The drive from Chicago to Madison was warm and beautiful. The sun bounced off long expansive fields of rust-colored soybeans and light golden corn as I sang along to Gillian Welch. She seemed like a perfect soundtrack to the day. I had to hear her song, “I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll,” twice.
My first evening in Madison was amazing. My host, Laura, and her 3 roommates live right downtown in a beautiful apartment with a butcher block in the kitchen the size of a dining room table. Kai made the most spectacular 3 course dinner with all organic local foods and fine wines as a thank you to his roommates for watching the house while he and Ellie were in Europe. I was lucky to arrive on the right night. The place was immaculate and among blankets and pillows were a couple stuffed animals to choose from. I cuddled up with a small kangaroo beanie baby.
In the morning, Kai made chocolate raspberry pancakes and french pressed coffee. I was so surprised how warm it was as I walked along Williamson St through the afternoon. Autumn is definitely in full bloom; the roads were covered in brilliant yellow leaves that smelled like nutmeg. Williamson Street was a fantastic jaunt. I came across a fairly new pottery studio, Midwest Clay Project, where I had a great conversation with them about their new glaze mixes. I really wish I could stay to help them; I love playing with glaze chemistry.
The people here are so friendly; I spent a long time with several women from various art shops they own and I was amazed at how open they were. The east side of Madison is considered the more hippie area so I suppose that’s why I felt so at home there. One of the shopkeepers shared her boyfriend’s saying about Madison. “You can’t throw a dead cat without hitting a shaman. Besides being energetically friendly, there are tons of quirky art stores, co-ops and coffee shops. I stopped at The Green Owl where I had a fabulous vegetarian lunch and Mother Fool’s coffee shop where I had a great cup of homemade lemongrass kombucha. The whole day was a warm hug.
One of the women I met that day told me she had just returned from a trip to Devil’s Lake State Park. She said Wisconsin has a rich geological history from when the last Ice Age occurred around 12,000 years ago. There is an extremely long trail throughout the state called the Ice Age trail, some of which goes through Devil’s Lake. I made a point to spend the next day hiking the area around the lake. It was even warmer than the day before and now I added a couple thousand steep stone steps to my temperature. I was ecstatic to be out sweating among the balancing rocks and effigy mounds.
On the west side of the lake, the trail is much easier as you weave among the gargantuan tumbled and purple tinted rocks. About three-quarters of the way back, I saw a small crowd of people stopped on the trail. They pointed towards the water and said he’d been doing laps in the lake all afternoon. It was a small buck, I think a four point. We watched as he brought himself to shore just to push off and start paddling towards the other side. I don’t know if he ever made it out but it was amazing to see how fast he flew across the water.
That evening I relaxed with Kai and Carl, two of the people I was staying with. Kai had been processing apples for applesauce all day and still had quite a few to go. So Carl and I spent the evening peeling and chopping and boiling etc.
I really connected with Madison. The people are so friendly and open, very classic Midwest as I understand. Everyone you meet is a friend. This is the first city I’ve been in on this trip that I never felt any potential for danger. I don’t think I am finished with Madison. I appreciate it very much and after I spend some time down south I could definitely foresee another trip to Wisconsin. I didn’t see as much of the city as I could have but I’m very glad I got to see the rich history of Wisconsin in general. There is much more here that I have yet to witness.