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First up! Wisconsin on the Eastern trip. Off on a great start and into Wisconsin as the journey begins. It’s Day 1 of what will become 57 days! This post shows the places in Wisconsin travelers may consider when driving across the US. So, Wisconsin First Visitation Eastern Journey is the first state to visit! And if you want to get an overview of the entire trip, here’s the link. Maybe you want ideas for places to visit in Wisconsin?
It seems like a good idea to show the state capitol building. I’ll have more on it later in the post, but I wanted you to see it first. I spent parts of three days in Wisconsin on the trip. Eau Claire became my first stop, and on Day three, I took the Lake Express Ferry from Milwaukee to Muskegon, Michigan. And then I’m leaving Wisconsin First Visitation Eastern state journey.
- Eau Claire while in my Wisconsin First Visitation Eastern Journey
- Chippewa Falls
- Seymour Cray – the Father of Supercomputing
- Leinenkugel’s Brewery
- Wisconsin Dells – Wisconsin First Visitation Eastern Journey
- Baraboo WI
- House on the Rock
- Taliesin – Frank Lloyd Wright
- Wisconsin State Capitol
- University of Wisconsin – Madison
- American Family Field
- Harley Davidson Museum
Time spent in Wisconsin
Are you interested in how much of my life I’ve spent in Wisconsin? I didn’t live here, but I worked here during the week for five months in 2008 and visited many times. Here’s a link. I’ve spent more time here than in all but eight other states.
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Eau Claire while in my Wisconsin First Visitation Eastern Journey
Of course, Eau Claire, WI, may be known as a college town, but there is much more! I pass through on my way to Chippewa Falls. Unfortunately, the few pictures I took didn’t come out as planned. Sorry.
Eau Claire is home to music, arts, shopping, and museums, among other interests. For example, The Dells Mill and Museum remains one of the most photographed places in the state. It’s worth the trip about 30 minutes southeast of the city. And the Sculpture Tour includes the work of artists from across North America and around the world. (This is where I should have stopped!)
As I said upfront, the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire brings educational opportunities to the city. The university has an excellent reputation for its academics and attracts students from the Twin Cities and all over Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the world! Wisconsin Eau Claire boasts a student population of nearly 10,000. The city population reached 69,000 people in 2020, and the metropolitan area weighs in at 105,000. It’s a great place to visit!
When you visit Chippewa Falls, be sure to visit the Museum of Industry and Technology. Although, many of you may be more interested in visiting Leinenkugel’s Brewery and Leinie’s Lodge! Here are a few pictures from the Museum.
From the top left, the CRAY-1 with a cutout of Seymour Cray. The bench became an addition to cover the liquid cooling equipment around the bottom of the computer. Row two above shows an early disk drive. A 39-inch disk drive with 14 platters held 75 megabytes of data! (Today, a smartphone may have 512-gigabytes or more!) Next to the disk drive picture shows the liquid cooling required for supercomputers “back in the day.”
Want to see a shop for my road trip photos? You can have them printed as wall art or puzzles. They also work on coffee mugs, t-shirts and more! So, take a look. Maybe you'll see something you will like!
The third row shows the award to Cray from the National Security Agency for supercomputer use in codebreaking and cryptanalysis. The following picture shows the supercomputers’ applications, and the bottom shows the internal wiring!
Seymour Cray – the Father of Supercomputing
Seymour Cray grew up in Chippewa Falls. His father, Seymour Cray, Sr., built much of the infrastructure in the area. There are roads and bridges named after his father! Cray graduated from Chippewa Falls High School before being drafted into the Army for World War II. While in high school, he used an Erector Set parts as tools to convert punched paper tape into Morse Code signal.
The Army recognized his ability and made him a radio operator in Europe before being transferred to the Pacific theatre, where he worked on breaking Japanese naval codes. Upon returning to the US, he earned a BS degree in electrical engineering and an MS in applied mathematics. Initially working for Engineering Research Associates (ERA) in St. Paul, MN, he continued to work on codebreaking and other engineering work that morphed into building computing products.
Dissatisfied with ERA, he joined William Norris and founded Control Data Corporation. After building several very successful computers, Cray became annoyed with working closely with management, who, in his mind, did little but “gawk and use him as a sales tool.” With support from Norris, CDC built a lab on land Cray owned in Chippewa Falls.
Chippewa Falls story
While the lab in Chippewa Falls remained successful, Cray eventually “hit a wall” with his design for a follow-on product. At this point, he split with CDC and formed Cray Research. He applied new ideas to the product and created the CRAY-1. (His reputation in the industry encouraged investors to buy into the company.)
The CRAY-1 made Cray the “Father of Supercomputers.” Cray “loaned” the CRAY-1, serial number 001, to Los Alamos National Labs and later that year sold the first complete system to National Center for Atmospheric Research. Eventually, well over 80 CRAY-1s sold. Cray Computers continued its success, but its single processor design fell into problems.
