What is there to do outside Chicago with bored young boys?  I imagine easy day-trips to Cape Cod or Cape Ann for parents in Boston.  And I can’t even speculate about the options available in San Francisco or Palo Alto….I turn green with envy just thinking about it.

Unsuccessful hikes in rural Wisconsin, a horrible weekend in a seven golf-course resort outside Galena have soured us on the idea that any escape is possible.  Over the last year, on the advice of seasoned veterans of the Midwest, we’ve decided to give the day-trip one more whirl.  Saugatuk, Michigan, was a big success.  Good food, good beer, cheap house rentals, private sandy beaches and pretty countryside.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Closer to us and in some ways more historically interesting – Lake Geneva in Wisconsin.  I thought its description as the Newport of the Midwest was a stretch till I saw mansion upon mansion lining the shore of Lake Geneva.  The empire than Wrigley’s chewing gum built is as impressive as any feudal monarch’s.  And it has a chewier, softer and more benevolent foundation than the war and pillage that lead to a typical King’s wealth.   The boat ride that allows the great unwashed a fleeting glance into the capitalist palaces does not hold a child’s attention for long.

For that, we had the East Troy Railroad Museum.  The first carriage we saw had “Evanston Express” displayed on it.   An old El car that ran between Evanston and Wilmette.  The museum has a good cappuccino and smoothie stand and there is an ice cream parlor next door.  The trip we took in an open carriage was exhilarating.  We spotted old train stops that had been left to crumble.  People waved from the houses and cars we passed.   Our joy was infectious.  At the start of the ride, on one side of the line are McMansions and on the other trailer parks.  This is left behind soon for countryside and then finally a farmer’s market.  But it’s the open carriage itself that’s most fun.  With old lights and seats that flip around for the trip back.

The train was driven by an enthusiastic old volunteer and there was a young volunteer guide.  Public good provision that left us all charmed.  Good to know that the torch will be passed from the Senior Members to the Junior Members and the East Troy line will live on.

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