Sunday, December 30, 2007


I suppose I should have mentioned, my idea was to fly into Milwaukee not only because it was the cheapest option, but also to treat myself to a little R&R. I used the money I saved to get a night at the Hilton. It was a very nice hotel and hilariously I drove right past it when I was trying to find it – at 20+ floors it is like the most dominant thing in the skyline and says in huge red glowing letters HILTON! Here is a sideways pic of the room:

Here is the view out the window:

I actually didn’t sleep too well – there may have been too many pillows on the bed. Although I didn't have breakfast at the buffet, I did appreciate the food labeling system that was explained in an in-room pamphlet - they described how each dish was tagged "LoFat/LoCal, High Energy, High Fiber, Low Cholesterol, or Indulge" and what each label meant.

Oh, one last thing about the night before, when I went to fetch my Sully Burger, I followed the Jingle Bus – a bus filled with kids and parents that drove around to four different parks in the city that were all lit up for the holidays. The families boarded the bus at the Hilton and the line stretched down a very long hallway. There were free coloring books about Santa, cider and cookies. Looked like fun!

Saturday a.m. I got up early enough to take a quick stop at the Paradise Landing indoor waterpark, the first of its kind located in the hotel itself. Pretty much I just sat in the 31 person whirlpool (there were about 5 adults in it), but I did swim a little near the lily pads. The place was pretty busy but it was fun. One thing I remember is this very odd woman pacing back and forth on the pool deck. I could not place her age. She was about 5’6”, 120 lbs, and wearing a sweater, jeans and funky beet up, slip-on brown boots. It was probably 86 degrees so I think she must have been really hot. She was talking on a cell phone, and her ragged brown hair hung over her face and her eyes, but I could tell she had pop-bottle glasses on. She also had a cast on her wrist. I don’t know what her deal was, but it was something to muse about. Was she a mom of one of the kids in the water park? Who was she talking to?

Then I showered, checked out and drove around rather aimlessly for a while. My ultimate goal was the Zoo, but I first traveled out to the UW Milwaukee and caught a glimpse of Lake Michigan. I drove through both a neighborhood of grand old houses and down a strip of pager and loan stores. There is a lot of construction work going on in Milwaukee and on the interstate. The free Convention and Tourism book in the hotel might not be half as thick as Portland Oregon's, but it's still a big city and there is still a lot of neat stuff going on. Plus, I drove through a very German section of town and the history is palpable. And I just gotta love a town built around a brewery.


I went to the Zoo, which is always a challenging experience in winter in the North. Yes, the gates are open, but not a lot of animals are out. Most of the indoor viewing is open, which is nice and warm but usually much more cramped (for the animals, not the people). It is nice to see people not afraid to take their kids out on a day like today – the main parking lot was partially full. I walked a long way through the barnyard exhibit before I found any animals - all cows (it is Wisconsin!). The zoo milks a herd of about 6 cows, all different breeds, and the milk is shipped to a local dairy. 72 hours after the cows are milked (at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day), their milk is on the shelf.

I saw the indoor elephant, giraffe and big cat exhibits. They all looked small (African animals are BIG!), but the giraffes didn’t seam to mind (they're like tall cows, and as long as they have browse, cud and other members of their herd nearby, they don’t seem to need a lot of stimulation). The cats were asleep – fairly normal for them to sleep 18 hours a day, and since they don’t need to hunt like they would in the wild, they seem okay with smaller spaces. The elephants on the other hand, were in a space like most indoor cold-weather elephant exhibits: concrete and pretty sparse. There was a keeper spitzing them with water and putting them through their paces for treats, but since leaving my position at a zoo, I have really begun to look at both sides of the captive elephant program. As giraffes are to cows, elephants to me are more like whales – they are pretty darn complex and I think that when you see rocking, head bobbing and other types of stereotypical behavior, it shows that they are not very accepting of their small indoor spaces.

I enjoyed walking under the snow-covered branches of the trees, gazing out at the wide expanses of white. It feels good on the eyes. Like winter should.

I left the Milwaukee Zoo at 2 p.m. Stopped at Quizno’s for a bite to tide me over until 6 when I’ll have dinner at my sister’s house. I got one of their new $2 “sammies” and the things are hilariously small. Like the size of your four fingertips. But it was really all I needed.

Driving the 3 hours or so to my sister’s I listened to Wisconsin Public Radio’s University of the Air. A professor was telling the story of Black Hawk, the Sauk leader who, along with his people, was removed from land in Illinois and relocated to Iowa. He ended up getting advice from the Winnebago wise man (there is now a town called Wiseman there) who told him to go into Wisconsin and try to reclaim territory that the white man was taking over. He failed and that was what really opened Wisconsin up for settlements.

The bluffs appear a black snake on the horizon. My mind starts to wander...

There is a restaurant that is offering a $1000 sundae (topped with edible gold that honestly I don’t think I’d really want to ingest). I saw it on the news and the reporter was talking to someone who was saying “I wish we could come up with a way of making the news about how many children in the United States are malnourished and hungry as interesting as a $1000 sundae.” I came up with an idea – offer a $1000 sundae but have all the proceeds go to a charity (like Second Harvest). It doesn’t even have to be that special a sundae – just the fact that it’s so expensive would get it in the news. I’ll bet they’d sell more than the one covered in gold leaf.

Got to my sister’s, opened presents, watched “A Christmas Story” and ate really good chili!

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