Oct. 15th, 2012, Monday: It was a cold morning with drops of ice on the tailgate. Soon after we emerged from our warm cocoon, two campground maintenance workers zipped up in their electric cart and we had a great visit with them, finding out one has a dad living in Newport Oregon.
After breakfast and a shower we drove to the other side of the park to an old quarry site where we hiked in, thinking we’d finally see the blue mounds. The only blue we saw was the sky above, along with some cool, towering, pink rock cliffs.
We drove through Luverne, shooting a quick sign photo (one of many on this trip!) then took off on I-90 east. Minnesota seemed to have a lot of farms with really nice looking older homes, barns and silos, but dry, dry, dry from the drought.
We were cruising along on I-90, with Brad driving 72 in a 70 mph zone and vehicles flying by us in the passing lane, when suddenly we saw a cop going the opposite direction turn, drive thru the median strip, then catch up with Brad and pause next to him in the left lane. Brad’s going below 70 at this point and the cop drove past us, then slowed back down, glanced in at us again, then he turned and drove back through the median and took off west again! Good grief! Another warning I guess, but from then on Brad kept it right at 70! I told him it was lucky he’d shaved today! After the next rest area, I took over driving while Brad sliced apples, swiss cheese and crackers - our favorite on-the-road meal. Around 3ish we drove across the MIssissippi river into La Crosse Wisconsin, exiting and zig zagging our way through the city on a detour route aiming for hwy. 14/61. Although the population is around 51,000, I thought it seemed much larger, as I had to keep extra vigilant to not miss the directional signs. On one turn I went straight, since there hadn’t been any 14/61 sign saying otherwise, which ended up being the wrong way. I quickly turned into a parking lot, hoping it’d be an easy way to return to the main route, but instead it was one of those complicated mall parking lots, with very few exits!
Brad offered to drive after that, and I was happy to let him, content to be on drive-by photo duty. We were off the freeway again, so the photo options were more than just grassland or big box stores! Wisconsin was beautiful with barns, silos, farms and hillsides covered in amber deciduous trees. Barely a conifer to be seen! The ground was lush green, a major contrast compared to all the dry land we’d driven through previously. Even Oregon was dry when we left, experiencing it’s longest period without rain that I could remember.
We drove through small towns like Coon Valley and Westby on 14/61 until we hit Readstown where 61 continued south and we kept going east on 14 towards Madison Wisconsin. Some roads had grass growing right up to the pavement - no shoulder and no blackberries! It was dark when we arrived in Madison. We headed towards the university area thinking we’d find a local bar or cafe to hang out in, not knowing anything about the city. We saw chain restaurants, big box stores, nothing appealing. Brad then turned off the main university road and we were stuck on a curving neighborhood street instead! Eventually we ended up at a Whole Foods store where we bought dinner then settled in their wifi friendly seating area - perfect for travelers! It was a good opportunity to catch up on email and hunt for nearby campgrounds. We left a bit before closing, and I directed Brad to Capitol Springs state park, just minutes away, and easy to find. There were spots available so we took an end site, then settled in for the night, with the usual yoga moves to get maneuvered into bed. Last one in had to pull up the tailgate and close the back hatch without falling out or kicking the other person. That night we fell asleep to the sound of geese flying overhead.