Madison, Like Peeling an Onion

Three weeks ago we arrived in Madison, Wi, for the 52nd International Rally of Wally Byam Caravan Club. Tomorrow we depart Madison for the La Crosse, Wi, area to explore and tour awhile. As long as we’ve been here we still haven’t explored everything. Our best effort has been these past several days, after the end of the Airstream rally.

Standing outside Taliesen

Standing outside Taliesen

Our time in the previous two weeks included several days of touring, and we’re glad we could add a couple more tour days. The rally provided little time for sightseeing. We took advantage of a couple of off-days before the rally to tour House on the Rock (skip the warehouse/museum buildings, just see the house) and Taliesen, Frank Lloyd Wright’s house in Spring Green. The Capitol Building tour was a high point, seeing the building and its history through an excellent tour guide’s interpretation.

Standing outside Puempels Tavern

Standing outside Puempels Tavern

Friends Beth and Matt Hackney drove with us to New Glarus, Wi. We all sampled New Glarus Brewery’s best brews and purchased a few bottles of our favorites to go. We ate at a very old pub, Puemplers Olde Tavern, where we looked at the 100 year old paintings on the wall while sipping Belgian Red and eating brats and kraut.

Rallies, like caravans, are interesting and fun but demanding, too. We’re always a little relieved at the end, like after a tough but rewarding course in school or a tough hike. You’re glad you did it but not necessarily ready to repeat it right away. The time after the rally is nice for us. We enjoy the change of pace and, after a day off, look forward to a new agenda.

We did a few chores after the rally and mostly explored Madison. The first day we walked all about downtown Madison, circling the Capitol building, locating (and enjoying) the farmers market, and walking State Street from the Capitol Building into the edge of the old section of the UW campus.

We ate a bite at a local sub shop near campus and, re-energized, retraced our steps up State Street, around the Capitol square, and to the farmers market. Lunch was walked off so we each ate a fresh cookie and bought a few fresh groceries.

Loaded with a backpack full from the farmers market, a guided tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace, near the Wisconsin State Capitol, provided us an in-depth introduction to this great civic center and convention building. The building was built thirty-five years after Wright’s death but faithfully followed his exterior plans. The building’s approval was difficult but finally provides the community vision and service envisioned by Wright.

We scoured downtown and the University of Wisconsin campus. The day started at The Unitarian Church, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The church provides daily tours May through October. We were fortunate to have an excellent tour guide but unfortunately the new meeting hall was closed for resanding the painted floors.

The sanctuary's design is inspired and inspiring

The sanctuary's design is inspired and inspiring

The original sanctuary became too small many years ago. The membership was 175 in the 1950s when the church building was new. Now membership numbers over 1,500, so the church has added a new and much larger meeting hall. Our tour included all parts of the original building. It is graceful, comfortable, and it has aged beautifully.

The building carries many of Wright’s trademark Prairie design features including, among others, the dark red color, plywood built-in furniture, 60 and 120 degree angles, single plane transition of ceilings and floors from inside to outside, and mitred glass joints without frames at corners.

Unusually nice student union looks out on Lake Mendota

The Babcock Dairy Bar provided a great place for tour of the dairy demonstration classroom/production area, a tasty lunch. We walked next through the Physics Museum, stopping to play with most of the hands-on displays. Next we walked to the incredible Memorial Union building, a great place to sample Babcock Dairy ice cream cones while gazing out over Lake Mendota. The Union’s terraces provide several hundred chairs, all full with people enjoying the fine weather. This was a great end to our walking tours of Madison.

Madison has been great, and our tours at the end completed our visit wonderfully. As always, we feel we have left a few things undone or unvisited. Perhaps if we stayed four weeks we could exhaust the opportunities, but I’m pretty sure this is a false assumption. It is like peeling the layers from an onion — there are so many and the onion gets sweeter the further you go.


2 responses to “Madison, Like Peeling an Onion

  1. Jim and Donna Carr

    We atteneded your full timing class in Madison
    and wanted to thank you for your effort and all
    the info. Very informative and enjoyable.
    We did , however, have a different opinion
    about House on the Rock … we really had a blast
    in the museum. Thanks again,
    Jim and Donna Carr

    • Jim and Donna,
      We’re glad you enjoyed the museum so much — and really appreciate your kind comments. We had a lot of fun conducting the two full-timing seminars.


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