Monthly Archives: July 2014

2014 Trip Five, July 26, Summer in the Cities

Appleton, WI Saturday July 26

A busy day. We started down in Oshkosh, WI, home of the Experimental Aircraft Association. Many of you may have heard of this organization. They sponsor EAA AirVenture, where 12,000 planes and 750,000 people congregate for a week of air shows, lectures, presentations, entertainment, and lots and lots of vendors. And the congregating begins Sunday with the actual “World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration” running from July 28 to August 3 this year. They actually have 80 air traffic controllers and support staff to oversee 20,000 takeoffs and landings during the week. Maybe one day we will return to experience AirVenture.

The EAA museum in Oshkosh

The EAA museum in Oshkosh

Re-creation of an early afirfield

Re-creation of an early afirfield

AAA listed the museum as a GEM in their ranking and that it opens at 8:30 AM. We got there a little after 9 to see the sign saying the museum opens at 10. There were people outside waiting to get in. I was going to join them. Chris saw that the gift shop looked open and went in and asked about the change in hours. Well, due to the AirVenture week, the museum was open now. Thanks Chris. She was also kind enough to go out and tell the people waiting that they could go in.

partial replica of Voyager

partial replica of Voyager

The museum has a collection of more than 150 aircraft, and replicas, including home-built planes, gliders, helicopters, racers, military, ultra-light, etc. There are enough written explanatory displays and short videos to keep one busy for several days. We spent 3.5 hours there and enjoyed it all. There are many notable items there. One was a partial replica of the “Voyager”. On December 23, 1986, the Burt Rutan-designed Voyager aircraft landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, completing the first non-stop, non-refueled flight around the world by an airplane. Its flight of 26,366 statute miles lasted 9 days, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds, piloted by Dick Rutan (Burt’s brother) and Jeanna Yeager.

SpaceShip One at EAA museum

SpaceShip One at EAA museum

The second was the SpaceShip One replica, which in 2004 was able to win a $10,000,000 prize by launching a piloted spacecraft, carrying the payload equivalent of two passengers to an altitude of at least 328,100 feet (62.14 miles), and then repeat the feat using the same spacecraft within two weeks.

After EAA, we had lunch in Fond du Lac at Schreiners, a long-established local restaurant. The waitresses still wear white uniforms and the daily vegetable option included creamed rutabagas which were quite tasty. From there it was on to Kettle Moraine State Forest and the Henry Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center. WI is the home to the Ice Age Trail, a National Scenic Trail administered by the State of WI with cooperation of the National Park Service. The route to get there was on back roads, much of it part of the Ice Age Scenic area.

Along the Ice Age Trail Visitor Center

Along the Ice Age Trail Visitor Center

By definition, a national scenic trail is to be hiked. We had allowed plenty of time to hike a portion starting at the Visitor Center. However, the sign at the Visitor Center warned of mosquitoes, ticks, deer flies, gnats, etc in heavy profusion. They were correct. The “hike” turned out to be a fast jog up the trail to an overlook, see lots of foliage blocking a meaningful view, take a picture anyway, and run back to the car, and while doing the get away from me bugs dance. Sometimes hikes are not as fantastic as they are written up to be. We will have to return at a later time for the hike.

Dundee Mtn in the background, a glacial kame

Dundee Mtn in the background, a glacial kame

The trail meanders through WI mainly following the edge of the last glacier to cover WI. It begins at St. Croix Falls, goes east towards a point northeast of Wausau, turns south to Janesville and back northeast along Lake Michigan to Door County. The trail is still under construction and only portions are hikeable. The Visitor Center displays educate on the difference between moraines, kettles, drumlins, eskers, and kames.

At Horicon Marsh

At Horicon Marsh

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We drove through more of Kettle Moraine State Forest on our way to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge for a 6:30 pm marsh tour. The entire day had been cloudy and threatening rain. The tour was billed as a sunset tour but we were not holding out much hope for seeing a sunset. However, while walking along parts of the Horicon Marsh, the clouds started to dissipate and the skies were blue. (Our tour guide later indicated that this was the first tour to see a sunset in six weeks-they only run the sunset tour on Saturdays.) The marsh covers 33,000 acres. 22,000 are under federal management and 11,000 under state. The marsh was formed by the damming of the Rock River and is one of the largest freshwater marshes in the US. It has been a wildlife refuge since 1941. The depth ranges from 2-8 feet.

On the marsh tour at Horicon Refuge

On the marsh tour at Horicon Refuge

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Our tour had about 20 people on a pontoon boat. The tour operator, Horicon Marsh Boat Tours, has been a family operation for over 50 years. The sunset tour starts with a little wine and cheese gathering where we met some of the other customers. One was a newly married couple from Chicago up visiting the area to consider buying some lake property. Another was a couple married for 62 years who live in a town about 10 miles away who had never taken the tour before. Our guide, Mark, is the current owner. He appeared very knowledgeable about birds and was identifying many of them by their calls since they were not always visible. We assumed he was accurate. Our tour takes us along the main channel and into some side bays. We saw bald eagles, pelicans, swallows, herons, kingfishers, etc. We saw more sandhill cranes earlier at the marsh, they are not wading birds.

