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||N 43° 25.260' W 89° 28.492'||Poynette
Poynette is a tiny town in central Wisconsin, that you have likely never heard of. It sits just to the north of the Wisconsin capital city of Madison. This is the gateway to a countryside of rolling meadows, family farms, open fields, and wooded hillsides. It is on the way to the much beloved Wisconsin Dells, which has been drawing visitors for decades. It is also the way to most points west.
This is a landscape heavily influenced by glaciers, and dominated by farms and small towns. You will see cows along this road. It is stereotypical Wisconsin.
The Poynette stop is one of the busier rest stops. This stop and its sister stop of Portage, are the only Wisconsin rest stops that sit on three major highways, I-94, I-90, and I-39. Additionally, the busy highways 51, and 18 intersect within sight of this stop. Then there are the busy tourist areas to the north and the proximity of the state capital.
In recognition of this, the Poynette site is one of the larger rest stops. It is also one of the few remaining stops that still offers racks full of assorted tourist guides and advertisements. It is one of the more full featured stops. The three parking areas have room for 138 automobiles and 63 trucks. There are several picnic areas, a small child's playground, and several historical markers, as well as areas of native plantings.
This is a rather transitional area. The prairie of the east and south begins to give way to the driftless area of the west, and the more wooded areas to the north. It is an area of countless small lakes and little rivers. This is the Wisconsin of cabins, resorts, tourist traps, and attractions like the Dells, Devil's Lake, and Parfrey’s Glen. The Poynette rest-stop has a tourist information center with reams of papers which will be glad to tell the native or transient visitor all about these places.
As has been said many times, if you can't park, you can't rest. Like all of the Wisconsin rest stops, this area has easy on and easy off ramps. The ramps branch off to allow for separate parking for cars and for larger vehicles like semi trucks. This allows trucks to access a spacial area towards the back, which offers more privacy, and also features pull through parking spaces, so that a semi drier will not have to angle park and then back out. The privacy and reduced commotion of the truck area accommodates the need of professional drivers to rest, and get the legally required amount of sleep every day.
For automobiles, there are two parking areas adjacent to the freeway. This is angle parking, and sits right in front of the pavilion. The inner lot gives easy access, while the outer lot by the freeway takes up the overflow. The automobile area is far busier and more transient than that set aside for the trucks. A small grassy median strips sits between the two lots. All parking lots and pathways to the pavilion give access to a number of recycle areas. These give an assortment of receptacles for recycling or plain old garbage, so that it does not end up on the freeway or the ground.
While this is a rest area, and exists to prevent the danger of over tired drivers on the road, there are some limits. The limits are necessary to keep the facility available to those that need it. Most are a matter of simple common sense. Many are also the result fo federal regulations that define what services may be offered on federally funded highways.
While there are picnic areas, camping here is strictly prohibited. This is in part to keep the parking and recreational areas open and free of campers, it is also because legally, the state may not offer services for free in competition to private enterprise, including nearby campgrounds. This is why you also see no food service, fuel, or repairs offered here. For purposes of this regulation, camping is defined as the pitching of any kind of tent, the extension of any slide out or pop up portions of recreational vehicles, and the unhitching of trailers. Additionally, length of stay is limited to 24 hours.
Needless to say, hunting is not permitted on or from these areas. Geocaching is also not allowed, and is treated as littering. So in addition to not being campgrounds, these are also not really recreational areas. The state tries to tread that fine line between allowed these to be areas to be used for multiple purposes, and restricting them so that they may be preserved for their primary function. At the same time, they must keep in mind the needs of local businesses, and local property owners.
Like the freeways they serve, these lots are slabs of concrete rather than the asphalt or gravel of a typical parking lot. These are generally considered safe, far safer than the streets of most cities, and are regularly patrolled and monitored. This particular stop is also quite busy, so a fatigued traveler taking a snooze is unlikely to ever be isolated here.
Overnight parking here, as well as sleeping are looked down upon, but are permitted as long as the 24 hour limit is not exceeded. While these spots are not meant to be campgrounds, safety is the top concerns, and I have never heard of anyone being harassed for sleeping here. Nobody wants tired drivers on the road.
Everyone likes to eat, but food along the road can be outrageously expensive. For the frugal traveler, packing food to eat along the way is the solution. All of the Wisconsin rest areas have some form of picnic area. The Poynette stop has several, surrounding the pavilion. Some are open air, while others are protected by shelters. There are even a few tables set out into the walking areas away from the pavilion.
