Very little shaking

The Internet According to the Interstate: I-90 and I-94 from Madison to St. Paul

May this stretch of road never know that overrun feeling you get in Florida. This Internet According to the Interstate is more sedate than the last installment, and rightly so. Coming up from Madison, 90/39/94 goes easy on the billboards. A few next-exit notices, Perkins, Wisconsin Dells attractions, and otherwise you’re left to the pure contentment of swelling fields and sunset glowing behind the the barns. Leaving Madison at about 5:30 p.m. gets you up there in time to gradually angle into that sunset, see it backlight the hills at all different angles.

The official welcome sign of Mauston, WI asks, “What’s Shakin’.” Or rather just idly throws the greeting “What’s Shakin’” out there, as there is no question mark. I don’t know. It’s down the street from the Culver’s. The Culver’s is shakin’. There’s a pickup in the parking lot with a bunch of antennas and stick-on letters that read “STORM FINDER,” so maybe he knows about some shook-up activity we don’t. Perhaps it explains the unbreakable, glossy surface tension of a Culver’s malt.

Trip: From Madison, WI to St. Paul, MN, about 260 miles “Polytechnic progress palpable,” according to a news headline on this University of Wisconsin-system branch’s front page. The billboard exhorts: “Be an innovator,” as if waiting to catch the farm boys on their way out. Really the first Internet-y advertisement so far on this drive. The billboard industry doesn’t much intrude on this area unless it’s to say something entirely practical. There’s something so un-frivolous about that. Or maybe sales are just down. Entering the St. Paul area. A big picture of right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham and the words “She’s baaaack!” Not on a billboard at all, but spelled out in big letters in the windows of what appears to be a big empty retail space facing the highway. The site of Midwest Recreational Clearinghouse. Redirects to “EdVisions Off Campus High School.” The name evokes something between GED and sleepaway cult. Well, all the good cults are sleepaway deals. You know, “Only through Ed and his Visions can you prepare to enter a two- or four-year degree program.” Redirects to

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