Bald Eagle on marsh tour

Bald Eagle on marsh tour

Mark told us interesting facts about the creation of the marsh and its current happenings. For instance, during a major storm about 10 years ago a small group of pelicans were blown this way and the marsh now has a thriving population of them. Carp constitute the vast majority of the fish and due to their bottom feeding, they stir up sediment that makes the water look polluted, although it is not. Recently the trapping of muskrats were discontinued for (I believe) two years. When they re-instituted it, 400,000 were trapped in one season. Each pelt that year brought $10 on the open market. When the beaver population got too large, their foraging was damaging the tree growth and hunting had to be allowed to keep the balance between the two. Most importantly, the large number of insect-eating birds meant that the marsh tour was mosquito-free.

The marsh at sunset

The marsh at sunset

According to the 2010 census, Horicon has a population of 3655. It is home to a John Deere lawn and garden tractor factory. Boy, once we took the Deere combine factory tour in March, we seem to come across Deere everywhere. According to Mark, the tractors made here are the higher quality ones sold at dealers, not the ones sold at Wal-Mart, etc. The company has a good environmental record with its plant here. Another important note. Horicon has an ice cream store open until 9:30 so we stopped in after the tour and ate some of the Cedar Crest ice cream. This is very tasty ice cream made in Cedarburg WI, halfway between Sheboygan and Milwaukee. Our drive back to Appleton took about 75 minutes, but the ice cream gave us the sugar surge to stay awake.

On Sunday morning we made a second stop at Mary and Chuck’s house to chat before heading for home. Instead of returning on a southerly route, we returned via a northern route. We stopped in Waupaca to view one of only two remaining covered bridges in the state, a grist mill and a small chapel. The property is owned by a local couple who are refurbishing the grist mill into a gift shop. We stopped in Stevens Point afterwards to visit the WI Conservation Hall of Fame which we were not able to visit during our earlier stay. The drive home was through alternating periods of showers and sun.

Ed and Chris Sunday July 27 10:15 pm

Another sunset shot

Another sunset shot

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2014 Trip Five, July 25, Summer in the Cities

Friday July 25, Appleton WI

Of our two remaining full days in the Fox River area, today was likely to be the coolest and most likely to produce rain. We decided to visit two museums in the area and hold off on two of our planned outdoor activities until Saturday.

Our first destination was the Paper Discovery Center in Appleton. We had been told that the center had downgraded it’s museum aspects and increased its display purposes for younger people. We still found the displays informational although basic. We managed to make a sheet of paper each from scrap paper and newspaper. You can observe the results in the photo.

Our successful effort to make paper.

Our successful effort to make paper.

The Fox River is not a long river. It flows for less than 200 miles, beginning in central WI. It flows into Lake Winnebago by Oshkosh and out again at the northern end of the lake at Neenah. It continues to Green Bay and thus into Lake Michigan. The last 40 miles from Neenah to Green Bay drops over 150 feet in elevation. This drop produced rapids and as European settlers arrived, the opportunity for hydroelectric power and industry. The country’s first hydropower plant producing power directly into residential homes occurred here. The combination of the electricity generated by the Fox and the logging industry in Wisconsin gave rise to a major papermaking presence along the Fox River.

Wisconsin is the number one paper making state in the U.S. and about 50,000 people work in this industry in the Fox River Valley. However, changes in the use of technology and new competition from China are creating a downsizing phenomenon. There is still a legacy of pollution to clean up along the Fox River also. The Paper Discovery Center, though, focuses on how paper is made.

So we followed trees from the cutting and debarking into finished product. The displays were basic, focusing on one type of product, toilet tissue. We learnt that paper can be made from numerous fibrous products including elephant dung. Since elephants eat so much grass, their dung can be used to make paper. That was tidbit #1 for the day. The second is that each person in the U.S. uses 750 pounds of paper per year.

The museum is based in a former paper mill which closed a few years ago. It is located on the Fox River by the dam which provided hydropower. On the river today were a number of pelicans, evidently relatively new arrivals to the Fox River in the last years.

A pelican in Fox River

A pelican in Fox River

Our second stop was the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah. The museum is home to one of the finest and most representative collection of glass paperweights in the world. The museum had descriptive information about how the decorative items were placed inside of the paperweights. There are three main styles of paperweights; millefiori, sulphide, and flamework. Millefiori interested me the least. It reminded me of rock aggregate inside a paperweight dome. Sulphide can be described as the art of placing a porcelain cameo inside the dome. Flamework seems to offer the greatest diversity of color and styles with a multitude of decorations inside the dome.

two paperweights

two paperweights

The museum also has ongoing displays of Germanic glass and victorian glass baskets. I thought the baskets quite colorful and artistic. The best thing I remember about the Germanic glass is that some of the glasses were made for groups to pass the beverage around. These large items can easily hold a half gallon to a gallon of milk.

