Traveling through Chicago to get to the East coast of Wisconsin is not a whole lot of fun. But once through, the trip was delightful and filled with new adventures.
We were traveling toward Racine, WI to fulfill a desire of my dear wife who has a love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. FLW had designed some houses there, and also a corporate headquarters facility for S.C. Johnson Company. The tours of the headquarters and home of S.C. Johnson were free and truly enjoyable. There were a lot of innovations in the design of the corporate offices of S.C. Johnson which gave the facility a modern feel then as well as now. If you’re in the Racine area, head on over and take a look. A reservation to see the offices and home is not required but is recommended and can be scheduled at this link, but you can also just walk in and schedule that reservation as well.
We left Racine and traveled North UP the coast until we were stopped in our tracks for an hour or so as a violent storm passed almost directly overhead. We took refuge beside the back wall of a Walmart to avoid getting pelted with any hail that might come with the storm. After about an hour we were able to once again make our way North. But as we did, there was lots of evidence that the storm had passed ahead of us when we began to see the downed trees. We also learned later that the storm crossed over Lake Michigan and pelted the West coast area of Michigan with similar results.
Continuing North along Interstate 43 and on as many smaller roads as possible that were closer to the shore, we stopped at such delightfully-named coastal cities as Whitefish Bay, Port Washington, Oostburg, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, and Kewaunee, before heading up into the “thumb” of Wisconsin. Highway 42 took us up to Sturgeon Bay, where we saw ships being built and got our first taste of cheese curds (they grow on you! Well… they don’t actually “grow” on you), before heading up to the tip of the peninsula at Gills Rock, where we bought a succulent smoked whitefish for our picnic supper, then drove back down the north side to Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The next day we stopped at the city of Peshtigo, WI where we learned of the great fire there that took place at exactly the same time as the great Chicago fire and killed five times as many people. The whole town of Peshtigo was burned to the ground and most of the townspeople were killed. It was a sobering reality to us of how we don’t know the future and must always be ready for our time here on this earth to conclude.
We spent the evening and most of the next day in the twin cities of Marinette, Wisconsin and Menominee, Michigan, working on our computers and just relaxing in an incredibly lovely area along the Menominee River, which forms the border between Wisconsin and Michigan.
After spending the night in Marinette, we crossed back into our native state and headed AROUND the top of Lake Michigan through the Upper Peninsula to make our way back DOWN into the mainland of Michigan across the Mackinac Bridge.
The U.P., as Yoopers call it, — (those who live in the U.P. are called “Yoopers” and those who reside South of the Mackinac Bridge are referred to as “Trolls”) — remains the most wild and natural area of the state. It is also the hilliest. Last year we drove along the north side, along Lake Superior. This year, we followed MI-35 and US-2 around the south side, through many miles of pure wilderness, with tiny hamlets so small that they often didn’t even have phone signal. The last Walmart we found was at Escanaba, where we spent the night, then made a long (for us) 250-mile day AROUND the bottom of the Upper Penisula and DOWN into the “mitten,” stopping for the night at Petoskey. Along the way, we again admired the beautiful Mackinac Bridge (or as Yoopers would say, “Da Bridge!”), and also took a new route, MI-119, along the top western part of the mitten. We were delighted to discover the “Tunnel of Trees” which was not what we expected for a shoreline road, but it was very lovely. Someday we’ll have to go back in the fall.
A short 50-mile trek the next morning took Bonnie “home” to Bellaire, where her father, George Gardner spent his boyhood, and where we are getting to know some of her relatives that she never met when a child, and reconnect with others she hadn’t seen for many years.