3.10.2006

Touring Milwaukee

Printing concluded in the early hours Thursday, but there were no flights I could get on that would get me home earlier than my scheduled departure on Saturday. So today was a day to sleep late to try and catch up, then head out into Milwaukee.

I started with the factory tour at Harley-Davidson.

Arrived at the plant a bit before 11:30, got in on the next tour, my only tourmates a couple. It begins with a video detailing the (pretty remarkable) history of the company. The soundtrack in the shop and waiting area is all classic rock; by contrast, for the video, we suddenly get fat electronica beats, including, I'm pretty sure, Oakenfold's remix of U2.

This factory manufactures the powertrain for the Sportster and Buell (rhymes with fuel) lines, the smallest of Harley-Davidson's models. Other operations, mostly in Wisconsin, make the powertrains for the other models and assemble them. It also handles the engine rebuilds and a variety of replacement parts, the oldest of which is a 1916 kick-starter. It's an enormous operation, dedicated mainly to machining parts out of cast metal and assembling them. Problem is, with a kind of late start to the tour, we were in there a bit after noon. And the entire factory had stopped for lunch. The video had showed assembly line operations, but I was looking forward to seeing the whole thing in person.

The squished penny machine at the end almost made up for that. Note to self: return for the tour, next time earlier in the day.

Continuing on, headed to Miller for their brewery tour.

Back in DC, I'd been on the Old Dominion Brewing tour plenty of times, and it seemed that I should experience how the other half brews. Plus, with a 150+-year presence in Milwaukee, Miller is an integral part of the city. And, seemed appropriate, having caught the exhibit featuring their advertising last time.

Their operation was slicker. Beginning with the (I guess, obligatory) video, the propaganda was much more prevalent, and carried on throughout the tour. Our views were generally behind the glass (or barriers), unlike Harley-Davidson, where we were walking the floor. The truly amazing thing about Miller was how big it was — not just the vats for all beer in its various forms and the sheer volume of beer they produce, but the whole (as they refer to it) campus. I think they said something like 46 buildings. The effect is like a small main street of all brewing operations. At one of the most interesting points, you wind up in the caves, dug out by hand, 62' feet underground, which used to be packed with ice from neighboring rivers to keep the beer cold. One of Miller's grandsons thought it would be a good idea to them into a restaurant; it lasted two weeks. Now it's the next-to-last stop.

Photography (and cell phones, and pocket knives) prohibited at Harley-Davidson, so no loss there. But pictures encourged at Miller. Sorry.

The sun was out later in the day, making for a beautiful early spring day. The coldest point at this trip was still easily 10ยบ+ warmer than the warmest point last trip. And then there was the rain that the Santa Feans were watching with envy. After all, our drought has made the big time.

1 comment:

Mando said...

Hoorah!! AZ finally got some rain (and snow) yesterday. How about you?