Wisconsin, Michigan and Back (9/14-9/17/07) 

~1300 miles in four days.  It's not going to earn me an Iron Butt patch, but it should have earned me something from the Snowmobilers Association of America, if there is such a thing.

Things didn't quite start out like we had planned four months ago.  The plan then was that the same group that got together for the Mississippi run in May would do another Wisconsin tour.  Jiri was suppose to pull it together, but as time grew near, it was clear that although Jiri had good intentions he was occupied with other things.  In the mean time Steve got an offer to stay at his friends cottage in Three Lakes WI over that weekend, and since there were no other firm plans, he took the opportunity.  Steve invited the rest of us to stay at the cottage, but it was first come first serve on the beds, and they were going up on Thursday, not Friday as we had originally planned.  Also, several of us weren't interested in fight for beds.  So, Mark took it upon himself to plan a route and make some hotel reservations.

The plan that developed was to meet at the Middleton Steak and Lube in Wisconsin,  from there we were to take a route to Three Lakes and see Steve and his buddies, and then from there go into the MI upper peninsula and end up in Ashland Wisconsin on day two.  Day three we were to head down to Spring Green Wisconsin, and day four it was maybe out to the Mississippi River and Galena Territory, for me, and then home.

I packed up everything I could Thursday before the trip so on Friday it was the usual morning routine and I was ready to leave the house at 7:30.  The night before Mark had changed our meeting time from 11:30 to 12:30 on account of Jen and her husband Troy.  Jen, who wasn't sure if she was coming, had to work until noon.  That was all the incentive I needed.  I had been debating on taking the back roads to Middleton, and now that I had an extra hour, that's exactly what I did.   Anything to stay off the interstate/tollway as much as possible.

Getting out of town I took a route west through the forest preserves until I got to I-355, took that to I-90, and then got off the highway on Route 47 and then to Route 14.  From there it was Wisconsin 89 and then 12/18 into Middleton.  WI-89 turned out to be a very nice stretch of road; nice rolling hills.

It was pretty chilly that morning when I stated out... high 40's low 50's if I remember correctly.  I had on my ski pants, undershirt, thermal shirt, sweatshirt, and my leather jacket with a quilted lining.  Although there was some sunshine here and there, it was windy.  And it sure didn't get any warmer... it was getting colder and colder as I rode North.  Even with all that gear on, by the time I got to Middleton I was pretty much chilled.

I was the first to arrive, at about 11:40.  I immediately  went inside and started drinking decaf coffee to just get some heat in me, and I also ordered lunch.  By the time I got to my third cup of coffee lunch had arrived.  I called my wife to let her know I had arrived and asked her to check the weather up in Three Lakes.  She said it was 38 degrees.  38 Degrees?  38 degrees at 60 mph is a wind chill of 20 degrees.  How do you dress to be in 20 degree temperatures all day... on top of it there was a 30% chance of rain...  I flirted with the idea of heading south instead of north.

Mark and Vicky arrived at about noon.  I finished my lunch an drank more coffee as they ate their lunch and we discussed the ride.  Jen called and said her and Troy would be late. While we were waiting I took the opportunity to put on another thermal shirt and also put my rain top over my jacket to help block the wind.  When Jen and Troy got there it was 1:15 or 1:30.   We found out later that Troy had his bike in pieces at the painters and he had to go get the pieces and get them back on the bike right before the trip.  So, we took off a bit later than we wanted to but we were on our way.  Jiri never made it, even for lunch as he said he would, and we knew Kyle and Ann Marie were not coming.  By this time there was no sunshine... just clouds, wind, and cold.

Troy led us out of Middleton, since this was their neck of the woods, until we got to Interstate 90/39 going North where I took the lead. I had taken the route Mark and I agreed on and put in the step by step mileage so I could anticipate the turn points.  The  Interstate was brutal, the wind and cold were unrelenting.  About 7 miles before our first turnoff (route 23) I pulled off at a rest stop.  Jen and Troy were freezing and took the opportunity to put on a bunch of clothes and their rain gear.  I knew they had to be cold because I was still feeling it even with all the stuff I had on and they just had jeans and their leather jackets. I also added my rain pants for additional warmth.

