96

STH-096 “Fish the Wolf, enjoy cheese, Rattlers and our Big Apple before you end up in Denmark”

WisMap96_200wQuickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 96 begins in Fremont near the Wolf River, where U.S. 10 is now a freeway that bypasses the town. Highway 96 is what U.S. 10 used to be from here to Appleton until 2003, when it was routed onto a new freeway alignment several miles to the south.

The Wisconsin Highway 96 Road Trip

The Drive (West to East): You begin at the U.S. 10 freeway in Fremont at Highway 110. Highway 96 from here east to Appleton basically covers the former route of U.S. 10 before the new freeway opened around 2003. In this area, the Wolf River connects Partridge Lake with Lake Poygan, part of the chain that include Lake Butte Des Morts and Lake Winnebago. Extremely popular for fishing and hunting, this area beckons those who love the great outdoors. Plenty of hunting land and cabins for rent are in the vicinity.

Past U.S. 45 and into Outagamie County, Highway 96 is a straight shot. You go through Dale, an unincorporated community where you can access the Wiouwash Recreation Trail. There’s isn’t a whole lot until you cross Highway 76 and enter the Appleton area. Then, there’s plenty! To the south is Outagamie County Regional Aiport (“ATW” if you know your airport codes). ATW offers Fox Cities residents non-stops not only to regional hubs like Milwaukee and Minneapolis, but to Denver, Atlanta and Las Vegas.

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A shaft of sunlight towards dusk caps the end of a sunny 72-degree day in October over the Outagamie County Regional Airport in Appleton, right off Highway 96 as it approaches Appleton from the west.

Just as development pops up around airports, the area east of ATW along Highway 96 suddenly brims with office buildings, retail stores, restaurants and housing subdivisions. What was a fairly low-key two-lane road a few miles back suddenly becomes a busy 4- to 6-lane corridor. You’re now in the town of Grand Chute (pop. 18,392), Wisconsin’s largest town in terms of population and land valuation (over $2.5 billion). Grand Chute basically envelops the land north and west of the City of Appleton that the city hasn’t incorporated. As you approach the junction with U.S. 41, to your right is Fox River Mall and a mass of other big-box and smaller retail stores and eateries, part of the largest concentration of retail in Wisconsin.

The Fox River Mall is the largest mall in northeastern Wisconsin and has over 1.2 million square feet of shopping space. Some stores here aren’t found in most of the rest of the state, including a Scheels All Sports and a number of small retailers that specialize in such diverse selections as neon signs, upscale boutique fashions, and model cars. In all, the Mall features over 180 stores, including Macy’s, Aeropostale, and if the kids need to build a toy bear while on your road trip, they have a Build-A-Bear Workshop.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Appleton’s politics tend to be opposite Madison’s. This is where Senator Joe McCarthy came from, and where the John Birch Society maintains their headquarters today.

BREW PUB ALERT
Connected to Fox River Mall is the Fox River Brewing Company (920-991-0000), which opened in 1997. They brew a wide variety of handcrafted beers, including Caber Tossing Scottish Ale, Trolleycar Stout, Titan Porter, Fox Tail Ale, Winnebago Wheat and a lower-calorie, lower-alcohol Fox Light. Other specialty brews pop up from time to time.

Photo by Wm. Glasheen 2008

The T-Rats’ mascot, Fang, always fires up the crowd and is one of the more popular mascots in ‘A’ baseball. Like real rattlers, he packs quite a tail.

LET’S GET READY TO RATTLLLLLLLLLE!
Play ball! The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, are a class ‘A’ Midwest League baseball affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers – a relationship that began with the 2009 season. They take to the field just north of Highway 96 at Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium, a great little minor league facility that seats over 4,500, plus grass seating and three luxury boxes. The team, which began as the Appleton Foxes in 1958, has helped launch some impactful players in the Major Leagues, including Tom Gordon, Alex Rodriguez and David “Big Papi” Ortiz, who still maintains connections to the area. I’ve heard that this is where “sausage lauchers” were first used at baseball games to deliver meat products to hungry patrons in dramatic fashion, but I’ll have to verify that. Pending certain permissions, watch for pictures of the games and stadium coming soon!

Yes, Highway 96 has a lot to check out on the west side of Appleton. Once you cross I-41, you’re in the city and on a beeline east once again.

APPLETON AREA
Appleton (pop. 72,000) is the hub of this vibrant metroplex, officially named the Appleton-Oshkosh-Neenah Combined Statistical Area by those in government. The metro area as a whole has over 350,000 residents. Founded as a papermaking city – like many of its neighbors – Appleton’s key location along the Fox River just north of Lake Winnebago made it a center for trade. The city was first settled in earnest in 1847, the same year Lawrence University was founded. Enrolling about 1,400 students every year, Lawrence consistently ranks among the first tier of liberal arts college according to U.S. News & World Report.

Appleton tends to be a city of firsts..Along with power generation and commercially successful streetcars, Appleton led the way with telephones, lighting and even shopping. The Valley Fair Shopping Center was built in 1954 and laid claim to the title of the first enclosed shopping mall in the U.S., although malls in Minnesota, Rhode Island, Seattle and probably everywhere else also make those claims. Like many of the old malls, little of it is left. To see it, though, follow Highway 47 (Richmond Street) south about three miles. See the mall’s Wikipedia entry here.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit – Appleton Firsts:
Appleton had the nation’s first hydroelectric power station (1882), the world’s first residence powered by this method using the Edison system, the first commercially successful streetcar company (1886), the first telephone in Wisconsin and the first incandescent light in any city outside the East Coast.
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An early morning winter shot of Appleton’s skyline.

Highway 96 goes right across Appleton as Wisconsin Avenue and, frankly, doesn’t go through the most remarkable parts of town. To really see the best of Appleton, you may want to cut south to College Avenue, which parallels Highway 96 about one mile to the south. You can cut south on Bluemound Drive or angle southeast on Badger Avenue to reach College. You can re-join Highway 96 by heading back north on Lawe Street.

appleton_collegeave_02_800Downtown Appleton features a bustling strip along College Avenue. A wide variety of bars and hotels line both sides, including the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel, one of the finest in the area. It’s where visiting NFL players stay when they’re in town to take on the Packers. Bars along College Avenue include Cleo’s, where as comedian Lewis Black notes, “It’s ALWAYS Christmas!” Stop in and check out the holiday decorations – for many, many holidays – that are up all year ’round.

Just south of downtown Appleton along Highway 47 you’ll find the Hearthstone Historic House Museum, the first home in the world lit by electricity. Tours are available and you can not only explore a cool old mansion, but experience interactive exhibits on hydroelectricity and the Edison system that was used to make this home a world first.

After Little Chute and still more or less following the north bank of the Fox River, you enter Kaukauna (pop. 12,983). Known far and wide for the tasty cheese spread brand (now technically made in Little Chute), Kaukauna is considered the easternmost of the Fox Cities. One of the first communities in Wisconsin, Kaukauna was explored by Father Claude Allouez in 1670 and a fur trading post was established at KeKalin Falls in 1760. Back then, travelers moving by canoe had to detour by land around three waterfalls on the Fox.

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Just south of the Highway 96 & 55 junction in Kaukauna, you can see the Veterans Memorial Bridge, one of five that span the Fox River in Kaukauna. The city essentially has two “downtowns”, one for the north side and one for the south side. Highway 96 runs through the north side.

The numerous small waterfalls on the Fox made Kaukauna a natural choice for hydroelectric power generation, which dates back to the 1880s. With several plants and some of the lowest power rates in the state, Kaukauna embraces the nickname “The Electric City”. They weren’t using electricity in 1793, when Dominique Ducharme secured the first land deed granted in Wisconsin along portions of the Fox River in Kaukauna. On part of that land now stands the Grignon Mansion, built in 1837. Parkland surrounds the mansion; paper mills (and when the wind is right, their essence) dominate across the street.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The first land deed in Wisconsin was granted to Dominique Ducharme in 1793. The initial payment? Two barrels of rum.

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(Above) The Grignon Mansion, built in 1837 on the site of Wisconsin’s oldest deeded land. To the side is the mansion’s outhouse… and yes, they cut crescent moon shapes into the door for ventilation. And because that’s how outhouses always seem to look. It’s not available for public use, but then, why would anyone want to use it?

East of Kaukauna, Wrightstown (pop. 2,257). It’s the first incorporated place since leaving Denmark, and its downtown, though small, has a number of charming little buildings. The Fox River flowing through town is one of the few northward-flowing rivers in the country, and heading west on 96 will have you going against its flow all the way through a string of upcoming towns.

East of Wrightstown, you approach Highways 32 and 57, which intersect in a new roundabout in Greenleaf.

Highway 96 comes to an end at the west end of Denmark (pop. 1,958), a charming hamlet that, well, emulates a lot of Danish things. Racine would probably argue over which city in Wisconsin is the most Danish, but Denmark certainly makes a strong case. Denmark is enjoying a growth period, pulling businesses and bedroom commuters since its’s perched right in between Manitowoc and Green Bay along I-43. Stop in and absorb the Danish atmosphere and then you can head up or down I-43 to visit other Wisconsin locales…or start another State Trunk Tour!

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A charming, peaceful end to Highway 96 happens with a gentle cruise through Denmark, just over the I-43 bridge. Danish flags adorn streets, street signs and knick-knacks in gift shops. You can probably get a nice cheese Danish somewhere in here…

CONNECTIONS:

West Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: U.S. Highway 10, Highway 49, Highway 110
Can connect nearby to: U.S. Highway 45, about 6 miles east

East Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: I-43
Can connect nearby to: Highway 29, about 9 miles north

67

STH-067“Beloit to Kiel with Kettles and Lakes in Between”

 

Southern terminus: Rock County, at the Illinois state line just east of Beloit

Northern terminus: Manitowoc County, at the junction with U.S. Highway 151 seven miles north of Kiel

Mileage: about 160 miles

Counties along the way: Rock, Walworth, Waukesha, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Manitowoc

Sample towns along the way: Sharon, Walworth, Williams Bay, Elkhorn, Eagle, Oconomowoc, Mayville, Lomira, Campbellsport, Plymouth, Elkhart Lake, Kiel

Sample sites along the way: Old World Wisconsin, Kettle Moraine, Elkhart Lake Race Track

Bypass alternates at: Elkhorn, Oconomowoc

WisMap67Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 67 winds through eastern Wisconsin on a path that grazes the Illinois line, swings by the western edge of Geneva Lake’s resort communities, twists through the heart of both units of Kettle Moraine, serves as a main street for towns like Elkhorn, Oconomowoc, Mayville and Plymouth, and provides access to Elkhart Lake and its racing facilities before ending in the middle of nowhere between Chilton and Manitowoc.

The Wisconsin Highway 67 Road Trip

The Drive (South to North): We start at the Illinois state line from Illinois Highway 75, just east of the interchange with I-90 on the eastern outskirts of Beloit. You may run into people kissing in two states at once, who knows?

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Not our picture, these two are from Myspace – to give you an idea of how long ago this was.

This part of Highway 67 is a recent extension, connecting South Beloit, Illinois and far southern Rock and Walworth Counties with the western Geneva Lake area and Kettle Moraine. Over the next few years, the Beloit area will likely grow eastward and spread east along the highway, which is very much rural at this point.A lot of open territory – and small two airports – adorns this stretch before entering Walworth County and grazing the northern part of Sharon (pop. 1,549), the first actual town along Highway 67. Most of Sharon is wedged between Highway 67 and the Illinois state line, which along this stretch lies one mile south of the road. If you’d like to check out Sharon, which has a little triangular crossroads area to parallel the diagonal railroad in its center, head south on County C.

Otherwise, continue east and you reach U.S. Highway 14, fresh from its own trip from the Illinois state line and its beginnings in Chicago. Highway 67 follows U.S. 14 northward for about two miles into the county’s namesake, the Village of Walworth (pop. 2,304). Walworth’s name adorns almost every Chinese restaurant’s tables, since this is where Kikkoman Soy Sauce is brewed in the United States. The plant itself is on the northwestern side of town and yes, you can smell the sauce brewing.

Walworth features a little town square, where U.S. 14 branches off to head northwest. Jump off for a mile and follow your nose to the soy sauce scent. In 1972, Kikkoman branched out into North America and chose Walworth, in the heart of the wheat and soybean fields of southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, for its first plant in the Western world. Since production began in June, 1973, output has kept growing to accommodate demand, and it all goes either by rail or by truck down U.S. 14 and Highway 67 to points everywhere.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The Kikkoman plant in Walworth produces over 25 million gallons of soy sauce per year, and has been expanding capacity to reach beyond 34 million gallons. Kikkoman opened the plant in 1973, the company’s first foray into the U.S.
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Soy sauce, anyone? Kikkoman’s North American headquarters on the northwest edge of Walworth lies just off U.S. 14, a little bit north of Highway 67 and downtown.

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The hills, woods and resorts areas make for plenty to see and enjoy as Highway 67 goes through Fontana and Williams Bay, around the western edge of Geneva Lake.

Highway 67 turns off U.S. 14 in downtown Walworth and starts heading toward the western edge of the Geneva Lakes area, including the popular vacation (and often second home) locales of Fontana (pop. 1,754) and Williams Bay (pop. 2,415). This is a major resort area and has been since the 1800s. Watch for Cubs and Bears fans… this is a popular area with Flatlanders.

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Resorts, marinas, high-falutin’ lake homes and more surround Geneva Lake in Fontana.

Williams Bay is also home to Yerkes Observatory, known as the “birthplace of modern astrophysics.” Part of the University of Chicago, the observatory was founded in 1897 and its refracting telescope was the world’s largest for quite some time. The facility is more than just a telescope, though; physics and chemistry research relating to things like the interstellar medium, globular cluster formations, near-Earth objects and other potentially mind-boggling things take place in here. It’s right along Highway 67 in town (373 W. Geneva Street), accessible via a long driveway. They offer tours on select days… call (262) 245-5555 for information or visit their website.

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110-year-old Yerkes Observatory is an extension of the University of Chicago, making Williams Bay the birthplace of modern astrophysics and chock full of people from the state below Wisconsin that shall remain nameless.

From Williams Bay, Highway 67 stops following Geneva Lake and the parklands along it to head straight north, past Highway 50 (which provides a direct connection to Lake Geneva) and I-43 to head into Walworth’s County seat.

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From Williams Bay to Elkhorn, Highway 67 has a few kitschy sights, including samples of what you can do with wood when you know how to carve things. Bears, eagles, benches… you can get anything you want.

That would be Elkhorn (pop. 7,305), named during the founding years by Colonel Sam Phoenix when he spied some elk antlers in a tree. Ten years later by 1846, Elkhorn was designated the Walworth county seat; five years later, it started hosting the Walworth County Fair, one of the largest and oldest in the state (the grounds host a popular flea market four times a year too, which draws over 500 vendors.) The historic Webster House Museum, just south of downtown one block off 67, showcases the home of the famous 19th century composer Joseph Webster and offers a great look at life and original items from the mid-1800s.

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The First National Bank building in Elkhorn. It’s doesn’t go very deep.

Highway 67 ducks south and west around the Walworth County Courthouse in a junction with Highway 11, going past a series of downtown buildings including the facade of the First National Bank. Yes, it’s just the facade; the bank itself is gone, but you’re free to step through the doorway into the grassy little park. It would be funny, however, if some pens were chained to a park bench in there somewhere for that true bank feel.

Downtown Elkhorn

Highway 67 heads around Courthouse Square in Elkhorn. Plenty of shops, restaurants and bars, and theatre, and more help make the town bustle.

Highway 67 used to have U.S. 12 join it through Elkhorn (where County H comes in today), but since 1973 the junction is north of town where U.S. 12’s freeway that began at the Illinois state line in Genoa City comes to an end – for now. The plan was always for U.S. 12 to continue as a freeway all the way to Madison and it’s still on the drawing board. Since 1947, U.S. 12 and Highway 67 have combined for about 7 miles. The old Highway 15, which was replaced by today’s I-43 from Beloit to Milwaukee, also ran this route from Elkhorn to Abell’s Corners. While it’s still a busy stretch, this used to be the main way through the area; travelers and truckers on long-distance routes would come through here. At Abell’s Corners, County ES (the former 15) heads toward East Troy and Milwaukee (you end up on National Avenue eventually) while Highway 67 and U.S. 12 continue north.

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C.J.’s on Highway 67/U.S. 12 at County ES – which was once a VERY busy intersection before the I-43 freeway opened in 1973.

A popular biker stop is C&J’s Crossroads, which has welcomed riders and drivers for decades in one form or another. A classic old sign with a “U.S. 12/Wisconsin 15” directional sign once adorned the roof; I asked Joe, one of the owners of C&J’s what happened to it when I stopped in. Sadly, he informed me that crews updating the building simply threw the sign away a few years back, although he’d wanted them to save it.

Past Abell’s Corners and a small lakes, U.S. 12 branches off to the west to hit Whitewater, Fort Atkinson and Madison… and Washington State, eventually. Highway 20 heads east from this intersection toward Racine. Meanwhile, Highway 67 veers into the southwestern corner of Waukesha County.

A major stop along Highway 67 is Old World Wisconsin, the largest museum of outdoor life in the United States. Almost one full square mile nestled in a corner of Kettle Moraine, Old World Wisconsin opened in 1976 after a long project where researchers scoured the state and brought back buildings and their contents to replicate the lives of immigrants who came to Wisconsin. German, Polish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, Yankee, African-American and other representations are all here amidst over 60 historic structures. Demonstrations of crafts, wood stove cooking, blacksmithing, 19th century gardening, workshops and more happen daily. Special events take place throughout the year; call (262) 549-6300 for details.

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A wagon carries visitors through Old World Wisconsin, bringing everything back to the 19th century.

Just past Old World Wisconsin lies Eagle (pop, 1,707). Awash in history, Eagle sits in a valley along a railroad at the junction with Highway 59. A popular stop with bikers, Eagle features a series of taverns that surround a small valley where the railroad comes through – and has since the 1850’s. Knuckleheads and Coyote Canyon are along the south; a more historical stop is Suhmer’s Saloon (262-594-3006), built in 1854. Suhmer’s Saloon began as a boarding house and tavern for workers building the railroad. It was originally called the Diamond Inn and Eagle Hotel back when Abe Lincoln stayed here during a trek to find Chief Black Hawk in the days before his presidency. Heading into the 20th century, it changed its name to the Pall Mall; from 1933 to 1993 it was called Sasso’s and from 1993 until last year it was called the Stumble Inn (and with the aged steps going down into the bar, you need to be careful not to stumble.) Suhmer’s still has horse corrals and a few motel rooms available for rent next to the bar. Along with beverages for thirsty drivers and riders, Suhmer’s features live music and a restaurant on the upper floor. Check out the wrap-around upper walkway; its architecture beckons images of the wild west.

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Suhmer’s Saloon in Eagle, which dates back to 1854 in one form or another. Oh, the stories it could tell…

After carefully navigating the junction with Highway 59, Highway 67 heads northward past Eagle through some beautiful territory in Kettle Moraine. Some curves are tight through this stretch, so watch your speed; why hurry through scenery like this, right? Parts of this stretch are on the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive, which Highway 67 picks up again in the North Unit between Campbellsport and Plymouth – but that’s a ways off. Coming out of Kettle Moraine, you reach Dousman (pop. 1,584), “Home of the Wisconsin State Frog Jump”, according to the village’s website. No frogs were present on the particular day I drove through, but I shall return.

Not too long past Dousman you’ll find a mushrooming area. The Town of Summit, heading into Oconomowoc, is expanding at a torrid rate. New distribution centers, hospitals, a Harley dealership and more greet you at the intersection of County DR, which is also the Old Highway 30 between Milwaukee and Madison. The proximity of this location, about halfway between Wisconsin’s two largest cities, means it will keep growing for a while and I’ll probably have to update this section numerous times to keep up.

A few blocks north you reach the crossroads of I-94 and Highway 67, one of the fastest-growing intersections in Wisconsin. The land east of Highway 67, once the rural domain of the Pabst family of brewing fame, is now home to Pabst Farms. A 21st century master-planned, mixed-use development pre-wired for fiber optics and all the technological advances, Pabst Farms is designed to be a community within a community, although it lies in the City of Oconomowoc.

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Increasingly surrounded by development, Highway 67 intersects I-94 in the Town of Summit, right by the emerging Pabst Farms complex.

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One entrance off Hwy. 67 to Pabst Farms, a 21st century, 1,500-acre mixed-use development featuring 1,200 residences, almost 900,000 square feet of retail space and 5 million square feet of business, office, and health care space. Fiber optics, high-speed Internet access throughout the complex and the latest in other technologies dominate the area, the last name of which is “Farms”. Almost ironic, isn’t it?

Heading into Oconomowoc (pop. 12,382) itself, you’re entering the only city in the world with a 10-letter name where every other letter is an “o”. Native American for “gathering place of the beaver” (according to one translation), it’s probably also the only Oconomowoc in the world, too, just like Ixonia. And Waunakee. And a bunch of other Wisconsin places.

The Olympia Resort & Spa, a 256-room resort along Highway 67 north of I-94, still provides the city with a resort. Olympia, by the way, has been named such since 1976 (it was previously called “Scottsland”) because of the five rings in the Olympic games. They match the 5 o’s in Oconomowoc. Yes, “O-Town” has many interesting stories.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The first premiere of Wizard of Oz was in Oconomowoc, at the Strand Theater on August 12, 1939, thirteen days before it opened nationwide.

Oconomowoc, built around and along portions of Lac La Belle, Fowler Lake and Oconomowoc Lake, is at the western edge of Waukesha County’s “Lake Country”. The city served as a resort town for wealthy Americans as far back as the 1870’s, earning it the nickname “Newport of the West”. A host of American presidents throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s visited Oconomowoc, and some of the mansions where they stayed can be seen on walking tours around town.

67oconatsplit_800*** BYPASS ALERT ***
Highway 67 now officially runs on a new bypass (planned since 1960, completed in 2006) that runs around the east and north side of Oconomowoc. Portions of it also make up part of Highway 16. You can follow the new bypass, which shaves about 5-7 minutes off the trip, and rejoin Highway 67 at the north end of town. However, to make it a true State Trunk Tour experience, follow the traditional Highway 67 through town as indicated below. In the picture (right), the sign for Summit Avenue is the way to go!

At the bypass split, you can follow Summit Avenue into town, where it descends into a neighborhood where you can see the homes getting older as you approach the downtown area. Just before the first stoplight to your right is the Brownberry Ovens plant, home to delicious baking bread smells since Catherine Clark opened her first bakery there in 1946. Brownberry Ovens is now a subsidiary of Canadian conglomerate George Weston Limited, the same company that provides Entenmann’s, Thomas’ muffins and Boboli pizza crust. They still, however, furnish that part of Oconomowoc with the smell of baking bread and you can buy it at the source in the store along Summit Avenue right in front of the factory.

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Once the city’s main connection to the rest of the world, Oconomowoc’s old depot on Collins Street is now a restaurant and bar featuring a nice array of railroad memorabilia.

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In the spring breeze, a pier into Lac La Belle offers views and access to one of the area’s most beautiful lakes.

Turning right from Summit onto Main Street and over the busy railroad tracks (it’s the main line connecting Minneapolis and Milwaukee) brings you through Oconomowoc’s downtown strip. At the intersection with Wisconsin Avenue, you cross old Highway 16. The headquarters of five-state pizza chain Rocky Rococo is also at this intersection, though you have to go back to 1075 Summit Avenue to imbibe in their deep-dish slices. The main shopping district for the city is east along Wisconsin and further north along Main, where you’ll find old timers like Boelter’s Shoes . Heading north you’re flanked on both sides by lakes, the kind of landscape that gave rise to a bustling resort community in the 1870s. Fowler Lake is to your east, Lac La Belle to the west; either way, the view in summertime is of tree-lined shores, beautiful homes and often happy swimmers and boaters. Lac La Belle is the larger of the two and boasts numerous mansions around its shores, including a few right along your route on Main Street. One of the mansions was a home for the Montgomery Ward family; others included barons from industry from Milwaukee, Chicago, and old Southern U.S. cities. Some were just lucky enough to sell short on Enron in 2001.

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A roundabout now circulates traffic heading into the Main Street strip in Oconomowoc. You’ll encounter it following 67’s “city” route. The city’s “five O’s” make for a nice centerpiece, especially at night when they use a variety of colored lights.

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After a snowfall, the trees framing Highway 67 heading into Oconomowoc from the north frame a beautiful street and the homes alongside it.

North of Oconomowoc, the new bypass rejoins Highway 67 to the original highway for the ride north into Dodge County, where it meets the first of two Ashippuns. Really. First, you arrive in the “new” Ashippun. About a mile later, you reach Old Ashippun. The Old Ashippun is – you guessed it – the original town, but they moved the whole shebang south one mile to be right along the new railroad when it came through in the late 1800s. It’s also home to Honey Acres, a “Honey of a Museum”, as it bills itself. Honey Acres started up in 1852 and has been working on beekeeping and honey-making ever since.

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We take a picture of any business naming itself after a State Trunk Tour road. In Ashippun, Roadhouse 67 opened up in October, 2011. Stop in and check out the gigantic mirror behind the bar; it’s so old it was delivered by horse-drawn carriage to this building back when it was something else – probably a saloon. Say hi to Rich, the owner. He’ll have beverages and hot cashews a-waitin’.

Further north, you reach Neosho (pop. 592) and cross Highway 60 on your way to Iron Ridge, a small burg that spreads up hills to the east of Highway 67, which runs the edge of the town; County WS cuts right through it if you wanna take a look.

Past Iron Ridge, threads its way through railroad crossings and creeks to Mayville (pop. 4,902) started early; it incorporated as a city in 1845, three years before Wisconsin became a state. Big on manufacturing, Mayville is home to a number of industrial facilities and maintains a pretty steady employment base. One of the old manufacturing buildings, the former Hollenstein Wagon & Carriage Factory, is maintained by the local historical society and offers wagons on display in what is now a museum-like setting. Mayville also sports a very nice “Main Street” downtown; Highway 67 meets up with Highway 28 for the ride through it, past a variety of handsome old structures offering everything from antiques to food to collections of rural pictures in the White Limestone School, right on Main Street.

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The Audubon Inn is one of Mayville’s attractive downtown landmarks, right along Highway 67 on the push through town.

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Entering Mayville from the south, Highway 67 has a pleasant ride along the East Branch of the Rock River.

Highway 28 joins 67 for the ride east into the village of Theresa (pop. 1,252). Theresa holds the distinction of being named after the mother of Solomon Juneau, who’d founded this other place called Milwaukee years earlier, moved out, established Theresa, and therefore was the first European settler to begin urban sprawl in Wisconsin.

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Solomon Juneau first founded in Milwaukee, then fled in later years to establish Theresa, named after his mother. His final homestead, built in 1848, is along Highway 67 in town, where it also meets with Highway 175.

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The section of Highway 67 combined with Highway 175 is part of the historic Yellowstone Trail, a trailblazing path through the early days of American driving.

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Not as early as the Yellowstone Trail but still becoming a slice of old Americana are the old logos on signs, such as the one for 7Up on this store in Theresa.

*** Cheese Factory Alert ***

Theresa is home to Widmer’s Cheese Cellars, which has been making brick, cheddar, and colby varieties in this location since 1922. They still use many of the original cheese vats and you can stop in and buy their cheese in their store, right from the source.

In Theresa, Highway 67 – as well as 28 – hooks up with Highway 175 and heads north out of town. About a mile later, Highway 28 breaks east toward Kewaskum; 67 & 175 stay together a few more miles to Lomira (pop. 2,233), which is one example of a town that was once focused on this road when it was U.S. 41, but now most of the activity and development lies further east along the busy freeway that is today’s I-41. Highway 67 goes east through Lomira to an interchange with I-41 and then makes a beeline into Fond du Lac County, passing from the Mississippi River into the Great Lakes watershed.

 

Lomira

 

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The massive Quad Graphics plant in Lomira is the largest single printing facility in the Western Hemisphere.
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Highway 67 meets up with I-41 on Lomira’s east side; I think this is the first traffic light since Oconomowoc.

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The West Branch of the Milwaukee River winds lazily through farmland in western Fond du Lac County, looking south from Highway 67 between Lomira and Campbellsport. Follow the river a good many miles and you’ll end up in downtown Milwaukee, under the Hoan Bridge, past Summerfest and out into Lake Michigan.

Just past Ashford (one of those “don’t blink” places), Highway 67 winds over the beginnings of the Milwaukee River and heads into Campbellsport (pop. 1,913). A quiet, pleasant town, Campbellsport primarily serves as a gateway to the Kettle Moraine’s Northern Unit area and is the hub for everything in Fond du Lac County’s southern section. Highway 67 zigzags through town, briefly following County V, which many years ago was U.S. 45.

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Campbellsport makes it clear you’re near Kettle Moraine, which officially begins just east past Highway 67’s junction with U.S. 45.

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The gentle, soothing sound of these falls over the rocks here, right along Highway 67, makes for a nice stop or picnic. The waters here are the Milwaukee River, very early in its journey.

Past Campbellsport, Highway 67 begins heading north again, passing the Henry Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center. The Center features interactive displays, forest information and a film on the Ice Age that created much of Wisconsin’s topography. A series of hiking trails are a nice break from the drive, too. While you’re up there, get a look at Dundee Mountain, which rises 1,201 feet above sea level. Not impressive if you’re from, say, Colorado, but it certainly dominates the area landscape.

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The Henry S. Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center is a nice stop to find out more about the ice age, relax and take in some interactive nature displays, or actually enjoy nature for real and go on a little hike, picnic, or just take in the view, which changes significantly over the seasons. In the center is Dundee Hill in the distance; to the right is the southwest view from one of the trail overlooks.

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Shortly after, Highway 67 enters Dundee, an unincorporated community once visited by ABC’s Extreme Home Makover and, apparently, by aliens. Dundee, along with Campbellsport just a few miles back, lays claim to “UFO Capital of the World”. Just north of Dundee, Highway 67 hugs the western shore of Long Lake, so named because its long… and fairly narrow. And the UFO claims come to a head at Benson’s Hide-a-way (920-533-8219), which features photos and stories of UFO sightings. And perhaps Old Style, judging from the sign that leads you there:

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Apparently Old Style is now the official sponsor of Boy Scout Drive. You’ll find this going past Long Lake.

After more twists and turns (this stretch of Highway 67 has a 35mph speed limit for the stretch along Long Lake), eventually the road begins to head east, plowing through the Kettle Moraine State Forest, including nearby Greenbush Kettle and a stretch of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. It’s back to open farmland for a little while before a turn northward again and the ride into the first incorporated place since Campbellsport.

Plymouth
That place would be the City of Plymouth (pop. 7,781), which is almost ridiculously charming. Site of Wisconsin’s first Cheese Exchange, Plymouth originally served as a stagecoach stop and transportation has played a big part in its history ever since. Nowadays, racing fans can enjoy dirt track racing in Fair Park in Plymouth throughout the summer (we’ll get to Road America in a minute.) If you prefer the arts, the Plymouth Arts Center on Mill Street downtown features an eclectic mix of exhibits. This is also a city where they drop a cheese at midnight as opposed to a ball, like in Times Square in New York.

A big cow in Wisconsin? You’re kidding! Nope. Plymouth features Antoinette, a large Holstein cow, as a local landmark to salute the area’s dairy industry. Erected in 1977 (perhaps while disco music played in the background), Antoinette stands 20 feet high and weighs 1,000 pounds. Can you imagine how much milk she’d give if she was real?

