8/2/12 – Pewaukee to Milwaukee, WI – 23 miles
Today was a short ride into Milwaukee, where we planned to take a half day off to rest. Since we had a little flexibility time wise, I suggested that we experiment with getting a hotel room through Hotwire, where you essentially agree to purchase a 3 star or higher hotel sight unseen, then they tell you where you are going to stay. They do at least identify potential hotels on their list and a general area where they are located. So, at worst, we were looking at an 8 mile or so ride to the ferry on Friday. I clicked on the $59 sight unseen link and waited. Voila! We got the Milwaukee Hilton City Center located downtown within walking distance of all sorts of attractions. Even better, the hotel was a short 3.5 mile ride from the ferry. I could hardly stand the suspense during the bike ride in to see what condition the hotel was in.
Once again, Randy was able to find a series of bike trails that took us all the way into Milwaukee. The concluding trail was the Hank Aaron Bike Trail. I told Randy about how I was a big Braves fan growing up when Hank Aaron played. I used to listen to the Braves game every night on the radio when i went to bed, and usually once each season my Dad and I would go to Atlanta to watch a series. One summer, we were there during “ball day” and I got a few autographs. I approached Hank Aaron, but he was on his way to batting practice and said he would come back later and sign my ball. He didn’t, and I was very disappointed. At least I can say he spoke to me. Which reminds me – part of my studies this morning concerned the power of our words and how we can affect people without knowing. You just never know when merely acknowledging someone with a cheerful greeting might make their day. At the trailhead, we met a couple of guys who maintain the trails and they gave a history of how the trail came about. They also told us about Hank Aaron coming back to dedicate and officially open the trail.
The Hank Aaron State Trail miraculously ended just a few streets from the hotel. As we rode up, the first thing I noticed was the Starbucks located immediately next door to the hotel entrance – my first real Starbucks in a long long time. A good sign. I took in a deep breath in preparation for what I would see as we entered the hotel. Like I said, the suspense had been killing me. I wheeled my bike right in the front door and into an opulent gold plated lobby. I looked over at Randy and his jaw was dropping speechless as well. It was something akin to “country bumpkins come to the big city.” My $59 bought me a gorgeous room on the 15th floor with a nice view, lavishly appointed, and with full HD for Olympics watching. They even had half and half in the room for the coffee. I was feeling happy.
I took a quick shower to get rid of the grime, then headed across the street for a laundrymat to wash clothes. The contrast to the Hilton could not have been more stark, and for the first time since I started this trip 2 months ago I felt a little fearful. A lot of rather shady looking characters wandering around. And a couple in the laundrymat. I got done as quick as I could. On the way out, I looked at the one other remaining customer who had not said a word the entire time I was there, and who looked a little sullen. He had not appeared friendly at all. But, what the heck – as I walked by him on the way out I gave a cheerful “have a nice afternoon.” His entire demeanor changed in an instant and he actually sort of smiled and said “you, too.” At least I think he smiled. Or, maybe I just chose to think so. At any rate, there go that power of words. Whether or not he was affected, I know I was. For a moment we connected and I was blessed by the connection.
I took a long walk around the main downtown area and was astounded by the architecture of the buildings. Very ornate and massive. Impressive. I also took a brief trip into the city museum to check out the IMAX and just look around a little. Along the way, I found the fanciest Subway I have ever seen and stopped for a bowl of soup. By then I was getting a little weary and decided to return to my room to rest and watch some Olympics.
Tomorrow we are taking a 2 1/2 hour ferry across to Muskegon, Michigan. Since there is some sort of festival or meeting going on, not much available in the way of motels. Plus, what they have is outrageously expensive. So, we decided to camp. I am actively preparing myself mentally. Either Friday night or Saturday we are going to try and meet up with some friends of Randy’s that live in Grand Haven.