Hello on this beautiful summer night! The heat is just around the corner but right now I have all the windows open, a glass of iced tea in my hand, and am enjoying both the breeze and the fact that it’s after 8pm and light outside. Summer just is amazing.
A fun spur-of-the-moment mini vacation was to take a day and drive down to Madison followed by a drive over and day in Milwaukee. The premise was to just get away and enjoy a change of scenery. We hunted for some decent hotel prices and were on our way.
Madison was our first spot and we drove right to the capital to walk around and work on a “banner mission”. I’ve mentioned before about Ingress, the GPS game Ben and I play. One thing that we’re enjoying about the game is how different cities have missions – meaning you visit different locations in certain orders and collect badges. When the badges are strung together they make a unique picture that gets stored on your game page for everyone to see. Here is the one for the capitol called “Hack the Loop”:
From the map information this looked like it would be really quick to complete but we were sidelined by tons of road construction and, as luck would have it, a day when the capitol was swarming with people getting early seats to a concert that night. Chaos!
There was a lot more walking around then we had planned on and by the time we were done it was after 8pm. Long day of driving and walking!
Walking ALL over and around the capitol… tons of weird intersections but a mountain of fun shops, little niche restaurants, food carts, and people.
Ben began driving back towards our hotel while I searched my phone for a decent dinner option. I wasn’t really hungry at that point but I was THIRSTY! We settled on the Great Dane Brewing Co for beer (Ben), root beer (me), and a half chicken wrap with a bowl of potato soup. Delicious! Added bonus: the Brewer game was on TV so we scrunched into the same side of the booth and sat and watched while we ate. I think that’s one of the best things about vacation (or weekends too) – time just doesn’t matter. You can stay out late because you don’t have to be anywhere the next morning.
We had the gnarliest hotel ever in Madison. Take it from me, if you’re ever in Madison, DO NOT stay at the Microtel. It was beyond hideous. When we arrived to check in there was no running water or working phones (huh?) but since it was early afternoon we didn’t really care and left right away for the capitol. When we got back and really inspected the room, it was heinous. I will spare you all the details except to say that I slept IN my clothes, threw all their pillows off the bed, made Ben purchase bottled water so I could brush my teeth in the sink, and I opted NOT to take a shower the next morning. Yeah.Had we gotten back to the room earlier I think we would have just left. Looking back, Ben says we won’t make that mistake again despite how late it is. Lessons you learn! 🙂
The next day we had planned another mission badge that started by the capitol and ended all the way over in Mt Horeb:
You can argue that this game is somewhat pointless but for people who really don’t get out much, it gives a sense of purpose, is so inexpensive, and lets us discover all kinds of random areas, parks, beaches, cities. I love it. We wound our way through quaint little city blocks in Madison with old homes on tiny streets that were amazingly well-kept and so full of charm. We stopped in Verona for lunch at burger joint. I love being able to get quick reviews on my phone. I don’t know how I lived with a “dumb” phone for so long.
This place was a tap house and they had all kinds of fancy beers that made Ben almost gleeful… and a little hoity-toity for such a down to earth establishment. Ha
I think you all know I’m not a beer girl but boy did I have some wonderful root beers on this trip. Holy cow. They were ice cold, with deep vanilla and caramel notes. Mmmm amazing stuff.
I rolled with a California burger which came with cheese and guacamole. I’ve never tried that combo on a burger and it was really tasty.
We arrived in Milwaukee in the late afternoon and fully inspected our hotel. It passed with flying colors – and not just because they had freshly made oatmeal blueberry white chocolate cookies. I NEED to try and replicate this recipe!
It was early enough that we decided to head down to the Historic Third Ward. It’s an area of downtown Milwaukee that is, well, historic. I’d never been there and since the weather was perfect for walking (especially after a day in the car), we thought we’d complete another banner, get some exercise, see the sights, and find a quaint place to eat dinner too.
We remembered too late that Summerfest (the local summer music festival) was going on so parking anywhere was crazy-expensive. We settled on the parking ramp right outside the Ward and they wanted to charge us $25. Yikes.
A quick back story: when we were in Madison, there was no parking ramp and poor Ben was running back and forth putting money into the meter because we kept running out of time and everything was taking longer than planned. It was a bit of a mess and we didn’t want to deal with that again. We explained we just wanted to walk around and got a weird looking ticket before parking the car.
The Third Ward didn’t disappoint. It was just beautiful: full of huge brick buildings that look so well maintained and yet “old”. You can tell there was so much history and change and yet the buildings are still there. There were little shops all over, seating areas, and a park with twinkle lights wrapped all around the trees.
It was a little overcast and we were concerned about rain but luckily only a few errant sprinkles cropped up as we wove up and down the street. We finished this banner really quickly but I don’t think it’s as pretty. It looks like it needs an additional line to complete the picture:
While we were playing, a local game player (opposing team) spotted us in-game and was super friendly. He offered up some great dinner suggestions in the area. We ended up at a pizzeria in one of those beautiful brick buildings.
We ordered a pizza with pancetta and it came in little rosettes. Also, one of the quirks to an old building – the bathroom was downstairs! You had to walk down these creepy stairs and then down an equally creepy stairwell to get to the bathroom. That alone was an experience!
The sprinkling was getting a touch worse when we left the restaurant and when we drove up to pay in the parking garage our total came to: $4. FOUR dollars!!! What a deal! I think we must have fed almost $15 into the meter at Madison and I was expecting the $25 Summerfest fee. It doesn’t take much to make my day, hee hee
We woke up the next morning and decided we were done with the game and ready to just do something random – so we drove another half hour to the outlet malls in Pleasant Prairie. I have friends who RAVE about the mall so we decided to finally make the trip. They had a couple stores that aren’t at the outlet mall in Oshkosh but nothing that I would make a specific trip down there for. we found some deals on exercise shirts (Adidas and Under Armour outlets), I may or may not have bought another unnecessary and totally beautiful purse, and we took it pretty easy overall because I was feeling really dizzy that morning.
While we were paying for a pair of swim trunks at the Eddie Bauer outlet, the store employee told us to check out the “cheese castle” because it was a fun touristy place and had great sandwiches for lunch. Sold!
It was definitely a tourist trap. I actually didn’t think the food was great and we could have done without the trip there. I guess it felt a bit cheezy (cheezy, get it?) after all the more rustic places we’ve seen.
I mean we’re comparing sites like this:
to stuff like this:
We got a start on the road right after lunch and ended up hitting all the 4th of July traffic heading into Milwaukee. The road was at a complete standstill and we ended up taking the first offramp and driving down the frontage roads so we could make some headway. A lot of other people had the same idea so it was slow going but even at 35mph we were FLYING compared to the interstate. It took us almost double the time to get home.
It was a wonderful trip though with lots of fun memories. We’re already looking at the map for more missions to see were we should go to next. A little R&R is good for the heart, mind, body, and soul. ❤