I married a man whose hometown, Walla Walla, is famous for growing sweet onions. His high school didn’t have a pool, or AP Biology, but they did have an “Ag” Department, with classes in metals science.
I bring this up to explain why Eric does not think that “seeing pretty crops” on the side of the U.S. Grant Highway is reason enough to stop, let alone take pictures.
(I just read that paragraph to Eric, and he said, Pretty crops? You’re talking about dried up corn.)
People, I married a stone.
But unless you are Eric or Naimhe—could you look at that cornfield and blue sky and just keep driving?
We flew into Chicago Saturday morning and immediately grabbed our Nisaan at Hertz so we could head north to Madison, where we our friend Hillary was doing an Ironman triathlon.
When it was time for lunch, we had no idea where to go, so Eric searched for “food” on his phone-map-thing. He saw that we were near a place called ”Wild West Town.”
Obviously, our search for lunch was over.
We had perfectly fine salads served by a young woman in a black cowboy hat.
I kind of want to defend the place because its Yelp reviews were so stupid. (SHOCKING, RIGHT?)
This was my favorite quote—I’ve not edited it at all.
The food was “OK”. I’d actually go so far as to say that the food was pretty decent too. My two-star rating is a direct result of crappy service, which I do not find acceptable, no matter whether I am dining at McDonalds or Chez Paul.
[ed: In a snobby, condescending way, I love the use of quote marks around “OK,” as if he’s quoting himself. And the expectation of five-star service at McDonald’s.]
When we got back on the road, Eric took a few photos of pretty barns, but he was still confused by my interest in them.
I wondered — if I brought Eric to Redondo Beach, and he kept taking pictures of crashing waves — would I have walked a mile in his shoes?
(I will never know because Eric is not addicted to social media.)
About two hours later, we got to Madison.
We walked along the bike trail toward the center of town.
I think it’s a rule—if you want to live in Madison—you’ve got to bike everywhere.
Here is a view from the bike path:
Something neat about the city is that it’s both a college town and a state capital.
Which means if you are a Poli Sci major like the guy at our hotel, Ben, you have some serious material for your papers. Like, research is just walking to class and remembering what you overhear.
The picture below is of State Street, which is the Telegraph Avenue of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
I’ve decided that every cool college town has its version of Telegraph Avenue.
(On Sunday, the athletes came by this street four times—so I got to hang out in a fun part of town while waiting for Hillary. If it was a career, and there was money it it, I would totally be a professional Ironman cheerleader.)
We had dinner at a place called The Old Fashioned, which is billed as a gastro-pub “inspired by the traditions of Wisconsin taverns and supper clubs.”
It was everything you’d hope it would be with a promise like that.
But all you really need to know is:
They serve beer battered cheese curds.
I know Wisconsin cuisine is about more than that, but … I don’t care because cheese curds are one of the most amazing, curious inventions ever and I don’t have more awe in my body to give to regional cuisine than I’m already giving to Wisconsin.
(I will resume being an aspirational vegan now that I’m back in NYC….)
Usually, with roadtrips, you get one or the other: pretty journey or pretty city. Here we got both.
And, I’ve figured out the truth about Madison, which several locals told me, “If it weren’t for the winters, everyone would live here all the time.”
Madison was more than “OK” it was “Five stars.”