We begin traveling back up into the Wisconsin-territory, acquired by the U.S. in 1836, learning that the state’s original southern border was supposed to line up with the edge of Lake Superior. This boundary would have included the area that is now the city of Chicago. On a personal level, we enter a time of nostalgic reflection. Thirty-two galleries have already participated in our project and we’ve come much farther than any of our friends and family had predicted. That said we still have eighteen states to go, and only three months to complete them. I am left wondering if, in this sprint to the finish line, we will be able to keep the “nomadic integrity “ of our project. And most importantly, will we be able to retain our last bit of sanity?
It is now September, and an autumn breeze has carried away the summer heat. We visit the Mars Cheese Castle, which is a colossal disappointment. I don’t know what I was expecting, but a castle made of cheese would have been impressive. Instead, we enter a dark and dirty building that sells cheap gifts and a variety of handmade cheeses. Alfonso refers to it as the “Cheese Dungeon!” We are impressed by the bag of jellybeans received after our tour of the Jelly Belly Factory. Visitors take a free train ride around the warehouse, and we taste odd flavored beans at the gift shop. In Racine, we have a fantastic view of Lake Michigan. Alfonso cooks spaghetti on our small camp stove, as I sit on a broken sea wall, overlooking the Lake. This endless body of water feels like an ocean, and I dip my tongue in to be sure.
We make it to Milwaukee, but can only afford a short break for “Miller time.” After touring the factory, we sit down at a table and receive three mugs of beer, each a different flavor. There is one other person at our table and he happens to know who I am. In fact, he is from Livonia, a small town in Upstate NY, where I was raised. Ironically, he lived up the hill from my house, and while I used to ride my bike in his driveway, I never knew him. He was a little older and went to private school, so it took my coming all this way for us to finally meet. Unfortunately, he is in town for business so our discussion ends with the bottom of our mugs.
Now in Madison, we meet with State Street Gallery, which has a view of the capital from its doorstep. While talking with the owner, we forget to feed the meter and return to the car to find a parking ticket on our windshield. Oh well, sometimes there is a price for good conversation! The gallery owner mentions that we should visit the Wisconsin Dells, so that is where we go before arriving in Green Bay.
The city of Green Bay appears dilapidated in the dreariness of day. Although a Super Bowl winning team sits in its backyard, the downtown area feels deserted and forgotten. The freshwater coastline is dotted with docks and factories, where cement cones release blooms of white smoke into the dark sky. We wander through overgrown parks that line the bay. Sidewalks crack beneath the weight of our feet, and I realize that just as this city is slipping into the bay, our time here is quickly slipping away.