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Antoinette (the cow) has stood in Plymouth since 1977 to symbolize the city’s role in the dairy industry. The Wisconsin Cheese Exchange was located here in the late 1800’s.

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Downtown Plymouth, west of Highway 57 along County C, is a nice mix of classic older buildings, shops, restaurants and more.

At the north end of Plymouth, you cross Highway 23, which offers access to nearby destinations, including Sheboygan Falls, Sheboygan and the Wade House. The Wade House was built in the 1850’s by settler Sylvanus Wade (it was decided “Wade House” was easier than “Sylvanus’ House”) that served as a stagecoach inn for quite a while. Included on the Wade House grounds is one of the nation’s best collections of carriages and Civil War Reenactments.

Shortly past Highway 23, you reach Road America (800-365-RACE), which features of some of the best racing in North America. Billed as, among other things, the “world’s fastest permanent road course”, Road America covers a full square mile and has a road circuit track 4.048 miles long, with 14 turns. The track hosts over 400 events per year including in the SCCA Speed World Challenge Series, American Le Mans, ASRA and AMA Superbike series. You can drive on it, too, you know: the Road America Kart Klub features a 0.8-mile track known as the Briggs & Stratton MotorPlex. A variety of 2-cycle and 4-cycle motor go-karts can be rented for fun and competition.

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Road America, at least from the highway. When I drove by the season hadn’t begun yet. Look for more details soon… Road America hosts over 400 events per year and draws spectators from all over the world.

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Just north of Road America is Elkhart Lake (pop. 1,021), a popular village for tourism, recreation, shopping and well, we already covered the racing part. Elkhart Lake is known for its lake (yes, named Elkhart), resorts, B&B’s, eclectic shops and galleries. Museums include the railroad depot, with pieces and memorabilia from when most visitors to Elkhart Lake arrived by train. There’s also Henschel’s Indian Museum, which is actually on an archeological dig site. Indian artifacts, some dating back over 10,000 years, are on display.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Elkhart Lake used to host road races on public county roads in the 1950’s. The original road course is actually on the National Register of Historic Places and is marked with signs around town. Eventually, they decided to move races to a dedicated road track, now known as Road America.
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Elkhart Lake’s downtown features a number of unique shops. The Train Depot (below) is now a museum featuring original furnishings and memorabilia covering the town’s resort and tourism history.

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The Road Race Circuits are outlined in this historical marker along Highway 67.

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Beyond Elkhart Lake, Highway 67 enters Manitowoc County, crosses Highways 32 and 57 and skims the eastern end of Kiel (pop. 3,450), which bills itself as the “little city that does big things.” What are those big things? I’m working to find out.

Highway 67’s northern end comes on a long, straight stretch of road that ends at U.S. 151, just short of the Killsnake State Wildlife Area – because the Killsnake River (one of our favorite names) is in the area. To the west is Chilton; to the east, Manitowoc. Follow either one and have fun!

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Highway 67’s northern end is at U.S. 151. Like its southern end, there’s not much right here, but there are nice places in either direction – west for Chilton, east for Manitowoc. Or, turn around and head back for more fun!

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CONNECTIONS

South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Illinois Highway 75
Can connect nearby to: Interstate 90, about 0.5 miles west; U.S. 51, about 2 miles west; Highway 81, about 2 miles northwest; Interstate 43, about 2 miles northwest

North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: U.S. Highway 151
Can connect nearby to: Highways 32 and 57, about 7 miles south

57

STH-057“From the Grass Under The Roof to the Grass On Top of the Roof”

WisMap57Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 57 takes on a lot of identities as it connects Milwaukee, Green Bay and Door County. Originally slated to the be interstate highway that I-43 eventually became, 57 begins in Milwaukee at the Mitchell Park Domes (where plants grow under conical glass roofs) and ends in Door County’s Sister Bay by Al Johnson’s restaurant, where goats graze on the grass-covered roof. Along the way is Milwaukee’s North Shore, access to some of Sheboygan County’s best golfing, shops and sights in numerous towns between Plymouth and Green Bay, and of course the Door County’s north peninsula, where Highway 57 runs the Lake Michigan (read: quieter) side.

State Trunk Tour: Highway 57 Road Trip

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Highway 57 starts along 27th Street (former U.S. 41) at National Avenue (Highway 59) on Milwaukee’s near south side. The sights happen pretty much immediately.

The Drive (South to North): Highway 57 begins as 27th Street in the City of Milwaukee (pop. 602,000), at a junction with Highway 59/National Avenue. You’re about  2 1/2 miles from downtown, on what’s known as the near South Side. Miller Park is only about 1 1/2 miles to the west. This is a busy area!

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One block north of Highway 57’s southern start at National Avenue (Highway 59), the Mitchell Park Domes emerge. This dynamic horticultual conservatory looks like an 87-foot-high brassiere factory and hosts a variety of plants, trees, and gardens throughout the year.

milwaukee_mitchelldomessignA few blocks north is the first tourist attraction, the Mitchell Park Domes & Horticultural Conservatory. Are the three domes like beehives or a huge bra factory? It depends on who you ask, but either way, the 85-foot high domes each host their own climate and consequently, their own species of plants. There’s a Tropical Dome, featuring banana and cacao trees and fruit-bearing plants from papaya to avocado and guava. Colorful tropical birds glide happily between the plants, so for winter-weary Milwaukeeans, this can be like a mini tropical vacation – minus the beach or hurricanes. An Arid Dome offers up a variety of desert plants, including a series of cacti.

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There’s one place in Milwaukee (and perhaps Wisconsin) where you can enjoy sunshine and palm trees on the most frigid of winter days.

Plants include American and African varieties along with a series of flora and plants from Madagascar, the section of which was dedicated in 1984 by the Ambassador from Madagascar himself. Finally, a Show Dome features seasonal shows (depending, of course, on the season) and an annual holiday exhibit in December, complete with a “garden railroad” display that’s one of the largest in the Midwest.

Mitchell Park was one of the original Milwaukee County parks, was the home of original European settler Jacques Vieau (whose son-in-law Solomon Juneau would go on to be the official “founder” of the City of Milwaukee), and overlooks the Menomonee Valley, which runs about 3 miles and features abrupt hills on the north and south sides. It’s like Milwaukee’s little answer to the Grand Canyon. The Menomonee River runs through the valley, once a land of wild rice and marshes before 19th century development turned it into a series of stockyards, rail yards, tanneries and the like. Today, the Valley still hosts some heavy industry but is undergoing dramatic changes. It still serves as an imposing geographic divide, however, between the north and south sides of Milwaukee, so much that Highway 57 as 27th Street leapfrogs the Valley on a viaduct completed in 1910. The view from the 27th Street Viaduct has changed dramatically over the decades, and today Miller Park dominates the westward view and Milwaukee’s downtown skyline – as well as several other viaducts – dominate to the east. The bustling Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, with its 20-story hotel completed in 2013 and expanded further in 2018, is right down in the valley and is one of the largest casinos in the Midwest.

 

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Through the fence on the 27th Street Viaduct, which carries Highway 57 over the Menomonee Valley, you can check out the downtown Milwaukee skyline – which is growing so much we have to get a new picture soon!

Highway 57 view of downtown Milwaukee from the 27th Street Viaduct

Update: Here’s a shot of downtown from Highway 57 (with a little “zoom” action through the fence) in 2018. Yet another update is coming soon!

At the north end of the viaduct, I-94 is accessible via St. Paul Avenue (just follow the signs) for accessing downtown, the ballpark, the Valley, or other nearby neighborhoods. Highway 57, meanwhile, continues north into Milwaukee’s north side, first as 27th Street, then jogging east on Highland Avenue (U.S. 18) for one-half mile before heading north again on 20th Street. At Lloyd Street, an interesting piece of baseball history lies to the east a few blocks, for professional baseball was once played at the Lloyd Street Grounds, where the Milwaukee Brewers once played – at least an earlier incarnation of them. Further north, Highway 57 crosses Fond du Lac Avenue (Highway 145) and goes through the heart of Milwaukee neighborhoods, some of which have seen better days – in some cases, those better days were pre-1900. Frankly, this is an area that should be traversed during the day only.

There are, however, some good eats in the area. First, a quick jog eastward (right) onto North Avenue to 17th Street – only 3-4 blocks – will bring you to Jake’s Deli, a Milwaukee institution that is open for lunch only and draws fans of corned beef, pastrami and matzoh ball soup for hundreds of miles. At the light with Walnut Street, you can duck eastward (right) briefly to Speed Queen BBQ (Walnut & 12th, 414-265-2900), which has some of the best pork, ribs, beef and turkey in the Midwest. Further north, soul food fans love Mr. Perkins’ Family Restaurant (read a review here), which is at 20th and Atkinson, just north of where Highway 57 turns east onto Capitol. Overflowing plates of greens, smothered and fried chicken, catfish, black-eyed peas, cornbread, pie and a variety of breakfast items have delighted patrons since 1969 at this family-owned joint. They have variety: pigs’ feet and chitterlings are on the menu, but so are salmon croquettes.

Upon reaching Capitol Drive (Highway 190), Highway 57 jogs east along this major thoroughfare, and the houses on either side of the boulevard are beautiful, well-kept examples of Milwaukee bungalows. The neighborhood dates back to the 1920s and was the traditional “dividing line” for Milwaukee’s old neighborhoods to the south and the new, post-World War II growth to the north.

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The stretch of Capitol Drive featuring Highway 57 on the north side of Milwaukee is a nice boulevard – recently redone – with well-kept older homes flanking it on both sides.

Just before I-43 past 11th Street, Highway 57 turns north to follow Green Bay Road, an old post road and military trail that today is a major thoroughfare north of Capitol. Past some industrial areas to Hampton, lovely parkland begins to show itself as Lincoln Park lines Green Bay Road to the east. The Milwaukee River begins to parallel Highway 57 here, although most of the time not closely enough to be seen.

*** Brewery Alert ***
Just east of Highway 57/Green Bay Road here via Glendale Avenue you’ll find the Sprecher Brewing Company. Originally founded in 1985 in Milwaukee, it was the first microbrewery licensed in Wisconsin since the repeal of Prohibition. Sprecher features 6 year-round brews and 14 seasonal and limited release beers, including a market-leading line of gluten-free selections. They also make seven varieties of popular sodas, including a terrific root beer and a cream soda. Best of all, they offer tours! Times vary and tours cost anywhere from $1 to $3, depending on your age – which also determines which free samples you get.

Leaping over an interchange with Silver Spring Drive, you enter the burb of Glendale (pop. 13,367). Along this stretch, many of Glendale’s major employers have offices, including Johnson Controls‘ headquarters. This part of the Milwaukee suburbs are referred to as the “North Shore”… well-to-do areas of Glendale, River Hills and into Brown Deer, where it leapfrogs Highway 100/Brown Deer Road.

Brown Deer (pop. 12,000), which incorporated in 1955 from the Town of Granville.  CNNMoney ranked Brown Deer 19th nationally on its rankings of “Best Places to Live – Where Homes Are Affordable” in August, 2013. Brown Deer holds the World Headquarters of Badger Meter, an international powerhouse in the world of metering and measuring water, which lies right along Highway 100. Its golf course in Brown Deer Park, just to the south, was once regular PGA stop. Brown Deer was originally settled in 1832, when the post office was called Ten Mile – meaning ten miles north of downtown Milwaukee. The origin of how it changed to Brown Deer is open to speculation – including one story that a deer jumped through a saloon door and broke up a card game in progress (no word on whether that deer ended up mounted on the saloon’s wall.)

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
There’s this professional golfer named Tiger Woods… ever heard of him? He played his first golf tournament as a pro in Brown Deer Park at the then-Greater Milwaukee Open in 1997.

Brown Deer sprouted up near the Milwaukee River and early railroad lines – which are all still there save one rail line, now part of the right-of-way for the Brown Deer Recreational Trail, a paved bike and walking trail that connects to other major trails in the area, like the Oak Leaf in Milwaukee County and the Interurban in Ozaukee County. This trail follows the path of an old interurban train, which once shuttled passengers between Milwaukee and Sheboygan.

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The original Brown Deer Road here leading from the “Village” ends where the modern-day Brown Deer Road veers away, carrying six busy lanes of traffic with it. But this is clearly the original alignment!

Just off the modern-day intersection with Highway 57/Green Bay Road lies the original village of Brown Deer. Today’s Brown Deer and Green Bay Roads have been relocated for modern-day traffic; their original intersection (now called Deerwood & River) marks the village’s main crossroads, where you’ll find a few original buildings and some more recent ones, such as Zi’s Sports Bar & Eatery – renamed in 2015 after being called Prime Time for decades – which appeared on TV on a (very) short-lived ABC series called A Whole New Ballgame, which featured Corbin Bernsen, Julia Campbell, Tom Kind and John O’Hurley (later of Seinfeld and Dancing With The Stars fame) and set in Milwaukee. The show lasted for like six weeks back in 1995.

One centerpiece of the village from 1884 until 1972 was the Brown Deer School, which on the National Register of Historic Places and now sits just north of Highway 100 in Brown Deer Village Park. It’s that charming “old-school” school – now called the 1884 Little White Schoolhouse – that you can explore as a visitor. Kids can even come in and learn for a day, 19th century style complete with writing on slates.

A sizeable commercial corridor marks the north end of Brown Deer before the road become a two-lane again into Ozaukee County and the City of Mequon (pop. 23,820). Consistently rated as one of the “Best Places to Live in the United States” by Money Magazine (and there’s a lot of money in Mequon), the city has a lot of high-end homes, some plotted on acre-plus lots and others amidst forested neighborhoods. Highway 57 as Green Bay Road forges through woodsy areas with a speed limit of 35. Fans of volleyball, beverages and Animal House would find a good diversion by taking Donges Bay Road west 1/2 mile to Libby Montana, a bar/restaurant/sports complex along a former railroad that now serves as the Interurban Recreational Trail. Owned by actor Mark Metcalf, who played both Douglas C. Neidermeyer in Animal House and the “Maestro” on Seinfeld, he owns Libby Montana with his ex-wife, Libby. Clever, no?

ALTERNATE ROUTE ALERT. Highway 57 was re-routed in the early ’90s to turn east with Highway 167/Mequon Rd.) to then follow I-43 north to Saukville near Port Washington. While this can save significant time and you can follow the current map, the best way to see Ozaukee County communities is to follow 57’s original route, as described below. The old and new 57 routes meet up again just before Port Washington.

Following “Historic Highway 57”

From Highway 167/Mequon Road, go historic and continue north into the little village of  Thiensville (pop. 3,254), known locally by some as the “worthwhile square mile.” Mequon is Wisconsin’s fourth largest city by area, while Thiensville is 1/46th of Mequon’s size. Nestled right along the Milwaukee River, Thiensville features the charming and compact layout of a small Midwestern village, while Mequon is a more spread-out version of a nice suburb. Highway 57’s original route as Green Bay Road goes into the heart of Thiensville.

Cedarburg

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Following Highway 57’s traditional route past Thiensville, continue onto Main Street, which becomes Cedarburg Road. This brings you right into the ever-popular Cedarburg (pop. 10,908), a place chock-full of history. Highway 57’s old route brings you to the lovely limestone and Cream City brick buildings holding a bevy of shops, small restaurants, and unique places to see.

For example, there is the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts in Cedarburg. Yes, fiber arts. It’s the first time I’ve heard of it, too.

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Cedar Creek Winery has over 15 varieties on its wine list and there’s plenty of room for browsing their wine varieties and other items. Tours are very popular, especially when you can top it off with shopping in the Cedar Creek Settlement and a meal at the Anvil Pub & Grille next door.

*** Winery Alert ***
Another popular stop is the Cedar Creek Winery, a well-noted regional winery located in a restored 1860s woolen mill, where at one point they literally made white socks for the Chicago White Sox. It’s been a winery in one form or another since 1972, using the underground limestone cellars to ferment and age their over 15 varieties of wine. Tours are available at select times.

*** Brewery Alert ***
If you’re more of a beer person, check out Silver Creek Brewing (N57 W6172 Portland Rd., 262-375-4444), in a former grist mill built in 1855. Next door is a charming old Wadham’s gas station, part of a bygone era of stations known for the red pagoda roofs. It’s right off Historic Highway 57 on Portland.

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Next to the distinctive former Wadhman’s gas station is the Silver Creek Brewing Company, Cedarburg’s own local brewery.

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A major rail line once went through Cedarburg, and today it’s a major bike trail called the Interurban. Stretching from Milwaukee to Port Washington and beyond, the trail is proving more popular every year. Here the trail crosses Cedar Creek.

Cedar Creek flows through Cedarburg on its way to join the Milwaukee River and provided significant water power for the mills that helped Cedarburg grow in the 19th century. Some of these mills – in fact 5 of them – dating back to 1864 host 30 shops and galleries between them in an area known as Cedar Creek Settlement, a great starting or finishing point for an excursion through Cedarburg. A number of good stores line Historic Highway 57, too, including the Screamin’ Tuna Surf Shop, Cedarburg Homebrew & Wine, Creekside Books (home of the Walter the Farting Dog book series) and more.

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Cedarburg offers a number of B&B’s for a nice lil’ stay, including the Stagecoach Inn. It was built in 1853 and was a true stagecoach stop even before this road was originally Highway 57.

Grafton – a Blues capital??

To continue on this Historic Highway 57 part of the State Trunk Tour, follow County V as Wisconsin Avenue out of Cedarburg and into its neighbor, Grafton (pop.11,380). Originally called “Hamburg” prior to its 1846 charter, Grafton flipped its name to “Manchester” from 1857 to 1862 before changing back. So far, it’s stayed “Grafton” ever since. Originally a lumber town, Grafton has hosted a series of industries ever since, including the famous Paramount Records from 1917 to 1932. It was right here where 78 rpm records were pressed and distributed to the nation, allowing artists such as Lawrence Welk, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tom Dorsey and Louis Armstrong to inspire future music generations and lay the seeds for the R&B and Rock ‘N Roll Eras. Between 1929 and 1932 alone, over 1,600 songs were recorded in Grafton at a make-shift studio that was formerly a chair factory; the output accounted for about 1/4 of the so-called “race records” of the era.

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Grafton Veterans Memorial Park overlooks the Milwaukee River, a very picturesque scene as it flows through town. Highway 57’s original route jogs across the river with Highway 60 before angling northeast along County V back to I-43.

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Grafton Veterans Memorial Park overlooks the Milwaukee River, a very picturesque scene as it flows through town. Near old sawmills and chair factories, new condos are sprouting up along the Milwaukee River as Grafton’s downtown redevelops.

Historic Highway 57 (still as County V) goes right through Grafton’s downtown, much of which also abuts the Milwaukee River. After crossing the river along Highway 60, you can re-join Highway 57’s current route via 60 to the east or V to the northeast to I-43 northbound. At the junction with I-43 and V, you also have the option of following Highway 32 northeast into Port Washington. Highway 57 itself bypasses the Ozaukee County seat, following I-43 north to the west of the city (32 and 57 hook up again before too long.)

So that’s the end of the Historic Highway 57 segment in Ozaukee County, now we’re back on the regular mainline!

For a few miles, Highway 57 heads along I-43, over an interchange with Highway 33 and then splits away from the Interstate to head straight north as a four-line highway all its own. This alignment was originally going to be “Interstate 57”, a straight-shot I-route from Milwaukee to Green Bay. Had it gone through, the I-57 that terminates on the south side of Chicago would have continued through to Milwaukee and followed this section all the way to Green Bay. That meant I-43 would not have been built, isolating Sheboygan and Manitowoc and possibly bringing heavier development to the cities we’ll be going through. But as you’ll see, some areas are getting development anyway.

As I-43 heads east to follow the Lake Michigan shore, Highway 57’s four-lane, 55 mph northward push takes it past several small towns, including Fredonia (pop.1,934), which means “free gifts” or “the land where things are done freely.” Hmmmm… that’s worth checking out….

Wisconsin and Flag Day

Neighboring Waubeka, in the Town of Fredonia, stakes claim as the birthplace of Flag Day. Waubeka is an unincorporated town about one mile west of Highway 57 along the Milwaukee River. The first recognized formal Flag Day observance took place at Stony Hill School (follow County H to County I to find it) in 1885. It was held by Dr. Bernard J. Cigrand, a grade school teacher in town. He eventually made his way to Chicago, became dean of the University of Illinois-Chicago, and persuaded President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 to officially proclaim June 14th as Flag Day in the United States. Stony Hill School has been restored and the area is home to the National Flag Day Foundation.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Waubeka, in the Town of Fredonia just west of Highway 57, is where the first official Flag Day celebration was held in 1885. It was proclaimed an official national holiday in 1916. Today, all 27 star configurations of the U.S. flag are on display at the National Flag Day Foundation Americanism Center.
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Site of the first Flag Day observance in 1885, the Stony Hill School lies in Waubeka less than two miles from Highway 57. And yes, there are lots of stones in Stony Hill School.

Just north of Fredonia at Jay Road, check out Cedar Valley Cheese (W3115 Jay Road, 920-994-9500), which carries over 300 varieties of Wisconsin cheese. Their speciality is the string cheese, along with the mozzarella and provolone they make in the adjacent Cedar Valley Cheese Factory. Further north into Sheboygan County, Highway 57 intersects with Highway 144 and grazes the edge of Random Lake (pop. 1,551). The lake – which is apparently not very specific – is 209 acres and the village claims it’s the second largest lake in Sheboygan County. The village’s website claims no “fast food”, stoplights, parking meters, billboards or strip malls. With Highway 57 coming through as a 4-lane expressway here, that could change by the time you read this.

Next up is the tiny village of Adell (pop. 517), birthplace of American cabaret singer Hildegarde. She was born here in 1906 and raised up Highway 57 in New Holstein, which will be coming up later. Eleanor Roosevelt proclaimed her the “First Lady of Supper Clubs”; the Gershwin song “My Cousin from Milwaukee” is about her; she was a founding member of AFTRA, SAG, and Actor’s Equity; Revlon even named a shade of lipstick and nail polish after her. She hung out a lot with close friends Katherine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, and West Allis native Liberace and lasted a long time in show business… her autobiography was called Over 50 … So What! She lived to age 99, so she was over fifty for almost half a century.

waldosign_600hiSo we know where Hildegarde is from… so where’s Waldo? It’s next up on Highway 57 during a brief junction with Highway 28. Waldo (pop. 450) doesn’t last long… one intersection and a hop over the Onion River and that’s it. The ride is quick on this stretch as you approach the Mullet River, which is just kind of funny, period.

The next place Highway 57 grazes without entering is the City of Plymouth (pop. 7,781), accessible via County C or Highway 23, which is essentially here a 4-lane expressway going east-west across Sheboygan County. Look for the 23/57 intersection to become heavily built-up in the coming years, by the way. Plymouth is almost ridiculously charming, as is nearby Sheboygan Falls.

Site of Wisconsin’s first Cheese Exchange, Plymouth originally served as a stagecoach stop and transportation has played a big part in its history ever since. Nowadays, racing fans can enjoy dirt track racing in Fair Park in Plymouth throughout the summer (we’ll get to Road America in a minute.) If you prefer the arts, the Plymouth Arts Center on Mill Street downtown features an eclectic mix of exhibits. This is also a city where they drop a cheese at midnight as opposed to a ball, like in Times Square in New York.

A big cow in Wisconsin? You’re kidding! Nope. Plymouth features Antoinette, a large Holstein cow, as a local landmark to salute the area’s dairy industry. Erected in 1977 (perhaps while disco music played in the background), Antoinette stands 20 feet high and weighs 1,000 pounds. Can you imagine how much milk she’d give if she was real?

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Antoinette (the cow) has stood in Plymouth since 1977 to symbolize the city’s role in the dairy industry. The Wisconsin Cheese Exchange was located here in the late 1800’s.

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Downtown Plymouth, west of Highway 57 along County C, is a nice mix of classic older buildings, shops, restaurants and more.

At the north end of Plymouth, you cross Highway 23, which offers access to nearby destinations, including Sheboygan Falls, Sheboygan and the Wade House. The Wade House was built in the 1850’s by settler Sylvanus Wade (it was decided “Wade House” was easier than “Sylvanus’ House”) that served as a stagecoach inn for quite a while. Included on the Wade House grounds is one of the nation’s best collections of carriages and Civil War Reenactments.

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Right after Highways 57 & 32 come together, there’s a brief expressway-like section – perhaps in anticipation of what was the originally planned Interstate between Milwaukee and Green Bay??

Past Plymouth, Highway 57 heads straight through the “great wide open”, bending northwest slightly as Highway 32 joins in just inside the Manitowoc County line. Two crossings of the Sheboygan River and a few miles send you to a junction with Highway 67 and Kiel.

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First thing we stumbled on in Kiel: a brat fry. We like this town.

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This stretch of Highway 57, combined with 32, goes through the heart of a series of towns, from Kiel to New Holstein to Chilton. This tree-lined stretch goes through the neighborhoods of Kiel.

Kiel (pop. 3,450) bills itself as the “little city that does big things.” What are those big things? I’m working to find out. Situated halfway between Lake Michigan and Lake Winnebago, Kiel sits on the Sheboygan River and dams it in the downtown area, about where Highway 57/32 crosses it for the third time. This is where I stumbled across a brat fry – which, of course, requires stopping and imbibing. On the other side of Kiel, 57/32 heads northwest again, into Calumet County (technically, you’re now in the Appleton-Oshkosh metro area – even though Highway 57 doesn’t go near either city.)

Just a few miles later, along the Canadian Pacific railroad tracks is New Holstein (pop. 3,301). Where is the “Old” Holstein? We have an answer: the Holstein region in Germany, which is where many of the town’s founders came from. Remember our discussion of Hildegarde back from Adell? New Holstein is where she was raised, before hitting the big time. New Holstein also “sired” Edward Schildhauer, who was the chief engineer on a little digging project (the Panama Canal) and three NFL players (Ken Criter of the Broncos and Bob Schmitz of the Steelers and… grumble grumble… Vikings.)

So is the glass half empty of half full? At Optimist Park, you should know the answer. It all began in 1974 – not a majorly optimistic time – on land purchased partially to prevent encroachment of the adjacent wastewater treatment facility. Sound good so far? In 1995, they moved to Sled Hill Park with, as the city website notes, a “small warming shack and a homemade Optimist Sign.”
Optimism can pay off, however: today, Optimist Park has a Chalet Building, a real sign, park benches, memorial trees and a landscaped terrace. The sledding hill remains and is very popular.

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New Holstein’s Timm House.

The Timm House is a local landmark that served as the home of one of the city’s founders. Built in the Greek Revival style in 1873, it was expanded in 1891 and was donated by Timm’s ancestors to the local historic society in 1974. See the story to the right, and you’ll have a new appreciation for the $1.2 million restoration that was just completed several years back.

State Trunk Tour Sidebar: The Timm House Story:
Check out what the heck happened with this historic city landmark:
“The house had a major roof leak that forced an end to the house tours in 1998. An architectural assessment was performed on the house, and the cost to reconstruct the house was estimated between $116,020 and $126,220. Before the roof was repaired, there was a broken pipe in the dining room. The break happened in January 1999. It dumped 500,000 gallons of water through the first floor and into the basement. The rising basement waters extinguished the furnace, causing the water in the pipes and the radiators to freeze, then burst. City water meters knew there was a problem somewhere in the city, but no one could find the source of the leak. A volunteer at the house discovered the leak. The volunteer arranged for a heating repairman to stop the flooding. When the repairman left, he slamming the door closed. The door frame was so swollen that the volunteer was stuck inside. She had to go upstairs and call for help through a front window.”
Yikes!
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New Holstein’s employment base is quite good for a town its size. So what is a Sukup? It’s an Iowa-based company that handles, dries and stores grain. It’s also a good description for Smithers in “The Simpsons.”

32-57-151_400Next up in this string of cool little Wisconsin cities is Chilton (pop. 3,708), Calumet’s county seat. Chilton features several things to check out, including the Ledge View Nature Center, which can take you through a butterfly garden, high up on a 60-foot observation tower or way down in a series of caves featuring crawl passages, fossils and places called the Bat Room and Wayne’s World. In Mother’s Cave, it’s all crawling. One area called “the Squeeze” recognizes the size of Wisconsinites; you have to fit through a box simulation of the Squeeze before you’re allowed into the cave. Its position on the Niagara dolostone reveals more fossils (coral reefs used to exist there), and they tap the area for maple syrup in the spring months. You can also rent snowshoes and cross-country skis, but it’s best to try doing that in the wintertime. Ledge View is accessible off Highway 57 by taking Irish Road (just before entering Chilton) south to Short Road.

*** Brewery Alert ***

chilton_rowlands01Like an increasing number of Wisconsin communities, Chilton has a local brewpub. Rowland’s Calumet Brewery (25 N. Madison Street, via U.S. 151) features 17 different beers, including interesting names like “Bitter Bitch Belgium Ale”, “Fat Man’s Nut Brown Ale” and a “Total Eclipse”, a monstrously malty opaque beer. Varieties of the beer are also available in liquor stores and restaurants in locations around Chilton and out to places like Manitowoc, Elkhart Lake, Plymouth and Appleton. Rowland’s is along U.S. Highway 151, which runs through Chilton and joins Highway 57 & 32 for a brief spell.

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Highway 32/57 combine with U.S. 151 for the ride through downtown Chilton.

Northward from Chilton and over the interestingly-named Killsnake River (there must be a story in there somewhere), Highway 57 opens up a bit and becomes quite the straightaway for a while, perfect for traversing quickly. It’s also perfect for county sheriffs. One speed zone is in Hilbert (pop. 1,089), birthplace of jazz musician Bunny Berigan in 1908, the last year the Chicago Cubs celebrated a championship (couldn’t resist). Fox Lake (along Highway 33) also claims Berigan and their hometown son, since he grew up there for more of his life before hitting New York and the big time. Berigan’s marker is in Fox Lake, but Hilbert is where he first left any marks at all. In Hilbert, Highway 114 provides access to High Cliff State Park, a beautiful vista high atop Lake Winnebago, which only lies about 7 miles west of this point. A little further up is Forest Junction, whose “junction” claim started with two major railroads intersecting; now Highways 57 & 32 cross U.S. 10 here, making it an increasingly popular bedroom community for people working in Appleton and Green Bay. After all, their slogan is “You CAN get there from here.”

What you get to just past Forest Junction is Brown County and another junction (a relatively new roundabout, actually), this time with Highway 96 in Greenleaf. A rail trail parallels Highway 57 in Greenlead, and the Trail’s End Restaurant hints that you just might be at the end of that trail. Highway 96 accesses Denmark and I-43 to the east and Wrightstown and Appleton to the west. We’re heading north toward the heart and soul of Packer Country.

Civilization emerges in the form of DePere (pop. 22,310), a suburb of Green Bay. It’s pronounced “d’peer”, which a lot of Sconnies also say they fish off of. Split by the Fox River, the name DePere is French (no doy), coming from the term “Les Rapids des Peres”, the “Rapids of the Fathers”. A mission was established here waaaay back in 1671 by French Jesuit priests, led by Father Claude Allouez, whose name adorns the bridge that Highway 32 uses to split from Highway 57 and enter downtown DePere before heading into Green Bay west of the Fox River.

