Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dairy cartels in the land of few surprises.

Fourth of July has come and gone, and with the promises of something amazing Tor, Steffen and myself headed to Madison, Wisconsin for Rhythm and Booms. After tricking me into thinking it could snow on the Fourth back in Winter, and by liking this seemingly innocuous holiday so much to deem it his favorite, I told Tor he had to make it an amazing Independence Day. And, while not on July 4th, it was a fantastic weekend.

After stocking up on snacks for the road from the Farmer's Market, we set off towards Madison, Wisconsin with just a few stops planned in between. And by a few, I mean that we did so many randomly awesome things that I can't remember it all. In fact, before we even made it to Wisconsin we had ourselves some cheese curds and ice cream from the Waukon creamery. Delicious.

'Hiking' In.
In Wisconsin, we stopped at Blue Mounds to set up camp. As the highest point in Wisconsin, this 'mound' provides a cave, camping, and beautiful hiking. We chose a hike-in camp site that involved all of a 1/4 walk down a paved road to nice little camp sites ... rough. After setting up the tents, we checked out a few observation tours to appreciate the view. It was impressive - you could make out the entire Wisconsin river valley and see gorgeous little farms all over the land.

First, we went to Cave of the Mounds. This National Natural Landmark was discovered some years ago by accident, and is (according to the fantastic 'Historical Consultant' interviewed for a pre-tour video) one of Wisconsin's few surprises (because those things don't happen a lot around here!). It's a gorgeous cave that has all the features of a cave, and our tour through was perfectly cooling and entertaining.

Afterwards, we headed out to Spring Green Prairie Reserve. This prairie has more sandy, dry conditions - so there are cactus through the prairie. We climbed up the bluff to the top and got a gorgeous view. Due to an ignored 'Trail Stops Here' sign, we discovered the best spot was impassiable with poision ivy. So we hiked across the bluff to find this amazing rock output with an amazing view. We sat and enjoyed the view for quite a while - I could have spent quite a bit of time here, but fireworks were to be had.

Amazing Views!
After hiking back, we looked for some Technu (yes, we also found some poision ivy all around our feet and legs), then jumped in the river for a lovely dip. After being sufficiently cool and testing our swimming abilities (only Tor could stand the current enough to swim to the other side), we finally headed into Madison for the fireworks display. With traffic and maddness, we weren't sure we'd make it on time. But, a quick parking find and a run down the hill found us seated in the park as the show was beginning. The show featured 30-45 minutes of beautiful fireworks, supposedly correagraphed to music. The music portion sucked, though the Whitney Housten tribute was entertaining. The fireworks felt like a technicolor version of birthday cake, and I love birthday cake.

I saved one donut for breakfast. Mmm.
Afterwards, we went downtown for dinner and drinks at The Great Dane. Wisconsin is known for having good beer, so why not get some while we have the chance? Afterwards we wandered around the main street into campus, with it's many bars and great atmosphere. We wandered around campus a little bit, enjoying the campus filled with various groups of drunk college-aged persons. After exploring and enjoying, we stopped by a donut shop on our way back to the campsite (it was open at 2:00 when we needed it to be!) and fell asleep, hard.

On Sunday morning we woke up easy and headed off on our adventures. We stopped in Spring Green - an artsy little town that had a delightful little cafe for breakfast. We had stopped by here for a look at Talisen the previous day ... today was just about the breakfast. After wandering around downtown, we took the back country roads along the Wisconsin River to Iowa, stopping at a random cheese store and at a little reserve for a quick hike along the way. It was great.
The Wisconsin River!

 All in all, Wisconsin isn't so bad either. All of the back roads are paved because of the 'milk cartel' (trucks don't like the gravel), so it was a pleasant ride. We ran into a pretty chapel, stopped for pretty views, and enjoyed the meandering river. It was a fantastic weekend. And, for the actual Fourth my friends and I swam in a local hide-away quarry, drinking beer and enjoying the cool for a couple of hours. This weekend, we went to fireworks in Spillville, where people come from all around. It was really great. People care a lot about the holiday here, so it was fun to experience it in so many different ways.

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