andrew burke





Road Trip 2012: Wisconsin

Posted on: 2012-09-09

In May 2012, my mother-in-law gave us her old car - but we live in Halifax and the car was in Edmonton. So we flew there and drove it all the way back to Halifax. We had great weather and I had a new camera. This is part 8 of a series of blog posts about the trip.

(All of the photos are hosted on Flickr - click on any to see bigger versions and browse the full set.)

While we had spent most of the trip on major highways, Shannon found a more interesting road for us to take in Wisconsin: southeast on Highway 35 ("The Great River Road") along the Mississippi.

I often forget just how far north the Mississippi goes - and even this close to the Great Lakes it's already a very wide river with many little tributaries and inlets. We were also thrilled to see rugged topography for the first time after what felt like weeks of flat prairie - rocky cliffs towering above the road where the river had cut through hills over the centuries. We also hadn't seen that much water in one place on our trip yet, either. We saw several large cargo barges along the way:

Mississippi Barge in Wisconsin

I was surprised by how much I liked Wisconsin. It feels wealthy and satisfied, unlike many of the states we went through. It obviously has really good farmland, and the people we met were quite friendly.

It hasn't all been fun recently in Wisconsin, though: the new very right-wing Governor Scott Walker (no not that Scott Walker) seems to have strongly divided the state - and we were driving through it just a few weeks before a tumultuous recall election, so we saw partisan signs on almost every front lawn (mostly pro-Walker, but I think we were in a more conservative area).

We had been thinking about a place to stop for a snack when Shannon shouted "CREAMERY!", so we slammed on the brakes and pulled into the parking lot. It looked like the kind of place that's a favourite of locals and summer holiday regulars - which it turned out to be. We got some sandwiches from the chatty staff and bought some local cheeses and beer.

Wisconsin takes its beer and its cheese very seriously - and both were great. I don't remember the details of the cheeses, but I picked out a selection of different New Glarus beers, and they were all excellent. I really enjoyed the Moon Man No Coast Pale Ale - the quote on the label was great too:

Bold and engaging without pretense, because in Wisconsin you do not have to be extreme to be real.

That perfectly sums up the impression I got about Wisconsin - not flashy, but solid; well-off but not ostentatious; practical people who care about quality and are proud of it.

The weather was nice so we decided to find a campground along the river. We found a lovely spot in Merrick State Park and watched a gorgeous sunset over the river. It gave me a chance to try out different settings with my new Canon camera, and I got some motivational-poster-worthy shots:

Sunset over the Mississippi in Wisconsin


I couldn't help actually making a poster of my own:


I was looking at this next picture thinking, "this is the kind of shot that would have some unexpected detail or creature that would only show up on closer examination" - click on it to see bigger versions on Flickr, and see who else is hanging out by the river in the middle foreground.

Hanging Out

Eventually the sun went down and called it a night. After several nights of camping, I was finally getting used to sleeping in a tent. Unfortunately, it turns out our camp site was just a few miles away from a racetrack which was having a big motor rally. That finished up around midnight, but the coal trains rushing to the power station nearby kept coming every 45 minutes all night long. Sigh.

The pretty bright morning made up for the rough night:

Wisconsin Riverside

We also saw this lovely crane on the way back to the highway:

Crane in Wisconsin

The next day we drove to Chicago - but we made a stop on the way that deserves its own blog post. That's coming next.

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