Anyway, my parents came through the storm relatively unscathed (thank you, dear friends, for your kind inquiries). We’re having a wonderful time in Portland now that I’m not quite so worried about my folks. We’ve managed to hammer out our trip plans for the next five months. And finally, here’s a postcard from Madison, one of the prettiest little cities we’ve visited.
Exploring Madison By Bike
If you remember your fifth-grade geography lessons, you might recall that Madison is the capital of Wisconsin (I did not remember this. I’m learning state capitals as we visit them). But much more intriguing for us was discovering that Madison is the biking capital of the Midwest. We set up camp at Lake Farm County Park on the outskirts of the city and spent the next four days biking everywhere. Trails lead from the campground out into the country or into the city, to the attractive campus of the University of Wisconsin, and to beautiful botanical gardens. (You can pick up an excellent free bike map at any bike shop that gives details of more than 200 miles of trails.)
Downtown Madison: The Capitol Building And University
Situated on an isthmus between two lakes, downtown Madison is compact and picturesque. There are more bikes than cars in Madison, and with many dedicated bike paths and a good map, the city is easy to navigate by bike.
The architectural centerpiece of the city is the capitol building, right in the center of downtown. It looks like a smaller version of the White House from the outside, and inside offers an elaborate display of ornate mosaics, artwork, crystal chandeliers, carved woodwork, and stone from all over the world. We took advantage of one of the free tours that are offered several times a day.
The Gardens Of Madison
In addition to biking, our favorite activity in Madison was visiting the beautiful gardens in the city. Even better was that we could bike to the gardens. Given the long, severe winters and short growing season, the gardens in Madison are remarkable.
We were inspired by our visit to the University of Wisconsin Arboretum. The mission of the arboretum is to encourage ecologically sustainable relationships between people and the land, guided by the teachings of Aldo Leopold, a former professor at the university who believed we have a moral responsibility to care for the natural world. Leopold is best known for authoring A Sand County Almanac, considered to be one of two books that sparked the environmental movement (the other was Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring).
We also visited and loved the little jewel box Olbrich Botanical Gardens, a city garden where every inch of space is thoughtfully planned, also with an eye toward sustainable practices.
About The Campground
Lake Farm County Park is the perfect location for exploring Madison by bike. Bike trails from the campground lead to downtown or into the countryside along dedicated paths. Either direction is a pretty ride, and you can bike for many miles. The campground offers electric only sites with water conveniently located throughout, older bathhouses, and a dump station. The sites are gravel, surrounded by grass, and large, but wide open with no privacy. The campground WiFi is weak, but Verizon is decent.
I’ve realized that I never think to take photos of our campsites until we’re packed up and ready to leave. So I never have glamorous shots of our site. :-)
Bonus Stop: Perrot State Park
If you’re traveling west and need another stop along the way, Perrot State Park in Trempealeau, Wisconsin is good for a couple of nights. The sites are tucked into the forest and very private.
The campground has electric hookups only, and there is only one water fill very inconveniently located at the ranger station (fill up before you head into the campground because it’s a long way back!). The bathhouses are old—but you might see a luna moth on the bathroom window screen. It was our first ever and we were excited. Oh, and Verizon is decent, even though it seems like you’re in the middle of nowhere.
There are several trails in the park, including an interesting several mile hike on Brady’s Bluff that has some decent elevation gain and beautiful views of the confluence of the Mississippi River and Trempealeau Bay.