Friday, July 31, 2015

Wisconsin II

My class at Epic was about cloning and time travel.  When people are learning to use electronic medical software, they need a whole population of  fake patients to learn on in a training environment.  The problem is, even fake people will age as time passes.  Let's say you need a training patient who is six months pregnant.  You need her to remain six months pregnant, and not age at all.  You don't want your trainees to learn on a patient who is fifty years old and 72 months pregnant. So you create your patient and keep sliding her into the past until you have built up a medical history and six months of prenatal visits.  Then, to preserve her age and details, you transport your patient into the future, where she is hidden and safe from the passage of time.

Tuesday after class, I followed Epic's self-guided tour of the grounds.  Here are a few pictures.

Entrance to Deep Space, the 11,000-seat underground auditorium.
The glass building to the right is Voyager Hall, where I attended my class.

Central part of the grounds

Staff dining room.  (We trainees ate in a different area.)

The Waterfall Conference room
You're free to wander and as long as there isn't a meeting in session, can check out the conference rooms.  It looks like a meeting had recently concluded here.  The waterfall area is my favorite part of the Epic grounds.  While I was admiring the view, an Epic employee told me that it's even more beautiful at sunset, and I resolved to return later to check it out.

Wednesday's bike ride into downtown Madison was brilliant!  I'm so glad I did it.  The bike rental shop was next door to my hotel and although they closed for the day at 6:00 pm, they told me I didn't have to return it before then and could just lock it up in their lot any time.  That was great news because I really wanted to bike back to Epic in the evening for the sunset, which is at about 8:20 pm.

Madison has a fantastic bike infrastructure.  Epic is located in Verona, WI, about eleven miles from downtown Madison.

Most of this route was on commuter bike trails

The network of bike trails is amazing.  My only interaction with cars was at points where the trails crossed roads, at clearly marked crossings, where drivers were courteous about stopping for you. There were overpasses when the trails crossed busy highways. It was such a pleasure not to have to ride defensively.  Seriously, the biggest danger to my safety on this route was the bunnies that jumped out onto the trail.  The weather was perfect for cycling--low eighties, low humidity, and a fresh breeze.  I barely broke a sweat on the one-hour ride in.

Bike trail crossroads

My rental bike.  The yellow tag is a trail pass, which you must have to use the trails.
The bike shop sold me a $4 day pass and I believe the fee is $20/year for locals.

In town, I parked my bike on UW's east campus mall and headed to State St. on foot.  This is Madison's quasi-pedestrian mall.  It differs from Charlottesville's in that there's a defined road and sidewalks, but only bicycles and public transportation vehicles may use the road.  There were so many cyclists!  And why wouldn't there be, when it is so easy to get around by bike in Madison?  It's almost like a European city.

State Capitol building

I checked out the shops on State St and toured the State Capitol building, which is open to the public, and went up to the observation deck at the base of the dome.  It had one of those scary, one-way spiral staircases.

The afternoon rush hour had started when I began the return trip home and I found myself caught up in a stream of bike commuters. In downtown Madison, where the bike paths cross the roads, there are traffic lights specifically for bikes. (The illuminated bits are in the shape of a bicycle.) Once you get out of downtown, the path (I was on the Southwest Commuter Path) goes through pleasant urban neighborhoods with pretty houses and gardens, and periodic exits off the trails to the streets.  Further out, the trail parallels a major highway, but with a wide buffer of grass and plants so you aren't choking on exhaust and dirt.

I got back to my hotel, windblown and disheveled, and went to the Wednesday evening social for the guests.  Almost all the guests are visiting Epic.  I had a glass of white wine and then a Spotted Cow beer from the New Glarus brewery.  It was fun to chat with analysts from other organizations.

At 7:30, I got back on the bike and rode out to Epic for the sunset, where the view was lovely.  I had a bit of difficulty figuring out how to get to the waterfall on a bike and ended up carrying the bike up some stairs.  The Epic employee was right.  The full sunlight flattens the prairie, but at sunset, it gains depth and texture.  Comparison pictures below.

5:00 pm

8:00 pm

There's a window behind the waterfall.

I rode back into Verona, to the supermarket to stock up on cheese to take home and then returned the bike.  All told, I rode about twenty-five miles with less stress and effort than my six-mile daily ride in Charlottesville.  It was a great day.


  1. It sounds fantastic. I do wish we had better bike trails here. Sigh.
    And Epic's grounds look pretty epic!

    1. I think with Cville's topographical challenges, we'll never be a Madison, but there is a lot that could be done to change the car culture around here.

  2. Madison and the surrounding area are so beautiful in the summer. I'm pretending winter doesn't exist.

    1. Totally. I had to bike into the wind on the way home, which was OK for summer, but I can't imagine biking into a wind like that in the winter.

  3. The bike ride sounds awesome. I didn't know about the bike commuter trails (since we have to drive to Madison when we go), but it doesn't surprise me. Madison is a great city, one we've considered moving to when we retire. Although it is REALLY cold in the winter!

  4. What a wonderful building and site with the waterfall and all, and then your bike ride. That is great you don't encounter many cars on the commuter trails and the price is cheap.

  5. Lovely pictures! We took a tour of Epic last fall and found it amazing. I also was surprised that they'd just let you tour on your own.

    Did you see the new Harry Potter buildings? We drove around there a few weeks ago with the granddaughters looking for them and didn't find them. I don't think I was dreaming that they were building them.

    I had dreamed of retiring to Madison, but came to the realization we couldn't afford too 😔. We live just a few miles down the so that'll have to do. Glad you enjoyed your time in WI!

    1. I saw the wizarding campus from a distance, but they were doing so much construction around it, I wasn't sure if I could venture any closer. It's definitely far from complete right now. I'd love to return to WI and see other parts of the state.

  6. So time travel DOES exist!

    You went to a place where the buildings are named after Star Trek stuff? And where there are lots of bike commuters and a decent bike path? The world is a strange and wonderful place. Or at least Wisconsin must be wonderful.

    1. The founder of Epic, Judy Faulkner, appears to be really into Star Trek and also the Lord of the Rings, so there are tons of references to them all over the grounds.

  7. I really LOVED this behind-the-scenes look at this place I pass by on the highway. Can out of towners tour this? I must check further.
    Glad you had a positive bike experience!

    1. The campus is very open, so I'm pretty sure that anyone can at least walk around on the grounds. I'm not sure about parking, though. They have underground parking garages and I don't know if some are designated for visitors and others for staff. There's a bike path that parallels the road that leads to Epic, with a couple of access points from it to the Epic grounds, so someone could always just park in Verona and bike or walk over to Epic. It was about a mile from my hotel.