Friday, July 23, 2010

Harleys, Cheese and Frank Lloyd Wright

Before leaving glorious Milwaukee for good, we stopped at the Harley Davidson Museum in Downtown Milwaukee. It was pouring rain when we left our hotel and pouring harder when we got to the museum, but that didn't stop the twenty or so riders with full rain-gear who pulled into the museum just after we did. A few of them were even wearing helmets. Apparently helmets aren't all that popular out here in Harley-land. We've seen a few interesting television spots by personal injury attorneys who get cash settlements for motorcyclists injured while helmet-less, which I must say seems a little stupid to me. If I were an insurance company I would feel morally obligated to shell out cash to a New Orleans resident, but I would hesitate to pay somebody who cracked open their skull while not wearing a helmet.

The museum was bad-ass. The whole thing was made of steel girders and pipes and grating. There were bikes everywhere, dating back to the very first Harley (or a version of it), which looked a hell of a lot like a bicycle with an engine on it (that's basically what it was). The exhibit was organized chronologically, and moving through the space I got a distinct sense for the progression of the bike. As the engines got bigger and more powerful, the frames got bigger and more sturdy. I think the photos will say more than I will on the subject.

During the delusional AMF Harley years, they actually made a scooter.Two Harley engines tied together to break a speed record.Replica of Peter Fonda's bike from the 1969 classic "Easy Rider".From there we went over to the Milwaukee Brat House and had a few Wisconsin's specialities we were told we couldn't go without: cheese curd, beer-cheese soup, and brats. The cheese curd at this place were fried and tasted like, well, fried cheese. We'll probably have to try fresh curds before we leave Wisconsin. The beer-cheese soup tasted like a cross between cheddar cheese, PBR and bacon, which is exactly what it was. A pretty amazing concoction. The brat tasted like...a sausage in a bun with Saurkraut. We didn't finish a single thing that we ordered.

We took a brief de-cheesifying walk through downtown Milwaukee, then headed west (an entire day driving West! At last!) to Spring Green, WI. I went for a long bike ride through the corn fields (there is a truly awe-inspiring quantity of corn grown out here). There were tornado warnings for the counties around us, and the rain came down so hard it must have been rattling the satellite dish; we couldn't finish the episode of Law and Order SVU we started watching when I returned from my ride.

That evening we had a lovely dinner inside a converted bank in downtown Spring Green. The hotel we stayed in was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright's, which was apparent from a few of the details, but the hotel had been remodeled to within an inch of its life and mostly resembled...a roadside hotel, like a strip mall with beds. The proprietor of the Usonian Inn was a friendly Albanian woman who told me I couldn't keep my bicycles in the room but let me store them in the garage.

We got up this morning and visited Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Wisconsin and home (in the spring and summer) of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Rebecca and I have been to quite a few FLW buildings over the last few years, and, frankly, we're sort of tired of them. I should say a few obligatory things about FLW's genius, about his organic architecture, about how he revolutionized the blah blah blah, but frankly I'm tired, damn tired of hearing fawning tour-guides and yahoos from Sheboygan go on and on and on about his genius. OK, fine, he was a genius. But he couldn't balance his checkbook, and he was a horrible pain in the ass. His furniture would be best suited for use in Abu Ghraib (for comfortable furniture he shopped at Marshall Fields), and his houses leak like sieves. I think I would much rather live in the Farnsworth house than any one of FLW's masterpieces. (Alright, Fallingwater is pretty cool, but that giant cantilevered slab of concrete over the waterfall is in the process of falling into the water.)

Here are some pictures of Taliesin. The gods of architecture may strike me down before I get back from our dinner in the lovely little truck-stop town of Baldwin, WI.

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