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Citizen Dave: John Steinbeck got it right -- Wisconsin is a lovely place

For me, the last few weeks have been a Wisconsin road trip of epic proportions.

I spent two weeks as a volunteer for the National Park Service, giving tours of the Sand Island lighthouse in the Apostle Islands. I came back to beautiful Madison for a few days, and then headed northeast for the Door County Century bike ride. I could have done the entire 100 miles around the peninsula, but I decided to cut the ride just 70 miles short. I did this only because I was out of shape, as I got tired of hearing people say "On your left!" as they passed me.

One day last week, I went out to my friend Jordy's farm north of Richland Center and helped with some chores. I put together deer stands and got them out into the woods for the coming fall hunt, and helped Jordy build a workbench out of white oak cut there on his farm. You need a long workbench to sort duck decoys, spread out deer hunting gear and do other guy stuff. This one turned out to be sixteen feet long. Everybody needs a sixteen-foot long workbench.

Last Saturday, Dianne and I went to the Dane County Farmers' Market too early in the morning and then drove to Monroe for Green County Cheese Days in the afternoon. The line was too long for fried cheese curds, but we picked up a really nice sharp cheddar for only a few bucks. We stopped in New Glarus for lunch, and to visit the great bakery there. (Get the apple bread.)

I would have loved to get to Milwaukee to see the Brewers continue their incredible comeback, but we couldn't fit it in. (Those of you who gave up on the Crew should be ashamed of yourselves. The post I wrote in July declaring "Put a fork in us -- we're done" was purely intended to be motivational for the team. Seems to have worked. You're welcome.)

Look, I don't want to go all Department of Tourism on you, but what John Steinbeck wrote in Travels With Charley when he visited Wisconsin on his way across America with his dog (Charley) in the autumn of 1960 stands up. Steinbeck, who drove through Sauk City and the southwest part of our state on his way to the Twin Cities and beyond, wrote this:

It is possible, even probable, to be told a truth about a place, to accept it, to know and at the same time not to know anything about it. I had never been to Wisconsin but all my life I had heard about it, eaten its chesses, some of them as good as any in the world. And I must have seen pictures. Everyone must have. Why then was I unprepared for the beauty of this region, for its variety of field and hill, forest, lake? I think now that I must have considered it one big level cow pasture because of the state's enormous yield of milk products. I never saw a country that changed so rapidly, and because I had not expected it everything I saw brought a delight. I don't know how it is in other seasons. The summers may reek and rock with heat, the winters may grown with dismal cold. But when I saw it for the first and only time in early October, the air was rich with butter-colored sunlight, not fuzzy but crisp and clear so that every frost-gay tree was set off, the rising hills were not compounded, but alone and separate. There was a penetration of light into solid substance, so that I seemed to see into things, deep in, and I've seen that kind of light elsewhere only in Greece. I remember now that I had been told Wisconsin is a lovely state, but the telling had not prepared me. It was a magic day. The land dripped with richness, the fat cows and pigs gleaming against the green, and, in the smaller holdings, corn standing in little tents as corn should, and pumpkins all about.

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