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Excerpts of Wisconsin Travel Diary
State 9 - WISCONSIN 22 JUN 98 - 29 JUN 98



It's hot, sticky and uncomfortable in the cab of the truck as the cruel, midafternoon sun bakes our brains. Parched, weather-beaten and road-weary, we push to stay alert through the brutish Chicago traffic, a stop-and-go mess that normally wouldn't bother us much in an auto, but towing a 30-foot tin box makes the drive harrowing. Inexperience tells us be cautious, leave plenty of room between the vehicle in front. But caution turns to peril as speedy drivers spot the space and splice in front of us. They think we can brake this semi like we can brake an auto. We can't. Here comes a white Honda squeezing in. BRAKE! Check RV. It's OK. Pick up speed again. Now a red sportscar wants in. BRAKE! Check RV. It's OK. Pick up speed again. On and on this occurs with irritating frequency until we see a sign for Madison and the promise of an exit. At the state line, cityscapes give way to farm scenes. Green pastures. Dairies.We breathe easily again. "Welcome to Wisconsin." Hallelujah!

Locate the KOA campground in DeForest. The place is depressingly sterile. Looks like a drive-in movie theater with RVs lined up row after row after row. Host meets us at our lot to ensure that we park the RV just so. Ken backs in the RV. No, she says, move it over an inch. It has to be exactly on the section that has gravel underneath. Otherwise, she warns, we will be stuck in mud. Park the RV to host's satisfaction just as the sky turns deep purple and distant thunder grumbles. Ken races to unhitch the trailer then rushes indoors as hail the size of marbles chases after him. He slams the door on the pounding hail and the frenzied wind. Inside, the tin shoebox we call home shakes and rattles. Sometimes it feels like it will tip over, sometimes it feels like it will be sucked straight up into the sky. Spend a wrenching, sleepless night guessing the fate of the teetering RV and its frightened inhabitants.


Bright and sunny morning. Storm over. Stickiness remains. Ruthless rain last night did nothing to cool the air. Indeed, it is more humid. Go for a walk and pick some wildflowers. Ten minutes later, quit. The day is too hot, too sticky, too much bleached white sunshine. Go back to the RV. Sit at picnic table under the RV awning . . . the only shade in this cramped, muddy RV park.


A surprise thunderstorm awakens us in the middle of the night. Weird noises outside bring out the detective in us. Bravely open the door to wild storm outside. See awning ripping to shreds from the wind. Now need new awning. Now have no shade at all. But plenty of mud, though. O man, the mud is bad. Our shoes have a constant crusty coat of caramel colored mud. Or is it something else? Pet owners here are careless with their dogs, so ya gotta make sure it's really mud you're tracking through, not doggie logs.


Unbearable heat makes daytime touring miserable. Order a beer in a German restaurant in Milwaukee. A big glass boot filled with amber gold beer appears on the table. The chilled golden glass glistens in rivulets of cool perspiration. Beautiful.


In Dearborn, we went to Hank's place. Now in Madison, we must see Frank's place. The fabulous Monona Terrace was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1938, but not erected until 1997 . . . almost 60 years later. The place rules majestically on the shores of Monona Lake. Decide to go at night, fearing the hot sun on all that concrete would be unbearable. Good decision. In the daytime we would have missed the incredible spaceship-like features of the rooftop lighting. And the midnight blue lake that shimmers against this pure white building like a sapphire set in diamonds. Never was a fan of Frank. But this building really impressed me (as did the Unitarian Church he designed, also in Madison). Such fun to explore all the levels, all the details and marvel at this Wisconsin genius.

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