I had never thought much about the state of Wisconsin. It's not in the news very often. It doesn't have a major tourist attraction like the Grand Canyon. But once you visit here, you won't quickly forget it. We found the state to be enchanting and filled with copious amounts of natural beauty. It's a hunter's, fisherman's, snowmobiler's and logger's paradise.
Below is our travel map of our month long journey through the state. We stayed at three different campgrounds:
Before leaving the Wisconsin State Fair RV Park in Milwaukee we decided to drive out to the state capital of Madison.
It was an hour and a half west of our campground.
Positioned between two large lakes, Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, the tiny city sits on an isthmus!
Look how cute it is! It looks like a giant Lego set.
The curved building along the shoreline, in the foreground is Madison's Convention Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but more on that in a minute. The city was surprisingly nice. Clean, walkable and easy to get around. With lots of small trendy shops and restaurants, it was easy to while away the afternoon.
We saw lots of growth and vibrancy. Madison is ranked one of the top 10 cities in the nation for young entrepreneurs.
When possible, we make it a point to visit the capital of each state. Therefore, our first stop was the Capitol building. Completed in 1917, the building is the tallest in the city, a distinction preserved by legislation which prohibits buildings taller than the columns surrounding the dome!
It's interior is spectacular. Vivid, gaudy and majestic. I never realized marble came in so many different colors! The building includes 43 kinds of stone from eight states and six countries.
The Supreme Court chamber.
Two hundred feet above the capitol floor, on the underside of the dome, is art work commemorating the resources of the state. The central figure represents Mother Wisconsin, while the women around her offer up specimens of wood, lead, copper and tobacco.
Many different statues adorn the interior of the building. This one originally made for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, is named "The Genius of Wisconsin". Now there's a head scratcher.
Missing!!! If you are poking around your grandparent's attic and should stumble upon the original copy of Wisconsin's constitution, the state would appreciate you returning it!
One last interesting fact we learned was that the state's most important document, its very own constitution, disappeared shortly after being drafted and approved in 1847. It is uncertain who absconded with the valuable document but people speculate that it might have been loaned to a local newspaper publisher but never returned. Fortunately a handwritten copy survives.
Afterwards leaving the capitol, we strolled down Martin Luther King Blvd to visit the civic center.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT:
Another highlight of this trip was the chance to tour a structure designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. We have thoroughly enjoyed touring a great many of the homes he designed on our cross-country trip but this will be the first public-use building we've come across.
We learned that Wright designed this "dream" civic center in 1938, but the county board rejected it by a single vote. For the next four decades, various proposals for a convention center on the Monona Terrace land would be considered and rejected. Finally in 1992, almost sixty years after its original proposal, and thirty-three years after the death of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Community and Convention Center opened its doors.
Taken from the roof of the Convention Center.
The terrace gives you a beautiful view of Lake Monona.
As can be seen in the domed structure to the right, Frank used circular Pyrex glass tubing (a new technology at the time) to let in diffused sunlight.
One can see shades of the yet-to-be-built Guggenheim Art Museum (also designed by Frank) in the design of the parking structure.
Although the exterior is primarily Frank Lloyd Wright's vision, the interior was designed by former Wright apprentice Anthony Puttnam of Taliesin Associated Architects. As with many of Wright's creations, it was expensive to build and is even more costly to maintain.
We spent a whirlwind day in this beautiful city. With it's small-town/big-city charm, along with many parks and walking trails, Madison is a great place to visit, and probably an even greater place to live.
NEXT STOP: GREEN BAY
Although not a huge fan of the football team, I wanted to visit the city that inspired such football greats as Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr and Brett Farve (I would add defensive-end Reggie White but we know in his heart of hearts, he was always an Eagles fan) .
It was about a two-hour haul between the two cities. Our choice for an RV park was Brown County Bayshore Park. If you are planning to ever travel and stay at a state, city or county RV park, you will find they are usually cheaper than private parks but don't always have the amenities. Another big negative is that they're usually older and not particularly accommodating to larger RV's. Make sure you read google reviews (and also use satellite view) to gauge the condition of the location before making a reservation.
Nestled up against beautiful Sturgis Bay, we highly recommend this county park for anyone visiting the Door County region. We gave it 4 out of 5 stars due to its lack of sewer hookup.
This pier was a short walk from our campground.
By the way, if you're ever interested in seeing our travel map showing every RV park at which we've stayed, click HERE.
ONTO THE CITY. Green Bay, Wisconsin's oldest city, is ranked as the ninth happiest city in the USA according to Senior Living Magazine. Given that they receive four feet of snow per season, this poll was obviously taken in the summertime.
