Listening to the soothing voice of Chicago Public Radio, I departed the Gates to the West, and began the road trip in earnest. The Day 2 drive was designed to be pleasant and relaxing. The sprawl of the Midwest gave way to a rich interplay of farms and forest scenery somewhere in eastern Illinois. Wisconsin was relaxing on the eyes too, though I always have to stay vigilant on those highways.
Route 94 in Wisconsin has two lanes in each direction, but a lot of trucks. What this means is anyone looking to go more than 65 mph is passing trucks constantly, which necessitates maintaining a steady clip over the speed limit. This is how I got slammed with my first and worst speeding ticket of my life in 2004, outside the town of La Crosse. The cop demanded that as an out of stater, I pay my ticket on the spot. But having lost my credit card the night before, and lacking sufficient cash, I had no means of doing so. We ended up driving to three La Crosse banks in search of one that would cash out of state checks, the cop growing progressively angrier each time. We did not succeed, and he had to take my word that my check was good. Needless to say, I was careful as I drove near La Crosse. Like snakes in the grass they hide there.
I lunched in one of my favorite towns, Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve swung through there three times on road trips, sleeping in a commune, a fraternity and my car, respectively. Had I chosen to attend a state school- this would have been it. I’m not sure how you beat strong academics, a great sports program you can actually root for, and leftist politics.
I love this capital building, and stop to admire it whenever I’m in town. Was a little disappointed than one of my favorite politicians, Russ Feingold, had no presence anywhere in the state (I didn’t see a single sign), as he is on his ways to an unceremonious departure after 18 years in the Senate.
If you’ve spent any time in a rest area off interstates, you know that the most adventurous people will get is perhaps walking their dog across the grass. That’s why when I saw a trail leading into the Black Hills Forest of northern Wisconsin, I knew I was in for a private walk in the woods. The weather was perfect, and this wooden walkway took me alongside a hill with sweet views- I can only imagine how much more stunning it would have been a week ago, before the death of so many leaves.
I cruised into Minneapolis around 7pm, soon finding my couchsurfing hosts, Lexi and Tara. They apparently get couchsurfers all the time in Minneapolis, which surprised me. They were excellent hosts, taking me to the CC Club, a grungy bar in the cool part of downtown (Lyndsdale Avenue), where four different beers were on tap for $3.
My friend Anna from the 2004 campaign joined us- it was our first time hanging out in six years. We told stories about those crazy Vegas days. I ordered cheese curds for the first time in my life. For the non-Midwesterners out there, they are basically small mozzarella sticks with better quality cheese and the feel that they have been mixed with air. Delicious with marinara sauce. As the night wound down we went back to Tara and Lexi’s place to listen to The Suburbs on vinyl. What more could you want from a Tuesday night?
In the morning I passed perhaps the coolest car I’ve ever seen. Check it out: