9,10,11,12 September 2014
Sorry about the too long post about Milwaukee. We got here before some bad weather set in. We had planned only to do three days, but the lake was a mess and we decided to wait for calmer weather. After this post, I’m going to switch over to daily posts to make it a little easier for me to manage.
The trip from Port Washington was pretty uneventful, but it was bouncy. I could see the bad weather in the forecast and wanted to get to Milwaukee. We left very early in the morning to get there before the winds got too bad. Exactly 3 hours after we left we pulled into McKinley Marina. We got the holding tank pumped out while I checked us in.
We had packages waiting (new binoculars!) and some other stuff. We got it stowed away, pulled the bikes off and headed into town. The marina is at the foot of Brady Ave, an area of town with lots of good places to eat.
We chose “The Ethiopian Cottage” for lunch. We both like Ethiopian food and it’s fun to pick it up and eat it with the Injera Bread. The spongy texture is fun to eat and all the little holes are great for holding the spicy sauces. We were happy with the smaller portions, but it was a pretty big lunch. We didn’t have a good way to carry the leftovers on our bikes.
On the other end of Brady and across the river is the Lakefront Brewery. We signed up for the tour ($7 for the tour, four 6oz beers and free pint glass!). The tour was good, it’s one of the few tours that I’ve been on that lets you onto the brewing floor. Most of the time it’s all behind glass walls.
A cool thing they do is a series of beers called “My Way”. Every quarter they let an employee create a beer that they bottle and sell. The current beer is called “Andy” a very nice light ale. I think it’s cool that they let the staff do that. At the end of our tour I got the pint glass and Susan got a very cool shirt of their “Fixed Gear” beer. I also picked up a bottle of the rootbeer that they make.
We were outside on the street when we overheard a guy saying “No baby, I’m not really sure where I am” Since we were armed with a map, we knew where we were and Susan said “We have a map.”
We then got sucked into a huge story by “Charles” about how he and his girlfriend were supposed to pick up his kids, but had a problem so his friend was going to pick them up, but the friend backed into a cop car and got arrested on back child support and …. On and on for about 5 minutes. It ended up with “… so I could use some money, I just asked a woman in a car for some and she tossed me a quarter and drove away laughing.” We were both impressed with the story and I said “I’d love to help you out, but we just used our last money on a brewery tour, sorry.” Charles said, “Nothing??” and I said “Well I can give you this rootbeer, at least you’ll have something to drink.” Since it was better than nothing, he grabbed the bottle and headed off.
We biked about 2 miles to an Irish Pub. They had the best pot-roast sliders! It was a nice looking place with all sorts of knickknacks on the walls. It looked like it would be a cosy place in the long Milwaukee winters.
10 September – Wednesday
The next morning we did some cleaning around the boat and sorted out some of the junk.
We walked into town and found a place that Cuban sandwiches. They were good, but could have used more pickle in them.
A short walk later we were at the Milwaukee Discovery Center. This is a great science center, it has things that adults and children would enjoy. We did the section on machines first, they had cutaway models of car engines, outboards, steam engines, etc. They move and you can see all the internal parts interact.
Next up was a movie about the construction of the wooden schooner that the center had built. They created plans from early boats in the Milwaukee area. They use it now as a teaching platform and evening cruises. Would have liked to go on a trip, but the winds were 20+knots the days we were there.
We then went to the 3D map of the Great Lakes, It’s about 100′ square and you can walk around it (it’s waist high) It’s pretty detailed, it was neat to be able to see all the places we had been from Rochester to Milwaukee. It was also a boost, since it showed how far we had really come.
Downstairs was a huge suprise, there is a really nice aquarium. They have fish from Lake Michigan by area. On part of the aquarium is clear floor tiles, you can see the fish below you. You spiral down a ramp and then go under a section of the tank. Very cool, it’s like you are swimming with the fish.
