Last Days in Madison

August 3 – 5

Friday is always the day of the Board of Directors meeting (which I am invited to attend) and the members-only auction at the NABA Convention, so I was on duty in the AM. I took a bunch of photos of the auction items, and then of the action at the beginning. I rarely stay to see the end of it. But my understanding is that this year’s was a great event, and made NABA (which takes a percentage of sales) more $ than the auction had gleaned the club for 20 years. So that was great news.

Events began again fairly early in the evening, so Jack and I returned for the tasting and dinner, and among the highlights for me was meeting for the first time, one of my contributors with whom I’ve worked for 12 years. He’s a great guy and he won a new award that has been created by the group in memory of another of the great contributors to the magazine, who died during the past year. Rich was the first recipient, and so very deserving of the honor. He’s been the absolute best writer for me to work with.

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Saturday is always the NABA public trade show, so I was on hand at 9AM when it opened, to take photos. Again, reports have it that this Convention Trade Show was among the best the members have experienced. So overall, it was a very successful event of the group I work for, creating their quarterly magazine.

A Floyd friend had recommended that we go to Baraboo, Wisconsin, where we’d find the Circus museum, as well as the International Crane Foundation where all 15 of the world’s cranes are housed and nurtured. It’s a great thing that we actually went this year, because they’re going to begin an enormous renovation project that will close the facilities for a year, starting this fall.

The Circus Museum wasn’t quite my cup of tea, although the period marketing artwork (lithographs, posters, advertisements) was definitely interesting.

And I always like to see the tigers and they had some ponies, too.

But overall the place was kind of seedy, which is what I think of when I think “circus,” with all the caged animals and “freak” show individuals. So that part was appropriate, anyway.

The history, however, was fascinating, with lots and lots of period photographs.

And you might ask, as we did, “Why Baraboo?” Well there are several explanations.

Another interesting thing about the place is the restoration work that goes on. On the day we visited, the craftsmen were working on a wagon shaped to look like the old woman who lived in a shoe (with all the youngsters crawling and hanging on the outside) and a carousel horse. I didn’t get pix of those as they were behind glass and the glare was terrible. But these represent that kind of work.

I was glad to get to the Crane preserve, and we happened to visit during their Crane Days Festival, so there were special guided tours and many activities for children. As you might guess, bird freak that I am, I took tons and tons of photos of cranes. Unfortunately, most are behind chain-link fencing and/or are nesting. So it was difficult to photograph with my type of camera. But I got a few pretty good images.

I won’t bore you with all that I took here, nor with the details about the cranes from all over the world, in varying stages of their being threatened or endangered. The highly rare whooping cranes are a special treat to see, as there is no fencing between you and them.

I urge you to look up the Foundation at savingcranes.org. It’s a wonderful place, and I am thankful that I took our friends’ recommendation and went there (about an hour northwest of Madison). They have been especially helpful about keeping the Whooping Cranes from extinction, but of course they work on behalf of all the cranes of the world as well. It’s a very cool place, and I hope to return in 2020, after their renovations and expansions.

After the Convention’s closing Saturday night meal and raffle, we packed up for departure Sunday and headed down to Kickapoo State Park in Illinois.

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Madison, SW Bicycling Path

August 1 & 2

The first of August was the kickoff of the NABA Convention, and my short work week. We took a bus ride down to Monroe, WI, and toured the Minhas Brewery. They gave us generous portions of their beer to taste, and a nice lunch to boot.

That evening, the Brewmaster’s Dinner was held, and (as usual) it was a splendid affair, with delicious food, including Duck Soup (despite the Marx Brothers jokes flying around the room).

Thursday, August 2, was a bunch of workshops etc. for the beer memorabilia collectors, and my usual “day off” during the Conventions, so I can get out and see some of the local color. 

Naturally, Jack and I took another of the wonderful bike circuits around the city. We saw the sand cranes again, right next to the path near a warehouse, and they didn’t have any issue at all with me stopping and snapping some shots.

This time, we hit the Southwest Path after riding across the long boardwalk near Babcock County Park and hitting the Capital City Trail, still under construction. We crossed the “jetty” between Lake Monona and Monona Bay into the downtown Madison area again, and then, instead of heading east as we’d done the other day, we struck out west, on the Southwest Path. 

