I finally got far enough along on the Fall magazine that I was able to take most of Friday off and explore Milwaukee with the rest of the crew. With great anticipation, Brett and I headed over to Harley Davidson’s power plant facility to take the free tour. Foolish us. Upon arrival in the suspiciously-empty parking lot, we realized that it was Friday, July 3, and the factory was closed. Doh!
Well, I won’t be seeing that attraction of Milwaukee, but there are many others. We headed over to downtown to see the Milwaukee Public Museum. This was a good choice. We’ve been to many museums in many major cities, and I can say that Milwaukee’s ranks right up there with the best of them. We spent most of the day and still hadn’t seen it all when the museum closed at 4 p.m.
Of course, to sustain a full day of museum-walking, one needs a decent midday lunch. Brett suggested an old favorite of his, a place just across the river called “Real Chili.” This scored with us on four points: (1) good food; (2) new culinary experience; (3) low price; (4) friendly staff. I say that the culinary experience was new because I’ve never been to a place that serves only chili, and moreover I’ve never had chili with spaghetti in it.
You go up to the counter and order the chili Mild, Medium, or Hot, and then specify if you want spaghetti, beans, or both. You can order “mixins” too: onions, cheese, jalepenos. It’s about $5. Refills are half price. That’s it. Dead simple, and seriously tasty.
I wish I had more time to explore downtown Milwaukee. The architecture is widely varied and all interesting. There are lots of interesting shops, walks, parks, and the river area. We barely scratched the surface of this town. I can’t say we’ll be back soon, but not because it isn’t worth a stop. It’s more a matter of Milwaukee being not on the way to anywhere. That big puddle called Lake Michigan blocks the way east.
Today we got up at 5 a.m. and headed back to Madison, to attend the final day of the International Rally. As is usual, about 1/4 of the Airstreams had already departed and there was a trickle of aluminum slipping away all day. But there were still plenty of people to make the flea market a big success, which was the reason for our visit. We set up a table of our merchandise (back issues, t-shirts, hats, aluminum tumblers, silver slippers, etc.) and hawked it all until our throats were dry. Emma was particularly good at promoting the tumblers, reminding everyone who came by that they were dishwasher safe. We sold every single one, and went to Madison’s “Dave’s Famous Barbecue” for the post-market celebration.
There was a second Vintage Open House at the rally site, one to which the general public had been invited. We hung around for a few hours, having final visits with the friends that we likely won’t see for months, or even years. I had a chance to talk extensively to Airstream Life contributors, including John Irwin, Forrest McClure, Dale Schwamborn, Michael Depraida, and Michael Lambert. Snapped a few good file photos, too.
A few people asked about the new tow vehicle, and so I had to deliver my “why I bought a Mercedes” lecture, which is getting pretty polished by now. The fact that we got 25.7 MPG on our roundtrip from Milwaukee helped explain my interest in the new quiet & clean V-6 turbodiesels, but I’m finding that fuel economy is just the tip of the iceberg. (Later I’ll write a blog post about why I like this technology.)
Toward the end of the afternoon I noticed that Airstreamer Freddie Davis was over at his Excella giving out haircuts. Now that we’re back on the road, I have to resume my mission to try offbeat barber shops wherever possible. What better place to start the experiment than in the shade of an Airstream awning? So I plopped myself down in his chair and got a pretty darned good $10 haircut — all proceeds donated to the church mission for which Freddie volunteers his time. I can recommend his services.
Tonight we are expecting fireworks over the state fairgrounds, which means that those of us parked in the campground will have a front-row seat. We’ve received warning notices to take in our awnings, because they might be charred by sparks floating down. Thus, our visit to Wisconsin will end with a bang, for tomorrow morning we will be heading down I-94 toward Chicago and around the southern end of Lake Michigan.