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Coast-to-Coffice: Colectivo Fifth Ward

Coast-to-Coffice: Colectivo Fifth Ward

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Sharing space with other commercial enterprises, Colectivo‘s Fifth Ward location upcycles a discarded building into a cool coffeehouse that pays homage to the past.  The Foundry café, in Milwaukee’s emerging Fifth Ward neighborhood, is housed in the former Kramer International foundry.

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When Milwaukee was first settled, the Fifth Ward encompassed the area south of the Fourth Ward, between the Milwaukee River and First Avenue.  Over time, that area was absorbed into Walker’s Point.  Unfortunately, as the years went by, Walker’s Point became associated with crime and pollution.  Interest in historic preservation and a desire to make the Fifth Ward more appealing prompted the re-adoption of the name.  Interestingly, Colectivo (which was then Alterra) began roasting on the fifth floor of a warehouse in Walker’s Point.

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The Kramer International foundry produced non-ferrous and ferrous products for pump manufacturers.  The café honors that manufacturing tradition and history with its post-industrial design.

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As with all the Colectivo shops, everything is baked fresh every day at the Bay View location.  They source from local farms as much as possible, and they also partner with other Wisconsin food producers.  Wi-Fi is free, although it does ask you to re-accept the usage agreement after a couple of hours.

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The Fifth Ward location – with its friendly baristas, funky ambiance, reliable Wi-Fi, and range of great beverages and food – is an eccentric yet cozy place to be productive.

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Coast-to-Coffice: Colectivo Lakefront

Coast-to-Coffice: Colectivo Lakefront

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I’ve been sharing my coffices for a while now, but I’ve decided to formalize my reviews under a “Coast-to-Coffice” column.  My focus will be on locally owned, small business establishments, rather than the chains (although I enjoy working at Starbucks on occasion, too).  I’ve also added a page to the blog devoted to coffices.  That way, anyone who might be looking for a place to work and get to know a community while enjoying awesome beverages (and yummy eats) can check out where we’ve been.

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Colectivo Coffee began its life in Milwaukee as Alterra Coffee in 1993.   After years of building the business locally, Alterra attracted national attention, and the company sold its name and certain artistic assets to Mars Drinks.  They ultimately gave up their connection with Mars and renamed themselves Colectivo, a name which was “inspired by the artful and funky buses used for public transportation across Latin America, ‘colectivos’ (co-lec-TEE-vo), and the iconic part of everyday life they represent for everyday people”.  There are 12 cafes in the state, eight of which are in Milwaukee and its suburbs.

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The Lakefront location is across from McKinley Marina in the historic Milwaukee River Flushing Station which was built in 1888.  The Flushing Station’s purpose was to flush out pollution by pumping fresh water from Lake Michigan into the Milwaukee River. The cafe inhabits two-thirds of the building, and the flushing pump, which is still functioning, takes up the remaining third.

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My first reaction to learning that the coffee shop was in an old flushing station was, “Eww!”  A collaboration between a food and beverage company and the Milwaukee Metropolian Sewerage District seems kind of gross.  But, when you visit, all the nasty images are replaced by the quirky look and cool vibe Colectivo has created, not to mention the living museum quality of the flushing station elements.

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Colectivo’s Lakefront location goes beyond creating a sort of living history to include environmentally-friendly features.  There’s apparently a wetland garden that captures and filters parking lot runoff, although we couldn’t see it while we were there in late November.  And, supposedly plants on the grounds are irritgated by rainfall from the roof that’s routed into barrels.  The three levels of the cafe are made from recycled materials like wood decking from an old soap factory, brick and steel recovered from pre-existing buildings, and salvaged pump room wood.

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But what about the coffee?  The coffee is excellent, likely a result of the long-term farmer and co-op partnerships Colectivo has developed over the years. Colectivo also offers Letterbox Fine Teas, a hand-selected line of teas.  And the food’s pretty good, too.  Like the coffee, prices are reasonable.  Everything is baked fresh every day at the Bay View location.  They source from local farms as much as possible, and they also partner with other Wisconsin food producers.  Wi-Fi is free, although it does ask you to re-accept the usage agreement after a couple of hours.

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Every summer, the Lakefront location is also host to the Florentine Opera and Musica del Lago outdoor music series.  It’ll be fun to check that out when we’re here in the warm weather.

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Anvil Campground (Williamsburg, VA)

Anvil Campground (Williamsburg, VA)

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We stayed at Anvil Campground while we were visiting family in the area.  As a Passport America park, the rates were more than reasonable for the campground’s long and impressive list of amenities:
  • Williamsburg’s only campground with shuttle services
  • Free wi-fi
  • First-class utility pedestals in select sites
  • Laser leveling in select sites
  • Free cable in select sites
  • 50-amp electrical
  • Paved throughways in the campground
  • Pet friendly
  • Recycling bins next to trash cans
  • Rental cottages
  • Discounted attraction tickets
  • Free public access computer
  • General store with complimentary coffee
  • Swimming pool that’s handicap-accessible
  • Three playgrounds
  • Shower and laundry facilities
  • Arcade, basketball and horseshoes
  • Fire ring and picnic table at every site

Anvil has been in operation since 1954, owned by the same family for three generations.  Maybe that’s why the staff is so friendly.  They seem to truly love the business that’s been handed down over decades.  The park is small but picturesque, with a walking/biking/running trail very close by.  Easy access to a variety of restaurants and shopping means minimal driving, or you can take the free shuttle into town.

The park’s name comes from the family’s blacksmithing past.  Great Grandfather and Grandfather helped to make wrought iron locks, hinges, gates and more n Colonial Williamsburg from 1929 to 1935.  You can see samples of these items – including the original namesake anvil – in the park’s general store.

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Amana Colonies RV Park (Amana, Iowa)

Amana Colonies RV Park (Amana, Iowa)

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Our home during the iRV2 2013 National Rally was the Amana Colonies RV Park.  The campground sits on 60 acres near the scenic Lily Lake and Kolonieweg Recreation Trail.    There are 136 full hook-up sites, 278 water & electric sites, and 48 dry & tent camping sites with optional 20-amp electricity. Three buildings are available for meetings and events, totaling over 20,000 square feet of rental space, which made it a great location for the rally.

  • As you can tell from this aerial shot, taken with Mike’s quadcopter,  the sites are fairly level, gravel pull-throughs with grass on both sides.  Picnic tables are situated on most of the sites.
  • The park offers electrical, water, and sewer hook-ups as well as tent camping.  You have your choice of 20-, 30- or 50-amp electricity.
  • Pets are welcome.  There’s no designated pet area, so you’re free to walk your bark babies wherever you’d like as long as you clean up after them.
  • Dumpsters are placed at various intersections throughout the park, providing plenty of places to dispose of your trash.
  • The free wi-fi was pretty good, especially considering how many campers there were during the week of the event.
  • There’s a laundromat and a dump station, and liquid propane is available.
  • With the Old Creamery Theatre adjacent to the park, you can easily walk over to see a play.
  • Because most of the roads are gravel, some people felt it was dusty.  We found that if we drove the speed limit, dust was not an issue.

The campground hosts were very friendly.  We had several packages delivered while were there, and they brought one batch of boxes right to our rig.  Great service!

In addition to seeing a play, there’s plenty of stuff to do while you’re staying there: a walking tour, dining out, a bike ride. It’d be fun to come back for one of the craft shows, music festivals, and pet events that they regularly hold there.