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Look who we met! Of course, Jack had to take photos of Rugby Badger.

It was a thoroughly wonderful ride. Jack reported it far surpassed the ride he’d taken yesterday which tried to be the same thing, but never quite came together for him. Circling through the countryside, and a small part of the University of Wisconsin area, we finally hit the Cannonball Path, which took us back to the Capital City and thus home. 

At the long boardwalk, I stopped to see if I could possibly capture the length of the structure across the water, and I saw some ducks and turtles. 

These photos don’t do the boardwalk justice, but there simply no place to stand and get a photo of its breadth, without a boat.

Bike Stats:

  • Ride Time = 2:25
  • Stopped Time = 37 minutes
  • Distance = 28.5 miles
  • Average Speed = 11.75MPH

It was a great ride, and we completed my day off with a package meal of pork chops, potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery. It is all packed together in foil and the packets are roasted on the grill (or campfire) and what results is simply delicious.

 

Madison, Wisconsin

July 29, 30 & 31

Said goodbye to Lake Winnebago and hello to Babcock County Park Campground, confusingly, part of the Dane County Park system.

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At first impression, the Babcock campground was unimpressive. We missed it on the first pass, and it’s right next to a heavily-travelled road, so we saw what we might be in store for as we passed: big rigs chock-a-bock in a small, woody park.

But when we pulled in and saw our site (#5), on the opposite side of the total 25 site options from those next to the road, we were more pleased. The hosts, Tom and Mary Lou, are very welcoming and helpful and we’re on the side of the small grounds nearest the Yahara River, with a large lawn behind our trailer, and lovely sugar maples keeping things shady everywhere. The fire ring is out in the lawn, and there’s no problem setting up the screen house behind Roomba on the expansive lawn.

There are no gates, although a sign says “no visitors after 10P” which is also quiet hours. So we were a little apprehensive about security. But with the hosts knowing us and our neighbors knowing us (a couple who share long-distance trucking duties when they’re working) we felt easier after we’d all spoken after the first day.

After taking some time with the setup (we also had to fill our water tank on board, as there’s water, but not at the sites, which are all electric), we asked Tom about reaching a cycling path from the campground, and he directed us to a neighborhood nearby. We decided to walk up there a ways to see what we could see after our dinner, and we caught the sun setting over Lake Waubesa, which the Yahara River flows into, and on which we are situated to the east. I had to stand in someone’s driveway to get the shot, as the whole lakefront is “owned,” but it was a nice walk with not only the pretty sunset to see, but really nicely-done homes with flowers in the yards, and a mix of contemporary and more traditional architectures.

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July 30

Took our bikes into the neighborhood we’d walked last night, but down along the neighborhoods along the lake front, headed north toward the dedicated bike trail that winds up in downtown Madison.

It was a really fun ride, and we passed over what Tom reported is the longest boardwalk in the US, across one of the Lake’s bays. We saw some sand cranes after we moved away from Lake W and toward the urban areas of Madison’s suburbs, but still had a nice dedicated, paved path. Saw a couple of neighbors along the way.

Shortly thereafter, we found the Capital Trail closed for re-paving. A local rode up and offered some work-arounds, and suggested that some folks are still using the leg we needed to get into town, because he’d heard that they hadn’t begun the construction there. So we took a chance, and appreciated his advice, which included how to re-locate the Capital Trail on the other side of the construction.

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With a bit of jiggering, we made it into downtown, and found our way to the “Lake Loop” which was not marked on our map, but had indicators painted on the path and sidewalks. One of the primary problems with the map we had was that it did not include any crossing street names, which left us somewhat asea as we negotiated the more urban parts of our ride.

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Downtown Madison from the bike path.

We saw one part of the trials or the warmups for the CrossFit competition that is going to consume Madison over the weekend: One of the city’s boat ramps to Lake Monona was closed for folks to swim out to a float where (presumably) their efforts would be timed. We also saw lots of signage and other types of infrastructure for the event being installed by work crews. Our hosts had previously mentioned the CrossFit competition, and said that by Thursday and Friday, the campground would be full of young folks with chiseled bodies either competing in or watching the series of events. 