As a result, he stepped down as CEO and built a lab in Colorado Springs, CO. He finally accepted multiple processors as their path to the future. His lab began the development of his own massively parallel machine. Unfortunately, he died due to injuries he sustained from a car accident, and the project died with him.
Leinenkugel’s Brewery still makes beer here! Although the company became part of Miller Brewing, which in turn, became part of Molson Coors, the beer is still brewed here. In addition to the brewery, the company operates Leinie’s Lodge, from which visitors can sample the various beers and buy just about every kind of Leinie’s product available!
Again, even if you aren’t a beer drinker, it’s a fun visit. And take the brewery tour if you have time. Are you also on a Wisconsin First Visitation Eastern Journey?
Wisconsin Dells – Wisconsin First Visitation Eastern Journey
Wisconsin Dells continues to be an excellent place for a weekend or a week’s summer vacation. Especially for the kids. I only have a few of the locations shown here. The small downtown area features other quirky places like I show above as well as great eating places and other museums. And shopping, of course!
Water activities are a significant focus with water shows and many places with water parks. I know many people who go to “The Dells” for summer breaks.
By the way, Wisconsin Dells nestles up against I-90. Whether the traveler is headed east or west, the location makes for an easy stop. For example, from Chicago to the west. Or the Twin Cities east to (or through) Chicago. Again, an overnight stay or a few days.
Baraboo WI on the Wisconsin First Visitation Eastern Journey
First, Baraboo found its way into the song lyrics for “I’ve Been Everywhere,” my theme song for the trip! Baraboo lies just south of I-90 and about 45 miles north of Madison. I stopped by to visit the Circus Museum.
How did the small town of Baraboo become the location for this circus museum? Well, the Ringling Brothers grew up here! What better place to build a circus museum than the hometown of arguably the most important name in circuses. In 1884, they began their first tour from here!
The Circus World Museum covers 50 acres and displays more than 200 circus wagons and other relics. It holds parades and live circus performances under the Big Top in the summer. The circus world grounds host seven or eight buildings with various displays. Outdoor displays persist as well. Travelers may spend the entire day visiting all the attractions. (The Driveby Tourist doesn’t spend that much time; ok, we’re here, take the pictures and let’s go!)
Again, this place makes a great stop while visiting Wisconsin. If you like circuses or American history, it’s worth the stop.
House on the Rock while visiting Wisconsin First Visitation Eastern Journey
Many visitors love The House on the Rock. Some say it is the antithesis of Frank Lloyd Wright. Others say it’s a memorial to a collector. And still, others say it’s garish, overdone, or even downright spooky! (They do have a showing on Halloween!)
However, I only drove in to see if I could get a glimpse. Hills and trees hide it, and this is just the visitor center. You may want to see it for yourself. Here’s a link.
Taliesin – Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright remains one of America’s best-known architects. He’s known for many things: Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, the Robie House in Chicago, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, the Guggenheim in New York, and many others. Did you know that he grew up in rural Wisconsin? Richland Center, WI, his birthplace, lies only about 30 miles from Taliesin.
He spent his early years apprenticing and learning in Chicago. He built Taliesin as a refuge from a romantic scandal! And Taliesin burned! Twice! He and a woman for whom he left his first wife (Mamah Cheney) lived in Taliesin. While he worked out of town, a servant went on a murderous rampage, setting fire to the residence. The servant killed Cheney and her two children with an ax! And Wright rebuilt it.
In 1925, faulty wiring caused another fire. And he rebuilt, again. So, the building you see today is really Taliesin III. This place remained his residence until his death in 1959 at the age of 90. He married three times, had several other affairs, and fathered eight children. While some people thought he was “washed up” at age 60, he went on to some of his best work after that.
He built Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ, as his winter residence in the late 1930s. Today, it’s the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation headquarters and remains a museum and memorial. Wright considered both Taliesin and Taliesin West to be “works in progress” and continued to modify the designs until his death.
Oh, did you know that he designed an automobile service station? He planned a utopian city that never occurred. However, in the 1930s, he designed a house for a man in the petroleum industry in Cloquet, MN, and the gas station design came along with it. It’s still in operation today! (Cloquet stands about 25 miles from Duluth, MN, on Lake Superior.)
He remains a controversial person to this day. For example, here’s a quote: “Early in life, I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change.”
Wisconsin State Capitol while visiting Wisconsin First Visitation Eastern Journey
Wisconsin became the 30th US state in 1848. While two other cities hosted territorial capitals, Madison became the capital city upon Wisconsin achieving statehood. The first building sat on the same site as the current capital. Although the building remained incomplete when the first legislature met, the unfinished building began its life.
The second capital building started in confusion. The legislature believed they passed an act providing for enlargement and improvement. Upon returning for the 1858 session, they found a new building in progress. The building occurred in stages to allow the old building to remain in use during construction. In 1882, two wings were added.