Route 23 was a welcome relief from the extra wind and turbulence you get on the highway. We stopped to get gas just as we got off the highway and we were ready for the back roads.  As we made our way North we got a couple peeks from the sun, but that was about it.  I kept the pace to about 60 mph because going any faster just made the wind chill worse.  

We stopped along the way to take some pictures and get a break from the cold and wind.

Here's a shot I pieced together to try and illustrate the beauty of the day.  Still doesn't come close.

The next gas stop we made, in Antigo Wisconsin, everyone except myself stuffed heat packs in their gloves to help stay warm.  The stops were welcome because with all the gear I had on, the moving around helped me get some heat built up before we hit the road again.  Overall, I guess I was doing pretty well considering I was riding with a wind-chill of 20 degrees.  As went through Antigo, a bank sign said 36F!

We got drizzled on a few times, but it was hardly anything, plus we already had our rain gear on.  You don't know how glad I was that it didn't rain heavily.  My hands probably would have frozen off once the leather gloves get soaked.

The route we agreed on went through some of the more squiggly roads in the area but as we got closer to Three Lakes and we got the most significant rain of the day, making a bee line for Three Lakes seemed like the right thing to do, so we just stayed on route 45 for the remainder of the ride.  We finally saw a sign that said 17 miles to Three Lakes.  It was the longest 17 miles I've ever ridden. 

We stayed at the Oneida Inn. When we pulled into the hotel parking lot we all cheered and laughed, being thankful that we made it.  

Couple other bikers saw us and couldn't believe we had ridden in this stuff for that many miles... three of us without any windshield at all.  Found out later that these were actually friends of Steve's!

We got checked into our rooms, turned up the heat, and met back in the lobby/bar to get a table and some food.  We had to wait a while for the table so we hung around the bar, and who shows up but Steve.  We exchanged some stories and joked around, while some of us hit the free cheese and crackers they had in the bar.  Steve said they had snow and sleet squalls Thursday that caught them during the later part of their trip.  Guess they were now doing more drinking than riding. Just as we were going to order food at the bar, a table cleared up so we sat down to eat while Steve stayed at the bar; he had already eaten. I ordered a whole pizza, ate most of it, and saved the rest for breakfast.  Dinner was good, except for the fact that they didn't have any Killians Red Lager for Vicky.  Everyone was pretty tired of battling our 230 mile ride from Madison.  Course I had just over 400 miles for the day. And when the waitresses started cleaning all the tables by us we figured it was time to go. Steve made some breakfast recommendations and we agreed we'd try to get a hold of Steve in the morning and it was back to the rooms for needed warmth and sleep! 

Saturday, Sept 15, 2007 Three Lakes WI to Ashland WI via the MI U.P.  (286 mi)

As usual, I ended up waking at about 2:30 and then had trouble falling asleep after that.  I got up about 6:00, took a shower and then started thinking about breakfast.  Thought I'd walk to the lobby and see if they served it.  Well, it was about 7:00 and they didn't open until 8:00.  OK then.  I packed up and then went out to the bike.  It had ice on the seat that I had to scrape off with my bare hands.  Actually here's a shot of it next to a covered up Wing. And those are Jen's and Troy's bikes between the two cars.

Just as I got back out to the bike and started it... to see if it would start... everyone else straggled out.

The forecast was saying 60 for a high. Of course, that will be at 3:00pm for all of five minutes. Steve had told us about a good place for breakfast 3 miles out of town. But, at 30F, nobody wanted to put all the gear on to go 3 miles. So, I shut the bike off and we headed to a little place a block away. There were some pickup trucks parked in front so we figured we'd be OK. Well, Vicky ordered a roll, expecting a cinnamon roll, but she got a big bread roll, yes the rolls were big, but it's not what she wanted? Mark and I ordered a breakfast meal and received burnt corned beef hash, and eggs over easy that were pretty under cooked. Jen had an English Muffin. Guess they couldn't screw that up. Well, glad I had that pizza for breakfast...

