Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Weekend in Wisconsin

Friday morning I called the boat rental shop again to see whether they'd be renting Hydro Bikes that day. It had been extremely stormy the night before, and their dock had flooded so they wouldn't be open at all that day. The forecast was looking good for the weekend though, so I wasn't giving up yet.

I went downstairs to the lobby of The Pfister Hotel and met up with Joe Kurth, the general manager of the hotel. He took me around the hotel, pointing out some of their Victorian art collection, (which is the largest one in any hotel), as well as the ballroom, and amazing views from the top floor. He also took me by the artist in residence studio, which is part of the new program they started a few months ago. Reginald Baylor is the first artist in residence. He'll be working out of a studio in the hotel for a year, interacting with hotel guests, and eventually leaving a piece behind when his residency is up. It's the first program of its kind, and it seems like a pretty cool one.

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Next I met up with Dana, who does marketing for The Pfister Hotel and some others in the area. The Intercontinental Hotel nearby recently got a cargo tricycle to do some food deliveries and Dana arranged to let me borrow it for the morning.

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Then the rain started falling and I decided to return the bike before I found some cover in the Milwaukee Public Market- a fun collection of restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, and various food merchants. The rain stopped just in time for me to make it to the train station for my shortest Amtrak ride yet. After ten minutes on board I got off at the Milwaukee airport station where I was met by Chris and his converted Alfa Romeo. Chris started up K-Man Auto and Scooter, Wisconsin's first electric vehicle dealership.

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Chris has done a number of electric conversions over the years, but this was a special project. He bought the Alfa Romeo from a junkyard for $300 and wanted to see how cheaply he could build an electric car. He sold the engine out of the car for $300, (so the car was free), and has spent $5,000 on the conversion. It runs pretty well now, with a range of around 20 miles. We drove around a bit and picked up some frozen custard from Leon's, a Milwaukee institution, which was amazingly good. We stopped by his shop to see a few projects in progress before we hopped in a ZAP! three-wheeled truck and returned to the airport station.

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After another short train ride I started my walk to my home for the weekend- Marc and Bonnie's house. I was put in touch with Marc the day before and he had generously invited me to be their guest for a night or two. Marc has worked on a lot of unique photo/video projects of his own, and it was awesome to hear about the,. Since July of 1999, he's been taking a polaroid photo of himself everyday.

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Here's what one box of the pictures looks like. And this is just a small percentage of the collection. Next month, after ten years of taking the photos, he's going to put an end to the project. Now he's sorting out what he's going to do with this documentation of his life. He's assembled an exhibition of a few years of photos and he's been putting together some videos too. Here's one of them:



On Sunday morning I called the boat rental place at 10AM, and got the answer I'd been waiting for. The Hydrobikes were available for renting! So I headed down to Juneau Park Paddleboats at the Veteran's Park Lagoon, put on a life jacket, and hopped on a hydro bike for my 84th mode of transportation.

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It moved through the water a lot faster than I expected, and it's very stable. I couldn't imagine taking it into any seriously moving water, though Tim, (of Juneau Paddleboats), told me some people have done the Mississippi upstream in a Hydrobike. Either way, it was a very pleasant ride.

And now I've found some WiFi before I depart on a 30 hour train ride to Idaho. I hope they have power outlets in these train cars, though I'm not holding my breath...

3 comments:

Evan said...

You and Marc look alike in some of those photos! Long lost brother?

Joe Kurth said...

Thank you for including the Pfister Hotel in your amazing journey. Our combination of grand history and green certification (www.travelgreenwisconsin.com) made for a unique addition to the trip. Our entire staff wishes you the best as you continue across the country. We look forward to seeing you back with us soon in the City of Festivals!

Boaz said...

Thanks Joe! I had a great time at The Pfister and really enjoyed taking with you. I hope to come back again soon!