Most of the exhibits started from collections begun by local residents of some wealth. The special exhibit focused on glass styles developed through the Bullseye Glass Co. in Portland OR. Two of its founders were from WI. Bullseye has become a major force in training glass makers and in developing new styles and methods in glass making.

On our way back to the Residence Inn, we stopped by the Tayco Street Bridge museum. This is described as one of the smallest museums in WI. The museum is housed in one of the four towers initially used to support the lift bridge. It tells the story primarily of the lift bridges that have been located on this site along with some wall displays of transportation in the Fox River valley. I found the wall displays set in a type style and font size difficult to read but the bridge was told via video.

Tayco Street Bridge Museum

Tayco Street Bridge Museum

Dinner was with Judy and Phil at Cy’s, a restaurant in Neenah serving excellent Thai food.

Ed, Judy, Chris and Phil

Ed, Judy, Chris and Phil

Ed and Chris July 25 10:15 pm

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2014 Trip Five, July 23-24, Summer in the Cities

Thursday July 24, Appleton WI

We decided today we need a bigger home and more money. After a 3.5 hour tour of the Kohler factory and another hour touring the Kohler Design Center, our home is decidedly mundane.

Kohler WI is the home to the Kohler company, a privately held firm, primarily the Kohler family, that manufactures bathroom and kitchen plumbing fixtures, along with small engines, power generators, etc. Kohler is close to Sheboygan WI, along the west side of Lake Michigan and about a 90 minute drive from Appleton.

A sample bathroom layout at Kohler Design Center

A sample bathroom layout at Kohler Design Center

(I should note here that I will try to present, albeit briefly, the two sides of certain portions of the Kohler history relating to unionization. It is not a major portion of this post. Sources of information conflict as befits a major, long-lasting strike. My information about unionization should not be taken as gospel truth; if concerned about more details the reader is encouraged to explore on their own. The Wikipedia entry for the company is so bland and brief it makes you wonder if an effort is being made to condense entries.)

Our tour guide was a retired 39 year veteran of the Kohler company. His message was that quality is the Kohler watchword and explained the many details that keep the Kohler product at the head of its class. We viewed the production of both cast iron and vitreous china fixtures (that begin with clay from southeastern U.S.) Due to the properties of clay and vitreous china, much of the manufacturing work is still done by hand, although robotic manufacturing equipment is coming into greater use. (No pictures are allowed in the plant.)

The tour covers acres of grounds and numerous buildings. Our guide has seen many changes over the years, including a strong focus on re-use of waste products. Of course, an outsider never knows if these changes are driven by smart management, government regulations, or cost efficiencies.

The factory buildings were initially built about 100 years ago when the company moved out of Sheboygan into Kohler, then undeveloped farmland. An initial mish-mash of development led to the creation of a planned community with separate residential, retail, and manufacturing areas. According to the company, homes were not segregated by economics, unlike some other communities. Company policy forbade top management from running for local government positions so it would not become a company owned town. (This did not prevent two Kohlers from serving as Governors of Wisconsin.) Today, that effort has resulted in a very attractive town that is also a tourist and golfer destination location.

The company founder was born in Austria and came to the US as a child, with the family originally settling in St. Paul Minnesota. He moved to Chicago, became a traveling salesman, and married the daughter of a local industrialist in Sheboygan Wisconsin. He took over the father-in-laws iron foundry. One of the products sold was a big dunking tank for cleaning pigs before slaughter. As the story goes, a local farmer used it, after cleaning it, to take a bath after his work outside. He approached the company, mentioned the idea, and they modified it to add legs to the tub and shorten the size and sold it as a bathtub. The first one was sold for one cow and 14 chickens. Thus began the Kohler Company foray into the plumbing business.

The company had its share of sadness and difficulties. The founder’s first wife died so he married the plant owner’s second daughter. The founder died relatively young and two of the sons involved in plant management died early. One of the early plants burnt to the ground. The son of the second wife was the one who primarily oversaw the growth of the company.

The tour does not take us to the area that makes engines and power generation units but the foundry portion where brass fittings, etc are made was pretty interesting. During the tour, the guide mentioned that the plant was a union shop as we passed by a UAW logo on one wall. After the tour we had lunch at the Horse and Plough, a casual restaurant that is part of te American Club, the resort hotel complex with several restaurants but only the Horse and Plough is open for lunch.

After lunch we went over to the design center, a showpiece of Kohler products, primarily bathroom and kitchen ones are on display. Having lived near Hershey Pennsylvania, I knew that sometimes a planned community can have his own difficulties. I asked one of the staff at the design center visitors area if the unionization process had been difficult. At Hershey, the founder was shocked, bitter and angry that the workers wanted a union. There had been a nasty strike which left bitterness among the employees. The Kohler rep indicated that there had been a strike or two, that they were settled, and everybody has strikes. The lower level of the design center is a museum with the Kohler history. There was no mention there about unions.

