KENOSHA, Wis. — One of the most beautiful things about the United States of America is the diversity of its landscape. In a country so vast, at the turn of a head, at the blink of an eye, rich, intimidating cities turn to sprawling stretches of suburbia; small towns turn to endless cornfields; townhouses turn to farms, villas to cabins; land turns to water, water to land. And we embrace every piece of that landscape — well, most of us do.
Never is this diversity more evident than on Interstate 94, the 1,500-plus-mile highway that connects Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis, and stretches all the way to the middle of Montana. Along the way, toll booth to toll booth, you encounter it all — the city, the countryside, and everything in between. And unless you're a grouch, a curmudgeon, that gives you an enriching feeling. It fills you with a sense of freedom.
Northwestern in Kenosha
Northwestern in Kenosha
Every year in mid-August, Northwestern football re-familiarizes itself with all of this. The program loads up buses, and departs for Kenosha, a small city of just less than 100,000 people in southeastern Wisconsin. And thus, every year around this time, we re-familiarize ourselves as well.
Last year though, on the eve of a practice in Kenosha, one of our writers — he shall remain nameless — apparently wasn't in a very good mood. So he went on the prowl, and after some admittedly strong investigative reporting, needlessly attacked the poor old city, labelling it "not super fun or pretty looking," "dreadful," and "the absolute worst."
Now, it is important to understand that said writer is from Iowa, and hasn't gone a day in his life without telling somebody that Iowa is the greatest place on the face of the earth. So it's not unfair at all to question his sanity. But I digress.
More importantly, his flaming hot Kenosha take couldn't be more off base. It was "dreadful" #journalism, "the absolute worst," and there is a reason he is no longer on staff at Inside NU. The hate mail he subsequently received was entirely justified (and more is encouraged).
That's because Kenosha is in fact the greatest. Kenosha is the greatest, which makes it the greatest, which makes it the greatest. Who cares about what that means for Northwestern football.
As you near the Wisconsin border driving north from Illinois, its greatness is inescapable, unavoidable. It consumes you. The sky is so low that it doesn't engulf the city in gloom; rather, it raises it up into the heavens. And indeed, if you hop in the car, turn on some country music and relax, that's exactly where you feel like you are.
The distance between tree — the greenest trees you've ever seen — and cloud truly is minimal. Sometimes, it seems, the straight, upward sloping roads lead right up into the sky, which is a luscious, pillowy blend of white, gray and light blue. It's also infinite.
Now step out of your car, or maybe just crack the window, and feel that Kenosha wind, the greatest wind in the world. It's forceful, yet heartwarming and caring. It makes you feel alive. It tells you the secrets of the city, the possibilities it holds.
It also whispers of the city's history. And it leads you to its many tourist attractions: The Electric Street Car Circulator, the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, the Jelly Belly Factory, the Bristol Renaissance Fair (and its 16th century music)... The list goes on. London and Paris cower in fear at it.
Heck, there's even the local composting facility or the detention center, which are on the same road! How convenient! The ideal day trip!
But if you're not cultured enough for any of that, fear not. There is shopping — countless outlet malls — and fine dining. There's an eclectic mix of McDonald's, Wendy's, and even a drive-thru Panera — A DRIVE-THRU PANERA. But then there's also the comfy family joints, like The Compadres mexican restaurant — yes, not Los Compadres, THE Compadres. And how could you not check out Scores Sports Bar & Grill? It looks like quite the experience:
But more on that part of town later. Seriously, Kenosha is a gorgeous place, especially by the lake. It's already great, but Lake Michigan is what makes it the greatest. In the world.
Now head to the north side of town, where the drive is so uneventful that it will let your mind roam free. Its blandness is liberating. The only disruption is the roadside sign that advertises not just any old corn... fresh, homegrown sweet corn. You also might notice that they don't have pools here; instead, they just have ponds in their backyards... which is AMAZING.
There's also a sign, at a fairly big intersection, across the way from Scores. It welcomes everybody to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, the home of Northwestern training camp. But wait... there's more... it even welcomes Northwestern football specifically! How sweet the people of Kenosha are!
The campus is a sight to behold too. Its surroundings feature more deer crossing signs than houses. One side street is named Petrifying Springs Road. Seriously, how can you not love this place?!
But to dispel any rumors to the contrary once and for all, and prove that Kenosha is in fact the greatest city in the world, there was only one man to go to: the head football coach. The man who brings his team here, supposedly, according to a disgraced writer, because it is "the worst." Pat Fitzgerald.
In light of previously stated facts, and the opinions of others, all it takes is one question: "Coach, where would you rather live... Iowa or Kenosha?"
Fitzgerald barely even hesitates...