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Returning to MadCity

(Reprint from News: August 14, 2001)

August 11, 2001


After 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 east.


As 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 The 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.


My 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 News: 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. 


Here's Madison's unofficial theme song.  This is Frankie Yankovic and his dazzling accordion playing Beer Barrel Polka.

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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 homage at the Festival.


The 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.



Above left:  Driving through Chicago on a busy Saturday.

Above 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.

Above 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.



Above left:  I was supposed to meet my friend Brad here at the Madison Brew Fest... somewhere.  What a mob scene!  Braaaaaad, where are yoooou?

Above center:  Beer makes everyone happy.

Above 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 right.



Above 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.

Above 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.

Above 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.



Above 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... and fear! 

Above 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.

Above right:  Wisconsin's capitol is, I think, the prettiest one in the nation (see 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!



Above left:  State Street is the happening place in Madison.

Above center:  You can tell you're in Wisconsin when you start seeing cheese shops.

Above 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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