Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Getting To Kenosha and Beyond

LAX last Friday morning, with people leaving for 4th of July, was like D-Day at the stockyards. My whole morning had been like that. Snappy P and I were flying to Chicago to go to friends’ wedding in Kenosha, WI. We figured we’d beat the holiday traffic and take an early flight, but by 7am. the pigs were chomping full force at the trough. I’ve never traveled on prime getaway day for  a holiday before in my life and now I know why.

The ten trillion people at the airport weren’t the worst of the problem. I woke up with a headache and was nauseous when my alarm rang at 5 am. That’s usually right about when I finally fall asleep. The peanut butter sandwich Snappy P gave me once the car picked both of us up didn’t help. She’s a health nut and used almond butter and sprinkled unsalted peanuts on top.  I’m a junk nut and if it’s not Skippy, the blasphemy of a healthy brand makes me ill.

A blurry shot I know but trust me, it’s more appetizing that way. Equally unappetizing and all too familiar, most of my Apple devices were suffering serious ailments. I’m on my third iPhone. When the battery decides to enter old age the declne is fast. I have an older one for backup that can only be used when plugged in because on its own the life sucks out of it in about four minutes. My newer iPhone 4 is already showing signs of Dementia. All made worse because American Airlines has evidently not heard that most people have mobile devices these days. There were only four plugs in a seating area that was a half a block long, and those had been permanently plugged up. I watched at least ten people screw up their electrical cords trying to jam them in the sockets. There was thankfully one Samsung charging station per gate. But that means six outlets for hundreds of people. I had to wander six gates down to find a plug and then the seating wasn’t optimum:

Once plugged in, I got an email from the bride-to-be that said there had been a windstorm in Kenosha the night before and most of the town’s power was still gone. So there was no way I could leave my “seat” as my phones, computer, and two ipads needed to be as charged as much as possible for the weather conditions we were about to enter. However, leave the terrazzo I was forced to do because there were constant gate changes. By the time the airline settled on gate 45, where we had originally started, it added an hour onto the departure time. Although I wasn’t to arrive there for another five hours, here’s what conditions were like all over Kenosha:

Once on American flight 1196, the 200+ passengers went even more nuts because the overhead compartments were the size of hatboxes. So unless you were only traveling with your Burger King bag, even more time was sucked up by everyone’s carry-ons having to be checked. And when’s the last time you were on a plane with no air vents?!

Under the best of conditions I’d still like air conditioning chips installed in my body, so the lack of those little nozzles that spray other people’s germs on you was very disquieting. Not to mention that this was my view for 3 1/2 hours:

You know what? If your head’s in this condition and your ass isn’t in a leather seat on your own private Lear jet, please have some consideration for the person 17 inches behind you and wear a hat! And I don’t want to see your hairy legs either. With all the rules the airlines are making these days can’t they add mandatory long pants t0 the list??

We finally landed in Chicago, jumped into our rental car and hit the freeway, or should I say parking lot.

Thankfully, I had just downloaded AT&T Navigator on my iPhone, which I’m happy to report is a lot more reliable than their cell service. I can’t say I’ve ever been happy with the iPhone’s map app so it was a real relief to have that talking lady lead us to Kenosha on surface roads. It was going to take a little longer but I figured we’d spot all kinds of vintage motels and diners and taking photographs of all that is my favorite thing to do. But I’m sad to report that everything has been mowed down or renovated so it looks like anywhere-just-outside-any-city, USA. The only exciting thing was that we passed the headquarters of Uline, an office supply place I’ve been ordering stuff from for at least 15 years because anything you get arrives bright and early the next day even if you don’t order it until 5 PM. I’ve often fantasized about the location of this fantastically efficient company and was sure they had to have warehouses in LA for such fast delivery. So although there’s no vintage blinking signs or architecture to write home about, at least Uline popped up in the endless miles of asphalt and tall grass.

Just as we hit the Kenosha line there was one incredible vintage architectural relic:

That’s the old drive-in theater that we were supposed to see a movie at that night but the windstorm had taken the screen out so our one shot at vintage immersion was not to be.  Signs of the windstorm were everywhere.

Nothing could destroy the mighty pillars of the one “big” hotel in Kenosha, however, The Best Western. Here’s the grand entrance:

At least it overlooked a lake.

