Wednesday, February 15, 2012

winter ride

An email tells me it’s “winter bike” week in downtown Madison. Bike to work! You’ll find free coffee along bike paths! Bundle up and pedal away!

I don’t see any free coffee anywhere along the seven or eight (depending on how I cut it) miles from the farmette to campus, but I’m not likely to be biking for the coffee anyway. Free coffee is usually too watery and the milk isn’t real.

I bike because it is warm again. (Low forties by mid-afternoon.)


There are many ways for me to pedal to town. Today I had extra minutes (thanks, Isis, for waking us at five-thirty again). And so I kept to the rural roads all the way until I hit the city.


Cycling between fields and farms gives me time to consider stuff. For example, this morning’s article in the NYT (one that I missed, but a commenter this morning referred me to it). Our campus is changing. You could say it’s merging into the downtown even as really, our downtown is quite small. If in the past, State Street linked the campus with the capitol, now it seems campus is moving away (in more ways than one!) from government – toward one lake, toward the other, with new cultural, entertainment, shopping venues along the way.


A person revisiting our university after a short break would not recognize the place. There is a new extension of library mall – running south. What was once called University Square – a quaint strip-mally mishmash of shops, eateries, dental clinics and movie houses – is now glitzy and very urban and it has a student’s essential: a terrific supermarket (about time!), a bike shop, a coffee house.

So I’m thinking about this new mix of town-and-gown and it occurs to me that students these days have it so much nicer and easier (than I did) in all ways but one: compared to my days here, it costs them a fortune to merely go to school.


Me, I labored in grungy rooms, inadequate libraries with too small computer labs. Without google and wiki and a million other Internet tools, information was hard to come by. Nothing about studying was easy. Nor aesthetically pretty (unless you like grungy).

So now we have a booming downtown and a new student union and this new corridor and it’s all so spiffy. And very much theirs. Not mine, not anything I would find familiar.

In other news, I want to point out that Paul’s cafĂ© got a thumbs up in our local paper on Valentine’s Day. Did I tell you he makes Russian dumplings for lunch? Read about it here.