Returning to MadCity
my family reunion in the cemetery near Mayville, Michigan, I drove south and
spent a night in a dingy Motel 6 in the dingy town of Battle Creek, which, of
course, is the home of Tony the Tiger and Kellogg's cereal. The next
morning, I got on the Interstate and headed to Minnesota. I had told my friends in
Minneapolis, Mark and Jayne, that I'd be there around dinnertime but as I would
discover, it's a loooong way from Battle Creek to Minneapolis. I guess I was still used to driving across the small states in the
you may know, I drive a Toyota pickup truck and Japanese imports are pretty
scarce in the Motor State. In fact, some Michiganders can be downright
hostile if you drive an imported car, so even though I'm a native Michigander, I
was glad to cross the Indiana border -- but then I remembered how
boring Indiana was (see
Best and Worst of the 50 States). Things livened up an hour later,
though, once I hit Chicago, which was congested with bumper-to-bumper traffic,
even though it was Saturday.
After escaping from the Windy City unscathed, the next barrier was an endless string of toll stops on Interstate
90. If you ever drive on these nickel-and-dime toll roads in Illinois, be sure
to read the signs above each booth as you approach them because otherwise, you'll
get in the wrong lane and, not having any change, will have to back up your truck and get in the correct
lane. All the while, cars and trucks around you will blast their horns and yell at that idiot from Oreee-gone. But that's
another story. Needless to say, I was glad to cross into the more civilized
(and toll-less) state of Wisconsin that afternoon.
main stop that afternoon was in Madison, Wisconsin (a.k.a., MadCity), home of the University of
Wisconsin, which is where I went to grad school back in the 1980s. Although
most of my friends from those days, like Marilyn and Jake (see
August 8, 2001) have since left, I still know a
few hangers-on in Madison, such as my former Geography compatriots, Brad and
Cynde (formerly known as Cindy), who I wanted to stop and see.
Madison's unofficial theme song. This is Frankie
Yankovic and his dazzling accordion playing Beer Barrel
RealPlayer. If problems, see
Unfortunately, they were both going to a beer festival that
day which, in beer-crazy Madison, is akin to attending a religious pilgrimage. I wasn't sure how I'd find them
there because I didn't know when I'd get to Madison that
afternoon. Besides, there'd be about three million
drunken, beer-thirsting people paying
answer, as Brad decided during a phone call the previous night, was
simple: we'd use cell phones. Thanks to Brad's
ingenuity, I got to see him and Cynde for about 20 minutes before scurrying off to
visit the campus, and then headed on to Minneapolis.
left: Driving through Chicago on a busy Saturday.
center: What's the deal with all the 40-cent toll stops in
Illinois? Some of us don't happen to carry large quantities of nickels,
dimes, AND quarters. Here's a tip: just make them 50 cents. Nah,
that makes too much cents.
right: After nearly running out of change, I reached
Madison, Wisconsin. I went to grad school here in the 1980s at the
University of Wisconsin (UW) and have always enjoyed coming back. Madison
is a really terrific city.
left: I was supposed to meet my friend Brad here at the
Madison Brew Fest... somewhere. What a mob scene! Braaaaaad, where
center: Beer makes everyone happy.
right: Through the miracle of cell-phone technology, Brad and I
finally connected. That's Brad and Cynde on the left, two friends from my UW-Geography days. A couple of Brad's happy friends are on the
left: A few old photos. That's Brad (center) at a UW-Geography
party in 1984. For some reason, I've got a lot of pictures of Brad drinking beer.
center: Here he is in 1985 in Utah, not drinking beer but eating a
burrito. I was working in Colorado that summer and Brad came out to
visit. We went down to Utah for a few days... and drank a lot of
beer. Being a bit inebriated, I made a fool of myself in front of a cute ranger
here (not surprising), but
that's another story.
right: Me and Cynde (or Cindy, as she was known then) in Madison,
in 1984. I have no idea why she's holding a stuffed bunny.
left: After seeing Brad and Cynde, I walked around the University of
Wisconsin campus. Science Hall is the home of the UW Geography Department. It's
the most beautiful building on campus and still evokes feelings of fondness...
center: Legend has it that Abe Lincoln stands up
whenever a female virgin walks in front of him. In all the years that I
attended school here, I never once saw Abe get up. I'm not sure what that
says about the UW student body.
right: Wisconsin's capitol is, I think, the prettiest one in the
Best and Worst of the 50 States). Believe it
or not, there's a guy who's full-time job here is just changing the light bulbs!
left: State Street is the happening place in Madison.
center: You can tell you're in Wisconsin when you start seeing cheese
right: Back on Interstate 90 that evening, watching the sunset while driving to
Minneapolis to visit my friends Mark and Jayne.
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Returning to MadCity