MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

On the road in Wisconsin

Happy discoveries: art pottery, burgers, bike trails and lighthouses.

The Brew City Queen in Milwaukee.

© Beth Gauper

The Brew City Queen II leaves the Lakefront Brewery and heads for the next stop on its weekend brewery tour.

On a trip to Milwaukee this month, I found that nothing stays the same — except the things people can’t do without.

In Lake Mills, just off I-94 east of Madison, I was surprised to see Ephraim Faience Pottery in a newly restored 1890s cream-brick building on Water Street. I’d been coveting its graceful, handmade Arts and Crafts pieces for many years but was resigned to simply admiring the shelves of vases and pitchers until I saw that I could buy one at half price.

So, thanks to a barely discernible bottom crease, I got my very own Heartland vase for $144. Seconds and irregulars are available only at the Lake Mills gallery.

“I buy bottom cracks all the time,’’ said manager Barbara Voss. “That way, I don’t have to feel so bad if the cat does cream it.’’

The studio makes only 500 of each piece, then retires it. A collectors society formed in 2007 and has an office across the street.

“Ever since my 401K went south, I’m putting the same amount into this, because I know I can recoup it,’’ Voss said.

I got another bargain around the corner, where the local American Legion post has been grilling sliders every Friday since 1950. A crowd had gathered in front of the narrow storefront, so I stood in line to order a $2 cheeseburger “with,’’ and when my paper bag appeared on the counter, I took it to a park bench across the street.

It was a juicy piece of beef on a plump bun, covered with grilled onions. “Mmm, it’s not that greasy,’’ said the woman on the next bench. No, just greasy enough.

Another new business shares the block with Ephraim Pottery — 2shores Classic Cars, founded in Germany in 2006. Every other Sunday between April and October, it opens its showroom, which is full of classic Alfa Romeos, Triumphs and Porsches, between 8 and 10 a.m. for Cars and Coffee. Pastries are supplied by the gallery/shop Sweet Lips.

Lake Mills also has a new wine-tasting bar and a bakery, which make nice complements to the Tyranena beers that are brewed in Lake Mills. And of course, the 52-mile Glacial Drumlin State Trail goes through town. For more, see Riding the Glacial Drumlin.

On to Milwaukee

A bicyclist on the Milwaukee lakefront.

© Beth Gauper

Riding along Lake Michigan from the Pierhead Light to the new Lakeshore State Park.

For a town that puts on massive festivals all summer, Milwaukee is amazingly low-key and easy to navigate. Once again, I stayed at Marquette University’s Straz Tower on the edge of downtown and used my bike to cruise around.

Across from Maier Festival Park, where Festa Italiana will be held this weekend, I rode through the new Lakeshore State Park, where you can camp if you've got your own boat. The white 1926 Breakwater Light sits at the harbor entrance, and it was a short ride to the 1907 cylindrical red Pierhead Lighthouse on what technically is the Hank Aaron State Trail.