I had originally planned for a much longer road trip for this day, but I didn't wake up early enough to get in a 500 mile round tripper, so I spent some time trying to figure out what was close by from "my list" of places to visit before winter gets here.
After some online research and a few phone calls, I opted for a short 125 loop trip from Milwaukee to Sheboygan and back. It's surprising how many places here in Wisconsin start winding down after Labor Day, with total closures in October.
A couple of known stops on my list were the lighthouses along Lake Michigan. While the Sheboygan Breakwater Light is not in the US Lighthouse Society passport program, I still wanted to check it out and take some photos so that was the first destination penciled in. With the Sheboygan County Historical Society Museum and Port Washington's Light Station, I figured I would have a pretty full afternoon.
Sheboygan is located about an hour north of Milwaukee via I43. I really didn't want to take the highway however, so I jumped off where Hwy 57 goes off to the west. Recently Cedar Valley Cheese has been in the local news and they are located up that way right on Hwy 57 near Belgium, so that would be my first stop.
I knew that they did not offer cheese factory tours, but I was told that they had a viewing window that would be available to observe them making string cheese until around 2pm. I was pretty disappointed when I arrived at 12:15pm only to be told they had been done with the day's production.
I did walk around to check out their cheese store and sampled some of their fresh cheese curds. You know they're fresh when they squeak when you bite into them and these were very squeaky . . . and delicious too.
If you are visiting SE Wisconsin and looking for a decent place to make a cheese purchase, they have about the best selection I've seen. They not only carry the products they produce but also a number of other cheese company's products including Widmer's (from Theresa, WI) and a couple others I recognized but can't recall now.
Their prices are as you would expect, a bit higher than you'd find buying direct from the cheesemaker's own store. I thought their prices on their own products seemed in line with what I've seen on similar products at other stores. For one-stop convenience, the prices seem pretty reasonable overall.
Cedar Valley Cheese has been in the news here in SE Wisconsin because they are working to find a way to recycle the cheese brine used to cure their products. Some cheese factories have found an environmentally friendly way to make a winter road salt solution with the waste by-product, so we'll see. The projected cost savings versus traditional road salt is significant enough for them to invest in development.
From Cedar Valley Cheese, my Garmin GPS unit (aka Toots) directed me to County Hwy K to cut east towards Lake Michigan. Along that route, I passed by several beautiful farms. Some had corn growing while many others were dairy farms with large herds of cows. When I made my way into Dacoda I was surprised to see this beautiful church and schoolhouse that was clearly older given they looked to have been built out of yellow cream city bricks. Turns out the schoolhouse was built in 1883 and the church in 1911.
I stopped to check it out and take some photos. (See the "STORY" attached to this journal about the St. Nicholas Catholic Church & Cemetery.) This stop cost me about 15 or 20 minutes, putting me late according to Toots. I also stopped along County Hwy K to snap a couple more photos of some interesting old farm buildings and what was the remains of an old stone farmhouse in the middle of a field.
I eventually did make it to Sheboygan and their county's historical society museum, only five minutes late for the 1pm scheduled tour. I called ahead and fortunately as it turned out, I was the only one there for the midday guided tour so everything worked out perfectly.
That was a very enlightening time. Not only do they have a very rich museum, but on their grounds there are four historic buildings from the mid 19th century, including an 1862 log cabin home and a cheese factory that dates back to 1867. For anyone interested in what life was like for those who immigrated to Wisconsin in the 1800's, this is a very nice museum with great artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of more than 150 years of Wisconsin history.
After the museum, I finally headed further east to make my way to Lake Michigan and hopefully the breakwater light. I really had no idea where I was going other than "to the lake" and probably near the harbor. I was able to navigate myself right to the adjacent pier that provided me access to walk out about 100 yards to watch the waves ebb and flow towards the rocky breakwater wall. In the river channel between the wall I was on and the one where the light was, several boats were fishing. There were strong winds and at times, high waves so my guess is they didn't want to venture too far out into the rough water.
It was a sunny afternoon, but the air was chilly. I should have been wearing a hat or my hoodie as I got a bit of an earache after being out there for about 30 minutes. I was happy with the photos I took . . . so mission accomplished.
My last planned stop for the day was the 1860's Port Washington Light Station. I knew they closed at 4pm so I had to make decent time south towards Milwaukee. I arrived in plenty of time to take the full tour, including a climb to the top of the lighthouse. Afterwards, I spent some time walking around the grounds and checking out their other buildings.
Today this lighthouse is not used for navigation as they have replaced it with a functioning breakwater light out on the pier. The photos I took from atop the 1860's lighthouse were pretty poor so I asked about another vantage point. My guide directed me up to the Upper Lake Park which did provide a nice view, even if it was over the water treatment plant.
It was very windy there as well, so I spent a minimal amount of time taking photos. I got a handful of nice images, so I was happy.
With this journal you can read more about my time at the Sheboygan County Historical Society's Museum, the buildings located on their property as well as the 1860's Port Washington Light Station. I have also attached a number of photos to share my experiences visually.
From Milwaukee, there are a number of day trips visitors can take. If you have about five or six hours, this is one that doesn't require a lot of driving (less than 150 miles). I would encourage folks to get off the interstate however, and venture out into the rural countryside. You don't have to get too far outside of the Milwaukee city limits to be in the country and enjoying the beauty of our rich farmland.