This building died in a fire in 1904. State officials made temporary repairs to allow use while a new building began construction. The new building also occurred in stages to allow continued use of the old building. Due to financial issues, the new capital finally reached completion in 1917 at the cost of $7.2 million. Massive renovation started in 1988 and was completed in 2002 at the cost of $158.8 million.
And, in my opinion, it’s a beautiful building! Also, when I visited, there were no security measures in place. I just walked in and viewed parts of the interior. I only found one other capital without security. That was Vermont, but that’s another story.
University of Wisconsin – Madison
The main campus of the University of Wisconsin also lives in Madison. Shown above are pictures of the student union, located on the shores of Lake Mendota. Some call it the most beautiful student union in the US! UW-Madison (as it’s called) also ranks as a beautiful campus.
It’s a land-grant university serving Wisconsin since 1848. The university belongs to the Big Ten athletic conference and several other national groups. While the Big Ten remains most prominent as an athletic conference, it’s more than that. Members also belong to the Big Ten Academic Alliance. The Big Ten is the oldest athletic conference in the US. For many years, ten members held true to the namesake. However, since 1990, four additional members joined. But it’s still called the “Big Ten”!
Although UW-Madison remains well-known for many good reasons, it’s also known as a “party school”! It ranked as the #1 party school in the US for many years! In fact, one year, a famous magazine left it out of the party school rankings because they didn’t believe it was fair to rank “professional” partiers with amateurs! And another part of the Wisconsin First Visitation Eastern journey falls behind me.
American Family Field
I don’t have much to say here. It’s the stadium where the Milwaukee Brewers play their home games. I also show a picture of a statue honoring Hank Aaron, one of the greatest baseball players ever! And he was a childhood hero of mine! Aaron, along with Eddie Matthews and Warren Spahn, were my favorites.
Before you think it’s a “patriotic” name, its naming rights are owned by American Family Insurance. This stadium, formerly known as Miller Park, opened in 2001. It replaced County Stadium on the same site. County Stadium hosted the Milwaukee Braves from 1953 until 1965, when they moved to Atlanta. In 1970, the Seattle Pilots moved to Milwaukee and took Brewers’ name. By the way, the Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953 from Boston. How many of you knew that?
Harley Davidson Museum while visiting Wisconsin First Visitation Eastern Journey
Did you know that Harley-Davidson started in Milwaukee? The company began when William Harley and Arthur Davidson (age 23 and 22, respectively) decided to add an internal combustion engine to a bicycle. The first picture above became the first “headquarters.” They formed a company in 1903 and incorporated it in 1907. Soon, Walter and William Davidson joined William Harley and Arthur Davidson. The first prototype by William Harley and Arthur didn’t work.
The pair decided they needed a machinist. And that’s how Walter joined them. Walter arrived to see a mess, but his machinist mind recognized William’s dream. By 1904, they developed a working prototype. It became the first-ever Harley to participate in a motorcycle race. Although it didn’t win, the spark ignited!
So, with three Davidsons, how did Harley get top billing? Actually, the motorcycle evolved from Harley’s idea. When they incorporated, Walter became the first president, Arthur became the first general sales manager, William Davidson became the first works manager, and William Harley moved into the chief engineer and treasurer role.
I won’t go into the company’s history, but here’s a link to read more about it. And another part of the Wisconsin First Visitation Eastern Journey.
The AMF years and recovery
However, of particular note lies the “how we got to where we are today” story.
In 1969, as Harley-Davidson fell into serious financial problems, AMF acquired a controlling interest. AMF soon owned the entire company at a time when the Japanese, British, German, and Italian bikes found their way to the US. During the 1970s, Harley owners began complaining about quality slippage under AMF. Many also didn’t like some of the new models AMF introduced.
Although there were a few bright spots, some of the Harley executives, including Willie G. Davidson, grandson of co-founder William A. Davidson, purchased the company from AMF. They began resetting Harley’s image with the American public and current Harley owners in very tough economic times. Morale in the company shot up. Hope sprung eternal from Harley owners.
Despite depending on a government bail-out, Harley made it through the early 1980s and went public again. For years, the Harley image continued to prosper. In 1983, the Reagan Administrator helped the US’s last remaining motorcycle manufacturer by adding high tariffs on imported bikes. In fact, Harley saved itself by retooling its factories, introducing a revolutionary engine, switching to rubber-mounted engines, and introducing just-in-time inventory management systems.
And Harley paid back government-backed loans and asked that the tariffs be removed earlier than planned!
Time will tell, but today, Harley is facing new challenges as their brand is viewed as focused on the bearded, tattooed, “old guys” bike. The company faces the challenge of selling to millennials and Gen Y people. How will it fare?
Classic Rock Recollection
“Fly Like an Eagle” by Steve Miller Band
Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future
I wanna fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
‘Til I’m free
Written by: Steve Miller (He’s from Milwaukee!)
(Henceforth, any post focusing on a state will feature an artist from that state!)