26 May - 4 June 2015 Batavia, IL - Geneva, IL - Madison, WI

     Long ago when we were new to living aboard our boat (although not new to boating) and had been full-time cruisers for about a month, we met a couple, Linda and Loy, with whom we immediately struck a bond.  They were long-time sailors so besides the Seven Seas, we had other things in common.  For a couple of years in FL, our paths kept crossing when we'd least expect it but since then, they've retired their beautiful boat and are spending their time traveling internationally, so we hadn't seen them in about 6 years.  We wanted to make a visit happen while we were in their neighborhood of Chicago and because they were able to be very flexible, we spent an evening in their lovely home then dinner in a treasure of a restaurant that is one of their favorites.  We didn't get completely "caught up" -- that would take weeks, but we did a great job of hitting the high points. Being able to enjoy their company was a joy.
WI State Capitol in Madison
This is one of the prettiest state capitols we've ever seen and the guide was exceedingly excellent!

     Neither of us had ever been to Madison, WI, so after Chicago, that was our next destination. We've heard so many cycling stories about that area so that was the sole reason for adding that to our itinerary. We stayed a stone's throw from downtown in a rural setting far from the racket of traffic, trains, and planes which seemed to strange to be rural but so close to the city. 

Love the shape of the roof on the barn in our camping area.

 We rode our bikes every day and that's such a spectacular way to see a city.  Bicycles are everywhere as are gigantic bike shops.  We went into one to purchase a part and they have 3,000-4,000 new bikes in there.  There was another gargantuan shop housed in an old train depot.  We were eager to go check it out but we had to choose--one more bike ride or having our eyes glass over in a mega-bicycle shop.  We did not choose the latter.

View of Lake Michigan

View of Lake Michigan from a bikeway through the campus.

     The University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the nation's premier public research universities, is enormous, very hilly, fastidiously landscaped, and exquisitely stunning. It's all known for its beautiful natural setting, exciting campus atmosphere and academic prestige. If we rode those hills every day we'd have some big honking legs with beautiful definition in our quads and calves.  But at our age, does it really matter?  The undertaker will say, "My, what well developed legs you have, my dear!"  And if we could answer, we'd reply, "the better to climb those northern MI hills with."

This chicken is in a Madison-ite's front yard complete with an upright ear of corn that he's working on!

     Homelessness among college student is probably the case in many university cities but that never entered our minds until it was brought to our attention this past week.  These kids find that their student loans and any earned income just don't cover the bare essentials so they couch-surf with friends, sleep in their car if they have one, or stay in local shelters. Being homeless has got to add another layer of challenges on top of the rigors of academic work.  This a yellowed-with-age statistic but in 2013, there were 58,000 homeless students on college campuses nationwide.  Madison's homeless, from every facet of its population, puts out a weekly paper written by the homeless, published by a non-profit, and distributed by the homeless for $1 per copy.  A 23 year old who was interviewed said sometimes in class she becomes emotionally overwhelmed and her professors have no idea of her situation. She's found herself without a place to shower so she takes perfume ad flaps from magazine to rub the scent on her so she wouldn't smell in class. I would think that the demands of homelessness and trying to hide it would make it very difficult to relate to others and to make friends. This young woman said there's an image at UW of the students being "well-off" and others, who are paying for their own tuition, feel that they need to fit into that image.  Bless their hearts for working full time and hanging in there to get an undergrad degree.
Thailand gifted Madison with a pavilion located in the city's botanical garden.  Gold leaf was not spared in this area of the garden.
An exquisite reflecting pool in the gardens.

     Americans ate about 10 pounds of cheese per person per year in 1970 but now we consume 33 pounds and Bill and I do our share.  Wisconsin has approximately 10,000 dairy farms and more than 1.27 million cows.  Thank you, dairy farmers!  These farmers don't just decide to be a cheese maker.  They must be licensed.  They take dairy science and cheese-making classes and some go beyond that and also serve an apprenticeship   Wisconsin's revered Master Cheesemaker programs requirements similar to those in European countries. We're great fans of your product. There are 166 cheese factories and shops throughout Wisconsin so when you travel through this state, there's no need to go wanting.

     I found a great justification for gobbling cheese.  The U.S. Academy of General Dentistry suggests that eating cheese raises the mouth's pH and protects teeth from decay.  Neither milk nor yogurt showed this positive effect.  Now I feel better...and red wine for our hearts.  What could be better?  How can you top that?

     We came to Madison, not for the cheese, believe it or not, but for the city's reputation as a panacea for cyclists.  Our expectations were more than met.  There are safe bike ways enabling us to cycle to other cities sans concern over texting-while-driving menaces.  We love the city...but only in the summer.

    Hope you stay tuned as we continue our journey.

Bill and Laura
Madison, WI



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