Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bike Ride to Madison and Univ. of Wisconsin…

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Madison WI 016Lake Farm County Park is perfectly situated right outside Madison WI and we have really enjoyed our stay. They are electricity only sites but there is an easily navigable dump station and several water taps dispersed throughout the park for filling tanks. The showers are spacious and clean so despite that there aren’t full hookup sites, Sharon has been pretty happy here and it is very accessible to Madison.

Madison WI 024There is a beautiful disc golf course within the county park but the steep $8.00 fee per person put us off. We preferred to spend that money at Happy Hour at our favorite downtown bar, The Old Fashioned. There is free one hour parking nearby and they boast having every Wisconsin craft beer brewed either on draft or in bottles. Best of all at Happy Hour pints are two for one. Sharon was able to order her Stouts and I my IPA and still be charged the two for one price. Needless to say, much to my delight this price allowed me to try many different Wisconsin crafted IPAs.

The park we camped at is also linked to the Capitol Trail System so since student move in day was happening at the University of Wisconsin combined with a lot of construction on campus convinced us we should bike in for our campus tour. It is about 6.5 miles into town for the visit and we meandered along the lake taking in the view of our favorite Capitol Building and the Madison skyline with the beautiful blue lake in the forefront. From there we meandered through many quiet and beautiful neighborhoods before arriving on campus.

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As expected we saw more U Hauls than we could count along with traffic snarls at construction and building renovation areas. We were so happy we rode our bikes as we went straight to the Bookstore to park and lock our bikes to enable us to walk and photograph our favorite buildings. Since the campus also borders one of the lakes we saw many students taking advantage of the lake piers and beaches for sunning, relaxing and socializing. As always we felt energized by the feel of excitement all around us on campus. After our walk we collected our bikes Madison WI 026and rode over to Camp Randall, the University of Wisconsin football stadium. Sadly it was all locked up as there was a practice in full session and the entire area was filled with students eagerly collecting their season tickets.

As planned to make our way back to camp my bicycle decided to have a major failure when the headset bearing decided to turn square instead of round. This made turning the handle bars extremely difficult to turn making the 6.5 mile return trip very unpleasant. We did pause for me to rest my hands and shoulders and to take in our final views of the fun city of Madison. Happily we made it back and my hands were a bit cramped and between my shoulders was very tight but at least I didn't have to walk the bikeMadison WI 023 back. And even better we got back to camp just in time to hop in the car for one last happy hour at the Old Fashioned…….gotta love it!

We left Madison on Friday morning and made the one and half hour drive south where we are now staying at the Willoaks Campground in Woodstock, Illinois. We plan to use this campground as a base to take Sharon into Chicago since she has never been there before…

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Madison, Wisconsin…

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Madison WI 004We are staying at Lake Farm Campground, a Dane County Park, just a few smiles south of the city of Madison, Wisconsin. The price for this wide open spot is $26 per night but it only has 50 amp electricity and we had to fill with water near our site. No sewer, no cable but it does oddly have free Wi-Fi. It is also conveniently located near the city and a bicycle trail system called the Capital City State Bike Trail. We will definitely check out the bike trail for one of our city treks.

Madison is called Mad Town by some of the locals and we wanted to stop by here to check out this state’s capitol. Madison is a large city of nearly a quarter of a million. It is also called The City of Four Lakes as it is in the midst of Lakes Mendota, Lake Monona, Lake Waubesa, and Lake Kegonsa. This city reminds of of another state capitol, Austin, in our home state of Texas.

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On our list here, of course, was to check out the state capitol building. Madison was not the site of the original capitol building as it was in Belmont for 42 days. Then after moving to Madison the second capitol building was constructed in Madison WI 0061837 on its current site. As the government grew so did the capitol building. Tragedy struck in 1904 when all but the north wing burned to the ground due to an accidental fire. The building as it is today began construction in 1906 and was finally completed in 1917. It is a super cool building.

