Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wisconsin: The State Capital, The National Mustard Museum, Circus World, and More!

What a fun and interesting day we have had!
 First off, we discovered that we had moved into another time zone so our time was no longer the time it was.................does that writing give you an idea of how confusing time zones are to me?  In plain speak, we are now an hour behind "home time."  Randy won't change the clock in the car until we go as far west as we can get.  He thinks he is saving time.  I have no clue as to what time it is where I am right now. I changed my watch, but am not sure if I moved it in the right direction.  Or the left.

We had read in our AAA Tour Book that the rotunda in the capital building of the state of Wisconsin was worth seeing.  That turned out to be an understatement.  If this building were to be rebuilt today, a guard there informed us, it would cost over two billion dollars to do so.  I believe it.  The capital has just completed an almost twenty-year renovation.  It was a little like walking into St. Peter's.........Just look...............

I actually laid down on the floor in the center of the lowest level to shoot the photos of the painting which is suspended within the dome. The guard there told me that was what everyone does, so I did, too. A few pictures cannot begin to show the beauty of this building, but I try.

After I got back up, we went to see the Governor's Conference Room, which is a room with the large meeting table. I will let the photos do what they can.
 This picture below is how the one above looks while you're lying on the other words I used a zoom for the one above. This is an actual painting, newly restored. There is a walkabout up there around the painting and again below those windows in the picture below.

         The Governor's Conference Room, below.

I am almost embarrassed to admit that we didn't go to Madison, Wisconsin with the intent of seeing this magnificent capital building.  The truth is that we wanted to see The National Mustard Museum! (Doesn't that just sound like some place that Philip would have loved to see?!!)  It didn't let us down. This little museum is in an area called Middleton. 
A delightful man named Barry Levenson has a passion for mustard, obviously.  He has created a museum dedicated to mustard, and you really have to go there to fully appreciate how much fun this place is. The museum is in the lower level, and it contains so many "artifacts" and collections of types of mustard that the mere thought of categorizing all of this and displaying it is exhausting. Each state of our country has a display of mustards produced there! There are displays of the medicinal use of mustard, dry mustard, mustards from other countries, and even some "Mustard Art."
 "Mustard Piece Theatre" has movies showing mustard being made and some recipes and dishes using mustard.  We had read about the Mustard Museum in our Midwest Living Magazine, and as a chronic tearer-outer, I had torn out the article and filed it under "Fun Places to Go."
I had the thrill of meeting Barry Levenson this morning, and when I told him that I had been known as the "Queen of Condiments," because my refrigerator had more mustards and sauces inside than actual food, he took my name and returned with a professionally prepared "diploma," to show that I have a degree from "Poupon U."  (Say that fast a couple of times!)
 The National Mustard Museum was a hoot to visit.  Upstairs is a "tasting room," similar to vineyards where the finest wines can be tasted, only here it is every kind of mustard imaginable! Mini hot dogs are available for a mere dollar, and we chose the mustard we wanted on them. Pretzel stix make it easy to taste the mustards, and rather than sharing germs with other customers, the mustard sample is given to each taster separately at the sampling station.  Lots of fun items are also available, such as a blow-up turkey, which I presume would help to make a Norman Rockwell dinner portrait for non-cooks.  I bought a wonderful stainless spoon for serving condiments that rests horizontally over the top of a jar side, instead of standing up inside the jar.  We also bought a few crazy postcards with Barry Levenson showing off his mustards.
We had a great hour or so reading mustard labels and enjoying the delightful genius in the whole thing. Go there!

Once out of the Madison area, we headed north and west with La Crosse, Wisconsin as our goal for the night.  On the way we noticed several signs about Baraboo, Wisconsin, and while we had a good time trying to just say "Bar-a-boo," we noticed those historical signs along the highway. (We call them "hysterical signs," but that's another story.........)  So we finally gave in and stopped to read one, and it put a whole new light on Baraboo, Wisconsin! (Try to ignore the crazy man circus performer in the sign picture....................he was doing his Quasimodo imitation.....)
I've tried to enlarge the sign so you can get the history in Baraboo, but the jist of it is that the Ringling Brothers Circus got its start in Baraboo in 1884. Today we drove through Baraboo to the Circus World on Water Street to get a quick peek at the largest collection of circus memorabilia in the world.  I have to confess that we did not go into the museum as the show had already started and we wanted to be in La Crosse at dinnertime, but we did do the quick "ask and ye shall find out" routine, picked up the informative brochures, and visually memorized everything that we saw, which seemed to be a lot.
We learned that Circus World has the largest library of information not only about the circus itself, but also about the performers.  People come from all over the world to look up their relatives who performed in circuses.  We figured that as itinerant workers, many families did not always have contact with their relatives who had 'run away to join the circus,' but here's the place to find out where they went and worked.
Performances are still held daily at Circus World, and there is a  cookhouse where families can enjoy meals during their visit.
I'll bet you are wondering why we had a "goal" to get to La Crosse tonight.  It was to get in a visit with my second cousin, Bob Bonnewell, and his wife, Sharon, who live in Blair, Wisconsin.  I've mentioned how few relatives I have, (or so it seems since my husband has a proverbial slough of them....) so once again, I try to keep in touch and not "lose" those few that I do have!  Bob is the son of my deceased first cousin, Robert, who was the son of my father's sister, Barbara Pierce Bonnewell.  Got that?  It's all a matter of knowing where I figure in to the family tree, I guess.
Anyway, we checked into a Baymont Inn in a suburb of La Crosse, and Bob and Sharon came for a lively visit in our motel lobby. These are amazing people, Bob having been in Africa in the sixties working for the Peace Corps, and Sharon traveling alone across Africa as a young, single woman..........and they met, and the rest is history.  The travels they have taken are extensive and so interesting!  We certainly didn't lack for conversation! 

I'm really tired about now, and tomorrow is coming.  I am not sure when, since I don't really know what time it is.  Or care.
Copyright: KP Gillenwater 2013