The final destination I’m going to discuss on our tour is Madison Wisconsin. I may have mentioned in an earlier post that Jackie loves cheese. Well, Madison was all about the cheese; cheese soup, cheese curds, cheese plate, macaroni and cheese, cheeseburger…you get the idea. Madison Wisconsin

The drive across Wisconsin included lots of pretty lakes and…you guessed it…cattle farms, as in milk for making cheese. We arrived in downtown Madison. We stayed at the Madison Concourse Hotel, just a couple of blocks from the capitol building. We checked into the hotel; this was the only destination where we didn’t stay at a Marriott. Madison Wisconsin

When we made plans, Jackie thought we might need a really nice hotel this far along in the trip, because we’d be so tired. It turned out she was correct; we were very tired, and hungry.  We arrived in time for dinner. Jackie had made us reservations at a Madison-famous restaurant, mainly known for its cheese dishes. Madison Wisconsin

The restaurant was only a couple of blocks from the hotel. We were seated, and looked over the menu. As I previously mentioned, there were all things cheese. I ordered cheese curds and a cheeseburger, specifying an aged cheddar to put on my burger. Jackie ordered cheese soup, cheese curds, a cheese plate and macaroni and three-cheese dinner. I also ordered a salad, blue cheese dressing (of course), which arrived at the same time as Jackie’s cheese soup. I’ve provided a photo of the cheese soup above; this made up another memorable moment in our trip. Madison Wisconsin

I dug into my salad, hungry from the drive. Jackie swallowed a tablespoon full of soup, gave me a strange look, turned green and abruptly excused herself. She returned to the table several minutes later, and I gave her one of those fatherly quizzical looks (you know, the one that says “I know I’m not supposed to ask, but are you okay?”). Still a little green around the gills, she responded that the soup had been richer than she had expected. Madison Wisconsin

She ate a little bit more soup, it must have been really good, and picked at the rest of her dinner. I finished my excellent cheese curds and burger. She packed up the remainder of her meal and took it back to the hotel, where she finished it off later, after her stomach settled. Having already experienced my own distress at the hands (or wings) of Popeye’s spicy fried chicken, I felt empathy for her and didn’t force any further discussion on the subject. Madison Wisconsin

The next morning, we got up early to check out beautiful Madison, Wisconsin. We had planned to stay over for a day to take in the sites and explore the food truck extravaganza that was scheduled in that time frame. There was also some mention of visiting a famous cheese shop to fill the remaining space in the Outback with cheese to take home. Madison Wisconsin

Madison is an amazing city, surrounded by five lakes. We also planned on seeing two of them, Lake Mendota to the north and Lake Monona to the south, within a half-hour walk from each other. Madison Wisconsin

We walked up to Lake Mendota first. This is one of the places where we discovered a dramatic difference in the people across the USA. When we had visited Gold Beach, Oregon, we discovered that drivers were close to neurotic about stopping for pedestrians, cross-walk or no cross-walk. A four-lane highway ran near out Marriott in Gold Beach with a mini-market on the other side, and every time we went for snacks and soda cars would literally slam on their brakes when they saw us on the sidewalk, turning towards the street with the intention to cross. We found this to be unusual based on our previous experience at home in Virginia. Madison Wisconsin

On our walk to Lake Mendota, we had to cross a similar four-lane highway that ran along the lakeshore. There was a light with cross-walk button for pedestrians. Jackie pushed the button, we got the green signal to cross and started to step out into the road. We were both fortunate that we were able to hop back onto the sidewalk before several cars took us out. They didn’t seem real impressed with their red light. So our conclusion, pedestrians in Gold Beach, Oregon valued and safe; pedestrians in Madison, WI, targets with a point system, possibly based on age? Madison Wisconsin

But, I digress. Once we survived the street crossing, Lake Mendota was beautiful. It was so large there were parts where we couldn’t see the other side. Spectacular beach homes surrounded some areas, and there were speed boats everywhere. It was a warm, sunny day and the water reflected the blue sky beautifully. After an hour or so walking up and down the waterfront and enjoying the spectacular views, we took our lives into our hands by crossing the road again, headed south to Lake Monona. Madison Wisconsin

