Monthly Archives: August 2012

Up North in Yooper Territory – Iron River, MI

Rainbow Over Lake HagermanOne of my first memories is of walking over the bumpy sand in the shallow lake water in Eagle River, WI where my family used to rent a cabin every summer. We would take a week in the Northwoods to fish, swim, grill out, hike and listen to my dad read ghost stories aloud to us at night. As my brothers and I got older, it was more and more difficult to find a week to get away.

Flash forward to 10+ years later. A gracious family friend let us stay in their cabin just across the border into Michigan. Just into Yooper territory 🙂  We First night on the lakemanaged to find a weekend where Mike and I could both take a day off, and one week ago we caravanned up to Iron River, MI. 3 days, 2 nights, no makeup or hairdryer. It was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a while. The cabin was gorgeous, with that cozy, Northwoods feel that makes you want to start a fire in the fireplace, even in the middle of August (I was vetoed).

After taking the kayaks out for a spin around the lake, I’m proud to say that I jumped into the lake and even swam around for a while.  We stayed out by the pier until it was dark. The air is so clear and everything smells great.

The next morning was perfect – the water looked like a mirror it was so calm and

Mikey and Me

Kayaks with Mike

the sky was bright blue. After morning coffee on the pier, Mike and I took the kayaks out for a couple of hours.  I wrapped my point-and-shoot inside a Ziploc bag, tucked it into my sweatshirt, and we were off.  We toured the shoreline to look at the cabins, and we could glide through the really mucky, marshy areas that we Morning Coffee on the Pierwouldn’t have been able to see otherwise, winding around the islands. I was ashamed to discover that my instinct of avoiding a spider nest on a reed that was heading straight for my face preceded my instinct to not tip my kayak over in the middle of lake, but I saved it at the last second with only minimal water in my boat and camera still in hand.

On the other hand, I was thrilled to discover that we were only about 30 miles away from Eagle Trading Post Eagle RiverRiver. We took some time that afternoon to visit the small town that I remember from my childhood. Walking into the Trading Post was like walking back in time. Nothing had changed in 15 years. I literally think some of the same postcards were there. The same counter where it took me an hour to pick out a leather pouch one year, the same counter where I thought I’d be cool like my brothers and buy a pocket knife for fishing (yes, Steve, I actually went fishing…), and sliced my finger open before we even made it out of the store. We drove down Military Road, which was right where we used to stay. Our dad used to read us Wisconsin lore and ghost stories, and one of the ghost stories took place right there on Military Road. I didn’t put two and two together as a child. He says you don’t want to scare your kids too much – just a little bit 🙂

Steve at one of the "scenic views"

Steve at one of the “scenic views”

I think we had forgotten how great it feels to be up in the Northwoods. Sunday Cloud Reflectionrained on and off, but the guys swam and my mom and I hiked. The on-and-off storms produced beautiful cloud patterns. Right before we left, the most beautiful rainbow I’ve even seen made a complete arc over the lake. It was a nice way to say goodbye. The rainbows (and thunderstorms) followed us the whole way home, and we even manage to stop at some of the “scenic view” markers. I think we’ll all find a way to take more time out to head Up North from now on.

Rediscover – CMK

Pier

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Best Place Historic Pabst Brewery Tour

On Sunday afternoon, I redeemed one of my many Groupons that need Pabst Signredeeming by going on a tour of the historic Pabst Brewery. Very old Milwaukee – no pun intended. My brothers came along with me, and we were all a little uncertain of what exactly this tour was going to be when we parallel parked along one of the 7 blocks of empty lots and looked up at the abandoned buildings that once made up the brewery. If I’d been past these buildings before, I certainly don’t remember. And how could I have missed these great buildings? They’re weather-worn with boarded up windows, but the architecture is gorgeous with turrets, courtyards and intricate brickwork. A giant Pabst sign spans between 2 of the buildings, marking the spot’s former grandeur.

Off of Juneau Ave, enter through the vintage gift shop or Best Place Tavern’s Captain’s Courtyard (named after Captain Pabst). It’s a beautiful brick patio with a cloister design layout built right after the repeal of Prohibition. The tour begins with a pint a Pabst or Schlitz  – your choice! While neither one would normally be first choice for me, it’s a part of our Milwaukee history, and when in Rome…

King Gambrinus

King Gambrinus greets you in the King’s Courtyard

Sip while you wait in the tavern for current Best Place owner Jim Haertel (who gets so into the tours he seems to make it a habit of running over) greets you with a smile and a pint. The tour starts with a series of 5 Old Milwaukee beer commercials filmed by Will Ferrell for his website Live Funny or Die. Hilarious. Who wouldn’t want to see Will Ferrell screaming down from the top of the Pabst sign? Jim gives a brief history lesson of how Milwaukee fell into becoming the next beer capital of the US (when it was actually Chicago’s turn) in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire. For those of you who might not love the idea of spending the afternoon in a mini history lesson, Jim’s tales are anything but dry, covering the success, drama and infidelity of the Best, Miller and Pabst families, bringing us all back to a time when union rules included beer breaks every three hours while on the job.

While this brewery is no longer operational and Pabst is now made by Miller, the tour is fascinating. Walk through Blue Ribbon Hall and Hamm’s Rathskeller in the Sky (which is now rented out for an array of social events).  The block of buildings once held the bottling plant where Laverne and Shirley stuck a glove over a beer bottle in their opening theme. The courtyards are beautiful – I never knew they were there! Jim took our group out to Juneau Ave, where he told us the story of how he worked with the community to purchase the 7 blocks of remaining brewery buildings in 2001 (all unused and rundown for quite some time) in order to keep them out of the hands of a developer Pabst Renovationswho wanted to flatten the entire expanse to build condos. The buildings are saved and are now labeled historical sites. Both the current owner and the city of Milwaukee are working hard to restore the buildings and to hold on to such an important piece of the city’s history. Jim brought us through an old administrative building where volunteers are working to clean up Captain Pabst’s office along with another hall that will be eventually rented out for banquets. Some of the Pabst buildings have been purchased by universities, while the rest have been converted into affordable living apartment buildings and offices.

Jim has a vision for the Best Place buildings he owns. He ran the idea of a “beer, bed and breakfast” by us, with each room decorated with memorabilia from a historic Milwaukee beer, complete with that particular beer on tap. Was he joking? I hope not – I’m sure that idea would draw people back to Pabst once again. The tour was fascinating and I was really impressed with both the rich history of the brewery and the vision of the owner and of the city itself to preserve that history.  Stop by for a drink and a dose of Milwaukee history and your ticket will help cover the renovation costs.  Cheers! – CMK

Cheers to Pabst!