By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 30, 2011 at 9:02 AM

As I sat wrapped in a towel, my feet dangling into an otherwise empty rooftop whirlpool at the Kohler Waters Spa, I paged through the most recent issue of Mother Jones, one of the many magazines provided for guests.

Of course, I appreciated the irony. But, really, what I appreciated most was the silence.

If you read my travelogues you know we take the kids everywhere we go. Getting them out into the world experiencing life and people and places is important to us. When former Milwaukee Art Museum curator Joseph Ketner, standing in front of the museum's O'Keeffe paintings a few years ago, told me that he never hesitated taking his children anywhere at any age, he reaffirmed an approach we'd already begun with our little ones.

But for the first time in a few years, we decided it might also be important to eat dinner without someone on our laps. To wander around the shops without anyone pulling us down saying, "uppy, uppy." To have an adult conversation for a few minutes.

And thus, the overnight visit to The American Club idea was born. Sure, it took us a year to actually get our act together and go, but it was worth the wait.

Although we only stayed a single night, we packed in the fun. We were, however, careful not to overbook ourselves. After all, stress-relief, not stress-creation, was our goal.

For many visitors to Kohler, all roads lead to the warm sun-drenched, world-class Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits golf courses. But we decided to seek nirvana on the path to the spa, instead.

The Kohler Waters Spa is the kind of place I've only ever seen in a movie. In the main area, there is a long relaxation pool bounded by thick-cushioned lounge chairs. At the far end is a waterfall that fills the sleek space with the sound of crashing water. To the left is the women's locker room, to the right, the men's.

In the latter, you'll find a sauna, steam room, heated whirlpool and cool pool. The sinks and showers are amenity-heavy with combs, brushes, disposable razors, shaving cream, after shave, lotions and on and on. The robes are fit for a king and queen.

Wasabi snacks and magazines and cool water drinking stations are abundant. In addition to the magazines, that rooftop spa on the fourth floor has views across Kohler, a whirlpool, fireplace, outdoor lounge.

Does it even need to be said that every detail is attended to; that everyone you encounter is smiling and helpful; that quietude reigns supreme?

I enjoyed a 50-minute massage that was amazing. I closed my eyes and tried, not entirely successfully, to clear my mind.

My better half experienced "Lavender Rain," a 50-minute "sampler" treatment that includes a lavender and eucalyptus exfoliation, a Vichy shower, lavender-infused wrap, a full-body moisturizer and a warm stone treatment on the back and feet.

Afterward, I found her in a robe, relaxing in a comfy chair, reading a magazine, looking like she could get used to this kind of thing.

I also underwent a "Complete Harmony Treatment."

Another sampler, which helps give customers an overview of some of the many of the spa's offerings, this one starts with a facial cleansing and exfoliation, skin analysis in the quiet room of a two-room suite. Then, moving to the "wet room," there is a Vichy shower, full-body exfoliation and a soothing bath. Back in the "Stillness" room a head to toe moisturizing wraps up the 80-minute treatment.

At the end, my skin was completely moisturized and I was totally mellow. No fewer than 13 lotions and tonics and gels and scrubs had been applied. I'd been bath salted and body buttered. This is the kind of vacation we never take. No, our typical getaway features way more walking; the kind of walking that makes us fear we've done permanent damage to our feet. This was a really nice alternative.

But, we then got our walk on by strolling along the tree-lined Highland Drive, past the Kohler Design Center – part museum, part showroom – to the Shops at Woodlake, where we visited the sinfully alluring Craverie Chocolatier Cafe, with its modern take on a Parisian cafe, and its glass case full of astonishingly lovely chocolates all lined up like little sugar soldiers ready to attack your waistline.

"Careful," I thought, "steady on." But we couldn't resist trying a few fruit-infused and hazelnut-based delicacies while waiting to sample the August/September Cheers to Chocolate platter ($12.95). Every month and a half or so, the Craverie pairs its chocolates with a craft beer and farmhouse cheese.

At a black metal patio table overlooking the man-made Woodlake (and its manicured island) behind the shops, we enjoyed the sweet, the savory and the salty, in the form of two pieces of melt-in-your-mouth milk chocolate rosemary-citrus caramels, a cold pint of Central Waters Illumination Double I.P.A. and an ounce of Carr Valley's tantalizing six-month aged white goat cheddar.