We learned some interesting facts about the city while visiting here:
(1) With a population of just over 100,000, it is the smallest city by far to host a professional football team. Yet it is also known as Title-Town because of the number of titles the Packers have won over the years. [With a population of 1,132,000, Buffalo, NY is the second smallest city to host an NFL team]
(2) When settled by the French in the 1600's, it was named Baie des Puants, which translates to "Bay of the Stink." Because of the green algae in the stagnant water the place was apparently quite odoriferous. The name was later changed to Green Bay.
(3) It was once known as the toilet paper capital of the world. The Northern Tissue Company - a precursor to Quilted Northern - invented the first "splinter-free" toilet paper. I think we all can be grateful for that.
(4) Tony Shalhoub (T.V. detective Monk) was born here!
Its skyline is not populated with office towers, its streets are not jammed with horn-honking traffic and you don't have to circle the block numerous times to find a parking spot.
It's a city that has to stand on its tip-toes to see above the treeline. It has more of a college-town feel than a metropolis. It's clean. Its people are friendly. And the air is crisp. What's not to love.. in the summertime, of course.
..And the town does LOVE its football. Here is an aerial view of the stadium I found online. Notice the lack of a surrounding city!
The stadium offers tours that actually take you onto the field but at $25/person we declined.
The Man.. Vince Lombardi
This is one of the stops on the Packers Heritage Trail, a self-guided walking tour that traverses locations relating to the history of the Green Bay Packers. 22 of the sites have bronze commemorative plaques. 21 sites are located within a two-mile radius of downtown Green Bay.
Although we completely missed this attraction, if you want to participate in the LAMBEAU LEAP, there's a statue for that as well!
At the statue's unveiling, LeRoy Butler was honored. He was the Green Bay Packer defensive safety who first performed the "Lambeau Leap" in 1993. As the play unfolded, Defensive End Reggie White recovered an Oakland Raiders fumble, as he was about to be tackled, he lateraled the ball to Butler. Butler ran the remaining 25 yards into the end zone. This victory sent Green Bay to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. In a moment of exuberance, he leapt into the stands.
We heard two funny stories about the Lambeau Leap:
* When LeRoy Butler jumped into the crowd, he knocked the beer from the hands of a fan. As that fan enthusiastically patted his helmet he jokingly yelled: "You owe me a beer!"
* When the NFL banned excessive celebrations in 2000, the Lambeau Leap was grandfathered into the new rules, permitting it to continue!
All in all, we spent an enjoyable few days visiting this Mecca of Green Bay football.
Every state seems to have a specific snippet of land that residents hold most dear. It's the first question residents ask when they learn we've visited their state. Michiganders ask if we visited the "U.P." (upper peninsula), with Floridians it's the "Keys", in Virginia it's the "Blue Ridge Parkway" and so on. Well, in Wisconsin it's DOOR COUNTY.
And Door County did not disappoint. With the waters of Green Bay on one side and Lake Michigan on the other, Door peninsula is one of the few places in Wisconsin where one can see spectacular sunrises and sunsets over water, which is why it is referred to as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest”. Within its 300 miles of shore line lies many picturesque coastal towns, numerous hiking trails, and miles and miles of pristine beaches. It also contains seven mainland lighthouses and four off-shore lighthouses along with five state parks.
The pictures below, some my own and others downloaded from the internet, give you a perspective of the seasonal beauty of this region.
With much to see and do (and “not do” if you just want to relax on its beaches), one can easily see why this region draws tourists back year upon year.
LAST STOP: MENOMONIE!
Our last stop in the state was in a small town named Menomonie. About 230 miles west of our site outside of Green Bay, the trip took us about four and a half hours to drive. We usually try to stay within a three hour drive-time radius when pulling the RV, but sometimes this is not possible.
We decided this would be a good jump off point to visit the cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Our campground of choice was Irvington Campground. While the campground was rustic with no sewer hook ups (booo!), the owners were very nice and the park was situated along the rambling Menomonie River. We would rate it 4 out of 4 stars (a campground without sewer automatically loses a star). We found many nice hikes along this waterway.
There's nothing like a campfire on a cool, crisp evening.
This is the Menomonie River.
I will write of our experiences visiting the cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul in my next blog post.
Wisconsin state motto: "Forward"
Sadly, with cold weather nipping at our heels, we had to limit our time in this picturesque state. Although the state motto is: "Forward", we found that forward doesn't necessary mean hectic. Wisconsin has an enormous amount of appeal to those that aren't bothered by short summers and LONG winters. Unfortunately, that ain't us!
Trying to follow warm weather, we've decided that our journey should take a southward turn, and have set our sights on Texas. But four big states lie between us and the Lone Star state and there is still much to see.