Aug. 19 2015

Driving Across Canada Day 10: Thunderstorms in Milwaukee

Here is a sample of some of the roadsigns between Indiana Dunes National Park and Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

[white_box]”You can loose weight. Call NOW for your free bariatric surgery consultation”, “When you die you will meet God, Call 1-888-TRUTH”, “ADULT SUPERSTORE NEXT EXIT!”, Personal Injury Lawyer, Personal Injury Lawyer, Personal Injury Lawyer, “$10 Tuesdays at Polecats”, “Just Because I’m Not Born, Doesn’t Mean I’m Not a Person”, MARS CHEESE CASTLE, Pornography Destroys Love, “Got GOD?”[/white_box]

I couldn’t make this stuff up; I’m from Nova Scotia and am more used to seeing things like, “Lobster Dinner at Exit 5”.  If the people here are as crazy as the roadside ads then they are hiding it very well, because Rob and I had an awesome day in Milwaukee which included meeting lots of nice and not (observably) crazy people.

Getting to the mid-west was fun. I had been there for the first time a couple months ago at Bloghouse and was excited to show Rob around. Milwaukee is a super cool place.

Milwaukee Public Market

Numero uno. We got in around 11am and wanted to grab some food before heading over to the art museum to watch the wings flap (you’ll see what I mean in a second) at 12pm.

Last time I was here I tried Thainamite, which was great (they have deep fried sushi). This time, I opted for the Salmon, Bacon and Spinach sandwich from the St. Paul Fish Company. It was the thing everyone talked about eating the last time I was in town. It took them about 10 minutes to make (I think because the lunch rush hadn’t really started yet, and it was a Monday), but it was worth the wait.

Look at this.


That spinach is sautéed. They don’t fuck around.

Rob’s clam chowder was also really good (I am the girlfriend that eats all your food).  I also had a cappuccino from Anodyne‘s booth in the market. Highly recommend; not only am I a tea snob, but I like good coffee to. These guys are up to par.

Milwaukee Art Museum

The last time I was in town I never got to see the famous ‘wings’ on the building flap, although I did take lots of pictures, where you can see the wings  are open. The ‘wings’ are an architectural feature, giant sunscreens that can open and close. They open when the museum opens, flap at noon, and closewhen the museum closes. We planned to be there to see the noon flap.

We entered the museum and made our way up to the second level via the exterior stairs and bridge that lead over to Juneau Park for the best view of the museum.


When we got up to the park, it was about 11:50am, but we noticed the wings were already down. ”Hmm. Did we miss it?”

The skies to the north were dark.

Very dark.

“Maybe this is just the first part of the flap, they close them… then open them?”

From far away, we started to hear the sound, like dried beans being poured down a sieve.

When the wall of rain and thunder hit us, we realized why they had closed the flaps early. The rain hit so hard and sudden, that when I moved a second later there was a dry shadow of my body on the concrete where we were standing.


We ran to a nearby shelter with another guy caught in the rain. After a few minutes of waiting, we decided to make a run for the museum.

Honestly, we could have just walked; we were supersaturated with water when we made it inside that it wouldn’t have been possible to be any wetter.

Here’s where Milwaukee’s niceness shines through! One of the museum staff came up to us and said he saw us running in, and that he’d be right back with some towels we could use to dry ourselves off with. He suggested we could warm up with a tea at the indoor café. Great idea!


Soaked at the Café Calatrava.

We dried off, got us some internet, and then decided to buy tickets to the Modern Rebels special exhibit at the museum. It was being advertised the last time I was in town but hadn’t opened yet.


Modern Rebels showcases artists who broke the mold. Van Gogh to Pollock is the show’s subtitle; it begins with the pre-WWI French school and follows the subsequent movement of the art capital from France to New York as the war broke out.

Intriguingly, we noticed with the sample of works presented in this exhibition, that the canvasses became substantially larger once the artists move to NYC. American upsizing?

It was chilling to see Jackson Pollock’s ‘Convergence’ up close (as seen in the photo above), but the painting that struck me the most was actually Femme retroussant sa chemise (Woman Lifting Her Chemise) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.


[white_box]A fixture in the bustling Paris nightlife scene, Toulouse-Lautrec painted what he and his friends experienced. And for a time, he lived in brothels. The artist befriended the women who worked there, such as the prostitute here, pictured dutifully lifting her garment, and often portrayed them as human beings rather than as sexual objects: “I have tried to do what is true and not ideal.”[/white_box]

I’m intrigued by this idea of T-L being kind of like an early fine-art journalist, using his brush to capture reality. Like a photojournalist today would get to know their subjects before shooting them, T-L did the same of his subjects.

People might argue, ‘But it can’t be reality, because it’s a painting. Photography is truthful because it captures reality exactly as it is in front of you.‘ This is one of the arguments that held people’s imagination when photography was first invented.

The thing is: camera angles can change a story and there are a million ways to fool a viewer. To this day ethical debate rages on about this in the journalism community. And of course it all centers around our idea of ‘what is reality?’ and ‘What is truth?’.  Even without Photoshop, there is a huge spectrum of what you can do with a camera.  All you have to do to confirm that is look at some of Salvador Dali’s photography work.

After seeing this, I think modern photojournalists could benefit from reviewing more fine art journalism of the past. I know I plan to.

Most of the works used in this exhibit came from the Albright-Knox Contemporary Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. If you can’t make it out to Milwaukee, maybe Buffalo is an easier visit.

Art brain satisfied and thunderstorms cleared, we headed back on the road and enjoyed the appropriately painterly clouds as we headed away from Milwaukee and on to our next camp site.




Day Lake Campground in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

A word of advice: bring cash!



A lot of National Parks require self-registration. This means showing up without a reservation and leaving cash in envelopes in cute little locked boxes and then driving onto your site, without talking to any actual people.  The same sometime goes for firewood.

There was almost no one at this park. We saw one neighbour, and heard a bike at one point, but that was it. All that could be heard besides that were loon calls and the creak and shriek of the water pump when one of us went to fill our canteens.

As a city person it can be a bit eerie, even hair-raising to be out in the middle of nowhere.  I encourage you to try it.


My office, feat. laptop and wood axe.


Here we have a great lowbrow-highbrow combination. Campfire beans with matcha Kit Kats for dessert. Mmmm.

Despite feeling like there was no one around, there was a charming gas station/general store and bar about a ten minute drive out of the park. We stopped to use the ATM at the bar, and admired the “No concealed firearms” sign.

Day 10 Costs:

  • US Highway Tolls around Chicago: $3.30 USD
  • Milwaukee Public Market Parking: .25c USD (already money in the meter; sweet!)
  • Cappuccino from Anondyne: $3 USD
  • Salmon, Bacon, Spinach Sandwich from St. Paul’s: $13.75 USD
  • Cookie, Chips and Juice at MAM: $5.57 USD
  • Coffee and Tea at MAM: $4.00 USD
  • 2 Adult MAM “Modern Rebels” Exhibit Tickets: $28.00 USD
  • MAM Parking: $7.00 USD
  • Gas outside of Oshkosh: $43.19 USD
  • Two Drinks, Two Snacks, Gas Station: $6.45 USD
  • Groceries at Family Dollar, Park Falls, WI: $13.45 USD
  • Firewood: $5.00 USD
  • Clam Lake Campsite, 1 Night: $14.00 USD

Total: $147.01