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I, Jeffrey Dean, admit it. I love Madison, Wisconsin. I was born and raised there and my brilliant and beautiful wife, Jill Weber Dean, was raised there (though I really met her in Poughkeepsie, New York).

Madison became the capital of Wisconsin in 1848. It is still the capital of the state, as well as home of the University of Wisconsin.

Madison is located on an isthmus between two lakes, Mendota and Monona, but there is also Lake Wingra and, south of Madison, lakes Waubesa and Kegonsa. The four larger lakes are connected by the navigable Yahara River. How can you not love this city?

   
Above: a city of four (or five?) lakes.

Below, the state capitol on the left and also on the right, sitting on its isthmus. Lake Monona is in the foreground and Lake Mendota is behind the the capitol dome. Click here for Lake Mendota
right now, with Picnic Point on the left, shown in a web cam on the turret of King Hall, on Observatory Drive, U.W.-Madison. The web cam is located inside the red circle in this photo.

 

Below is the view looking up into the interior of the Wisconsin State Capitol's dome.

Below: looking across Lake Monona at night toward the capitol and downtown Madison on their isthmus.

I have a long family history in Madison. My great-great grandfather, Thomas Jackson Dean, who immigrated from Birmingham, England, and settled here in 1851, opening a carpentry shop on State Street. My great-grandfather, Joseph Dean, Sr., continued in that business. My grandfather, Joseph Dean, was a doctor and founded the Dean Clinic and St. Mary's Hospital. My father, Frank K. Dean, was a pioneering pilot and also a doctor. My mother was born Gladys Paust, in Columbus, Wisconsin. None of my generation of Deans went into medicine. My brother, also named Thomas Jackson Dean, lives in Madison today with his wife, Seiko Yoshinaga, and is a retired professor from Temple University.

In the left hand photo below is my father with his brand new 1929 Velie Monocoupe. I am on the right, in 1974, trying to look cool, like dad, with my Cessna 150.

With that history, it is not surprising that I stayed in Madison until I retired and still love it today — but long distance from Arizona. For rejuvenation, I try to go there every summer,  a distance of 1,732 miles with the shortest route (I know that).

Spring, summer, and fall are lovely in Madison. But one thing not to like about Madison is called winter. It can last four months with freezing temperatures, snow, and lots of road salt. In short, it sucks.

Something else has gone wrong with Wisconsin. A few years ago a horrible series of political events occurred. A lying right-wing Republican was elected governor and the legislature was overrun by a Republican majority. Now Wisconsin's politics have been corrupted and the state is called "the Mississippi of the north," or "Wisissipi". Politically, I would call it "the Arizona of the north." Both states have terrible governors and right wing legislatures. There is no hope for Arizona, but I hold out hope for a better future for Wisconsin.

My history in Madison can be encapsulated. I was born in 1940 at St. Mary's Hospital, of course, delivered by Dr. Edwin Schneiders, a friend of dad's. I first lived with my brother and parents at 24 Paget Road, in Maple Bluff, a suburb of Madison. In the 1950s we moved into a house on Fuller Drive, right on Lake Mendota, which was very cool. I went to elementary school at Lakewood School, demolished in 1986, and high school at Madison West (photo below right). The left photo below is of historic Bascom Hall, the heart of the University of Wisconsin, where Jill went to and graduated from Law School.

   

College took me to Appleton, Wisconsin, and Lawrence College (now University). Thereafter I spent several years at the School of Architecture in New Haven, Connecticut. The best part of that is that I met, on a blind date, Wisconsin native Jill Louise Weber, who was a student at Vassar College in New York. We were married in 1966 and moved to Madison. My various jobs included a reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal, a planner for the City of Madison, and State Historic Preservation Officer and administrator of the Divison of Historic Preservation, State Historical Society of Wisconsin. In Madison, we last lived at 5033 La Crosse Lane, Hill Farms, among wonderful trees, including Red Maple or Acer rubrum (see photo of back yard). I actually wrote a book, now long out of date, Architectural Photography: Techniques for Architects, Preservationists, Historians, Photographers, and Urban Planners. That about covers it.

 

While I was in college in Appleton, I saw an upper classman riding around campus on a black motorcycle. I had no idea what it was, but I thought it was incredibly handsome. When I got to New Haven, I saw a lot of the black motorcycles being ridden around campus by students. I tracked down the source to a dealer, Libby's Sales and Service. I visited it and talked a mechanic who was working on one of the black motorcycles. He had a German accent, and told me these bikes were made in Germany and were called BMW. Of course I wanted one, but could not afford one. So, for $1.50 each, I bought all the owners manuals for the four BMW models sold — one single and three twins. That was the start of something that has been with me ever since.

In 1967 I could finally afford a used one of the black motorcycles and bought it. It was a 1966 R60/2. In the photo below, taken about then by Jill, you see me riding my first BMW. That was well before I knew about wearing appropriate riding gear.

Below: The black motorcycle (a 1967 BMW R60/2 with period British Craven Golden Arrow panniers) with Lake Monona and the Wisconsin State Capitol beyond.

Below: my 2007 BMW R12000RT at the same location. This motorcycle has a full fairing and comes standard with matching saddle bags, ABS brakes, electrically adjustable windshield, and a powerful oil-cooled boxer engine.

In 1968, Jill and I founded the Madison BMW Club. In 1972 I was one five BMW riders who founded BMW Motorcycle Owners of America. That same year, John Harper, of Alabama, and I founded Vintage BMW Motorcycle Owners of America. All three organizations are going great guns today.

I should note here that Jill and I founded the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association in 1979. We also donated over 20 historic wooden canoes that form the basis of the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum.

The canoe to the right was built for us long ago by the late Joe Seliga. It is now in the Wisconsin canoe museum.

   
I still own several modern and vintage BMW motorcycles, but my modest collection pales in comparison with serious collectors, like Peter Nettesheim, in New York, or David Percival, in Maine, or Craig Vechorik, in Mississippi. The photo below, left, shows my newest BMW, a 2015 R1200RT. I have ridden over 500,000 miles on BMW motorcycles. I am getting older, so I do not know how much longer I can ride motorcycles. The end may not be too far off. When it comes, I will become a very sad senior citizen.

 

One of the delights of southern Wisconsin, especially southwestern Wisconsin west of Madison, are its wonderful and beautifully paved roads, allegedly built originally so farmers could get their milk to market. They are wonderful for motorcyclists and for drivers just wanting to enjoy the scenery. Curving roads and rural architecture are abundant and should not be missed.

   

Not to be missed west of Madison is the 1836 Wisconsin Territorial Capitol west of Madson near Belmont. Northwest of Madison is the free Merrimac Ferry, which crosses the Wisconsin River (though many bridges are available). Motorcyclists can ride up to the head of the line of waiting cars.

 

Back in Madison, for many residents Saturdays in autumn are not complete without a University of Wisconsin Badgers football game at Camp Randall Stadium with over 80,000 screaming fans.

Below left: on Saturday in the summer is a huge farmers' market surrounds Capitol Square. Below right: State Street, "that Great Street," is always available for strolling, gawking, shopping, protesting, dancing, post-game parties, and even infrequent rioting.

 

The Lake Mondota Yacht Club stages sailing racing in the summer. The university offers sailing lessons as well.




Update following the tragic results of the 2016 presidential election. Wisconsin voted for the Republican candidate after voting Demcratic since 1984. I was very hurtful to see my beloved state take such a sad turn. Now its governor and legislature are Republican, putting Wisconsin in the same boat with Arizona, Kansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, and other backward states.

Here is one reaction to the result of the election by a Wisconsin resident, Not Your Grandmother's Wisconsin.