June 10, 2015 – Sunny, 85 degrees
Miles Today: 68
Miles to Date: 2,076
States to Date: 11
2,000 miles and Wisconsin! My first time ever the Badger State.
I got up early and shipped out of Mount Prospect before traffic grew heavy. Easy riding through city streets and industrial areas and eventually smooth bike paths far north of Chicago. I was supposed to follow thirty miles of bike path north of Oak Bluff, IL, but it was gravel and shadeless so I opted to shift over to Sheridan, a more interesting street that hugs the lake coast.
Since I had a 1:00 p.m. tour time to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson & Sons Headquarters in Racine, I didn’t dawdle. But I was going slow enough to realize a marked uptick in clubs, gin mills, and package stores in a state famous for having more bars than churches. My dad would have loved Wisconsin. The sun was hot, but north of Kenosha the road followed the lakeshore; the temperature dropped ten degrees and the breeze was delightful.
I enjoy visiting Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, but come away wondering why he disliked people so much and wishing he could have used his talents to promote human communication rather than trying to make everyone conform to his will. A control freak of the highest order that hated cities, the man did more damage to America than almost any other architect in all the way he’s promoted sprawl. In Racine, the Johnson family insisted that the headquarters remain in the city. And though the result is a magnificent piece of sculpture, it’s a fortress against the city. The tall, solid walls with clerestory tubes of glass allow wonderful light in, but prohibit views out because FLW thought the neighborhood unattractive.
Racine, WI has one of the most successful community policing programs in the country. A few days I ago I contacted the Racine Police Department to see if I might be able to talk with someone about tomorrow. I received morning call from Lt. Dave Wohlgemuth who invited me to meet at one of their COP houses at 2:30 p.m. I was overwhelmed when I arrived. The Chief of Police, Deputy Chief, former Chief (who began the program), Dave, and two other officers spent more than an hour with me discussing their approach to policing, how it has contributed to Racine’s nosedive in crime, strengthened community ties, created economic opportunity, and stabilized neighborhoods. The Biblical guidance, “Ask and ye shall receive” resounded in my head as I rode away, marveling at the incredible outpouring of insights and ideas I get by just asking for an opportunity to meet and talk.
My warmshowers host, Shane, was working late, so I took a writing break and then rode an hour north in the early evening to arrive at Oak Creek after seven. Shane grilled burgers for his three stepsons and me. He offered me beer – honey, red, or dark ale – disappeared to the garage and returned with a glass of foamy brew. I figured he had a beer fridge there. But I was deeper into Wisconsin than I realized. It turns out Shane is a serious beer maker, with a basement full of a dozen or more varieties in fermentation and a triple keg refrigerator with sidewall tap in his garage. As a beer lover from a place where beer is wine’s poor relation, I felt right at home.