And by "plunge right through that line" we mean plunge right through the Cal Basketball team..." So the Wisconsin men's basketball team used a late TD to outscore the football team this weekend 81-70. Yikes.
As some of you know, I got a bug to do something fun for the weekend so on Wednesday I bought a plane ticket to fly to Chicago on Saturday, meet Jeff, class of 92, who drove in from Detroit, drive up to Madison to meet up with Erin, class of '91 and her Wisconsin husband(!!) who drove over from Milwaukee to watch our undefeated Bears play the Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday. Despite the thumping we took in the game it was a great trip. I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend a road trip to Madison for people in the future (maybe we can do another home and home in football!).
The drive from Chicago to Madison is completely unremarkable. Sort of like the Midwest version of 5 from Los Banos to Buttonwillow. Except for the entire Illinois portion you get to pay annoying highway tolls every 30 miles or so. Seriously annoying. I think I paid about $10 in tolls (not including the $2 they made us pay when we got on the wrong toll road only to turn around immediately). So entering the vibrant capital / college town of Madison is even more impressive. I've heard from many people that Madison is the Berkeley of the Midwest and it really does feel that way.
We stayed at the Sheraton and in a little unexpected bonus, stayed in the completely refurbished suite that the President stayed in last month on his campaign stop in Madison. THANKS OBAMA!!!! Great hotel by the way. Charming staff. Redone. Excellent club floor amenities. I recommend.
Friday night we decided to head out and get a feel for Madison. We were told to hit The Great Dane (Madison is in Dane County) and it did not disappoint. Tons of people in watching the Big1G Championship game, and as you can imagine they were very excited.
After, we decided to walk around the Capitol building and then hit State Street which is the main thoroughfare running into campus.
I don't want to offend any of our Wisconsin readers here, but I was underwhelmed with the "activity" and bustle on State Street. It was a Saturday night and almost no one was out. Maybe they were all watching the football game, or studying for finals, I don't know... I was just sort of surprised. Having said that, what a great street. Lots of stores and places to eat... really puts Telegraph to shame. So yes, we did stop in at Kilwins and buy some food before heading back to the hotel.
Sunday we drove over to campus and scored this PRIMO parking space right by the Kohl Center (that's the arena in the background). Don't you just love photos of great parking spaces! I don't think we have nearly enough of those, a real negative of CGB. So, you're welcome.
We walked over to campus. Lovely campus. Very pretty. Very "midwesty." We stopped in the Memorial Union where we were greeted by this sign (and sorry Wisconsin folks, we ALWAYS have to take photos of these signs when we encounter them, it's in our Terms and Conditions).
We went downstairs to the Rathsekller where lots of folks, not surprisingly, were watching the Green Bay game, and of course there are lots and lots of Aaron Rodgers jerseys and when people saw our Cal stuff they all wanted to talk to us because of him!
On the recommendation of many people we then headed over for lunch to the State Street Brats. This guy greeted us:
Inexplicably, none of us got a brat, and I think that was a bad move. The bartender recommended the steak sandwich to me and it was just meh. I have no idea what I was thinking with that so I guess I deserved it. (HOW GREAT WAS THAT STORY!!!!)
After lunch we headed to the game. The Kohl Center is terrific. I had no idea it opened in 1998 as it only looks a few years old. It's a really nicely done venue.
They also have nice little touches all through the arena like this in the bathrooms:
The team gave me great seats first row right behind the bench. I've said this in other threads, but if you ever get a chance to watch a game from here, jump at it. I've had the opportunity a few times now and it's just awesome watching Monty coach the team. For as bad as this game was he was wasn't all ranting and raving Monty. He was just coaching and based on his post game comments I think he was making a point that he had been making to the team that week. Oh sure, he got upset a few times, but nothing crazy. It's like being in an upper level coaching course when you get to watch Monty up close.
I think for obvious reasons that will be the last I talk about the actual game... The experience was nice. The fans were nice, but it wasn't as frenzied as I thought it would be, even when Wisconsin was really putting on the run. The arena is terrific. Three tiers and it's very vertical so it feels like it could really be an intimidating place. The students are all behind the visiting bench's baseline. It was a good turnout but not remotely close to full.
You can't tell in this photo, but these guys really need to wear thicker shorts under those skin suits, if you know what I mean! I liked their students a lot. They looked like they were having fun and they did a lot of "movement" stuff which I think we should do more.
By far, the most raucous the arena got was when the football team came out after their complete shellacking of Nebraska the night before.
And some more of the student section...
So there you go. Final score and game aside, it was a great trip. I love Madison. A waaaaaay better college town / capital city than Columbus. But then we all already knew that!
See you all at Haas on Sunday.