"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On the trail of cheese and beer...and another birthday

For my 48th Birthday I decided I wanted to take a cheese and beer trip through a good portion of Wisconsin, plus a little dip down into Iowa to check off a bucket-list item.

Saturday, April 18 - We flew to Chicago via a cheap Southwest flight along with our friends, Danny and Brenda, who were gracious enough to tag along for the trip. We drove northwest into Wisconsin from there with a stop for Chicago dog as a late lunch just before we left Illinois.
Our first stop in Wisconsin was at Baumgartner's Cheese Store and Tavern in the lovely town of Monroe.
We had a good cheese plate and some local beers during our stop.  The friendly gal at the counter even let us try some stinky Limburger cheese on the way out.  They are only one of two places in the U.S. that produce it.  Supposedly it's good if you don't smell it while you eat it, but we all agreed it pretty much tasted like the floor of a cow barn nonetheless.  Yuck!!  Thank goodness for the mint chocolate chaser!  However, the horseradish cheddar and pepper-jack we bought were outstanding.
Our first night was spent in the quaint town of Mineral Springs.  And we do mean quaint, the whole freakin' town is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  We had rooms reserved at the Brewery Creek Inn and Pub, a beautifully restored stone warehouse originally built in 1854.  Dinner in the pub that night and the complimentary breakfast the next morning were extremely good.  Thanks to Ashlee for finding the article about this  wonderful place a good while ago. 
Sunday, April 19 - About an hour away from Mineral Point, we dipped down into Iowa (check another state of the list for me - only 4 left) and visited the movie site of the 1989 classic, Field of Dreams.  Despite a forecast of rainy weather, we arrived with perfect conditions and only a few other people there.  We had the place pretty much to ourselves and made the most of it by sitting in the bleachers soaking up some rays, playing some pitch and catch on the field, and just generally goofing around.  This place has been on my Bucket List for a while and it was definitely worth the visit.
Field of  Dreams time warp:  Yep, that's Danny pitching, Danny on first base, Ashlee playing second, Brenda at shortstop, and Danny, again, at third base??  Ah, the marvel of panoramic pictures on the I-Phone.  Danny looks a little winded there on first base for some reason, doesn't he?  
We stopped for a late lunch on our way back into Wisconsin at the nice brewpub at the historic Potosi Brewery (established in 1852)  in the tiny town of the same name.  The food and beer served were good stuff, and their on-site National Brewing Museum was pretty impressive. 
OK, these ConAgra GMO's are getting out of hand!
Our second night of lodging was in the small town of Shelby right outside LaCrosse, Wisconsin, at the converted 1917 one-room Wilson Schoolhouse which is now an inn.  We had the whole place to ourselves with a large living area and kitchen upstairs and two bedrooms downstairs.  We grabbed some local pizza for dinner and our friends, Laurie and Derek, who live nearby come over with lots of local beer and we had a great evening just hanging out in this very cool little place.
Monday, April 20 - Happy Birthday to Me!!  We swung through La Crosse the next morning to get a look at The World's Largest Six-Pack at City Brewing.  We then spanned the Mississippi River to the west and visited Minnesota, albeit very briefly, before heading back east toward Milwaukee where we would spend our third and last night of the trip.
It seemed like each night our lodging on this trip became more and more interesting.  When we got to Milwaukee we checked in to the amazing Brewhouse Inn and Suites Hotel which is housed in the former Pabst Brewery established back in 1844.  These guys have put a lot of thought into this place including  the check-in desk made of more than 1,500 beer bottles.  This is easily one of the neatest and nicest places we have ever stayed in.
Room 306 is a beautiful two-bedroom suite and was our home for the night. It was amazing.
Yep, those are the "beer doors" to our bedroom
The mezzanine of The Brewhouse Inn and Suites is comprised of the brewery's original huge copper brew kettles and  some amazingly cool furniture.  This is one hotel worth hanging out in.

At one end of the mezzanine is the original huge two-story stained glass rendering of King Grambinus, the patron saint of beer and brewing, that was commissioned by Frederick Pabst himself.
Love the brewery and hotel, but don't care for Pabst products, so we headed to dinner at the nearby Horny Goat Brewing Company.  Their beer was impressive, but their food was outstanding including the biggest pretzel we've ever seen.

After dinner, we headed over to beautiful Miller Park to catch a baseball game between the hometown Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds.  Weather be damned, this beauty has a retractable roof that can close in 10 minutes.
With the roof closed, Miller Park has a nice, cozy feel to it.  We had sweet fourth row seats down the 3rd base line and saw the Reds pull away from the Brew Crew by a score of 6-1 including a 2-run dinger by Joey Votto that sailed right above us.

We had prime seats to witness the famous Racing Sausages (yes, that name is trademarked) in the sixth-inning of all home Brewers games.  We were pulling for the chorizo, but he didn't win, place or show. Also during the game, one of the most hilarious (and kinda weird) coincidences I have ever witnessed or been a part of happened when a "Happy Birthday" announcement was flashed on the jumbo-tron of the stadium for "Rob."  And it just happened to be my birthday as well?  Of course, I have had a hard time explaining to Ashlee who "Maryellen and the kids" are!!  Thanks to Danny for quickly and alertly snapping this great picture.  And thanks to Maryellen and the kids for the sentiment.

Tuesday, April 21 -  We quickly realized that we had not planned near enough time in the lovely lake-front city of Milwaukee.  But, before leaving for our afternoon flight back down in Chicago, we were able to look around a little downtown despite some cold temperatures (it actually sleeted a little while we there).  Our first stop was the Bronze Fonz down on the Milwaukee Riverwalk.  Since he's bronze, his once-blue jeans have oxidized to green, but other than that he's as cool as they get.

We had lunch around the corner at The Safe House (aka International Exports, Ltd.) which is one of the neatest places we've ever been too (thanks Derek and Laurie for the suggestion!).  The whole place is spy-themed including the entrance being rather hard to find down a little alley.  Sometimes you even need a password to even get in the place.  Luckily, it was early and we were spared the need for a password or having to do something silly to get in without one.  The place is huge with tons of little rooms full of cool memorabilia and oddities.  The food was spot-on as well.

On our way out we drove by the amazing Milwaukee Art Museum (aka The Calatrava) on the lakefront.  We have definitely got to come back here with warmer temps and explore more of this wonderful city.
Another Milwaukee drive-by was the beautiful North Point Lighthouse.  Perched high up on a ridge above the city, this beauty was not open for a tour (nor did we have time for one), but is another reason to return to Brew City as soon as we can.
Overall, a really outstanding trip.  We saw and experienced a lot in a short amount of time.  Thanks again to Ashlee for going along with my silly trip ideas, and to Danny and Brenda for coming along and adding to the fun.  We will see you again, Wisconsin.  I am sure of it.

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