This is a great place to stop for a picnic, weather permitting. The recycle stations make handy places to dispose of wrappings and garbage, so that it does not travel with you on your journey. The rest rooms are handy for washing up, and the vending machines are there to provide much of what may have been forgotten.
The picnic tables are substantial, and are mounted permanently into the ground. I suspect this is due to the often un-staffed nature of these stops, and the requirement that they never close. I doubt many people would drive all the way out here to steal a picnic table, but dragging one off into the woods, where it will never be seen again is a likely event. Far worse would be someone who might drag one off into the parking lots, or even onto the ramp itself - very dangerous.
Some of the picnic benches and tables are mounted right on the wide walkways surrounding the pavilion. Others are mounted on individual concrete pads, set out onto the grass. This helps with ant and tick control, and reduces the possibility that a picnicker will be enjoying their meal in a puddle of mud or dust. While I see no signs or regulations against barbecuing, I see no place to dump hot coals, and suspect such a think would be difficult even if permitted. Of course, there are always those little gas grills.
All of the rest stops are located in park like settings. These are well manicured, except for a few areas that are intentionally left wild. This gives a good feeling of being out in the countryside. Yet, the state of Wisconsin always likes to put something distinctive at each of the rest areas. Most have historical or commemorative markers, some have guides to local features, and a few even honor fallen patrol officers.
Most rest stops feature areas where there are natural plantings to showcase the look of the land before settlement and farming changed everything. The natural growth areas lend themselves to walking trails.
In the case of the Poynette stop, this is off behind the pavilion,. This spot takes advantage of a natural growth of spruce on a nearby hillside, to place a sign indicating the contribution of the spruce to the local geography, and to give some details about its properties.
Another sign indicates the contributions to the founding of the nation, by veterans of the revolutionary army, who ended up living in the area that is now the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin did not exist as a territory until 1836, and did not become a state until 1848. So these men fought for a nation that did not yet exist, and then settled in a state that did not yet exist.
Another marker honors Wisconsin members of the military, and recognizes that this freeway is the Wisconsin Veteran's Memorial Highway. Soldiers from Wisconsin, or the area that would someday become Wisconsin, fought in Every war the nation has ever fought, including the Revolutionary war.
Also honored by a historical marker is Wisconsin's circus heritage. When circuses were in their prime, over a hundred of them started in Wisconsin, with many using the state as winter quarters during the seasons when travel was difficult.
Wisconsin has its Circus World museum, to commemorate those times, and to preserve the remaining artifacts - notably the circus wagons. For many years, Milwaukee Hosted a circus parade every summer, which passed through downtown, and then encamped at the lakefront and put on shows. People have largely lost interest in the circus, budget cuts have taken their toll, and the practice has stopped, but there is always the potential for it to start up again in some form. Another challenge is that there is an awareness now of certain cruelties, that may put an end to many of the animal acts that were always such a large part of circus shows.
Most rest stops have pet walking areas. This gives pet owner an alternative to soiling the lawns or picnic areas. There are also some limited trails that could qualify as people walking areas, to let tired drivers stretch their legs a bit. While there is no camping, the picnic areas here are extensive. The Poynette picnic grounds were showcased in more detail above.
Playgrounds are getting to be a more common feature at these rest stops. As these are rest stops and not public parks, the playgrounds are not particularly elaborate, but they are a welcome break for kids cooped up in a car for hours at a time. The little play area at Poynette consists of a padded ring within which is housed a kind of a climbing gym with slides. Outside of the padded area is a circle of concrete,and benches for watching parents. This will not be too thrilling to older children, who should be off on the walking trails in stead, but will be a treat for younger ones.
The pavilion is what I call the large public building that sits in the middle of each rest area. I happen to know, because the State of Wisconsin is a client of my company, that these are officially known as huts. This is some hut. It was built in 2010, and is said to have been inspired by the Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie style. I can see the influence, particularly in the high level lighting, relatively low angle roofs, and the light finishes and traffic flow inside.
There are several public entrances, as well as a service entrance in the back. The main entrance is a well sheltered arcade, opening onto a vestibule with double glass doors. It is pleasantly shady in the summer, and helps quite a bit with the blustery winds and snow of the winter.
