interesting exhibits about the Ringling Brothers and the circus business as it evolved in the late 1800's through the mid 1900's. I guess as kids we were just catching the end of the good years!  Although, when my grandson was little I went with him and his mother to the circus in San Diego, and I know the circus still comes to the big cities every year.

On the museum grounds there was an exhibit of original railroad cars used by the circus.

One of them was the horse car used in the movie "Water for Elephants".

Speaking of elephants, there were two on the grounds. For $10 per person you could ride this one slowly around a large circle. She did not seem abused or unhappy and we were able to see the large shaded area where she and the her companion spent their time when not working. No chains.

As part of our admission there was a schedule of small shows to see. We saw a  clown act, a side show (with statues of past characters such as Tom Thumb, a fat lady, and Siamese Twins), a magic show, and an abbreviated version of a one ring big top with several acts.

Pretty ladies on the rings, riding horses, trained dogs and ponies.

And of course the elephants doing typical elephant tricks. 

After the shows we really enjoyed walking among the large collection of fully restored wagons from European and American circuses. I remembered many of them from the Milwaukee parades when they were pulled by beautiful teams of horses.

This was one of the more elaborate wagons. The top section was lowered down inside for travel, and raised for parades. Can you imagine how exciting and magical it would appear to the farm country children of the early 1900's?

As an RVer I found this one particularly interesting.  It was the living wagon for an owner or manager. It was on a wagon base, but could also be loaded on a train. Weight must not have been an issue, because it had a big cast iron  stove, a heavy wood bunk bed and a very sturdy table and chairs. I was amused by the overhead light oak cabinets that you can see thru the door.  They look just about the same size and shape as in many modern rigs, including ours!

I also noted it is white, just like our Alfa.

I enjoyed our time there because it was looking back into a past I understood. There were some families with children there. They seemed to be enjoying themselves even if it was not a "hands on, push all the buttons, and watch the video" kind of museum that seem to be what children's museums are like now.

Am I old or what? 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wisconsin Dells

On Friday we said our good-byes to the great state of Minnesota, and headed across the Mississippi to our original home state of Wisconsin. 

Craig and I were both born and raised in Wisconsin, and were married there.  But we have lived in California for 30+ years, and in Texas for a few years before that.  We have been back for a few family visits, but have not seen the Wisconsin countryside for many years.  

Guess what! 

It looks just like Minnesota.  
Maybe fewer lakes, but just as green.

When we were kids, one of the only "tourist" spots in Wisconsin, that we knew about, was the Dells. At the end of the year, the sixth grade crossing guard cadets were rewarded for their service with bus trip to the Dells, that included an overnight stay in a MOTEL! Wow!

Craig and I also took our kids there for a weekend before we moved out of state. Not much had changed between these two times. There may have been a few more T-shirt shops, but the primary attraction was still the river and the rock formations along it. 

But since then there has been a lot of development and the streets of The Dells are lined with Water Slide Parks and other Amusement Parks. It looks like Las Vegas for ten year olds. 

I'm really not sure if this structure that looked like the Trojan Horse was a parking garage or an unfinished amusement ride of some sort, but it was a typical construction. 

Not being modern children, we skipped the rides and relived our childhood vacations by taking to the water.

First we went on the Original Ducks tour of the lower Dells.

There are Duck Boats in several places around the country. They are renovated WWII vehicles that can drive on land and also run as a boat in the water.  The engine is a loud diesel, the ride is bumpy and sometimes wet, and the tour guide is a Wisconsin College student who seems to repeat the same type of cheesy (it is Wisconsin) jokes that we heard years ago. We smiled and enjoyed ourselves.

We also took the river boat tour of the upper Dells. These waters are separated by a dam and locks. The dam system was built around 1909 and raised the waters of the upper section of the river by 20 feet.

The Dells are the stone formations along a seven or so mile section of the Wisconsin River.

The water is cola brown from the tannin it picks up while going thru several tamarack swamps up river. Tannin is an ingredient in Coke and carmel candy. Red wine picks up tannin from the oak barrels it is aged in.

The layers of stone are very porous and water wicks up from both the river and seeps down from the rains. Trees are able to grow without any soil.

The passengers on the upper Dells boat tour disembark at two stops and are able to walk thru the bluff walls along wooden walkways.

The moss grows lushly on the stone walls.

This place reminded me of the dry slot Antelope Canyon in Arizona, carved by wind and water over the millennium. Different and yet the same.

On our second stop we walked into the forest to a place where there were two large rock formations. This place helped make the Dells a tourist destination in the late 1800's. A dog, a German Shepard dog, has been jumping from one formation to the other over and over for all these years. Can you see him in the picture below?

Here he is in a cropped zoomed in version. He is a real dog. I saw him do the jump when I was eleven, and again when I was in my 30's. Probably not the same dog  :)

We had a very nice day reliving and enjoying the natural wonders of the area.  Too bad most of the kids today will only remember the water parks and other amusements.  Maybe their parents will make them ride in a noisy old Duck boat for an hour or drag them onto one of the boats for a boring two hour cruise. 

If they are lucky they will get an ice cream cone at the concession stand deep in Witches Gulch.

Every kid needs an ice cream from time to time, don't they?

Friday, July 18, 2014

National Eagle Center, Wabasha Minnesota

The Minnesota weather has been wonderful. Cool and not very humid. We had one overcast day up in Itasca, but we welcomed it and hunkered down for a rest day, cooking homemade soup and doing the wash. 

The tow package installations on our new Jeep were done by mid-day Thursday. I had not made plans for the night, but after a quick look in my reference books we got a spot at a private park in Wabasha MN. It looked like it was about half way between where we were and where we had reservations for Saturday night.

