September 23, 2008

Wisconsin Travels

We've been around several interesting places in the past few days.

We took in a visit to Old World Wisconsin, a "living-history" museum. Buildings from the 1800's are preserved there in their original condition, with period furnishings and equipment. All of the buildings have been moved from their original location to the museum and placed in proximity to one another to show the size of the actual establishments. Most of these are farmhouses, some are from more "urban" areas like small towns. Docents in period costumes provide live demonstrations of things like blacksmithing and cooking.

I think it's an absolutely fascinating glimpse into history, a million times more effective than a static museum or a book. It's one thing to say that a man plowed five acres of land with two oxen -- it's something else to look at five acres of recently-plowed earth and the oxen who dragged the plow behind them. And setting the museum in the rolling hills of the Kettle Moraine forest is important too -- it reminds you that before any of these things could exist, someone had to chop down all the trees. It gives a real appreciation for the incredible amount of physical work, the risks, and the vision that it took to carve this nation out of the wilderness.

Sunday, we had a very nice barbeque at my grandmother's house to commemorate my birthday (which is actually today but the timing of the celebration worked out better over the weekend). We now have some extra stuff to take home with us, which is not a bad thing.

Yesterday, The Wife and I explored Madison. Madison seems to me to be a vast playground for young adults. The college and surrounding pub-and-coffeehouse scene on State Street are obvious sites for play, but so is the state government center. There are upscale restaraunts and bars surrounding Capitol Square, pretty views of the two lakes surrounding the city, and young people engaged in the legislative support work necessary to keep a state government functioning. The lucky ones get to work in the Capitol itself, which is about the best-looking state capitol building of the many I've seen.* The cupola is actually bigger than the U.S. Capitol's by about six feet.

We also visited with one of The Wife's childhood friends in one of the little towns she grew up in. Some of you will be amazed to learn that there are indeed towns in America too small for Wal-Mart to bother with. But there is no Wal-Mart in Waterloo, Wisconsin and buying replacement camera batteries at the hardware store turns in to a social event for The Wife. The friend and her husband have three kids, ages 3 to 8. A very nice family; I'd enjoy visiting with the parents more. The kids were well-behaved and sociable. But oy! What a lot of stuff these kids accumulate! What a lot of noise they generate!

Pictures will follow when we return to California and download them from the camera.

* Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington and now Wisconsin. I've seen the exteriors of, but not toured inside, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wyoming.

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