Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Road Trip, Part 4: Bolingbrook, Madison, New Glarus and Finally Crossing the Mississippi River

*Just a quick note - as the formatting on this blog keeps some of the photographs pretty small. You can click on any of the pictures to enter a slide show, which will allow you to see larger format photographs*

Chicago, IL to Bolingbrook, IL. 29.3 miles, 38 minutes.

Our first stop after Chicago was to visit some of J's family friends. Mona, Deena, and Grandma. These three lovely ladies lived with J and her mother when they first moved to the United States from Egypt, while their house was being constructed. It had been some time since J had seen any of them - so it was a very joyful reunion. We chatted for most of the day, before cooking dinner and watching some TV. The next day we helped to prepare a huge brunch for all of us; eggs, hummus, olives, pita, falafel, grilling cheese and grandmas famous mish - a wonderfully funky fermented cheese.

Breakfast at Mona's
We relaxed most of the day. Deena snuck out to buy us some groceries for the road - a lot of non perishables, things we would use regularly over the next few weeks while living out of the car. It was very clear these were nurturing people - hospitable, kind, and wanting to take care of us.

Butterfly at the Arboretum in Madison
We left early the next day, both eager to hit the road. This was the beginning of the trip for us - not knowing where we would stay that night, or any night until we reached Colorado. Until now it felt like we were on vacation. Now we were on a road trip.

Bolingbrook, IL to Madison, WI. 151.8 miles, 2 hours, 28 minutes.

Hibiscus at Olbrich Gardens
Our first stop in Madison was the University of Madison Arboretum. We drove in, not really knowing what to expect. The grounds were much larger than we realized, so we just walked around for a bit before heading to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. We decided not to pay to see their greenhouse (in hindsight, we probably should have) but rather to explore all of the wonderful gardens surrounding the greenhouse - which was the free option. We both really enjoyed walking around here - the gardens were still mostly in bloom, and very designed. Now we both agree it is our favorite one we have been to in the United States. I bought my mother a post card here, of a drawing of a May Apple. After reading the fine print, I noticed the card was made in Salem, NY - the town of 937 people that she lives in.

The beautiful Thai Pavilion at Olbrich Gardens
The incredibly clear water at Olbrich Gardens
Easily the scariest plant we found in Madison, at Olbrich Gardens
We headed onto the University of Madison campus to try the ice cream at the Babcock Hall dairy store. This is a pretty low key dairy shop run by students of the College of Agricultural & Life Science. All of the ice cream and cheese here is made by the students. It was pretty good.

Ice Cream!
From here we spent a little time walking up and down State Street, a pedestrian mall lined with small shops and restaurants. Daylight was escaping so we headed to Tenney Park to to watch the sun set over Lake Mendota.
J on the rocks
For dinner we decided to cash in our Groupon at the Side Door Grill & Tap. Here they had 40 rotating taps, all for $4 a pint. We ordered a few beers and split fried cheese curds and giant, handmade tater tots. It sounds silly, but these tater tots were very memorable. We were happy with our time here - its always a little scary playing groupon roulette. We thought that if we lived in Madison, we could see ourselves being regulars here.

Tater Tots!
The thing that we both liked the most about Madison was its cycling infrastructure. Not only was the city extremely bike-friendly, but there was arguably more bicycles on the road than cars. It was far and away the most cycling friendly city we visited on the trip. Considerably more than ones that people regularly mention, like Portland,OR. Its just hard for us to imagine moving somewhere that has both worse weather than Albany, NY and is still a college town through and through.

After dinner we found a Walmart to park the car and turned in for the night. This was the first night that we slept in the car on the trip, and it was just as uncomfortable as you would imagine. It would be a little while before we would become accustomed to it.

In the past, I have travelled and slept in my car - but never with someone else. Ive always just pulled off somewhere, reclined the seat, and slept for a few hours. On this trip we tried to make it as comfortable as possible by making window covers that fit tightly and completely blocked out any light (as well as the ability for people to look in at us). The bed time routine was a little...lengthy though.

It went:
1: Find somewhere legal to park, almost always a Walmart Parking lot
2: Use the bathroom in Walmart
3: Park somewhere in the designated area of the lot for over-nighters that was a good combination of well lit but not too crowded or noisy.
4: Change into pajamas - this became much more necessary just a little further along in the trip when we were sleeping in weather as low as 17 F.
5: Line the windows
6: Empty the back seat by putting everything on the shelf above the trunk (the Fit is a hatchback, so it has a trunk cover that served as a shelf for us
7: Remove the head rests on the seats, tuck them under the seats & recline all the way, or as much as is comfortable
8: Place covers (we used scarves, hoodies, pretty much anything cushiony we could find) over seat belt buckle so its not jabbing into your side all night.
9: Unroll sleeping bags, make sleeping area on seats, try to get comfy & goto bed.

