Thursday, August 1, 2013

Wisconsin...America's Dairyland

That's the state motto, and it says so right on their license plates.  I had never been to Wisconsin in my life, and now I've been twice in the past two weeks.  On my first trip, I drove across the entire state from Minneapolis, MN to Milwaukee.  That trip took me from the upper, western border down to the lower, eastern border on Lake Michigan.  On this trip, I flew into Green Bay and have driven north up to the border of the upper Michigan peninsula.  That pretty much covers the entire state of Wisconsin, save for the northernmost region on Lake Superior. 

It's a beautiful state with lush, green farms and an abundance of rivers and lakes.  And cows...lots and lots of cows!  I guess if you are going to be America's dairyland, you've got to have the livestock to back up the claim...and they definitely do.  They also make famous cheese, and I've tried lots of it on my visits.  I had cheese curds, a local specialty, for the first time today.  I think they're the leftover byproduct after cheese is pressed into blocks for sale.  They're little nuggets of cheesy goodness that are chewy, a bit salty, and can be eaten plain or deep fried.  And they're on every menu in Wisconsin as far as I can tell.  Definitely a local favorite!

Today I was in a local Menominee restaurant for lunch and the waitress asked me what part of the South I was from. 
I said, "Was it trying to order sweet iced tea or my accent that gave me away?"
"Well," she replied, "those were definite hints, but it was the 'yes mam' and 'no mam' that really gave you away.  That's a southern thing."
I guess that's true, and Tanya has told me the same thing many times...the use of "mam" and "sir" is a southern thing that you don't hear as often in other parts of the country.  Maybe so, but it's one of those things so ingrained in me that I don't even think about doing it.  I love traveling all around, and I like to consider myself a citizen of the world, but I guess I'm a southern girl through and through...and there's no hiding it!

Here are some pics from my travels around Wisconsin...

This is the beautiful little town of Hudson on the St. Croix River, right across the Minnesota border.
This is the First Unitarian Meeting House in Madison, WI.  It was designed by one of its members, Frank Lloyd Wright.

This is the inside of the sanctuary.  A camera just can't capture the beauty of the way light fills this space.
Gotta love the Unitarians!  A beautiful sentiment, so simply stated.

This is the walkway around the addition to the church.  The addition was added after Wright's death, but they did a wonderful job of keeping the same qualities of organic design and lots of natural light.
This is inside the Wisconsin Cheese Shop in Milwaukee.  My friend Margo, a Wisconsin native, once told me that Wisconsin cows were fashionable cows.  She was dressed in a cow costume and high heels at the time (long story), but apparently she wasn't kidding!

This is along the River Walk in Milwaukee.

I'm just strolling along the river and who do I bump into...the Fonz!

This is the Milwaukee Art Museum.  Spectacular architectural design!  One of the most interesting buildings I have ever seen.  Those wings at the top span 217 feet across and they fold and unfold twice daily.  It's hard to tell in this photo, but the walkway across the street is a suspension bridge.

This is the museum from the Lake Michigan side.  Amazing design...just beautiful.
This sign in a Milwaukee stairwell made me laugh out loud.  I agree - prowling should be totally frowned upon.  I'm glad Milwaukee City Ordinance 106-31 is taking care of that.

Wisconsin is filled with these little dive restaurants that serve butter burgers and frozen custards.  In most towns I visited, locals were divided about which one was the best and people were passionate about their favorite.  In Marinette, this little joint, Mickey Lu's, was one of the local favorites.  Don't be fooled by the BBQ sign.  They don't have what we southerners consider BBQ (something slow smoked, usually involving a pig, with a tasty dry rub or sauce).  I've found that up north, BBQ just means cooked on a grill.  I'm not sure why they can't just call that "grillin" like we do and avoid the confusion.  I went in, but did not end up eating here.  They don't serve any sides, not even fries.  And the burgers only come with a pat of butter and a pickle on them.  No lettuce, no mayo, no tomato, etc.  As the waitress explained to me, they are "burger purists."  That's fine, but no matter how good a patty you make I want mine with some condiments and a side of fries, or onion rings, or slaw, or something. 
To be fair, this is the marina on Lake Michigan in Menominee, Michigan, not Wisconsin.  But it's just across the bridge from Marinette, WI.

Another shot of Lake Michigan.


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