Archive for Appleton

Appleton, Osh Kosh, Fond du Lac and Wausau, Wisconsin

July 13, 2008

 

I am in “how do you spell” WAUSAU.

Friday nite in Appleton I cycled around to the first residential house fueled by hydro electricity.  It was built 1882 – they call it a Victorian house, but to me it looks more like Bavarian, if that is a “type”.  I would have thought the first house would be a small house to be used as a testing ground, and also so that it doesn’t need a lot of electricity.  However, this is a huge mansion.  Huge for today’s standards, so I can’t imagine what people thought back in 1882.  The owner of the paper mill had the house built to impress his wife.  I bet it worked!

I also checked out Lawrence University.  It was founded in 1849 and admitted women from day one.  The first class had 7 graduates – 4 men, 3 women.

Saturday I checked out the farmer’s market downtown and bought some blueberries.  The oldest indie bookstore [in WI] is in Appleton.  I normally don’t buy books [I use the library or get free or nearly free books], but wanted to keep them in business so I bought that book “Girls Like Us” about Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell and Carole King.

Later in the day I sat by Winnebago Lake in Fond du Lac and ate my blueberries and looked at the photos in the book.  Conclusion based on the photos: James Taylor sure got around back then!

I went to the Houdini Museum.  Bottom line on how he got out of all those various locks – he either had a duplicate key made [an associate would steal the key for him, he’d copy it, and that person would return it] or he picked the lock.  He said that 25 key pickers [whatever] could unlock every lock in the world.  When the audience would think he’s hiding the key/picks on him, he would do his stunts in his underwear, and hide the key:

* If it was in a jail or room, an associate would hide it in the room
* In his hair
* Between his toes [NO ONE looks at your feet]
* In his butt [I suppose same]
* swallow it, then throw it up

Nice.

Couple other tidbits.  Appleton is Joe McCarthy’s home town.  When George Wallace kicked off his 1964 presidential campaign, he did it in Appleton cuz of his close ties with McCarthy.

Pulitzer Prize author Edna Ferber [Showboat, Giant…] is from here.

I then took off for Osh Kosh.  They were having a Blues and Brews fest.  Blues music and lots of beer.  I checked it out a little bit…the music was ok, but I was ready to keep moving.

As I travel around, I spend a lot of time pondering why people live where they do, how some towns flourish and others flounder, how to bring a downtown “back”, why some towns I immediately love, and others just seem nasty.

I had been forewarned by people re both Osh Kosh and Fond du Lac, so my expectations were lowered, and they turned out not to be as bad as I thought.  Both towns have businesses in pretty much all the buildings – not a lot of vacant buildings.  But they are just run down shops, and the building/streets are dirty…just not “clean”.

I didn’t have any desire to get my bike out and cycle around.  Which is always a combo of interest in the town and also if I feel comfortable exposing to anyone who may be looking that I have a trunk full of stuff including my folding bike.

I had a late lunch at the hip coffee shop and was on my way to Fond du Lac.

By the way, there is zero info re the B’Gosh factory or anything involving this in all the touristy info I have.  Now, I would think that would be a great tourist trap.

Osh Kosh too is on the Fox River…a lumber/paper mill town.  Appleton, Osh Kosh and Fond du Lac all have these beautiful, huge houses from a once wealthy era.  Still there, and seem to be well maintained in all the cities.  They all have really powerful Civil War Memorials, and mention Gettysburg on them. They all also have A LOT of houses for sale and for rent.

As I was driving thru downtown Fond du Lac I noticed a street was blocked off and I heard music.  Pull over!  They are having a music fest.  However, there is no one there!!  They have a beer booth, and a food both.  Maybe 20 people there.  So, there is this open place, and chairs set up, and no one is there.  As I walked up, the band took a break.  So, that was that.

I have noticed this past year that root beer floats are the new rage at just about every festival I go to, in a smaller town.  Noticed this when I went to the Americana fest in Nacogdoches, and have seen it just about everywhere since.  I never noticed that before.

Ok, unsure if I can convey this in words so you understand.  I went to St Paul’s Church, cuz it’s supposed to have nice stained glass windows and also a lot of German woodwork. The entire ceiling and upper walls are all made/carved brown wood.  There are a lot of arches going across the room. On each side of each arch is a carved sculpture/statue.  You know how on the front of a pirate/Viking ship, they have a mermaid or woman carved in the very front leaning out, leading the way?  Well, at least in my mind they do.  Well, all these sculpture/statue had men in this same “shape” of leaning out as though they are the front thing on a ship.  Strange.

I then decided to head to Wausau to spend the nite.

It was pretty much flat farm land all the way to Wausau, until about 10 miles out.  Then it became hilly and lots of lakes/water.  Really pretty.  I took the wrong exit, and somehow meandered into the city center.  There is a square and lots of people out and about.  They are having “chalk fest”.  Goodness…3 fests in 3 cities.  People of all ages and abilities are drawing chalk pictures on the sidewalk that surrounds and criss crosses the square.  It must go on tomorrow/Sunday, cuz some aren’t finished and the people have gone home.

I did not realize this, but there is a balloon fest going on here. I have since been told that it is too windy, and apparently the balloons didn’t go up this morning. 

I checked out the chalk artwork but was more concerned re food.  The downtown area is nice, but seems to have a lot of non-food shops.  And it was around 9 pm, so what they did have, most were closed already.  I didn’t find any food to my liking, and also asked around and there apparently isn’t any decent live music.  There was a place that had karaoke.  Not my ideal, but I had decided that I would do what I’m going to do, then go find a room.  Becuz once I get to my room…I’m NOT coming back out.