This whole process kind of fluctuated in its time or difficulty based a lot on the weather, how much garbage, dirty laundry, or food we had in the car. Basically we utilized every last inch of space we could in the car - so it required a lot of 'tetris-ing' to rearrange for sleeping.

A trick I picked up on the last time I drove across country was to sleep at Walmarts and get ready at Targets. Target always has less crowded, cleaner, more pleasant bathrooms. So in the morning we ate some breakfast in the car and drove to the closest Target to get ready. No matter how many times we did it, it always felt awkward when someone walked into the bathroom when we were putting in our contact lenses or brushing our teeth. I eventually started doing all of this in the parking lot and strictly used the bathrooms for hygienic reasons.

The National Mustard Museum
Our first stop of the day was (naturally) The National Mustard Museum. This was a small museum of...mustard. Not much else to say

All of the mustards
Afterwords, we headed to the Geology Museum that is on campus . There was a fairly impressive collection of fossils, gems, minerals, and dinosaur bones. Its amazing the things you can find in random places. I was not expecting to see a T-Rex & a Pterodactyl in Madison, WI

At the Geology Museum
We made a quick stop at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which only had two galleries open at the time. It took just a few minutes to see everything. As was becoming habit, we spent more time looking at the goods in the gift shop.

One of the galleries at the MOCA
We walked up the street a few blocks and peeked our heads into Formagination - which as a very nice cheese shop with a wonderful selection. We got a sandwich to take with us for a picnic lunch - which we filled out with an order of tater tots from the Side Door Grill & Tap.

Look at those tots!

We decided that, because we were out of specific things to see and do in Madison and we both knew it wasn't somewhere we wanted to move to - that we would leave that afternoon. Our next destination was New Glarus Brewery, in New Glarus, WI. Virtually everyone we talked to in Madison told us that we should check it out - so we did.

Madison, WI to New Glarus, WI. 24.9 miles, 36 minutes.

New Glarus Brewery
We got to the brewery not long before it was closing. We sampled everything they were pouring and wandered around the brewery and grounds a bit. As we were leaving, we were sitting on the hood of the car while trying to figure out where to grab some dinner. A worker was walking out and offered his suggestion of a local pub in New Glarus. We decided to check it out - and unfortunately it was closed. We struck out a few more times before landing at a pub on the outskirts of their downtown area, where we had some fried cheese curds and beer before we left for Iowa.

Kettles at New Glarus Brewery
Crossing the Mississippi River into Dubuque, IA

From our book:

  • Babcock Hill Diary Store – Ice Cream made from dairy plant at UW food science program. 
    o 1604 Linden Dr/Madison WI/53706 
  • Formagination – crazy cheese shop. Mon-Fri 10-6, Sat 10-5, Sun 11-4. 
    o 12 S Carroll St/Madison WI/53703 
  • Ellas Deli – $8-12 range, diner food, cool dining room. 
    o 2902 E Washington Ave/Madison WI/53703
  • Paradise Lounge – Cheap dive bar food 
    o 119 W main St/Madison WI/53703

Free to do:
  • State Street – only open to pedestrians & bus. 200 + shops, eclectic mix.
  • Dane County Farmers Market – Saturdays 6-2 @ surrounding State Capitol 
    building. Wednesdays8:30-2 @ 200 block of Martin Luther King Blvd. 
    Largest farmers market in US. 
  • Olbrich Botanical Gardens – 8-8. 
    o 3330 Atwood Ave/Madison WI/53704
  • Madison Museum of Contemporary Art – Tue-Thu 12-5, Fri 12-8, Sat 10-8, 
    Sun 12-5.
    o 227 State St/Madison WI/53703 
  • National Mustard Museum – 10-5
    o 7477 Hubbard Ave/Middleton WI/53562 
  • Henry Vilas Zoo – 10-4
    o 702 S Randall Ave/Madison WI/53715 
  • UW Arboretum – 7-10, visitors center 9:30-4 (12:30-4 weekends). Nature, plants. Hiking Walking. 
    o 1207 Seminole Hwy/Madison WI/53711 
  • View sunset over lake – Across Tenney Park on other side of Sherman Ave, 
    walk beyond lighthouse and right by the lake. 
  • Chazen Museum of Art – Tue-Fri 9-5 (9 on Thu), Sat-Sun 11-5. 
    o 750 University Ave/Madison WI/53706 
  • Geology Museum – Mon-Fri 8:30-4:30, Sat 9-1 o 1215 W Dayton St/Madison WI/53715
  • Muir Woods Trail / Picnic Point – walking trail/vista
  • Ice Age Trail – 1200 miles in WI, part in Madison : Begin on Valley View Rd, 
    turn L on Mound View. There is a parking lot & trail head at Mound View & Moraine Ridge. Follow trail until you come to a fork. Turn right or left. Must make a loop. 

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