Wisconsin: Cheesy Bavaria

So sometimes I feel as though we don’t talk enough about the in-between parts of this journey, meaning the travel we take between these incredible towns and cities of the United States we’ve been fortunate enough to visit.  Isn’t there the (incredibly clichéd) saying that goes, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey?”  Well, on that incredibly original note of mine, I can’t think of a better place to start this post than with the portion of our journey from Traverse City, Michigan to Sayner, Wisconsin, a stretch of road that led us through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  We took the scenic route towards the Mackinaw Island Bridge, passing by tall pines interspersed with beautiful vineyards and cherry orchards.  The Mackinaw Bridge was in and of itself an incredible sight—with a vast expanse of Lake Michigan below us, Mackinaw Island visible in the distance, the bus hurtled on into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  For the next two hours the Locavaux Crew’s faces were plastered to the bus windows as we passed beautiful stretches of Lake Michigan beach, dune grasses and pine trees.  **It should be noted that we broke away from the spellbinding vista that is a Great Lake and stopped at one of the many famous Pasty shops in the UP.  Pasties are a traditional pastry enjoyed by Yoopers since the mining boom in the early years of the state’s existence, consisting of veggies and meat enveloped in pastry dough that keeps warm for long stretches of time.  It should also be noted that those Pasties were devoured in record time.  We continued driving that evening as we made our way to my family’s cabin in northern Wisconsin, enjoying the lengthy daylight (sunset at 10 pm!) and the beautiful, pink and blue sunset.  We had a quick night’s sleep on a road side rest stop, woke up early, and made it to the small, Northwoods town of Sayner, Wisconsin by noon the next day. Upon arriving at the Scribner cabin on beautiful Plum Lake in Sayner, Wisconsin we were greeted by 1.  The family’s rather large, gallumfing yellow lab, Clovis and 2.  A wonderful waterside lunch on the pier with brats (when in Wisconsin!), veggie burgers, copious amounts of pickles, watermelon and the ultimate Wisconsin summer beer:  New Glarus’ spotted cow.  The remainder of the day was spent laying on the dock reading, catching some rays, and cruising around the lake on the family ski boat.  That evening, after yet another delicious meal of homemade pizza on “The Big Green Egg” (the new, greatly cherished and slightly goofy-looking grill purchased by the Scribner family earlier that week), the Locavaux Crew made a quick stop into the closest, larger town, Minocqua, to hear a little bit of local guitar legend, Tuck Pence, at the closet-size bar that is the Little Brown Jug.  After hearing a few songs from the talented Willie Nelson look-alike, we made our way to the Sayner Pub, home to the most popular Wednesday evening act in all of the Northwoods, The Marvins.  The Marvins are one of the more renowned cover bands in northern Wisconsin, known for their fun renditions of classic rock and their drummer and namesake, Marvin, a colorful, elderly fellow who isn’t afraid to run the risk of offending a few crowd members with his less than appropriate commentary.   I excitedly showed Chase and Hallie the bar and introduced them to many a familiar face in the crowd; having enjoyed myself at Sayner Pub’s weekly night with The Marvins far too many times to count in the numerous summers I’ve spent in northern Wisconsin as a camp counselor, I was excited to give The Marvins and the Sayner Pub the attention they deserve.  We spent the evening hanging out with seasonal vacationers, counselors from neighboring summer camps, and locals to Sayner, dancing the night away and partaking in some traditions of The Marvins evenings at Sayner Pub (i.e. “surfing” on the boys camp counselors backs during Marvin’s rendition of “Wipe Out”).  It was a good time had by all.

The next day, also known as the Fourth of July, the crew relaxed by the water and went tubing in the perfectly cool waters of Plum Lake.  Chase even rigged up the old Sunfish Zuma and sailed around the lake—that’s probably the most action that boat has seen in close to seven years.  We ate dinner in Minocqua on the shores of Lake Minocqua and then made our way to Otto’s Brat and Beer Garden, where we would be filming that evening.  As we walked in, we just barely caught the city of Minocqua fireworks.  Happy Birthday America!  And so began night two of witnessing yet another favorite, local bar act of the Northwoods, Brad Emanuel.  Also a cover artist, Brad performs with only his outstanding voice and incredible guitar skills every summer each Thursday and Sunday night at Otto’s Brat and Beer Garden, a local hotspot in downtown Minocqua and home to some of the rowdier crowds every summer.  Add the fact that it was the Fourth of July this particular evening, and you’ve got packed table dancing, pitchers on pitchers of Wisconsin beer, and some audience members dyeing to sing along with Brad at the top of their lungs and raise their glasses to his infamous drinking cheer, “Get ‘em up, get ‘em up, get ‘em up!  3, 2, 1… Drink!”  The Locavaux Crew got a kick out of filming the excited audience members surrounding the energetic and fun-loving Brad.  Fans were excited to cheer for the camera and tell us why they can’t resist coming back each summer for another night of Brad at Otto’s.  We met up with a collection of my own camp friends on a day off (hey Clearwater!), visited a few more local bars (ah Thirsty Whale, it had been far too long since I saw you last), and called it an evening when the bars finally closed down.  Thanks to the little sister, Becca Scribner, for so kindly picking up the Locavaux Crew at such an ungodly hour.


