I arrived in Milwaukee on a Thursday night, spent the evening upgrading Mom's computer to OS X, and then went with her to Madison first thing the next morning. For April in Wisconsin, it was incredible -- sunny, beautiful, temperature easily in the 80's. We dropped our things off at the hotel -- our room was on the Capitol Square, with a great view. Why didn't Ken and I stay in this place when we visited a couple of years ago? Possibly because this hotel cost four times as much as the Red Roof Inn on the edge of town and we just wanted a place to sleep, but really, I think a visitor should stay on the square with a view of the Capitol like a giant alabaster moon. It was lovely.
We walked down State Street, through campus -- the lakeshore path, the Allen Centennial Gardens, the new construction -- and wandered down to Hilldale Mall for the traditional Friday fish fry. I got a Bucky Badger Celebriduck at the University Bookstore, despite my aversion to Celebriducks.
After dinner, we finally came to the reason that I rescheduled my trip (originally planned for Mothers' Day weekend, when you'd generally expect better weather): the UW-Madison Neon and Light Show. Held every other year, this was one of my favorite events when I was in college, and I wanted to return to see it again. Unfortunately, they'd given in to the uncertainties of April weather and simply scheduled it indoors -- in past years, they used to have it outside on Library Mall, which added an extra level of eerie surrealism. The Stock Pavilion is used mostly for showing animals and hosting the occasional concert; it's an indoor arena with stadium-type seating and sawdust on the floor.
As we crossed the bridge from the bus stop to the pavilion, I could see inside both the lower level, where Holsteins were lounging in their stalls, and the main level, where neon artwork gleamed through the windows. I took quite a few pictures inside, but I haven't processed them to put online yet. They don't quite capture the atmosphere of being inside an arena lit only by the neon artwork, but there are a few cool things.
Unfortunately it was a bit crowded and stuffy inside, and once we'd done the rounds a couple of times I was more than ready for some fresh air. It was a gorgeous night, warm and a little breezy, and though I'd never planned to walk all the way back to the Capitol square that's what we ended up doing. We climbed to the top of Bascom Hill and took in the city view, then walked down State Street again, this time taking in the night scene with everyone hanging out in the outdoor seating areas (at night! in April!). When we got back to the Square, instead of going inside the hotel we just sat and watched the lit-up Capitol building and the students still sprawled out on the lawns. Maybe we should go inside and swim at the hotel pool, I thought... but no, it was just too beautiful. Eventually the wind kicked up with a sudden chill and drove us inside.
And that's where I come to the picture. You never thought I'd reach the picture, did you? There were thunderstorms every night I was in Wisconsin, but they always came late and were gone by the next (warm, sunny, summery) morning. The first night, I set up my little camera and tried to catch a lightning flash. If I'd thought of it quickly when the storm began, I'd probably have gotten a good one, because visible streaks of lightning were flashing everywhere for the first ten or fifteen minutes. I tried a bunch of different exposures, but the shot of the Capitol through the rain on the window was probably the best thing I got.
The purple tinge really is lightning -- the sky is black in all my other shots.
And this is the shot I took while sitting on a bench on the edge of the Capitol lawn the next night -- we'd watched the sunset on the Union Terrace and wandered back down State Street (yeah, we did a lot of that) just in time to watch the last light fade on the Square. I made a larger version of this my mom's desktop picture :).