It was only later as I talked with people that I realized that there were two divisive strikes. The one in 1934 left two people dead and the National Guard had to be called in. The result of that effort was a “company union” remained in place until the second bitter strike in 1954. In the ’54 strike, workers were out for two months and strike breakers wer hired and worked for six years until a settlement was reached. Evidently local farmers and other people were hired who did not know the craft of making bathroom fixtures. Quality went down and other unions frequently would not install Kohler products in sympathy for Kohler strikers. Quite a difference from what the staff member mentioned.

One of the sample bathrooms at Kohler Design Center

One of the sample bathrooms at Kohler Design Center

The design center had two levels of Kohler products and numerous displays of sample bathroom and kitchens with Kohler products. The sample bathrooms are gorgeous and creative in the various layouts. There were some that were definitely not our style but if we had a larger bathroom and more money, there were several designs that I would not mind luxuriating in.

The lower level, in addition to the museum, had two display areas that focused on the Kohler Residency in Arts program. Artists have the opportunity to spend two to six months creating works of art in the pottery, iron and brass, and enamel areas of the plant. They can take their creations with them except for leaving two pieces at the Kohler Arts Center and/or the Design Center. Usually four artists are in residence at a time. They receive free housing and an honorarium for expenses along with free use of the shops and materials in the plant. We saw several of the artists at work during our tour. It seems like a great program.

As a private company, we have no idea how the company is doing financially. However, usually there is only one shift working and we did see several areas of the plant that were empty. The American penchant for lowest cost may be taking its toll on a company that focuses more on quality at a moderate cost. Kohler is a multi-national company with subsidiaries around the world though.

Our drive to and from Kohler combined both interstate and two-lane highways. We have been seeing lots of the Wisconsin countryside. Wednesday we came across what seemed to be a local controversy. In an area with a few wind turbines we observed several home-made signs by the side of the road basically indicating that good neighbors would not sell out to the wind power industry.

Stevens Point Sculpture Park

Stevens Point Sculpture Park

Wednesday was our travel day from Stevens Point to Appleton. We started with a walk through the Stevens Point Sculpture Park. Luckily we finished the tour before two bus loads of children arrived. I do not know the length of the trail but it has about 30 works of art. It must be frequently used by school groups. We came across a dozen or more groupings of drawings by school children who had visited recently and put up their art work next to the sculptures.

Driving through Wisconsin

Driving through Wisconsin

Instead of taking a direct route from Stevens Point to Appleton, we detoured an extra 80 miles or so to go past Green Bay to Champion WI, home of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. The people at the Rudolph Grotto had mentioned this and since we had time, we thought we would give it a shot. The site preserves the spot where Mary appeared to a young Belgian immigrant woman named Adele Brise in 1954. Adele dedicated the next 35 years of her life to Mary’s message: Teach the Catholic Faith to the children of a people who were losing their faith through neglect. (As a growing immigrant area, there were too few priests and nuns in the area to serve them.)

Our Lady of Good Help Shrine

Our Lady of Good Help Shrine

The church here was built in 1942 with the altar over the site of the Marian apparition. A Church investigation in 2010 lead to official Church approval of the apparitions that occurred here. It is one of only 11 approvals given in the last 300 years. One of the stories about the shrine relates to the Great Peshtigo Fire. You are probably, unless from WI, saying “what great fire?”

Well, the Peshtigo Fire took place on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire on October 8, 1971. The Chicago fire killed around 300 people; the Peshtigo fire between 1500 and 2500. An area twice the size of Rhode Island on both sides of Green Bay (the bay, not the city) was burnt. Sister Adele and other locals gathered at the chapel and prayed. While the fire consumed the area around the chapel, it and its occupants were spared.

Mary, Ed and Chuck

Mary, Ed and Chuck

We arrived in Appleton after touring the countryside. Dinner that evening was at the home of Mary, my cousin, and Chuck, her husband, on the northern shores of Lake Winnebago. My other cousin Judy from Appleton was there also. We had a pleasant evening discussing travel and our families.

Mary and her two Airedales

Mary and her two Airedales

Dinner Thursday night was at Judy’s house in Appleton where we met Phil, a friend of Judy’s. Judy and Phil met on a trip to Poland and have been good friends ever since. We got to regale Phil with old stories he had not heard before and he proved a receptive listener. We picked up some travel tips in exchange as Judy and Phil have traveled extensively abroad.

Ed and Chris July 25 11 AM

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2014 Trip Five, July 22, Summer in the Cities

Stevens Point, WI July 22, 2014

We had a later start this morning as we enjoyed conversation and home-made breakfast at the Victorian Swan on Water B & B in Stevens Point. The other couple staying last night was from Kentucky, originally Chicago and also enjoying a few days in the area. Breakfast was a potato-egg casserole with home made cinnamon rolls. Very yummy. Tomorrow is stuffed french toast I believe.

A Victorian Swan on Water

A Victorian Swan on Water

The B and B was originally built in 1888-1890. One of its claims to fame is that was originally located downtown but was moved here in 1938. When moved, the house lost its third floor and a second kitchen. We have one of the smaller rooms here (we got a tour) and it suits us very nicely. Joan is a wonderful host and has done her share of traveling also. In addition, her garden in back makes a wonderful place to sit and relax-as we did at dinner time Monday night.

