Minneapolis to Madison

17 Feb

A little pile of trucked-in snow in the heart of Madison, Wis., on Friday, Feb. 17. Capitol Square is hosting the Madison Winter Festival on Saturday and Sunday.

So I’m back on the road for another FasterSkier stint. This time it’s all about the Midwest as I flew to Minneapolis on Thursday, am in Madison today and will be covering cross-country skiing races here this weekend. Then it’s up to Hayward, Wis., to write about the biggest nordic ski race in the U.S., the American Birkebeiner.

If you know nothing about the Birkie, it doesn’t really matter. I’ll explain what’s worth explaining to those with no real interest in ski marathons later. Right now, I’m getting through an afternoon in Madison.

It’s not that I’m not enjoying the Midwest. It’s great here. Had a little blip in the trip today when I drove four-plus hours from Minneapolis (after waking up at 7 a.m.) to figure out there’s no way I can write a preview for the weekend this afternoon. There’s no snow in Capitol Square, where they’re supposed to hold the races, no one to answer questions and so I have to kill time until 6 p.m. when the magic happens (and they dump truckloads of manmade snow onto the streets, I’m assuming).

If you know anything about me, you know I don’t like the unexpected. I thought I’d find race organizers and maybe a ski racer or two in downtown Madison, where the SuperTour sprint races start at 9 a.m. Saturday, yet I found nothing but protesters and regular-looking streets. I went to the Madison Winter Fest website and it told me to go to the historical museum on capitol square. The guy at the info booth knew nothing, and one of the gift shop girls said she thought the whole weekend might be canceled because of the unusually warm weather. Yikes.

Inside "Graze" in Madison, Wis.

I took a breather and went outside. I called the race organizer and he confirmed that they were putting snow down Friday night. There wasn’t much I could do from noon until then. So I went for a run.

Two and a half hours after I embarked on my tour of the city by foot, I’ve cooled down. I know how I get: tired, rundown, cranky, overwhelmed. But that’s part of the game that I love. Travel is in my blood, and this is what you have to deal with. No big deal; I’m now sitting at an AMAZING lunch/dinner spot called Graze on Capitol Square. I’ve downed a beer after a 45-minute run and am eating lunch at 3:30 in the afternoon. I’m staying with a host family tonight so at least they don’t need to feed me.

The restaurant has Wi-Fi, tons of windows overlooking the capitol building and good food. This will be my go-to restaurant for the weekend. They forgot me at first (ouch, I know), then felt so bad that they gave me some complimentary coffee cake. Madison is so cute.

I’ll let you know how my time here progresses. Please check out my FasterSkier blog for more ski-related updates and to hear about my fun stay in Minneapolis.

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