Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Days 1 and 2 - Quick Trip to Milwaukee

DAY 1 - October 7, Louisville to Minneapolis then backtracking to Milwaukee.

We took off from Louisville about 12:30 EDT on Wednesday, 7 October. The first leg of our flight was to Minneapolis, about 600 miles away, but we didn't realize until just a few days before we left, that we'd probably be flying over Gary, Indiana, Chicago, Illinois, and near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, our final destination. Well, it wasn't just NEAR Milwaukee, we could see OUR MOTEL as we flew over it, and another 300 miles beyond it! Yup, in the picture, find the airport and look just to the left of it. That's our motel!

Anyway, we DID get to see Minneapolis-St Paul from the air, and got our usual t-shirt, shot glass and refrigerator magnet at the Minneapolis airport. Leaving from there, we got some nice views of the "Twin Cities" and the Mississippi River. Flying over Milwaukee, about 90 minutes later, we came in from the north along Lake Michigan, and could see the breakwaters and the marina, but didn't realize at the time that we were flying directly over one of our goals, the Milwaukee Art Museum (more on that for Day 2). We landed just fine, got our rental car, found the motel, and ate dinner at the Lake City Restaurant and Lounge, at the Best Western, just walking distance up South Howell St. Very good food, reasonable (though not cheap) prices, and a very friendly bartender all helped welcome us to Milwaukee. We enjoyed the pasta buffet -- choose 4-5 ingredients, 3 sauces, several types of pasta -- it was VERY good!

DAY 2 - October 8, The Milwaukee Art Museum and Miller Valley

We researched what to see and do in Milwaukee -- the Internet is a fantastic resource for that. Our two main goals for today were the Milwaukee Art Museum and the home of the Miller Brewing Company, "Miller Valley."

The MAM's latest addition in 2001, is probably the signature buildings of Milwaukee. It is designed like the prow of an ocean liner, and the glass ceiling has a covering over it that slowly opens, like a butterfly opening its wings. It's quite the tourist attraction, even on this windy, nearly-raining day. It takes about 3 minutes to completely open, and it's quite dramatic to watch. The portion of the addition facing Lake Michigan is dramatic, as well -- both from the outside and the inside. It's so modern-looking, one wonders if it the building itself is a sculpture or a mobile, a work of art in itself. The foyer, the lobby, the galleries, and even the underground parking garage are all of the same design -- only time I've ever taken a picture of a parking garage!

Inside, we spent nearly four hours wandering from room to room, from ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman art, through the Renaissance and the Masters, to impressionists and abstract modernists.

My main goal, however, was the extensive collection of Georgia O'Keeffe paintings. Two of my favorites are here ... Gray and Brown Leaves, 1929, and Poppies, 1950. As I pointed out artist after artist to Barry, sharing with him what I knew, it was like being a teacher all over again. GREAT! I just hope I didn't bore him. I also pointed out all the American artists who painted partly in Maine, including Marsden Hartley, who was born in Lewiston.

After leaving the museum, we went to another main tourist attraction, the Miller Brewing Company, and did the beer tour (with three free samples at the end). It's in an area of Milwaukee known as "Miller Valley" because of the extent of the operation, the number of buildings, and the influence of the brewery on the area. The tour itself was disappointing, as much of the factory was being maintained, and we didn't really get to see the millions of bottles and cans of Miller Lite going through the motions. In the brew house, we saw the large kettles for making beer, but again, we just looked at them, inert as they were. At the end of the tour, the three samples confirmed to me now why I prefer local microbreweries. Years ago, I bought a six-pack of Miller Lite (it was cheap) to put in the garden to attract slugs. Today, I realized that was a good move. The Miller Lite tasted like water; then we sampled Miller Genuine Draft -- which had an aluminum can or keg aftertaste to it. The third beer (don't remember the brand) was a lime-flavored, cloudy batch which was OK, but not really to my liking. Oh well, we did the tourist thing, and that was why we were there in Milwaukee!

After doing the beer thing, we hustled over to the Potawatomi Bingo Casino, where I played the 5c machines. Barry, big spender that he is, played the $.25 machines. I guess I'm the cheaper of the two of us. Anyway, the Casino was located in the warehouse district, kind of run-down neighborhood, nestled between the railroad tracks and the Menominee River. It's interesting that Native Americans now use casinos to "get even" ... well, we made the Potawatomi Tribe $15 richer, but had a good time anyway!

For dinner, we went once more to the Lake City Restaurant and Lounge...their meatloaf soup (doesn't sound that good but...) was excellent, much like a hearty beef stew. Barry had a Reuben sandwich and I had a turkey cordon bleu wrap. We didn't finish either, so breakfast the next morning was great!

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