We then walked back to the motel on the sunny side of the street to stay warm, while having a good laugh at the expense of our stomachs. I also moved my bike into the sun to warm it up a bit. We got checked out and the guy told us that someone was trying to get a hold of us.  Well, I knew it had to be Steve.  I called the number he gave me for the place he was staying at and some woman answered.  It was determine he was not there but at the other place (it's all a very long story).  She gave me the number but by the time I hung up I forgot it... ooooops... Well, I could have called back, but it was too late anyway, and we knew Steve wasn't coming with us... so we moved on.  We all got packed up and ready to go by about 9:30-10:00am. It was still maybe 40-45 degrees. We said good by to Jen & Troy, as they had to be back home that night; they were just going to stop at the bike rally just south of Three Lakes, which is why most of the bikers were in Three Lakes.

So, Vicky, Mark and myself took off north to tour the coast of Michigan's upper peninsula. Funny thing is, even though it was sunny, and the temperature was a bit warmer, it sure didn't feel any warmer.  Of course, 40 is not much better than 38.  Again I kept the speed down a bit so that the wind-chill wasn't as bad.  The nice thing is that it was sunny and the roads were beautiful.  Some straight sections but also lots of nice elevation changes and sweeping curves, all lined with tall evergreens breaking up to the occasional meadow and bridges over small river valleys. Beautiful, but we didn't really stop to take pictures unless we were stopping for something else.

At one point I was looking for a street that had a two part name and we passed two streets where part of the name matched.  So, I stopped at a wayside to consult with Mark on the directions.  Luckily there was someone there from the area and we found that we had missed out turn about a 1/4 mile back. We also took this opportunity to make any adjustments in our riding gear.  I for one put on my ski mittens instead of my leather riding gloves.  That turned out to be a very good choice.  My hands were toasty warm in those things; an unbelievable difference.  That made my whole body feel warmer and I enjoyed the ride even more.

We eventually made our first gas stop.  It was somewhere around noon and we had enough miles and cold to justify a stop.  We got gas and I went inside to get a cup of decaff. and warm up.  I saw a decaff. pot but no coffee in it, though maybe I was missing something, and asked the attendant if they had any.  She said no but she'd be happy to make a pot.  We were in no hurry so said OK.  So, we kind of mill around waiting for the coffee.  In the mean time Mark got himself a hot chocolate.  Coffee was done and I poured a cup.  There was a few tables and benches in the far corner where we had a seat.  Then this guy walks buy with this really good looking bowl of soup.  We ask them what that is and it was chicken dumpling.  Seems that they had a little restaurant right there and they had home made soups and burgers.  Well, I wasn't planning on lunch, but what the heck.  I had a bowl of soup and a cheeseburger.  Man were they good.  The cheese burger was just dripping with juice.  In fact it looked so good Vicky decided to have one also, and Mark had already ordered a bowl of soup.  That really hit the spot.  What a find... home made soup and fresh burgers in the middle of the Michigan wilderness... mmmm mmmm ... 

Before we had started our meals a slow moving older guy had left his coffee on one of the tables and we were starting to wonder
where he had disappeared to. He comes back and I jokingly say that we were starting to think he left his coffee behind. He mumbles 
something and sits back down and then tries to strike up a conversation with me. God bless his soul, the guy could hardly talk and I could barely
understand him. At one point he hinted that he was looking for a ride about a mile down the road. We all kind of laughed and explained that
we were on motorcycles. He agreed that was a bad idea... At one point I sat down with him to see if I could make out his words better. He was 
just a walking contradiction. He was old and feeble, and the coffee that drooled out of his mouth when he talked showed he wasn't in full control
of himself physically, but he started telling me all about how he had come to Michigan from California (his wife's idea) and he named the year,
moth, date, and hour when he had arrived. He asked me some questions and the conversation went on for a few minutes... Clearly his mind was
still working well even if his muscle control was lacking.  As he left he kind of smiled, wished us well, and said something like, "Ves, I like you Ves, yes I do..."