I have mentioned seeing many run down small town downtowns in our travels. Some of the more tourist-oriented destinations are overrun with souvenir shops.  Wabasha, Minnesota is different.  The small downtown is clean, the buildings are in good repair, and there are many "real" small business in addition to the usual eateries. It felt alive. A good place!

I would like to say we choose to come here for this attraction:

The National Eagle Center, but that would be a fib.  Instead, it was a very lucky landing at the Big River RV Park at the edge of town.

We really enjoyed our visit to this most excellent research, rescue, and educational facility.

Merikay compares her arm span with the wing spans of some raptors.

After enjoying some of the exhibits we sat in on the 11 AM presentation. A very perky intern (not the handler in the picture below) gave a fun and informative program about the eagles. Then the handler brought in one of the resident eagles and fed him lunch.

Today, fish was on the eagle lunch menu.  Sunday is Rat day and they love it!

After the program we got to view four of the resident eagles up close with no glass or barriers between.  The resident eagles are all "rescue" birds that have been injured and are unable to survive in the wild. 

It was great to see them so close and to learn more about how wild eagles make their living.

If we had wanted to hang around until 2 PM we could have gotten our pictures taken with a living eagle, but not wanting to wait, Merikay opted for a picture with this lifesize eagle statue. 

We left our Jeep parked there and took a nice short walk along the river. 

Lilies were among my favorite flowers as a child. Lilies blooming in the fields and along the roads meant summer and vacation to me.  Funny, how the sight of them again has brought back so many childhood memories!

After our lunch sandwiches, we headed out of town to a park that promised an easy 2 mile nature trail. 

As it happened, we almost managed to spend some time in Minnesota without being attacked by vast clouds of mosquitos. I had expected them when we visited Judy, but except for a few deer flies and the usual adult force of ticks, we were not bothered at all. We went for several walks and had no problems until Friday.  

We set out on the forested nature trail and although we had sprayed ourselves with "Deep Woods Off", we had to turn back because the mosquito were swarming over Craig.  I am one of the rare people who although I might be bitten by an occasional mosquitoe I rarely welt up or itch. I'm just not allergic to them. A blessing! Deer flies yes, chiggers yes, spiders yes.  But not mosquitoes.  I don't know why, and I'm not asking.

Finally, this was one of several river boats we saw on the Mississippi.

There were some very nice ones docked near where we had lunch.  Someday, I would like to rent a houseboat, perhaps with another couple or two to share the cost and fun, and cruise down one of the big rivers. 

Water RVing?

Anyone want to go?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Another Successful Drive

Well, here we are, in a Minneapolis suburb called Maple Grove, 192 miles away from where we were this morning.  We are parked and plugged in, alongside the Crystal Welding company building. We are here for them to complete the installation of the tow base plate, and reinstall the Air-force One, the brake assist device, on the Jeep so that we can tow it behind the Alfa. Craig brought the Accent here to have it removed before we traded it in. Since the RV dealer down in Sioux Falls messed up the appointment schedule for the base plate installation, and did not want to do the Air-force One work, we brought it all up here.

We drove up to see Judy, and down here from Itasca separately. I drove the Alfa and Craig  followed in the Jeep. I really can't understand why many women say they are afraid to drive their RV's. Our Alfa is so easy and smooth to handle. Today was the first time I pulled into a gas station. I thought it would be scary, but I just took a look at the layout and knew where I needed to go. I may have moved slowly, but I had no problems. Just after that I had to make my first u-turn, and it too was no big deal. There was not any traffic, and a wide open intersection, but I think I could have done it under far worse conditions just as easily. When it comes to parking, we work together very well. Craig's strength is knowing which way to turn the wheel and mine is doing exactly what he tells me.

Once the Alfa was parked and plugged in, we took off for some much needed grocery shopping. My last shop was in Sioux Falls a week ago. We could have waited a few more days, but the need list was growing. We don't know if we will have a car tomorrow night, so we thought we'd better shop. 

Maple Grove MN not only has a Trader Joe's, but also has a fabulous market called Byerly's. We were really spoiled by our markets in California, but this place is just as good as any there. We admit it.  We are Foodies. We rarely eat dinner in restaurants. Sometimes we'll catch lunch in a restaurant or fast-food place.  We don't mind paying premium prices for the best ingredients for home cooking.  One of the things we were in search of were oyster mushrooms, and the other was Walnut Oil. Byerlys had both. Whole Foods, T J's nor any store we have been through in the last month had the mushrooms.  Not even dried. I hadn't really looked for the oil lately.

Good food doesn't depend on exotic ingredients, but it is fun to   find special things.  We will be in or around larger cities for a few weeks, so shopping won't be hard.

Now ... If only I can find some fresh water chestnuts ... I was reading they are considered an invasive species in the Minnesota lakes.  Till then, canned will have to do.

What should I do with the Wild Rice that Craig bought? Any suggestions?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Walk across the Mississippi

Although there are several places in northern Minnesota that claim to be the headwaters of the Mississippi, one place has been designated as such.  There is a stretch of rocks between the lake and the start of the "river" and it is something many people, mostly children, walk across. 

Craig had to do it too.

He was wearing his waterproof hiking boots. Most of the kids were barefoot.

The rocks were a bit slippery.  Challenge is good for the body and mind. Balance! 

By this point he had attracted the attention of those of us on shore. We watched each of his steps, hoping he would not fall and hit his head on the rocks.  Bloody water is disturbing. 


A small cheer went up from the crowd when he returned to an upright position.

Several children came to his rescue.

Returned him to his leadership position, and escorted him to shore.

Fortunately the new Jeep has a cargo space suitable to carry soggy heroes back to camp for dry clothes.

We finished the day with a nice boat ride around the lake and a late lunch at the Lodge.

A good time was had by all  :-)