We are back on the road again, heading East into the sunrise, toward the New England states. We already know the Midwest, so we are not going to spend a lot of time exploring it. Most of the week we plan on just popping into motels for a night and then moving on the next day.
Our first day is a short drive into Wisconsin, as far as Chippewa Falls. This is nice little river town filled with modest old houses and a historic looking downtown. It is also home to two breweries and a distillery. We are here to tour the big one: Leinenkugels. This is a very big deal for Chippewa Falls. The Leinie Lodge is a separate building that has gifts, beer, and souvenirs. The tours cost $5 and include 5 four ounce samples of the beers and a souvenir glass. Tours depart every 10 minutes and take about 15 people each. The Lodge is packed with beer drinkers and tour takers. No photos allowed inside, but the brew house is an impressive collection of huge stainless steel tanks and plumbing and doodads that result in massive quantities of beer flowing into bottles and cans.
Our next stop is in Marinette, WI. This is another little river town, located on the Menominee River, just before the river flows into the Green Bay portion of Lake Michigan. Again, we find breweries for the tasting. Forgotten Fire is both a winery and a brewery. They are just starting up the beer brewing and only have three beers so far. The two we tasted were very nice and we both wish them every success. The next brewery was The Rail House, an older, established brewery with a long list of beers and a crazy extensive menu of food. We didn’t think we had room for the gigantic daily special fried chicken dinner, so we ordered nachos and still got a boatload.
Everyone says you have to stop and see Mackinac Island. Next to Mackinaw City. Both pronounced “Mackinaw”, due to the strange French language of the settlers. Myself, I would say not to bother. The City is mostly a long boulevard of shops hawking fudge, candy, ice cream, T-shirts and pasties, larded with bars and restaurants set up to snare tourists and squeeze the cash out of them. So is the Island, but you can rent a bike there and pedal around the shoreline too. On the island, the big famous deal is that there are no cars. Horses do the hauling, delivery, and taxi service. Sounds quaint, but that just means that the streets stink of horse shit and flies are everywhere. But if you do go there, stop by the Mustang Lounge for a reuben sandwich.
From Mackinaw, there are two likely routes to get to New York. From all accounts we were able to gather, the route going through Sault St. Marie and across Canada is long stretches of pine forest and, after a little while, boring. There was plenty of that in Northern Michigan. We elected the Southern route, taking Interstate 75 as far as (“Don’t Drink The Water”) Flint, Michigan, then turning East. We spent the night in Imlay City, a completely forgettable little city, except for Lucky’s Steakhouse and their baby back ribs.
The next day we crossed into Canada at Sarnia. The last time I went to Canada, the Border Crossing guy was friendly and welcoming. The guy was kind of a jerk. Maybe he was just tired of people using this part of his country as a shortcut to Niagara Falls. He grumbled and passed us through. Other than the signs in metric units, this part of Canada looks just like anyplace in the States with lots of industrial businesses along the freeway. When we got to the USA crossing, I was expecting the rude bullies I met coming back from Canada last time. This guy glanced at our IDs and wished us a nice day. Surprising.
Niagara Falls is what I would consider an urban park. It is surrounded by a city determined to milk every dollar it can out of this scenic wonder. From parking to attractions to food, everything is costly and crowded. Zigzagging crowd herding fences are everywhere. But once you get past all that and down to the river, there are awesome waterfalls.
Next up: Chaumont, NY