I've traveled a lot, but never found myself having any draw towards Wisconsin or the midwest area...besides wanting to go to the Field of Dreams.
We flew into Chicago, a town that I visited 4 years ago and loved. We quickly hopped into our rental car and grabbed a pizza on the way out of town headed towards Milwaukee. The pizza really wasn't even a deep dish, kinda a wanna be hybrid. I usually only eat thin crust peps from Pizza Hut, so it was very different. I had been trying to do the keto diet for the 5 days before, and my stomach was gnawing on my backbone. I bit into the pizza and quickly realized I had bitten into something that harnessed the heat of a thousand suns, but I couldn't stop. Over and over I bit into that pizza, so hot yet so yummy. Burning my mouth more and more with every bite.
I woke up the next two mornings and spit out blood into the hotel sink that had dripped from the roof of my mouth all night long.
We awoke in a bright Milwaukee city which I had never been and knew nothing about, besides the fact that this city was where Happy Days was based. Ayyyyyyyyyyy.
We walked around downtown Milwaukee and drank hot coffee in the blistering heat, which felt miserable until I just accepted that was the way it was going to be. Sweat dripped off my forehead into my coffee and it was at that moment I realized I hated summer, and prayed for winter to come faster.
We drove on to Madison. Which was pretty dope, literally I smelled dope like 8 times. It was like a small scale Austin, Tx. Weird hipster folk flooded the streets, mixed with college kids and older people dancing to jazz as the sun went down over the capitol building. So much diversity filled this city, and I've never seen so many Birkenstocks in my life. Which I've been very close to buying a time or two, but they're just so expensive...and I think make your feet look like floppy little ducks feet.
This was a work trip may I remind you, I work for Hardwood Design Company in College Station, Tx. I do marketing, branding, and visual design. I went with one of my bosses Jim. I really had no idea what we would even be doing or seeing until we were there, which I liked, almost like heaven will be...I don't have any idea what it'll be like, but I'm for sure not missing that train. We went to Madison to check on a huge Texas Mesquite flooring job we had done for a commercial company, I think this was about a 10,000 square foot job so there was lots to see. But upon arriving we found out they hadn't installed as much as we had hoped and so I didn't get as many pictures as I had hoped.
First things first let me talk about my company.
Hardwood Design Company is a hardwood products manufacturer that makes floors, ceilings, wall cladding, beams, all out of salvaged material. We have 5 different lines of product, Texas Mesquite, Texas Post Oak, Reclaimed Northern White Oak, Live Sawn Oak, and Texas Pecan.
We spent the night in Madison and got up early the next morning and headed towards an area called Blue River. A guy named Derrick is our salvaging guy, and that's the big reason we went to Wisconsin. We needed to see what all reclaimed material he had and what we would like him to send us.
Derrick was a cool dude. He salvages old barns for a living and collects antiques and old things. He has a herd of Scottish Highland cattle, which I was extremely jealous of...thats my dream, to live in Montana and be a cattle rancher. Or really more to just live life at a slower pace, so as to cherish to beautiful moments even more. But to run a cattle ranch would be incredible. Derrick showed us most of his property, he had thousands of feet of reclaimed material, and entire salvaged barns on his property filled with antiques he had found in the back of barns.
It's strange how different peoples lives are...when we're just the same people, just in different places and put in different situations. Some rich, some poor, some tall, some short, but all feel love, we just have to let ourselves be vulnerable enough to be the ones to love first.
Derrick took us to see an old house that he was salvaging. I don't know the exact year it was built, but I would estimate it to be at least 150 years old. The amount of work that went in to building these houses and barns is unimaginable.
Old downtown Milwaukee. Turned black and white faded because I wanted to imagine what this place would've been like before the blow of modern technology.
Shot at an ISO of 50, so as to leave the lighting as natural as possible.
In a used book store in downtown Madison, WI. Spend a rainy afternoon sitting in a place where time has no meaning and stories act themselves out right before your eyes.
Pretending to read.
Hand-carved railings are a thing of the past. So detailed, yet glided over oh so quickly by our hands. But to stop and notice the details, that I must do to understand the meaning of life.
Sometimes I only use candles to read late at night, like I live in a time with no electricity.
Salvaged red barn wood.
Old honey jars I found in the top of one of Derrick's barns.
Reclaimed barn siding.
Jim standing in front of a plethora of salvaged material.
The old house that was being salvaged.
You can see the beams here, each one made from a different tree.
After Derrick showed us the barn we headed North to Lake Superior.
On the drive North, we saw a huge black bear, every time I see a bear I'm just as excited as the first time. One of my dying wishes is to see wolves in the wild. Bayfield is a tiny town that couldn't hold more than a couple thousand residents, with sailboats docked all across the bay. As I looked out over the boats at sunset they seemed to bob up and down almost like they were nodding their heads and trying to tell me something. To slow down maybe, to stop worrying about the future, or that life isn't about what I think it's about, that I should relax and let the water bob me up and down, knowing that I'll stay afloat, even when it's as if I'm made to drown. Floating takes no effort, just an attitude. That night in Bayfield I had to best cup of soup I will ever eat in my life, also the next morning I had the best biscuit ever. I exaggerate a lot...but this is not one of those times. The soup was bacon and potato, with a buttermilk cream that seemed to know just how to make the ingredients harmonize. The biscuit was flatter than a usual biscuit...but much butterier. I added more butter because this is America and let freedom ring and whatnot...the jelly was homemade from raspberries that grew in the foothills that overlook Lake Superior. That my friend was a once in a life time biscuit.
After that, we made our way back down to Chicago, where we did the usual Chicago tourist things. On the way we drove past barn after barn, each one different and beautiful. We saw Amish boys with chili bowl haircuts mowing their yards with scissors, paying such close detail to each blade of grass, and giving thanks for it as it passed on through death to the grass heaven, where the grass is actually greener on the other side.
That night over deep dish pizza I heard the entire story of O.J. Simpson from beginning to end. Which I had never really heard because I was so young when it all went down. I don't really ever pay attention to the news though, there will always negative outlooks and things going wrong in the world. Why would I spend my time getting frustrated at the daily problems, when it'll change nothing about my purpose in life? Either way, I always end up hearing about everything that's happening, but usually a few days late.
I ended up driving most of the trip, which is fine with me, I love to drive, especially long distances. Jim was my co-pilot so he controlled the music, which consisted of Guns and Roses, Metalica, ACDC and anything of the sort. This was a kind of music I had never heard. Most of what I listen to is soft acoustic folk, jazz, classical, or movie scores. But after 4 days of head banging in the car, I came to feel for hard rock. I would lay in bed every night exhausted and feel as if I had been at a rock concert all day. I can almost see myself raging at a concert if I was born in a different era....almost.
Don't ever judge a book by its cover...just tear the cover off and dive into the book with no expectations, no preconceived judgments. Just let it take you on a journey. That's how I feel music should be listened to, how places should be visited, and mostly how people should be treated.
Wisconsin is not what I thought it would be, and nothing ever is. That's life. So instead of making plans, just plan to be surprised.
Jim and the logs.
Inside of the old house.
Giant log pile.
Of course it's real...how dare you.
Red barn in a corn field.
Corn in Wisconsin.
The most magical chicken coupe I've ever seen.
Faded barn with silos.