THE CHEDDAR CURTAIN - LIFE ON THE ILLINOIS-WISCONSIN BORDER
The state line between Illinois and Wisconsin is something I cross frequently, but rarely do I consider the communities that exist on either side. People from Illinois refer to the border as the “cheddar curtain.” Growing up in Wisconsin we used an unflattering acronym when referring to those from Illinois who strayed north to the roads of “America’s Dairyland.” I’d never spent any significant amount of time around the border so I decided to zigzag across the state line and see what life was like. Promising the kids ice cream, I packed my family into the car and connected the dots from one town to to another
Starting off, there was Antioch, IL which nestles itself around a series of lakes and is home to the company that makes the china for Air Force One and Camp David. Who knew? Then we hit Wilmot, WI, “Matterhorn of the Midwest,” with its ski hill, a place I had actually been to before with my middle school ski club. Genoa City, WI and Richmond, IL were next in line—two little towns lying across the border from each other that you may or may not notice as you drive up Hwy 12 to Lake Geneva.
There is Sharon, where we stopped for ice cream and were literally some of the only people out on the main street. Zenda, a town I could hardly find and seemed to blend into the ruralness around it. Connecting these places were country roads that range from blacktop highways to small county roads—the certain kind of midwest roads that exist in the middle of nowhere. They are as straight as an arrow and shoot through corn fields, seemingly only used by tractors and other farm implements, connecting places where families have lived for generations tending to their farms. It was the middle of nowhere for us, but somewhere for them.
I did not come to any grand conclusions as to what life is like on the border or form any new opinions about one state or the other. More importantly, my family and I spent some time off the beaten path. A place I feel like everyone should go once in awhile.
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Dan Caruso is a Guide to Illinois and Wisconsin. He grew up in Wisconsin and moved to Chicago to get his masters degree in architecture. He currently works as a project manager for a small local architecture firm, is trying to break into real estate, and wishes he was a photographer. You can see Dan’s photographs on flickr and his tumblr page, jonnyoptimo.tumblr.com. He also likes to keep his trigger finger loose on instagram.