Before we left Mark and Vicky decided they needed some warmer gloves and asked if there were any sporting goods stores around there. She gave us directions to Indian Country Sports in L’Anse. It was right on Lake Superior and the owners were incredibly helpful (Actually that's a clue to where this gas station / restaurant was... probably at the intersection of 141 and 28, just South of there). It was a beautiful little bay town.  And a big sign announced they were actually going to be having Octoberfest starting in... October... hmmmmm.. it we had only been there a few days later.  

We found the store... it's the building with the lighthouse...

Vicky went off shopping while Mark and I walked off to the beach to get some sun and take some photos.  It was beautiful, light breeze, kids playing in the nearby park.

I was actually starting to get warm, so we went looking for Vicky.  The sporting goods store was a real sporting goods store.  Had hunting clothes, guns, bows and arrows, knives, fishing equipment... the good stuff.  Vickie got 2 pair of mittens, Mark got a new pair of cortex thinsulate lined gloves and Vicky insisted on buying balaclavas for all.  With that done, we were on our way again, and all of us warmer in some way.

The sun was out, the air was cool, 55 or so, but easily tolerable compared to the day before. The scenery was great with a lot of Fall color up there already. And, as we rode west along Lake Superior, we could watch the small white cap waves coming ashore all along the coast – just plain beautiful! We stopped on a bridge in Ontonagon for a little rest and some pictures.

We continued West with another little stop at Wakefield. A very scenic little town built around a lake, so we stopped for a few pictures here too.  

We made it to Ashland WI right around 6:00 pm, found the little motel we had reservations at and checked in. I was a rather scary little place and Vickie and Mark ended up changing rooms because the first one had such a bad smell. I then got their objective opinion on the smell of my room, but they said it was fine.  

Ashland is a nice town situated on Chequamegon Bay of Superior, with a view of Madeline Island and others out on the lake.

After settling in we rode downtown to the Deepwater Grille / South Shore Brewery for dinner (recommended by the caretaker) which turned out to be very good. I had Jambalaya which was very good and packed a spicy punch. Vickie and Mark had a home made Pizza, and unfortunately for Vicky,  this was the second nice place we ate at that had No Killians! The waitress said “We used to have it, but the guy that came in and drank it all the time passed away, so we stopped carrying it”.  So, Vicky drank water. 

After dinner, we headed back to the Motel filled with a good meal and tired. We decided to turn in early as we new that tomorrow’s ride south was going to be a fairly boring jaunt once we got to the center of WI. 

I actually slept until the alarm clock rang, so despite the appearance of the hotel, the bed was comfortable.  I got up, took my shower, and went for a walk along the lake.  Here are some shots I took.

Sunday, Sept 16, 2007 Ashland WI – Spring Green WI (266 mi)

We decided to just get breakfast on the road, and after a brief trip to the local Wal-Mart (I think to get something for Mark and Vicky's kid) we were on our way again. During our trip to Wal-Mart we lost Vicky... one minute she's behind us.. the next she's gone.  I guess that was a hint that Mark and I missed the turn... ?

When we left the Motel it was about 40F. It may have only been 266 miles, but it just seemed to take forever on cold, long, and straight roads. We did however find a good place for a late breakfast in Park Falls. Again I was with the decaf. coffee.  And I ordered a huge country omelet, which came with a sirloin patty and hash browns... no lunch needed today.  This gave us some badly needed warmth and uplifted our spirits for the remainder of the ride. 

We did have a couple turn miscues during the ride and at one point we completely lost Vicky after one of our gas stops.  Mark and I turned off in the correct direction, bit for some reason she thought she knew better.  Next thing we know, she's not there.  Go go back to the gas station, wait there a while and I tell Mark I get she went straight cause she didn't realize we needed to turn.  So Mark take off after her hitting ridiculous speeds to try and catch up.  After passing some traffic and looking ahead, we didn't see her and decided we'd just go back and wait for her at the station.  Well, she did finally come back.  I have absolutely no recollection of the conversation that took place at that point between Mark and Vicky.

