Searching for Milwaukee’s Pulse in the Midst of a Drought

February 13, 2013

in USA, Wisconsin

July last year in Midwestern America was absolutely brutal.  It was brutal for farmers who were unable to cultivate any source of life from their vast lands.  And it was brutal for the people who knew they would eventually pay a higher price for anything Earth grown, all while sweltering in the disgusting heat that was imposed upon them all summer.

Before arriving stateside, I really hadn’t heard too much about the ongoing drought in the Midwest.  We often suffer droughts in Virginia during the summer and are put on water restrictions, so it is nothing too new to me.  And while Virginia grows some tobacco, peanuts, and cotton, the rest of America is not completely dependent on its agriculture.  Not like that of the Midwest.  So when Andre and I began driving west to visit one of my closest friends in Wisconsin, I was shocked to hear about this ‘so-called drought’ that had been going on.  In fact, I kind of blew it off and told Andre, “Whatever…Wisconsin is always so green and beautiful.”

We arrived and visited my friend in small Oconomowoc, a city in between Milwaukee and Madison.  After a great few days there, and doing a rain dance that brought us a beauty of a storm, which only lasted ten minutes, we decided to head into Milwaukee to check things out.  Previously a huge fan of Wisconsin, I was looking to have my faith restored in the state after my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Green Bay Packers in the Superbowl the year before.  I figured Milwaukee, a city I hadn’t spent much time in, could be just the place to restore it.

After rolling up into the city, I realized it was dead.  No signs of life, whether it be from the vegetation, or even the residents of Milwaukee.  I admit, it was the middle of the day.  But I still expected a little more to be happening in Wisconsin’s largest city.

It was hot though.  I rarely experienced such heat in a place in the northern US, but this summer was definitely different.  The brown grass was this biggest indicator of what the city had been enduring for the months prior.  I think this may have scared Andre off from visiting the southeast, which was the next stop on our road trip.

Nevertheless, we didn’t hang around Milwaukee for too long.  While we hung around the city for a decent amount of time that day, it was really difficult to find the pulse of the city.  From what I understand, this may have something to do with the fact that I didn’t have the chance to drink much alcohol when I was there.  Or go to a Brewers game.  Or hit up Summerfest.  But I do know that I will file Milwaukee into my “Cities I Need More Time In” folder and press on.

In case you’re curious about the one rainstorm I saw when I was outside of Milwaukee, here is a photo.  I sometimes miss thunderstorms from the US.

Have you ever been to Milwaukee?  What is your favorite thing to do in the city?

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex @ ifs ands & butts February 14, 2013 at 10:39 am

Wow, it’s even beautiful when it’s all dry. Terribly sad though, so hard when the farmers have no control over the weather. I just hate that for them.
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Megan February 20, 2013 at 2:49 am

i agree :( it was rough to see the damage in person.

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Andrea February 14, 2013 at 10:40 am

Oooh – what is that amazing building with all the glass?
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Jay February 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm

I’m with Andrea – what is that?

Reminds me a lot of Valencia!

We’ve had a few droughts in recent years where I’m from – sort of the bread basket of Canada. My Dad is a farmer so it certainly hurts us but droughts effect everyone. It’s sad and completely out of our hands.
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Megan February 20, 2013 at 2:51 am

it is the milwaukee art museum! not a shabby looking building if i do say so myself! yea i agree a drought is rather sad. you dont sometimes realize the impact it will have on a society and its people.

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Heather February 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Love the picture with the Bronze Fonz. That thing kills me. I can’t believe you stayed in Oconomowoc! That’s 20 minutes from my hometown. My parents said it was the worst summer they can remember… they had just replaced a few more trees after losing all ours in a tornado in 2010, and pretty much spent the summer trying to keep the new trees alive. Super fun!

Milwaukee is a reaaaaaaally good time under the right conditions. So next time I’d definitely recommend a Brewer game (with the accompanying tailgate party if possible), or really any drinking event. I used to absolutely love Summerfest too, there’s always at least one good band for free every night. But if you can’t find anything you’re dying to see, there’s always enough beer to make the music better.

There are two main options for going out; the Water St. area and the North Ave. area. There are good bars in both of those areas, and all different kinds too, so there’s a little something for everyone. I personally like the Old German Beer Hall on Old World 3rd Street, and there’s a huge/really fun Irish Pub called Trinity that’s nearby also. And right across the street is a smaller one called The Harp. I like that one because it has a back garden that’s over the river, which stays open even in the fall (and I think winter), with a covering and heat lamps. And if you’re into Middle Eastern food, there’s a restaurant on North Ave. called Casablanca…. a friend of a friend owns it and it has some AMAZING falafel, and hookah if you’re in the mood. Try the Casatini, and have a designated driver. :)

Oh, and eat at Kopp’s Frozen Custard. Killer burgers and best custard in town. There’s one about 30 minutes from downtown in Brookfield, and another somewhere on the south side of Milwaukee.
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Megan February 20, 2013 at 2:56 am

seriously who knew that wisconsin was subject to anything besides massive snowfall!? and that is super cool you’re from close to oconomowoc!

thanks for all of your tips! now im anxious to get back there since i know what to do when im there! milwaukee is a city i have certainly missed out on given all the times ive been up to your home state! hopefully soon i will get there and explore it better!

and its so funny you mentioned brookfield. i was at the crap mall there prior to going downtown to the city! my flip flops broke and i had to buy some new ones ;)

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Heather February 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm

The extremes in Wisco are pretty crazy. That’s the weird thing because you’re right, you wouldn’t think it! But hopefully next time you’re there, you have better luck.

And I’m dying that you said Brookfield Square is crap… that would probably be sacrilege to some people. Although I guess Mayfair is the upscale option these days. Brookfield is general is pretty much a giant strip mall with a “normal” mall slapped in the middle.
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Rinniez February 14, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I’m going there!!!!!!!!! It will be my first ever American city to visit and stay in!!! I cannot wait and I’m so excited that you posted this so I could get a peek and hear something about the city!
:)
xx
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Megan February 20, 2013 at 3:01 am

really?!?! that is super cool! i wish i had some tips for you besides just photos but i dont haha! my only tip is really to find out what there is to do and do it! it was a beautiful city! i hope you enjoy the trip!

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The Guy February 15, 2013 at 6:16 am

I’ve never been to Wisconsin but all in good time.

Wow, that grass is very brown. I did hear it was a tough summer for farmers and that pretty much help sums it up.

The city does look deserted, was it the main evacuation season?
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Megan February 20, 2013 at 3:02 am

i have no idea!!! the city was absolutely dead though!!! it was the middle of july, so i did expect a little life in it!

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Katie Jurek February 20, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Wow, that last picture is gorgeous! Shame to see it all so dried up, though!

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Niken March 8, 2013 at 3:17 am

it still looks beautiful. but it is sad though what the drought has done to the farmers and the vegetation.

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