Happily the capital building was recently renovated and restored to its original appearance. There are lots of decorative stencils and murals that were repaired or recreated. Many of the interior columns have gold leaf at their apexes and there is a lot of various stone work throughout the structure. At the end of the wings is a sculpted badger that I originally thought was a rat (oops!). But hey,l most state governments have a rat in the capitol somewhere don’t they?

Madison WI 008After spending some time exploring the capitol building we strolled over to a place called the Old Fashioned right on the capitol square.The square hosts a big farmer’s market on Saturdays and this weekend the Taste of Madison will be held here.I sure wish we could stay for these two events but with the first University of Wisconsin game scheduled for this weekend there isn’t a RV site to be had near town. Thankfully we were able to score a site in Woodstock Illinois for Labor Day  Weekend (Thanks Pam! for the tip) so we will head there on Friday.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Packer Practice and a Powwow of sorts…

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Our last few days in Green Bay were enjoyable despite experiencing the hottest temperatures we have had in quite some time.  Daytime highs reached into the 90’s. One of those hot days we attended an Art Festival downtown and the main reason we went was to see a display of Native American cultural dances most often seen at a Powwow. The Oneida Indians are one of the five founding nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.

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Packer Practce 016They performed for about an hour in the hot temperatures and it was a hoot to experience the dances. A fellow tribal elder explained much of what the dances symbolized and also went into some detail on what some od the clothing symbolized. For example, he said that the young warriors that wear two eagle feathers on the top of the head are letting others know they are Onieda Indians. What an enjoyable experience it is to listen to the sounds of the drums and watch these performances handed down from generation to generation.

Our last day in Green Bay we planned to stroll the Walk of Legends along Lombardi Avenue in the shadows of Lambeau Field. The Walk consists of 24 granite and steel sculptures that pay tribute to legends of Green Bay football. We didn’t see all the sculptures because we noticed something else going on at Lambeau. As we got closer we asked some locals what was going on and found out the Packers were having an open practice. Cool… we decided that it would be fun to watch a practice.

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Then we saw Green Bay Packer players riding bicycles and wondered what was up. It turns out it is customary during training camp for the players to ride a kids bicycle from the locker room to the practice field. Even cooler for the kid is that they get to run alongside the player holding the player's helmet and chat with them during the ride. Fans line up to cheer the players and there were even some tailgates set up nearby. What a cool tradition! There was obvious excitement in each of the kids' eyes whether they were a 5 year old girl or a pre-teen boy…

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I snapped several photos of these players and it turned out after talking with my daughter that she knew one of the players on the Packer squad.  Even neater was I had taken a photo of him on a bike. Katie contacted the player, Brandon Bostick #86, and he asked her if she would have us send him the picture. Small world this is isn’t it.. After all the players made it to the practice field we went over to the sidelines and sat with about 2500 other Packer fans watching practice.

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Green Bay was a blast and we had a lot of fun in this small town but sadly it was time to leave…. The next morning we drove 140 miles south to the city of Madison, Wisconsin where we will stay until Friday. We have no clue where we will be staying for Labor Day weekend since we have no reservations and every place we have checked on is full. But we will head down around Chicago, Illinois and hope we can find a spot to hunker down for the weekend, wish us luck!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Going to Lambeau Field for some Tailgating…

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Lambeau Field GBW 007Since there was a preseason game with the Green Bay Packers against the Seattle Seahawks we thought it would be cool to go down to Lambeau Field before the game to experience a Packer tailgate! We didn’t really plan to attend the game since the cheapest tickets I could find were still $75.00 which is way out of my budget especially for a pre-season game.

