Whenever I move to a new place, I occasionally wake up with a longing for something from a previous home -- a desire to eat the rye bread from the bakery that's now 200 miles away or to hike in the jungle in another hemisphere. Some things are simpler to substitute than others -- making my own tasty bread or taking a walk in a different forest. Other items are a bit harder to re-create.
This weekend, I woke up, and wanted a gradient. I really craved some sort of topography.
Like me, Madison is flat as a board. On a previous Madison-to-Chicago jaunt, I spied the occasional silo and meandering livestock, but mostly leveled fields. For a "Coastie" like myself, driving into a boundless horizon is disconcerting. I find a huge amount of comfort in feeling like I am eventually going to careen into the side of a mountain, hill, building or other obstruction. Driving down a road flanked by trees, my Civic embraced by foliage and potential falling rock -- that's like gas station cocoa on a cold day.
So I took to the streets on my quest for a gradient, and as The Who sang, "I could see for miles and miles," I called my friend, a two-year resident in town, and asked, "What's the highest point in Madison?" He replied, "Uh, Bascom Hill?"
Bascom Hill?! Of course walking up it can tone one's buns better than any Suzanne Somers toy, but a single tall hill in the middle of the city doesn't cut it. I wanted some serious topographical cleavage.
I pulled over and got out my trusty map. As I scanned for some sort of hidden mountain range, my eyes fell on the words Valley Road, then Twin Valley Road. Where there are valleys, there are peaks! Why keep Roger Daltrey when I could have Bono? I pressed the gas and gunned it to Black Earth -- "El-e-vay-tion hooooo!"
Around the area of Festge Park, my eyes fell on the rolling nuggets of hilly serenity. Wisconsin, you have lovely lady lumps!
The humps I witnessed are part of the Driftless Area, a region blessed with unglaciated landscapes, which simply means it is a craggy, rocky area never smoothed by glacial movement. So for all you folks who've been mocked about the pancake you currently live on, let the naysayers know that this pancake is chockfull o' granola, blueberries, chocolate chips, bananas, squirrels, and all sorts of chunkiness! It is possible to fulfill your hankering for hardcore natural land formations.
And there is always Bascom Hill. Hey, it's better than Florida?