Thursday, September 29, 2011

American Gods and Roadside Attractions Tour: Calatrava and Confessions

Let's be honest, shall we?

If you'd asked me 2 months ago what cities were on my travel bucket list, Milwaukee would not have been anywhere close to on it. I mean, I can't even tell you the last time I'd consciously given Milwaukee any thought at all...unless, of course, we're talking about (sorry, Milwaukee) crap beer. Old Mil comes to mind and Milwaukee's Best. So does PBR (shoosh, you, hipster! PBR did, in fact, start out in Milwaukee - don't rob them of that, OK?).

So...why did we go to Milwaukee? Because our decided upon destination was House on the Rock just south of Spring Green, WI but when we discovered that Spring Green is a mere two hours from a Great Lake? We simply had to take that extra 2 hours to see the water.

Then, as we began sketching out our adventure and researching Milwaukee a little further, it started to become clear that while House on the Rock was on the route home, Milwaukee may have been the real draw east. And once we got there and started poking our noses in places we realized we really wanted to go back and spend more time.

OK know how we'd sped through the day to get to Milwaukee before 4 and we hadn't really eaten anything? And know how things like bridges terrify me? And uh yeah, overpasses are really just bridges spanning land rather than water? And also? You know that I am usually filled with free-floating anxiety and prone to occasionally becoming an irrational loon - especially when I'm hormonal?

Here's what you don't know. That first morning - Smith Center, KS - I woke up to discover I'd slept pretty wrong on my neck. My neck was stiff and just got worse across Nebraska and Iowa. So after that second night, turning my head to the right wasn't much of an option - not without a sharp intake of breath and an exclamation of "OW!" anyway.

Also, downtown Milwaukee has an actual mousetrap (putting the Denver I-25/I-70 interchange to shame) of eleventy-billion highways and interstates converging in a snarled mass of overpasses and underpasses snaking around and around each other with death-defying lane shifts.

Additionally, Acr0nym has a habit of keeping himself well distracted with gadgets and gear when driving. I don't ever mind this when we're driving about Denver because I trust him and his driving (even when he curb checks) and know he knows Denver perhaps better than I do.

So when we left Northern Chocolate Co and took a side trip to find a particular pen store on the northwest side of town, my neck hurt badly, my blood sugar was at sub-basement levels, my bridge phobia had been activated, I was high anxiety from the Brewers game traffic compounded by mass confusion of unfamiliar city streets...and was four PMS-filled days out from my period. Sweet.

It should come as NO surprise then when the irrational loon stepped in before Infinitely Wise Jane could stop her to, rather harshly, tell Acr0nym to stop fiddling with his phone and pay attention to the road of which he'd begun to swerve off into oncoming traffic. He swiftly pulled off the road and threw the car in park and I was afraid then that I'd just started a fight when I hadn't meant to. I was going to be very sad at this moment.

And he started to chuckle. "Yeah. You're right. I'm so used to doing this back home I wasn't thinking about the fact that we're in a strange town on unfamiliar streets."

I would like to state now, for the record, I love Acr0nym! I'd also like to state now, for the record, that I'm sorry (again) that I snapped like a turtle...or a pencil...or a new piece of squeaky chalk.

Truthfully, with the exception of the mini Statue of Liberty (because no really, who shoots the fucking Statue of Liberty?!), that was the one awful moment that could have tarnished the trip at all. And we made it through easily...mostly because of his compassion.

OK! That was my big confession. On to Calatrava!

We headed back down toward the Lake front, looking for any sign of something called a "Calatrava". We didn't know precisely what we were looking for but, as you may recall, Jim had assured us - and once one has met Jim, one tends to believe what he says - we'd know it when we saw it.

Ahead, we saw a sign for the Milwaukee Art Museum. And then? Then we saw this...

Milwaukee Art Museum - architect Santiago Calatrava *laughing*

It was then that we realized a Calatrava isn't a what, it's a who. I, for one, would be a bit embarrassed to realize later that it was Santiago Calatrava who had been selected to design the expansion and re-development of Denver International Airport a year earlier and who, the day before we'd be standing in front of his design at the Milwaukee Art Museum, had announced he was terminating his involvement with the project in Denver. An interesting and odd connection to home.

We parked the Intrepid at Veteran's Park where there was a kite festival - the last festival of the season - taking place.

