When I woke up this morning, I decided a Travelodge breakfast would not be satisfying, nor healthy. So I went back to sleep until about 9. I was soon ready to hit the road and head east toward Lake Michigan. Except the way the freeway goes, it was basically southeast, and I arrived in a suburb of Manitowoc called Two Rivers. The only reason I was interested in this place was that there is a historical building that is officially where the ice cream sundae was created in 1881. In this year, a patron of the soda shop attached to the hotel/saloon came in and, you guessed it, asked for some of the chocolate soda syrup poured over his ice cream. I felt I had to go get an ice cream sundae there, plus it was about 95 degrees so it was weather-appropriate. What wasn’t so appropriate was that the ice cream sundae was my lunch.
Along with the ice cream, I got a free tour (I wouldn’t have paid for it) – basically this hotel/saloon is a historical building and the rooms are filled with city history and some rooms are as they were.
A side note: a descendant of the town’s founder when to Northwestern, where she studied acting. In class one day, she met her future husband, Charleton Heston. He was from upper Michigan, and this place had lots of stories, their Christmas cards, etc. Kind of neat. Her family owned/built a huge wood factory right across the street, next to the water. A wood products (furniture) factory, I mean. They were the factory that made the first clothes dryer. It looked abandoned, but the building was really cool.
After this I drove south for several miles until I was getting hungry. My Yelp app pointed me to a coffee shop/cafe with good reviews, in Sheboygan. I’d heard that name but didn’t know anything about it. It’s just a regular midwest city, but it was a really pretty waterfront. Anyway, I got an iced americano and a Greek salad. The place was called the Weather Center Cafe (??) and had the feeling of a coffee shop – just that lots of people were eating meals, too. It was locally-owned.
Side note: Bratwurst is legendary here. They are everywhere!
Further south, I stopped at a Costco for gas, in the city of Grafton. The city looked really nice! I wonder how affluent it is. I can surely say that if I moved to WI, I would choose Madison or Grafton. I must say, though…there was an unusual smell in the air there, but it wasn’t necessarily unpleasant. At the time, I associated it with the smell of the rubber tires are made of (not burning rubber!). Hmm, odd.
Right about this time, it was 4pm and I looked online for the address of my hotel, a Motel 6 about 15-20 miles west of Milwaukee. I noticed it could be cancelled until 6pm, so I said “what the heck…” and checked priceline to see if there were any last minute deals. For those of you who know about my travel planning aptitude, I am all about making reservations and re-checking up until the last minute to see if prices change. It’s especially effective for rental cars.
So, prices didn’t look cheaper, but I went to the Priceline “bid your own price” feature that everyone knows about. I bid $50 for a 2-star in downtown Milwaukee. I assumed it would be rejected, and I was fine with the Motel 6, at $46. I just wanted to try it. I was shocked that it was accepted – $50 for a downtown Milwaukee hotel, and “they” upgraded me to the Marriott. The list price is about $170 and it’s awesome! It’s about 5 minutes from everything!
My main goal this evening was a quirky one, and I can’t say much. Tara told me about this place – she has been to it. There is a “spy bar” in town. You have to find it, located down an alleyway with no other business. You enter a business called “International Exports Ltd.” and you’re in a library. You have to give the receptionist the password and if you don’t know it, she gives you a task to do to prove you are a real spy. When you have done it, a secret door opens and you’re in a restaurant/bar/nightclub that is way bigger than it first seems. It is a safe house and “Control” runs this place to keep the spies safe. The staff are in character – not that they are dressed as James Bond or anything like that, but they treat the customers like spies. There are all kinds of spy/Soviet/news clippings/espionage stuff around the walls. There are secret doors, tables that rotate into the wall, a part of the Berlin Wall, and actually a list of the quirky points of interest where you can walk throughout the restaurant and try to find them. If you don’t know the password, it is visible in five different places throughout the building, some easier to find than others. There are hidden mirrors, and at one of the bars, there is a full-time magician. There are some specialty drinks, but also you can order regular drinks and food. I tried a few beers, one being a locally made beer made just for them – it came with the glass. (The password is on the glass, I see). I didn’t feel like “pub food” so I just had the beer and went for food afterwards. Oh! There are closed-circuit TVs around the restaurant, so guests can watch in the incoming spies doing their “tasks.” I found the password but wasn’t sure, so I asked to do the task instead. I had to do dance moves and some aerobics while acting like a bunny for a good 30-45 seconds. The whole experience was really neat and it wasn’t all tourists either. There are two phone booths inside. One of them makes alibis for you. The other takes money and if you put in a quarter, a message tells you a code to type. Type the code and a secret escape hatch opens, leading down and out of the building. Or you could just leave through the front door I suppose. One of the owners showed up toward the end of my stay – he apparently drove a race car around the world or something – there were news articles about him. Anyway, a few of us at the bar started talking to him, and he took us through some secret features that left everyone else in awe. One was a bench that we sat in, and he put in his owner’s key, did something else, and the wall spun around so that we were in a different room. There is an ejector chair too. So fun! http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2013/04/07/taverns-safe-house-is-still-for-spies/
Afterwards I walked around, setting up my tripod for a few particular riverfront views that appealed to me.
I saw a Cuban restaurant on yelp and it looked open, affordable, and well-reviewed, three of the best qualities for a restaurant to have. I had an outside table and enjoyed a wonderful appetizer of fried plantain chips and Cuban guacamole. Then I had a true Cuban sandwich. You know the pressed, ham, cheese, pickle concoction. Double yum for this meal!
When I got back to the hotel, I noticed the pool was open for another 30 minutes, so I quickly changed, came back down, and swam laps for 20 minutes. It was good to get some non-walking exercise.
I have an early-morning flight on Saturday morning and some driving back to Chicago overnight tonight (Friday) so you probably will see my next post on Saturday afternoon/evening. But I’ll try to do some of it at the airport and speed it along.
Take care, and thank you for reading the journey! I have four more book reviews to write…that’s coming up soon, too: As I Lay Dying, Watership Down, Art of War, On the Road.