We got on-line to figure out how to best get to the stadium and find parking. Then I came across a site that said the bus line, the Green Bay Metro, provides free service to and from games. They run 3 hours prior to the game and three hours after the game. So we ditched the idea of driving down and planned to take the Cheesehead bus instead Lambeau Field GBW 004(they have clever names for the game buses depending on their route). Even better the bus stop is right here within 100 yards of where we are parked at Oneida Casino. So we chilled while waiting for the bus to get here.  Oops, then I noticed that the bus should be here in three minutes… so we rushed out of the RV and walked really fast to the bus stop when I remembered I had forgotten my camera so I sprinted back to the RV to get the camera and Sharon also wanted me to get her more comfortable walking shoes.

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Green Bay WI 050After getting to the RV I realized the camera was in the CRV in the parking lot so I once again sprinted to the lot and then decided to just drive the CRV over to the spot to save time. Once I got to the bus stop I could see the bus leaving and saw Sharon looking distraught… I told her to jump in the CRV and we would follow the bus to it’s next stop to hopefully catch it there. The next stop was a ways down the road but we managed to park in front of a restaurant and just did get on the bus.

Lambeau Field GBW 003There was standing room only on a bus filled with Packer fans all festively dressed in the colors of the Green Bay Packers. At least everyone but us since we had no Packer clothing. I told a couple of ladies sitting on the bus that I bet she couldn’t tell we were from out of town and it was our first Packer game. She then proceeded to tell us a lot of neat Packer stories and made the 20 minute bus ride to the game go by quickly.

Once off the bus the waves of people dressed in green and yellow were everywhere. Many of them were wearing jerseys of their favorite players… Rodgers, Matthews and even newcomer Lacy. There were a few who were donning wigs of the team colors and lots had face paintings as well. Sharon even got to have her photo taken with Saint Vince! Walking in the parking lot you could smell the Bratwursts and Burgers sizzling on the grill. Lots of folks were playing “cornhole” and swilling adult beverages… Yep the tailgate was in full force.. As we were taking in all the sights and sounds we drifted over to the food and beverage tent where there was a band playing that sounded pretty good.

Lambeau Field GBW 011As we squeezed our way through the crowd to see the band we were delighted when we saw how they were dressed…They were all decked out in classic nerd gear complete with taped glasses mismatched clothing and the drummer had a  colorful propeller hat.  The sights and sounds coming from them were top notch entertainment. The band called The Dweebs put on one heck of an show. We stayed for over an hour enjoying their music and hoping to win two tickets to the game a local radio station was giving away.. As they finally called out the names for the last tickets being given away, sigh, we weren’t winners, so we left the band and Lambeau Field GBW 010decided it was time to head back as the game was about to start.

We were going to just catch a city bus back but after having had to drive the CRV and follow the Cheesehead bus we had gotten close enough to walk back to the CRV. This less than 3 mile walk was relaxing as we meandered through quiet neighborhoods giving us time to unwind from all the high energy we felt at the tailgate… What fun our Green Bay tailgating experience was…

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Green Bay, Wisconsin…

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Green Bay WI 033We left Door County and pointed Abbey south for the short 42 mile drive over to Green Bay, Wisconsin where we are staying at the Oneida Casino RV lot. We didn’t know what to really expect as their website didn't give us a real feel for the camping area.. As we drove in we saw there were a total of 10 spots with 30 amp electricity behind the Bingo Hall on a loop rode. Each site had a picnic table and nice grassy area. The challenge was all the spots are parallel to the road and there were already six  occupied sites. This left four spaces open for us, no problem right?  … Well the only problem was the spots are probably about 50 feet long Green Bay WI 041and they are end to end so each of the remaining sites had an RV both in front of and in back of them meaning we had to parallel park the RV… YIKES!!! After much consternation Abbey was parked and all set up. Whew!

First on our agenda was to go check out the football stadium, Lambeau Field, the place that put Green Bay on our radar as a fun place to visit.. We easily found a parking space in front of the Pro Shop and got out to walk around a bit.While milling around we discovered there was a pre-season game the next day. We decided that it would be fun to attend a tailgate at Packer stadium even if we weren’t going to go to the game. We left Lambeau knowing we would be back.

