Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Slice of Life: Living in Wisconsin

Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.

Last Thursday, my husband and I dropped the dog off at a doggy spa and took off to Madison.  My mother and stepfather live in Madison, so we go quite often.  Thursday seemed like the perfect day for a little spontaneity and so I suggested that we take a different route to get to Madison.  We enjoy craft beer and there are a number of small breweries in Wisconsin.  This seemed like a fun time to try one out.  So we took off with the idea of going to visit the New Glarus brewery.

Thursday was a spectacularly sunny day and the scenery was absolutely gorgeous.  Since we were taking a highway that was south of the one we usually take, we were treated to different landscapes.  Wisconsin is beautiful in the summertime and we enjoyed seeing the farm animals.  As we drove, it made me think back to the book I was reading at the time American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.  There is a passage in the beginning of that book that perfectly described how I was feeling at the time:

Then we were back in Wisconsin, a place that in late summer is thrillingly beautiful...to think of Wisconsin specifically or the Midwest as a whole as anything other than beautiful is to ignore the extraordinary power of the land.  The lushness of the grass and trees in August, the roll of the hills (far less of the Midwest is flat than outsiders seem to imagine), that rich smell of soil, the evening sunlight over a field of wheat, or the crickets chirping at dusk on a residential street: All of it, it has always made me feel at peace.  There is room to breathe, there is a realness to the place.  The seasons are extreme, but they pass and return, pass and return, and the world seems far steadier than it does from the vantage of a coastal city...But the Midwest: It is quietly lovely, not preening with the need to have its attributes remarked on.  It is the place I am calmest and most myself.

The drive was peaceful and relaxing and I loved seeing the amazing countryside and the farms.  My husband and I rode in companionable silence, listening to the music he enjoys, and commenting once in awhile on something we saw out the window.

Then, after about the third time the GPS told us "drive 15 miles..." to the next turn, I started to feel a shift in mood in the car.  My husband started looking at the clock and muttering and the enjoyment started to falter.  You see, my husband is not cut out for road trips.  For him, the idea of being stuck in a car driving for hours is a form of torture.  My assurances that this trip would not be longer than the trip to Madison had been adamant and now I was being proven wrong.  Whoops!

About thirty minutes after I thought we would arrive, we had reached our destination.  New Glarus brewery makes a number of beers that are distributed around the Midwest, among them is the most popular of their brews, Spotted Cow.

They are also known for making fruit beers, such as Raspberry Tart, which is a lambic-style beer.  The brewery is really pretty and built into a hillside in a very rural part of Wisconsin.  It is south of Madison and has a nice setting.

The place was really beautiful and it was kind of nice to be able to go on a self-guided tour.  They offered 3 beer samples for $3.50 and you then keep the tasting glass.  We enjoyed a cold beer on a super hot day and had a good time stretching our legs and walking through the brewery.  I wish they would have had some small museum-like plaques at certain points along the way to explain what we were seeing.  Having been on multiple tours of breweries, we were pretty knowledgable but it would have been nice to have some unique information from this one.  

After having our samples, we were ready to set out on the road again.  There were a few grumbles from my husband about the fact that it was later than he had anticipated, but nothing too difficult to deal with. After all, I was having a lovely road trip.  

When we got to Madison, we met my mother and stepfather at their condo and then went to have dinner.  After eating, we headed to the Memorial Union terrace.  The terrace is one of the things I miss most now that we don't live in Madison.  Ask any Badger and you will know, this is one special place. There is even a construction sign that agrees with me!

My husband Ramon and my stepfather Jim decided to jump into my photo.  

Putting our heads together to plan.  

After enjoying some beer together on the terrace, it was time to head back.  Before leaving the union, I had to make one last pit stop: the ice cream counter.  If you have never tried Babcock hall ice cream, you are missing out.  The dairy is actually part of the School of Agriculture at UW-Madison, and they make phenomenal stuff!

The best flavor ever! Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream.  It is never the same anywhere else.
On Friday, we got to the real reason we had come to Madison.  Maxwell Street Days on State Street.

This is an annual sidewalk sale event on the best shopping street in Madison.  This is a pedestrian street in Madison which is lined with shops and restaurants.  For the last few years, my mother and I have gone to this massive sidewalk sale each year.  We have it down to a science.  There are a few stores that we know will have good deals on things that we want to buy.  We always get really good deals on things that we might not usually buy.  There is one particular boutique that carries things like Lug bags and Espe wallets in which we always spend some money.  We had a blast this time as well and got some great deals.

The crowded street leading up to the Capital square.  

After shopping in the morning, we decided to do something different in the afternoon.  We found ourselves heading to the Capital brewery...might as well make it a beer weekend, right?  So we went out to Middleton.  They have a great biergarten and a fun little tour.  So much fun!  

We ended our stay in Madison with a trip to the Madison Farmer's Market on Saturday morning.  This is an amazing market and so much fun to go to, if you get there early.  Later in the morning it can get quite crowded.  

Lately, my husband and I have been going back and forth with the idea of possibly moving somewhere.  After returning home from visiting my sister, I kind of had an epiphany about choosing to be happy wherever I am.  This trip to Madison certainly had me remembering many good times in my life as well as enjoying new fun times.  

Wisconsin is not too shabby and I am glad I had a chance to remind myself of that. 

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