Kite Festival - Veteran's Park, Lake Michigan, Milwaukee

We walked down the path along the water, Acr0nym snapping picture upon picture upon picture...mostly of duck butts for our friend, Mama Sammich, back home.

Duck butt...DUCK BUTT!!!

And, of course, Hans hamming it up on the lake...

Hans Gothwökkit on the shore of Lake Michigan...he's such a ham!

And more of the Calatrava because the building is really, truly remarkably stunning...

Milwaukee Art Museum from a distance

Inside the Milwaukee Art Museum, a wedding reception was getting ready to be held

We spent about an hour on the water before my neck, foot (I still suffered from plantar fasciitis, after all, which mostly didn't bug me during the trip but, on that day, I'd chosen poorly my footwear) and blood sugar started to veritably scream at me to STOP! Do something about all this!

We got back in the car and, using the nifty GPS "find restaurants" feature, headed into downtown Milwaukee for whatever we might find.

First? We tried to find a steakhouse. We were still, of course, pining for the steaks we'd missed in Omaha. But the pub we wanted was a madhouse of Saturday revelry and road construction. We then decided German food was a viable option. But we couldn't find parking. When we happened across Molly Cool's Seafood Tavern and an actual parking lot adjacent to it though, I told Acr0nym to stop. I'd gladly, joyously pay the $15 to park as long as it meant the potential of great seafood and a bathroom were in my very near future.

Oh, Readers! This was most certainly one of my top 5 memories of this incredibly wonderful trip! It turns out, the Milwaukee River (who knew there was a river in Milwaukee???) runs right through downtown and there is a riverwalk along it. There are also drawbridges and riverfront properties and restaurants - including Molly Cool's - along its banks.

We sat out on the uncovered patio right on the river where they allowed patrons to smoke (Wisconsin has a 100% smoking ban in all public establishments...but excludes uncovered patios YES!). We watched the drawbridges go up and down and the weekend pleasure cruisers take their private boats along the river while their passengers consumed cocktails and called to the diners and pedestrians in friendly banter.

Not a great picture but, if you zoom in, you'll see a bridge going down as the next one is going up.
Acr0 would order the Fisherman's Platter and I would order the salmon BLT (4 oz of grilled Atlantic salmon topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and wasabi mayo) with a side of bleu cheese-stuffed potato cakes.

You heard me. Bleu cheese-stuffed potato cakes. I am, right now, salivating and a little weepy recalling the exquisite taste of said potato cakes. Hold on a sec, I have to post to Acr0nym's Facebook to tell him he has to take me back to Milwaukee for potato cakes. Right. Now.

OK. Done.

We splurged financially, hard-core, on this meal. We ordered top shelf cocktails and unbelievable food. We savored every moment of the atmosphere, the novelty, the beauty of the location, every morsel - figuratively and literally. We both sighed with satisfaction and contentment again...and again. The financial payout was worth the soul-satisfying smack of deliciousness on every level.

I think this might have been the moment we both decided we would be back...and soon.

Milwaukee? We love you. I think I can speak for Acr0nym in that sentiment. We truly truly fell in love with you that night.

After supper, we'd head off into the sunset to find a place to sleep.

Those of you who are a fan of motels will know this isn't an easy task in a metropolitan area. It's imperative to stay away from the motels within the "big city" limits for they are, largely, crack motels. But! If you get outside the city limits, one can typically find a halfway decent place to stay that isn't rat/cockroach/bedbug infested and not occupied (mostly) by meth-heads and crack addicts.

We'd find what we were looking for at the Embassy Motel in Franklin, WI. Certainly not the best we'd stay in (it was pretty bad...but at $50 with tax a night, who's complaining?) but most definitely the least scary of our Milwaukee options...never mind the bathroom sink that would start to run every time one of us flushed the toilet. It was clean. It was quiet. It was cheap...

And it was relatively close to Club ? (or Club Anything as they call it locally). And that, Lovely Readers, was important to us that night.

Because it was Saturday night. And what do Acr0nym and I do on Saturday nights? We go to the local goth club and...We. Get. Loaded.

Milwaukee? Was no exception.

1 comment:

The Shiftless Wanderer said...

Don't you love those serendipitous finds and revelations? Loving these road trip posts!

Also, plugged your blog in my posting today. :-) So glad that I've found it.