St. Norbert College lies on the west bank of the Fox River. St. Norbert started in 1898 with a single student; today it has over 2,000 and continuously ranks among the best comprehensive colleges in the Midwest, and this author can tell you their alums are loyal. I’ve run into them watching Packer games at Leff’s Lucky Town in Wauwatosa, and instead of Packer gear, many wear St. Norbert College gear – the “Green Knights'” colors are a variation of green and gold, after all, and the Packers have been conducting training camp here since 1958 – the year before Vince Lombardi showed up.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The training camp relationship between St. Norbert College and the Green Bay Packers is the longest between a team and a school in the NFL, dating back to 1958.

Meanwhile, Highway 57 takes the name “Broadway” and goes through neighborhoods in the village of Allouez (pop. 15,470). This is where Vince Lombardi lived when he coached the Packers and where political commentator Paul Gigot graduated from high school. Along this stretch, the Fox River parallels Broadway just to the west.

Green Bay

From Allouez, Highway 57 enters Green Bay (pop. 104,717 and a.k.a. “Titletown U.S.A.”) Green Bay is Wisconsin’s oldest city and – not sure if you heard about this or not – are the smallest city to host a National Football League team. They’re called the “Packers” and…what, you’ve already heard about them? Okay.

Green Bay is also the headquarters of ShopKo Stores and Schneider National (admit it, you know the commercials and you’ve seen the “big orange trucks”). Famous people from Green Bay include Tony Shalhoub of Monk fame, ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Anderson, comedian and Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson, Pat MacDonald of the group Timbuk 3 – you know, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”? – that group. Naturally, Green Bay is home to tons of atheletes too, among them NFL stars Curly Lambeau, Jerry Tagge, Ted Fritsch Jr., Arnie Herber and Aaron Stecker, as well as baseball pitcher Bob Wickman.

Just past the interchange with Highway 172, Green Bay’s southern freeway bypass, you’ll find the lovely Heritage Hill State Historical Park. Still technically located in Allouez, this 48-acre outdoor museum lives up to its name. Over 30 historic structures and endangered buildings are perched on a hill overlooking the Fox River in an area that once served as a prison farm. Log cabins from the fur trade era, original stores and public buildings, even buildings from the original Fort Howard are all located here and available for exploration. Populating the grounds in summer are live historic interpreters – many in period attire – to help illustrate what these buildings are all about. More and more fun events take place throughout the year here, too.

Highway 57 runs along the east side of the Fox River; paralleling on the west bank is Ashland Avenue (Highway 32). For train enthusiasts, the National Railroad Museum (2285 S. Broadway), features over 70 locomotives and train cars, including the world’s largest steam locomotive, known as “Big Boy.” So that’s west of the river.

For Lambeau Field seekers on this route, the “frozen tundra” lies about 2 miles west of Highway 57; you can access it via the Highway 172 freeway and Oneida Avenue or Highway 32/Ashland Avenue north (one exit gives you both options), or taking 172 to I-41 north to Exit 167 (ahem… Lombardi Avenue), or just by following Highway 32 from back in DePere in the first time and cutting over on Lombardi. Trust me, you WILL be able to find Lambeau… guide signs are everywhere and the stadium is hard to miss.

Running through nice neighborhoods on the east side of Green Bay as Monroe Avenue Highway 57 ducks under Mason Street and suddenly, Highway 54 joins you for the ride into downtown Green Bay.

** Triple Brewery and One Distillery Alert! **

titletown_front_lgGreen Bay calls itself “Titletown”, so when some guys decided to start up a brewery there, it only made sense to call it the Titletown Brewing Company. Coincidentally – or perhaps not – Titletown Brewing started in December of 1996, right before the Packers’ first Super Bowl victory in nearly three decades. Located downtown on Dousman Street/U.S. 141 just west of downtown and the Fox River, Titletown occupies a classic old railroad station built in 1899. Titletown brews Packer-backer beverages such as the Johnny “Blood” Red and Canadeo Gold as well as a great root beer called Sno-Cap, which uses Clyde the Penguin as its mascot. Trains, football, beer, food… definitely a good stop on the State Trunk Tour. Meanwhile, across the street Hinterland Brewing started the year prior in a former meat-packing warehouse (yes, how the “Packers” got their name) and brews up their popular Packerland pilsner, several IPAs, an English-style ale, and a number of seasonals. They’re parlayed their success into a gastropub down in Milwaukee and an affiliation with a restaurant up in Fish Creek in Door County. They offer tours on Saturdays – get details here!

Meanwhile, in the Titletown District, you’ll find Badger State Brewing Company, a relative newcomer with a great selection of in-house craft brews and others from across Wisconsin. And just over on Mike McCarthy Way, you’ll find the Green Bay Distillery. It opened in 2011 with a classic vodka and a cherry vodka (handy for Green Bay winters) and expanded to gin and whiskey in subsequent years. Their restaurant has a full menu – including a full menu of macro- and craft-brewed beers if spirits aren’t your thing. Either way, both Badger State Brewing and the Green Bay Distillery are easy walking distance to Lambeau Field, the Resch Center, Ray Nitschke Field, the Brown County Arena, the famous Stadium View bar, the BEST WESTERN Green Bay Inn Conference Center, and more.

Towards downtown along the Fox River, one of the few northward-flowing rivers in North America, bridges are lit up at night with condos, bars and shops springing up around them. A little past where Highway 54/Mason Street joins in at the intersection with Broadway, a Farmers Market offers produce and other items on Wednesday afternoons from June through September from 3pm-8pm. The Neville Public Museum focuses on art, history and science for northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; it’s a great stop for an afternoon, especially before or after hitting Titletown and/or Hinterland Brewing, which are both within eyeshot.

Green Bay does have a bit of a nightlife area downtown, east along the Fox River. Centered on Washington Street adjacent to Highway 29 (which meets Highway 57 downtown, just east of the river), the area features an array of bars and restaurants. Places to party include Kittner’s Pub, Hip Cats, Liquid 8, Confetti, Washington Street Pub, the Fox Harbor Pub & Grill, and Stir-Ups (Stir-Ups is a country bar – yes, think about it.) Green Bay’s party crowd hangs out in this area, and it’s not uncommon for Packers players to be seen.

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The handsome Brown County Courthouse, completed in 1908. You’ll find at the corner of Highway 29/Walnut Street & Jefferson Avenue on the east side of downtown and the Fox River, just a little west of Highway 57.

5457thrugb_east_600On the east bank of the Fox River, Highway 57 comes in as Monroe Avenue. At this point, Highway 54 leaves Mason Street and joins Highway 57 for the ride into downtown Green Bay. We’ve already mentioned much of the downtown attractions that tend to be just west of the Fox River, but one is coming up on the east side of the river if you detour under I-43 a bit. That’s Bay Beach Amusement Park, which offers everything from roller coasters to carousels and water rides from May through September. The biggest coaster is Zippin’ Pippin, a 2,800-foot long wooden coaster with nearly hundred-year-old origins in Memphis, Tennessee. It was moved to Green Bay and re-opened in 2011 and has remained quite popular.

Just next door to the action and noise, the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary is next door, providing 700 acres of refuge for animals. The Sanctuary features live animal exhibits, educational displays, miles of hiking/skiing trails and various wildlife viewing opportunities; they care for more than 4,500 orphaned and injured animals each year. It traces its roots to 1936, when it established as a site for waterfowl rehabilitation with an assist from Aldo Leopold. The Sanctuary is free and open year ’round. The whole area of Bay Beach lies along the waters of Green Bay, adjacent to where the Fox River empties into this arm of Lake Michigan.

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Highways 54/57 run as a freeway for about five miles northeast of I-43; when Highway 54 breaks east towards Algoma, Highway 57 becomes four-lane expressway all the way to Sturgeon Bay. There are, of course, some places to see along the older road, too!

From the east side of Green Bay – now as University Avenue – Highway 54 & 57 are coupled together past the interchange with I-43 and begins a push northeast. After five miles, Highway 54 branches off to head east towards Lake Michigan.

Waterfall Alert. If you like waterfalls, you may want to check out Wequiock Falls. Shortly past Highway 54’s exit, take a left on Van Laanen Road and follow the signs into the park where the falls can be found after heading down some stone stairs. Wequiock Falls tends to have the most water flowing in spring (snowmelt, obviously), but most times of the year it’s a nice little setting regardless. Find out more here.

 

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Wequiock is a county park right along Highway 57. Wequiock Falls is a 25-footer just north of today’s highway – at one time, traffic drove right above the top of the falls, as evidenced by a very old bridge that has since been closed. It doesn’t look too large in the picture, but this thing really roars in the spring right after a rainfall.

nicoletstatue1_600Today’s Wequiock Park served as a campsite for French explorer Jean Nicolet, whose 1634 arrival foreshadowed the European settlement to follow. Nicolet was the first European to cross Lake Michigan and landed near here in Red Banks, meeting the natives who were of the Ho-Chunk Nation. They appreciated his brightly-colored robes and pistols, and his arrival began an era of fur trading. The joke was on Nicolet in a sense, though, since he thought he’d landed – or was on his way to – Asia. Since there was no GPS, he had to settle for making history in helping to explore the Great Lakes and Wisconsin. Nicolet’s statue went up in Wequiock Park in 1950.

While the French were the earliest settlers in the area, the Belgians, Swedes, and Norwegians weren’t far behind. British and German settlers followed… and it just kept going.

Long a key route from Green Bay to the Door Peninsula, Highway 57 was recently upgraded (and in many cases, relocated) to a 4-lane highway all the way through to Sturgeon Bay. While this is a great timesaver, for the full State Trunk Tour experience we recommend popping off at a few destinations along the “old” road we discuss on the way to the “Bay.” Dyckesville is a tiny town along the bay accessible during the mile or so Highway 57 ducks into Kewaunee County; the Door County line happens after a few eye blinks. at Dyckesville and Brussels.

Into Door County

As an exposed rock cut for the new highway you’re on beckons, Highway 57 enters Door County, or as some people call it, “The Thumb.” Geologists note that the Door Peninsula is the western segment of the Niagara Escarpment, which runs along the north shores of Lakes Michigan and Huron, through Niagara Falls and along the southern shore of Lake Ontario to Rochester, New York. It’s a significant geographical feature through the Great Lakes and forms much of Door County’s landscape, as well as the cliffs lining the east coast of Lake Winnebago further south. Others may not care as much, so we’ll just move on…

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The Belgians came early and often to Brussels and the areas nearby. Today, even the taverns tend to make a point of having Belgian beers (biers, really) available.

Door County is divided into south and north regions; it used to be a full peninsula, but the 1882 completion of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal made northern Door essentially an island. The county itself is named after the passage between the peninsula’s tip and Washington Island, known then in French as Porte des Morts and more commonly to this day as “Death’s Door” (“Door County” sounded better than “Death’s County”, right?) The passage is the site of many shipwrecks over the years.

Winding through southern Door County, Highway 42 joins in for the next five miles to Sturgeon Bay. Entering town, County S comes in from Algoma. It offers a connection to the northern trailhead of the Ahnapee State Trail, a rail-to-trail biking and snowmobiling route that runs back towards Algoma.

***BYPASS ALERT***
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A stone’s throw from the intersection with County S is where 57 and 42 split – you can take the bypass, a two-lane express route that winds around Sturgeon Bay, or follow the “Business District” exit, which is the former route of 42/57 and is still marked today as the “Business” route. If you’re not pressed for time, take the route through town. In the picture at left, that means following the “Business District” exit.

Entering Sturgeon Bay (pop. 9,437), you’re in the first of many tourism-heavy towns in Door County. Strugeon Bay is the county seat and the final place on the peninsula where chain stores exist, so if you need something at Target or Wal-Mart, better stock up. Sturgeon Bay has a history of massive shipbuilding and serves as a regional port city. Shipyard tours are available near the many cranes that abound to the north during the Ship Canal crossing. The original bridge downtown, officially called the Michigan Street Bridge and referred to by most as the “Steel Bridge”, opened in 1930 as the original path of Highways 42 & 57. Before the bypass opened in 1977, it was the source of massive traffic jams when the bridge opened to let boats pass. During a multi-year closure of the Steel Bridge, the Oregon Street Bridge opened a block south in 2008 and now serves as a modern downtown crossing as Business 42 & 57. The view of and from the bridge is quite nice, though, and a series of restaurants, hotels, resorts and shops surround the streets on either side. A number of bed and breakfasts in town also makes Sturgeon Bay a popular overnight stop for Door County travelers. Including today’s bypass that serves as the mainline Highways 42 and 57, there are now a total of three crossings between northern and southern Door County.

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Attractive views abound in Sturgeon Bay approaching the shipping canal, which cuts the Door peninsula in half. A series of cranes to the north serves as evidence of the city’s continuing shipbuilding industry.

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Once the only connection to the northern Door peninsula, Sturgeon Bay’s downtown bridge is flanked by a new bridge just south on Oregon Street, which currently serves as the main downtown crossing. The mainline 42/57 follow the bypass built in 1977, which crosses about a mile to the southeast.

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Travelers on this bridge often hummed the opening theme to “Taxi” as they headed across this thing.

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Yes, you can catch a rubber-tired trolley in Sturgeon Bay sometimes – and it’s fun to ride it across the steel bridge.

The eastern shore – technically “upper Door” – is where the main part of Sturgeon Bay lies.

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Across the canal, Business 42 & 57 cut right through downtown Sturgeon Bay.

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Sturgeon Bay has a healthy main street and even offers activities like carriage rides.

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On the north side of Sturgeon Bay, “Business” 42/57 – the original road – is called Egg Harbor Road.

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This is the bypass around Sturgeon Bay where 42 & 57 officially go now. It’s faster. but boringer. If that’s a word.

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On the north side of the bypass as 42 & 57 begin at their turn, a remnant of the old road shoots straight ahead towards downtown Sturgeon Bay. The realigned Egg Harbor Road is just ahead and realigns with this segment a few hundred yards down.

A cool place to check out is Olde Stone Quarry County Park, accessible via County B from 42/57 just north of Sturgeon Bay. Once a quarry (no doy), this land was redeveloped to offer a harbor, boat launch, ship artifacts, and beautiful views of both rock walls and the shoreline.

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The “Business” and mainline routes of Highways 42 and 57 reunite north of Sturgeon Bay and stay together for about two miles before Highway 57 breaks east. This is the northernmost traffic light in Door County – with about 40 miles of peninsula left! Highway 42 basically follows the Green Bay bay side of the peninsula while Highway 57 heads for the more dune-filled and serene Lake Michigan side, including Jacksonport, Whitefish Dunes State Park and Bailey’s Harbor. Since this is the Highway 57 tour, we’ll follow the Lake Michigan side. It’s a more serene drive up the peninsula than Highway 42.

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Where 57 splits away from 42. Say bye-bye to traffic lights the rest of the way!

The Lake Michigan side is often referred to as “the quieter side” of the peninsula. One of the first places you come across on this “quieter side” can involve a lot of mooing, neighhing and other noises because you reach The Farm in Door County (not a farm, The Farm). Billing itself as a “living museum of rural America”, The Farm is a delight for kids, families and anyone who loves animals – we’re talking goats (also called “kids” if they’re young), chickens, turkeys, pigs and piglets, a variety of cattle, even kittens that are available for adoption. The adorable factor is ridiculously high, so go with caution!

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Past unincorporated Valmy and Institute, where you have to slow a bit for the school and other facilities serving local residents, there’s access down County WD to Whitefish Dunes State Park (hence, the name “WD” for the county road). At 865 acres, this park was established in 1967 to preserve the dunes along Lake Michigan. Included are boardwalks, wetlands, walking trails, eight miles of cross-country ski trails for winter use, and a nice, sandy beach for summer use. A nature and learning center near the parking area features exhibits, artifacts and thankfully, restrooms. Next door is Cave Point County Park, where you can stand above the waves of Lake Michigan and listen to them crash into the shore.

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Whitefish Dunes State Park features plenty of activities, including hiking, climbing, beach-combing and cross-country skiing – sometimes all in the same day. But in summer, the gorgeous beach is hard to beat.

Highway 57 continues along toward the Lake Michigan shore, which it parallels closely getting into Jacksonport. Once a bustling town filled with the sounds of lumber mills and fishing boats along the shore, Jacksonport today brags about being on the “quiet” side of the Door Peninsula.

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Just north of Jacksonport is the “Geographical Marker”, noting Highway 57 crossing the 45th parallel, halfway (theoretically, at least) between the Equator and the North Pole. The plaque informs you that the actual location of the 45th is half a mile to the south. I felt a little teased. Fortunately, the wayside is gorgeous, with cool rocks to climb on.

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After a December snowfall right at the wayside marking the 45th parallel between Jacksonport and Baileys Harbor, the snow clings to the trees along Highway 57. The forest on this stretch makes for a beautiful canopy regardless of the season.

Right before a major bend to the left, the waters of a large harbor come into view, and that’s when you find yourself entering Baileys Harbor, the largest settlement on the Lake Michigan side of Door County, with all of 1,000 people. Nestled on the beautiful harbor of the same name, it was founded in 1848 – the year of Wisconsin’s statehood – when Captain Justice Bailey pulled ashore to seek refuge from a storm as he was making his way from Racine to Detroit with cargo shipments and a few sightseeing relatives in tow. He returned shortly thereafter, having been impressed at the beauty of the area, the safe natural harbor and ample timber that could prove lucrative. By 1852, the first lighthouse opened and before long lumber businesses were thriving.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Baileys Harbor was Door County’s first county seat, using the name Gibraltar from 1851 to 1858, when the seat moved to Sturgeon Bay and the town’s original name was reinstated.
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The big bend before Baileys Harbor going north on 57.

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One of the many colorful establishments in Baileys Harbor. Shops, upscale restaurants and a variety of taverns, custard shops and antique stores can be found and shopped in an afternoon.

Today, Baileys Harbor remains unincorporated (and small) but features plenty to see and do. Their marina is popular with Lake Michigan boaters, sightseers, and even windsurfers, who like how the harbor amplifies waves. The harbor turns this area into a cozy cove.

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A panoramic view of Bailey’s Harbor (the actual harbor) can be seen from a lot of points, but a municipal platform offers one of the best. This is a popular area for windsurfers too, as winds whipping from the lake often get amplified in the harbor.

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*** Brewery Alert ***
Just off 57 on County F in Baileys Harbor you’ll find the Door County Brewing Company. Launched in 2013, their brewery and Tap Room is open year ’round with plenty of brews and activities. Their signature beer is the Polka King Porter, but others like the Little Sister Witbier, the Goat Parade Smoked Imperial Stout (remember, goats eat grass on rooftops in Door County), Bière de Seigle saison, Pastoral Farmhouse Ale, and Silurian Stout – a creamy milk stout named after the ancient sea that once covered this thumb of land – are also great for sampling and more. They offer light foodstuffs and occasionally have live music, too.

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A home that’s truly for the birds. It’s not open to the public at the moment, but it has a fascinating history and is a cool roadside feature in Baileys Harbor.

On the east side of Baileys Harbor is Bird’s Park, the front of which features the former home of Albert Zahn, an early Baileys Harbor resident who carved whimsical wood pieces of birds. Retiring in the 1920s from being a farmer, he sold some of his works to passersby. But they’ve proven to be impressive creations, indeed: his carvings have since found their into museums from the Milwaukee Art Museum to Chicago’s Art Institute and New York’s Guggenheim. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan features a permanent collection of Zahn’s works.

Birds aren’t just for carving in this area, either. Appreciation of them and nature in general has been a staple around here since the beginning due in part to the Door Peninsula’s position as a key flyway for many bird species. The Ridges Sanctuary became Wisconsin’s first land trust back in 1937 and protects 1,600 acres of biologically diverse ecosystems for conservation, study, and exploration. The “Ridges” in question include 30 ridges and swales formed by Lake Michigan over millenia; the land includes sandy ridges, wooden bogs, forest, wildflowers, and a beach that is open to the public. Self-guided walking tours are available via walking trails and boardwalks for a small fee. The Cana Island Lighthouse, built in 1870, rises 89 feet and projects a guiding light 18 miles out on Lake Michigan.

57circlescenicsign-doorHeading away from Baileys Harbor, Highway 57 turns away from the Lake Michigan shore and heads due across the peninsula on a beeline towards Sister Bay. There are a few shops scattered along this drive, and a State Trunk Tour favorite watering hole called A.C.’s Pub. A little lacking on curb appeal for city slickers, the bar is inviting on the inside and the home of good bar food, a solid beer and soda selection, a nice patio and on Tuesday nights, sushi. Look at the place and tell me if you’d imagine sushi in there. But yes, they do. Burgers are available too, just in case you get cold feet.

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AC’s is a State Trunk Tour favorite, with good beers and even sushi sometimes. It hasn’t done us wrong yet.

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Attention-getting signs draw in tourists. And us, apparently. This is along Highway 57 just south of Sister Bay.

As you reach the Green Bay side of the peninsula, Highway 57 comes to its final village: Sister Bay (pop. 886). Sister Bay bills itself as the “festival village” and there are quite a few. Voted the “#1 Small Town in Wisconsin for Dining” by, well, they don’t tell us who, but who are we to question it? Everything from Mexican to Swedish, and from subs to fine dining can be found here.

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Highway 57 comes to an end at Highway 42 in Sister Bay. The “END” sign is about 1/4 mile beforehand.

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Here’s the intersection where Highway 57 ends at Highway 42, looking down towards the heart of Sister Bay.

A “can’t miss” – and it’s hard to when goats are grazing on the grass roof – is Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik (800-241-9914). Al Johnson’s whips up a ton of great Swedish fare, including pickled herring, pytt i panna, and the ever-popular Swedish meatballs. And it’s probably the only restaurant in the country where the roof needs to be mowed. However, the job is often done by 4-6 goats that use the ramp in the back. They much away from about 8:30am to 5pm during nice weather days while guests munch inside all year ’round.

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Yup, you’re seeing goats grazing on what is undoubtedly the original “green roof”, part of the charm in Sister Bay at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik (that, apparently, is how they spell “boutique” in Sweden.) It’s just down Highway 42 a few blocks past the northern end of Highway 57.

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The grass doesn’t always distract the goats; a zoom lens may catch their attention.

Sister Bay also hosts several amusement parks, including Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf and Johnson’s Park Go-Kart Racing, both just south by less than a mile on Highway 42. Basically, you have to take Highway 42 to go anywhere else from this point. So there you have it. After about 192 miles, from Milwaukee, through a whole host of towns including Green Bay, along bustling freeway stretches and fairly calm 2-lane roads, Highway 57 comes to an end at the junction with Highway 42 in Sister Bay, just down the hill from this sign. The “grass under the roof” was back at the Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee; the “grass on top of the roof” lies just to the right along 42, at the almost world-famous Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant. Enjoy!

Then, either check out Highway 42 or enjoy the reverse trip on 57!

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Just past the end of Highway 57, here’s a view from Highway 42 of the Sister Islands from Sister Bay. I sense a theme here.

 

CONNECTIONS

South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 59
Can connect nearby to: Highway 175/Miller Park Way, about one mile west; Highway 38, about 1.5 miles east; Highway 32, about 2 miles east; I-43, about 1.5 miles east; I-94, about 2 miles north; U.S. 18, about 3 miles north; Highway 181, about 3 miles west; Highway 145, about 3.5 miles north or 2 miles northeast; I-41/894, about 4.5 miles west; Highway 100, about 5 miles west or 8 miles north

North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 42

Highway 55 in Menomonee County
55

STH-055“High Cliffs, Hamburgers and High Up to Michigan”

 

WisMap55Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 55 starts on a picturesque overlook above Lake Winnebago, cut through the eastern edge of the Fox Valley and becomes a winding highway through Seymour, birthplace of the hamburger and home to the world’s largest burger, both the Menominee Indian Reservation and the Nicolet National Forest, with excellent access to campgrounds, fishing, hunting and a variety of summer and winter up Nort’ activities.

Wisconsin Highway 55 Road Trip

The Drive (South to North): Highway 55, which once began all way down in Milwaukee, begins today where U.S. 151 veers away from Lake Winnebago on its way to Chilton in Calumet County. Where 151 heads east, Highway 55 continues north, running often within eyeshot of the eastern shore of the rural side of Lake Winnebago. Lake Winnebago is the third largest freshwater lake in the U.S. overall (Okeechobee in Florida was first, in case you were curious), the largest lake in the nation entirely within one state, and is visible from space. While the lake’s west side is heavy with reefs and cities like Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Menasha, and Neenah, the east side is characterized with serene shorelines, hills and rocky cliffs.

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Highway 55, which once started in Milwaukee, now begins where U.S. 151 veers east toward Manitowoc. The highway runs up the barely-developed east shore of Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin’s largest inland lake.

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Lake Winnebago is about 30 miles long and expands to 10 miles wide. It’s quite visible from Highway 55 for quite a while.

Dub's Pub Suds & Grub sign along Highway 55 in Wisconsin's Calumet County.

It may be a different bar by now (we didn’t see this sign on our most recent passing), but we love the name “Dub’s Pub, Suds & Grub.”

By the way, our award for “Best Tavern Name of the Day” was Dub’s Pub Suds & Grub”. That’s rhyming on the level of old-school rapper right there… even though on our last trip, it looks like Dub’s may have become something else by now.

Highway 55 buzzes through the middle of the Village of Stockbridge (pop. 636), which bills itself as the “Sturgeon Center of the World.” Clearly big on fishing, Stockbridge offers piers and a marina on Lake Winnebago. Next up is Harrison (pop. 11,532), one of the state’s newest villages. Harrison was a township that became a village in 2013 and immediately became the second-largest incorporated place along Highway 55. Harrison stretches into Outagamie County along Highway 55, where we meet up with Highway 114.

High Cliff State Park

High Cliff State Park is the best place for viewing Lake Winnebago. Perched atop the limestone cliff of the Niagara Escarpment, which runs from this point to Door County and then to Niagara Falls, you can picnic, camp, walk the Indian Mound Trail, check out the nature center, or climb the 40-foot observation tower and get a look across the lake to Appleton, Oshkosh and even north to Kaukauna, which Highway 55 cuts right through on this Tour.

Sunset from High Cliff State Park

Hazy sunset from a lookout at High Cliff State Park, right off Highways 55 and 114.

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From the “You Never Know What You’ll Find on the State Trunk Tour” Department: this thing. No idea what this is… something resembling an old-style train or tractor. Just saw it by the roadside and decided it’s worth a picture.

Kaukauna

After a brief combo with Highway 114, which heads west toward Appleton, you enter Outagamie County, crossing U.S. 10 and going past the Wisconsin International Raceway into Kaukauna (pop. 12,983). Known far and wide for the tasty cheese spread brand (now technically made in Little Chute), Kaukauna is considered the easternmost of the Fox Cities. One of the first communities in Wisconsin, Kaukauna was explored by Father Claude Allouez in 1670 and a fur trading post was established at KeKalin Falls in 1760. Back then, travelers moving by canoe had to detour by land around three waterfalls on the Fox.

** Drive-In Alert **

Right along Highway 55 on the south side of Kaukauna, a tasty stop is Dick’s Drive-In – a popular Fox Cities stop since 1955. Although car hops aren’t normally serving there, they did originally and Dick’s still cranks out delicious burgers, fries, rings, cones, malts, shakes, and much more. You can eat in your car in the lot or at the picnic tables on a nice day.

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Dick's in Kaukauna along Highway 55

Great burgers, shakes, cones, and more can be enjoyed at Dick’s Drive-In, a Kaukauna staple since 1955.

 

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Just south of the Highway 55 & 96 junction in Kaukauna, you can see the Veterans Memorial Bridge, one of five that span the Fox River in Kaukauna. The city essentially has two “downtowns”, one for the north side and one for the south side. Highway 55 heads through both.

The numerous small waterfalls on the Fox made Kaukauna a natural choice for hydroelectric power generation, which dates back to the 1880s. With several plants and some of the lowest power rates in the state, Kaukauna embraces the nickname “The Electric City”. They weren’t using electricity in 1793, when Dominique Ducharme secured the first land deed granted in Wisconsin along portions of the Fox River in Kaukauna. On part of that land now stands the Grignon Mansion, built in 1837. Parkland surrounds the mansion; paper mills (and when the wind is right, their essence) dominate across the street.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The first land deed in Wisconsin was granted to Dominique Ducharme in 1793. The initial payment? Two barrels of rum.

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(Above) The Grignon Mansion, built in 1837 on the site of Wisconsin’s oldest deeded land. To the side is the mansion’s outhouse… and yes, they cut crescent moon shapes into the door for ventilation. And because that’s how outhouses always seem to look. It’s not available for public use, but then, why would anyone want to use it?

Finding Freedom – and a Drive-In!
Through Kaukauna, Highway 55 crosses Highway 96 and then heads north to cross I-41 and heads out of town into the rural portions of Outagamie County. That’s where, after several miles, you’ll find Freedom. Well, actually there are three towns in Wisconsin called “Freedom”, but THIS one is along Highway 55 AND Field of Scenes, one of only five active drive-in theaters in Wisconsin. Field of Scenes shows movies like any drive-in theater, but it’s also a sprawling campus featuring horse-pulled wagon rides, an 18-hole miniature golf course, a game room, and basketball and volleyball courts.

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This scene isn’t very common anymore; a working drive-in theater! It’s right along Highway 55 in Freedom.

Beautiful church on a beautiful day in Freedom along Highway 55.

Beautiful church on a beautiful day in Freedom along Highway 55.

Statue of Liberty, symbol of freedom, in Freedom, Wisconsin along Highway 55.

Statue of Liberty, symbol of freedom, in Freedom, Wisconsin along Highway 55.

It’s a straight beeline through Freedom and most Outagamie County, where you cross through southwestern section of the Oneida Indian Reservation. You can connect to Oneida Casino and Green Bay by taking Highway 54 east when you reach it; otherwise, Highway 55 joins 54 going westward for a brief jaunt into the birthplace of one of the best road foods ever created.

Burger Time!

seymourburgersign_500I speak of the hamburger, and Seymour (pop. 3,335) calls itself “Home of the Hamburger.” One of several places worldwide that lays claim to being the hamburger’s birthplace, Seymour grabs the title with a full embrace and hosts its annual Burger Fest every August. Burger Fest features hamburgers, a hamburger eating contest, kids’ games, music and a hot air balloon rally, no doubt tons of buns and a (what the…) ketchup slide. Don’t wear clothes you care about. But it sounds fun!Seymour also hosts the Outagamie County Fair every July, drawing tons of people from the Appleton area and beyond. Want some racing? Grab a burger and plop down in a seat at Seymour Speedway, a 1/3-mile clay oval on the fairgrounds. The speedway hosts Fastrak Late Models, IMCA Modifieds, Stock Cars, and Northern Sport Mods. And they all move pretty fast.

seymour_burgerstatue Seymour’s Version of the Hamburger Invention:
“In 1885, Charles N. Nagreen, a young lad of 15, came to the Seymour Fair to sell meatballs. When he realized people wanted to walk around the fair grounds and eat, he flattened a meatball between two slices of bread and called it a ‘hamburger.’ This was the first time the hamburger sandwich was produced and sold.”

 

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The Guinness Book of World Records noted that Seymour is where the “World’s Largest Hamburger” was cooked – right there on the Charlie Grill. In August of 2001, a 8,266 pound hamburger was cooked up and served to over 13,000 people.

