Only July 15, we pulled out of the heat of St. Louis and headed northward to our next stop – Madison, WI. On the way, we were in search of hopefully finding a nice, peaceful waterfront campground to chill at for a couple days in the shade. After so much social time, and just ending a huge custom iPad development project for a client – we were in need of some down time.
We stopped in a couple of public campgrounds on the way north – and none of them called us. We remembered this from a previous trip through the area along the Illinois River, that many of the Illinois State Parks are just run down and drab feeling. Not what we were looking for.
We were about 2.5 hours still out from Madison and had made the mental decision to just push on for a long driving day. And then we stumbled right upon Hickory Hollow Campground, which was listed as a Passport America Park. For 1/2 price at $18.50/night, that sure beat a long driving day. We ended up with a relaxed feeling corn field side spot, which was quite relaxing, and decided to stay two nights.
By the way – we picked up a Passport America membership last year for the first time, and continue to enjoy it. At just $44/year, it can easily pay for itself with just a couple night’s stay, and we’ve been very impressed with most of the parks we’ve stopped at – they’re all over the place! Sometimes it’s just nice to stay somewhere with full amenities (power, water, sewer, laundry, pool, etc.), and for cheaper than most nearby public campground options!
With access to water and sewer, we used the opportunity to catch up on some water system chores. First we did a full tank flushing and sanitizing of the fresh water tanks with a small bit of pool chlorine we picked up from Chris’ parents. Yup, we have exciting lives on the road!
Next we installed the new dual canister water filter system that we picked up in our recent shopping spree at RVWaterFilterStore.com. We also got one of their highly recommended fresh water hoses (as most others available off the shelf easily kink, leak and are a pain to manage). We’ll also soon install a new water pump we got from them, to replace the one we brought back to life that came with our bus. At 22 years old, it’s served an honorable life. We may put together a post on our water systems eventually.
We also used access to full showers as an opportunity to add a little funk back into our lives – and did our hair coloring (as you’ll see in the ‘after’ pictures in this post.)
Our reason for routing to Madison (or Madtown, as the locals seem to call it) is because a long time dear friend of mine just decided to pick up her life and move here. She’s quite adventurous – having moved to Kabul, Afghanistan two years ago to work in a university there, and then just completing a year long AmeriCorp assignment in Indiana. Shirley has been called to Madison for quite a while and was waiting for all the pieces to fall together (job, housing, etc).
She instead decided that you just have to make things happen – so she moved here with none of the pieces pre-assembled for her. We just love that sort of attitude!
We’ve been enjoying exploring her new city with her, despite the continuation of a record breaking heatwave.
So far we’ve visited the zoo, which is a free asset of the city.
We’ve definitely been loving exploring downtown Madison. We love the layout of the city, it’s so incredibly pedestrian and bike friendly with the capital building being a bustling center of it all. In fact, the entire area is bike & pedestrian friendly – with the massive Capital Trail meandering all over.
It makes us wish we had bikes – so we’re stepping up the search for ideal folding bikes to carry in our bays and/or the Mini.
We had heard great things about the Dane County Farmer’s Market which happens on Saturdays around the capitol building square. It’s the largest producer-only market in the US, meaning that no re-selling is allowed.
To vend here, you had to have grown/made the product yourself. It lived up to all the hype, and we thoroughly enjoyed walking around and looking at all the yummy stuff.
We picked up some cheese and some fresh local veggies, and resisted the urge to buy an armful of flowers. They also host a smaller version of this on Wednesday, that we hope to hit before leaving town to stock up.
While we were downtown, we discovered that State Street (which nicely connects the capital area to the University of Wisconsin) was celebrating Maxwell Street Days. This apparently started in Chicago and has spread a bit throughout the region. For a weekend, all of the retailers along the street put out a massive summer sidewalk sale.
Now, this wasn’t just a few little junky items you wouldn’t want anyway. No – it was over a mile of truly awesome deals on quality stuff – art, clothing, jewelry, food, shoes, etc. For instance, I picked up some full body silks for 50% off, which will make great layering options for if we ever see cold weather again.
Next up, we introduced Shirley to roller derby! We had attended a couple years back in Austin, and have been intending to integrate it in a bit more into our travels.
We caught a double header intracity line up. First the local Team Unicorns against the Gotham Wall St. Traitors, and then an allstars match up of the Dairlyland Dolls against the Brew City Bruisers. It was a fun evening, but not nearly as quirky and fun as our Austin derby experience which had things like penalty pillow fights!
We’re really loving exploring Madison – and hope that our friend Shirley is able to make this her home base for quite a while. We can easily see this being a place we want to return to and make one of our homeports. It’s got a good mix of a small town feel with big city stuff to make it quirky and fun with lots of things to do.
We’re going to hang around Madison a couple more days and continue exploring (so bring on the recommendations!).
After that, we’re aiming to go up to the EAA Airventures Air Show up in Oshkosh, WI. Chris is a licensed singe engine pilot, and we even carry pieces of his paramotor with us. And we hear this is the show to catch, it being sort of the Burning Man of the air industry.
We’re keeping a close eye on the weather forecast to select the best days to head up there this week, but will probably aim to arrive on Thursday and be there through the weekend. If you’re heading that way too, be sure to let us know! We always love rendezvouses.
After that? We’re tentatively thinking of exploring the UP of Michigan as we start our southeastward meandering back to Florida for this fall.