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March 03, 2013

Kenosha Civil War Museum

By Bruce Gerner

It's early March, time to start checking if your baby is ready. You go to the garage and yell in. "You up yet." A small Miata voice comes back. "It's too cold, come back later." So now what do you do?

Join our Badgerland Miata friends at the Civil War Museum like we did. The day started out early by stopping for donuts at the store. You have to feed the Budda belly right? Then off to church that just happened to be in the same direction as Kenosha. We traveled into Milwaukee on 94 and were faced with the normal traffic until we hit the 894. Then typical freeway, all brakes let loose. Several cars in front of us came to a tire smoking dead stop and I followed in with little room although the antilock brakes worked flawlessly. I was more worried that the fellow behind us would not be as lucky but he took the shoulder and all was fine. Actually my co-pilot wasn't fine. She recovered later.

Our first stop in the area was at the Jelly Belly Factory near Kenosha. A must see when in the area. You can tour the facility on a train/trolley and see murals of jellybean art and watch videos of how the beans are made, all wearing a silly mandatory white hat. I don't know why the hat is needed they don't have any open food there; it's more of a warehouse. Then you go into the store and stock up on about 50 different flavors of jellybeans. We ended up with 20 lbs. of Belly Flops and 3 tee shirts. Those flops are seconds that are not perfect and at a great price. The Jelly Belly Factory is located about 8 mi. southwest of Kenosha at the junction of Hwy 165 and Hwy 31 for those who want to go there.

Now, let's get to the Museum. We drove a short 8 miles to downtown Kenosha traveling through new and old parts of town and were amazed at the area around the museum. It was very nice and open down in the lakeshore and marina area, with a lot of newer buildings. We went inside and were greeted with the usual "How you been, haven't seen you in awhile." We did have 1 Miata that came out of hibernation for the day, a pretty red model that must not have seen his shadow back in February. Soon everyone gathered and a lady gave us a background of the area. She said the area of the museum was on a land that was filled in and was the site of the old AMC auto plant. Remember those Pacers and Gremlins to name a few of the cars that AMC made. My wife, Julie had a Pacer when we were dating and she thought it was a work of art. I thought it belonged in the ugly museum. We don't discuss that anymore because she reminds me that I bought a Pontiac Aztec once. SO THERE!!!! Then we were turned over to Jeff our guide for a couple hours and into the exhibit area we went.

Jeff was a tall, fairly quiet fellow that led us into each area of the exhibit and gave a short overview. Then he let us browse for awhile so we could look at the surroundings and listen to the mannequins that were dressed in costumes telling their stories of the time period. We got on a train with the locals from the time period and had some mischief, but they let us continue on our tour. Too funny. I don't have a picture of it. Someone does but I'm not sure it will ever be posted on our website. The museum was wonderful. It is set up to take you from just before the war to just after when Lincoln was assassinated. Upstairs there was an art gallery with original oils and prints from Keith Rocco, a civil war painter. You could purchase his works and the prices were pretty reasonable. Next to the gallery was a reference center that had all kinds of Civil War related material. You could even look up roster names on a computer. Also we saw a family get dressed up in period costumes and take their picture in the upstairs lobby with a cannon.

Now, let's eat. We traveled only a couple blocks away to Ashley on the Lough, an Irish Pub. It was a little hard to know which door to go in so the kitchen even got checked out. OOPS. They put a row of tables together so all 16 of us could sit together. I was on one end and I could see the other end I couldn't hear a thing they said. We had our own conversation talking about the past winter and upcoming plans for the summer. That's what's nice about the club; we share the same passion for our cars and have similar interests. The food took a long time so we continued to converse and I'm not sure they took it as a compliment when we cheered when the food finally got there. It was worth the wait the food was great. Time to pay the bill and say goodbye to all. What a great day. Now 2-1/2 hours back to Portage.

Photos by Laura & Hank N

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