Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - November 12, 2021


Whirlwind week with Josh

Husband Art and I closed our Wisconsin cottage for the winter on Oct. 21, but not before we had multiple adventures with his grandson Josh. Though 28, he had never been in the Badger State or nearby Michigan, so we thought it would be fun to show him as much as we could during his week-long visit.

We met him at the Wausau airport Saturday afternoon. After his sleeping in the next morning, Sunday afternoon's adventure was a visit to the quirky Wisconsin Concrete Park in Phillips. The National Register of Historic Places' attraction is an outdoor display of angels, cowboys, Native Americans, Abraham Lincoln and others fashioned of concrete-and-glass by farmer and folk artist Fred Smith. These are interspersed with deer, horses, owls and other animals.

On Monday, we passed through Mercer, stopping to see the 16-foot Claire d'Loon sculpture. We watched ourselves on our smart phones, as visitors are live-streamed while listening to the bird's various haunting calls initiated by pushing Claire’s "voice box" buttons.

Then it was on to Lake Superior where we wandered the sandy shore, picking up rocks and driftwood smoothed by wind and water. The Black River enters Gitche Gumee after passing through a gorge in the Ottawa National Forest. Art and I had visited the river's falls before, so we let Josh explore Rainbow and Sandstone falls on his own while we took in the fall colors. The day concluded with a 30-minute drive to Superior Falls at the big lake's edge. As dusk closed in, a pair of otters entertained us, alternately frolicking and fishing.

Upper Michigan has large deposits of iron, and Art and I had traveled to Ironwood and Iron River earlier. So, we thought we'd complete our "iron trifecta" with a visit to Iron Mountain. Art was looking forward to the World War II Glider and Military Museum and Cornish Pump and Mining Museum. But the side-by-side attractions were closed for the season, so we inspected the heavy equipment displayed outside. The 1890s Cornish Pump, used in the nearby Chapin iron mine to remove water from the shaft, was the country's largest steam-driven pumping engine.

While Art and Josh made their way around the buildings, a car pulled up. I was hoping someone was coming to open the museum, but it was a woman who seemed as disappointed as we were. She had donated her husband's Korean War artifacts and wanted to see how they were displayed.

We four soon commenced what proved to be an hour-long chat. Joanne was originally from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but her late husband was from Iron Mountain, so they retired there. He had been a social worker and mental health counselor, primarily for veterans. That resonated with Josh, who works as a social worker in the emergency department of a Kansas City hospital.

Our next stop looked like something that had been transported from Europe. Italian immigrants, who worked in the nearby iron mines, built the Maria Santissima Immacolata di Lourdes church in the early 1900s.

Joanne and others had suggested we visit Pine Mountain. The ski jump - the largest in the U.S. - is the site of the Annual Continental Cup Ski Jumping Tournament, which draws world-class international ski jumpers. I kept looking at the distance between the end of the jump and the ground below. All I could think was, "Nope! Not me!"

The veterans memorial adjacent to the jump honors those from Upper Michigan's 15 counties who served in World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Granada, and the Gulf Wars.

Wednesday was rainy, so Art took Josh to Maple Hollow, a maple syrup operation where he could see how the sap is collected and reduced to its final delicious state.

"Putting the cottage to bed" for the winter - emptying the water heater, draining pipes, setting the thermostats down to 55, removing perishable food and other tasks - occupied Thursday morning. On the way to Art's hometown of Appleton, we stopped at "Spirit Rock" on the Menominee Reservation. A tribe member pulled over and chatted with us, giving us some cigarette tobacco to place as offerings at the stone. Legend says when the rock wears away, the tribe will vanish.

Door County, Wisconsin, a peninsula with Green Bay on the west side and Lake Michigan on the east was Friday's destination. Josh is an avid football fan, so we stopped at Lambeau Field in Green Bay - the city, not the bay - for pictures of Art and Josh next to statues of footballers Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi.

At the crossroads community of Champion, we visited the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, where some believe an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared in October 1859. At Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, we watched construction work on the ship Mark W. Barker. It was launched about a week later - the first U.S.-built bulk carrier for Great Lakes service in 35 years.

We stopped at Björklunden, the northern campus of Lawrence University, and walked a stretch of shoreline of smooth white rocks so Josh could say he saw Lake Michigan.

Having worked up an appetite, we headed for Pelletier's Restaurant and Fish Boil in Fish Creek. Into a large black pot of wood-fired boiling water, the owner lowered red potatoes, then onions, and finally white fish in separate metal baskets. The oil in the fish floated to the top. When the fish was done, fuel oil was added to the fire. The resulting boil-over eliminated the oil. Everything - the corn on the cob, rye bread, cole slaw and cherry pie dessert - was delicious and a great way to finish the day of exploring.

We packed a lot into the week with Josh - a loon, Lambeau Field, lakes, waterfalls, a ski jump, quirky folk art, fish and more. Now he too can claim to be a cheesehead!


(left-to-right)Top row: Meeting the Rhinelander Hodag mascot; a deer in Fred Smith's Concrete Park; Mercer's Claire d'Loon; Josh and Art walking Art's belly along the Lake Superior shore; Superior Falls. Middle row: Gloria and Joanne; Italian miners' church; Pine Mountain ski jump; the lift was not running, but a chair provided a good view; the "bump" in the middle is all that is left of Spirit Rock. Bottom row: Lambeau statue in Green Bay; shipbuilding crane in Sturgeon Bay; Standing at the shore of Lake Michigan; the flames from the boil-over hide the kettle; a good meal is a good way to end a trip.



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