Odd day out in Madison

After spending the morning working in Stoughton’s pleasant little public library, I was free to head out for the day with Eleanor, Emma, and Brett.  The humidity has dropped in Madison lately, still very summer-like but considerably more tolerable to be outside.  This led us to the conclusion that we should go explore Madison, and that in turn led to a day of unplanned random happenings, which is often the most fun kind of day we can have on the road.

dsc_0493.jpgOur first stop was the Geology Museum in the university campus area, on Dayton Street.  University museums are often free and fascinating, and this one met expectations on both counts.  Emma loves rocks and fossils, and at this age she has outgrown most of the Children’s Museums that we used to frequent.  Science, natural history, and geology museums seem to be more popular now, which pleases us as parents.  After the museum, we found a bit of shaded lawn in front of one of the campus buildings and had a picnic lunch.  (Cheese curds were of course on the menu. They squeak a little less on the second day.)

The WBCCI International Rally is being held at the Alliant Energy Center not far from the university area.  We drove around the site a little to check it out.  There are already several hundred Airstreams on site, but the vintage contingent hadn’t yet arrived. They will be parading in as a group this morning.

dsc_0500.jpgThe centerpiece of downtown Madison is the state capitol, a classic domed state building with a gold statue at the top.  As we headed toward it, we passed Peppino’s, which blog readers told us to check out.  Since we’d had lunch, our visit was limited to being reflections in the glass.  A few steps later, Eleanor was collared by a random guy walking by, who told her: “Barbra Streisand died!”  It was apparently a big shock for him, and they spent a moment commiserating.  Of course he was wrong.  She’s still alive.  But Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon … the past few days have seen a  lot of famous personalities shuffle off.

dsc_0117.jpgdsc_0523.jpgIt was refreshing to find that the capitol building is still very open to the public.  Nowhere did I see a metal detector, or signs prohibiting photography.  It was like the pre-9/11 days, and I appreciate that.  (I don’t like the creeping erosion of simple liberties in the name of paranoia.  I was once nearly arrested for taking a picture of an American flag inside the Trenton NJ train station, a few months after 9/11.)  The doors were open and dozens of people were milling around, enjoying the elaborate architectural interior of their capitol.  Outside, a marching band augmented with what appeared to be Power Rangers was being photographed on the steps.

dsc_0519.jpgWhile browsing around inside, a very tall man in a black suit asked Emma if she was “Too cool for coloring books.”  Emma of course said she wasn’t, and he immediately led her and Eleanor to his office on the 1st floor.  The tall man turned out to be Wisconsin State Representative Phil Montgomery. When I caught up with them, he was telling funny stories about traveling with his son, and Emma was advising him on budget issues (they were passing a budget on the day we arrived, and Rep. Montgomery expected to be there until late at night.)

The kind Representative advised of his favorite place to play mini-golf, a few miles away, and that became our next stop.  We knocked out 18 holes in some fairly intense sunshine, and decided that the cure for too much sun was a stop at Culver’s.  Culvers is a Wisconsin (or perhaps mid-west) institution for custard.  Custard is basically “ice cream+”, and it’s one of those treats we simply can’t resist.

Looking back on the day, we had a great time and yet none of it was planned.  We simply had a list of ideas in hand, and then just followed the cracker crumbs that appeared before us.  That’s a great alternative to some of the days ahead, which will be rigidly structured as a result of meetings and deadlines.

Photo note:  I’ve now begun carrying two cameras occasionally.  The D70 is wearing the Tamron 10-24mm lens, and the D90 has the Nikkor 18-200mm lens.  This gives me huge flexibility but of course it’s not very comfortable.  I’ll only take both cameras when I have plans to do some intense photogaphy, like during major rallies.  During the time we spent at the state capitol, the Tamron was extremely helpful since a super-wide-angle is the only lens that can really capture the rotunda.

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