Wednesday, September 7, 2011
End of One Adventure, On to the Next Ones
While we could have followed the coast of Lake Michigan down to Milwaukee, we decided to stay 30-40 miles inland to see Lake Winnebago and then travel through Glacial Moraine State Park. Winnebago was only mildly interesting -- it's just a fairly big, more-or-less oval body of water from the west side we travelled down, lined by an unbroken string of modest homes. But our route did take us through Oshkosh. B'gosh, we were sorry to learn, you can no longer visit the famed maker of children's clothes -- blame it on insurance companies worried about slip-and-fall lawsuits, says one guidebook.
But Oshkosh is also home to the third-biggest UW campus, in this case UW standing for University of Wisconsin, not Washington. And therefore home to Cordelia and Michael, two professors at UW-Oshkosh, and their 2 children, Konrad and Zosia. We met them while waiting for the ferry to Washington Island at the top of the Door Peninsula, and by the time the boat had docked we had an invitation to stay with them. It will remain one of the special memories of this trip.
They have a large older home in a leafy part of town just blocks from Lake Winnebago. A faculty friend agreed to supervise a play date for Konrad and Zosia with his own kids of a similar age so we could start our visit with a gourmet lunch and adult conversation, followed by a six-mile bike tour of Oshkosh's park-filled lakefront. We then swung by to pick up the kids (Michael had pulled them there in a "child chariot" bike trailer, which stayed at the friend's home for our lunch and tour). Back home we chatted away the rest of the day and well into the evening, both couples fascinated with the other's life stories and life styles.
Cordelia's mother is Swiss, courted after the war by her American GI dad, who convinced her to come to our shores. Cordelia grew up speaking Swiss German and English, then later picked up High German and a degree in language acquisition. She now teaches German at the University.
We enjoyed fresh vegetables from Cordelia's garden that Michael cooked up into some delicious pizzas while telling us how he came to America from Poland as a teenager. His dad was active in Solidarity, which after some initial success was suppressed by the government of General Jaruzelski in the early 1980s. His family was "invited" to leave Poland. Michael now teaches international political science at UW-Oshkosh, a topic we think about a lot and have studied at the Jackson School of International Studies in our own UW, the University of Washington.
With hugs from the kids and a supply of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from Cordelia's garden, we left with promises to reunite in Seattle some time when we can stay still long enough for them to catch us at home.
Our last sightseeing was a visit to Glacial Drumlin State Park, which had a great sign explaining many of the landforms continental glaciers have left behind in Wisconsin and other northern states. We'd love to come back and spend more time exploring, but this time were too focused on getting to Milwaukee to do much more than observe a kame along the way followed by a relaxing picnic lunch at a small kettle pond, Mauthe Lake.
We had already done the boat tour of the Milwaukee River, pictured in a blog post two years back, so this time turned our attention to the previously overlooked MAM, the Milwaukee Art Museum. It is in a striking new building on Lake Michigan and had a lot of great art, particularly by German artists and/or about Germany. We'll share three with you: Working City, done by Herman Balushek in 1920, which we admired for its dynamism; an 1825 View of Danzig by Michael Carl Gregorovius for its historical view of this charming seaport now known as Gdansk; and Ernst Oehme's Meissen in Winter, painted in 1854, for the way it captures the cold of winter and the contrasting warmth of the room on the left with its Christmas tree showing through the window.
Two other paintings are really worth sharing with you, Jean-Leon Gerome's The Two Majesties and Gustave Caillebotte's Boating on the Yerres. The first was done in 1883 by a Salon painter, i.e. from the old school that was appalled by the Impressionists, the second actually six years earlier by one of those early Impressionist painters, complete with shimmering water. Although we are quite fond of the Impressionists, both paintings here are actually quite charming in their separate ways.
Our final day in Milwaukee saw us climbing on the bike one last time for a ride south of downtown on bike paths that at times gave us grand views of Lake Michigan and of the downtown cityscape. At the end of the ride we pulled into the Amtrak station and boxed up the tandem for the next day's trip to LA and one less thing to worry about before our 11 a.m. departure.
Alas, the red tandem will be somewhat neglected for a while. We're on our way to Los Angeles for a week's visit with Louise's son Brian, daughter Lisa and families, then a flight to Seattle for half a week's visit with good friends Steve and Janet, a train to Vancouver BC, and on September 17, embarkation on the Diamond Princess for a cruise through the Inland Passage of Alaska and on to Russia, Japan, South Korea and China. We will be visiting Jeff's son Matt and family in Dalian China, then spending another 6 weeks travelling by train all around that fascinating country. On November 22 we will be back in the LA area with a 5-week stay in Santa Monica, where our well-rested tandem will hopefully be happy to see us again.
Thanks for following our Midwest Meander, "talk" to you next from the left coast!