The last part of the ride, WI 23 coming into Spring Green was awesome. A lot of constant radius sweepers surrounded by sunny rolling farm land and hills. And having 70F temps was a nice feeling too. There was another missed turn, and when we got back on track, Vicky was so ticked off she just blasted ahead and just kept passing cars.  I kind of smiled to myself.. and later Mark said that's the best he's seen her ride.  It was funny, you had to be there.  We Found our Motel and got signed in... while we waited for Vicky to show up... and she did.  The place was awesome. Nice little place just outside of town, outdoor sitting areas, basketball and sand volleyball courts, a fire pit, play area for kids, and each room had patio furniture right outside the door too. Rooms were very clean, newly remodeled with a fridge and microwave. They even had a continental breakfast in the morning. All for $47.00 a night! Great find and we were definitely talking about going there again next year.  

Before we left for dinner, a very nice elderly couple walked past our outdoor table where we were chatting, and stopped to talk a bit. They were historians and were writing a book, two actually, about Frank Lloyd Wright. For those who don’t know, Spring Green is the home of Taliesin, The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and a hot spot for FLR info and history.

Vicky and Mark went down town to a local Tavern/Restaurant called The Shed (recommended by the caretaker) for a few beers while I went back out to take some pictures of some of the farm fields we passed on the way into town. The pictures just do do them justice.

I went back and met Mark and Vicky at the Shed and they were already having some beer and appetizers.  I joined them, bought a round, and we ordered.  Good news was they had Killians.  

While we were sitting there some teens came in and asked the bartender if they could carve a 300 lb pumpkin on the back patio... 300 lb pumpkin? Wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't of seen it.  Here's a shot I took with my cell phone.

After dinner Vicky and I played a couple games of pool and then we all headed back to the motel and sat outside for a while. Mark and I made a trip to the local Shell station for a six pack of New Glarus – Spotted Cow which we attempted to polish off but didn’t quite manage to do as sleep was calling fairly loud.

Monday, Sept 17, 2007 Spring Green WI - Home (300 miles +)

Woke up to a rather balmy 55F for a change, Vickie wanted to sleep in, but Mark and I are early birds so we went down to a local truck stop for breakfast. It was a small place, and the dining room section was closed, so we took a booth in the diner and ordered up. Food was good too, it must have been popular to order breakfast out up there, we could see through the window into the kitchen and they were filling Styrofoam containers left and right with various breakfasts. I had a "have it all" which was like it said... an omelet with everything... bacon, sausage, mushrooms, veggies, with salsa on top... mmmm mmmm.  No need for lunch after that. We then headed back to pack up and go our separate ways. I wanted to go back and explore some of the side roads, take some pictures, and then if I had time, maybe head southwest to Galena IL.  Mark and Vicky needed to get home in time to pick up their kid from school.

These photos give you an idea of what that loads were like... There are some really nice roads up there... hint hint...next

Why, yes, that is a left hander going over a small hill and right into a right hander... I just don't get this kind of stuff in Illinois...

Look ma.. no traffic either...

I could have traveled those roads around Spring Green for hours... but I had to head home. On my way home I actually ended up on what was 
arguably the best road of the whole trip! Route 78. I liked how it looked on the map... curvy... and Mark confirmed that he had been on it once and
it was one curve after another in some areas. He was not kidding. It was miles and miles of hills and curves, and aside from some rough spots and
one area under construction, I was just smiling in my helmet the whole time. I could not think of a better way to finish off the trip. I even went
down some of the side roads off 78 and those were just as good. Again, I could have spent hours on the side roads, but had to focus on getting 

It was all pretty boring stuff once I got to route 20. The good news was that heading East I had the wind to my back, so even at 80 to 90 mph it was easy riding... hey I wasn't the only one going that fast... although at one point I zoomed by one of Illinois' finest heading in the other direction and suddenly got the urge to take a left a the first intersection and go down the road a bit, and park myself in the shade of a tree to... check my map... 

Anyway,  here's a map I pieced together, thanks to Google maps, showing the route including my portions of it. Great Trip... and to top it all off,
Monday it was 85 degrees... a long way from that 36/38 on Friday... and a fitting end to the riding season...