Feature: Burger Fiesta
Seymour’s annual hamburger festival runs in early August. The State Trunk Tour was there; amidst the bands, the model railroad museum and hungry and thirsty festival goers milling about under the statue of Charles “Hamburger Charlie” Nagreen (the hamburger’s inventor), was the main attraction: a 60-pound hamburger. Sure, it’s a fraction of the monstrous 8,266 pound record grilled in 2001, but it was still a monster.

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Left: The 60 pound mound of meat, hot off the grill. Right: It took some work, but the meat was successfully wedged within a gi-normous bun – even though part of the patty’s north side fell a bit!

North of Seymour, Highway 55 is a pretty straight shot to Angelica, where you get to hop the “express” by joining Highway 29 on a freeway for a while.

Around Bonduel, you also combine with Highway 47. There, right along the highway, you can check out Doc’s Zoo & Muscle Car Museum (715-758-9080), which features a variety of 60’s muscle cars, motorcycles, a classic 1930’s Standard gas station, and a whole line of unique autos, including one of the 1958 Plymouth Fury cars used in the Stephen King classic “Christine”. It’s hard to miss; part of Doc’s Harley-Davidson, Inc. of Shawano County, you’ll notice Bo & Luke Duke’s General Lee looking like it just leaped the building (yes, it’s one of the actual General Lee cars used in filming “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

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Shawano to Crandon to the U.P. is coming soon!

In Menomonee County, 10 miles past Keshena though, we want to note Big Smokey Falls. More than the whitewater rafting opportunity on the Wolf River is also coming soon!

CONNECTIONS
South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: U.S. Highway 151
Can connect nearby to: Highway 32 & Highway 57, about 8 miles east

North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: M-73 in Michigan
Can connect nearby to: Highway 70, about 5 miles south

54

STH-054“The Hills of Winona To the Beaches of Algoma”

 

WisMap54Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 54 is a “coast to coast” route, connecting the colleges and hills around Winona, Minnesota, winding through the hills around the Black River and Black River Falls, through the forests, cranberry bogs, and lakes of central Wisconsin, and punching right through the heart of Green Bay on its way to the beautiful lakefront setting of Algoma.

Wisconsin Highway 54 Road Trip

The Drive (West to East): Highway 54 begins smack dab in the middle of the Mississippi River – on the North Channel Bridge leading away from picturesque Winona, Minnesota (named after our favorite Hollywood shoplifter) toward a massive bluff on the Wisconsin side of the river – the first of many this road comes across as it begins its ride through the Driftless Area on its way to Algoma, 244 miles away. As soon as you’re off the bridge onto terra firma, you reach Wisconsin’s Great River Road, Highway 35.

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Highway 54 starts as you cross into Wisconsin from Winona, Minnesota, a lovely river town that’s billed as the Stained Glass Capital of the World. Just as long as there’s none in the road, I guess it’s alright. Once you enter Wisconsin, Highway 54 meets up with Highway 35 for a little trek into Trempealeau – County.

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Highway 54 junction sign in Brown CountyHighway 54 turns east and follows Highway 35, hugging the bluffs with the river and the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge to your right. The Trempealeau N.W.R. covers over 10 square miles and consists of the backwaters away from the Mississippi and the Trempealeau Rivers. Called a “prairie wonderland” by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, you’ll find tall grasses that reach heights of eight or nine feet. Watch for controlled fires in the area, primarily during the spring months. Past tiny Marshland and over the Trempealeau River, Highway 54 leaves Buffalo County and enters Trempealeau County (I’ll bet you’ve never seen the word “Trempealeau” so many times in one paragraph) for a beeline ride east, past the intersection where Highway 35 breaks away to head south toward La Crosse and Highway 93 joins from the north for the ride into Galesville (pop. 1,427). Galesville celebrates the apple orchards of Wisconsin the first Saturday in every October with the Apple Affair, featuring everything apple (except, perhaps, for Gwyneth Paltrow’s kid), tons of activities and multiple bicycle tours that let you pedal around and check out the fall colors.

U.S. Highway 53 joins Highways 54 & 93 for a miles east from Galesville. U.S. 53 and Highway 93 then take off southeast toward La Crosse and Highway 54 becomes its own road for the first time since the bridge over the Mississippi. The next twenty miles or so are beautiful; you wind through the Driftless Region. There are many twists and turns on this fairly narrow stretch of road — it’s not the place to open it up and do 100 mph, even on a motorcycle — as you enter Jackson County and approach the Black River near North Bend, a great place to stop and do some canoeing.

Try Riverview Inn & Supper Club (608-488-5191), where you can dine and/or navigate the Black River as a nice break from the drive.Further past, you cross the northern beginning of Highway 71, which leads toward Sparta. Highway 54 then heads into Melrose (pop. 529) before a meandering ride roughly paralleling the Black River to Black River Falls.

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This area is Amish country, where signs like this remind you to watch for a slow buggy here and there.

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From the “You Never Know What You’ll Find on the State Trunk Tour” Department: I have no idea what this is, but it was definitely picture-worthy.

Black River Falls (pop. 3,618) is the county seat of Jackson County and, frankly, the first sizeable town along Highway 54 since Winona. The county seat of Jackson County, Black River Falls sits along the Black River. A small waterfall provided the hydroelectric power for a sawmill, which of course was all that was needed back then to establish a town.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
In 1872, Black River Falls became the first village in Wisconsin to establish a free city library.

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Highway 54 runs right through Downtown Black River Falls.

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The Black River, which runs through the heart of Black River Falls (logically enough), indeed has a blackish hue due to its high iron content. It’s a popular paddling and canoeing river, as evidenced by the opportunity you had earlier in North Bend. The Black River Falls Chamber of Commerce offers information on a bunch of other places to take advantage of the river’s amenities, as well as the city’s. Just follow U.S. 12/Highway 27 (Water Street) north from the downtown junction for a brief minute and it’s right there. You can also call them at 800-404-4008.

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*** BREWERY ALERT! ***

Black River Falls is home to Sand Creek Brewing Company (320 Pierce St., 715-284-7553), which makes a variety of quality brews on a site that started brewing beer in 1856, but has had a wild history since then. Brewing here actually took a 75-year hiatus until the Pioneer Brewing Company started up in 1995 and became the new home of Sand Creek Brewing in 2004. For more history, check out this page. Meanwhile, stop in (right off Highway 54) and check out their brews, from the light Golden Ale to the hearty Sand Creek Imperial Porter. State Trunk Tour picks include the Groovy Brew, Woody’s Wheat (banana overtones are a good thing) and the Pioneer Black River Red, which won the World Beer Cup’s Gold Award for a German-style Marzen in 2000.

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sphagnummoss_500Ever heard of Sphagnum moss? Me neither, but it’s actually a significant plant that pumps money into the local economy. Growing quickly in the boggy and marshy lands in the area, Sphagnum moss is used to keep nursery plants and flowers alive and watered during shipping, since this moss can hold 20 times its weight in water. It’s used in hydroponic gardening, which I had to look up — it’s basically about growing plants with mineral nutrient solutions instead of the traditional soil. It’s even used for surgical dressings because it is sterile (ironically, it reproduces quickly.) It also helps prevent fungus attack in seeds. Wisconsin is actually the only state that produces Sphagnum moss commercially.

Cool kitsch: Familiar with the British band The Fall? They actually mention the Black River Falls Motel. Why? I’ll do some digging and find it, ’cause I’ll bet the story’s interesting. Also, you should check out the orange moose at the Best Western Arrowhead Lodge & Suites, and the “cow” McDonald’s, a Mickey D’s with cow-like themes on the tables – although they could be dalmation-like, too. They’re both right along Highway 54 by the I-94 interchange. Also, the Majestic Pines Casino is maintained by the Ho-Chunk Nation just east of Black River Falls, so if you’re feelin’ lucky, stop in and test your fate.

The Legend of the Orange Moose
54moose2_lgThey proudly call it the world’s most unusual town ornament. Legend says a Norwegian farmer named Torvaald Kjorvak (try pronouncing that) found a wounded moose calf along the Black River. With no mother around to be found, Kjorvak nursed the animal back to health himself. He then fed him an experimental grain that helped him grow huge… and orange. Find out more here!

East from Black River Falls, Highway 54 moves from the state’s Driftless Area to forestland, where dense trees and occasional bogs replace the jagged hills as you speed through the sparsely-populated eastern part of Jackson County. After the curvy nature of Highway 54 west of Black River Falls, a little straightaway can be nice. Expect few services, though: this is a pretty remote stretch for a while. You go through the Black River State Forest, past Sugarloaf Mound and toward Wood County in the tiny settlement of City Point. This is one of the most sparsely populated areas in Wisconsin, so if you truly want to get away from it all, this is a pretty good place to be.

Highway 54 mileage sign to City Point

It’s a long way to anywhere heading east from Black River Falls on Highway 54. The stretch from BRF to Wisconsin Rapids is one of the longest without sizable towns, or even gas stations, in the state as you head through remote forests and bogs.

Evidence of the forthcoming cranberry domination along Highway 54 shows up just before City Point, a town that crams 189 people into only 90 square miles. Many more of the brilliant red seas of berries (in season) will come in Wood County. Meanwhile, how about some wildlife? Check out the Sandhill Wildlife Area Trails inside the 9,100-acre Sandhill State Wildlife Area. It features a 3.5-mile hiking trail known as the Swamp Buck, a captive herd of bison, and camping abundant opportunities for wildlife viewing and interaction. If you prefer the comfort of your vehicle, there Trumpeter Trail Auto Tour gives you 14 miles of road to follow. Three observation towers and a slew of guidance and informational signs tell you more about the animals you’re watching, including white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, Canada geese, ducks, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, shorebirds, songbirds, hawks, owls… you get the idea. Oh, and there’s no hunting allowed. You can access the Sandhill Wildlife Area Trails right off Highway 54 by following County Highway X south.

Rail bridge over the Yellow River from Highway 54 near Dexterville

The railroad paralleling Highway 54 over the Yellow River near Dexterville has some interesting low trestles.

Back onto 54, you cross the Yellow River (check the cool railroad bridge trestle just to the south, pictured above) and meet up with Highway 80. Together Highways 54 & 80 go through Dexterville briefly before Highway 54 breaks east again and plows eastward through miles of cranberry bogs in towns with names like “Cranmoor.”

The Wisconsin River beckons as you hook up with Highway 73, just out of Nekoosa and head into Port Edwards (pop. 1,944). Originally known as “Frenchtown”, Port Edwards grew around a sawmill owned by John Edwards, Sr. and Jr., and the town was eventually renamed after them. The “Port” part comes from the Wisconsin River, upon which Port Edwards sits. While there, check out the Alexander House Center for Art & History, (715-887-3442) which features art displays, colonial furniture, and historical looks at the area’s papermaking and lumber industry. The Alexander House is right along Highway 54. The Edwards and most of its inhabitants weren’t big drinkers; this was a “dry” community from its establishment in the 1830s all the way into the 1990s. So for a century and a half, residents in search of imbibe-ment headed up today’s Highway 54 to their “big city” neighbor.

Wisconsin Rapids

Highway 54 entering Wisconsin Rapids

Wisconsin Rapids (pop. 18,435) isn’t necessarily a big city, but it is big enough to be its own “micropolitan” area, which has over 54,000 people. “Da Rapids”, as some locals call it, used to be two cities on opposite sides of the Wisconsin River, Centralia and Grand Rapids; they merged in 1900. Then, in 1920 when locals were fed up with getting mail misdirected to Grand Rapids, Michigan, they changed the city’s name to Wisconsin Rapids. The “rapids” refers to a 45-foot drop this “hardest working river in the world” made at this point, which provided some good acceleration to boats and canoes that didn’t want to make the portage. Dams have since changed this – there are five now from Stevens Point to Nekoosa – but this stretch of the river still provides hydroelectric power and makes it convenient to pound wood into pulp so we can eventually have something to write on.

Consequently, Wisconsin Rapids became a major hub for papermaking and also serves as the shipping point for a lot of the cranberries you may have seen in the bogs getting here. Wisconsin grows more cranberries than any other state – over 300 million pounds per year – and Wood County (of which Wisconsin Rapids is the county seat) is pretty much the center of it all. It’s home to a major educational software company, Renaissance Learning, Grim Natwick, creator of Betty Boop (and to salute that, the city has an annual Betty Boop Festival) and the hometown of the driver with NASCAR’s coolest name ever, Dick Trickle (technically he’s from Rudolph just to the north, but still…)

Side Trip: Rudolph Grotto & Dairy State Cheese
Fans of the remarkable collections of stone, glass and rock that make up Wisconsin’s fascinating grottos will want to check out Rudolph Grotto & Wonder Cave, located about nine miles north of Wisconsin Rapids via Highways 13/34. Red gossan rocks dominate much of the grotto, ranging from pebble-sized to a 78-ton boulder. The Wonder Cave itself is something to see. So is the cheese selection at Dairy State Cheese – they like to point out that cheese is they “whey” to good health.

Highway 54/73 runs along the Wisconsin River’s west shore into the city. Shortly after the city limit, you can enjoy beautiful Ben Hansen Park, which is home to the Wisconsin Firefighters Memorial. Established in 1996, the Memorial salutes and remembers firefighters across the state who were injured or killed in the line of duty. The 7.5-acre park, trees, riverside location, and memorials make for a great to stop to reflect and relax. The Wisconsin State Firefighters Memorial (WSFM) is designed like an early 1900s firehouse and contains articles and artifacts, as well as facilities like restrooms and water fountains.

Just north of the park and memorial, Highway 54 comes to a junction with Highway 13. At this point, Highway 73 breaks west and Highway 54 joins 13 eastbound across the Wisconsin River via the “Riverview Expressway.” The Riverview, built in 1982 to route state highways around downtown, isn’t that expressway-like but it’s still the first real divided highway stretch on Highway 54 since it began on its Mississippi River crossing. At 8th Street, Highway 13 heads south toward Wisconsin Dells; Highway 54 used to shoot north along 8th Street into downtown Wisconsin Rapids. Highway 13 used to follow this route too, so you’ll see “Business” 13 signs along your way. Wisconsin Rapids via Google Maps.

Hey, tours aren’t just for highways, breweries and museums. Tour the Stora Enso North America papermaking plant at 4th Avenue and High Street (715-422-3789) or, if you want to see paper in its original form, check out the Griffith State Nursery (473 Griffith Avenue, 715-424-3700), the largest forest nursery in Wisconsin.

Highway 54 leaves “Da Rapids” on Baker Street (insert Gerry Rafferty song here) and then into Portage County as Plover Road for the ride to – you guessed it – Plover. This stretch is a 65 mph expressway, so open it up and enjoy. The Canadian Pacific Railroad parallels this straightaway for a while… and it’ll probably be going faster than you.

Plover (pop. 10,520) was once the Portage County seat, a distinction lost to nearby Stevens Point in the 1860s — and some resentment may still remain. Plover itself incorporated and was dissolved several times over its history, but that situation stabilized a while back and now – in a way – it’s a southern suburb of Stevens Point. The town is pretty good at producing athletes. They stretch back a ways to Walt Wilmot, an MLB player who began his career with the Washington Nationals in 1888 (the first incarnation of that team, obviously) through the 1898 season with the New York Baseball Giants, with a long stint with the Cubs in between. Current hockey star Joe Pavelski, who skates and body slams for the San Jose Sharks, also grew up in Plover. Former wrestling Olympian Dennis Hall, who snagged the Silver in Atlanta in 1996 and the Gold the year before that at the Pan Am Games, now lives in Plover, although he also spends a lot of time training future Olympians up in Marquette, Michigan.

*** BREWERY ALERT! ***

Just north of Highway 54 along I-39/U.S. 51 at County B (the next exit north) you’ll find the O’so Brewing Company (you can also access it by continuing east on Plover Road past where Highway 54 turns south to follow Business U.S. 51.) Tucked into a shopping center at the southwest quadrant of the interchange, O’so makes some pretty popular microbrews including their “Big O” Wheat Ale and a Memory Lane Pilsner, where they donate portions of sales to help Alzheimer’s research. Their Tasting Room offers about 40 beers on tap, encompassing a variety of Wisconsin and regional selections.

Right by O’so Brewery in Worzella Pines Pink, you’ll find the Wisconsin Korean War Veterans Memorial. Situated on an island in a small lake, the Memorial features an “Isle of Honor” commemorating the 132,000 Wisconsin residents who served in the Armed Forces during Korean War, including 4,286 who were injured and 801 who died. The Main Wall is filled with memorials, statues commemorate soldiers, medical staff, and others who served in the line of fire, and thousands of tiles are posted in memory of individuals.

Highway 54 dives southeast out of Plover, crosses I-39 & U.S. 51 and then across a wide expanse of farmland through Portage County and into Waupaca County, where you cross the Ice Age National Scenic Trail with access to Hartman Creek State Park, a great park for camping and canoeing. The Park is on the edge of the popular “Chain O’Lakes” area. Once known as the “Kilarnies of Wisconsin”, the area features 22 interconnected glacial lakes and ample opportunities for swimming, boating, scuba diving, hanging out next to the water doing absolutely nothing, and more. Highway 54 grazes the northern area of these lakes. For access, follow County Q or QQ south and check out Ding’s Dock (715-258-2612) for pontoons, boat rentals, cottage rentals and more. You can also take a cruise on the lakes by contacting Clear Water Harbor (715-258-2866), which also features the Waterfront Restaurant & Bar and Moo’s Dairy Bar, charged with the task of keeping plenty of malts, floats and ice cream at the ready for boaters. At the eastern edge of the Chain O’Lakes lies King, an unincorporated area that holds the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King, a sprawling complex where veterans receive care and can enjoy the beauty of the lakes.

** BYPASS ALERT **

Technically, Highway 54 hooks up with the U.S. 10 freeway  to bypass Waupaca… but what fun is that? Follow the business route through town. This is about experiencing these places, after all. Just go straight instead of onto the freeway. Signs guide you through.

So, following our “city” route, Highway 54 crosses U.S. 10 and hooks up with Highway 49 for the ride into Waupaca (pop. 5,676). A popular tourism town, due in large part to the nearby Chain O’Lakes, Waupaca’s name is also familar because of the former Waupaca Foundry, now known as ThyssenKrupp Waupaca (they have additional foundries in Marinette, Indiana, and Tennessee.) The Waupaca location melts over 9,500 tons of gray, ductile and compacted graphite iron castings. Actress Annie Burgstede, who played Willow Stark in Days of Our Lives and has also had roles in CSI, Smallville, Charmed, and most recently, Without A Trace, grew up in Waupaca.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Clay Perry, the caver who first coined the term “spelunker”, was born in Waupaca.
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Entering Waupaca, we checked out South Park, which features Shadow Lake and a nice beach across the way, which a large assortment of Waupacians(?) were enjoying on a nice summer day.

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The Rosa Theater and part of Main Street in downtown Waupaca, which features a lot of places to shop, eat and yes, drink.

Waupaca hosts a number of events throughout the year.One of them is Strawberry Fest, which loads up downtown with berry, berry happy festivalgoers (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Being the county seat of Waupaca County and the largest town for about 20 miles, Waupaca bustles quite a bit for a city its size.

Highway 54 joins up with Highway 22 for the ride eastward out of Waupaca for a little while. Highway 110 joins briefly too, before both break away and head north to Manawa and beyond. Meanwhile, Highway 54 cuts east through Royalton and Northport before heading into New London.

Straddling the Waupaca-Outgamie county line, New London (pop. 7,085) sits along the Embarrass and Wolf Rivers and is considered among the best places in the state to catch some tasty walleye. It hosts a variety of historic buildings, five of which are in the Heritage Historical Village. There’s also the New London Public Museum, which has been hosting exhibits since 1917. Adding the culture in this relatively small burg, the Wolf River Theatrical Troupe performs at the Wolf River Theatre. There’s even a group of movie stunt performers that hosts a western stunt show called “Whips, Garters, and Guns Wild West Review” that is based here but puts on shows all over the country.

newlondon-newdublin-leprechaunsThe luck o’ the Irish is all over Wisconsin, but it hits New London with four-leaf clover force on St. Patrick’s Day, when the city becomes “New Dublin” for the week.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia user “Leprichauns”)

 

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New London is the birthplace of the American Water Spaniel breed, registered by Dr. F.J. Pfeifer in the 1920’s. The historical marker is in Franklin Park, on Beacon Avenue near downtown.

U.S. 45 used to intersect Highway 54 in the midst of downtown, but it now runs on a bypass on the east side of New London. Once you cross U.S. 45, Highway 54 barrels eastward through Shiocton (pop. 954) and then to Black Creek (pop. 1,192), where it intersects with Highway 47. Black Creek is often locally pronounced as Black “Crick”. One fun thing of note is that two of its first settlers were named Abraham Lincoln Burdick and Thomas Jefferson Burdick. It was originally called Middleburg, probably because it pretty much is smack dab in the middle of Outagamie County. A creek at the village’s edge, which is apparently dark in color, prompted the name change.

seymourburgersign_500After Black Creek, Highway 54 skims the southern edge of Seymour (pop. 3,335), a.k.a. “Home of the Hamburger.” One of several places worldwide that lays claim to being the hamburger’s birthplace, Seymour grabs the title with a full embrace and hosts its annual Burger Fest every August. Burger Fest features hamburgers, a hamburger eating contest, kids’ games, music and a hot air balloon rally, no doubt tons of buns and a (what the…) ketchup slide. Don’t wear clothes you care about. But it sounds fun!

Seymour also hosts the Outagamie County Fair every July, drawing tons of people from the Appleton area and beyond. Want some racing? Grab a burger and plop down in a seat at Seymour Speedway, a 1/3-mile clay oval on the fairgrounds. The speedway hosts Fastrak Late Models, IMCA Modifieds, Stock Cars, and Northern Sport Mods. And they all move pretty fast.

seymour_burgerstatue Seymour’s Version of the Hamburger Invention:
“In 1885, Charles N. Nagreen, a young lad of 15, came to the Seymour Fair to sell meatballs. When he realized people wanted to walk around the fair grounds and eat, he flattened a meatball between two slices of bread and called it a ‘hamburger.’ This was the first time the hamburger sandwich was produced and sold.”

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The Guinness Book of World Records noted that Seymour is where the “World’s Largest Hamburger” was cooked – right there on the Charlie Grill. In August of 2001, a 8,266 pound hamburger was cooked up and served to over 13,000 people.

Feature: Burger Fiesta
Seymour’s annual hamburger festival runs in early August. The State Trunk Tour was there; amidst the bands, the model railroad museum and hungry and thirsty festival goers milling about under the statue of Charles “Hamburger Charlie” Nagreen (the hamburger’s inventor), was the main attraction: a 60-pound hamburger. Sure, it’s a fraction of the monstrous 8,266 pound record grilled in 2001, but it was still a monster.

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Left: The 60 pound mound of meat, hot off the grill. Right: It took some work, but the meat was successfully wedged within a gi-normous bun – even though part of the patty’s north side fell a bit!

Just east of Seymour, Highway 55 heads south towards Kaukauna while Highway 54 heads through the Oneida Indian Reservation, which was established by treaty in 1838, ten years before Wisconsin became a state. There’s the town of Oneida, and then Hobart (pop. 5,090), which incorporated as a village in 2002. Hobart is a fast-growing suburb of Green Bay, based in part on its proximity to Austin-Straubel International Airport and the surrounding highways. While Highway 54 is one of the main highways, the key freeway route is I-41, which marks the boundary between Hobart and Green Bay itself.

Green Bay

Entering Green Bay (pop. 102,313 and a.k.a. “Titletown U.S.A.”), Highway 54 is a major east-west (well, learning southeast-northwest) thoroughfare called Mason Ave. Green Bay is Wisconsin’s oldest city and – not sure if you heard about this or not – are the smallest city to host a National Football League team. They’re called the “Packers” and…what, you’ve already heard about them? Okay.

Green Bay is also the headquarters of ShopKo Stores and Schneider National (admit it, you know the commercials and you’ve seen the “big orange trucks”). Famous people from Green Bay include Tony Shalhoub of Monk fame, ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Anderson, comedian and Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson, Pat MacDonald of the group Timbuk 3 – you know, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”? – that group. Naturally, Green Bay is home to tons of atheletes too, among them NFL stars Curly Lambeau, Jerry Tagge, Ted Fritsch Jr., Arnie Herber and Aaron Stecker, as well as baseball pitcher Bob Wickman.

** Triple Brewery and One Distillery Alert! **

titletown_front_lgGreen Bay calls itself “Titletown”, so when some guys decided to start up a brewery there, it only made sense to call it the Titletown Brewing Company. Coincidentally – or perhaps not – Titletown Brewing started in December of 1996, right before the Packers’ first Super Bowl victory in nearly three decades. Located on Dousman Street/U.S. 141 just west of downtown and the Fox River, Titletown occupies a classic old railroad station built in 1899. Titletown brews Packer-backer beverages such as the Johnny “Blood” Red and Canadeo Gold as well as a great root beer called Sno-Cap, which uses Clyde the Penguin as its mascot. Trains, football, beer, food… definitely a good stop on the State Trunk Tour. Meanwhile, across the street Copper State Brewing Company moved into the former Hinterland Brewing space (more on that in a sec), which is a former meat-packing warehouse (yes, how the “Packers” got their name.)

Meanwhile, in the Titletown District, adjacent to Lambeau Field on the north you’ll find Hinterland Brewing, which did start where Copper State is now but moved into a brand new space in 2017 on the grounds of the former Mobil station so many of us stopped at to get snacks before going into a game. South and east of Lambeau but within the Titletown District, you’ll also find Badger State Brewing Company, a relative newcomer with a great selection of in-house craft brews and others from across Wisconsin. And just over on Mike McCarthy Way (named after the now former coach who – along with Aaron – brought up Super Bowl 45), you’ll find the Green Bay Distillery. It opened in 2011 with a classic vodka and a cherry vodka (handy for Green Bay winters) and expanded to gin and whiskey in subsequent years. Their restaurant has a full menu – including a full menu of macro- and craft-brewed beers if spirits aren’t your thing. Either way, both Badger State Brewing and the Green Bay Distillery are easy walking distance to Lambeau Field, the Resch Center, Ray Nitschke Field, the Brown County Arena, the famous Stadium View bar, Anduzzi’s, the BEST WESTERN Green Bay Inn Conference Center, and more.

Side Trip to Lambeau.
For Lambeau Field seekers on this route, the “frozen tundra” lies about 2 miles south of Highway 54/Mason Street; you can cut south to it via I-41, Oneida Street, or Military Avenue. Trust me, you WILL be able to find Lambeau, the home of the Green Bay Packers… the cross street is Lombardi Avenue, after all.

Highway 54 enters the heart of Green Bay just south of downtown and becomes a brief expressway and it leapfrogs the Fox River, one of the few northward-flowing rivers in North America. From here on north through downtown, bridges are lit up at night, flanked by condos, bars, offices, and shops that are springing up at an increasing rate. At the intersection with Broadway, a Farmers Market offers produce and other items on Wednesday afternoons from June through September from 3pm-8pm. Also in the downtown area along the Fox River at U.S. 141/Dousman Street, you’ll find the Neville Public Museum, which focuses on art, history and science for northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There is also a Children’s Museum, currently undergoing redevelopment.

East of the Fox River, blocks feature an array of bars and restaurants. Places to party include Kittner’s Pub, Hip Cats, Liquid 8, Confetti, Washington Street Pub, the Fox Harbor Pub & Grill, and Stir-Ups (Stir-Ups is a country bar – yes, think about it.) Green Bay’s party crowd hangs out in this area, and it’s not uncommon for Packers players to be seen…and perhaps you can see their Super Bowl ring!

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The handsome Brown County Courthouse, completed in 1908. You’ll find at the corner of Highway 29/Walnut Street & Jefferson Avenue on the east side of downtown and the Fox River.

For a few miles, Highway 54 becomes a little mini-freeway, lifting up over neighborhoods and leapfrogging over the Fox River. On the west bank of the Fox is Ashland Avenue (Highway 32), which is available via an exit. For train enthusiasts, Green Bay is the site of the National Railroad Museum (2285 S. Broadway, accessible along Highway 32 about two miles south of Highway 54), which features over 70 locomotives and train cars, including the world’s largest steam locomotive, known as “Big Boy.” Also, just across the river off Highway 172 (Green Bay’s southern freeway bypass), you’ll find the lovely Heritage Hill State Historical Park. Technically located in Allouez, this 48-acre outdoor museum lives up to its name. Over 30 historic structures and endangered buildings are perched on a hill overlooking the Fox River in an area that once served as a prison farm. Log cabins from the fur trade era, original stores and public buildings, even buildings from the original Fort Howard are all located here and available for exploration. Populating the grounds in summer are live historic interpreters – many in period attire – to help illustrate what these buildings are all about. More and more fun events take place throughout the year here, too.

5457thrugb_east_600On the east bank of the Fox River, Highway 57 comes in as Monroe Avenue. At this point, Highway 54 leaves Mason Street and joins Highway 57 for the ride into downtown Green Bay. We’ve already mentioned much of the downtown attractions that tend to be just west of the Fox River, but one is coming up on the east side of the river if you detour under I-43 a bit. That’s Bay Beach Amusement Park, which offers everything from roller coasters to carousels and water rides from May through September. The biggest coaster is Zippin’ Pippin, a 2,800-foot long wooden coaster with nearly hundred-year-old origins in Memphis, Tennessee. It was moved to Green Bay and re-opened in 2011 and has remained quite popular. A new Ferris wheel is going up for 2019!

Just next door to the action and noise, the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary is next door, providing 700 acres of refuge for animals. The Sanctuary features live animal exhibits, educational displays, miles of hiking/skiing trails and various wildlife viewing opportunities; they care for more than 4,500 orphaned and injured animals each year. It traces its roots to 1936, when it established as a site for waterfowl rehabilitation with an assist from Aldo Leopold. The Sanctuary is free and open year ’round. The whole area of Bay Beach lies along the waters of Green Bay, adjacent to where the Fox River empties into this arm of Lake Michigan.

57eb54split_800From the east side of Green Bay – now as University Avenue – Highway 54 & 57 are coupled together past the interchange with I-43 and begins a push northeast. After five miles, Highway 54 branches off to head east towards Lake Michigan.

On the way, Highway 54 goes through New Franken and into Kewaunee County. The first town in this last county on the route is Luxemburg (pop. 1,935), one of many towns in this area named after European places – others in close proximity include Denmark, Brussels and Poland. The town was named after – not surprisingly – the home country of its first settlers. They came primarily from the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, an area that has since graced the town with a statue to commemorate U.S. soldiers who helped free Luxemburg in World War II. Luxemburg also hosts the Kewaunee County Fair on the (not surprisingly named) Kewaunee County Fairgrounds. Also nearby is the Luxemburg Speedway, which hosts IMCA modifides and other races. The Speedway is on the south side of town, best accessible via 3rd Street.

*** Brewery & Cheese Alert ***
Yes, Luxemburg now has its own brewery once again: Thumb Knuckle Brewing Company opened in 2017. Their Tap Room right along Highway 54 is open Wednesday through Sunday and offers a peek into their brewery area. And while you’re in Luxemburg, be sure to check out Ron’s Wisconsin Cheese (124 Main Street/former Highway 163, just south of Highway 54, 920-845-5330.) This cheese shop, which offers a variety of cheeses but highlights locally-made cheeses from Pagel’s Ponderosa, the state’s largest privately-owned dairy farm not too far away. At Ron’s, you’ll find their own Ponderosa brand cheeses, super fresh curds and string cheese and a huge selection of other fresh, aged, and flavored cheeses and spreads along with other state favorites like summer sausage and beef sticks. Definitely a fun State Trunk Tour stop!

