Signs in Baraboo, WI claim it to be the Greatest Place on Earth. Considering it’s heritage and association with the Greatest Show on Earth, we can understand why. But first…
We ran into Pinky at a Shell gas station near DeForest, WI. It was brought to the gas station in the mid 1960’s as a way to attract more visitors, the height of the classic family road trips. You can’t call a road trip a road trip without stopping at at least one cheesy roadside attraction.
Dr. Evermore’s Forevertron
What’s one person’s junk yard is another person’s dream world. This free attraction (donations accepted) is home to the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture. With a crazy back story including a Victorian inventor (Dr. Evermore) and a desire to visit the heavens on a magnetic lightening force beam, the Forevertron was created. Adding to the mysterious story, sculptures surround the Forevertron that include a tea house gazebo where the Queen can watch the launch.
A telescope where the skeptics can watch the launching of the Forevertron.
And even a 70 piece bird band orchestra to give a roaring send off performance…
Tom Every was the creator of this world and passed away last year.
A Little Balancing
Wisconsin is a beautiful state with MANY forms of outdoor activities. This one was a .5 mile hike up a 1120′ elevation to Balance Rock.
After a quick shower, it was on to the Circus!
The Greatest Show on Earth
Baraboo is most famous as the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus for about 30 years ending around 1918. Because of this famous heritage, this place was chosen to be the home of the Circus World Museum.
Combining live circus acts with some incredible circus history, Circus World Museum was a real treasure.
They have the largest collection of circus wagons anywhere in the world. An incredible 2/3 of all circus wagons are located here!
It was fascinating to see the SIZE of these things. They can measure 17′ high! The band wagons are the largest ones and generally served two purposes, to get crowds excited to come to the circus and to transport the baggage from the train cars to the circus locations. In fact, almost everything circus related had at least two purpose.
You can enjoy learning about the restoration projects from the guys that work in the shop. They’ll talk your elephant sized ear off if you let them. And they were super excited to hear I actually own a carousel horse that sits in my office at home. Of course, he’s not a wooden one but how many people can say that?
Jeff got to test is balancing skills.
The circus reminded us a lot of RVing. Drive somewhere, set up, have some fun, tear it down and do it again, over and over and over…
We managed to enjoy the day despite 98 degrees with a heat index topping 105! Who said we left the heat in AZ??? But shortly into the evening, we were treated to a thunderous cacophony of sound as a storm blew through. If you think thunder is loud in a bricks and sticks house, you should hear it in a flimsy RV!
Rizzo got to enjoy some play time in the morning.
It seems she likes to eat waves.
And scare the crap out of mom when going for sticks.
Have I said Baraboo is famous for the circus?
Next up is the AL Ringling Mansion.
The mansion was built in 1905 at a cost of $100,000, equivalent to $3.2 mil today. It’s a massive home 24 (ish) rooms throughout. After the Ringlings left the home, it lay vacant and unkept for some time before it was purchased by the Elk Lodge. It was later purchased by a couple who had been associated with the circus and a third investor with the goal to restore it to it’s original condition and open it as a Bed and Breakfast.
The guys look a bit nervous. Are they calling on a couple of ladies and waiting for them to come down?
In addition, the new mansion owners converted a building that was used by the Elk Lodge as a ballroom. It’s now a brewery and pub. The new room is well done, using wood from the bowling alley that had been put in the basement (by the Elks) to build tables and the bar top. The original stage is left in place and you can see nods to the circus throughout the home and the brewery.
After the mansion, we had a wonderful lunch at the Driftless Distillery before doing a walkabout in town.
Next up, Tornado Warning till 8pm. No one said the weather on vacation was always sunny with great temperatures!
Time to tear it down and head to a new town, just like the circus.
Welcome to Manitowoc/Two Rivers, WI where we meet up with some friends of Tessa and Philip Miller (AKA the Charming Millers) and also Uncle Brian and Aunt Dottie Bandes.
It’ll be fun, they said! And it was. Except I’m still a little out of shape and a 4 mile, 2 hour kayak trip up the Manitowoc River just about killed me!
But oh so worth it!
We got up close and personal with the USS Cobia, a WWII US Navy Sub first launched in 1943.
And rowed past a facility that was building the towers for wind turbines.
Of course, we took a moment to snap a photo in front of an old rusty railroad bridge because what could be more photogenic than that?
I may never be able to lift my arms again but it was fun and worth it!
Wherever there is a large body of water (and Lake Michigan qualifies) you will find lighthouses. This one is the Manitowoc Breakwater Lighthouse and was built in 1918 replacing lighthouses from 1840 and then 1895. While it is no longer in active service, the lighthouse still stands under private ownership.
The Dairy State
In case you didn’t know, Wisconsin is “America’s Dairy Land”. This state produces 2.64 BILLION pounds of milk per month and has almost 1.3 million cows. 23% of all US Dairy farms are located in this state.
Thanks to some local friends, we were treated to a very unique opportunity to visit a 1000 herd dairy farm and get a private tour.
They use machines to milk the cows 3 times a day (per cow). It’s like a circus ride. The cows come in on one side and line up side by side. The crew cleans their udders and attaches the pumps. Once the pumps sense that the milk has stop following, they drop off. The cows udders are then cleaned again. Once every cow in the row is done, the gates open and the cows return to their pens.
The calf pen was our favorite. Seeing and getting to pet these 5-day-old calves was so sweet, I didn’t want to leave.
Rounding out our time in Two Rivers, we took a bike ride on Mariner’s Trail, a biking/walking trail that goes between Two Rivers and Manitowoc right along Lake Michigan. It was time to say good bye to some new friends and some great family before meeting up with even more family in Door County!