That’s the formula for New Glarus, Wisconsin and it’s G-L-O-R-I-O-U-S.
After a brief visit to Chris’s employer, MusicMatters (a group I used to work with quite a bit via CLIF Bar), in Minneapolis to say hey to Wren, Erik, Mary, Karen, Michael (thanks for the kind words and great advice, Mike!) and the rest of the crew, I was off.
I jumped again on Rt. 90, the major highway that runs east/west through the area, and headed for nearby Wisconsin. Not ’cause I was suddenly aching for boring straight flat impersonal highway life, but ’cause I was in a hurry to get to my next destination and some quality time with family, something I’d been looking forward to all along.
My dad had ridden his motorcycle from Pittsburgh to this little town south of Madison to meet me, my aunt Nancy and uncle Gary at their place in the country for a few days of chillin’.
As I got off the highway, I was greeted with some of the most beautiful riding I’d seen in weeks. Southern Wisconsin is covered in gorgeous rolling farmland, emerald green from the abundance of rain this year and dotted with red barns, old stone farmhouses, and a menagerie of farm animals grazing lazily on the sweet green grass. With quiet little roads, devoid of cars, gently curving through the landscape, it’s picture perfect from a motorcycle (or anywhere for that matter). I immediately thought of Vermont and fell in love with this place. Why didn’t anyone tell me this place was this beautiful? Snyder?
The area is known for a few things: dairy farms and the amazing cheese they produce, beer (anyone hear of New Glarus Brewery? you will soon..) and to some degree, chocolate. When the Swiss settled some of this land, they brought with them the things they were good at in the old country. And the mix is heavenly.
New Glarus is one of those little towns, right in the heart of that area and has taken on the look of Switzerland since it was settled. It’s actually known as Little Switzerland. Everything and I mean everything has a Swiss feel. Even the local storage facility has an alpine motif and is called the Storage “Haus”.
I spent three glorious days relaxing with the family and exploring their 140 acre farm just outside of town. They no longer raise animals on this farm (except Sonny, fellow explorer and burr-covered Jack Russell terrier)
but they do lease some of the land to be used by nearby farmers who plant a mix of soy, corn and cover crops throughout the year and raise cattle. The barns on the property are beautiful and aging gracefully, with all sorts of interesting remnants of their former lives inside.
After touring a nearby family cheese factory..
and stocking up on all sorts of GI-clogging goodness (Muenster, pepper jack, cheddar, baby swiss etc), we checked out the local cheesemaking history center, some of the other farms in the area and the nearby brewery. The brewery, New Glarus, has proven so popular that the owners have, until now, had to limit their distribution to Wisconsin only even though other states are clamoring for it. Their just about to open a new facility down the street so you might be able to sample the goodness (Spotted Cow, Fat Squirrel, Enigma and all sorts of other complex and interesting beers) yourself pretty soon.
After giving Beatrice a much needed oil change in the yard, dad, Nancy, Gary and their neighbor Paul, came out to help give her some additional love. Thanks, Nancy. You just cleaned 6,500 miles of bugs off of her. A first on this trip!
On Saturday, despite some serious rain, we ventured north to check out the Midwest’s answer to Berkeley, the college town and liberal hotspot of Madison. The farmers market was full of local and organic farmers selling veggies, local meats and, of course, cheese. After collecting a little bit of everything, we headed back to the farm for a meal of the regions finest, including bratwurst prepared just down the street. Damn good eatin’.
I have over-sampled all of the ‘fruits’ of this regions labor and love them all. Thank you, Nancy, Gary and Sonny for the amazing hospitality. I’m 5 lbs heavier and a whole lot happier than when I rolled in.