Continuing east, Highway 54 heads through Casco (pop. 572), Rio Creek and Rankin, all very small settlements about 2-3 miles apart.

And with that, we come to the eastern end of Highway 54 at Algoma (pop. 3,357), perched atop the Lake Michigan shore and home to a large charter and commercial fishing fleet (once the largest on Lake Michigan) as well as a nice downtown. Algoma also has a nice beach. Fish shantys used to dot the shoreline, and some remain, which leads to the biggest annual event in town, “Shanty Days”, which takes place every August. They have fish, music, and – if you ask nice – beer and wine. Algoma is known as a salmon and trout capital of the Midwest. They make stuff here, too: hammocks, doors, mops and labels among them. Algoma also has a heavy Belgian population (as in “numerous.”)

*** Winery & Brewery Alert! ***
algoma_vonstiehl1_800Algoma is home to the Von Stiehl Winery, the oldest licensed winery in Wisconsin. The winery offers tours in its building constructed in the 1860s, back when Algoma was called Ahnapee (they renamed it Algoma in 1879.) In 1967, when the building was about 100 years old, Dr. Charles Stiehl founded the winery, using Door County’s famous cherries to create Door County Montmorency Cherry Wine. Over 30 varieties are available now, including several produced just for special events. Tours are available for $3.50 from May through October; wine tasting is complimentary all year.

Next door you’ll find the Ahnapee Brewery, named for the river that runs through town – in fact, “Ahanpee” was Algoma’s original name. Ahnapee was a brewery in town from 1868 to 1886, and it was resurrected in 2013 with a brewery just outside of town that supplies in their in-town tap room with fresh craft beer. They’re open Wednesday-Sunday, always opening at noon while closing at 9pm Wednesday and Thursday, 10pm on Friday and Saturday, and 5pm on Sunday. You’ll find Von Stiehl Winery and Ahnapee Brewery’s Tap Room along County S in downtown Algoma, just east of Highway 42 and north of the eastern terminus of Highway 54, within a few hundred yards of Lake Michigan.

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Highway 54 comes to an end at Highway 42, in full view of Lake Michigan – by the time you get to the intersection.

On the south side of Algoma, Highway 54 ends at Highway 42, 244 miles from its origin over the Mississippi River going into Winona, Minnesota. Travelers to Door County at this point can use Highway 42, or County S, which runs through Algoma’s northeast side and serves as a “short cut” to Sturgeon Bay. If you follow Highway 42, you’ll go through downtown Algoma and then head along the Ahnapee River (they changed the name of the town, but not the name of the river) for several miles to Forestville.

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Right where Highway 54 ends, you’ll find this beach along Lake Michigan. We found it on a slightly foggy morning.

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A quick turn north on Highway 42 brings you to downtown Algoma – and they let you know.

 

CONNECTIONS
West Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Minnesota Highway 43, Wisconsin Highway 35
Can connect nearby to: U.S. Highway 53, about 7 miles east

East Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 42

49

STH-049“Marshes, Sculptures, Fishing…this thing even goes to Berlin”

WisMap49Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 49 meanders through a large part of central Wisconsin. Starting and ending not in towns but at interchanges with other major Wisconsin highways, Highway 49 links a series of towns and recreaion areas on an almost haphazard route path. Highway 49 touches Horicon Marsh, the site of the Republican Party’s founding, Rippin’ Good Cookies’ plant and headquarters, car shows at Iola, and provides access to some of the best fishing in the state.

The Wisconsin Highway 49 Road Trip

The Drive (South To North): Highway 49 starts at U.S. 41 (which could become “Interstate 41” soon… watch this site for details) just north of Lomira in the northeastern corner of Dodge County.

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Taking over from a lonely county road, Highway 49 starts up at I-41 and begins a 128-mile journey through the middle of eastern Wisconsin with a lot of interesting stuff ahead.

Within eyeshot of the interchange where Highway 49 begins, the massive Quad/Graphics plant cranks out incredible amounts of printed material – magazines, books, and just about anything else that can be read – or ripped. Much of its production goes out by train, as evidenced by the railroad crossing. Right after is the junction with the original U.S. 41, which is now Highway 175. Also visible at times to the north is a sign of the future: giant turbines providing wind-generated electricity, an area now known as the Forward Wind Energy Center. Eventually there will be 86 wind turbines here, playing off the wind generated by this high ridge above the Horicon Marsh, which is coming up along the route.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The massive Quad Graphics plant in Lomira is the largest single printing facility in the Western Hemisphere.
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In Brownsville, you can stock up on goodies at a Red Owl, a chain of stores that were once all over this part of Wisconsin. Very, very few still exist, so it’s now cool enough to take a picture of them. We LOVE these old signs!!

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The flat expanse of Horicon Marsh appears abruptly as Highway 49 approaches from the east. After a curve, the road cuts right across the marsh, providing a great opportunity for bird-watching and animal-dodging.

Highway 49 runs right through the pleasant little burg of Brownsville (pop. 570), which is the last town before you reach the Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, both a State Wildlife Area and a National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a pretty unmistakable feature as you approach it: before you suddenly is a vast expanse of flat land that looks like a lake had been drained there. And that’s pretty close to how things got to be this way. When the glaciers that once covered this part of the state retreated, a moraine was formed that worked like a dam and created a large lake. The Rock River, which uses the Marsh as its source, gradually drained the natural lake and turned it, well, marshy. People tried manipulating it again twice: from 1846 to 1896, a dam re-created the glacial lake; after it became a marsh again, there was an attempt to drain it from 1910 to 1914 and use the area for farmland. That didn’t quite work either, and today the Marsh is preserved and protected to serve as one of the world’s largest “rest stops” for migrating birds. Over 290 species of our winged friends have been documented in the Marsh, making it a top birding area. It’s a favorite layover for over 200,000 migrating Canada geese as they make their way back and forth in spring and fall.

The Horicon Marsh covers about 50 square miles – equivalent to about half of the City of Milwaukee. The southern third of the marsh, near the City of Horicon (where Highways 33 and 28 trek), is managed mostly by the state; the northern two-thirds is under Federal control by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Highway 49 veers into the Marsh by curving onto the Dodge-Fond du Lac County line and cutting across its northern edge. It’s a long, straight stretch populated with birds overhead, cattails flanking the swampy land on either side, photographers parked along the shoulders and enough animals crossing to prompt a sign announcing a running tally of year-to-date roadkills (621 last time we rolled through).

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The Horicon Marsh is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the U.S., and the area around Horicon Marsh has the highest concentration of drumlins in the world.
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Cattails a’plenty: the Horicon Marsh area is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States.

marshmarker_400There are two places along Highway 49 that will help you out if you want to find out more or tour the Marsh. From mid-April to mid-November, the Marsh Haven Center offers hiking paths and an observation tower at the northwestern edge of the Marsh itself. The Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is on the east side of the Marsh, offering more information and tours.

After the straight shot across the Horicon Marsh, you go up a hill and before long you cross U.S. 151 on its new freeway path between Madison and Fond du Lac. A series of restaurants and hotels hint at the sizable town ahead, Waupun (pop. 10,718). Long known for holding Wisconsin’s primary state prison, Waupun is also billed the “City of Sculptures”, being the home of famous sculptor Clarence Shaler and a series of his works. Sculptures like End of the Trail, Who Sows Believes In God, Dawn of Day, and Morning of Life grace the city in various parks and streetsides.

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Highway 49 cuts through the heart of Waupun as the main street, still cutting the county line; Dodge County is to the south, Fond du Lac County is to the north.

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Throughout the city, the sculptures show up to greet you. This one above is called The Citadel.

Waupun has held Wisconsin’s primary state prison site since 1851, when it was selected due to its “proximity to transportation and readily available building materials in the area”, according to the Department of Corrections’ historical site. Back in the day, Wisconsin’s justice system was considered so efficient, a popular chant in Milwaukee was once “crime on Sunday, Waupun on Monday”, indicating that infractions would be met with swift action. This was before a lot more lawyers showed up. The Wisconsin Historical Society page on the Waupun Correctional Facility reports that in 1878, sales of the goods manufactured by the prisoners produced enough revenue to run the prison without drawing from the state’s treasury. Wouldn’t that be nice now? You can find the State Prison south of Highway 49 along Madison Street, also known as County M.

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South Cell Hall was originally built in the 1850s; its walls still stand today.

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These are the walls in the question, built in the 1850s, that still stand today.

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The prison’s history makes it an easy candidate for the State Register of Historic Places.

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Another civic building in Waupun, featuring yet another statue in its front yard (click to enlarge).

From Waupun, Highway 49 heads west out of town and then bends northward up into Fond du Lac County for a run through rolling farmland.

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On the road north of Waupun, one farm had horses a’plenty, which made for a nice view.

After about eight miles, you curve again in the little burg of Brandon (pop. 912), which is slighly under one square mile and produced one Hollywood actress, Laura Ramsey (her imdb link is here.) Brandon’s growth started with the arrival of the railroad in 1856, when the area was named Bungtown.

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Highway 49 goes through Brandon, a small burg on not only the highway, but the railraod from Waupun to Ripon. The State Trunk Tour caravan stopped in Mel’s Bar & Grill in Brandon and had a pretty good time before resuming the trip north and west.

After Brandon, Highway 49 hooks up with Highway 44 and heads north into Ripon (pop. 7,619). Ripon was named after the English cathedral city of Ripon, North Yorkshire, in 1849 when it was first settled. The 1850s were busy for Ripon; in 1851 city founder David Mapes founded Brockway College, which evolved into Ripon College. Three years later, the Republican Party was founded in Ripon’s “Little White Schoolhouse” – which happens to be located right along today’s Highway 49. It’s all part of Ripon’s downtown, where Highway 49 joins with Highway 23 to encircle the downtown square.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Ripon influenced the Golden State when former resident Amplias B. Crooks (names were rather interesting back then) moved to Stanislaus City, California and started a store. Unhappy with the town’s name, he had it changed to Ripon, California in 1874.

Ripon is also home of the NFL. Really! We’re talking the National Forensic League, an organization dedicated to training students in communication and debate skills. Founded in 1925, it’s the nation’s oldest and largest debate and speech honor society. Alums of this NFL include President Lyndon Johnson, Senators Russ Feingold and Bill Frist, Oprah Winfrey, Ted Turner, Kelsey Grammar, Shelley Long, Jane Pauley, CSPAN founder Brian Lamb, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and more. So if you stop in town and get into a debate with someone, be prepared. There could be a speech and debate expert that’ll mop up on any topic.

Cookies & College in Ripon

Ripon College counts among its graduates and students people like actors Spencer Tracy and Harrison Ford, singer Al Jarreau and Brittany “McKey” Sullivan, a recent winner on America’s Next Top Model. Ripon College students, like other area residents, generally revel in the fact that the town is home to Rippin’ Good cookies (now owned by Bremner Biscuit Company.) Ever had the Mint Creme Cookies? If not, you have yet to live to the fullest extent. The Rippin’ Good Cookie Outlet can be found by following Highway 44 out of downtown for a few blocks (420 E. Oshkosh Street, 920-748-0293). It is generally open Monday-Friday 8am-4:30pm and Saturday from 8am to 1pm. Prepare for sugar and goodness.

Highway 49 joins with 23 west out of Ripon into Green Lake County for a few miles. Green Lake (pop. 1,100) lies just to the south, home of the famous Heidel House Resort. Green Lake – the lake – is the deepest natural inland lake in the state and the Midwest, averaging over 100 feet deep across its 7,346 acres and reaching a maximum depth of 237 feet.

Breaking away from Highway 23, Highway 49 heads north all the way to Berlin (pop. 5,305), pronounced “BER-lin”…supposedly as a result of anti-German sentiment during the two World Wars. Either way, pronounce it right or they’ll know you’re from out of town.

Berlin to Waupaca and beyond, with more pictures of all of this, is coming soon!

47

STH-047“Manitowish to Menasha”

 

WisMap47Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 47 is a key route through the North Woods from U.S. 51 (which it intersects twice, serving the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation, the Minocqua/Woodruff vacation towns, Hodag Country in Rhinelander, the Menomonee Reservation and Shawano before becoming the main north-south road into Appleton and its final destination, Menasha next to Lake Winnebago. For 76 of its 188 miles, Highway 47 is combined with other routes, including Highway 182, U.S. 8, U.S. 45, Highways 29 and 55.

The Wisconsin Highway 47 Road Trip

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The Drive (North To South): Highway 47 begins in Manitowish along U.S. 51, the primary north-south highway in central Wisconsin, at a bar called the Ding-A-Ling (you can’t make this stuff up). It winds through the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation for most of its first 27 miles. Highway 182 also begins with 47 and branches off about 4 miles in, heading southwest to Park Falls. Just before 182 branches off, by the way, you cross the 90th meridian, also known as the halfway point between the Prime Meridian and the International Date Line. We didn’t find a marker, but there should be one there…it’s a major line on the globe!

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The Lac du Flambeau Reservation dominates a large piece of the Highway 47 drive between Woodruff and the end at U.S. 51. Their history can be viewed on this marker pictured above, as well as all over the town. In this area, Highway 47 winds around and along multiple lakes, including Lake Pokegama (below).

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Not sure of the story here, but if you look closely at these restrooms, they seem to cater to one gender.

The Lac du Flambeau Reservation was created via treaties in 1837 and 1842 and has around 3,500 residents. Like the rest of this region, an extensive chain of interconnected lakes and rivers dominate the landscape (behind all the trees). The Lac du Flambeau Reservation area includes over 260 lakes, 65 miles of rivers and streams and over 24,000 acres of wetlands, so fishing and kayaking are popular local activities. Wild rice grows, well, wild, and has always been a local delicacy. Frybread is another, and they get creative with the toppings and fillings. There’s even a “downtown” Lac du Flambeau, where Highway 47 ducks in between Flambeau, Pokegama, Fence and Crawling Stone Lakes. The crossroad is County D, known for much of its length as Peace Pipe Road. For a good look at Ojibwa history and culture (also known as Anishinaabe), the George W. Brown, Jr. Ojibwe Museum & Cultural Center offers up exhibits that include a world-record sturgeon, a dugout canoe over 200 years old, artifacts and thousands of photos. If you feel more like slots or “doubling down” on 11, hit the Lake of the Torches Casino, which features 24-hour gaming including bingo and blackjack, dining and a variety of concerts and events. The phrase “Lake of the Torches” refers to the old practice of harvesting fish at night by torchlight.

The lakes here stay stocked with fish. Over the past three decades, the tribal fish hatchery here restocked the lakes with over 415 million walleye fry. That requires a lot of breading!

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The World’s Largest Sturgon was speared in Pokegama Lake. Measuring over seven feet long, 40 inches around and weighing almost 200 pounds, this fish “sleeps with the museums” by being on display at the the George W. Brown, Jr. Ojibwe Museum & Cultural Center.
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The Lake of the Torches Casino is a major Wisconsin casino, and a major employer in this area. Remember, always double down on 11.

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The George W. Brown, Jr. Ojibwe Museum & Cultural Center is just down Peace Pipe Road from Highway 47 and features a lovely lake behind it.

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Beautiful Lake Flambeau.

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Highway 47 at the junction with Peace Pipe Road. You don’t see to many roads with this name, so it was worth a picture.

Woodruff, Minocqua and Arbor Vitae.

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You don’t see many Spur gas station signs in Wisconsin, so it’s worth a picture of this one between Lac du Flambeau and Woodruff.

One of Wisconsin’s most frequented vacation destinations is this stretch of towns surrounded by lakes, forest, and beauty. The presence of Illinois license plates gives you the proper impression that this area is filled with shops, restaurants, t-shirt stores and throngs of families looking to rent lake homes or hang out in the resorts that dot the lakes ringing the area. Highway 47 enters Woodruff (pop. 1,982) from the Lac du Flambeau area, just inside Vilas County. Woodruff features Jim Peck’s Wildwood Wildlife Park, the “Zoo of the Northwoods” with over 500 animals – some of whom are roaming. That’s located along Highway 70 on the west side of Woodruff.

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Approaching U.S. 51 and Highway 70, the first major crossroads since Highway 47 began (ironically, ALSO at U.S. 51), you have plenty of options for eats, drinks and shopping. This is Woodruff, which along with its neighbor Minocqua, is a major tourist destination in Wisconsin – especially for Flatlanders from Illinois.

In Woodruff itself, you’ll find shopping, plenty of gas stations and even some fast-food restaurants, as well as the first traffic light along Highway 47. Here, you intersect with the north-south backbone of Wisconsin, U.S. 51, which is the main drag through Minocqua and Woodruff – Highway 70 is along for the ride, too. Minocqua lies to the south along U.S. 51. This whole stretch can be bumper-to-bumper on warm summer days – and also some nights.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Within a short distance of Minocqua-Woodruff-Arbor Vitae are over 1,600 miles of professionally groomed snowmobile trails amidst 1,300 glacial lakes and 233,000 acres of public forest lands.

Also in Woodruff, you’ll find the World’s Largest Penny. Located just west of Highway 70/U.S. 51 at 923 Second Avenue, it came about from a fund-raising effort by Dr. Kate Pelham Newcomb (a.k.a. the “Angel on Snowshoes” in these parts). In the early 1950s, Woodruff needed a hospital. Dr. Kate encouraged area children to save their pennies, a story that spread around the nation. Pennies poured in from all over the U.S., and eventually 1.7 million of them helped get the hospital built. Apparently health care was a lot less expensive back then. Ironically, the schoolkids from 1953 (the year stamped on the penny) will soon approach the age where some may enter the assisted living facility behind it.

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So how’s this for cool? State Trunk Tour fan Agnes W. sent in this picture of her (she’s on the left) and her siblings the year the penny was dedicated in 1953. Thanks, Agnes!

Out of Woodruff, Highway 47 heads southeasterly again, winding around more lakes and wetlands past small hamlets like Lake Tomahawk, McNaughton and Newbold on the way into the next city, which is all about the Hodag…and more.

Of course, we’re talking about Rhinelander (pop. 8,135), the Oneida County seat and metropolitan center of everything north of Wausau. The two cities even split the television market up here, with WJFW-TV (Channel 12) serving as the NBC affiliate for northern Wisconsin. Rhinelander is where NFL player Jason Doering, five-time PGA golf champion Dan Forsman, playwright Dan Wasserman, entertainment reporter Steve Kmetko and 2002 Miss Teen USA winner Vanessa Semrow, the only Wisconsinite to win the pageant, all came from. College coaching legend John Heisman, namesake of the Heisman Trophy, is buried in Rhinelander – because that’s where his wife was born.

Rhinelander was originally called Pelican Rapids, but changed the name when the city was chartered to salute Frederic Rhinelander, who was president of the main railroad at the time. By 1882, the railroad was extended to the city from Monico (which Highway 47 touches on later) and lumber mills went crazy, exporting wood and wood products. Lumber today still plays a big role in Rhinelander’s economy.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
WJFW-TV, Rhinelander’s Channel 12, is the NBC affiliate for northern Wisconsin. When a plane crash took out its original tower in 1968, the rebuilt tower was the 7th tallest structure in the world and was the first in the U.S. built exclusively for color TV transmission. When it was sold in 1979 to Seaway Communications, it was the first VHF commercial TV station owned by minority interests.

rhinelanderbeerimage1The city also became a brewery town back in 1882, when Rhinelander Beer was introduced. The brewery pioneered and patented the 7-ounce “shorty” bottle and grew to become one of the more influential local breweries in the country. They closed in 1967, but the brands continued to be brewed under contract in Monroe, where the Huber (now Minhas Brewery) kept cranking it out. In 2009, the brands were brought back to Rhinelander when Jyoti Auluck became president of the “new” Rhinelander Brewing Company. They are in the process of bringing back the original formulas and labels to their brands and plan to build a new brewery in Rhinelander. Some of the brands, including the original Rhinelander beer, are now available in various bar and store locations around Wisconsin and upper Michigan. We’ll definitely do more research on this!

Downtown Rhinelander.

As the Oneida County Seat, Rhinelander’s downtown includes the beautiful Oneida County Courthouse, with its Tiffany glass dome serving as a visible landmark through the town. A host of local shops, bars and restaurants and sporting goods stores are ready to serve the healthy numbers of tourists who hang out in Rhinelander; many use the city as a launching point for taking in the recreational opportunities that abound across all seasons.

The stately Oneida County Courthouse, with its Tiffany glass dome, dominates in downtown Rhinelander.

Here’s some history you probably didn’t know: the first comprehensive rural zoning ordinance in the U.S. took place right here in Oneida County. Adopted in 1933, we tried to read the rest of it but it was kind of snowy that day.

Downtown Rhinelander is where the old Highway 17 (Stevens Street), U.S. 8 and Highway 47 all came together. The downtown area is still pretty vibrant, since Rhinelander is a major center for commerce and recreation in the North Woods. For shops, bars and restaurants, Brown Street is the main strip, one block west of Stevens in the downtown area. There’s even a 24-hour drive-through McDonald’s (rare for this part of the state) and plenty of sites to see, including:
– The Rhinelander Logging Museum (334 N. Pelham Street, 715-369-5004), a complex featuring a replica of an 1870s lumber camp, the original Soo Line Depot (built in 1892, in service until 1989), an extensive model railroad display in the basement and an outdoors display of early logging equipment, a narrow-gauge locomotive and steam-powered “snow snakes”. What’s a snow snake? Well, that’s why you have to road trip and discover stuff. For more, visit their website.
ArtStart! (68 S. Stevens Street) an arts and cultural center that established itself in 2011 inside the historic Federal Building – which they bought for $1 from the feds (no wonder the government is broke!). As of our last trip, they were still getting things together, so check out their Facebook page to keep up with the latest developments.
– For outdoor adventurers, Mel’s Trading Post (105 S. Brown Street, 715-362-5800) has been outfitting residents and visitors alike since 1946.
– If you need to catch the game or imbibe in some bar food and sandwiches, Bucketheads Sports Bar & Grill (46 N. Brown Street, 715-369-5333) is a good stop. Check out the sweet potato fries and brewery equipment in the front.

The Hodag.

Yes, you’ve probably heard, Rhinelander is Hodag Country. So what is a Hodag? According to folklore, the Hodag was first seen in 1893 and had “the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end.” Advanced by Eugene Shepard, who was known for pranks, the beast became something of legend when the “remains” of one was released to area newspapers. Later, he claimed to have overpowered a live Hodag using chloroform and brought it with him to the 1896 Oneida County Fair. Curious onlookers came from all over to examine the animal, which Shepard worked up and attached wires to, for the occasional tugging to make the creature move…sending audiences running. Apparently, it seemed pretty real: scientists from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. announced they would be coming to Rhinelander to examine this Hodag creature…essentially forcing Shepard to admit it was a hoax.

hodag2_800Nevertheless, the Hodag came an indelible part of Rhinelander’s local lore. The Hodag is the high school mascot, the city’s official symbol, is commemorated with sculptures around town and even lends its name to the local country music festival, which draws some pretty big names (Reba McEntire, Toby Keith, Garth Brooks, Neal McCoy, Kellie Pickler and, in its inception in 1978, good ol’ Freddy Fender. Anybody up for a round of “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights“?)
You can find the biggest Hodag statue right next to the Rhinelander Visitors’ Center, along Kemp Street (the traditional U.S. 8) on the southwest side of town, just off the bypass. Here he is in winter.

Highway 47 technically goes around Rhinelander in combination with U.S. 8 and Highway 17, which swoop around the southwest and eastern sides of town. For full Rhinelander flavor, go INTO the place.

From Rhinelander, Highway 47 stays with U.S. 8 to Monico, where it follows U.S. 45 south. At Pelican Lake, you can detour east and check out the Mecikalski Stovewood Building & Museum, along County B about five miles down the road. A National Historic Site, it’s the only known commercial example of the “stovewood” building method in the U.S. It’s open during the summer months.

Neon Heaven. On the north side of Antigo is Northern Advertising, which among other things makes neon signs for companies around the U.S. Somewhat visible by day, this building shines in the nighttime, with neon signs from Blatz, Oldsmobile, Rexall Drugs, and even the old Red Owl stores beaming along the roadway. Inside is an incredible collection of neons: some custom, some originals from the 1930s, some great replicas. It’s one of the largest neon collections in the world in one area. The owner, Dean Blazek, makes signs and has two sons, one in Seattle and one in Australia, who also make them and send them to destinations around the world.

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This is just a sample of the phenomenal collection of neon signs Northern has. My mouth rarely hangs open when I look at things, but that was the case looking around here. At bottom, owner Dean Blazek showed me around and stopped shaping glass long enough to pose for a picture.

Antigo

Highways 45 & 47 continue south, eventually meeting up with Highways 52 and 64 as you enter the City of Antigo (pop. 8,560). Sitting atop a plateau about 1,500 feet above sea level, it’s been an over 900-foot climb since the start of the route in Marinette. Wisconsin’s state soil since 1983 is the Antigo Silt Loam soil, named, of course after the city. Antigo bustled with sawmills 100 years ago and today still hosts a series of industries dealing with lumber, as well as farming, food production, shoes, fertilizer and steel and aluminum products. It’s a popular stop for tourists on their way to points north and east in the North Woods, so expect a full variety of restaurants and stores, including a Super Wal-Mart.

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To the right is the historical marker describing Wisconsin’s state soil, along Highway 64 outside of Antigo. (Photo courtesy of State Trunk Tourer Agnes Wiedemeier. Thanks, Agnes!)

Antigo is home to the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association. It’s also where John Bradley, one of the Navy corpsmen who took part in the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima in World War II, came from; his son, James Bradley, became a best-selling author of books like Flags of Our Fathers, Flyboys: A True Story of Courage and The Imperial Cruise. You know that older Menard’s guy that annoyed you in commercials for years? His name is Ray Szmanda and he retired to Antigo. His great-nephew Eric Szmanda portrays Greg Sanders on CSI, although he grew up in Milwaukee. But we digress…back to Antigo.

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This just confused me… KC Bagels are NY style… in Antigo.

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Large deer are abundant in northern Wisconsin; only a few are plastic and have the patience to hang out atop restaurant signs, though. This is at the corner where Highway 47 & U.S. 45 meet Highways 52 & 64 on the north side of town.

Highway 64 heads west as a newer bypass of Antigo, while U.S. 45 and Highways 47/52 make the ride downtown.

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The railroad was important to Antigo, especially because of its logging industry. Along with Highways 45/47/52 just south of downtown, you’ll find the Langlade County Historical Museum & Railroad Park, which includes historic artifacts inside a 1905-built Carnegie Library, a classic 1800s cabin, and an original 1900 stream locomotive that is on full display. All are available for tours.

South of Antigo, Highway 52 breaks away to head towards Wausau while Highway 47 leaves U.S. 45 a few miles later to head east. Check out the interesting designs on a few lawns passing the unincorporated settlement of Phlox, then be ready to leave Langlade County and head into Menominee County, the newest county in Wisconsin. It was carved out in 1961 specifically to replace the Menominee Indian Reservation, although the reservation status was restored in 1973 and now the two are co-terminus. There are only two counties in Wisconsin without any incorporated communities; Menominee is one of them. The other? Florence County, which is so far up north people here consider it “up north”.

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As seen above, entering Menominee County also means entering the Menominee Indian Reservation. This a very rural, heavily forested stretch – Menominee County actually has the largest single tract of virgin timberland in Wisconsin. Just after a crossing of the beautiful Wolf River, Highway 55 joins in for the ride into Keshena (pop. 1,262), the county seat. Keshena – not to be confused with Kenosha – is home to the local college and the Menominee Casino Resort, which was the first Vegas-style resort casino in Wisconsin when it opened in 1987.

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Crossing the Wolf River at the junction of Highways 47 & 55. Forest abounds.

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Just south of Keshena, Highways 47/55 enter Shawano County. The county seat, Shawano (pop. 8,298) is just down the road. Abutting Shawano Lake, the town is a major point along the Mountain-Bay Trail, a great 83-mile rail-to-trail bike route that connects Rib Mountain in Wausau with the shore of Green Bay. Being the largest city between Wausau and Green Bay, Shawano is a signficant center for shopping and other necessities for towns for miles around. Gas tends to be a little cheaper here, too.

Highway 47 brings Highway 55 with it coming into Shawano, and in town, it also hooks up with Highway 22 and the “City” route of Highway 29, which now is officially south of town on a freeway bypass. All four highways get together for the easterly push through the heart of town. At the junction of these highways downtown, this attractive statue illustrates the farming history – and hard work put in – of the area surrounding the city.

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This statue marks the downtown crossroads in Shawano.

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Four State Trunk Highways converge and go through Shawano’s main drag: 22, 47, 55, and “Business” 29, which was the mainline 29 until they built the bypass.

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From the “You Never Know What You’ll See on a State Trunk Tour” Dept: a camel grazes in the front yard of a home along the main drag downtown. The Shawano County Fair was in town at the moment – we can only assume there was a connection there.

Heading south from Shawano, Highways 47/55 hook up with the expressway bypass on the city’s southeast side, today’s mainline Highway 29. Together, they run southeast for a few miles into Bonduel (pop. 1,478), where there’s a very interesting stop – especially for motorcycles – that also happens to be a State Trunk Tour favorite.

It’s Doc’s Harley-Davidson and Muscle Car Museum, a can’t-miss fixture along the highway that features the General Lee from the “Dukes of Hazzard” TV show suspended in mid-air… because the sheriff (presumably Roscoe P. Coltraine) is also suspended in mid-air, just a little ways back, in hot pursuit. If you like motorcycles (particularly Harleys), muscle cars, old school gas station memorabilia, and even a variety of animals from pigs to birds to mini-crocodiles, Doc’s is worth carving out plenty of time for.

More about Doc’s, along with the rest of the route to Appleton and Neenah is coming up soon!

CONNECTIONS:
North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: U.S. Highway 51
Can connect nearby to: Highway 70, about 15 miles south

South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 114
Can connect nearby to: U.S. Highway 10, about 2 miles north; Highway 441, about 2 miles north; I-41, about 3 miles west from the terminus; Highway 96, about 6 miles north

42

STH-042“Sheboygan to the Tip”

 

Southern terminus: Sheboygan County, at the junction with Highways 23 & 28 in downtown Sheboygan

Northern terminus: Door County, at the Washington Island ferry pier in Northport

Mileage: about 138 miles

Counties along the way: Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Kewaunee, Door

Sample towns along the way: Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Two Rivers, Kewaunee, Algoma, Sturgeon Bay, Fish Creek, Ephraim, Sister Bay, Gills Rock

Bypass alternates at: Manitowoc/Two Rivers, Sturgeon Bay

WisMap42Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 42 is a popular route into Door County. From Sheboygan to Manitowoc, it’s a relatively minor route, but from Manitowoc on north it assumes a major role for vacationers looking to take advantage of Lake Michigan’s shores and Door County’s offerings. Highway 42 makes it all the way to the tip of the Door Peninsula, finishing with a mile of squiggles and a ferry dock to Washington Island. It used to go all the way south to Chicago too, but that’s a story for another time.

The Wisconsin Highway 42 Road Trip

The Drive (South To North): Highway 42 begins in Sheboygan at the western edge of its downtown, where Highway 23, which enters Sheboygan from the west, and Highway 28, which comes in from the southwest, come together at 14th Street, Erie and Kohler Memorial Drive. Highway 42 is the road extending northwest from Sheboygan, which it does as Calumet Avenue. But first, be sure to check out Sheboygan!