I saw a woman sitting in her car.  I don’t know why, but I asked her if she knew of a B&B in the area where I can stay.  As a matter of fact, she does!  So, I followed her lead and went to a place just blocks from the city center.  They had several rooms, all very nice AND in my price range.  The first room she showed me had a door…which leads out to this huge balcony over/on top of the wrap around porch.  Done!

I was going to sit in the rocking chair on the balcony and read or start this email, but the woman showed me things to do in the area.  I saw a band that I thought I would like.  They gave me directions and I took off to the town next door.  I get there [it’s this huge cavernous bar with a bucking bronc to ride], maybe 40 people there, 10 women dancing.  I sit down and the speakers blow.

So, I’m sitting outside on the rocker.  I have my fleece and a scarf on.  My computer which heats up too much is on my lap keeping me warm.

I will stay another day and take full advantage of the balcony and the pretty tree lined street.  I sure hope it rains for part of the day so I can sit under the awning/over hanging roof and hear the rain come down!

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Appleton, Wisconsin

July 11, 2008

 

I certainly made the correct call yesterday in coming to Appleton for music.

I got in and scored a room at this huge, historic Victorian home a block from the main downtown drag.  The room also has the Emergency Exit for the floor, which means I can open it to the screen door, open the windows and be in Nirvana with the wonderful breeze.

I have found the coffee shop that I could live in – Brewed Awakening.  It has wonderful looking baked products, quiche, healthy salads and panini’s, cool music, outside seating in front and in back, great stuffed chairs…they even sell gelato AND they have Nutella as a flavor!!  They even have a liquor license.

There are 2 raised window display areas, one each side of the entrance door.  Each with a great stuffed chair and neat table.  So, I sat “on display” and ate my artichoke and cheese panini!

After my late lunch/early dinner, I walked over to Houdini Park, where there is a free concert starting at 5.30.  It looked like it was going to start raining, and as I walked into the park a lady yelled “ok everyone…I’m calling it!”  She called the outside music due to rain, which means it would take place in the designated inside venue, which this week just happens to be the same venue I was planning on listening to music at later.

The venue was packed.  The band was fun.  When they took a break, I hopped on the free trolley that they have on Thursday nites [and the weekend] that takes you around various parts of town.

This town too was built along Fox River, and is a logging/paper mill town.  Some of the old mills have been refurbished into apartments.  The lady driving the trolley said they were very nice, but expensive.  Unsure what her version of expensive means.

After the trolley tour, I went back to listen to the second set by the band.

After that there was a band “from New York City” next.  Watching them set up, it was a very motley group of people – they didn’t look like they would be in the same band at all.  I spoke to the woman, and she said they are 4 singer songwriters from Brooklyn, who are sharing a backing band, and traveling around together.  I asked her what type of music they play, and she says: alt country and Alejandro Escovedo is their God.  GASP!!  I am so psyched!

Just moments before that, I was talking to 2 guys who seem to listen to a lot of music – bigger acts.  They asked me what kind of music I like, and I said alt country/Americana/singer songwriter.  They asked me to name someone, and I said Alejandro.  They had no idea what I was talking about [besides singer songwriter].

So, I was keyed up.

When the first guy sang just 2 lines, I could see their [2 guys] faces light up and they asked me to write down names of other artists who play this kind of music.

They weren’t as good as I had hoped they would be, but it was nice to hear the kind of music that I like.  I did buy 3 cds, cuz it seemed that they were in need of $10 [a pop] more than I.

And the band that I originally came to town to see…which started at 12.30, wasn’t all that good…I didn’t like their sound and I think the lead singer was strung out.  Mind you, IF I liked their sound, I wouldn’t care so much if he was strung out.  Ha.

So, all in all, a wonderful music evening.

I decided to stay another day, and have been basically lazy pretty much all day today. Hanging out for lunch, hanging out at the coffee shop, walking around, going to the library…  I will soon get on my bike and explore more than I already have. 

They claim that the first electric house [via hydro electricity] is here.

Appleton is smoke free!

Bus fare is free to the library.

Last nite when I was talking to those 2 guys…when I leaned in closer to talk to this one guy, between him and I was this heater that was blowing hot air.  Strange, since the rest of the place had a/c.  After a while he went to the men’s room and when he came back, our configuration of 3 changed, and then…so did that heater.  Each time I leaned it I got a blast of heat.  I then realized that it’s him!!  He is radiating heat like you wouldn’t believe it.  He said “ya…in the summer their king size bed isn’t big enuf for his wife to escape his heat.”  I can only imagine.

Heater man said that the craziest people in the state live in Fond du Lac and Sheboygan.  He said that if there is a crazy story about someone doing something “stupid” that it is usually someone from one of those 2 cities.  From now on, when I read “News of the Weird” stories/articles, I will look for those 2 cities.

Houdini was raised here.  All over town they have plaques telling tidbits about him and his family.  I’m going to his museum tomorrow.

There is a plaque re Andy Jimos, who had a hat cleaning business on the main street for 65 years…from 1927 to 1982, when he passed.  My, how times have changed.

Am off to cycle.  I’ll go listen to music tonite, but my expectations are low…I’ll be going to a pizza place.

Tomorrow I head for Osh Kosh [B’Gosh] and Fond du Lac.  2 places that I have yet to find anyone in this state who thinks I should visit.  However, I can’t leave WI without going to these places.  Heater man from last nite is from Fond du Lac, and even he was adamant that I NOT go.   Oh well.   

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