Day 4: Sunday, August 12
Route: Madison, WI to Ann Arbor, MI
Distance: 268 miles in the saddle plus 78 miles by ferry
After a leisurely breakfast, I headed out to wander around town and see a few sights. The ferry wasn’t scheduled to leave Milwaukee until 12:30, so I had some time to kill.
First stop? The engineering campus, for a shot in front of Máquina
, a sculpture and fountain that had been erected while I was in grad school here:
Crap, the flash went off on that one. Lemme try again. Let’s see, kill the flash, set the timer, run to pose with the bike…shoot, that guy on the bicycle is gonna get here just when the camera goes off…
OK, one more try. Set the timer, run to pose with the bike…uh-oh, here comes a car…
Screw it, good enough.
A short distance away, the new Union South building opened its doors about a year ago:
I saw this building in progress during my previous trip here. Some folks were happy to see the demise of its predecessor,
but just like with those disappearing old truss bridges, I have a bit of a sense of nostalgia. The old Union South building was a familiar part of the skyline while I went to school here, and while the new building is grand and well-designed, I will miss the old one.
A little ways down the road, the Saturday-night drunks have eschewed cow-tipping in favor of scooter-tipping:
Makes me glad I opted to stay far out on the west side of town.
Speaking of scooters, they’re a huge
part of the student culture at UW. Scooter vendors and repair shops here are almost as numerous as the bicycle shops, and the scooters contend with bicycles for parking spots:
If that doesn’t seem like many scooters, keep in mind that this was mid-August, and most students were away for the summer. In fact, this was the last weekend before “lease day” – August 15, the day when residential leases around campus all seem to start, and the vast majority of students move in – and I was already seeing moving vans and pickup trucks hauling hoards of stuff around town. If I were to come back a week or two later, the sidewalks (and streets) would be overwhelmed with scooters.
A few blocks away, the Memorial Union is situated on the shore of Lake Mendota. In a nod to the state’s largely Germanic roots, there is a Rathskeller
Not only does it provide seating for a cafeteria, but there’s a bar on the other side, and a stage for live events. A fun place to be on Friday and Saturday nights.
Speaking of which, if you were ever a student here, then you recognize this view:
And these chairs:
This was Sunday morning, so the Terrace was pretty much deserted except for the cleanup crew. But on Friday and Saturday afternoons and evenings, there’s live music, a big crowd, lots of good beer, and a beautiful sunset across the lake.
Finally I had to say goodbye to my alma mater again and head for Milwaukee to catch the ferry. I arrived to find half a dozen Harleys in front of me, and within thirty minutes, another half-dozen had pulled in behind me. It seems BMW bikes are a rare bird.
Before long the ferry appeared on the horizon, rocketing toward shore at warp speed:
On board the ferry, posing for a shot while Milwaukee recedes in the background:
The weather was more hospitable for this crossing: no rain, and somewhat warmer temperatures. Families lingered up on the sun deck, with little kids running around like drunken monkeys as the deck swayed and bobbed. I found a comfortable seat and continued reading my book about arguing:
Watch out, I’m learning. I now know about eristic
arguments, dialectic arguments,
and rhetoric (not the pejorative rhetoric people attribute to modern-day politics, but classical rhetoric, the art of persuasion)
. Soon I will be the source for all of your opinions.
As we approached the Michigan shoreline, I saw a weird phenomenon. It was fog, but only very low on the water, such that you could still see the hills beyond:
Soon after I noticed this, we went through the sharpest weather front I have ever experienced. The temperature dropped from 70 to 50 in about ten seconds (granted, the apparent rapidity was probably enhanced by the ferry’s high speed)
. I later learned that the two were related: the shallow fog I had seen was sea smoke,
caused by cold air moving over warm water. 50 degrees is no exaggeration: within a couple of minutes, I was shivering uncontrollably, the deck rails were painfully cold to the touch, and I had to retreat below deck to warm up until we reached the Muskegon breakwater and slowed to just a few knots.
The final cruise home on I-96, normally not a noteworthy affair, was interrupted by an accident that resulted in closure of the highway east of Lansing. Relegated to a dirt-road detour for several miles, I found one last photo opportunity. Here’s how tall the corn was in drought-stricken Michigan:
Compare with Friday’s picture in central Wisconsin:
This will be a tough winter for Michigan farmers.
Across the road, there was a small pasture with several cows off in the distance. I guess they don’t get much company, because they were thrilled to see me – they literally ran
across the field to come get a look:
Boy, if they’ll welcome you home like that, they might make good pets after all.
And that was about it for my trip; the final hour rolled off without incident, except for that one last important stop:
You must always remember to buy flowers for your wife when you come home from a solo trip.
Thanks for reading.