Acts of magic

How do you get back to Wisconsin from Michigan without going all the way around that big lake? Easy! You float across Lake Michigan for four hours on the car ferry, the SS Badger, which has been operating since 1953 and is coal-fired.

Originally it hauled railroad freight cars, but now it carries semis, buses, yachts, and plain old cars. We got on in Ludington MI early this am and spent the morning in the quiet room of the ship, though we could have shared some wild bingo games in the main cafe.  It was a pleasant trip, though it was too windy to dock easily in Manitowoc WI, and we lost an hour reversing into the lake and trying again. Pretty exciting stuff.

Once docked, we headed straight for the Rahr-West Art Museum, which is a house museum as well as an art collection. It’s a lovely building, with an impressive small collection of American art, including the picture I find so haunting at the top of this post.

Still in Manitowoc, we headed for the locally famed Beerntsen’s Confectionery for a late lunch. What a wonderful shop, dating from 1932. It’s beautifully preserved and serves great all-American foods, like tomato soup and grilled cheese, or bratwurst and potato salad. You can opt for Campbell’s tomato, but I splurged on the tomato bisque with a swirl of bleu cheese. And, difficult as it was, we passed on the sundaes, though we did have a root beer phosphate and cherry lemonade to enjoy.

Then it was off to Appleton WI, where Don was dying the see the Harry Houdini exhibit at the local museum, as Harry spent some of his childhood there. A real highlight. Lots of Harry’s keys and locks and even his strait jacket. And, Don got to do one of Harry’s tricks for me!  How on earth did he get out of that box when I know I locked him in?

There was another magician from the town of Appleton, this one not so fondly remembered. He made people’s careers and reputations disappear at the drop of his hat, but we saw no statue to Joe McCarthy here.

And finally, to end our visit on a high note, we learned that there was someone else who did deserve a statue – hometown girl Edna Ferber, who created such wonderful stories for the rest of the world.  It was great so see her first editions and two of her typewriters.

(For such a small place, they really do have some claims to fame.)

We continued on to the town of Oshkosh, where they now longer make those wonderful overalls. But who can forget them? Just one more magical memory of our youth which we owe to Wisconsin.


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