We headed out for Warrens WI, home to the Cranberry Discovery Museum. Cranberries are big here since WI is the number one producing state in the nation, growing about 2/3 of the US crop. Right now cranberries are growing. Blossoms were in mid-June and we did not make it up here after the Fennimore trip. Harvesting is mid-September to mid-October and we just might miss that also as we return from our post Labor Day trip to Canada, the Adirondacks, and Deb and Rebecca’s wedding in Ct.
We thought we should stop in now since we were relatively in the area.

Our drive from Stevens Point to Warrens took us through cranberry growing territory. The museum in Warrens is a modest size and took us about 45 minutes to explore and read the displays. The displays do an admirable job of explaining how cranberries are grown and harvested. We had known about harvesting them in flooded fields but the museum explains the details of the whole process in an easy to comprehend process. For instance, we did not know about the addition of sand to the fields during winter when the fields are frozen; or the meticulous monitoring of soil and water that occurs throughout the year. We did taste test cranberry ice cream-delicious and purchased some cranberry mustard, salsa, chutney and jam.

Cranberries, Concord Grape and blueberries are the only fruits native to the US. They are among the highest of all fruits in antioxidants.

Two sandhill cranes

Two sandhill cranes

Our return trip was through the cranberry fields again but the return trip by another route brought us by several sandhill cranes. The growing of cranberries takes up about 180,000 acres in Wisconsin. Only about 18,000 of those acres are actually growing cranberries. The remaining acres,called support land, consists of natural and man-made wetlands, woodlands,and uplands. Because of this, waterfowl, like the sandhill crane, are plentiful in the area. Sandhill cranes are supposed to be aggressive in defending their territory but we managed to get several photos without hassle.

Lunch was at a rest stop at Dexter County Park at Lake Dexter. Really fancy, two cans of pop with the left over sausage, cheese and crackers from yesterday. But we helped the local economy by buying the two cans of pop at the Dexter Drive-In.

An example of a paper making mold from Siam (Thailand)

An example of a paper making mold from Siam (Thailand)

Wisconsin Rapids is the home to the Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum. This is a small museum in the historic home of Stanton Mead. The Mead family ran the Consolidated Water Power and Paper Company for most of its 100 year history. The company has gone through several recent changes and is now owned by New Page Corporation. The company is a major employer in Wisconsin Rapids and in Stevens Point-the factory behind A Victorian Swan on Water is a New Page factory.

The Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum

The Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum

The museum had three exhibits that interested us and we had the pleasure of having two docents explain various portions of the exhibit. The first was about Dard Hunter, a man born in 1883 who spent the majority of his life researching the paper making process, particularly hand-made paper.

The second exhibit was about the history of the Consolidated Water Power and Paper Making Company. It began in the early 1900s and controlled most of the paper making in the Wisconsin River valley. From the size of the facilities we have seen, it is a big player in a dying market-it focuses in this region on coated papers (for magazines) and other specialty papers. It’s early history would make a good novel with skullduggery and broken contracts.

Gib Endrizzi mural

Gib Endrizzi mural

The final exhibit was about art made by Gib Endrizzi. Endrizzi was the design engineer for Consoweld and the company during WWII made a product similar to Formica. Layers of paper are coated with a resin and heat pressed to create a very strong product. It was even used to make glider planes during WWII. (That is another whole story.) After the war, the product was produced in multiple designs and colors. Endrizzi used the product (no longer made) to create art work. Several of his murals were on display and were quite remarkable.

Deer at Schmeeckle Reserve

Deer at Schmeeckle Reserve

We drove back to Stevens Point and walked some of the trails at Schmeeckle Reserve, part of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. It was a relaxing way to end the afternoon. We saw several deer; I know, they are everywhere nowadays but these were kinda cute.

Schmeeckle Reserve

Schmeeckle Reserve

Dinner was at Father Fats, a local eatery serving tapas. We shared three selections and all were great.

Sunset on Wisconsin River Tuesday night

Sunset on Wisconsin River Tuesday night

Ed and Chris July 22 11 pm

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2014, Trip Five, July 21, Summer in the Cities

Stevens Point, WI Monday July 21

We are staying at A Victorian Swan on Water B & B in Stevens Point, WI close to the Wisconsin River. We will be here for two nights on our way to Appleton WI. As usual, we broke up this driving day with a few side journeys.

Leinie’s, that is, Jacob Leinenkugel’s Brewing Company, is in Chippewa Falls, WI. It is about a 90 minute drive from St. Paul. Despite the fact that neither one of us drinks beer, we stopped in here for a tour. The tour lasts about an hour. It is free but we paid one dollar each for a souvenir shot glass and 5 tastings of various Leinenkugel beers. We got our wrist bands and a black X marked on our hands and we were off on the tour.