On our ride, we got a bit off kilter when we decided that a real circumnavigation of Lake Monona would take us back where we started, or nearly so—and we thought there were at least segments of bike path to take us there. But as the clouds darkened and we heard thunder in the distance, we had to rely on Jack’s “spidey sense” to figure out general direction, and our positioning without any references to cross streets. We ended up with a pretty nice round path with a small “tail” on it to get up and back to Babcock Park.

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BikeStats

  • Ride time = 1:53
  • Stopped time = 56:40
  • Distance = 22.85 mi
  • Average speed = 12MPH

I had some fun taking pictures of a heron that landed on the little river near us (the rain did not hit locally), and we grilled some bratwurst, grilled some veggies and corn, and had rice for dinner.

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July 31

We’d arranged (before we left home) with my college roommate and W&M Women’s rugby teammate, Val, to meet her and Jody halfway between their home and our campsite, in Delaplane, WI. About an hour’s drive for each of us, we chose the Waterstreet Brewery’s “Lake District” location (they’re a Milwaukee brewery) for lunch.

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It was a wonderful reunion, although something came up and Jody was unable to join us. The last time we were in Wisconsin, we had linked up with them at their lovely home in Racine, and since then, Val has retired and she showed us photos of her garden, which has matured and possibly doubled in size since we saw it in person.

We had a decent meal, but it was the catching up talk that was the main dish. We had a truly wonderful time.

After our meal, we returned to camp and I began to get myself ready for starting work on the morrow, at the NABA Convention, held at the Madison Crown Plaza in town.

High Cliff State Park, WI

July 28

High Cliff State Park is a lovely place, although their maps are quite confusing. But along with the water sports, for which most of our neighbors were there, campers will find lots and lots of walking/hiking/biking trails to enjoy. 

 

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Being in the woods, and having a relaxing day on our hands, I tried to photograph a couple of our insect neighbors.

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We had thought to take a ride, touring the paved roads and taking “every left turn” so we wouldn’t miss anything, but then remembered my bike chain.

Jack dug out the serious bicycle maintenance tool kit he carries in the truck, and with a couple of pairs of pliers, he fixed it right up. When we tried to find the bent link, it was impossible to discern from the others. 

I greased up both chains and took a test ride to see how the fix would work, and voila! Back in bike business. So we began by exploring our loops, and found what would be the perfect site for next time we’re in the neighborhood: #109 on the electric loop. It has good space between it and both its neighbors, is beautifully shady, and has a multi-use (unpaved) trail off its back.

We rode that trail through the woods and although we had many roots and rocks to avoid, it was fine, until we joined up with the horse trail.

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That part was choppy and rutted, and mostly came out of the trees and through hot, sunny, buggy open meadows. Between the mosquitoes and the chopped up terrain, I thought I would lose my mind and my fillings.

Still, we persevered, hoping that the “Overlook Trail” would take us to an overlook where we could see precisely how high these High Cliffs are above Lake Winnebago. But no. There was no overlook available, until we (mistakenly) rode our bikes onto a part of the Red Bird Trail that discouraged bicycle use, and there were short paths toward rocky outcroppings, but there was hardly any view at all due to the thick tree growth from below. In the image at the top of this post, you can see Lake Winnebago through a small window I was able to catch along the Red Bird. Jack actually walked up to one of the edges, but I could not go that close without some sort of barrier keeping my vertigo from tumbling be over the edge.

So we rode back as the sky darkened and threatened, but we only had to deal with sprinkles. 

Bike Stats:

  • Ride time = 56 minutes
  • Distance = 7.3 miles
  • Average speed = 7.8MPH

Every day our battery charged, but we continue to feel there is a problem either with the monitor, or some of the other wiring that sends solar gain into the battery because it seemed that the charge did not last as long as it should, given the sunlight and the relatively small draw (refrigerator, primarily) on the resource. The cross-breeze was such that we only had the vent fan running at the hottest part of the day, when the sun was full on the solar panels. 

That is something we’re going to have to continue to research and test.

After a simple meal of grilled hamburgers and chips, we called it a day and readied ourselves for the trip to Madison, WI, only a 3-ish hour drive southwest.

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Ferry Across Lake Michigan

July 26-27

We got up at a leisurely pace after our exertions of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, because it was a mere hop-skip to our one-nighter near Luddington (where we were scheduled to catch the SS Badger ferry to Wisconsin). 

