Puzzle and Pieces in Madison

“Puzzle” and “Pieces” are names of beers at the Funk Factory Geuzeria, a very micro brewery where we spent our final evening in Madison, Wisconsin. The brewery name means they specialize in sour beers—my favorite, when made well—and this place makes them well.

We met nearly all our Madison peeps there to say goodbye, but as usual I ended up with a photo of Tracy playing Pass the Pigs instead of pics of Guy and Patti or even of Doug, who could drop by for only a bit.

(So, I headlined this entry with a picture of Doug at the campsite; we pretended that we live in dorm rooms down the hall from each other, so he just stopped by throughout our stay in Madison without fanfare, fulfilling for me that kind of casual friendship with old friends I miss so much.)

That last night at Funk Factory, Patti and Guy (new friends for me, and good ones) were able to stay with us in the brewery’s little yard until the sun set, eating cheese we’d brought (Wisconsin!) and trying to make the evening—and our last visit with them for this trip—never end.

Milwaukee Piece

Another puzzle piece: Tracy’s cousin Darren and his wife Beth, who met us outside of Milwaukee at, you guessed it, another brewery. The cousins hadn’t seen each other in 30 years!

Darren and Beth, it was wonderful to meet you; please keep in touch so we can hear updates on your thriving kids and your future travels, too!

Kayak Puzzle

Our kayak rack puzzle has finally been solved by Tracy’s favorite kayak shop. The guys at Rootabaga consulted at length about our rig and kayaks, and then they installed the Hullinator rack system for both kayaks.

Hydraulic-assisted lift arms reduce the boat’s weight as you guide it up from an easy reach, then over and on top of the truck, securely. To get the boat down, you pull levers, and the lift arms slow its descent.

They look funny up there perched on the edges of the truck top, but this system is proven, and it will be a lifestyle changer for us. We used to go to all the trouble to pull the kayaks down manually only when we knew we’d be kayaking for at least a week (which is rare); now we can pull both kayaks down for a paddle on a whim, easy peasy.

Missing Piece

Tracy and I move on to Iowa with parts of our hearts broken, having learned that a good friend passed away this week.

I could end this post by writing about how strange it is to lose friends while we’re on the road—when can’t leave the trailer or Banjo to go be with grieving loved ones. But there’s nothing I can write about to bind up this post right, one post in a series that’s about full hearts and now broken hearts.

I could make a shallow analogy about a missing piece of the puzzle, but a shallow analogy is far from how I’m feeling, so I’ll end the post by looking back on photos of friends from Madison, and from everywhere we’ve been around the U.S. and Canada, and notice that with all of nature’s wonder I’ve seen on this journey, it’s the family and friends I think of again and again: those we visit, those we’re far from, those we’ve lost.

Maybe that’s a trite observation, as inept as a shallow analogy, but it’s truly how I feel.

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