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As many cows as humans call WISCONSIN home. About four million
of each eat to their hearts' content in this rich, rolling farmland,
which has a higher proportion of overweight people than any
other state. However, America's self-proclaimed "Dairyland"
is more than just one giant pasture. Beyond the massive red
barns and silvery silos lie endless pine forests, some 15,000
sky-blue lakes, postcard-pretty valleys and dramatic bluffs.
The state, whose Ojibway name means "gathering of the waters,"
is bordered by Lake Michigan to the east, Lake Superior in the
north and, to the west, the Mississippi and St Croix rivers.
Only the southern boundary, with Illinois, is dry.
The history of Wisconsin exemplifies the standard formula for
westward expansion. Seventeenth-century French and British explorers
began by trading with the Native Americans and soon ousted them
from their land. The European settlers who followed - predominantly
Germans, Scandinavians and Poles - tended to be liberal and
progressive; such major national social programs as labor laws
for women and children, assistance for the elderly and the disabled,
and unemployment compensation were rooted here. On the downside,
Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the infamous 1950s witch-hunter, was born
in Grand Chute, former headquarters of the right-wing John Birch
Wisconsin today is best known for its liquids. The milk from
all those cattle yields cheeses of all kinds, while the beer
, as the song says, is what made Milwaukee famous. Sparkling
Madison apart, Wisconsin's other cities - LaCrosse, Green Bay,
Oshkosh - can veer toward the dull side, but they're also clean,
safe and amiable. The smaller towns can be distinctive and charming.
You'll be hard put to explore Wisconsin's remote north, or
key locales like the Door County peninsula, without a vehicle.
Public transportation is better in the south. Milwaukee and,
to a lesser extent, Madison are hubs for Greyhound and Amtrak.
Five trains daily connect Milwaukee and Chicago, a ninety-minute
journey, while one crosses the state in the south en route for
Seattle, via Columbus (near Madison), Portage, Wisconsin Dells,
Tomah and LaCrosse.
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