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We have been on other brewery tours. This one is a little lighter on the details but you received the essence of the beer making process and the history of the Leinenkugels; another German family with lots of boys, most of whom entered the brewery business. They survived Prohibition making pop, instead of beer. 60% of their output is distributed in bottles, 30% in kegs, and 10% in cans. They have about 23 fermenting tanks. One tank holds enough beer to satisfy a beer drinker who consumes a six pack of beer every day for 55 years. Distributors have to pre-order their beer 60 days in advance to allow enough time for the brewery to order supplies and allow the beer to ferment.

They have a multitude of beer flavors. Back at the Leinie Lodge, the tasting room and gift store, we tried three of the beers. Summer Shandy and Honey Weiss were bearable but still not something I would order and expect to drink the whole bottle or glass.

Before we switched to root beer, we tried Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout. Yes, a beer named after me. But, it tasted lousy to this non-beer drinker. Very heavy and bitter. So, while I do not intend to buy it, I wish them well in order to keep the brand going. I did buy a “Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout” tee-shirt. How could I not?

We had packed sandwiches for lunch and ate them at Irvine Park in Chippewa Falls. The breeze was strong enough to keep the bugs at bay. However, I slapped my wrist several times before realizing that what I thought were flies or large mosquitoes was simply the black mark put on my hand at the brewery tour.

The Round Barn in Marshfield WI

The Round Barn in Marshfield WI

We had contemplated driving to Stevens Point via Wausau WI but while it may be a lovely city, nothing there seemed worth visiting. Instead, we dropped down to Marshfield and paid a visit to the “World’s Largest Round Barn”. It is part of the Central Wisconsin State Fair grounds. Chris went up to the office and one of the staff, a young woman named Cassie, was gracious enough to give us a tour (the building had been locked) and relate the barn’s history.

Dome of the round barn

Dome of the round barn


Can you interpret this sign in the Round Barn?

Can you interpret this sign in the Round Barn?

The barn was constructed in 1915-16 as a show barn and arena and is still in use today. The round shape was selected due to: more wind resistant, more efficient to arrange stanchions to show animals, and stays cooler in warmer weather. Now, aren’t you glad you read this blog for its wealth of information?

Our final stop prior to Stevens Point was Rudolph WI; a small town home to Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese Company and the Rudolph Grotto. Of course, this is Wisconsin, most towns are home to some cheese making facility. WI ranks 1st in the nation for cheese production and makes more cheddar cheese than any other state. WI cheesemakers make 2.4 billion, yes billion, pounds of cheese each year. And, it takes ten pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese.

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At Dairy State, family owned for generations, we had some ice cream ($1.75 for a healthy single scoop) and then bought our dinner. Crackers and a mixed bag of WI sausage and cubes of various kinds of cheese. The bag of cheese curds will wait for Tuesday.

Rudolph Grotto

Rudolph Grotto


Rudolph Grotto

Rudolph Grotto

Then we drove a few blocks to the Rudolph Grotto. The parishioners of St. Phillip’s Church now maintain this grotto built by an early pastor, Father Phillip Wagner. Rev. Wagner promised to build a shrine in Mary’s honor after going to Lourdes, France in 1912 and having his poor health restored.

Rudolph Grotto

Rudolph Grotto

St. Jude's Shrine at Rudolph Grotto

St. Jude’s Shrine at Rudolph Grotto

The grotto is a series of gardens, statues, and rock formations arranged to form shrines remembering the stations of the cross, seven sorrows of Mary, Our Lady of Fatima, or just general feel good representations of flowers, planters, etc. The rock used is unusual, it is a rare lava rock in the area. Other materials include Carrera marble from Italy, shells, colored glass, and tiles.

When we crossed the Wisconsin River into Stevens Point, we were greeted by a mural of loggers. Much of this area of Wisconsin dates back to old logging operations, producing lumber for the rest of the country and later for paper making. We expect to see other paper making facilities over the next several days. Our B and B is in the shadow of one such paper factory.

Logger mural in Stevens Point WI

Logger mural in Stevens Point WI

Over the last 18 months we have visited numerous small towns. The small communities of the Midwest compare very well. They come across as taking good care of their homes and public infrastructure-at least the infrastructure that is visible. The use of murals on downtown walls is becoming prevalent and we do not get tired of these visual representations of a community’s history.

Ed Heimel and Chris Klejbuk July 21 9:15 pm

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2014 Trip Five, July 19, Summer in the Cities Travel Blog

St. Paul July 19

I have been a wee bit derelict in providing details on the summer interregnum between major trips. But we have not been inactive here in the Cities. Let me provide a few highlights.

The Twin  City River Rats perform on the Mississippi River

The Twin City River Rats perform on the Mississippi River

Last night we watched the Twin City River Rats, a water ski team that competes, quite successfully, around the country. They normally put on a free show every Thursday night on the Mississippi River north of downtown Minneapolis. Yesterday was the start to the Minneapolis Aquatennial, its 10 day summer fest. The River Rats put on an additional five shows this weekend during the Aquatennial. These shows are also free although ” the hat is passed” during an intermission in the 75 minute show.

