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August 14, 2001  (Minneapolis, Minnesota) < Previous News  |  Next News >



Returning to MadCity 

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.


An Old Friend in Minnesooooda

I pulled into Minneapolis pretty late that night, but Mark and Jayne had stayed up waiting for me and greeted me with tired smiles.  Mark is one of my oldest friends and we met in 7th grade while debating the upcoming Nixon-McGovern election each day during lunch period at our Junior High in California.  McGovern fared as poorly in that election as I did in the debates, but Mark and I became friends nonetheless.  


Throughout high school, Mark, I, and other friends (including Troy and Carole, see News: June 14, 2001) played endless games of poker, Monopoly, and Risk and occasionally engaged in puerile, ill-conceived pranks that I won't delve into here.  Mark, Troy and I also played a lot of baseball, tennis, and golf, and every Friday afternoon, we would invade the local bowling alley and harass the ill-tempered, red-haired woman at the counter whom we so ingeniously dubbed "Big Red" before bowling a few games.  Mark and I also worked a lot on our high school's newspaper, which we both agree was the highlight of our high school experience.  That tells you something about our high school experience.


After college, Mark moved back to his home state of Minnesota and met a wonderful woman there named Jayne who had attended the University of Wisconsin and therefore possessed a superior intellect.  Jayne comes from a huge family and, as you walk around Mark and Jayne's house, you'll trip over hundreds of framed pictures of close relatives, distant relatives, and total strangers.  No, actually it's nice to see someone who appreciates family as much as Jayne (take the hint, Mark).  Jayne also loves cats while Mark has a "Cat Free Zone" sign posted on the door of his den.  Anyway, they're a great couple and are lots of fun to be around.  Their two kids are also lots of fun.


During my travels across America, I'm constantly fascinated by the accents found in the different parts of the country, and I have fun trying to guess where a person is from just by hearing them speak.  So far on this trip, I've contended with the Cajun accent of Louziana, all the y'alls I could handle in Tennessee, and the "caahs" and "focks" of New England.  Of course now that I was in Minnesota, I had to adjust to the Midwestern accent which is totally different.  


Back in New England they have trouble with the letter "R," but here in the Midwest they do funny things to the letter "A," often adding an "E" in front of it.  For instance, a "chair" here is actually a "chear" -- or even a "cheer" in Illinois -- and a "salad" is a "see-alad."  As you move into Minnesota, they start drawing out the letter "O" so that it's pronounced "Minnesooooda," and a simple "no" turns into the much more-involved "noooooh."  As you move into northern Minnesota and eastern North Dakota, the Canadian influence becomes apparent and they start tacking on an "eh?" to the end of every sentence whether it needs it or not, as in, "So where ya from, eh?"  Of course, us folks out in Oregon don't speak with any kind of accent -- it's everyone else in America who talks funny.


Along with chuckling over the Midwestern accent during my four-day stay at Mark's house, I got to visit with his parents, Doug and Kay, whom I hadn't seen in 24 years when Mark and I still lived in California.  During our conversation I learned that Doug had once dated my mother's cousin in North Dakota back in the 1940s.  Considering that I didn't meet Mark or his family until the 1970s, and that was in California, I found this coincidence totally amazing.  Of course, if Doug had married her, Mark would be my second cousin.  With that sobering thought, I left Minneapolis heading west.



Above left:  Mark is one of my oldest and best friends.  Here's that goofy guy wearing his Ross Perot Ears.  That's his wonderful wife Jayne on the right.  I spent four days visiting Mark and Jayne and their two terrific kids.

Above center:  Mark grilling steaks for dinner (oops, this is the Midwest so I mean "supper").

Above right:  Don't those steaks look gooood?



Above left:  Riding on the freeways of Minneapolis.

Above center:  A couple of old photos:  Here's Mark and Jayne during my visit in 1995.

Above right:  Mark's car got pummeled a few years ago during a hailstorm, which are pretty common in the Midwest.  Here's his pock-marked roof.  But like a good neighbor, State Farm was there.



Next News

August 17, 2001  (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)



Previous News

August 10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)

August 6, 2001  (Manlius, New York)

July 23, 2001  (Middleton, Massachusetts)

July 22, 2001  (Boston, Massachusetts)

July 20, 2001  (Pomfret, Connecticut)

July 18, 2001  (Denton, Maryland)

July 16, 2001  (Cumberland, Virginia)

July 14, 2001  (Roanoke, Virginia)

July 9, 2001  (Sevierville, Tennessee)

July 8, 2001  (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)

July 5, 2001  (Manchester, Tennessee)

June 30, 2001  (Hohenwald, Tennessee)

June 29, 2001  (Corinth, Mississippi)

June 27, 2001  (Natchez, Mississippi)

June 24, 2001  (Austin, Texas)

June 20, 2001  (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)

June 18, 2001  (Clay Canyon, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 2  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 1  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 14, 2001  (San Diego, California)

June 11, 2001  (San Jose, California)

June 2, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

May 19, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 30, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 19, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

April 5, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington) 


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Home > Travels (2001-02) > U.S. Trip > August 14, 2001