Sunday, November 7th, 2004
We pulled out of Milwaukee this morning headed for Sammy’s parents’ cottage in the Upper Peninsula, the second part of this, our third major car trip this autumn. Sammy’s doing the math as we head out of Escanaba, comfortable that we’ll arrive in time to be of some help to her parents. “Ooh, what’s that?” she asks, pointing off to the right…oh. It’s a mosquito. A big, four-foot, very detailed mosquito sculpture mounted on what looked like a shipping container, there without comment or notice on the side of the road. That tells you one of the things the U.P. folk like to joke about, when they aren’t cracking wise about accents or snowmobiles or, of course, the weather.
The weather has, indeed, been terrific so far, and although there are some grey clouds hovering over Lake Michigan, we’re in the sunshine and we have been, albeit with a cool, stiff wind, most of this trip.
The mission of our first leg—stopping in Milwaukee, was the birthday celebration—okay, the fiftieth birthday celebration, of our good friend Deb, who comments here occasionally and much more frequently (and interestingly) over at nancynall.com. We had a great time, socializing, visiting, and eating Thai food—not quite the indigenous cuisine of a south Milwaukee suburb.
We had a little time on Saturday to take a tour of Milwaukee’s last national mass-market brewery (although since Miller is now owned by a South Africa conglomerate, Milwaukee folks are a little less boosterish about the one-time ‘champagne of bottled beers.’) It was interesting to me because it remains a tour of an actual working place that makes something, as opposed to those companies that now that offer fake assembly lines or mini-theme parks to tourists, along with the obligatory gift shop. (That might have been a trend pioneered by the Universal Studios tour, which surprised me in the 1970s by how little it was, in fact, a tour of Universal Studios.)
We also wandered around the Milwaukee Art Museum, which is this great modernist thing, a bright white sailing ship with unfolding wings, perched on the shores of Lake Michigan (where, by the way, it is cooler.) The art museum gives the downtown of Milwaukee a connection to the lakefront that, on a sunny day at least, is quite pleasant.
The other thing we’re having a chance to do on this trip is to commiserate with friends about the outcome of the Presidential election, which, to say the least, didn’t go our way. At Deb’s party, one newspaper reporter talked about the excruciating assignment of covering a Kerry would-be victory rally that started out awash in hope and ended in pain…and I suppose that would be the story for either side in a contest this polarized, nasty, and portentious. Kerry’s unification concession was inspiring, but the ill health of the chief justice and the tenor of George W’s press conference (his first in about three centuries, I think) leads me to believe that his wild spending spree of political capital will be painful for us to finance, and not just in monetary terms.
As I type, we’re rolling around the Big Bay de Noc (Lake Michigan by any other name) and the greying skies are now setting impossibly white snow flurries adrift across the hood of our car! Yes, we’ve gone from a warmish morning to a snowy but still—barely—sunshiny afternoon.
And one last change as we pull into Manistique, Michigan…it’s sleet that’s skittering across the road, as some last shafts of light come in from the west. Sammy looks north, away from the lake, and says “ten miles that way and it’s probably nice.”
We’ve arrived in the Upper Peninsula in November. What did we expect?