Next we ventured into the town of Green Bay to get our bearings  and as luck would have it we stumbled upon Titletown Brewery right about happy hour time… We couldn’t have planned it better. Out front of the brewery stands a statue of Donald Driver catching a football that is about 25 feet tall (forgot to take a picture so I borrowed one from the web). They love their Packers here. We settled down at the bar near the corner and I had a very nice Green 19 IPA and Sharon had a tasty Stout.

imageA couple sat next to us and we struck up a conversation. They were our age and told us a lot about Green Bay.  They also explained they were here for a snack and drinks prior to a free outdoor concert being held right next door at Leicht Park this evening. Score! We  decided to stay and have a couple more crafted beverages and share a nice artichoke cheese dip appetizer (plenty for two).  We had a great chat with our new friends, Mary Kay and Mike Pfeiffer. What a fun couple!

After a few fun photos and exchange of contact information, we all walked next door where the “Johnny Wad” band had just kicked into high gear.  They specialize in playing best rock songs of the 70's, 80's and 90's.  We have to admit they put on a really great show… There was a huge turnout for this group and this high energy band had their fans up on their feet from the get go…

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Yep we are really liking this small town called Green Bay!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Some Hikes in Door County Wisconsin…

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Door County Loop 006As I mentioned before Tranquil Timbers RV Resort is adjacent to Potawatomi State Park. While walking around the park I noticed a trail that led to Potawatomi State Park. There is a Observation Tower there about 3.4 miles from where we are camped so we decided to spend a day walking into the park to the tower.

We didn’t have to walk more than 1/10 mile before we had entered the park. We walked down a steep hill along a road parallel to the waters of Sturgeon Bay. We then noticed we could walk along the Ice Age Trail. We first encountered this trail in Wausau, WI and have now picked Door County Loop 004it up once again. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a thousand-mile trail that is entirely within the state of Wisconsin and it highlights the Ice Age landscape features.

All along the way we saw rocky little beaches to walk out onto, take a few pictures and soak up the sun. Sailboats were out in force as the winds were perfect for sailing. Once we came upon the Tower Trail we took it for a while and as we walked we noticed lots of other side trails many with the same Tower Trail signs… So where the heck was the Tower?

Cave Point Park Wisc 001Well as it turned out we walked about 3/4 mile past the Tower and when we finally gave up and started back on the park road we saw the Tower. Relieved we finally found it we were anxious to go up to the top to see the sights…then we saw the workers welding on the tower and alas, it was closed. Oh well our 7 mile hike became an 8 mile hike and we didn’t even get to see the tower. Good exercise at least…

Our last day we drove over to the Cave Point County Park about 18 miles east of us. We only planned a short hike here after the day at Potawatomi. There is no entrance fee here or any charge to park… wow something free here in Door County! The craggy eroding limestone cliffs were really cool here especially on the day we arrived as the there was a fierce north wind and as the colder air met the warmer air it caused fog to hover over the water. A front was expected to pass through with severe weather later in the evening. We walked all along the gnarly cliffs and then we walked in the woods where we encountered a large patch of wild raspberries. Needless to say we ate a few and picked a bunch for later.

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Our last evening in Sturgeon Bay we took in their weekly summer series outdoor concerts.Due to inclement weather they moved the location inside a large marina to escape the stormy weather coming this way. A pretty decent band but the guest singers they brought on to sing were much better than they were. One amazing guy sang the song "A Lighter Shade of Pale" and we could feel his voice pierce us as he sang.

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Before breaking camp on Thursday and heading toward Green Bay I got up early as I hadn’t been able to squeeze in the time to check out the art on the streets of the town of Sturgeon Bay. There are numerous sculptures of Sturgeon all part of the Street Art Auction that takes place annually at the Harvest Festival held in September… Cool fish but it was time to head to Green Bay where we will be staying for the weekend!