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Highway 42 once continued south through Sheboygan County, through Port Washington and then along Milwaukee’s lakefront to and through Racine and Kenosha before meeting up with a corresponding Highway 42 in Illinois, which down Sheridan Road all the way into downtown Chicago. Yes, back in the 50’s Chicagoans could just follow 42 to come from the Windy City to Sheboygan or even the tip of Door County… even though it took much longer back then.)

The Start: Sheboygan

Sheboygan (pop. 50,792) is the Bratwurst Capital of the World. They make toilets too; it’s the circle of life. Large enough to have “suburbs” like Kohler and the Sheboygan Falls, the area is home to a number of major companies, including Kohler, Acuity Insurance, Johnsonville Sausage, and Bemis. Comedian Jackie Mason, basketball coach Rick Majerus, and the Chordettes (the ’50s group that sang “Lollipop”) all hail from Sheboygan. The city was referenced in the classic 1959 film Some Like It Hot when Daphne & Josephine (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) claimed they had studied music at the “Sheboygan Conservatory.” The movies Home Alone, A Kid in Aladdin’s Place, World Trade Center and Surf’s Up all reference the city. There was even a board game in 1979 called The Creature That Ate Sheboygan – who no doubt consumed a lot of bratwurst during that meal. Mattel even claims that the iconic Barbie, their signature doll’s character, hails from the fictitious Willows, Wisconsin – a city claimed by many to be based on Sheboygan. The city even had an NBA team called the Sheboygan Redskins back in the ’40s. It’s also consistently named one of the best places to raise a family and, interestingly enough, one of the best places to retire, in the U.S. That’s due in part to all the golf courses in the area, from Black Wolf Run to Whistling Straits.

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Points of interest are quite plentiful considering the city’s size. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center (608 New York Avenue, 920-458-6144) hosts galleries chock full of innovative explorations in the arts. Rather than only showing historical artistic pieces, the center works to foster new concepts and forms of artistic creation. It’s definitely worth a stop.

Golfing and Surfing in Sheboygan

One of the reasons Sheboygan is considered a good place to retire is the plethora of golf courses. Incredible courses like Whistling Straits bring worldwide acclaim and establish Sheboygan as a premier place for golf. Nestled along a two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan north of the city along County LS, Whistling Straits reminds most golfers of the classic olde links in Scotland and Ireland. Whistling Straits hosted PGA Championships in 2004, 2010, and 2015, and will host the Ryder Cup in 2020.

Surf’s Up! Sheboygan’s Lake Michigan “surf” is considered among the best in the country. The Dairyland Surf Classic helped give Sheboygan its reputation as the “Malibu of the Midwest” and yes, dudes from California even come in for it. From Kohler-Andrae State Park north past downtown to the Whistling Straits course area, Sheboygan makes good use of its lakefront.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Sheboygan’s Dairyland Surf Classic was the largest freshwater surfing competition in the world until it ceased in 2013.
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Charter fishing, pleasure boating and, further out, freshwater surfing are all popular in Sheboygan. The Sheboygan River provides plenty of space for docking and the harbor area is brimming with shops, attractions and new condos.

A popular annual event is Brat Days, which takes place the first weekend in August. During its 2006 celebration, the city hosted the International Federation of Competitive Eating and Takeru Kobayashi broke the world bratwurst-eating record by downing 58 brats in 10 minutes against heavy competition, live on ESPN. Sales of antacids were massive in town that night.

BREWERY ALERT
One of the largest bars in Sheboygan and former home to the Port Washington Brewing Company, Hops Haven Brew Haus (920-457-HOPS) on Highway 42 – just blocks north of its start – is a good place to check out. Hops Haven was established in 2003 in a century-old building that houses a restaurant, the brewery and plenty of room to play games and watch sports while taking in some fresh Sheboygan-based brews. The rapidly-growing 3 Sheeps Brewing Company started in Hops Haven and since moved to a larger facility along North Avenue, about half a mile east of Highway 42.

From its southern origin, Highway 42 shoots out of Sheboygan, crossing I-43 in the midst of a sea of roundabouts and then beelining northwest to Howards Grove (pop. 2,973). At the main crossroads, Highway 32 meets up and takes over the northwestern direction; Highway 42 turns north on a lightly-traveled stretch, since most through traffic uses I-43. Eventually Highway 42 meets up with U.S. Highway 151 and I-43 again after its 19-mile inland march.

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Highway 42 through Howards Grove after the junction with Highway 32. This starts a pretty quiet stretch all the way to Manitowoc, as most Sheboygan-Manty traffic uses I-43.

Manitowoc

42thrumanty_bigHighway 42 approaches Manitowoc (pop. 34,053) and hops onto I-43 for three miles before joining U.S. Highway 10 and heading east into the city’s north side as Waldo Blvd. Traditionally, Highway 42 headed straight into town from the southwest; the original route is now Business 42, which is a more interesting route for exploring the city.

The map on the left shows where Highway 42 goes today (solid line) vs. its traditional route into the city (Business 42, dashed), which follows U.S. 151 downtown and then uses 8th Street northbound (which is also U.S. 10) back north to Waldo Blvd. Go into town, of course, so you can see all the cool stuff!

Manitowoc itself is world headquarters for the Lakeside Foods Company and the Manitowoc Company, a major manufacturer of cranes, ice machines and refrigeration equipment. It also constructs ships, and the city’s main high school nickname reflects it as the “Shipbuilders”, a rather unique high school name. The “Subs” would also be a fitting name, since 28 submarines were built here, the only inland shipyard to do so. The nautical theme continues with the fact that Manitowoc is the western terminal for the S.S. Badger, a car ferry ship that carries U.S. 10 across the lake to Ludington, Michigan, and that the city holds the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, one of the nation’s most extensive museums for Great Lakes maritime history and nautical archeology.

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Great guns! The USS Cobia is in the water and on display at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in downtown Manitowoc.

If you go, check out the USS Cobia, a naval submarine permanently docked in the Manitowoc River at the museum, right before the Lake Michigan shoreline. All of this is in downtown Manitowoc, which lies just south of today’s Highway 42 but goes right along “Business” 42, which you should be following anyway. If you’re on Waldo Blvd, follow U.S. 10 south via 9th Street to access the museum and the rest of the city’s downtown.

While you’re going downtown, check out the Rahr-West Art Museum and the brass ring in front of it. At 610 N. 8th Street (the northbound side of U.S. 10 and Business 42), you can check out a variety of visual arts and exhibits, as well as a piece of Sputnik – yes, the Soviet satellite! A 20-pound piece of it, the only one surviving re-entry into the atmosphere, crashed to earth in 1962 and just happened to pick the middle stripe of 8th Street in Manitowoc for its landing.

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Sputnik’s unintended landing site, on a Manitowoc street.

What some may simply assume is a manhole cover is actually a brass ring, marking the spot where the chunk of Russian craft, reportedly “still glowing” when police found it, landed. It’s right in front of the Rahr-West Art Museum. The original chunk was returned to the Soviets (one can only imagine… “um, here, this is what’s left of your satellite”), but a good replica is available for viewing in the museum. There’s also an annual Sputnik Fest now in Manitowoc, taking place every September.

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The beautiful Rahr-West Art Museum, located in a former mansion. It not only holds great collections of artworks, but narrowly missed being hit by a chunk of falling Soviet spacecraft in 1962.

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A sugary Manitowoc staple since 1932: Beerntsen’s.

If the chocolate monster within you needs satisfaction, check out Beerntsen’s Confectionary (108 N. 8th Street, 920-684-9616), a local favorite since 1932. Beerntsen’s maintains the ice cream parlor atmosphere in their original location; meanwhile, they ship their chocolates to other parts of the state, including the tony American Club in Kohler, which features Beerntsen’s in their gift shop.

Heading along Business 42 & U.S. 151 into downtown Manitowoc you’ll come across the huge Bud bottles, a mural that has in some form dominated the end of U.S. 151 and the big turn north for Highway (now Business) 42 for over a half a century. They’re there for a reason: this was a malting plant for Anheuser-Busch for decades. Today it’s owned by Chilton-based Briess Malt & Ingredients, North America’s leading supplier of specialty malts to the brewing industry.

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Budweiser bottles and cans, in different variations, have dominated the drive downtown along Highway 42/U.S. 151 for over fifty years. A vinyl mural replaced the original bottle design for a while, as seen at left; the original, older, cooler looking view was restored in 2014. The silos are part of a massive malting facility – its origins date back to 1847!

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Prairie dogs showing affection – or something like that – at Manitowoc’s Lincoln Park Zoo.

Further up 8th Street on the other side of Highway 42/Waldo Blvd is the Lincoln Park Zoo (920-683-4537), rife with a variety of animals amidst a beautiful park setting. Over 200 animals are here, including black bears, snow leopards, eagles, and even little prairie dogs – although they may just have wandered in. The zoo is free but if you want to make a donation I’m pretty sure they’ll accept.

Upon reaching Lake Michigan, Waldo Boulevard carries Highway 42 along a stretch along the lakefront from Manitowoc to Two Rivers. Running within a few hundred feet of the water, a brilliant summer day makes for a beautiful ride along Lake Michigan. The Budweiser silos, perhaps the tallest signature buildings in downtown Manitowoc, are clearly visible down the shoreline, and don’t be surprised to see the SS Badger steaming its way across the lake for the 45-mile ride to Michigan. There’s also a nice walking and biking trail next to the road, right along the shoreline.

About five miles northeast of Manitowoc lies its sister city, Two Rivers (pop. 12,639), known locally as “Trivers”. It’s where the ice cream sundae was invented. Sure, Ithaca, New York makes the same claim, but what the heck do a bunch of New York upstaters know?

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The historic Washington House (above), located one block off Highway 42 in downtown Two Rivers, where you can imbibe in a sundae just like this one at the place where they were invented. Right along Highway 42 is the marker (below) talking about George Hallauer, Edward Berner and a ten-year-old girl in search of a chocolate fix changed dessert history.

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So, hop up to the historic Washington House and order a sundae. With its antique soda fountain, you’ll swear you’re in the throwback days when they only cost a nickel. But I’m sure they’ll remind you that it’s not the case anymore. The city’s official slogan is “Catch Our Friendly Waves”, which lap up on Lake Michigan and the East and West Twin Rivers, which are the two rivers the city is named after. Highway 42 bridges both in the downtown area and also offers access to the Point Beach State Forest, where you can hike or bike through the woods and dunes on your way to the Rawley Point Lighthouse. County Highway O also offers a drive along the forest’s boundary and will link you back up to Highway 42 and County V about five miles north of Two Rivers.

The two rivers in Two Rivers are the East Twin and West Twin (yeah, we know, why isn’t it called “Twin Rivers”?), which merge right before landing in Lake Michigan. Fishing has long been a staple of life here, evidenced by the Historic Rogers Street Fishing Village (2010 Rogers Street, 920-793-5905), located right along the East Twin River. Calling commercial fishing “America’s most dangerous profession”, the Rogers Street Fishing Village shows the history of Two Rivers and its fishing industry, boats and shipwrecks while offering a climb up the North Pier Lighthouse, built in 1886.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Two Rivers is recognized as having the longest commercial fishing history of any city on the Great Lakes, dating back over 170 years.

Highway 42 itself makes a beeline north out of Two Rivers, past the Point Beach Nuclear Power Plant (clearly visible from the highway) and providing access to the Point Beach Energy Center (6600 Nuclear Road, 920-755-6400), which features displays and information about the history of electrical generation and how electricity is generated today – including nuclear, fossil fuels, and renewable, all big topics in our world today. Highway 42 continues north into Kewaunee County, where you pass the Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant before heading into the plant’s – and county’s – namesake town.

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North of Two Rivers, the bigger towns get fewer and further between for a while.

Kewaunee

Kewaunee (pop. 2,806), like many towns along this stretch of Lake Michigan, features a beautiful lakefront area. With an attractive harbor, Kewaunee was a popular Native American settlement for centuries; the French followed suit in 1634, when Jean Nicolet landed here. In 1674, Father Marquette celebrated a Holy Sacrifice of Mass here. But it wouldn’t be until 1836 when permanent European settlement took place – largely on rumors of a “gold rush” led speculators to believe Kewaunee could become a Chicago-esque, booming city someday. They laid out wide avenues and bought up lots in preparation, but things ended up falling a little short. No matter. The city thrived as a lumber town and trading center, finally becoming a city in 1893. A nice view comes as you descend a steep hill into the downtown area, where you cross Highway 29, which ends here after a long trek across the state from Prescott, on the Mississippi River.

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Highway 42 descends big hills from either direction to approach downtown Kewaunee, which is more level with Lake Michigan. At the bottom, Highway 29 marks the main crossroad.

Like nearby Manitowoc and Sturgeon Bay, Kewaunee became a shipbuilding city. A number of vessels, including the U.S.S. Pueblo, were built and launched in Kewaunee. Car ferry service lasted for many decades, although it is no longer available today. The maritime heritage of the city is well-reflected across the city. The harbor area and marina hosts a lot of pleasure craft and the Tug Ludington (detailed below) offers tours. It’s also a very popular fishing spot, with two piers and plenty of boat and charter rental opportunities.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Kewaunee was the site of the first car ferry service across Lake Michigan, with a line established across to Frankfort, Michigan back in 1892 (at the time, the cars were pretty much railroad cars.)

Attractions include the Tug Ludington, a U.S. Army tug built in 1943. Made to help with World War II efforts, the tug participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy and assisted with harbor operations in France and Virginia before being transferred to Kewaunee in 1947 where it lives a much calmer life. It rests in Harbor Park in downtown Kewaunee and is available for tours.

World's Largest Grandfather Clock, along Highway 42 in Kewaunee

The World’s Tallest Grandfather Clock helps mark the start of the Ahnapee State Trail.

Kewaunee Historical Jail Museum (613 Dodge Street), is an 1876 structure featuring a six-celled jail, the sheriff’s living quarters and a lot of the original materials and arrangements to show you what incarceration was like for the outlaws of the day. Also downtown, watch for the World’s Tallest Grandfather Clock, which was up the hill previously but reassembled downtown in 2015. It’s so new we have to get a new picture of it!

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The Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse has been looking over Kewaunee’s Lake Michigan harbor since 1931. It makes use of a Fresnel lens, using some of the original materials from the first lighthouse built here in 1891. Picture source: Wikipedia, user Jjegers, here.

On one particular day we happened upon Troutfest, an annual event saluting – yes – trout! An Art Fair, motorcycle run, Venetian boat parade, fireworks, music, and a parade are all part of the festival. Parts of downtown were closed for the parade, actually, so we detoured through town and happened upon this:

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From the “You’ll Never Know What You’ll Stumble Across” Department: spotted two blocks west of Highway 42 in Kewaunee.

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Kewaunee Trout Fest parade-watchers await the show at the end of Highway 29, at the corner with Highway 42. A classic gas station sits on the corner, which is now a Mobil.

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…and after the parade crosses Highway 42, they marched on toward the Lake Michigan shore, visible in the background.

You know you’re getting further up north when you see a sign welcoming you to Alaska. In this case, it’s an unincorporated community noted on the highway for two lakes, a golf course, a supper club, and two sharp turns. From Alaska on north to Algoma, you’re hugging the lake shore.

Algoma (pop. 3,357) is the next stop and home to a large charter and commercial fishing fleet (once the largest on Lake Michigan) as well as a nice downtown. Algoma also has a nice beach (in clear view from Highway 42, since it hugs the lakeshore on the south side of town). Fish shantys used to dot the shoreline, and some remain, which leads to the biggest annual event in town, “Shanty Days”, which takes place every August. They have fish, music, and – if you ask nice – beer and wine. Algoma is known as a salmon and trout capital of the Midwest. They make stuff here, too: hammocks, doors, mops and labels among them. Algoma also has a heavy Belgian population (as in “numerous.”)

*** Winery & Brewery Alert! ***
algoma_vonstiehl1_800Algoma is home to the Von Stiehl Winery, the oldest licensed winery in Wisconsin. The winery offers tours in its building constructed in the 1860s, back when Algoma was called Ahnapee (they renamed it Algoma in 1879.) In 1967, when the building was about 100 years old, Dr. Charles Stiehl founded the winery, using Door County’s famous cherries to create Door County Montmorency Cherry Wine. Over 30 varieties are available now, including several produced just for special events. Tours are available for $3.50 from May through October; wine tasting is complimentary all year.

Next door you’ll find the Ahnapee Brewery, named for the river that runs through town – in fact, “Ahanpee” was Algoma’s original name. Ahnapee was a brewery in town from 1868 to 1886, and it was resurrected in 2013 with a brewery just outside of town that supplies in their in-town tap room with fresh craft beer. They’re open Wednesday-Sunday, always opening at noon while closing at 9pm Wednesday and Thursday, 10pm on Friday and Saturday, and 5pm on Sunday. You’ll find Von Stiehl Winery and Ahnapee Brewery’s Tap Room along County S in downtown Algoma, just east of Highway 42.

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Along Highway 42 in Algoma, you’ll find this beach along Lake Michigan. We found it on a slightly foggy morning.

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Highway 42 continues into downtown Algoma, clearly delineated by an archway.

At this point, travelers to Door County can use Highway 42 or County S, which runs through Algoma’s northeast side and serves as a “short cut” to Sturgeon Bay. If you follow Highway 42, you’ll go through downtown Algoma and then head along the Ahnapee River (they changed the name of the town, but not the name of the river) for several miles to Forestville.

Into Door County

Just south of Forestville, Highway 42 enters Door County, or as some people call it, “The Thumb.” Geologists note that the Door Peninsula is the western segment of the Niagara Escarpment, which runs along the north shores of Lakes Michigan and Huron, through Niagara Falls and along the southern shore of Lake Ontario to Rochester, New York. It’s a significant geographical feature through the Great Lakes and forms much of Door County’s landscape, as well as the cliffs lining the east coast of Lake Winnebago further south. Others may not care as much, so we’ll just move on…

Door County is divided into south and north regions; it used to be a full peninsula, but the 1882 completion of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal made northern Door essentially an island. French explorer Jean Nicolet, who now has a national forest, a brand of bottled water and a high school in suburban Milwaukee named after him, landed on Door County in 1634. According to Wisconsin lore, he was searching for a route to the Far East – as most explorers on the Great Lakes were in those days, though they refused to ask for directions – and happened upon Ho-Chunk Indians. Thinking they were Asian, he celebrated. He was teased quite a bit after that. The county itself is named after the passage between the peninsula’s tip and Washington Island, known then in French as Porte des Morts and more commonly to this day as “Death’s Door” (“Door County” sounded better than “Death’s County”, right?) The passage is the site of many shipwrecks over the years, and Highway 42 ends right at that passage, about 50 miles from the highway’s junction with Highway 57 just southwest of Sturgeon Bay. Once hooked up with Highway 57, it’s a four-lane ride for several miles. You reach County S, which comes in from Algoma as an occasional shortcut mentioned before, and a connection to the northern trailhead of the Ahnapee State Trail, a rail-to-trail biking and snowmobiling route that runs back towards Algoma.

***BYPASS ALERT***

A stone’s throw from the intersection with County S is where 42 and 57 split – you can take the bypass, a two-lane express route that winds around Sturgeon Bay, or follow the “Business District” exit, which is the former route of 42/57 and is still marked today as the “Business” route. If you’re not pressed for time, take the route through town. In the picture at left, that means following the “Business District” exit.

Entering Sturgeon Bay (pop. 9,437), you’re in the first of many tourism-heavy towns in Door County. Strugeon Bay is the county seat and the final place on the peninsula where chain stores exist, so if you need something at Target or Wal-Mart, better stock up. Sturgeon Bay has a history of massive shipbuilding and serves as a regional port city. Shipyard tours are available near the many cranes that abound to the north during the Ship Canal crossing. The original bridge downtown, officially called the Michigan Street Bridge and referred to by most as the “Steel Bridge”, opened in 1930 as the original path of Highways 42 & 57. Before the bypass opened in 1977, it was the source of massive traffic jams when the bridge opened to let boats pass. During a multi-year closure of the Steel Bridge, the Oregon Street Bridge opened a block south in 2008 and now serves as a modern downtown crossing as Business 42 & 57. The view of and from the bridge is quite nice, though, and a series of restaurants, hotels, resorts and shops surround the streets on either side. A number of bed and breakfasts in town also makes Sturgeon Bay a popular overnight stop for Door County travelers. Including today’s bypass that serves as the mainline Highways 42 and 57, there are now a total of three crossings between northern and southern Door County.

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Attractive views abound in Sturgeon Bay approaching the shipping canal, which cuts the Door peninsula in half. A series of cranes to the north serves as evidence of the city’s continuing shipbuilding industry.

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Once the only connection to the northern Door peninsula, Sturgeon Bay’s downtown bridge is flanked by a new bridge just south on Oregon Street, which currently serves as the main downtown crossing. The mainline 42/57 follow the bypass built in 1977, which crosses about a mile to the southeast.

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Travelers on this bridge often hummed the opening theme to “Taxi” as they headed across this thing.

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Yes, you can catch a rubber-tired trolley in Sturgeon Bay sometimes – and it’s fun to ride it across the steel bridge.

The eastern shore – technically “upper Door” – is where the main part of Sturgeon Bay lies.

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Across the canal, Business 42 & 57 cut right through downtown Sturgeon Bay.

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Sturgeon Bay has a healthy main street and even offers activities like carriage rides.

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On the north side of Sturgeon Bay, “Business” 42/57 – the original road – is called Egg Harbor Road.

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This is the bypass around Sturgeon Bay where 42 & 57 officially go now. It’s faster. but boringer. If that’s a word.

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On the north side of the bypass as 42 & 57 begin at their turn, a remnant of the old road shoots straight ahead towards downtown Sturgeon Bay. The realigned Egg Harbor Road is just ahead and realigns with this segment a few hundred yards down.

A cool place to check out is Olde Stone Quarry County Park (also now called George K. Pinney County Park) accessible via County B from 42/57 just north of Sturgeon Bay. Once a quarry (no doy), this land was redeveloped to offer a harbor, boat launch, ship artifacts, and beautiful views of both rock walls and the shoreline.

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The “Business” and mainline routes of Highways 42 and 57 reunite north of Sturgeon Bay and stay together for about two miles before Highway 57 breaks east. This is the northernmost traffic light in Door County – with about 40 miles of peninsula left! Highway 42 basically follows the Green Bay bay side of the peninsula while Highway 57 heads for the more dune-filled and serene Lake Michigan side, including Jacksonport, Whitefish Dunes State Park and Bailey’s Harbor. Since this is the Highway 42 tour, we’ll follow the Bay side. It’s the busier and more touristy side of the two, and don’t be surprised if you spot a ton of Illinois license plates – as well as more than a few Minnesota and Iowa as well as a bunch of other states – along the way.

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Where 57 splits away from 42. Say bye-bye to traffic lights the rest of the way!

*** Winery/Distillery Alert ***

dcwine_sunsetsplash_v400wHeading north of Highway 42, you make a beeline for Carlsville and the well-known Door Peninsula Winery. Known far and wide for fruit wines, they’ve won plenty of awards for their Sweet Cherry, their Razzle Dazzle Raspberry and the State Trunk Tour recommendation, the Sunset Splash ($8.99/bottle). The tasting room is open 9am-6pm daily, where you can belly up and get free tastes of their huge variety of wines. You can also take a tour for $3; those are available on the hour from 10am-4pm. In 2011, they added the Door County Distillery, where you can try and buy a variety of gins and vodkas – including a cherry vodka – and more recently whiskey. Back to the road, Highway 42 abuts the eight acres of Door Peninsula Winery’s vineyards. They have about 5,500 vines in production during the season, including cherry, apple and a variety of grapes and grape hybrids designed to handle the climate.

Shortly past Carlsville, you cross a significant line: the 45th parallel, aka the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole. A geographical marker notes the spot. A few miles on the other side of that halfway point is the first of a string of communities lining Highway 42 along the north peninsula: Egg Harbor (pop. 250). The road skims the eastern edge, along a series of shops and Harborview Park.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Egg Harbor is named not for its egg-shaped harbor but for a legendary egg fight in 1825, written about by witness Elizabeth Baird, who apparently took a few stray eggs in the noggin.
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Shipwrecked, the oldest of Door County’s emerging microbreweries.

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Shipwrecked offers these facilities, too. Run for it!

*** Brewery Alert ***
At the curve where Highway 42 gets closest to the water in Egg Harbor, you’ll find Shipwrecked Brewpub, the oldest brewpub in Door County. Housed in a saloon originally built in 1882, Shipwrecked opened in 1997 and has been treating thirsty residents and visitors ever since. Their Door County Cherry Wheat is legendary, drawing from the peninsula’s extensive cherry orchards. They also make Peninsula Porter, Summer Wheat, Lighthouse Light, an IPA, and a seasonal Pumpkin Ale, among others. Their brewpub also offers a nice selection of food after your beer selections, since one can’t eat on an empty stomach.

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Highway 42 curving through Egg Harbor, as viewed from Shipwrecked Brewpub.

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Couldn’t resist this shot of a tractor. Made of straw. I don’t know what kind of mileage it gets, but I’m sure it’s relatively light. Taken along Highway 42 just south of Fish Creek.

Six miles up the road, just after a twisty, turny ride down a bluff toward the water level, is Fish Creek (locally called “Fish Crick”), one of the most charming Door County hamlets. Fish Creek’s first pier was built back in 1855 and its oldest remaining home, the Alexander Noble House (repotedly haunted and available for tours, 920-868-2091), was built in 1874. Most of the gift shops came much, much later, even though tourism was starting to replace commercial fishing as the local economic engine by 1890. Over 40 structures in Fish Creek have “historic” designations; that’s one historic structure for every five residents! The continuing charm, the views, access to fishing and camping, and notable shops and restaurants make Fish Creek a popular stop for Door County visitors. During World War II, Fish Creek hosted a German POW camp under an affiliation with Fort Sheridan in Illinois, about 250 miles down the Lake Michigan shore. The prisoners cut wood, engaged in construction projects, and picked cherries in the area. Restaurants amd shops abound in “downtown” Fish Creek.

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Lots of boutique shopping choices await in Fish Creek.

The former C&C Supper Club, a longtime State Trunk Tour favorite, has now been transformed into a new place called Juniper’s Gin Joint (after a stint as “Cooper’s Corner”), which features a second level outdoor bar and restaurant and a wine cellar below. There’s also The Cookery (920-868-3634), and the historic 1910-era Summertime Restaurant (920-868-3738) on Spruce, adjacent to Highway 42. Gift shops, craft stores and boutiques also line the streets, offering up more than the standard tourist town fare. The area is, after all, a popular place for artists.

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A bathtub full of taffy… who’s in??

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It’s not all indoor stuff – Fish Creek has a small and popular beach offering swimming, sunbathing, and beautiful views of Fish Creek’s harbor and Peninsula State Park, to the right.

Speaking of art, the Peninsula Players Theatre performs a variety of Broadway-style plays and musicals in what some call the nation’s oldest summer theater. Not to be outdone, the American Folklore Theatre also performs here, sometimes adding a zanier edge to their performances. The Peninsula Music Festival takes place every August here. If sitting in your car watching a movie is more your style, yes, they have you covered there, too: the Skyway Drive-In is located right along Highway 42 and brings back that old-school feel of watching a movie and listening to the sound of a tiny speaker next to your window.

The phenomenal Peninsula State Park is the most popular in Wisconsin’s state park system, bordered by the waters of Green Bay and Highway 42 between Fish Creek and Ephraim. Covering 7 miles of shoreline, steep bluffs, abundant camping opportunities and terrific hiking and biking trails, Peninsula State Park offers 3,776 acres of adventure. Check out Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, with its 45-foot tall square tower and magnificent views; even the view from the stone wall overlooking the water at the lighthouse’s base is excellent, and a popular rest stop for bikers, hikers and cross-country skiers making their way through the park. Eagle Tower is a 75-foot high observation tower with 3 decks, perched on Eagle Bluff 180 feet above the water. From the top, you can see all the way up the peninsula, the island chain leading to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the twin cities of Menomonee, Michigan and Marinette, Wisconsin on a clear day. Unfortunately, it was closed in 2015 pending engineer’s reports and we await either its reopening if they can fix it, or hopefully its reconstruction if they can’t.

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This view of Ephraim from Peninsula State Park offers a New England-esque feel, giving creedence those who describe Door County as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.”

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As the sun drops toward the waters of Green Bay, the view of the harbor and Eagle Bluff from Ephraim can occupy you for hours.

On the other side of the park is adorable little Ephraim (pop. 353), founded as a Moravian religious community in 1853. Ephraim frames the eastern shore of Eagle Harbor and is home to abundant B&B’s and small motels. A stop at Wilson’s Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor right along Highway 42 is a must. Ice cream sodas and other treats are the order of the day here. So are omelets and other treats, if you stop at Good Eggs (920-854-6621), right on Highway 42 at Brookside Lane, which whips up great breakfasts and – in some summer afternoons – custom sandwiches in something they call “the grilled cheese project.” Worth checking out. Meanwhile, the harbor view, parks and beaches across the street provide terrific views of the waters of Green Bay, Eagle Bluff and Horseshoe Island in the distance. Charging up the hills framing Ephraim will give you an even better view of it all – and will help you work off that ice cream. Up the hill, there are more places to check out, including the Blue Dolphin House, which features a wide variety of fine arts & crafts, furniture, decor accents, bed & bath items and even cookbooks. There are also some good resorts.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Ephraim was the only “dry” municipality in Wisconsin for decades, where the manufacture or sale of alcohol was prohibited. As recently as 1992, 74% of the village residents voted to keep it that way. In 2015, that all changed. Now there is no “dry” municipality in Wisconsin.
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A must-stop in Ephraim is Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor, a staple of Door County since 1906. With the old fashioned soda fountain feel and a gorgeous view of the harbor and Eagle Bluff across the street, it’s a great place to grab a burger, malt and (notice I didn’t say “or”) a cone.

Beyond Ephraim lies Sister Bay (pop. 886). Along Highway 42 is a multitude of things to do, including Johnson’s Go-Kart Track (always a lot of fun and, ironically, a good break from driving) and Pirate’s Cover Adventure Golf. Sister Bay offers more restaurants, bars, boutiques, and lodging than any place beyond it on the peninsula, so note that! A good beer selection can be found too, at Bier Zot (10677 N. Bay Shore Drive, 920-854-5070). They have an extensive list of Belgian beers – in keeping with the area’s heritage – and other craft brews along with a gastropub menu. They’re a sister business of Wild Tomato back in Fish Creek.

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Here’s the intersection where Highway 57 ends at Highway 42, looking down towards the heart of Sister Bay.

A “can’t miss” – and it’s hard to when goats are grazing on the grass roof – is Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik (800-241-9914). Al Johnson’s whips up a ton of great Swedish fare, including pickled herring, pytt i panna, and the ever-popular Swedish meatballs. And it’s probably the only restaurant in the country where the roof needs to be mowed. However, the job is often done by 4-6 goats that use the ramp in the back. They much away from about 8:30am to 5pm during nice weather days while guests munch inside all year ’round.

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Yup, you’re seeing goats grazing on what is undoubtedly the original “green roof”, part of the charm in Sister Bay at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik (that, apparently, is how they spell “boutique” in Sweden.) It’s just down Highway 42 a few blocks past the northern end of Highway 57.

