West Coast Tour 2016 – Milwaukee


Timeline: August 22-24

Kristen and Andrew’s wedding on the 20th was a highlight, bringing family together we’d not seen in a few years, and celebrating the marriage of two very nice people.  The next morning, we dropped Jessica and Kris off at the airport for their flight home and returned to the house, using the subsequent few hours to assemble the belongings that would accompany us west for the following two months.

Kristen and Andrew

Kristen and Andrew

With a 12-hour drive to Milwaukee in front of us, our original intent was to leave early in the evening that day and drive some number of hours, then find a rest area or truck stop to sleep for a few hours before pressing on.  After thinking about it a bit, we decided instead to get a good night’s sleep, so to speak, at the house, and leave around 3 am.

This proved to be what we needed, a little break, regardless of length, that let us decompress a bit after a week of pretty steady activity.  With most of our pre trip tasks accomplished we were able to meet the wedding party at 2pm in Huntersville at Red Rocks Café for a brunch that would be our meal of the day.  We split a bowl of She Crab Soup and the Pasta Provencal (Whole wheat penne pasta sautéed with fresh spinach, capers, roma tomatoes, broccoli, and fresh mozzarella in marinara sauce).  We added chicken to it to provide some protein and thoroughly enjoyed both dishes, the soup rich and full of crab, the pasta providing a bit of vegetables for a change of pace.


Brunch at Red Rocks

We bade farewell to family and friends outside the restaurant and returned home to watch a smattering of TV before turning in around 9pm with the alarm set for 3 am.  I woke up about 30 minutes before that and got up early, drinking a quick cup of coffee, unplugging appliances and readying the house for being vacant for a couple of months.  It put us on the road a little early, all good when one has a long drive ahead.

Home to Milwaukee

Home to Milwaukee

It would take us roughly 12 hours to get to Milwaukee, our first destination.  We made a couple of quick stops along the way, coffee and scone at a Starbucks, two for one chicken sandwiches at a McDonalds at lunchtime.  We arrived in town a bit before 5pm and went straight to our lodging for the next three nights, our Airbnb  reservation at Ashley and Chris’s place in Brookfield.  Very reasonably priced at $41 a night, we had our own bedroom and bathroom with good parking for the car.

After the long day’s drive, we weren’t eager to get back in the car and so took Ashley’s advice (one of the benefits of an Airbnb rental is the owner recommendations) and walked a half mile to Sluggo’s Sports Pub and Grill.  Joanna and I ordered a beer apiece (a Stella for me) and then split a delicious bowl of Chicken Poblano soup and a satisfyingly good Philly Cheese Steak (Thin sliced beef smothered with melted mozzarella cheese, onions and green peppers on a hoagie bun).

Sleep came easy that night and we awoke early, refreshed and ready for our day of sightseeing.  We drove into downtown Milwaukee, parked and walked a block to the Plankinton Building for our two hour walking tour with Historic Milwaukee.  One of the highlights of the tour was our stop at the Hilton Garden Inn in the historic Loyalty Building.

Plankinton Building Skylight

Plankinton Building Skylight

Converted to a hotel in 2012, it was built in 1886 and named after former tenant & insurance company the Loyalty Group and was originally the third headquarters for Northwestern Mutual until the company moved to their current home on E. Wisconsin Ave in 1914.

Stairwell and Skylight

Loyalty Building Stairwell and Skylight

Skylight and Ventilation

Skylight’s Role in Ventilation

Other stops included the Grain Exchange (Mackie Building), Pfister Hotel, Federal Building, and Gas Light Building with the tour ending lakefront at the Milwaukee Art Museum (designed by Santiago Calatrava).

Lobby of the Pfister Hotel

Lobby of the Pfister Hotel

Finished with the tour, we stopped to watch the noon time closing of the sail above the museum, the walked a block or two where some food trucks were parked.  We split a chicken burrito from a cart in front of the Federal Building, then returned to the car to drive down to the area of town known as the Historic Third Ward.  But we confused the GPS by referring to it as Old World Third Street and went there instead, just a few blocks away from where we had started.

Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum Sail

Closing in Progress

Closing in Progress

Fully Closed

Fully Closed

We parked and walked a few blocks checking out the neighborhood.  It’s adjacent to the downtown sports arena, the BMO Harris Bradley Center so the area is full of restaurants and bars.  Feeling a bit parched, we stopped in at the Old German Beer Hall, home to Munich’s Hofbräuhaus beer and swag.

Old German Beer Hall

Old German Beer Hall

We downed a beer apiece, and then drove over to Basilica Saint Josaphat. Formally dedicated in 1901 it is one of 62 minor basilicas found in the United States. In its grandeur and opulence, it is an excellent example of the so-called Polish Cathedral style of church architecture found in the Great Lakes region of North America.  Modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, it features one of the largest copper domes in the world, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated Milwaukee Landmark.

Basilica of Milwaukee

Basilica St. Josephat

During its construction, as the design neared completion, Father Wilhelm Grutza learned that the Federal Building in Chicago was being razed.  He purchased the 200,000 tons of salvage material for $20,000 and had it delivered to Milwaukee on 500 railroad flatcars, where parishioners were waiting to begin construction.  We are devoted patrons of churches while traveling.  Their beauty is refreshing and the cool, dark interiors provide moments of respite in a busy day.

Basilica Interior

During the day I’d been in touch with a former colleague of mine from Student Union days, Rick, now director at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  We agreed to meet at a micro-brewery he’d been keeping an eye on and was eager to visit, Black Husky Brewing before he would join his family at a Brewers game that night.  Rick was already there when we arrived, beer in hand and so we ordered one apiece and adjourned to the patio outside for a warm early evening of great conversation and good beer.

Black Husky Exterior

Black Husky Exterior

Partway through our first round the owner approached us and engaged us in an exchange about the brewery, their philosophy, and other matters of interest.  He picked up our next round, always a welcome treat and we enjoyed another period of time, soaking up the sun, until we’d finished up our beers and Rick had to make his way to the game.  Another one of those impromptu meet-ups engineered through the use of social media.

Rick and Joanna

Rick and Joanna

Joanna and I finally made our way down to the Historic Third Ward, parking in a lot near the heart of the district.  We walked around a bit, mostly in search of food as many of the shops we might have stopped at were closed.  We settled on the Milwaukee Ale House for dinner, a large venue which could seat us immediately.  It was packed for an event taking place in the bar; we would find out later it was to promote a film being released that day.

Milwaukee Ale House Exterior

Milwaukee Ale House Exterior

We ordered just the Wisconsin Fish Fry (battered cod, fries, coleslaw and house made tartar sauce) to split as Joanna wasn’t that hungry.  It and our beers were good, nothing extraordinary and not necessarily worth going out of our way for in the future.

MKE Interior

Ale House Interior

We made the drive back to Brookfield full of a long day and ready for bed.  The next day would bring a visit to the world of Pabst and dinner with Joanna’s cousins on her Dad’s side, people we’d not seen since 1984.  We had much to look forward to.



Red Rocks Café: http://redrockscafe.com/

Ashley and Chris: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/11984284?wl_source=list&wl_id=166075759&role=owner&sug=50

Sluggo’s: Sports Pub: http://sluggospubandgrill.com/

Historic Milwaukee: http://historicmilwaukee.org/walking-tours/

Plankinton Building: http://grandavenueshops.com/history/

Loyalty Building: http://urbanmilwaukee.com/building/hilton-garden-inn-downtown-milwaukee/

Old German Beer Hall: http://www.oldgermanbeerhall.com/

St Josaphat: http://thebasilica.org/

Black Husky Brewing: http://www.blackhuskybrewing.com/

Milwaukee Ale House: http://ale-house.com/


One comment

  1. Herr Angst · · Reply

    Ah, a glorious whiff of the heartland. The art museum is like the kinetic sculpture in Buenos Aires that opens with sunrise and folds with sunset. And Milwaukee! Home of American brews. What more could one want?

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