I am always impressed with the massive construction of these places and the high build quality. The high ceilings and generous windows of the skylights, along with the glass of the entrance ways, keep this from being gloomy inside. The roof is metal, and appears to be aluminum anodized to look like copper. The roof is pitched at a low angle, to deal with the snow of our Wisconsin winters.
The building is surrounded by walkways and has planters and even a couple of small lawns. A half wall separates the pavilion from the picnic, parking, and special use areas. It may also help to act as a partial windbreak.
This massive structure, is overbuilt in the style of all government buildings, and cuts no corners. It will doubtless outlast those that built it. All entrances and areas are handicap accessible. All facings are made to require little maintenance. Stone and brick require no paining and do not rot. The metal roof will not leak or require shingling. The interior is similarly low maintenance.
As one of the larger rest areas, this stop has one of the larger pavilions. It is also somewhat unique in that it features a large collection of tourist literature. As a general rule, only the welcome center rest areas on the state borders offer this; but there are a couple of reasons for this. The Poynette rest area, along with its sister area of Portage, are located just outside of Madison. They are natural stops for business travelers, students at the university, or those on official business at the capital. Many of these people fly in, rather than driving, and so will have missed the welcome centers at the borders.
These stops are also very busy.Not only are they in close proximity to Madison, the state capital, they are also on three Interstate highways, I39, !94, and I90. This is the route taken to the Wisconsin Dells, one of the big attractions of the Midwest. In addition to racks and racks full of brochures, pamphlets, flyers, and guidebooks, this stop offers the expected vending machines, rest rooms, message boards, and weather information. In common with many other roadside stops, there are pay phones with TTy capability. Literature is replenished daily, and is stored in closets behind the display racks.
In basic design, this pavilion has a very high ceiling with skylight openings. and a bit of a tower, to let in even more light. This is supported by stone columns. This is one of the more striking designs, with an interior of stone and brick, with lighter colored walls higher up, and a ceiling lined with windows. Inside, the centerpiece is a large clock that takes full advantage of the high ceiling of the interior.The clock features a hammered metal profile of the state of Wisconsin.
The interior is light enough, and large enough, that there are planters and trees, as well as benches. The design is a basic rectangle with wings, allowing for vending machines, restrooms, phones, and some other building features to be out of the main flow of interior traffic.
In common with all of the rest stop pavilions, this building is built to last. It is a steel frame structure with poured concrete and then faced with stone, tile, and brick. A maintenance and utility section sits in the middle of the building, restricted to employees. These stops are open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. They are regularly patrolled by state troopers, and have satellite and phone connections to allow for weather information, and for building alarms.
This building is kept spotlessly clean and well maintained by a state program that uses various non-profit groups. These are paid through taxes and somewhat subsidized by profits from the vending machines. Many of the workers are supported by the American Council for the Blind, though other organizations are also represented.
Drinking fountains, and tap water fill ups are located in several areas near the literature displays, as well as in the restrooms.
Though not an official welcome center, this stop is so busy, that it seems to be regularly staffed, in contrast to most of the rest areas which are only intermittently staffed during cleaning or maintenance operations. It also seems to be a popular hangout for state highway workers, and is a regular stop for the State Patrol. .
All of the multiple entrances are double door entry vestibules, to aid in temperature control. Those Wisconsin winters are cold. All are flanked by literature racks.
While there are vending machines available, Wisconsin, unlike some states, keeps commercial services and public services completely separate. This means no fast food, groceries, gas stations, or other commercial ventures are allowed at rest stops.
Wisconsin also separates services for the opposing lanes of traffic, so that easy access is only available for one direction of traffic. This generally means that such stops are set up in pairs, usually in close proximity to each other, with each serving a single direction of traffic.
The rest rooms are windowless, and are finished off in tile and brick, like the rest of the interior, for looks, durability, and ease of cleaning. They are brightly lit, and contains all the usual things, sinks, hand driers, and places to do what needs to be done. Drains in the floor make for easy scrub down. The style of sink seems to indicate that this area is green compliant, and possibly not connected to city water. As is the style in many stops, there are two sets of rest rooms, so that at least one will always be available during cleaning.
While I noticed no diaper changing stations in the men's room, there are special family and assisted rest rooms that have them. The entire facility is handicapped accessible, and sits on one level.