On the top floor is a very good display of how they manage waste and storm water. A number of years ago they built a super-tunnel that holds millions of gallons of storm water. All of the storm water from the area dumps into this tank. They can then process it and put it out into Lake Michigan. It’s important they do this, since they also get their drinking water from Lake Michigan!! They also show how much water we use compared to other countries and how much freshwater we really waste.
Across the hall is a smaller schooner, also built from plans. It held a crew of 10 in very tight quarters. Neither Susan or I thought we would last long aboard, even though it was twice the size of the Quo Vadimus.
It the other wing of the building were some more hands on exhibits and a design lab that is open on the weekends for people to play with 3D printers, doing Computer Aided Design. Also in the wing is “Les Paul’s House of Sound”. Les Paul was a great musician that also made huge advances in the way music was recorded. They also have a huge collection of his guitars that he designed and played. If you are a guitar fan, put this place on your bucket list.
One of the hands on exhibits is a race car simulator. You sit in a motion chair that tilts you as you go around the track. I got my car up to 100!! Susan of course did a lot better than I did. I wished that Mike could be here, he would have aced the driving part.
On the way out we both tried the “Bed of Nails”. We both had shorts on that day and ended up with little red marks on the back of our legs, but it was still fun.
We took a taxi across town to the Harley Davidson Museum. It is the largest complete collection of Harley Bikes in the world. It was very neat to walk through the entire history of the bikes. They also have some bikes that were customized by their owners. One is a bike made of two end to end bikes. Another is one that was driven by the owner 230,000 miles.
Since the local plant makes the power trains for most of the bikes, they had all the engines they have built across the years on display. You can highlight each engine on a display pad and get the specs, an inside view, and of course it plays a sound of the engine firing up.
Last was a display about their new electric bike “Project Livewire”. They have 3D printed mockups of the bike on display. There is also a big section on how they use Computer Aided Design to help build the bike. They also note that one of the big drawbacks to the bike is it won’t have the distintive “potato-potato” sound that is the hallmark of Harley bikes.
We then walked five blocks to the nearby Casino and the RuYi Chinese Restaurant for dinner. Finally great Chinese food!! We were very pleased with our choices, the hot and sour soup was some of the best that I’ve had. The suprising thing was how inexpensive it was for such a fancy looking place.
On our way out we passed the line for the buffet. There must have been over 250 people in line. We checked to see why and it was King Crab night for $24 a person. It was after 7, so I can’t imagine how much crab they had already served and how much more they would serve that evening.
We took a taxi back to the Quo Vadimus and collapsed, it had been a very busy, busy day.
11 September – Thursday
We got a late start since we were both tired. All of this touring is really hard. But there is so much to see and such a short time, we cram things in.
The Art Museum is about a 10 minute bike ride along the water front from the marina. The musum is housed in a giant egg shaped building that has a pair of 215 foot long wings that open up during the day and fold up at night or when the wind is over 25 miles an hour. We had a very nice lunch there and then spent the next two hours looking at all the exhibits. They have a good kids display on how artists work with perspective, we were able to play with the exhibits since there were not any kids around.
Next to the Art Musem is a War Memorial. It has plaques for Milwaukee residents and display with pictures of service people presently in the war areas in the Middle East.
Next to the marina is a kite store, the park next door is where they hold the Annual Milwaukee Kite Fly. We missed it by a few days, but I’ve been to kite fests before, so doing Sputnikfest instead was a good trade. They have lots of kites, but nothing that I really needed.
At 5 PM we picked up our rental car to take us to Jake’s for dinner. Jake’s was named the number one burger in Milwaukee, so we had to go. It was a pretty short drive, but with the cost of taxi’s it was cheaper to rent the car for a day (we could also use it for shopping on Friday).
The burgers were very, very good. The burgers are a mixture of Brisket-Short Rib-Sirloin, so you get lots of beef flavor, but they are very tender. The fries and onion straws were also crisp and crunchy! Yum!
From Jake’s we headed south and through town to the Milwaukee Makerspace (http://milwaukeemakerspace.org/) Thursday was open house night. I had also gotten a computer kit as a Kickstarter reward and I wanted to assemble it. I had all the tools I need, but it needed some fine solder work, and doing that on a moving boat was going to be hard.
