Richard and Suzanne and Duncan's Big 2006 Road Trip #2
Stage 3 - Madi-ness
Trout Creek, MI to Madison, WI

Day 15 - Monday, September 4th, 2006
Trout Creek, MI to Madison, WI
286 miles

Due to our diligence in preparing for this next leg of the adventure, we were able to spend a relatively stress-reduced morning getting all those little last things ready for the next two weeks. We finally said our fond farewells, a little chipmunk came out to wave bye-bye, and we started the small-block V-8 and pointed Truckasaurus' wrinkled nose westward on M-28 and south on US 45 toward our next destination.

We had every expectation that this day wouldn't be all that exciting, as we were just planning on motoring expeditiously from the top chunk of Michigan to the capital of Wisconsin. We turned our watches back an hour at the Gogebic County line, entered the State Of Cheese, then continued on to Eagle River for a leg-stretch at our final Holiday station for this trip. Then onward to Rhinelander, where we got that picture of the infamous "Rhinelander Hodag" we didn't get last time. Then over on US 8 ("The Ocho") to highway 51, where we joined the teeming throngs leaving the northwoods for their Labor Day trudge back to Milwaukee, Chicago, or other home-like place.

As we passed the town of Knowlton, on the shores of Lake DuBay, we were sucked off the freeway by signs promising the many cheesy delights to be found at the Mullins Cheese factory. By golly, there was much crazy curdled stuff and cow-laden crafts in their store, and we loaded up a bag o' cheese curds and few other items for southbound snacking.

After this, we rolled nonstop thru Stevens Point (that "70s town") and continued south on the freeway (now known as I-39 as well as US 51) along the rolling farmland of Wisconsin's middle. Right before we joined the ganged-up I-90 & I-94 just outside Portage, we were looking for a place for fueling, and so we gassed up under the friendly gaze of a mighty tall fiberglass farmer (a farmer near the Dells?) towering over the BP station at the end of route 78. Duncan happily played at the farmer's vast feet, and enjoyed the satisfyingly hollow sound made when he slapped the big guy's sides.

Then back down the I-39/90/94 triplex, where all that homebound traffic congealed into a stop-n-go mess making for some difficult driving. However, the temperatures were mild and a bit of drizzle was falling, and so the windows were rolled down and everybody got along remarkably well (except for those few jerks with Illinois plates, but I digress). After yet another very slow mile bumping along with the semis & pop-ups, the map was consulted, and an alternate route into Madison was plotted & planned. We exited the Interstate and made the acquaintance of our third odd apparition of the day (Wisconsin is good for this stuff, by the way) - a big pink elephant with glasses worthy of Goldwater. Then a zig, a zag, a curve around Lake Mendota, and then we plunged into the difficult diagonality of the streets of downtown Madison. As we made yet another 90 degree turn around the dome of the state capitol, we missed the hotel entrance, and it was several turns (a few wrong, yes) later when we finally rolled to a stop in front of the Madison Concourse Hotel, our abode for the rest of the week.

There was a bit of a miscommunication (about 8 inches or so) regarding the vertical clearance in the hotel's parking garage, and after removing Truckasaurus' antennas, the floodlights, and a few other things, we cleared the big concrete roof beam with a few millimeters to spare and parked so Richard could do his Sherpa bit as Suzanne & Duncan settled into the spacious & nicely appointed room. After stuff was stowed, we descended to street level, ran into some old bike friends, and we all sauntered off down State Street. Given the variety and number of enticing eateries lining State St., it was tough choosing just one, but we finally picked a pizza place, chowed well amid pleasant conversation, and then we returned through the nightlife to the room to prepare for the days ahead.

More strange sights out Wisconsin way

Day 16 - Tuesday, September 5th, 2006
in Madison, WI
3 miles on bike, a mile or so on foot & stroller

The first day of this week's meetings pulled Richard away from the rest of the family to join some fellow state DOT staffers at the AASHTO Technical Committee on Nonmotorized Transportation meeting, held among the bustling Badgers on the UW campus. Richard serves as the liaison between this group and the AASHTO traffic engineering subcommittee that induced our previous adventure a couple months ago, and assisted a bit with a presentation on that US Bike Routes network task force that he's been riding herd on recently.

Later in the day, after Richard threaded his bicycle through the surging sea of students on their first week back in class, we all got together again and walked around the Capitol grounds' squirrels over to the Monona Terrace Conference Center for the opening reception of the 2006 ProWalk/ProBike Conference. We enjoyed the light fare and reacquainted ourselves with many friends from across the country, and Duncan did the cute kid routine to perfection. Once things slowed down a bit, Duncan was set free from the stroller and gleefully scampered up and down the corridors of this impressive Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building, and had us all having a great time...

...and then, as he was carefully climbing into a tastefully-designed chair in the hallway, he slipped a bit and tumbled, accidentally splitting his lip open on one of the wood accents on the way down. His parents were there immediately to sop up the tears and other fluids, and in a few minutes there was the odd sight of a happy giggling child trying his hardest to start scampering again, even if it might result in a trail of blood on the color-coordinated carpets. However, the signs were clear that it was time to head back to bed, and we slowly returned hotelward with a few friends past the numerous cleverly-decorated cow statues lining the streets. We hope to get pictures of all these merry moos later in the week, but we did decide to pose for one shot bisecting one bifurcated bovine appropriately named "Half and Half". By this time, Duncan's lip was looking much better, and we were off to rest thankful that the kid was still in relatively good shape.

