June 6, 2020

Week 6: Into the Wilds of Wisconsin

Grand Yerkes!

Ahhh, cooler weather at last… and while the sixth week of our North American adventure has yet to see us encounter a run on clear skies, we have gotten  back out camping once again for the first time in six years. This week has seen us explore the great state of Wisconsin, from its southern Illinois hinterland across to its farmland heart.

Last week’s installment left off at the Yerkes observatory on the shores of Lake Geneva. We couldn’t have asked for better weather as we got a fascinating look at this observatory behind the scenes. More than just the historic 40” refractor, Yerkes is a modern scientific institution that is still hunting for gamma-ray progenitors with Skynet, building astronomical detectors headed for Antarctica and flying observatories such as SOFIA and much more. A daytrip from the Milwaukee-Chicago area — we based out of East Troy for the trip — Yerkes is well worth the visit. Tours of the ground floor exhibits to include the historic refractor run 25$ a head and although its advisable to book ‘em prior through the website, they were happy to oblige walkups when we were there.

Don’t miss Yerkes observatory for a fascinating look at the place where modern astrophysics was born… we promise we’ll have some forthcoming stories up on the observatory on Universe Today and Canada.com very soon.

From there, we headed over to Kenosha, Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan. A great place to cool off in June, Kenosha has a charming and easy to explore on foot downtown section, complete with a functioning refurbished electric tram that still plies its heart.

On the edge of town, we checked out the free tour at the Jelly Belly jelly bean factory. In operation since the 1970s, the folks at Jelly Belly have confectionery bean production down to a science. Watch for the art gallery in the factory floor warehouse with depictions of Reagan, Elvis and more compiled entirely in the medium of jelly beans…  this alone is a treat for the eyes. And no, the secret ingredient isn’t “people” ala Soylent Green, but watch out for some of the bizarre varieties such as “caterpillar” and “earwax” available at the jelly bean tasting bar in the gift shop.

Vegan and visiting Kenosha? A great meal can be had at Sol DLicious, where the only diary ingredient is in the half-and-half (a rarity in cheese loving Wisconsin!) Opened in 2013, Soul Delicious offers up some fabulous fare!

Museums of note in the town include the Civil War museum, the Kenosha History Center near the old restored lighthouse, and the Dinosaur Discovery Museum which displays dinosaur and mammoth finds courtesy of the local Carthage College.

As I write this, we’re cooling our heels in The Dells and camping at KOA campgrounds of America, a great place for finding dedicated wifi in the wild. For here, our expected flight plan will see us visiting the Kovak Planetarium in northern Wisconsin and headed into dark sky turf around the Apostle Islands…

More to come!


  1. [...] we mentioned last week, our first trial run at camping for this expedition along with Astrolab in tow was a success. [...]

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