Wisconsin Trip, Day 2


Day 2: 5:00 a.m.
The stupid alarm clock in the room went off at 5:00 a.m. It took it awhile to get through to my ear plugged-sleeping-brain, then I was afraid I’d turn on the radio and wake up Willie. I didn’t, but couldn’t get back to sleep.

Day 2, 8:00 a.m.
I had a small breakfast with several residents and Tamara. Everyone seems quite happy about the trip so far and we’re really looking forward to the Lincoln Museum this morning.

Lincoln's Eyes

9:00 a.m.: Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
We arrive at the Lincoln Museum in downtown Springfield after driving around the area where the Lincoln House is located. Being Sunday morning, it wasn’t crowded at all. Important recommendation: if you ever visit Springfield, make sure to go to the Lincoln Museum BEFORE you go to the Lincoln Tomb. As I said yesterday, the Tomb has no interpretive displays. The Museum, however, has ample displays, a film, an interpretive presentation, and a nicely stocked gift shop. I found the film to especially moving. Presented in a special effects theater “Lincoln’s Eyes” was a spectacular look at the life and times of President Lincoln. You can visit the Museum’s website for more information: http://www.alplm.org/


Odd observation: there were several of the machines that you put a penny in and it squashes it with an image of whatever tourist trap it’s located in. So at the LINCOLN Musuem, you can put a penny, which already has an image of LINCOLN on it, through a press and get…wait for it…an image of LINCOLN on it. All for only 51 cents. What a bargain.

11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: On the Road
We get Subway box lunches to eat on the bus and it’s quite funny to see us handing them out while the bus is moving through traffic in town. No one gets hurt though. It seems like a long drive. We get to see some of the suburbs around Chicago, O’Hare Airport, large distribution centers on the west side, and glimpses of what used to be called the Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower. Not exactly catchy. Luckily, since it was Sunday, traffic seemed light. But then, I’m not driving a huge tour bus.

No more road...

4:30 p.m. Fred Hermes Basement Bijou
We finally make it to Racine and weave through several neighborhoods near the coast of Lake Michigan enroute to one of the oddest and interesting destinations I’ve ever visited. The description said this was a one-of-a-kind Wurlitzer organ in the two-story high basement of Fred Hermes, decorated with memorabilia and artifacts from old movie theatres. Well, I’d say Fred is also one-of-a-kind. And it really is in his basement. However, it should have also said: 1) the basement if CHOCK-FULL of stuff, 2) the organ is magnificent and huge, 3) the sound is incredible, 4) it can seat over 100 people, and 5) Fred will talk more than he plays.

This photo doesn't do it justice.

You see, Fred is probably in his 80’s and has lost a bit of his physical prowess at the keyboard. But, he’s authentic and really passionate about the organ. I have to agree with Wille: it’s great to see someone who spent his whole life (he bought his first organ at 8 years old) pursuing a single passion. I don’t know how much longer he’ll be able to perform, but if you get the chance, a trip (off-the-beaten-path, in the woods, at a dead-end, in a musty basement) to see Fred’s Bijou would be memorable. They don’t make them like Fred anymore. I haven’t looked, but I bet you can find video’s of Fred on the internet. It’s quite an amazing experience.

7:00 p.m. Dinner and Hotel
The rest of the day was spent eating at a local restaurant (huge portions and a very chilly dining room) then heading back to the hotel to rest and sleep. I heard that several people were going to hang out at the hotel lounge, but Willie came up and said that it was under construction. Maybe tomorrow night.

Tomorrow (Independence Day): Really psyched for our tour of a completely restored WWII submarine. I have a somewhat-secret fascination with submarines. One of my high school buddies (his nickname was Buddy) spent some time in one during his military training and I’ve always thought it would be great to try it. I assume this one is dry-docked, but it should be fun anyway. After lunch in or near Racine, we take to the road for the 4-hour drive to Door County.