Luckily, we had walked over and would now walk back to the American Club to get ready for dinner.

There is a free shuttle in Kohler that takes folks between the shops, The American Club, The Inn at Woodlake, the golf courses and other amenities. We took it over to Blackwolf Run for dinner.

The restaurant is located in a stunning rustic lodge that overlooks the Sheboygan River, which wiggles through Kohler and the golf course. Arriving at sunset, the view over the course was lovely, though soon after fell into complete darkness.

At the same time, inside, dinner was charting an inverse course, starting small and growing brighter and brighter.

In the casual comfort of the lodge, we had delicious shrimp and lobster appetizers and salads, shared a cup of the corn sausage chowder recommended to us by The American Club bellmen dressed in retro caddy gear, and had sumptuous entrees that were not only delicious but generously portioned.

One does not go hungry in Kohler; at least not at Blackwolf Run restaurant.

As we waited for the shuttle to come back to fetch us, we looked at display cases showing some of the many Native American artifacts unearthed during the construction of the golf course.

And that history also came alive the next day when we went horseback riding from the Kohler stables in neighboring Sheboygan Falls.

This Brooklyn boy had only been on a horse once previously, but not to worry. Our guide, Tania, was savvy enough to sit me atop Lefty. At 30, Lefty, who still loves to eat and scratch his nose on trees and maintain his status as second in line on the trails, doesn't have the kind of energy that would render me a nervous wreck. In fact, I almost wondered if he, too, had a 50-minute massage and Complete Harmony Treatment the day before.

No, as we traversed miles of trails that wound through meadows, stands of trees, native forest and re-planted ones, took us past golf greens and along the meandering Sheboygan River, Lefty and I were as relaxed as can be.

Tania told us about the stables, the topography, the flora, the fauna – including the nearby golfers – the history of Kohler, the once-heavy Native American presence in the area and her own agricultural work and studies.

The 90-minute ride was, in its own way, as regenerative as our visit to the spa the day before.

Before shuttling out to the stables at River Wildlife (which has two locations, make sure you tell your shuttle driver you're headed to the stables), we had eaten breakfast at The American Club's Wisconsin Room, a sprawling, regal dining room with views out to the gardens surrounded by the club.

The 240-room American Club – the only AAA Five Diamond resort hotel in the Midwest – was built to house the Kohler Company workers, most of them immigrants, in 1918 and the Wisconsin Room was their dining hall. Back then it had long tables where they ate hearty food.

Nowadays it has a more upscale feel but the food is as hearty as ever. The breakfast buffet is $20 and offers a full array of fruit, cakes, breads, egg dishes, sausage, bacon, cereals and other delights. It includes coffee and juice, too. But you can order off a menu, too, and I warn you not to miss the waffle. Airy and crisp, the Wisconsin Room waffle is, perhaps, the world's most perfect waffle.

If the interiors of The American Club are all classic dark wood and window shutters – and they are – the gardens in the four courtyards are an explosion of light and color; a perfect complement. Do not miss the opportunity to stroll there and take a few glides in one of the swings. And by no means miss The Greenhouse.

This stained glass solarium was dismantled in England, shipped to Kohler and reassembled and it is now a multi-hued respite on a warm sunny day, where you can enjoy a coffee, pastry or ice cream.

Winding up our visit, we strolled back to the Shops at Woodlake, lunched on the Woodlake patio at the Cucina, an Italian restaurant right next to the Craverie, and visited a few shops, making sure we picked up a little present for the kids before we hit the road feeling refreshed, relaxed and regenerated.

A visit to Kohler is an investment. It's an investment in good food, in being pampered, in relaxation, in stress relief. However, it's not an investment that everyone can make all the time. Maybe you can do it once or twice a year. Maybe every couple years. Others perhaps are lucky enough to be able to enjoy it more often. Check the rates, look for packages and off-season deals. And, if you want some real peace and quiet, consider visiting during the week, as we did.

Then, kick back and relax. You deserve it.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.