Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wandering Wisconsin

Recently I recounted my attempt to fly to Wisconsin
for a week’s worth of speaking engagements while a mega-winter storm wreaked blinding havoc across the Midwest.

When I finally arrived, thus began the madness I had been expecting.

I was booked to speak at seven schools, one conference, and one library. They were spread across the state from Milwaukee to two hours west of Madison.

Naturally, I try to organize such trips in such a way that I doing the least amount of driving possible. But given the number of schedules to be juggled, and the number of weeks or months over which the bookings come in, it’s not always possible to arrange the engagements in a logical geographic sequence.

This trip ended up involving quite a lot of winter-wonderland road-tripping, some of which was backtracking. This is how the schedule played out:

2/1 due to storm, unexpected stopover in Minneapolis; hotel #1
2/2 make it to Madison; hotel #2
2/3 drive to school #1 (Belleville)—20 minutes
2/3 drive to hotel #3 (Milwaukee)—2 hours
2/4 conference—walking distance (thankfully); hotel #3, night #2
2/5 hotel #3, night #3
2/6 Fonz statue (the "Bronze Fonz"):

Why did I have to take this photo myself (which is especially awkward with an iPhone)? Because I waited for five minutes and literally nobody came by. The statue is on a river walk, not a main sidewalk, and it was a cold, flurrying, pre-Super Bowl morning.

2/6 drive to hotel #4 (Soldiers Grove)—3 hours; meanwhile, the rest of America is readying for the Super Bowl so the roads were virtually empty

In doing so, I unexpectedly passed through the only American town (and it's not even an incorporated town) that shares a name with Batman's hood: "Gotham." However, it apparently does not share a pronunciation; a local told me that the first syllable is "go" (as in "stop and go") rather than "gah."

Again, I was the only person in the vicinity so I took these myself:

It's not quite reminiscent of the Gotham of the comics.

2/7 drive to school #2 (Fennimore)—45 minutes

2/7 hotel #4, night #2
2/8 drive to school #3 (Soldiers Grove)—3 blissfully short minutes
2/8 drive to schools #4 and #5 (Mineral Point)—1.5 hours
2/8 drive to hotel #5 (Racine)—3 hours
2/9 drive to school #6 (Racine)—10 minutes
2/9 drive to hotel #6 (Madison)—2 hours
2/10 drive to school #7 (Madison)—15 minutes
2/10 drive to airport, fly, drive home
2/11+ do not drive at all if possible

I love music yet can’t listen to it when I write. I also can’t listen on my commute because I don’t have one. (The last time I did, in 1998, the device of choice was still a Walkman; it would’ve been a Discman if I’d been more hip the latest tech of the period.)

So I don’t mind a bit of a drive every now and then, to catch up on my music. In this case, I also got to see more of a state I was visiting for the first time.

In 2008, I was in swing state Ohio on Election Day. This time, I was in Wisconsin when the Green Bay Packers were in Super Bowl for the first time since 1998. I’m no more of a football fanatic than I am political junkie, but it’s still fun to be near people who as passionate about something.

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