Moooving between the cow chunks

Day 17 - Wednesday, September 6th, 2006
in Madison, WI
4 miles on bike, and some in the hotel shuttle

This day started early for Richard as he mounted his colorful cruiser for the ride over to the ProWalk/ProBike conference - which involved bonus mileage, since he left his name badge back in the room. Fortunately, he didn't disturb Duncan & Suzanne's slumber, and so they rested a bit longer as he finally found the bike parking (after 2 wrong turns & 2 elevator rides) and went off for a long and mildly exciting day, including making a presentation on what's likely to be in the next Federal traffic control standards.

Now back to Suzanne & Duncan. Remember that last night our little boy's lip, although swollen, didn't look too badly busted, and we put him to bed with some relief and a reasonably clear conscience. Today, though, Duncan's lip now looked most icky indeed, and Suzanne was rightly concerned that this might be a bigger issue that initially expected. Calls were made to our health care provider, and they recommended that someone look at Duncan's mangled mandible right away just to make sure that there wasn't anything really seriously wrong that might cause trouble later on. So, it came to pass that Suz & Dunc got to spend most of this fine day in a less-than-fun way - down at the emergency room of St. Mary's Medical Center, where a 5-hour wait culminated in a 5-minute consultation with the pediatrician, who pronounced "he's going to be just fine". Although this certainly wasn't the way that we'd planned to spend our time in this fine city, this announcement from Medical Authority (that, and the hefty co-pay) at least made us confident no permanent damage was done.

Due to our split schedules, we didn't all get together until very late into the evening back at the room, and at that point rest sounded like the best idea, and rest we did, hoping our next few days might turn out a bit better.

P.S. No, we're not showing a picture of Duncan's little kisser - instead, we're including a much more picturesque "cow-llage" of those colorful cattle grazing the streets of Madison.

A Madison "moo-saic"

Day 18 - Thursday, September 7th, 2006
in Madison, WI
13 miles on bike, 6 miles on foot

The conference continues, and Richard was up & at it again bright & early as he hitched his big black bag to the side of his purple cruiser for the trip to the Monona Terrace. His head was a bit stuffy today from some sort of unknown disorder, but he didn't let that affect him (too much) as he pedaled over the hills and down the diagonal streets of the Isthmus of Madison. Today's sessions were very worthwhile, and he learned much about the latest research on how to best get bicyclists, pedestrians, and other road users to all get along nicely out there in the world of transportation.

Suzanne & Duncan's day was much more enjoyable than the previous one. They strolled the stately, scenic, and shady streets of Madison, taking in the vibrant environment and peeking into the interesting establishments of this fair city. Richard rode over to meet up for lunch over at the university, and we fed well (and felt a bit, well, older than usual) as we sat and snacked amid the countless young faces in the Memorial Union.

After this enjoyable break, Suz & Dunc resumed their leisurely town tour, while Richard scooted back to the conference and then was taken for a ride by the local host committee as they showed him and a group of other attendees many of the bicycle transportation amenities that serve the tens of thousands of cyclists that ride the streets and paths of Madison every day. This was originally anticipated to be a hour & a half jaunt, but given all the interesting things to see, it stretched into the proverbial "three-hour tour", and Richard had to slip away and make his way back to the hotel early (aided by a very friendly local cyclist) in order to prepare for the evening's excitement.

One of the highlights of PWPB is the Thursday evening shindig. Bill Wilkinson always puts on a first-class party, er, professional networking opportunity, and we walked over to the UW to enjoy a most fun evening socializing with friends old and new. Richard skipped the pedal-powered margaritas, but Duncan tore up the dance floor chasing after the patterns created by the mirror ball on the floor while flirting with all the pretty gals in the room (and scoring a dance or two with a few of 'em while he was at it). By the end of the evening, our little Don Juan was tuckered out and so we strolled back to the room, but one more thing had to done enroute - Duncan insisted that we stop at every moo on the way back (and yes, there's a whole herd of 'em) so he could pat them on the nose and babble to them a fond good evening greeting. After the last cow was caressed and the hotel was reached, we conked out after a very good day, interrupted only by Richard's schnozz (and that darn buzzer from the parking garage across the street).

Dancing Duncan dazzles the dames

Day 19 - Friday, September 8th, 2006
in Madison, WI
6 miles on bike

So, how did we spend the final full day of our time in Madison? Richard wandered over to a couple more informative sessions at the conference, then headed off to an afternoon meeting of the state DOT pedestrian & bicycle coordinators to make more presentations on allegedly interesting items, and then took one last spin around the town and the campus on the way back to the hotel.

Meanwhile, Suzanne and Duncan relaxed in the room, with the highlight of the day being the trip downstairs for lunch. Then the day was capped off with Richard's delivery of our dinner via bicycle, and then accomplished the task of again packing up our assorted items for the next leg of our adventure.


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