Our final, picturesque summer day in Sayner was spent spending even more time by the lake, exploring all of the fine shopping and local attractions that Minocqua has to offer (curse you Fourth of July vacationers for making it so unreasonably crowded), getting ice cream at my favorite soft serve spot, Brick’s, and hanging around with the Scribner family on the back porch of the cabin.  We went to a water-ski show in Minocqua put on by the Min-Aqua Bats, a local ski team comprised of excellent skiers and wakeboarders, ranging in age fro twelve to thirty, who put on weekly shows to showcase their incredible talent and crazy aquatic stunts.  Hallie and Chase were blown away by their talent as the Bats sent ten skiers off of a ski jump (with nine landing it!) and a mass barefoot a mile around the lake.  That evening we enjoyed a few s’mores by the campfire at Plum Lake Manor and called it quits early to rest up for the drive the coming morning.  We left the next afternoon (only after I quickly zipped over to the camp I’ve spent the last twelve summers at, Clearwater Camp for Girls, to make a brief celebrity appearance), sad to say goodbye to the perfectly temperate waters of Plum Lake and the always present company of Clovis the lab, but excited to get the bus on the open road.  Thank you, Mom, Dad, Becca and Clovis, for not only providing wonderful food, comfy beds, and always intriguing conversation for the Locavaux Crew, but also for having patience with my never-ending sense of adventure.  Next up: Minneapolis, Minnesota!

Michigan: America's High-Five

And so it’s begun:  the Great Lakes trek of our journey!  We crossed over into Michigan last Thursday and headed north for Ann Arbor.  We met up with Hallie’s longtime bestie and Ann Arbor resident, Bizzy Roach, and headed to the Blind Pig, renowned music venue and home to Iggy Pop’s very own start!  The Locavaux Crew was in for a different sort of evening as we waited through a few opening acts for the main attraction, local Ann Arbor pop punk group Hung Up.  We listened with… anticipation… to two local heavy metal/scream-o groups, Alaska and 1876, enjoying a different sound from the usual folk rock and jam-band sound we’ve become accustomed to.  Katie even head-banged in an attempt to blend into the crowd.  The crew was able to interview two members of Hung Up (the bassist was nowhere to be found and the drummer was suffering from a samurai sword induced finger injury) and learned of the burgeoning punk scene in Ann Arbor that emerged largely from the popular skate culture in the area.  The boys played a few songs for the crowd, riling up the audience members with some loud vocals, a heavy bass rhythm and some impressive hang banging of their own.  It was a new experience for the Locavaux Project, to say the least. After spending the night in an Ann Arbor senior citizen community center parking lot, we woke up early and headed out towards Grand Rapids where Chase planned to meet with up with some fellow Colgate-ers (shout out to Rico, Mia, and Nora!) and head to an electro festival, Electric Forest, in Rothbury, Michigan.  Having already enjoyed ourselves at Sasquatch! music festival earlier this summer, Hallie and I said our goodbyes (and well-wishes for survival) to the bus and hitched a ride with Mrs. Kohler up to Hallie’s northern hometown, Traverse City.  We spent the next few days basking in the glory that is a full-sized kitchen and access to fresh seafood and produce, touring around Traverse (while attempting to avoid the tourist crowds attending the annual Cherry Festival), tending to Locavaux administrative tasks and enjoying some delicious local beers from northern Michigan.  Here’s another beer tip:  if you’re ever in the area, try the Perrin’s Grapefruit IPA—it’s unreal!  On Saturday evening, Hallie, Mrs. Kohler and I headed north to the Kohler cabin located on beautiful Torch Lake and made plans to attend a Michigan-native band, Valentiger’s, performance at the nearby brewery, Short’s Brewing.  While enjoying some of Short’s more popular beers, the three of us enjoyed listening to the upbeat folk rock trio while mingling with other loyal fans and beer-lovers.  Valentiger’s fun, folk sound got people up and dancing, cheering, and singing out loud to some of their favorite classic covers and Valentiger’s own hits.

Chase joined back up with the rest of the Locavaux crew the next morning—the bus officially survived its first music festival!  Chase was eager to get back into the swing of filming and interviewing with bands (right after taking a quick nap to catch up on sleep post electro music festival).  That evening, the gang took an evening off from filming and enjoyed a home cooked meal with the Kohlers.  Hallie and I even visited the Cherry Festival carnival in Traverse, intrigued by the bright lights and classic carnie rides we had spied earlier on in the week.  Our final day in Traverse City was spent updating the blog and visiting Hallie’s favorite parts of Traverse, including the Old Mission light house at the end of the peninsula, and the small, cabin-filled summer retreat, Neahtawanta (where Chase used to vacation as a kid!).  Chase was excited to relive his childhood adventures and show Hallie and I where he spent many a summer biking around, playing with friends in Lake Michigan, and generally causing trouble.  That evening, the Locavaux crew was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend a small, local concert aboard the Traverse City catamaran, the Nauticat, and listen to an incredible nighttime performance by local bluegrass favorites, Billy Strings and Don Julen.  The two performers—Billy, a twenty-year-old guitar player and Don, a forty five-year-old mandolin player—blew away the crowd with their incredible finger picking skills and foot-tapping, blue grass tunes.  The Locavaux crew had an unforgettable time cruising around the bay, stargazing, and listening to some of the most talented guitar and mandolin players we’ve ever heard.


So thank you Traverse City for showing us all that northern Michigan’s local food, drink and music scene has to offer, and thank you to the Kohler family for playing host to the Locavaux crew!  We couldn’t have asked for a better host family.  Stay tuned for even more Great Lakes adventures with our next update on time spent in northern Wisconsin!