Which is good because I wouldn’t want to have had to swim in the hotel’s pool or should I say…:

So we bypassed the poo and hit the elevator to drop everything off in the room. Snappy’s food dropped somewhere else:

No salad to munch on, we  got dressed and headed over to Villa Di Carlos across the street where a pizza dinner for the out-of-town wedding guests was being held. Even just walking from the hotel to the restaurant produced about 25 pounds of sweat so it was a relief to walk into not just air conditioning but a cheese haven of 4th of July wonderment:

I’m not sure how the Easter chick made it in but he did:

Unfortunately we were directed to an empty room downstairs where one vent spit out a sputtering stream of air if you happened to be sitting directly in front of it, which we weren’t. It was then I remembered why I left the Midwest behind so many years ago and moved to Los Angeles, where 99% of the time there’s no humidity and everything is air-conditioned anyway. Unless I wanted to be a maniac all weekend I just gave in and decided that I was going to be fine feeling like a baby’s diaper the whole weekend as most likely everyone else did too. Besides, the wedding couple, Natalie Lent and Chris Bruss, both friends from LA, were fabulous and we were there to support them and not my vintage architecture and kitsch sightings habit.

The next morning we woke up and hit Frank’s Diner, a 1928 railroad car style diner, featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

If  I thought I produced sweat the day before, it was nothing compared to the downpour that occurred inside the sweat lodge known as Frank’s.

The place itself was fabulous, the food was good but not A+ phenomenal, and the service made waiting for the flight at LAX the day before seem like the bullet train. The place is long and narrow and the line continues throughout the entire diner,…

…nowhere near a match for the two ceiling fans over the counter and vents on the floor near the booths.

The last time I looked, vents in walls or ceilings produced far better effects. But I suppose that people who only go to diners because they’re featured on television think that part of the experience is dripping into your food. It took almost an hour to get a turkey club and a tall stack. Pancakes were good and thick and the turkey club was juicy but filled with processed gobbler. I should’ve gotten the specialty of the house, the “garbage” egg concoctions:

And the next morning at Mike’s Burgers I should’ve gotten the fries:

And I guess I should’ve dressed more festively. It’s not often I’m outdone.

I can’t say Kenosha was my favorite destination point. We had a great time at the wedding and the hotel, although not opulent and featuring a poo, at least wasn’t crawling with what this house a couple blocks away was:

Yesterday morning, Snappy and I said goodbye to the bride…

We took the non-descript surface road ride back to O’Hare and I found plugs for some of my mobile devices.

We were in the air when the fireworks started so missed that but I have to say that flying on a holiday gives you a very empty airport and on-time flights, i.e. painless travel. And this time it got us LA.


Categories: Architecture, Consumer Alert!, Food, Hair, Holidays, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, People, Sign, Technology, Transportation, Travel

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12 Comments

  • Traveling at peak times is a grueling ordeal. The pics are precious. Especially the one of you next to the vending machine and the woman w/ the large caboose. Mike’s Burgers look deeelicious! Kenosha is a very kitschy place. Welcome back home to hot & dry LA. Happy 4th!

  • snappyp says:

    out of the thousands of photos you took on the plane of us, the chosen one was not APPROVED BY ME. GREAT WRITE UP HOWEVER!!

  • Salrteest says:

    My old boating hood! A boater ALWAYS knows the best places to “slip” into for some good grub. I would have directed you to Ray Radigan’s just a few miles down Sheridan Road. The best lake perch and relish plate your ever-lovin’ Midwest Detroit chompers could sink into.

    • Allee says:

      Ooh, so sorry I missed Ray Radigan’s! We drove up and down Sheridan quite a few times but I guess we didn’t go far enough in that direction. We didn’t spot many restaurants at all.

  • I promised myself I would NEVER que up at the airport on any HOLIDAY (especially Mother’s Day) since working for American Airlines for fourteen years. Being on the other side of the counter did not help.

  • weave1022 says:

    Wanna know………. about the sign behind you and that tall drink of a sailor……. ??? like a King and Drink like the Village Idiot!! What a Hoot!!

  • Laurie says:

    Best travelogue I’ve ever read. I’m still dreaming about dishes that I should have ordered instead of what I ordered 10-15 years ago. There was that fried shrimp in Jacksonville, Florida . . . . . .

    • Allee says:

      That’s why I always snap photos of stuff I didn’t order. Makes me be bolder in my choices as time goes on!

  • Jerry says:

    WOW! I am a regular reader… away for a couple of days and come back to see you were right by me! I live in Racine and work in Kenosha! Frank’s Diner is great (but reaaalllyyy slow – as you said), my favorite eatery is Kewpee in Racine. As always – I love the blog… sorry I missed seeing you in person!

    • Allee says:

      Sorry I missed you and sorry I missed Kewpee. I know I would love it from name alone. Next time you’re there snap a few photos and post them at AWMOK.com.

      I saw a sign for Racine but didn’t realize it was that close. How far from Kenosha is it? I know about Kenosha and Racine from my college days in Madison so it was nice to finally get to that part of the state.

      • Jerry says:

        Kewpee is part of an old chain and has 5 restaurants remaining. Racine people are crazy about ours. (Racine is right next to Kenosha)

  • denny says:

    Holy s***. This was pretty funny but I’m really dying over the door to the pool and it’s secret code imprinted upon it. For starters…..Poo, gister, otel, gues. What the hell?

    This was a mucho funny post!

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