Arizona spring training: stops for Cactus fans

Spring training for major league baseball begins in less than a month, and the dozen teams that make up the Cactus League – including the Milwaukee Brewers – are reason enough to head to Arizona. It’s all about short sleeves, sunshine and ballparks that feel intimate. Seating is a short walk from dugouts and dressing(…)

Touring the Yucatan, after Hurricane Wilma

Waiters in the U.S. aren’t likely to make a sign of the cross while slipping a $1 tip into their pocket. That is one difference about being here. The quick, silent, subtle gesture was an indication of greater gratitude – especially this year. It happened as I had lunch in Mexico recently, in high-end lodging(…)

Elks Lodge 57, Koz’s: unusual bowling spots

The good people of Fond du Lac are quietly protecting a piece of history that is deemed significant in the world of bowling. They have the country’s oldest sanctioned and continuously operating bowling alley in the basement of Elks Lodge 57. Who knew? You wouldn’t guess it, from the outside. This Elks lodge, a monstrous(…)

Joe McCarthy, Houdini at Appleton museum

I’m certainly not the first to be tempted to make comparisons between Joseph McCarthy and Houdini. Anybody else want to join in? Hmmm. That didn’t take long, especially if you’re in Appleton and talking to Terry Bergen, executive director of the Outagamie Museum. Both men succeeded, for a while, as masters of illusion – the(…)

Princeton, Green Lake: ‘quiet time’ appealing

It is mid January, but winter has taken its time to reappear, at least in southwestern Wisconsin. After our holiday landscape melted into a dank and leafless gray-brown, it didn’t take long to wish for sunshine, a fluffy blanket of white and somewhere interesting to go. For much of the state, winter is our quiet(…)

Cooks Corner specializes in kitchenware

He has a pleasant and disarming way of hawking his merchandise. Today, it is porcelain dinnerware – 22,000 pieces that are being sold for a pittance because of someone else’s warehouse fire. “Look at this — $3.99,” Pete Burback says, lifting one attractive platter after another from a 3-foot-tall box. “What a deal. It’s killing(…)

2005: Best places to spend the night

I was away from home 88 nights during 2005, with a tremendous variety in lodging. The settings were plush to rustic, in urban to remote areas. Accommodations were extravagant to bare bones, including a bunkhouse, a drafty old farmhouse and a Vegas mega-hotel that is too excessive to be memorable. You’ve already heard about some(…)

Badger Barbies at home in NY toy museum

Barbara Millicent Roberts, a woman of many personalities, used to hang out in Sturgeon Bay with hundreds of her friends and family. As of this month, it has been two years since she and her entourage moved east, to the Strong Museum, Rochester, N.Y., which is devoted to toys and play. Georgia Rankin lost a(…)

Christmas chocolates: Line forms at Hughes

The boxes are plain, lightweight and stamped simply in red or black. The contents are luscious, fresh and full of chocolate – a jumble of textures and flavors. There are no neat rows, no candy identification chart – and no need to pay more than $9.50 for a pound, providing you can show up to(…)

Berrymans: Dey’re here, dey’re dere

The Mabel Tainter is an elegant old building in downtown Menomonie that is part church, part theater, part library and community center. Named after a lumber baron’s daughter, who loved music and died in 1886 at age 19, its 313 seats come in four sizes: small to extra-large. The 1,597-pipe organ is a rare type,(…)

Catching the spirit of Kenosha, downtown

I would have never expected to find Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson and Sylvester Stallone shoulder to shoulder in downtown Kenosha. A block away, I met the gaze of Oprah Winfrey, next to Walter Cronkite, before sunset the same day. This is a city that is proud of its celebrity natives: Don and Alan Ameche, Daniel(…)

Indie businesses define neighborhoods

Racine’s Jerome Boulevard was an average neighborhood two decades ago. Our bungalow was a good starter home, with not much – besides the lime green basement walls and floor – to set it apart from others on the block. But I’ve yet to live in another place where neighbors left plates of homemade bakery on(…)

Destination Galena, Ill.: great for shopping

The thrill of the hunt has begun, but it’s not only about the whitetail stalkers who are heading north. Their annual departure is good reason for another type of autumn pilgrimage, particularly if you have a penchant for shopping. Head southwest, my friends, to the serene countryside that is dotted with quaint towns and creative(…)

Stay overnight in a Frank Lloyd Wright house

I would have liked to stay for the night, or at least until dark, but at least I had access to the next best thing: two women whose words and passion could help describe the architectural gem on Adams Street in Two Rivers. Jean Schelhorn of Ohio and Frances Crockett of North Carolina are longtime(…)

Over the top: MGM Grand, Cirque du Soleil

There is a lot about the MGM Grand in Las Vegas that is over the top. Consider the lions. One weighs 100,000 pounds, stands 45 feet tall and is the biggest bronze statue in the country. This is at the front entrance, near the south end of The Strip. Inside is the Lion Habitat, where(…)

Luxury camping, 10 miles into Grand Canyon

Most deaths here, our guide explains, can be attributed to poor judgment. Hikers underestimate how much water they will need, how close they are to a ridge, how much the temperature can change after sunset, how quickly and high the water will rise during a storm. None of it has kept Bruce Corey away. He(…)

Grand Hotel: classy survivor of genteel times

There is no escaping the geraniums. They are woven into carpeting, printed onto toiletries, planted in front of the rocking chairs outside. There are about 2,500 of the live plants, a reddish-orange bloom called Yours Truly, and they are a brilliant symbol of what is excessive and remarkable about Grand Hotel on Michigan’s Mackinac Island.(…)

Grand celebration begins in Traverse City

My 50th birthday is behind me, but not without a long stretch of celebrations that involved friendly strangers as well as friends, 2,000 miles away as well as at home. This life is as miserable, bittersweet or divine as we want to make it. That applies to our attitude about being away from home as(…)

Luck and resilience matters, home and away

So much of what happens in life is a matter of timing, and so much of it is out of our hands. It would not have taken much, during our recent 10-mile hike into the Grand Canyon, for laughter to turn into agony. While absorbing – literally and visually – an isolated waterfall, our group(…)

Cheap thrills the backbone of trip to Chicago

Dozens of us will head south this month, to watch Wisconsin take on Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. Why not come along? At last check, there still were plenty of $50 tickets available; call (847) 491-CATS or go to www.nusports.com. Tickets have been selling for about the same price on eBay. Our group(…)

Savor ‘Chocolate’ immersion in Milwaukee

The sweetest excursion to be taken next month is to the Milwaukee Public Museum, which opens “Chocolate: The Exhibition” on Oct. 9. This is the same aromatic, educational and fun show that was put together and on display at The Field Museum, Chicago, a few years ago. It is about economic impact as well as(…)

Reader mail: places to see before you die

We’re frantic and between grand excursions that you’ll hear about next month, so let’s simply dip into the reader mailbag. First: Two responses regarding the recent, three-part series about Native American tourism. “My work as a documentary photographer has taken me out to the Great Plains to live among (and between) the Lakotas of Pine(…)

Don’t let gas cost, hurricane hits kill travel

A few days after Hurricane Katrina, I started digging around the basement for a box that hadn’t been opened for a dozen years. It was bulging with memories of other lives, from other places. Then came a hunt for the photo album. The pages used to tell sweet stories; today there are pockets of empty(…)