Mississippi River Rats perform on the Mississippi River

Mississippi River Rats perform on the Mississippi River

We joined the crowd lining the west bank of the Mississippi. The flood waters have receded enough for the show to be performed but the river was still flowing fast and creating challenging conditions for the water skiers. The River Rats practices have been limited up to now due to the high water.

The show provided plenty of thrills for the family oriented crowd. Pyramids, ski-jumping, barefoot water skiing, etc were offered on a consistent basis.  The group tries to tie its performance together in a skit performance with a Star Wars theme.  This aspect was the weakest, probably hindered by the lack of practice time.  I guess they need some patter and upfront action to allow for getting the water skiers and boats coordinated.  The temp was in the 70s with enough breeze to keep the bugs away.

Cannon River MN

Cannon River MN

Along the Cannon Valley MN Trail

Along the Cannon Valley MN Trail

Today we drove to Cannon Falls, 30 miles south of Saint Paul.  It was a hazy cloudy day with temps in the 70s.  Our goal was to go biking. The Cannon Valley Trail runs for 20 miles along the Cannon River from Cannon Falls to Red Wing on the Mississippi.  The Trail was built on the rail bed of a former line of the Chicago Great Western and has been in operation since 1986.  The 20 mile trail is paved and the western half of the trail that we covered is primarily tree-shaded with a few farm land openings. The trail runs along the Cannon River but luckily not on the river bank (given high water levels this year) but about 20-50 feet above it.  The river had its share of tubers, canoers, and kayakers while the trail was busy also.  We spent quite a bit of time saying “Hi, Morning, Afternoon, Hello, Good Day” etc to passing bikers.  

Along the Cannon Valley MN Trail

Along the Cannon Valley MN Trail

The trail had its mix of the spandex crowd and recreational bikers like us. The vast majority were wearing helmets (they are required) and a higher percentage of bikers than on the trails in the Cities did give verbal warning when they passed us.  We went 10 miles east to Welch Village and 10 miles back-which was uphill and into the wind but we handled it pretty well.

One day we went walking in Central Park in Roseville, a long narrow park with water, bogs, gardens and active play fields. After the walk we did a little nostalgia and drove out to Lake Elmo to have lunch at Gorman’s.  My family lived in Lake Elmo from 1959 to 1965 and while Gorman’s was not in business then it has a great collection of Lake Elmo historical photos.  Plus, we knew they served malts in the old-fashioned tin cups.

Photo of our Lake Elmo house at Gorman's restaurant

Photo of our Lake Elmo house at Gorman’s restaurant

When we walked in, we were greeted by a picture of our old house which was once the hospital for a Dr. Stevens. It was in the lobby of the restaurant posted in one of the windows of a door which had once been in the hospital. It was a nice beginning to a tasty meal. Afterwards we drove by the old homestead which is only partially visible due to the numerous trees.

Out walking on the Glacial Ridge trail in central MN

Out walking on the Glacial Ridge trail in central MN

Last weekend we drove west for about 100 miles to spend Saturday and Sunday at Connie’s cabin with Bernie and Tony. Connie’s place is on Diamond Lake, between Litchfield and Spicer.  We had our bikes on the rack in back, a rack that was a gift from brother Mike a number of years ago. It is not the new style with a strong hitch but clips that fastens on the trunk. We kept our eyes on the bikes as we zipped along the highways, believing that a watched bike would not fall off-and they didn’t.

Sunset at Diamond  Lake

Sunset at Diamond Lake

It rained as were going from Minnetonka out to about Delano, raising fears about our bike ride ambitions. The weather forecast did not include rain. The forecast was wrong. It did not clear up until late afternoon so we went for a hike in the early afternoon and then Bernie, Connie and Ed went for a bike ride up to Spicer.  The cribbage teams were Ed and Tony versus Bernie and Connie. The women won the first game. The guys must have been in a generous mood. Connie was a great host and the food was excellent. The evening turned out to be quite nice.  We watched the sunset over the lake with a fire in the pit.  Sunday we drove to Spicer and walked along the lake before heading home in the afternoon. On the way home we stopped at the Peppermint Twist drive-in in Delano for a malt and a shake.

Peppermint Twist in Delano MN

Peppermint Twist in Delano MN

The high waters on the rivers have impacted several of our plans. All of our bike rides stay up along Shepard Road and Mississippi River Blvd rather than through Crosby Farm and Hidden Falls parks.  But the falls at Minnehaha remain strong and fast even as portions of trails are closed.  A pontoon ride on the Mississippi arranged by the Mississippi River Fund has been postponed until August.  A volunteer effort to plant cottonwoods along the river bed was re-scheduled for next week when we will be in Wisconsin.

Bike riding at Coldwater Spring south of Minnehaha Park along the Mississippi River

Bike riding at Coldwater Spring south of Minnehaha Park along the Mississippi River

Our bike ride Wednesday was in Minneapolis around Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun, and Lake Harriet. The path under Lake Street connecting Lake of the Isles and Calhoun was under water. Most of these trails are normally segregated for bikers and walkers. However, the high water put the Lake of the Isles pedestrian paths under water so walkers and bikers shared the bike path.

