In this entry:- David and Sarah test a new mosquito repellent - Whoopie Pies - Wind Farms - Double Butterburgers with Swiss - Rhythm and Booms Perhaps you caught the press release from the CDC earlier this year that carried the agency's announcement that it was endorsing two new ingredients in mosquito repellents:- picardin, a chemical used for years in Europe - oil of lemon eucalyptus, a plant derivitive

This was considered news because the agency has only endorsed products that contained DEET for years. DEET, while effective, has been known to damage plastics and posesses a certain chemical odor that not many people find pleasant.

Sarah and I bought a bottle of Cutter Advanced, a product that contains a 7% solution of picardin to try out this new ingredient.

In Madison, we're in the middle of a moderate drought so we have few mosquitos, which has been very pleasant. Until this hike, we hadn't had a chance to test the new repellent due to that (wonderful) lack of annoying buzzing, biting insects.

So, we packed the dog into the car, and headed out for Wyalusing State Park to do some hiking. Almost as an afterthought, I threw the new insect repellent into our backpack, just in case they had more mosquitos there than we did in Madison.

We got to the park, got our hiking boots on, got the dog properly geared up, and headed out onto the trail. We hadn't been hiking for ten minutes before we stopped to apply the picardin-based mosquito repellent while we took a picture.

Wyalusing overlooks the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers and is nestled up against the vast wetlands that border the two rivers. As you probably guessed, the wetlands are vast breeding grounds for mosquitos.

The weather was mild and sunny. We hiked about 1.6 miles past an array of Indian mounds and the famous Passenger Pigeon Monument while high above the two rivers on the Sentinel Ridge trail. Eventually, the trail brought us down to a boat launch on the Mississippi River. From there we hiked a bit over 3.5 miles through a variety of terrains and ecosystems, including forests, grasslands, and wetlands back to our car.

Shortly after leaving the boat dock, the repellent we had applied started to fail and the mosquitos swarmed around us. As long as we kept moving at a good pace, they were almost, almost tolerable. But, if we stopped for even five seconds somewhere without a breeze, the mosquitos were upon us without mercy. Dalla, underneath two fur coats (her outer coat and her undercoat), couldn't have cared less about the bugs. Sarah and I, meanwhile, were being slowly driven crazy by the innumerable little biters.

Finally, we crested a hill on the Turkey Hollow trail and a breeze there enabled us to catch our breath, drink some water, and relax for a few minutes. It was the first time in several miles that we had gotten a chance to enjoy the weather. While the forests and grasslands were lush and green, and while many different wildflowers were blooming, the mosquitos were so dense that we hadn't had a chance to stop and enjoy them.

We eventually got back to our car, and jumped in (along with a few mosquitos for good measure). Our original plan had been to find somewhere nearby that had an outdoor patio with seating where we could eat dinner. After that mosquito onslaught and the complete failure of the picardin-based repellent, we decided to head back to Madison and leave the swarm behind.

On our way to Wyalusing, we saw an Amish buggy parked on the road next to a farm stand. Written on the buggy were the words "Baked Goods Today." I am an absolute sucker for high-quality baked goods, so I vowed to stop on the way back if the buggy was still there. After providing a mobile buffet for the Wyalusing mosquitos, our fortunes changed the buggy was still present as we topped a hill on US Highway 18. We stopped, and browsed the selection.

There were homemade pies; big, tasty looking cookies; big jars of homemade pickles; a variety of homemade jams; homemade loaves of bread; and freshly harvested potatoes. We were like adults in a baked goods stand on the side of a highway. I used remarkable restraint and only bought a (homemade) whoopie pie, a loaf of whole wheat bread, and a big jar of dill pickles (for Sarah, of course). We were getting ready to drive away and I was commenting on how difficult it was to not buy one of the blueberry or cherry pies they had on display. Well, thirty or forty words later, we backed the car up and Sarah jumped out to get a homemade cherry pie ($3.75, cheap).

The whoopie pie ($0.40, really) was fantastically good. It didn't last five miles. The cookies were soft and moist with a great ginger and pumpkin flavor. The frosting between the cookies was sweet and so light as to be nearly weightless. If the Amish farmstand wasn't over an hour and a quarter to the west, I'd visit it all the time just for the whoopie pies.

We also stopped on the way home to listen to a wind farm's turbines run. Since some people complain about the noise of a wind farm, we decided to stop at the windfarm just west of Dodgeville and have a listen for ourselves. As it turns out, the noise of cars on the highway fifty yards behind us was louder than the noise of the windmills.

As got closer to Madison, the issue of what to do about dinner became more acute. It was getting nearly 21:00 CDT and we were both hungry. Half a whoopie pie, some pistachios, and water can only delay a starving hiker's hunger pains for so long. We decided to stop at Culver's in Verona to pick up some burgers. I had never eaten at Culver's before last night, even though it seems nearly everyone else I know has. So, I ordered the Double Butterburger with Swiss and an order of fries. Sarah had a Butterburger with a variety of toppings. We grabbed our food, headed back to the car and our waiting canine companion (who promptly tried to insert her head into the Culvers bag), and got back on the road to home.

How was the Double Butterburger with Swiss? Not bad. Much better than I would have gotten from a big national chain like Hardees, McDonalds, or Burger King. Was it better than a burger made on the grill at home? No. Would I eat at Culvers again given similar circumstances? Yes.

After dinner, we sat down with a few slices of the pie to watch Rhythm and Booms on television. Rhythm and Booms is an event held in Madison that routinely gets 250,000-300,000 plus people to pack themselves into a park on the north side of Lake Mendota to listen to music; picnic; and watch fireworks set to music by the Madison Symphony Orchestra. For those of you who attended our wedding, the park used is the same one where we got married. You can probably imagine the logistical nightmare involved in first getting that many people into the park, and then, getting them all out at once because they all want to leave once the fireworks are over.

Sarah and I were quite happy to watch the whole mess on television from the comfort of our living room with some great pie.

This morning, I read the various attendence figures for the Live 8 concerts that were held around the globe yesterday. Interestingly, there wasn't one that had a higher attendance than Rhythm and Booms did yesterday.