Chicago and Milwaukee
After Niagara Falls, we had a couple of uneventful days cruising through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. From the car window, it all seemed like a beautiful film playing back again and again: autumn colors, gray skies, and decrepit rustbelt factory towns.
Unfortunately for this blog, we weren’t able to stop in Chicago more than a couple of hours. From what we did see, I can say the Chicago skyline is second only to Manhattan, which I suppose is fitting, as it’s called the SecondCity. The highway ran along Lake Michigan, so on one side you have skyscrapers and on the other, the vast, calm lake. After the first few skyscrapers, I thought we’d passed the downtown area so I was surprised when the tall buildings kept coming for minutes and minutes on end with the same consistency as the lakeshore.
One thing we made a point of seeing was the Baha’i temple in Wilmette, a small suburb to the North of the city. The Baha’i religion was founded in 19th Century Persia as an outgrowth of Islam, and it emphasizes the similarities between all religions. While that sounded like a reasonable enough religious principle, the temple was a huge, ominous white dome that loomed surreally over a very clean and plain Chicago suburb. It’s hard to describe still how out of place it seemed there. The temple was open to the public, even late in the evening, so Reilly and I went inside. The outside of the temple was surrounded by gardens and long, decorative pools and fountains. Pure white granite steps led up to the eight sided temple; the intricacy of the sculptures and etchings that adorned the sides of the dome was incredible. On each wall was an inscription proclaiming the ultimate unity of all religions. Inside, no one greeted us. Everything was completely silent. We walked around the building, staring up at more inscriptions on each wall, surrounding a podium and rows and rows of seats, all under the high dome ceiling. Coming out again, I was practically dizzy, from both the sheer size and shape of the temple and the uncanny quiet inside. Walking back to the car, we actually got lost, thinking we were on an adjacent side of the temple. Still, we couldn’t spot anyone associated with the church.
As we drove away from Chicago, I sat in the back seat quietly bewildered and then pestered Reilly to look up information about the Baha’i on his phone. We planned to stay that night in Milwaukee, so we hit the highway again, leaving the Baha’i behind.
Our first stop in Milwaukee was the bar outside our hotel. Not a real Milwaukee beer experience, but it served local beer nonetheless. The locals there were interesting—an even blend of yokel and Midwest average. Reilly and I felt a little out of place sitting at the bar. We ordered beers, and after a few minutes, a man in a white tuxedo came in with a girl, in what appeared to be a prom dress. He had long, wavy hair and a foreign air about him. The entire bar turned to stare (this is not the last time we would experience this phenomenon in Wisconsin) but we never got a full explanation of why the couple was dressed so out of place. Reilly and I felt like we fit in a little better after that.
Not being a beer connoisseur, I couldn’t honestly say whether Milwaukee beer lived up to its reputation, especially after I’d had a few. We checked in to get a good night’s sleep before exploring Green Bay the next day.