Lunch at Lake Calhoun Minneapolis

Lunch at Lake Calhoun Minneapolis

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

We drove down to Rochester with Kathy one Sunday to watch a performance of the Mu Theater. It was a special deal; for $5 you saw a 75 minute show and had a buffet meal at a Chinese restaurant.  Another day we were at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum for their summer show. It featured about 30 glass sculptures themed for various plant and flower displays. Another evening we drove to Silverwood Park in St. Anthony.  Two sisters, Chasing Lovely, were the featured performers.

Canterbury Park

Canterbury Park

One Thursday evening we went out to Canterbury  Park to watch the horse racing. We had not been there before and Thursday is $1 admission,$1 programs, and $1 hot dogs,  nachos and pop. The weather was gorgeous again and we stayed for 7 of the 10 races. Two of the seven were raced on turf, the other five on dirt.  We only bet on one race so we only lost $2. A cheap date night.

The final notable event was a hockey scrimmage for the Goal Getters. Sarah and Sarah and their team mates all signed up for a summer hockey improvement series of classes and the end result was a scrimmage. I must say the improvement in skills level from last summer to this summer was remarkable.  It was fun to watch; plays were executed, not just dump the puck somewhere. It bodes well for the upcoming winter season.  Afterwards we gathered at Plum’s neighborhood bar for food and beverages.

We have been working on plans for next week’s trip to central Wisconsin to visit my cousins Judy and Mary and Mary’s husband Chuck. We have started making hotel arrangements for the post Labor Day trip to Canada and the Adirondacks before Deb and Rebecca’s wedding in Connecticut in October. Finally, plans for Thanksgiving in Flagstaff are being discussed.

 

Ed and Chris July 19  8:30 pm

 

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2014 Trip Five, July 7, Summer in the Cities

St. Paul July 7

Sarah and Sarah had asked us at the start of the summer if we would be interested in joining them on a tent camping trip. Ed said “no thanks” and Chris said “yes, this is the year to push the comfort zone”. Chris did suggest that this camping experience should be 1) close to St. Paul and 2) have flush toilets somewhere nearby. She had camped once before, 45 years ago.

Setting up the tent

Setting up the tent

The July 4th weekend had Chris, Sarah and Sarah camping at Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Regional Park Reserve. While only 23 miles from our condo, it is 6,000 acres in Anoka County with 7 lakes, a nature center, swimming beach, bike trails, a golf course and camping.

Biking Saturday afternoon

Biking Friday afternoon

Ed drove Chris to the campground Friday where we met up with Sarah and Sarah, set up the tent campsite and headed out for a bike ride (with Ed) covering wetlands, forested shorelines and the golf course. Returning to the campsite, Sarah Leismer became the head chef…getting the firepit started and putting together a delicious meal of gnocchi and marinara sauce, grilled fresh vegetables and Italian sausage. After cleanup and conversation, the traditional campfire s’mores were for dessert. Ed left and those remaining took walks to the beach to watch local resident fireworks.

getting the fire started

getting the fire started

Saturday morning had some of us venturing for the showers and then enjoying coffee/tea, granola and fresh fruit. We then (without Ed) went for a bike ride in the other direction. This took us along one of the other lakes, into the town of Centerville and eventually to the Wargo Nature Center to check out their displays. Normally, canoes/kayaks/paddle boards can be rented out at the Center; however, because of the recent flooding we have had and the wind, these activities were not advised. There is a canoe trail that connects 5 of the 7 lakes.

Dinner Friday night

Dinner Friday night

Ed joined us in the afternoon back at the campsite for some card games. Dinner was grilled hot dogs, potato salad (Leismer first grilled the potatoes and then peeled them before adding celery, scallions, parsley, dijon mustard and mayo), and corn on the cob. S’mores for dessert. Ed left and the mosquitoes were a little more aggressive tonight so we headed early for the tent.

Card playing Saturday afternoon

Card playing Saturday afternoon

Dinner Saturday night

Dinner Saturday night


We did get rain in the early morning hours of Sunday but by the time we were up and out, we were able to get things dried out to greet Ed who had returned for breakfast. Beside the firepit with grate, we also had a Coleman stove and a little “thing” that boils water. Breakfast camping: coffee/tea, fresh fruit (banana/grapes/cherries), scrambled eggs, precooked bacon, grilled SPAM (just for Ed), and pancakes!!!! What a feast!!! I never thought one could do so much in the outdoors.

Breakfast Sunday morning

Breakfast Sunday morning

Ed and I left after breakfast cleanup and gear packing up. Sarah and Sarah were going to get the tent down and head for home.

image

It was a lovely weekend sharing time with one of our daughters and her partner. It really felt that we were in “nature” but it was nice to know that the city was close. The campsite was full and we enjoyed watching folks come and go; park rangers stopping by to chat; talking with a visitor at the nature center who was out finding insects, and deciding that camping is something that Chris would enjoy doing again, and that Ed enjoyed being a day visitor.

Chris and Ed July 7 7:45 pm

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