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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Milwaukee

I had the whirlwind car tour of Milwaukee yesterday with my DC neighbor's sister. She covered a lot of ground with just a few stops, but the Milwaukee Art Museum was one of them. It is a stunning building right on Lake Michigan that is meant to resemble a ship at sail. Colleen thinks that the inside space is what heaven would look like. Incredible light and a huge, open space with a Calder at the entrance. I was quite impressed.

Jan and Pat Reed are the next door neighbors you would request in the closing documents if you could. Bill and I consider ourselves quite fortunate. Over the past 5 years, we have come to know their family, most of whom live in Milwaukee, and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting them in their homes and going out to dinner at Jan's favorite pizza place, Balistreri's plus having custard creme at Leon's. Ron and Nancy, Jan's parents live in the quietest neighborhood ever and I slept like a baby. Naturally, I wish that I could stay longer. I am developing a list of places that I need to return to. This was just reconnaissance.

I am tempted to drive into Chicago today, a city I have never visited except for its airport. However, I would like to see Katy before bedtime, so I will get my cash ready for the toll roads and go around. Illinois and Indiana are two more states to add to my list, which may total to 23 or more when I get home. I am going to count DC as a state, folks! My license plate, which reads "No taxation without representation", is good for conversation starters at rest stops.

Speaking of rest stops, I had a really nice visit with a groundskeeper at the Blue Ocean Eastbound Rest Station in Minnesota, just west of Rochester. Lou owns a farm nearby but his sons are running it now so they told him to go get himself a job. He works at the rest station 12 hours a week. After he gave me a peek at the engine of his John Deere, he regaled about farming, weather, nearby cities and more. We briefly touched on Sarah Palin but I was pretty sure he saw her a little differently than I so we moved on to his neighbor's farm.

I have to admit to not listening to the news at all during this trip. I have a vague awareness of what's going on: floods, muslim monuments, Padres ahead of the Giants. I know that I'll get completely filled in on the political spectrum when I get into the car with Mr. Gilmore. I'll start reading the NY Times and listening to NPR. I'll go out for Mexican food with Jan and Pat and their "blue" friends. I'll read Garrett Epp's (Eugene friend now living in DC) informative and erudite postings in The Atlantic and the Register Guard and I'll invite him over for dinner.

OK. I have been at a VW dealer while the Jetta got its 10,000 mile check up. Everything is good to go and I am back on the road, folks.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Leaving the West


I had a faint hint of humidity last night in Mitchell, South Dakota (home of the Corn Palace). I am about to cross that invisible line and dip back into Eastern weather. My friends have all been talking about how hot it's been from Oregon to Montana and I'm , like, well, it feels pretty damn good to me. Today I hope to make another 8+ hour drive and make it to Milwaukee. I did it yesterday from Dayton, WY where I stayed with the oldest, dearest friends Bill and I share together. David McDougall basically introduced us in 1972. Dave has recently moved to Wyoming because he became an avid fly fisherman and fell in love with the Big Horns. His main avocation, however, has always been as an artist and I was fortunate to be able to see a show of his at a local museum. As you can see from this photo, his frames are as interesting as his paintings. Here is a link to the museum - http://www.bradfordbrintonmemorial.com/Images/Mcdougall/Mcdougall.html

The day before, I spent most of my time in Broadus gleaning information about my family and actually found the old homestead, which is a working ranch that has been owned by the same family since my great uncle sold it many years ago. I was awed to stand on the same land as my father must have every summer when he came out to work for Uncle Bud. Besides herding sheep, Dad helped Bud out in the general store he owned in Broadus. The family name is Serruys (Belgian) and I helped correct the spelling with the curator at the museum. I met all the retired men who gather at the local cafe every Friday morning (The Liar's Club) and visited with a retired vet on his ranch, near the old homestead. I learned about the town from the motel clerk and the people at the museum and came away feeling that I had been in a very rich place for history and for community. I would like to take my sister there.
Driving from Wyoming and then through South Dakota on a very hot, windy day I went through dry hills and then flat farmland where there were a lot of sunflower fields, some wheat and corn and lots of very small towns with terrible grocery stores (I just can't find the crackers that I like) and the same cafes serving the same steaks and hamburgers. The beer on tap is Bud Light, period. Better fare in Milwaukee? I think so.
Bill is meeting me in Columbus, where Katy is just packing up to move to NYC. He's going to drive me home on Friday. I've started imagining that I'm in my own bed and that I don't have to haul the frickin' bags in and out and try to keep some clothes wearable and keep the cooler in ice and not use my cell phone until 9:00 pm so I don't go over my minutes. I'm pretty sure I'll be sailing over the weekend. There are not many things about this trip I would go back and change. It's been wonderful but home is starting to look real good.