The space is great!! They have an electronics area with lots of standard components, full metal and wood shops, 3D printers, Laser cutters, sewing and craft room, etc. Each Maker can also rent a pallet to store their projects on, they have room for ~250 pallets. We got the full tour of the place, they were very nice.
I then assembled my kit, it took me about 2 hours to get it built and tested out and it WORKED! We got some good pictures of the space, and there is one of First Mate Pig playing with the Robot from “Lost in Space”. A very fun evening.
12 September 2014 – Friday
Harley Davidson Steel Toe Tour was my big event for the day. Harley Davidson Milwaukee makes most of the powetrains that are used at the York PA assembly plant. The tour is a 30 minute ride to the plant, a two hour walk through the plant (it’s huge!) and a ride back. They require you to wear steeltoe shoes since you will be on the plant floor. If you don’t have them, they supply toecaps on a elastic band that you can put over your street shoes. It makes the shoes look like Ronald’s Clown Shoes, but safety first.
I was a little bummed that you can’t take pictures, but I know why they don’t want you too. The plant is very very clean, but very noisy. We had a headset that we could hear the tour guide, but had those foam plugs for the other ear. Most of the plant is automated with one or two people running a number of machines that are machining parts. All of the cast parts are made by an outside vendor and then milled to the correct sizes and tolerances.
I did learn that the transmission cases are two parts, and each half is mated early in the process. The half’s are machined together. If one half does not past QA, the other half is also scrapped. It does not appear to happen often, the bins were empty. They did say that they recover over a million pounds of scrap from the machining process that goes back to make new raw parts. They try to recycle as much as possible, a very small amount goes into landfills.
Because it’s high speed milling, the tool heads are inside shields, so all that you really see is raw parts going in, a window with cooling fluid splashing around and completed parts coming out. They are good about stopping and showing the steps since some parts go through two or three milling processes in different machines.
Final assembly is handled by people. Each engine block comes down with a card on what it’s supposed to get. The block comes down and at each station a bin lights up showing the parts that go on the engine. It’s added then the block moves on. There are a number of QA steps as things go down the line. Each station has a little song that plays for each type of error (Homer’s Duh, the Jetson space car noise, etc.) The engines are pulled, a repair person comes, gets it, fixes it and puts it back on the line.
They lube it up and put it into a test harness to test it out. But rather than firing the engine, the test harness shoots high pressure compressed air through the sparkplug hole into the cylinder. This simulates the fire sequence. Pretty cool, a lot simplier, and much safer for the test stand.
Last part is to pull off the test harness, put the plugs into the block and put it into the shipping container.
It was a cool trip, I’m glad that I had a chance to see the process.
Meanwhile Susan had a shopping day trying to find some things at Target and new walking shoes. She said she had an OK lunch. The stores were more spread out than she had expected and there is a TON of construction going on in the areas she had to drive around.
Susan picked up from the tour and we headed across town to the Brenner Brewery. It’s a new brewery that had opened up about 3 months ago. The owner gave us a great tour of the brewing floor. Unlike all other breweries we have been to, this one opened up with all brand new, custom made equipment. We’ve heard stories from others on how they got used bits a pieces and slowly built their systems.
Not that buying all new didn’t have its problems. He used a builder out in California and had to make a number of trips out. For example, he needed the prints so they could build the foundation supports. He had to go out and get them and even then it was a pain. It sounded like he also had lots of start-up money behind him. I asked and he said the key was he had a good, detailed business plan written down that he could show people. He said when getting funding people said that most breweries show up and say “Our plan is to make beer and sell it.”
Dinner was at a huge Mexican place La Fuente about a block away. The food was amazing, it was the best Chile Relleno that I’ve ever had. Susans dinner was equally as good. It made a nice end to our four day visit to Milwaukee. We are taking the car to Racine since it will take less time and we can spend more time seeing things.