At the time, we found considerable construction near the waterfront of Lake Monona, so approaching the lake wasn’t as pleasant. We reached that waterfront, and the lake appeared somewhat smaller than Mendota, but still quite pretty. It was getting warmer, and we were tired, hot and hungry from all the walking. We headed for the capitol square, where all the food trucks were supposed to be parked for the extravaganza. When we arrived in the area, we found over twenty food trucks parked around the large square that surrounded the stately capitol building. Madison Wisconsin

You’d think a food truck extravaganza would be a good thing, but there were too many trucks with too many different types of food; the aromas were intoxicating. My choices included a combination of Chinese takeout with egg rolls and pepperoni pizza. I was proud that I limited myself to only two different types of food. Jackie selected a wider variety; she’s a lot more adventurous than I am, and she can still handle Popeye’s spicy fried chicken. Oh, the wonders of youth. Made me jealous. Madison Wisconsin

We ate and drank, and ate and drank some more, and then Jackie said, “Okay, Old Man, it’s time to pick up some more cheese to take home. We’ve almost eaten everything that we bought in California.” Madison Wisconsin

Sadly, I knew she was right. At one point back in California wine country, I had awakened from a nap to find myself way off the beaten track in a small town with only a gas station and a very large cheese manufacturing plant and store. Apparently, this was a planned stop on the trip itinerary, although it was a surprise to me. I thought we were lost. Madison Wisconsin

We had loaded up on a wide variety of cheeses, and much of it had mysteriously disappeared between there and Madison, mostly as bread and cheese lunches, or snacks. I would like to claim that there were mice in the car who did most of the damage, but truthfully my Outback was rodent-free. Just Jackie, the cheese muncher, and me, a dainty eater of small quantities of cheese (again, perhaps I exaggerate for effect). Madison Wisconsin

So, off we went to a famous Madison cheese shop, touted to carry every brand of cheese made in Wisconsin, and a few from elsewhere as well. The store was not all that impressive from outside, but once one entered the front door you were completely lost in a world of cheese, crackers, a couple of shelves of wine and a cooler with caviar and other things that go well with cheese. Madison Wisconsin

Jackie was in cheese Heaven. I could tell we were there for the long haul. It got even better when I realized that one could request a taste of any and all cheese on display. Had I known, I would have foregone the food trucks altogether. Madison Wisconsin

I spent the first hour tasting and picking out a couple of bricks of cheese to take home. The aged sharp cheddars were my favorites. At that point, I was pretty much cheesed out, but Jackie had just gotten started. The store became more and more crowded, and I retreated to a corner to stand and wait for my daughter to finish. After the second hour, I considered tackling her and dragging her out of the store. But I’m old, she’s young, 5’8” and strong, and this was probably not the best of ideas. Madison Wisconsin

Finally, somewhere between two-and-a-half and three hours, she stepped up to the counter and ordered $200 worth of cheese. I thought we might need a wheel barrow to get it back to the hotel. Fortunately, it was only a few blocks from store to hotel, and they provided some nice shopping bags with handles, which made the task doable. Madison Wisconsin

In spite of all the food we had consumed to this point, we ended up eating dinner at a specialty burger place, also around the corner from our hotel. To this day, I don’t know how I consumed that much food in one day. I also don’t understand why I didn’t weigh 300 pounds by the end of our glorious trip. Madison Wisconsin

I do remember that night in Madison. Jackie and I were packing up the massive quantities of newly purchased cheese in coolers that we had brought along for that purpose. Very little of the cheese we had purchased in California was left in the coolers. I mentioned this to Jackie, who didn’t seem all that surprised. Then I said, “Honey, we’d better take some of this cheese home to Mom, or she’s not going to be happy with us.” Madison Wisconsin

My daughter’s response, big grin on her face. “We’ll do our best, Dad, but it’s a long way from Madison, Wisconsin to southern Virginia.” Madison Wisconsin

If you liked this blog, you’ll probably enjoy our comedy murder mystery MURDER BY ROAD TRIP, inspired by our real cross-country road trip. It’s available on Amazon at  Barnes&Noble  and Indie Books