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The Mason County Campground was actually quite nice, and although many sites are “RV Park” style, right next to one another, our site (#4) had some space between both of our nearest neighbors. 

The bath house was up a small hill, with a main “entry hall” to get to both the men’s and the women’s areas—clean and tidy and roomy.

We had some small trouble getting Roomba level without unhitching—and since we had to leave by 7:30-ish to be in line for the ferry no later than 8 (but it was only a 15-minute drive), we definitely did NOT want to unhitch. Likewise, our setup was minimal, and we unpacked next to nothing.

So we leveled left-to-right, but the front-to-back was too high in the front (on the hitch), so we tried to sleep in our bed with our heads the opposite direction from our normal, so our heads would be higher than our feet.

We didn’t even want to cook and have to clean up, so we found a pizza shop with delivery service to the campground, and ate our pizza with beer around 7:30P.

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Not much sleep was enjoyed, unfortunately. Jack was unable to stretch fully out, being wrong-way-to, and having gotten used to dangling his feet over the bed’s edge during some of the sleep phases. I had trouble freeing my hot feet from the sheets when they were where my head usually is.

But part of it might have been anticipating the ferry—the most disconcerting part of which is that we knew someone other than ourselves would be driving Roomba aboard. Jack worried that the task would fall to a 17-year-old whose summer job was to get the vehicles on the ferry—and we’d been told that the trailers are all backed onto the boat, to boot.

While the campground owner assured us that they do this all the time, and not to worry, that none of the summer kids would be backing Roomba into his slot on the vehicle deck, we still worried. And, of course, as is usual with me, I was worried about seasickness.

In the end, it was a bit stressful, watching the older fellow, who had obviously backed trailers most of his life, reverse our camper onto the boat—happily, we were at the dock early enough that Roomba was the first aboard (and the last off, of course) so there wasn’t anything our backer had to avoid to get him situated.

I’d dutifully taken my Dramamine an hour before we got underway at 9, and I also stayed as much as possible on the deck, although it began pelting with rain shortly after we’d cast off. I nevertheless had some time to take pix of the harbor at Luddington. One fellow out in the water fishing brought in an enormous fish, which a fellow next to me said was a salmon.

When the rain started, we tried to get to a place where I might be able to see the horizon, and face forward, which always helps ease my nausea. But while I could face forward at a table, it got hot and stuffy with everyone else on the boat also out of the rain, which is not at all good for nausea.

It finally stopped raining, however, and I took my rain gear and my growing headache outside, where I shivered in the seriously gusting winds for a while on the bow deck. Eventually, Jack came to fetch me for a seat on the (mostly) leeward side, where plastic chairs were available for some to sit beneath the life boats. The fresh air was glorious, and when the sun came back out, we both felt drowsy, even though the lifeboat we sat under was dripping water from one of the underside drain holes.

After 3 or 4 hours we began to come into Manitowoc Harbor, which was a pretty place. Jack had watched a video about the process, and without using any extra “side jet engines” (whatever they’re called), the ferry pilot did a 180 using his rudder and anchor to swing the back end of the SS Badger around to offload the passengers and cargo. It was pretty amazing.

It was not long, although a bit chaotic with everyone awaiting their vehicles, before Roomba came driving out of the Badger’s maw. We hopped in and headed to our stop for the night: High Cliff State Park in Wisconsin, on a high cliff overlooking Lake Winnebago. 

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We checked in and set up for a two-night stay in lovely woods without power, but with what we believed would be a decent amount of solar gain during the day. We were both so tired, we found it difficult to function. It was a pizza leftovers night (thanks, Mancino’s!) and we hit the hay very early with no agenda for the morrow.

 

Home Again

The National Association Breweriana Advertising’s 42nd Convention is history now. I’m home again after an uneventful series of flights, although Delta destroyed my travel bag — and I paid them an extra $25 to carry the thing, too. But whatcha gonna do?

Here are some final “seen around Green Bay” images:

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Trade show

Trade show set up this morning, and many pieces were sold and traded. This is the only “open to the public” event held at the NABA convention, and even though it is Packer Family Weekend in Green Bay, we had a good # of walk-ins for the event. Many items beyond brewing antiques were available, though I took pix of primarily brewery-related stuff.

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