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Madison, WI

September 3, 2014

It’s kind of crazy that I’ve been to Wisconsin three times in the past year (road trip, Shernell wedding, and now for work).

My coworker Shannon and I headed to Wisconsin at the end of August for a three-day workshop. We got as far as Chicago when we learned our flight to Madison had been cancelled. Rather than sticking around hoping we could get on a stand-by flight and knowing that the next flight with availability (the next morning) wouldn’t get us to work on time, we rented a car for a spontaneous road trip.

Illinois was full of construction and we paid five tolls in the short time we passed through (actually, we only paid four of them… oops), so basically nothing had changed since the last time I was there.

Things improved when we crossed into Wisconsin and I saw a sign for the world’s largest Culver’s. Of course we had to pull over.

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(Yes, we were driving a Beetle. This is what happens when you need a car at the last minute and ask for the smallest, a.k.a. cheapest, option.)

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Though hesitant at first, Shannon was an instant convert to frozen custard. Our snack definitely helped us survive the rest of the afternoon – setting up the workshop, driving to the Madison airport to switch rental cars and pick up our luggage. We had a very nice dinner and delicious beers at Ale Asylum, simply because it was close to the airport.

The first day of the workshop went well, and in the evening we went to the UW Memorial Union, which had been recommended to us by the participants. At first we were wondering what was so great about a student union, but when we arrived and saw the lake views and beer and brats, we were immediately won over. We each had a Spotted Cow and split the brat as a pre-dinner snack.CIMG2637

We walked along the lake a little bit, then up State Street to downtown and had dinner at The Coopers Tavern. Sitting outside everywhere while eating = winning.

The next day after work we walked out to Picnic Point on the lake and illegally went swimming (shh!). It was too hot and the water was too inviting not to jump in! For dinner, we ate at Craftsman Table & Tap in Middleton (closer to our hotel) and finally got some fried cheese curds. This is also when I realized that Deschutes sells beer in Wisconsin and I couldn’t order that Chainbreaker white IPA quickly enough.

After the last day of the workshop, Shannon and I wandered around downtown for a little while before her flight that evening. We stopped at an awesome cheese shop, then I had an early dinner at Graze before taking the bus back to the hotel (I might have stopped at Culver’s again).

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I had a day to myself while awaiting the arrival of Jen, so I went on a long walk in the morning on the trail right behind the hotel to the Pheasant Branch Conservancy. It was still foggy in the morning, but by the time I got back it was hot and humid. I took the bus downtown, visited the Museum of Contemporary Art, and then hung out at the beautiful new public library. When Jen arrived we had a quick beer at Collectivo Coffee while waiting for our table at Graze. Yes, I liked it so much that I went two nights in a row. I tend to do that with places I really like (Boulder Teahouse). I knew Jen would love the cheese selection, and I got to order the other things on the menu I had been eyeing the night before.

Saturday morning was foggy again, so we scampered at Pheasant Branch Conservancy before it got too hot. I knew Jen would want to go to the National Mustard Museum with me, so we explored and tasted the mustards and I got to squeeze a rubber chicken.CIMG2639

Our next stop was New Glarus! By this point it was pouring rain, so we had a quick lunch at a very Wisconsin bar and then headed to the brewery for a self-guided tour/tasting.CIMG2640

It would have been really nice to hang out on their patio if the weather had been better. On the way back to Madison, Jen bought some real-person art at a gallery and I bought cheese curds to take back to my office. We refueled at a coffee shop/liquor store (yes it was as great as that sounds), then headed downtown for a drink at Old Sugar distillery (I finally got an Old Fashioned). We ate dinner at Bassett Street Brunch Club, then called it a night since I had an early flight the next morning. At the hotel we ended up getting sucked into a really, really terrible TV movie.

I had a really good time hanging out in Madison for a week – if only all my other Wisconsin buddies could have been there!

My flight was delayed on the way home (really didn’t have good luck this trip), but otherwise everything went smoothly. Once again, I am the master of transporting valuables in my tiny suitcase.CIMG2643

I only took six beers back this time; Jen, I think you were right and I could have done the full eight. Next time.

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