Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Madison, Wisconsin - home of the the Badgers

September 13 - 17, 2017:

It’s a rainy morning, but the forecast says it will stop around 10 AM and I’d much rather wait till then and stay dry.  One of the perks here is the free breakfast in the casino hotel and it’s pretty decent with potatoes, scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, bagels, do-nuts, cereal, coffee and juices.  So, I do that and check out what’s happening on the TV news and USA Today.

The forecast is accurate and we are away by 10AM taking the faster, but longer travel route on interstate 80 and route 39.  Route 39 is one of the roughest roads I’ve traveled and seems to be under construction it’s entire length.  There is a toll section in Wisconsin and I guess they need the money as the road is really nasty.  There is also a lot of traffic on this route, it was not an enjoyable ride.  

We arrive at the Ho-Chunk Casino, a real Indian Casino, about 2 PM and can’t believe how totally filled the Casino parking lot is. After taking a pass through the parking lot, a really good test of my maneuverability skills towing the Jeep, we find the hotel parking lot with plenty of open big rig spaces.  It is separated from the busy highway by a row of trees, very noisy, so we will be looking for an alternate campsite, which was our original plan anyhow.

Our casino spot before all the big rigs pulled in overnight

We have to go immediately to the Casino to see why it’s so packed on the middle of a Wednesday afternoon, are they giving something away ?  The Ho-Chunk Casino advertises that their slot machines are set to the highest payout percentage and that seems to the attraction as nothing else was going on.  We tried our luck, but it didn’t work for us !  Watching the compulsive gamblers, I see the wining strategy, you have to put a least a hundred dollars in the machine to work with, you bet a least $1, preferably the “max” on the “penny” machine and play it out hoping against the odds to be there when the electronic logic circuits allow a big payout. You then have to push the cash out button, take your money and quickly leave the Casino, which is the part where most people fail.

In the evening we go to downtown Madison to one of the highly rated restaurants, the "Old Fashioned".  It is packed, but only a short wait for a table.

The Old Fashioned

We move  a few miles away to the Babcock County Park campground in the morning where it is much more peaceful and quiet and has electric. On second thought, in the evening the carny people a few sites down were playing their music so everyone could hear it.  The park is named for Stephen Babcock, a Wisconsin dairy scientist, who is known internationally for discovering the method to determine the percentage of butterfat in milk.  (could happen only in Wisconsin).  The park borders on Lake Waubesa with a boat launch ramp and fishing access docks on the Yahara River.

Campground view

Yahara River adjacent to the campground

Madison is the Capital city of Wisconsin and the 2nd largest city after Milwaukee.  It is located on an isthmus between Lake Medota and Lake Menona.
On first impression driving around, it is hard to navigate with many one way streets and weird intersections.  It has many cultural attractions and is the home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Everywhere you go in Madison you see people wearing Wisconsin Sate University and Badger mascot apparel.  We asked what is it about the the Badger ?  After going to the Capital building and seeing the Badger there we found out why.  The Badger is the state animal of Wisconsin since the first residents, lead miners in the  1820 -1830's were without shelter in the winter and had to "live like Badgers" by  "burrowing in tunnels into the hillsides.,_Wisconsin

Wisconsin Badger gear on display

The Badger at the Capital

Madison has many examples of wonderful architecture and interesting storefronts.

The Orpheum Theater

Great Dane Pub and Brewing Company

Majestic Theater

Beautiful tile work

World Famous and free !

But this is the happiest corner

If you can't sleep they deliver cookies

University of Wisconsin Science Hall

Another University building

The University has many

The Wisconsin State Capital is a most impressive building in a most impressive setting in the center of Madison.  This is the 3rd capital building on the site, built between 1906 and 1917.  Madison has a height restriction on downtown buildings making it illegal to build anything that would block the Capital view. It’s an amazing building and everything was open, no security check to get in, totally open.

One of the four Capital entrances, one for each compass point

Giant Sun Flowers in front of Capital

Looking up 200 feet into the rotunda at the "resources of Wisconsin" mural by Edward Blashfield surrounded by four glass mosaics by Kenyon Fox

Wisconsin statue atop the Capital dome

Close up of glass mosaics in Rotunda

Supreme Court entrance

Hallway view

View from the observation deck looking up

View looking down from observation deck

Live music is alive and well here, although not all to my liking.  I go to a bar called “Up North Pub” to listen to a long time local musician, Catfish Stephenson who supposedly has played on the street since 1968, but has also has toured in the US and in Europe.  He was great, undoubtable the best blues player I have heard all year.  Of course most of the people in the bar were more interested in the sports on the TV.  People in this area of the country are totally wild about their sports teams.


The next night I go to the “Knuckle Down Tavern” to hear an area blues great Paul Filipowicz.  I was a little apprehensive about hanging out at the Knuckle down Tavern, it being in an industrial area and looking a little seedy, but it was fine.  Actually real blues clubs should look a little seedy and this is definitely a real  blues club.  This guy went from the corn fields of Illinois in the mid 1960’s to the streets and blues clubs of Chicago where he honed his craft.  He was one of those guitar players whose fingers just move magically over the strings.  I can’t believe I’ve seen two guys here in Madison, two nights in a row, although virtually unknown to most who are among the best players I’ve seen anywhere. 

I could have gone to the classic Gordon Lightfoot concert but decided instead to do something more decadent and youthful by going to see a nationally touring band from Philadelphia  called "Sheer Mag".  They were playing at a weird small club called "Frequency" in downtown Madison.  It was dark and decorated mostly with tacky punk rock stuff.  As you walked in there was a bar and then behind it a small room with a stage in front of a huge bank of speakers.  Right away I knew there would be hardcore deafening noise.  There were a couple of small tables and stools, why I don’t know as this isn’t the kind of place one sits to listen to the music.  All of a sudden within 10 minutes, the room goes from about 5 to 50 people and the band starts doing its sound check, full volume and when finished launches into a wild head shaking, body gyrating, guitar and vocal screaming song that was totally unintelligible.  They were horrible, but sadly there is a market for this on todays college campuses, proven by the fact that this band is touring to an impressive number of college towns all over the US in the next couple of months.  It strikes me as angry, in your face kind of hate music and I don't like the attitude, maybe I should stick to the older crowd ?

Frequency was a pretty building on the outside

Sheer Mag Band

The Dane County Farmers Market in Madison set up all around the Capital building is claimed to be the largest producer only farmers market in the country.  It was incredible, best ever farmers market.  It may also be the most attended market in the country, as they claim to have up to 20,000 attendees each Saturday

The crowds were immense

Radishes anyone 

Or Blood Garlic

Or Sunflowers

Or Indian Corn

This colorful woman was bunching up flowers

Keep watching us on
The next stop is La Crosse, Wisconsin;

Twinkles and Slick 

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