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The grass doesn’t always distract the goats; a zoom lens may catch their attention.

Sister Bay has plenty of shops, restaurants and a nice marina with a view of the Sister Islands not too far offshore.

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Walking around Sister Bay lets you explore a nice variety of places and walk along the water. HIghways 42 and 57 come back together here; and then it’s just 42 to the tip.

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The Sister Islands as viewed from Sister Bay. Good thing the trees are there!

Highway 57 arrives in Sister Bay and meets up with Highway 42 just before Al Johnson’s. From this point forward, Highway 42 is the last main road to the tip of the peninsula. Beyond Sister Bay, things get more sparse; much of the tourism development simply hasn’t reached critical mass here (yet) and you can almost feel the peninsula getting narrower as you continue. Foggy weather is much more prevalant from here to the tip; it’s not uncommon for this area to be shrouded in fog and 10 degrees cooler than Fish Creek or Sturgeon Bay.

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From the “You’ll Never Know What You’ll Find on the State Trunk Tour” Department: King Kong clutches the Empire State Building in one hand and a modern doll posing as Fay Wray along Highway 42 near Ellison Bay… for whatever reason.

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As you get into Ellison Bay heading north, two lobes of land are visible: the first out there is where Gills Rock and the tip of the Door Peninsula sits; the one behind it is Washington Island.

For an incredible view, head west on Porcupine Bay Road and then north on Ellison Bay Road. It leads you to the Ellison Bluff State Natural Area, which provides an overlook of the Green Bay waters that can be worth the drive to Door County alone!

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Just past Ellison Bay, Highway 42 cuts into the center of what’s left of the peninsula; Europe Bay Road will lead you to Newport State Park, which hugs the peninsula’s edge. The road then heads north to Gills Rock (once known as Hedgehog Harbor), home of the Door County Maritime Museum and a passenger ferry to Washington Island.

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One of two ferry access points to Washington Island, Gills Rock is at the northern end of the peninsula’s edge. The views of both the water and coast make it a place you want to stare at for a while.

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Technically, “Spur” Highway 42 takes you to the ferry at Gills Rock; it runs about 500 yards.

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Gills Rock is the northernmost point of the Door Peninsula, but Highway 42 manages 2 more miles, pushing east to the very tip via a crazy, slalom-esque path. Back and forth, back and forth you’ll go, zigzagging until you see the water once more – and you’ve reached the end.

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Road trip slalom! Few roads zig and zag like Highway 42 as it approaches the Northport pier.

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The only to keep going when you hit the end of Highway 42 is to take the ferry to Washington Island – which on a beautiful day is an awesome thing to do!

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From the Washington Island Ferry, here’s how the end of Highway 42 looks toward the tip of the Door Peninsula. The land goes left, right, and back – you can tell you’re at the tip!

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This is Northport, home of the Washington Island Ferry and one restaurant. It’s truly the point where you’re at the tip of the Door Peninsula and the only way to go further is to walk the pier for a few hundred feet. At the edge, just past the “End Highway 42” sign, look back and you’ll see the land goes left and right, but not behind you. ‘Cause you’re at the tip. Look in any other direction and you’re looking at Porte de Morts, or “Death’s Door”, home of swirling waters and a multitude of shipwrecks. Plum, Washington, Detroit and Pilot Islands are all in view. Stop in the restaurant, take the ferry to Washington Island, camp out in Newport State Park… or just relax and marvel for a bit. Then, since going back on Highway 42 is your only option, prepare to zig and zag for the first mile as you make your way back.

CONNECTIONS
South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 23; Highway 28
Can connect nearby to: I-43, about 3 miles west

North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: The Washington Island Ferry… that’s about it
Can connect nearby to: Highway 57, about 19 miles south

32

STH-032“The Red Arrow Highway”

 

WisMap32Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 32 runs the north-south length of Wisconsin and goes through the heart of so many key Wisconsin cities and towns, serves as the lakefront route for southeastern Wisconsin and a key highway for the lake- and forest-filled regions in northern Wisconsin. It’s both the main drag for downtowns in Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee and Green Bay, and the distant road winding through otherwise quiet forests seemingly hundreds of miles from anywhere.
On Highway 32, you can see Wisconsin’s tallest building, look up at the largest four-faced clock in the Western Hemisphere, drive on and past the two streetcar lines Wisconsin cities feature, pass along the Titletown District and near Lambeau Field, and wander through miles of Nicolet National Forest very close to the source of the Wisconsin River..
It’s also designated the “Red Arrow Highway” in honor of the 32nd Division (a.k.a. the Red Arrow Division, and known as “Les Terribles” to the French), which fought with impressive distinction in World War I, among them being the first American division to set foot on German soil in the war. The highway is designated as such officially by Wisconsin State Statute 84.104, in case you want to check it out.

Wisconsin Highway 32 Road Trip

The Drive (South To North): We begin the northbound drive at the Illinois state line. With the exception of the Carol Beach Yacht Club, you’re pretty much as far in Wisconsin’s SE corner as you can get. Highway 32 is Sheridan Road here, following about 2,000 feet west of Lake Michigan. You’re also on the Lake Michigan Circle Tour.

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Somewhat unceremoniously, Highway 32 takes over in Wisconsin where Illinois Route 137 leaves off. This begins the 325-mile journey to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The first town is Pleasant Prairie (pop. 16,136) a vast expanse of town without a real center. In fact, Pleasant Prairie for a long time was known not to have a single sidewalk. The enclave of Carol Beach lies along the water just east of Highway 32 as you go past bars whose allegiances gradually lean more Packers/Brewers/Bucks than Bears/Cubs/Bulls as you keep heading north.

The Wooden Nickel, almost within sight of Illinois, features Wrigley Field’s beers. These signs change dramatically as you continue north on Highway 32.

The Wooden Nickel, almost within sight of Illinois, features Wrigley Field’s beers. These signs change dramatically as you continue north on Highway 32.

The historical marker details Highway 32 as the "Red Letter Highway" in Pleasant Prairie (a similar marker is just inside the state line near 32's northern end).

The historical marker details Highway 32 as the “Red Letter Highway” in Pleasant Prairie (a similar marker is just inside the state line near 32’s northern end).

The first state highway junction you encounter is just one mile north of the border; it’s Highway 165, which provides access west a few miles to the Jelly Belly Plant Tours. Want to see them spin sugar into those delectable flavored candies? Then this is the tour for you. You can watch videos of how they make the candy whilst riding on an indoor train through their distribution center. You can reach Jelly Belly by going west from Highway 32 via Highway 165 about five miles, just past the intersection with Highway 31. Tours are generally available every day from 9am-4pm, and you can call 866-868-7522 for more details.

After only a few miles, past the Keno Drive-In and other older landmarks, you enter Kenosha (pop. 99,889), Wisconsin’s fourth largest city and the fourth largest city on the Lake Michigan coast (and oh so close to the coveted 100,000 population level!) Originally known as Pike and then Southport – a name many businesses still use – Kenosha got its current name in 1850, a descendent name from the original Potawatomi name, Mas-ke-no-zha, meaning “place of the Pike.”

Today, Kenosha just keeps changing. Relying on heavy manufacturing for many, many years, the demise of the American auto industry in the 1970s and 80s took a heavy toll. Kenosha’s economy hums along, however, buoyed by services and health care. Some manufacturing remains and the area contains headquarters for companies like Jockey International and Snap-On Tools. Proximity to Chicago and Milwaukee make it a handy area for transportation, warehousing and tourism. A recent influx of Chicago-area residents heightens the Packers-Bears tension every autumn. Kenosha actually did have its own NFL team once: the Kenosha Maroons, which played for one season in 1924, posting no wins. It does have the Kenosha Kingfish, a Northwoods League team. They play at Historic Simmons Field, which once hosted the Maroons and the Kenosha Comets, a pro women’s baseball league (AAGPBL) – the same one depicted with the Rockford Peaches in A League of Their Own. Simmons Field, named after the longtime bedding company, is right along Highway 32 on the city’s south side.

Kenosha – Downtown & HarborPark

As Sheridan Road just past the intersection with the start of Highway 50, Highway 32 runs along Kenosha’s downtown and revamped harbor district, both of which are redeveloping at a rapid pace.

Formerly the site of a massive American Motors assembly plant that sat right along the lake, HarborPark is now an upscale-leaning area giving rise to lakefront condos, museums, and emerging small businesses with a streetcar system with a trolley connecting them all.

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HarborPark features walkways along the lake, beautiful views of the water, and easy access to museums, the streetcar, and downtown shops, restaurants, and attractions.

HarborPark is basically the eastern and northern edge of Kenosha’s downtown; attractions there include the Kenosha Public Museum and the Museum of the Civil War. Two new microbreweries have opened up within blocks of each other, Rustic Road Brewing Company on 56th Street (the boulevard) and Public Craft Brewing Company on 58th Street, two blocks south. Adjacent to Public Craft you’ll find Frank’s Diner, a classic diner located in a real train car that’s been whipping up classic breakfasts for hungry locals since 1926, when a team of horses towed the train car to its present location. Plenty of tourists check out Frank’s too, as it’s been featured in numerous travel magazines, on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and now – I’m sure this makes them proudest – as part of the State Trunk Tour!

Taken from the Wyndham Garden Inn, this panorama of Kenosha’s harbor shows the Kenosha Southport Lighthouse on the far left, continuing across the port to the HarborPark district, which features condos, museums, offices and restaurants. Downtown is to the right. Most of the area in the center of this picture was once the massive American Motors Lakefront plant, which built a variety of makes and models for decades. At its zenith, over 350,000 cars were produced here annually. The plant closed in 1988 and was demolished two years later. The HarborPark development began in the 90s and more aggressive development started around 2000, with new construction continuing at a rapid pace as business and professionals take advantage of the downtown amenities. (Click on the image for a larger picture so you can actually make out stuff.)

Kenosha’s manufacturing history is massive: not only were cars produced here, but Simmons made bedding, mattresses, and even wooden insulators and cheese boxes here; they moved their headquarters to Atlanta in 1975. The G. Leblanc Corporation was the nation’s largest manufacturer of wind instruments here for over half a century. Snap-On still has its headquarters in Kenosha, Ocean Spray turns cranberries into juices at a major facility, Jockey was founded in Kenosha in 1876, invented men’s “Y”-front briefs in 1934, and still has its headquarters in the city; many other smaller machine shops continue to operate. To show how the economy has changed, Abbott Labs is now the largest employer in the Kenosha area.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Car manufacturing in Kenosha dates back to 1902, when Thomas Jeffery switched from making bicycles to building cars. Since then, models by American Motors, Chrysler, Dodge, Nash, and Renault have been made here. Full production stopped in 1987, although component-making continues.
kenosha_southportlighthouse1_600 Simmons Island lies north of Kenosha’s harbor and downtown district, right along the lake (of course.) The Simmons Island Lighthouse (left) was built of Cream City brick in 1886 and has marked the harbor entrance ever since. Dormant for 90 years, the lighthouse was reactivated in 1996.
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A remnant once of once-mighty American Motors Lakefront Plant sits amidst parkland and boats bobbing in the Kenosha marina in HarborPark – a reminder of what once stood here.
Kenosha’s streetcar loop runs two miles through HarborPark and around the downtown, connecting to the METRA station and museum attractions.
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Continuing north past downtown and the junction with Highway 158/52nd Street, which connects west to I-94, you’ll come to Washington Road. Just west via Washington Road you’ll find the Washington Park Velodrome – the oldest continuously operating velodrome in the United States. It opened back in 1927 and still hosts bike races even as it works on upgrades.

Shortly thereafter beaches that are used by nearby students from Carthage College and UW-Parkside. Bet you didn’t realize Kenosha was such a college town, right?

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Kenosha’s Lake Michigan shore, north of downtown just south of Carthage College.

Parking at the Hob Nob Supper Club along Highway 32*** Supper Club Alert ***

We love classic Wisconsin supper clubs, and the Hob Nob is an awesome one. Opened in 1954, the Hob Nob is perched right along Lake Michigan and offers great food and cocktails, mid-century modern decor, and views of the lake. Hob Nob is known in particular for steaks, seafood, an extensive wine list, ice cream drinks, and chairs at the bar that bring you back to the 1950s. Reservations are definitely recommended Friday and Saturday nights, but duck in anytime after 5 Tuesday-Thursday or after 4:30 on Sunday and get a good feel of the place; it’s definitely a terrific throwback supper club. You’ll find it right along Highway 32, just before the Kenosha-Racine county line. Despite its location in Kenosha County, it has a Racine mailing address.

Hob Nob Supper Club along Highway 32 near the Racine-Kenosha County line

Racine

Just past the Hob Nob, you enter Racine County and make a beeline to the start of Highway 11 (Durand Ave.) and the City of Racine (pop. 81,855), which calls itself the Belle City and is Wisconsin’s fifth-largest.

The French may have named the city (Racine is French for “root”, after the Root River which flows into Lake Michigan here), but Danish immigrants left the more indelible marks on the city. Racine is known as the “Kringle Capital of the World”. Famous locales like Lehmann’s, O&H, and the Larsen Bakery crank out millions of the tasty iced and filled pastries every year and ship them worldwide. You, however, can stop in for a fresh one right there. They’re best that way.

Racine’s industrial and entrepreneurial history now spans three centuries. Home to major companies like J.I. Case and S.C. Johnson, it’s where the garbage disposal was invented in 1927; In-Sink-Erator still calls Racine home. It’s also where malted milk was invented in 1887 by William Horlick, who now has a high school named after him (they do not have a malted milk stand, however, according to my limited research.)

Highway 32 hooks up with Highway 20 for the push into downtown Racine.

Many cities the size of Racine host minor-league baseball, but Racine hosts minor-league football. The Racine Raiders of the North American Football League are one of the most respected minor-league football organizations in the country and have been around for over 50 years. The Raiders have sent players to the NFL over the years, although unfortunately many of them went to the Vikings. They play at Horlick Field, on the north side of town just a few miles off Highway 20’s path. Their season begins in June, so no frozen tundra talk here.

Racine Art Museum on Main Street

The Racine Art Museum’s entrance, right along Highway 32.

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The Civil War Monument that gives Racine’s Monument Square its name.

Downtown Racine and the Harbor area offer a wealth of sights and things to do. The Racine Art Museum (441 S. Main St.) houses a series of contemporary craft exhibits and street-level displays while the Racine Heritage Museum (701 Main St.) houses a bird collection and other features from Racine’s early days. Monument Square (500 S. Main Street, just off Highway 20’s eastern end) offers a look back – and up – with its 61-foot high Civil War Soldiers Memorial, dedicated in 1884, when it was called Haymarket Square, while also giving a nod to the future with Wi-Fi Internet Access for anyone using their laptops in the square, perhaps imbibing in a beverage or meal from the surrounding stores. If you’re in the mood for an old-fashioned diner experience and one of the best-rated burgers in the state, by the way, a visit to the Kewpee (520 Wisconsin Ave.) should satisfy you, as it has for Racine residents since the 1920’s.

Kewpee Burgers in Racine

Little burgers don’t get much tastier than the old-school Kewpee in Racine.

Racine’s attention to the lakefront is among the most impressive in the state. Buildings lining downtown streets offer increasingly busy storefronts, but their upper floors also offer sweeping lake views, as do the condos springing up all over the place. The Reefpoint Marina, Festival Park and Pershing Park can be accessed right off Highway 32, along 4th and 5th Streets leading down to the water.

 

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Downtown Racine along 6th Street, where Highways 20 & 32 go past a series of shops, restaurants, galleries, even a brewery.

*** BREWERY ALERT ***

Racine Brewing logoAlong Highway 32 at 303 Main Street, you’ll find the Racine Brewing Company, which established its Tap Room in a storefront in 2017. The Reefpoint Brew House is located just east of the end of Highway 20 in the busy Marina area; they don’t brew beers on site but do offer unique crafts that are contract-brewed by other breweries in southeastern Wisconsin.

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Boats busily buzz under Highway 32 as it crosses the Root River, just before the river empties into Lake Michigan.

Johnson Wax Tower, as seen from Highway 32 in Racine.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wisconsin skyscraper, the Johnson Wax Research Tower, as seen from Highway 32.

Other things to see in Racine include the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Johnson Wax Research Tower, the Johnson Wax Golden Rondelle (1525 Howe Street), built in 1964 for the New York World’s Fair, and the Racine Zoo (2131 N. Main Street, about 1.5 miles north of downtown), which offers an impressive array of animals – over 76 species – overlooks the lake, and offers its “Animal Crackers Jazz Series” on Wednesday and Selected Sunday evenings. The Zoo is located right where Highway 32 turns away from Main Street and onto Goold for a little jog through the north side neighborhoods.

Heading north from Racine, you’ll see the “Mile Roads.” Many drivers on I-94 are familiar with 7 Mile Road (and perhaps 7 Mile Fair). Well, the Mile Roads in Racine County actually measure the number of miles to Highway 20, and they go up as you head north. Near 3 Mile Road, you can head east to Wind Point and check out the beautiful Wind Point Lighthouse (4725 Lighthouse Drive, Wind Point), one of the oldest (1880) and tallest (108 feet) lighthouses on the Great Lakes.

Once your cross 5 Mile Road, Highway 32 becomes a two-lane road again; at 6 Mile, you meet up with Highway 31, the inland route back through Racine and Kenosha; and at 8 Mile, you reach Milwaukee County (note: this is not the same “8 Mile” that Eminem sang and starred in a movie about. Trust me, they’re quite different.)

After 8 Mile and into Milwaukee County is Oak Creek (pop. 31,029), a city formed in 1955 out of its original township. A huge We Energies power plant lies between the road and Lake Michigan, cranking out a sizeable chunk of the power used in this part of the state. The junction with Highway 100 provides an option to bypass much of the Milwaukee area, but hey, if you’re on the Red Arrow Highway, you gotta keep going, right? Many suburbs and a major downtown lie ahead!

One such suburb is South Milwaukee (pop. 21,256), a city in its own right founded in 1892. It’s the only city in Milwaukee County that follows its own numbering system for addresses and is home to manufacturing giant Bucyrus International, formerly known as Bucyrus-Erie. Bucyrus made shovels for building of the Panama Canal, and continues today making dragline excavators and shovels, including some of the world’s largest. One former famous Bucyrus product was Big Muskie, a dragline used from 1969 to 1994 that stripped over 200 million tons of coal during its tenure and moved more earth than was dug for the Panama Canal – and this was just in the State of Ohio. It consumed the electrical power of 27,500 homes.

Highway 32 jogs a few times approaching South Milwaukee’s downtown, which is focused on Milwaukee Avenue in the midst of a whole series of cross streets starting with the letter “M.” From Milwaukee Avenue, you end up on Chicago Avenue – ironically as you head in a northerly direction. On the west side of this stretch is the Bucyrus International World Headquarters and the Bucyrus Museum (1100 Milwaukee Ave., 414-768-4594), which opened in 2009. The Museum provides a detailed look at the company’s history, complete with multimedia displays, scale replicas and interactive activities – including a re-creation of an early mine.

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Along Highway 32 in South Milwaukee, the wall mural next to the city’s public library will get your attention. Across the street, you’ll find the Bucyrus Museum, part of the Bucyrus International World Headquarters complex.

As Chicago Avenue, Highway 32 continues northward for another mile and then heads east on College Avenue for a brief spell before returning to Lake Michigan’s shore as Lake Drive, where you head north again.

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Patrick Cudahy, bacon lover and business magnate

Once on Lake Drive, you’re in Cudahy (pop. 18,267), with houses on your left and parkland to the right (and, to quote America, “here we are, stuck in the middle with you…”) A blue-collar town founded originally as Buckhorn Settlement and then in the 1890s was renamed after meat-packing magnet and bacon lover Patrick Cudahy, whose statue guards the entrance to Sheridan Park along the lakefront right along Highway 32.

Cudahy still cranks out Patrick Cudahy’s applewood smoked bacon and other meat products as it has for generations – even the high school team name is the Packers, and they weren’t copying Green Bay. Cudahy’s industry also includes airplane and machine parts, such as from the sprawling Ladish Drop Forge Company plant. They started in 1905, grew huge during the World Wars, shrank in the late 20th century, and yet continue today – albeit in a smaller capacity – as ATI-Ladish Forging. So one might say they “forge on,” serving aerospace and mining industries.

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From the “You Never Know What You’ll Find on the State Trunk Tour” Department: this lawn on Highway 32 (Lake Drive) at Armour Avenue in Cudahy features a snowmobile, old gas pumps, and a slight “Cadillac Ranch” feel.

From Cudahy into St. Francis, Milwaukee Bay and the skyline of downtown Milwaukee comes into view. At this point, Highway 32 (aka Lake Drive) runs about 60 feet above lake level and the views on a nice day – or evening – can be quite impressive. St. Francis (pop. 8,662) is one of Milwaukee County’s smallest incorporated places and is named after St. Francis of Assisi. Condos line the lakefront now where a power plant and substation stood for decades; this area is now growing as a bedroom community for commuters to downtown Milwaukee.

Highway 32 officially turns west on Howard Avenue just inside the City of St. Francis to head north on Kinnickinnic Avenue, about 1/2 mile inland. Here, we’ve provided two options for you to get through Milwaukee – both of which are quite enjoyable; one is the official highway route and the other is a slight bypass.

Highway 32 through Milwaukee

hwy32mkelakebypass**BYPASS ALERT – MILWAUKEE LAKEFRONT ALTERNATIVE**
There are two officially sanctioned State Trunk Tour options for following Highway 32 through Milwaukee: the official route and a “hugging the lakefront” alternative, which is a bit shorter time-wise. At Howard Avenue, continue up Lake Drive, which becomes Superior Street; you’ll follow the signs to I-794 to use the Hoan Bridge to leapfrog Jones Island, the harbor entrance, and Summerfest with a beautiful view of the city skyline beckoning you in. From there, follow Lincoln Memorial Drive (Milwaukee’s pleasant version of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive) along the city’s shoreline parks and beaches you meet up with Highway 32 officially on the north end of the city, where it once again is called Lake Drive. In doing so, you bypass Bay View, much of downtown Milwaukee and the East Side, but if it’s rush hour on a weekday or time is of the essence, or if you prefer sticking close to Lake Michigan, do this:

Lakefront Alternate Route Guide:

Continue north on Lake Drive through St. Francis and into Milwaukee, where it becomes Superior Street. You’re going through Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood, same as Highway 32 does, but through a residential area. South Shore Park is a nice stop, especially detouring east on Iron Street, which drops into the South Shore Yacht Club; the view to downtown is postcard-like on a nice day. Along Pryor Street within about 100 feet of Superior Street is the Iron Well, an artesian water well built in 1882. A pressurized aquifer below keeps a cold, constant stream of water flowing night and day throughout the year; you can load up on drinking water all you want! The water is iron-rich, which is good for your body but not as kind to taste buds. If you don’t mind the well taste, though, it’s great drinking water and served as a valuable alternative when Milwaukeeans suffered from the Cryptosporidium outbreak in 1993. During that time, people lined up for blocks for water from Pryor Street’s Iron Well.

Further down, a right turn on Russell takes you to the lakefront and past the U.S. Coast Guard Station. This is also the access point for the Lake Express, a high-speed ferry boat to Muskegon, Michigan. Follow the signs to I-794 West, which brings you up onto the Hoan Bridge. The Hoan Bridge, named after Milwaukee’s last Socialist mayor, is an elevated freeway structure that provides a fantastic view as you move northward: to your left is the salt flats where Milwaukee County stores its road salt for winter use, and a number of storage facilities for the feature just to your right: the Port of Milwaukee. An international port, it’s not uncommon to see ships flying numerous flags of foreign nations transporting goods to and fro on the Great Lakes System, sometimes out into the oceans for voyages far, far away. Watch the sailboats as they dodge 550-ton iron ore freighters; it can be rather sporting. The view ahead, of course, is the increasingly interesting Downtown Milwaukee skyline and the line of towers running along the coast on the city’s East Side.

The highest point of the Hoan Bridge rises 173 feet above the entrance to Milwaukee Harbor, where the Milwaukee River channels into Lake Michigan. Yellow steel arch supports hold the highway up and make it look like a McDonald’s restaurant from a distance (this author mistook the Hoan Bridge once for a McDonald’s. But hey, he was only 4 years old.) From the Hoan Bridge arches on towards downtown the Third Ward neighborhood of Milwaukee is to your left and the Henry Maier Festival Grounds (home of Summerfest, the World’s Largest Music Festival) is to your right.

The tallest building in Milwaukee, the 42-story, 625-foot U.S. Bank Tower, is straight ahead. At this point, you can re-join Highway 32 northbound by following the Milwaukee Street exit and turning right, or continue the Lakefront Alternative by following the Michigan Street/Lincoln Memorial Drive exit to the right. Continue straight onto Lincoln Memorial Drive, crossing Michigan Street, which is also the beginning of U.S. Route 18.

This intersection gives you access to so many things: downtown and its multitude of activities is to your left via Michigan Street; to your right via Harbor Drive, is Discovery World; and just to the north of that the Milwaukee Art Museum rises with its internationally-known “Briese Soleil,” a set of majestic “wings” that open and close above the Museum’s grand entrance hall that opened as a 2001 expansion. It was the first project in North America for famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

Santiago Calatrava’s internationally-renowned “Briese Soleil” addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum has become a local symbol of pride, and a source of inspiration for photographers and car commercial location scouts everywhere. Some terrific art is inside, too.

milwaukee_lmdinfallUp Lincoln Memorial Drive, you have a lovely drive along the lakefront. Big-shouldered residential towers sit atop the cliff to your west up above while bikers, runners and skaters flank you on the both the recreational trail to the west (once the main rail line connecting Milwaukee with Green Bay and the North Woods) and the Oak Leaf Trail to the east, running right alongside the parkway. Access to Juneau Park can be had via Lagoon Drive, where you can rent kites, bikes or roller blades and take advantage of the miles of trail in the area. Under the Brady Street pedestrian bridge, look to your right and you’ll see the Milwaukee Yacht Club and McKinley Marina, with a mass of boats that dot the lake during those nice summer days. At the junction with Lafayette Hill, feel free to stop in Colectivo-on-the-Lake Coffee, a local bean-brewing house that occupies what was once Milwaukee’s main Water Works. Built in 1888, the building contains original machinery that pumped water from Lake Michigan in a museum-like display on one side… and good coffee on the other. Colectivo-on-the-Lake is a popular spot for UW-Milwaukee students to get some studying done while satisfying their caffeine fix at the same time. In the nicer months, outdoor concerts are held that drown out the tennis balls popping back and forth on the courts across the street.

Lincoln Memorial Drive goes past McKinley Beach and abuts the lake closely for the next two miles, offering up a wide variety of views depending on the weather and time of day. Shortly before the next light, check out Villa Terrace to your left; it’s easily seen as this mansion with horticultural splendor stair-stepping their way up the cliff to the house, once a private residence and now a museum. It’s also a popular spot for weddings for couples with big budgets. Several hundred feet to the north, visible for miles, is Milwaukee’s answer to Chicago’s Water Tower. Since 1873 this 175-foot Victorian Gothic limestone tower has hovered over the East Side; for the first ninety of those years it pumped water and equalized pressure between Lake Michigan and the Kilbourn Reservoir, about one mile to the west. Today, it still houses the 120-foot standpipe but is otherwise simply something cool to look at.

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Lincoln Memorial Drive continues along the lakeshore, with Bradford Beach at your side. Bradford is one of Milwaukee’s most popular beaches, and an August 2008 revitalization has brought thousands back to the shore for volleyball, swimming and showing off whether or not they worked out a lot over the winter. Bradford Beach runs along the drive for about one-half mile. Further down, on the cliff to your left is Lake Park Bistro, an upscale restaurant in Lake Park (above the cliff) that offers great views of Lake Michigan as you dine on things that are a pleasure to eat but occasionally hard to pronounce, like Assiette de Pates Maison. Check out the grand staircase that leads up to the restaurant. Continuing on Lincoln Memorial Drive, you’ll head gradually up the cliff slightly further to the north and rejoin Highway 32 for the turn north again onto Lake Drive.

Back to the regular route, starting at the intersection of Lake Drive & Howard Ave. in St. Francis:

This is all still part of the original Yellowstone Trail, by the way. After the brief time on Howard Avenue, Highway 32’s north turn onto Kinnickinnic takes you along the route of a trail that has led into Milwaukee since it was a mere Native American trading stop. Today, the dynamic neighborhood of Bay View is reemerging with an eclectic mix of old and new. Bay View was once an independent place in its own right, incorporating in 1879 with its own downtown, Post Office and distinct identity. By 1892, it was absorbed into the city of Milwaukee. It has remained a strong, distinct neighborhood.

Along Kinnickinnic Avenue (aka KK), you’ll find a wide variety of homes, small businesses and taverns. This is a great place for creating for own pub crawl. The Palm Tavern (2989 S. KK) offers a wide variety of European beers; old-school Lee’s Luxury Lounge (2988 S. KK) across the street was a pizza restaurant in the 1950s and now offers fantastic furniture, seats, and decor from the 50s and 60s; a few blocks north, Kneisler’s White House (2900 S. KK) has been in business since the 1890s and brims with history – and beverages –  while Frank’s Power Plant (2800 S. KK) up the street – look for the Blatz sign – is a towny bar that often hosts rock bands. Bay View is the kind of neighborhood where bars will pop up along side streets too, so feel free to explore. Side streets like Delaware, Ellen and Clement provide plenty of places for you to pleasantly stumble onto. This area has plenty of new places, too: The Highbury (2320 S. KK) features a variety of European beers, live music (often jazz) and shows soccer matches live for the surprisingly high number of British soccer fans in Milwaukee. Bar Lulu (2265 S. Howell, in full view of KK) is part funky bar, part kitsch, and part hipster. It’s where the guys from Swingers would stop in for a drink. Lulu has an adjoining cafe complete with old school counter service, so there’s definitely variety here.

For other eats in Bay View, traditional comfort food-style fare can be found at Honeypie Cafe (2643 S. KK), which features pasties, though they’re open-faced. Sven’s Cafe (2699 S. KK, at Russell) started as a coffee roasting operation but moved to Bay View to provide not only that great coffee smell, but a variety of fair trade and organic coffees, sandwiches and salads. The owner’s name is actually Steve, though, not Sven, and he hails from Berlin, Germany. More tasty, smaller meals can be found at the Hi-Fi Cafe (2460 S. KK), which also features a cool jukebox and just a slight dose of counterculture energy. Up the street, Tonic Tavern (2335 S. KK) is an “eco-chic” lounge.

The Bay View stretch of Highway 32 is great for parking your vehicle and getting out to walk around. Abundant stores and places to check out abound: Rush-Mor Records, Loop, , even Bay View Bowl are cool to explore. The Alchemist Theatre (2569 S. KK) features a variety of, as they put it, “Ego-Free” Art, local musicians and unique theatrical performances. Meanwhile, the recently restored Avalon Atmospheric Theatre & Lounge (2473 S. KK) opened in the 1920s and is updated to feature dining service during movies, a lounge, full digital movie experiences, and more. Bay View has a burgeoning arts and entertainment scene and the evidence is pretty much all around you.

Once you cross Bay Street, you’re leaving Bay View. On a nice day, you can get a dose of Florida’s outdoor drinking and eating shack experience by heading to the hard-to-find-but-worth-it Barnacle Bud’s (1955 S. Hilbert St, east off KK Ave. on Stewart and north on Hilbert past some warehouses), where you can munch seafood out of a basket or a bucket along the KK River, sometimes with people who arrived by boat. Past the intersection with Stewart that leads you to Barnacle Bud’s and continuing north on Highway 32, you duck under some railroad tracks, hop over the Kinnickinnic River, and duck under more railroad tracks (the Amtrak line from Chicago) before heading up a hill and spotting another fun bar, Chaser’s Pub (2155 S. KK, 414-769-0630). Chaser’s is not only a good drinkin’ place, but they advertise their “last minute gift shop”…and they’re not kidding. Knick-knacks a’plenty, including deer-themed merchandise, pewter dragons, and assorted sundry items that help if you find yourself suddenly realizing you need a last-minute gift and 2am is approaching.

From there you head into Walker’s Point, an area that hummed with factory activity in the 19th century and today hums with redevelopment. As Highway 32 becomes 1st Street, the former World’s Largest Four-Faced Clock appears. The Allen-Bradley clock has been boldly providing the correct time to south-side Milwaukeeans since 1964 and, at night, serves as a shining beacon. Once dubbed “the Polish moon” to reflect the area’s primary ethnic group at the time, it could now be a moon of many faces: this area is heavily Hispanic now, and increasingly a place for artists to establish studios and galleries. After a larger clock debuted in Mecca, Saudi Arabia a few years back, the Allen-Bradley is now the World’s Second-Largest Four-Faced Clock.

The Massive Concentration of Bars in Walkers Point
Scientists have calculated that if you spent 30 minutes inside each bar and restaurant in the Walkers Point area, it would take several years to make the full rounds (although I think they a) rounded up and b) may have gotten a little disoriented during research). Highway 32 as 1st Street has a variety of places right along it; 2nd Street runs parallel one block west features many more. Further west along 5th and 6th Streets near the cross street with National Avenue (Highway 59) is another concentrated area of places to go, especially if the Latin flavors are tempting you; this is also a center for the LGBT community with plenty of bars and clubs

Another concentration of bars and restaurants lie within a few blocks of Highway 32/1st Street at National Avenue (the start of Highway 59), including but not even remotely limited to Steny’s (800 S. 2nd), Crazy Water (839 S. 2nd), V Bar (703 S. 2nd), Braise (1101 S. 2nd) and a host of others. State Trunk Tour Recommendations include:
O’Lydia’s (338 S. 1st), which features great food, a wide variety of beers and other beverages, and an outdoor patio that ranges from peaceful, cozy and sun-kissed to loud and wild when the freight and Amtrak trains grind away on the tracks above you. Try the Reuben Rolls!
La Merenda (125 E. National) opened in 2007 and offers a variety of tasty tapas items.
Just Art’s Saloon (181 S. 2nd) is old, kinda dumpy and yet quite endearing. There’s just something about it.

Walkers Point is named after one of Milwaukee’s founding fathers, George Walker. Before Milwaukee was Milwaukee, it was three different settlements: Juneautown, founded by French trader Solomon Juneau; Kilbourntown, founded by aggressive developer Byron Kilbourn; and Walkers’ Point, founded by businessman George Walker. Walker was the largest of the three men; he tipped the 19th century scales at over 300 pounds and yet was renown for his skills as an ice skater and on the dance floor. Three three men competed for settlers until they realized the nastiness of things – particularly between Juneautown and Kilbourntown – got so adversarial that settlers were getting scared away. Finally, they united under one city charter in 1846, and Milwaukee was born. Walkers’ Point is most distinct of the three original settlements in terms of identity – what was Juneautown and Kilbourntown are now known as a variety of neighborhoods: downtown, Third Ward, Yankee Hill, Westown, East Side, etc. Meanwhile, the original Walkers Point is still Walkers Point.

Highway 32 as 1st Street continues through Walkers Point, providing a nice view of the impending downtown area. Straight ahead are buildings like the 100 East, which at 37 stories is the second tallest building in the city. The blue glass building in front of it is the Chase Tower, completed in 1962. And you’ll see new construction all around you as you go through Walkers Point. The aforementioned O’Lydia’s will be on your right at Florida Street, right before the railroad bridge overhead where Amtrak and freight trains hover over the back patio. Just past the railroad underpass, Highway 32 angles to the right; the street ahead is Water Street, a main downtown thoroughfare. Highway 32 heads east briefly as Pittsburgh Street, then angles north over the Milwaukee River into the Third Ward.

Milwaukee’s Third Ward along Highway 32

Highway 32 runs right up the middle of the Third Ward, mostly as Milwaukee Street. In years past, this was also part of U.S. Highway 16, right before it joined the old Milwaukee Clipper for the ferry ride to Michigan. Just over the Milwaukee River at Erie Street, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (aka “MIAD”) is to your left, with art and design students everywhere; to your right is a long line of growing condo and art galleries and restaurants, as well as the south end of the Henry Maier Festival Grounds, home to Summerfest, The World’s Largest Music Festival, and so many great ethnic festivals that make Milwaukee one of the best festival cities in the United States. Continuing north, you’ll have lines of six-story, late 19th century-era buildings on either side. Plenty of opportunities for eating, drinking, shopping, browsing and architectural marveling are not only right along Highway 32, but down every cross street: Menomonee, Chicago, Buffalo and St. Paul, all the way to I-794.

About the Historic Third Ward
The Third Ward is one of Milwaukee’s most interesting neighborhoods. Nestled just south of downtown, the Third Ward is bordered by the Milwaukee River to the west and south as the river makes its final push into Lake Michigan. Once home to factories and small working class homes, the Third Ward was an Irish neighborhood and became Italian later in the 19th century. Two major events shaped the neighborhood in the 19th century: the tragic sinking of the Lady Elgin in 1860, which claimed the lives of so many in the area it fundamentally changed the neighborhood, and a massive fire in 1892 that left the area in ruins. Many of the buildings along Broadway, Milwaukee and Water Streets, three key north-south thoroughfares, were built between 1893 and 1906 during the recovery process. Factories boomed here in the early 20th century, but a decline got so ugly that in the 1970s some city officials toyed with the idea of turning the area into a “Combat Zone”-style red light district. By the 1980s, however, the revival had begun. Classic old buildings became apartments, studios and new restaurants. The pace quickened in the 1990s and today, it’s a booming blend of boutique retail, restaurants, bars, offices, art galleries, studios and condos.

*** BREWERY ALERT ***
The Milwaukee Ale House is located at 233 N. Water Street, two blocks west of Highway 32 in the Third Ward. Original home to the Milwaukee Brewing Company, the Ale House has been a fixture in the neighborhood since 1997. Several beers are brewed on location, including the famous Louie’s Demise, a Downtown Light and the hoppy-good Pull Chain Ale. They don’t offer tours per se, but you can take an online tour right here. (The rest of Milwaukee Brewing Company, by the way, is located a few blocks south of the river on 2nd Street, one block west of Highway 32 – you’re parallel to it when you pass the huge Mobil station.) The Ale House is huge, with two dining areas plus a fantastic two-level outdoor patio overlooking the Milwaukee River. Boaters come in and tie up before tying one on. The downstairs area also has a separate, quieter area for imbibing called “Hopside Down” in case the Swing Dance Tuesdays or karaoke Thursdays are a little much for you (the upper level of the Ale House is usually filled with all kinds of activity.) The Milwaukee Ale House opened a second location in Grafton in 2008.

Within the Third Ward is another bar and restaurant that is a longtime State Trunk Tour favorite: The Wicked Hop (345 N. Broadway, 414-223-0345). Serving up a wide variety of food and beverages in the Third Ward’s oldest building, The Wicked Hop is known for incredible Bloody Marys, packed with everything from a beef stick to stuffed olives to string cheese that jostles atop the vodka-V8 concoction and making it quite a meal. The building, constructed in 1875, is located right across from the Milwaukee Public Market, where Highway 32 (southbound) jogs from Broadway onto St. Paul Avenue and back to Milwaukee Street. The outdoor seating (pictured on a beautiful October day), under one of the long awnings that have graced this block of Broadway since it was part of “Commissioners’ Row” in the 1870s, makes for a fun and comfortable meal – or series of beverages – in the great outdoors with plenty of great people-watching. Across the street is Cafe Benelux (346 N. Broadway, 414-501-2500), which focuses on Belgian-style biers (over 30 on tap and hundreds to choose from overall) and foods like pannekaken, which – as its name harkens – is like a giant pancake filled with a wide variety of fillings. Both places do brisk brunch business.

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State Trunk Tour Feature: Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward

The Third Ward is worth an afternoon, or even an overnight stay, in itself. Here are some things to do and see:
ATTRACTIONS

Milwaukee Public Market
400 N. Water Street
414-336-1111
Originally modeled on Pike’s Place in Seattle, the Milwaukee Public Market has grown into its own, hosting a series of vendors selling fresh fish, sausage, cheese, sushi, Middle Eastern ingredients and cuisine, spices, chocolates, soups, coffee, taquerias and more. Weekend mornings feature an outdoor farmers’ market and you can always belly up to the stainless steel counter at St. Paul’s Fish Company to shuck some oysters, dine on lobster or grab a quick tuna melt or sample some wine flights at Thief Wine, which is open after hours for evening imbibing.

SHOPPING
shoo
241 N. Broadway
414-765-2355
It’s shoes: hand-crafted, unusual designs – much of it funky. Prepare, guys: your female companion(s) may need extra time here.
Lela Boutique
321 N. Broadway
414-727-4855
The women’s boutique that touched off a bigger trend of fashion in the Third Ward, Lela features a variety of designer collections from around the world.
Anthropologie
301 N. Broadway
414-271-1105
The famed chain has a location in the Third Ward, right at the corner of Broadway and Buffalo Streets, one block west of Highway 32.

Festivals abound in this area, with Henry Maier Festival Park just to the east along Lake Michigan. The Third Ward also features a variety of art and music festivals, including a very popular Gallery Night & Day. Courtesy of State Trunk Tour fan Tony Silvia, here are some shots from their 2012 festival, which takes place along Broadway, one block west of Highway 32/Milwaukee Street.

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Highway 32 southbound under I-794 in Milwaukee, about to enter the Historic Third Ward

Highway 32 southbound under I-794 entering the Historic Third Ward. The Hop, Milwaukee’s streetcar, has its tracks turn to follow St. Paul Avenue at this point.

Highway 32 under I-794 in Milwaukee, with streetcar tracks

As Milwaukee Street, Highway 32 heads from the Historic Third Ward into Downtown Milwaukee by ducking under I-794. Here, Milwaukee’s Streetcar (known as “The Hop”) joins the road for about six blocks.

32wells_600hiDowntown Milwaukee is home to Wisconsin’s busiest business district and has undergone an amazing rebirth over the last decade and change. The diversification of the area from primarily a 9-to-5 enclave that was otherwise deserted has become, not unlike the Third Ward, an active neighborhood where people live and play as much as work. On the Milwaukee Street portion of Highway 32 alone, a streetcar line opened in 2018 to help connect everything. There are tons of restaurants and an increasing number of hotels, including a Marriott and a terrific luxury boutique hotel called Hotel Metro (411 E. Mason Street, 414-272-1937) that provides “green certified” accommodations in an Art Deco building that has attracted attention from the New York Times and Travel & Leisure, which called Hotel Metro a “Top 500 in the World” hotel. Half a block away along Wisconsin Avenue, the five-star Pfister Hotel opened in 1893 and has long been considered one of the nation’s best. Blu, the cocktail lounge atop The Pfister’s 23-story hotel addition that opened in 1965, offers one of the best views of the city.

On the two blocks along Highway 32 (Milwaukee Street) between Wisconsin Avenue and Wells Street, you can choose from a number of great restaurants, including Cubanitas for a phenomenal Cuban sandwich or some empenadas, Carnevor for steak (bring credit cards with a high max), and Saketumi for sushi. This is one of several popular nightlife districts in downtown Milwaukee, known as “East Town”. Highway 32 heads east on Wells Street and that brings you to more bars and restaurants and a lovely park called Cathedral Square, which flanks the St. John Cathedral and hosts a popular Thursday night summer excursion known as Jazz In The Park. Along Wells, you head to the lakefront and (thankfully) before the cliff, Highway 32 turns north again onto Prospect, which carries you through the East Side.

IMAG0094A “must see” for industrial art buffs is the Grohmann Museum of Industrial Art, where Highway 32 turns from westbound on State Street to southbound on Broadway (joining U.S. 18). The rooftop features an amazing patio, complete with statues of workers – which sets interestingly with the buildings toward the lakefront.

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A bird’s eye view from the U.S. Bank Tower shows Highway 32’s path northeast; the line of buildings in the middle of the photo flank Hwy 32/Prospect Avenue; they’re atop the cliff. Below, you can see Lincoln Memorial Drive, the alternate we noted, running past Juneau Park Lagoon. The two roads meet up again further north. Both are great drives.

This stretch of Highway 32 northbound runs one-way northeast as Prospect Avenue and, one block west, one-way southbound as Farwell Avenue. This is probably the most cosmopolitan part of the Brew City, with a variety of condos, apartments, bars, restaurants and small offices flanking the tree-lined street for a two-mile stretch that is seeing ever-taller buildings going up. As you pass Windsor Street and go over a small bridge that today spans a bike path but once spanned the main railroad heading north out of town, check out the large building to your left. What today houses UW-Milwaukee students and a variety of shops including Urban Outfitters, was a Ford Model T factory back in the 1920s, cranking out the black cars every 30 minutes from a massive assembly line.

Highway 32 jogs around a little more past North Avenue, turning right onto Bradford (and becoming two-way again) before turn north again onto Lake Drive. At this point, you’re in one of the most expensive urban residential districts in Wisconsin – and the Midwest, for the matter. To the east is Lake Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (of New York’s Central Park fame) and flanked with trails, graceful bridges over ravines and a wonderful upscale restaurant called Lake Park Bistro that offers great views of Lake Michigan as you dine on things that are a pleasure to eat but occasionally hard to pronounce, like Assiette de Pates Maison.

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The tree-lined Lake Drive along Highway 32 on Milwaukee’s East Side. Don’t even ask what the property taxes are around here.

The Lakefront Bypass Alternative re-joins Highway 32 at Kenwood Boulevard, which a few blocks west runs right past the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. UWM was established in 1956 – young by state school standards – and has over 26,000 students. The campus is hemmed in by the tight-knit neighborhoods on Milwaukee’s East Side and is working to expand into additional campus locations, including back downtown and in the Walkers’ Point area – in which case Highway 32 would be the major connector between them.

As you continue north, you head into suburbs collectively referred to as the North Shore. First up is Shorewood (pop. 13,763), a charming suburb that was once known as “East Milwaukee.” Shorewood is where former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist grew up; it’s also where the movie Airplane! was made possible, since directors Jerry Zucker, David Zucker and Jim Abrahams also grew up here. So it’s high court or high comedy: take your pick.

Shorewood is a coffee shop-laden village where many residents walk to get what they need. As Lake Drive, Highway 32 is purely residential for most of this stretch. Good shopping is available to the west along Oakland Avenue, starting north from Shorewood’s “downtown” at Capitol Drive (Highway 190), which you meet with at the beautiful Atwater Park.

atwater1_500Atwater Park is a great stop for beautiful views of Lake Michigan. Perched on a cliff about 70 feet above the water, the vantage point is hard to beat. Access to Atwater Beach below means you can enjoy about 800 feet of sandy shoreline – although that can get crowded on a beautiful summer day! Of note is a sculpture – lauded by some and lampooned by others – called Spillover II by artist Jaume Plensa. Made of up steel letters, the sculpture depicts a crouching man taking in the same view you can enjoy. The sculpture reaches just over 10 feet high including its base and was dedicated in 2010. Some people like to explore the lettering close up and see if they can find a pattern or hidden messages.

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One of the most beautiful views of Lake Michigan: Shorewood’s Atwater Park, where Highway 190 ends at Highway 32. There’s a reason 32 here is called Lake Drive. Highway 190 is Capitol Drive, and it heads west across Shorewood and Milwaukee out to Pewaukee, at the start of “Lake Country” – the ‘inland’ lakes – in Waukesha County.

Highway 32 continues north as Lake Drive into Whitefish Bay (pop. 13,508), the original home of the Milwaukee Brewers’ own Craig Counsell, Actress Kristen Johnson (most notably of 3rd Rock from the Sun fame) and filmmaker Niels Mueller (The Assassination of Richard Nixon, Tadpole, 13 Going on 30). The village originally grew up around Captain Fredrick Pabst’s Pabst Whitefish Bay Resort, which featured concerts, Ferris wheel rides, free-flowing beer and attracted as many as 15,000 visitors on warm summer days from 1889 to 1914. Today, Whitefish Bay is a quiet residential village with some very impressive homes along your drive. Highway 32 zigzags a lot here, hugging the lakefront while adjusting to its changing contours. Whitefish Bay’s “downtown” is along Silver Spring Drive, which Highway 32 joins briefly before zagging north again. A trip down Silver Spring brings you through a strip of traditional “Main Street” style shops; another half mile or so brings you to Bayshore Town Center, a massive shopping, restaurant and entertainment complex.

Back along the lakefront on Lake Drive, Highway 32 continues north into Fox Point (pop. 6,818) and Bayside (pop. 4,518) through forested neighborhoods and expensive real estate before turning west along Brown Deer Road. At this point, you can head east – slightly – into the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (1111 E. Brown Deer Rd., 414-352-2880), 185 acres of unspoiled beauty along the lakefront with six miles of trails, a variety of nature programs and a 60-foot observation tower that lets you enjoy the lake view as well as the sight of downtown Milwaukee, now about 10 miles to the south.

Once you’ve turned onto Brown Deer Road, you head inland a little over a mile. Here, Highway 100 begins and continues west while Highway 32 turns north and joins Interstate 43 for the high-speed ride (this is the first time since Oak Creek the speed limit has been above 35!) into Ozaukee County.

Ozaukee County is quite different from Milwaukee County, consisting mostly of farms and small towns. In the county’s southern half, Highway 32 follows I-43; the old route can be followed on the parallel Port Washington Road, if you prefer.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Ozaukee County is the second smallest county in Wisconsin by land area. It’s one of the 25 wealthiest counties in the U.S.; Forbes rated it #2 on its list of “Best Places to Raise a Family” in 2008.

The first city inside Ozaukee County is Mequon (pop. 23,820) is consistently rated as one of the “Best Places to Live in the United States” by Money Magazine (and there’s a lot of money in Mequon). The city has a lot of high-end homes, some plotted on acre-plus lots and others amidst forested neighborhoods. Mequon is often paired with Thiensville (pop. 3,254), known locally by some as the “worthwhile square mile,” accessible along Mequon Road (Highway 167) several miles to the west. At this point (Exit #85), Highway 57 also joins the freeway for a few miles – so it’s a three-way (I-43/Hwy 32/Hwy 57) for about eleven miles heading north. Mequon is Wisconsin’s fourth largest city by area – in the state’s smallest county, no less.

Next up, Highway 32 has an interchange with Highway 60 and Grafton (pop.11,568). Originally called “Hamburg” prior to its 1846 charter, Grafton flipped its name to “Manchester” from 1857 to 1862 before changing back. So far, it’s stayed “Grafton” ever since. Originally a lumber town, Grafton has hosted a series of industries ever since, including the famous Paramount Records from 1917 to 1932. It was right here where 78 rpm records were pressed and distributed to the nation, allowing artists such as Lawrence Welk, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tom Dorsey and Louis Armstrong to inspire future music generations and lay the seeds for the R&B and Rock ‘N Roll Eras. Between 1929 and 1932 alone, over 1,600 songs were recorded in Grafton at a make-shift studio that was formerly a chair factory; the output accounted for about 1/4 of the so-called “race records” of the era. You can get to the heart of Grafton by following Highway 60 west for just a few miles from Highway 32/I-43.

Where Highway 60 begins was once part of what was to be that turnpike from Port Ulao on Lake Michigan (just east of the interchange) to the Wisconsin River, which eventually runs into Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. So this would have been major connection. You can buzz east real quick from the Highway 60 interchange and follow County Road Q east to the lakefront, where on foot you can discover the original piles that made the piers of Port Ulao, although watch for lots of private property owners in the area. Ulao itself was established along the railroad tracks when they were built through in 1873. You’ll see the Ghost Town Tavern, essentially all that remains of Ulao, from Highway 32/I-43.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Port Ulao once hosted a 1,000-foot pier to supply Lake Michigan boats with wood; it’s also where the first Macadam road in the country was built.

*** Brewery Alerts ***
Grafton features a Water Street Brewery, which also has locations in Milwaukee and Delafield. Six beers are brewed on the premises in this nice new building that features an outdoor deck, full restaurant and plenty of beer memorabilia. It’s located right along the I-43/Hwy 32/Hwy 57 freeway at Highway 60 (Exit 92). Just west along the Milwaukee River in, there’s a Milwaukee Ale House location, a piece of the aforementioned Milwaukee Brewing Company.

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Grafton Veterans Memorial Park overlooks the Milwaukee River, a very picturesque scene as it flows through town just west of Highway 32/I-43 along Highway 60.

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Near old sawmills and chair factories, new condos are sprouting up along the Milwaukee River as Grafton’s downtown redevelops.

*** BYPASS ALERT ***
You can save time if needed by staying on I-43 around Port Washington; Highway 32 will re-join the freeway at Exit 100.

Visit Port Washington

Port Washington

At Exit #93, Highway 32 leaves I-43 and returns to its original path, heading northeast through farmland on a beeline to Ozaukee County’s seat, Port Washington (pop. 11,762). This attractive town, originally named Wisconsin City, then Washington, and then Sauk Washington, has a beautiful harbor area and port – and the “port” became part of its name. Port Washington has the largest collection of pre-Civil War buildings in the state, and buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places; they can be easily navigated in walking tours downtown. As you approach downtown via Spring Street, you reach an intersection that marks the start of Highway 33, which heads west out of Port Washington all the way to La Crosse. Meanwhile, Highway 32 heads east into downtown as Grand Avenue, dropping into the harbor area.

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Smith Bros. Fish Shanty was famous for freshly-caught fish dinners for decades in Port Washington. The original restaurant has since closed; the name is retained in the coffee shop occupying part of the building. The rest is now part of a Duluth Trading Company retail store and offices. The landmark sign has been refurbished and towers over the view towards the lake where Highway 32 approaches.

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Port Washington’s largest annual celebration is Fish Day, which takes place in July. Fireworks over the beautiful marina are just part of the event.

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Up this section of Highway 32 in Port Washington, known as Franklin Street, has shops, restaurants, access to the harbor and a nice view of St. Mary’s on the hill. Lake Michigan is just behind the block on the right.

Port Washington has a few claims to fame, including being the setting of the ABC television show Step By Step (a Brady Bunch-esque sitcom that ran during the late ’90s) and the current residence of Dustin Diamond, Screech from Saved By The Bell. No word on whether Tiffani Thiessen plans to relocate here, however. The city has a long manufacturing history, including chairs and tractors. Simplicity Manufacturing was founded here, as was Allen Edmonds shoes, which we’ll get to in a minute. You can get a ton of information at the Visit Port Washington Visitors center, located one block west of Highway 32’s turn by the old Smith Brothers Fish Shanty sign.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Dredging and other improvements in Port Washington in 1870 resulted in the first man-made harbor in North America.

Into downtown, you turn north onto Franklin Street and go past a variety of shops and restaurants. St. Mary’s Church looms above on the hill, providing a picture postcard view that has actually made it onto quite a few picture postcards. Check out the lighthouse that marks the harbor entrance… and count the number of tourists taking its picture. For biking enthusiasts, the Interurban Trail winds through town, and all of Ozaukee County, on a former rail line. This is a good place to stop and take some time, whether you want to hike or bike the trail or check out the shops downtown. If you have your rod, Port Washington also offers some terrific fishing and extensive piers and places to go. Some longtime shops like Bernie’s Fine Meats (119 N. Franklin Street, 262-284-4511) have existed for decades; other, newer shops include Duluth Trading Company and Sherper’s, as well as a number of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and stores for housewares, yoga, and more.

ptwashharbor01_800Port Washington’s bustling Lake Michigan harbor is well-known as a great place to keep your boat and get some good fishing in. The downtown area is adjacent to the harbor, with bars, restaurants, shops, hotels and condos.

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Apparently, Port Washington is #1 for trout and salmon. I don’t know if that means on Lake Michigan, or in the world or what, but hey, who am I to argue? I just tour the state and write about stuff.

*** Brewery Alert ***

Along Lake Street just east of Highway 32 at the northeast edge of the heart of downtown you’ll find Inventors Brewpub.

Heading north on Highway 32, you pass the headquarters of Allen-Edmonds Shoe Corporation and the “Shoe Bank”. It’s a great stop for discounts on high-quality men’s shoes. Tell ’em you’re driving on the State Trunk Tour when you go in!

Just as it did before Port Washington, Highway 32 once again links up with I-43. You re-join the freeway for about 13 miles, into Sheboygan County. The Lake Church exit (#107) provides access to Harrington Beach State Park. County Highway D, the access road to the park, continues east all the way to Lake Michigan – literally: the pavement practically disappears into the beach. Originally, Highway 32 followed the old U.S. 141, which used to be the main road from Milwaukee to Green Bay before the freeway was built. The old road lives on today as County LL, which parallels the freeway mostly just to the west… so if you’re in a two-lane mood, go ahead and follow LL – that’s the way it was back in the day!

At Exit 113, Highway 32 leaves the freeway and heads west into Cedar Grove (pop. 1,887). The village and area has a strong Dutch heritage, including having a full-size replica of a windmill in – you guessed it – Windmill Park. Cedar Grove was also the setting for one episode of FOX’s Prison Break in 2006, although it wasn’t actually filmed here.

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Sometimes the old gas stations are kept intact…as they should be. Along Highway 32 north of Cedar Grove. Ah, the old days of leaded gas for 15 cents a gallon…

A roundabout greets you at the junction with Highway 28, which will take you west into Kettle Moraine or east into Sheboygan. As you go ’round and continue north on 32, you enter lovely Sheboygan Falls (pop. 6,772). Located along the Sheboygan River between the Onion and Mullet (yes, Mullet) Rivers, there are quite a few rapids along the water and – no surprise – a waterfall. Sheboygan Falls is home to Bemis Manufacturing Company, the world’s largest maker of toilet seats. And while Johnsonville is its own unincorporated community just north of here, tasty sausage maker Johnsonville Foods lists Sheboygan Falls as its official headquarters.

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shebrapids_400Sheboygan Falls has a beautiful downtown. They’re done a great job of preserving and restoring 19th century-era buildings, now filled with shops, restaurants and artisan galleries. It’s a great place to spend a few hours. To the right is an example of one of the many rapids along the river downtown, which flows behind a series of buildings and provides a nice view and good venue for a picnic or just to stretch out and relax for a bit.

Highway 32 heads right into downtown Sheboygan Falls, a well-preserved cluster of 19th-century era brick buildings. The Sheboygan River, with rapids and a waterfall, runs through the area and it makes for a very pleasant setting. Water power from the river is what established Sheboygan Falls originally back in 1835, and industry sprung up. Sheboygan Falls won the “Great American Main Street Award” in 1995 and today has two historic districts, one for the downtown area and one called the Cole Historic District. The Cole features a mill house and hotel built in the 1830s and 1840s. Sheboygan Falls is worth a longer stop if you plan on some lunch or milling about the stores.

Heading north from Sheboygan Falls, Highway 32 crosses Highway 23 and heads north to Howards Grove (pop. 2,973), where you meet Highway 42. At Howards Grove, Highway 32 turns northwest and heads toward Manitowoc County and a junction with Highway 57, where the two highways start traveling together for quite a ways and the road opens up as a divided highway briefly. Two crossings of the Sheboygan River and a few more miles send you to a junction with Highway 67 and Kiel.

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North of Sheboygan Falls, some farms look like ranches in Texas with the longhorn-lookin’ cattle enjoying some grass along Highway 32.

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Right after Highways 32 & 57 come together, there’s a brief expressway-like section – perhaps in anticipation of what was the originally planned Interstate between Milwaukee and Green Bay??

Past Plymouth, Highway 32 heads straight through the “great wide open”, bending northwest slightly as Highway 32 joins in just inside the Manitowoc County line. Two crossings of the Sheboygan River and a few miles send you to a junction with Highway 67 and Kiel.

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First thing we stumbled on in Kiel: a brat fry. We like this town.

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This stretch of Highway 32, combined with 57, goes through the heart of a series of towns, from Kiel to New Holstein to Chilton. This tree-lined stretch goes through the neighborhoods of Kiel.

Kiel (pop. 3,450) bills itself as the “little city that does big things.” What are those big things? I’m working to find out. Situated halfway between Lake Michigan and Lake Winnebago, Kiel sits on the Sheboygan River and dams it in the downtown area, about where Highway 32/57 crosses it for the third time. This is where I stumbled across a brat fry – which, of course, requires stopping and imbibing. On the other side of Kiel, 32/57 heads northwest again, into Calumet County (technically, you’re now in the Appleton-Oshkosh metro area – even though Highway 32 doesn’t go near either city.)

Just a few miles later, along the Canadian Pacific railroad tracks is New Holstein (pop. 3,301). Where is the “Old” Holstein? We have an answer: the Holstein region in Germany, which is where many of the town’s founders came from. Remember our discussion of Hildegarde back from Adell? New Holstein is where she was raised, before hitting the big time. New Holstein also “sired” Edward Schildhauer, who was the chief engineer on a little digging project (the Panama Canal) and three NFL players (Ken Criter of the Broncos and Bob Schmitz of the Steelers and… grumble grumble… Vikings.)

So is the glass half empty of half full? At Optimist Park, you should know the answer. It all began in 1974 – not a majorly optimistic time – on land purchased partially to prevent encroachment of the adjacent wastewater treatment facility. Sound good so far? In 1995, they moved to Sled Hill Park with, as the city website notes, a “small warming shack and a homemade Optimist Sign.”
Optimism can pay off, however: today, Optimist Park has a Chalet Building, a real sign, park benches, memorial trees and a landscaped terrace. The sledding hill remains and is very popular.

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New Holstein’s Timm House.

The Timm House is a local landmark that served as the home of one of the city’s founders. Built in the Greek Revival style in 1873, it was expanded in 1891 and was donated by Timm’s ancestors to the local historic society in 1974. See the story to the right, and you’ll have a new appreciation for the $1.2 million restoration that was just completed several years back.

State Trunk Tour Sidebar: The Timm House Story:
Check out what the heck happened with this historic city landmark:
“The house had a major roof leak that forced an end to the house tours in 1998. An architectural assessment was performed on the house, and the cost to reconstruct the house was estimated between $116,020 and $126,220. Before the roof was repaired, there was a broken pipe in the dining room. The break happened in January 1999. It dumped 500,000 gallons of water through the first floor and into the basement. The rising basement waters extinguished the furnace, causing the water in the pipes and the radiators to freeze, then burst. City water meters knew there was a problem somewhere in the city, but no one could find the source of the leak. A volunteer at the house discovered the leak. The volunteer arranged for a heating repairman to stop the flooding. When the repairman left, he slamming the door closed. The door frame was so swollen that the volunteer was stuck inside. She had to go upstairs and call for help through a front window.”
Yikes!
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New Holstein’s employment base is quite good for a town its size. So what is a Sukup? It’s an Iowa-based company that handles, dries and stores grain. It’s also a good description for Smithers in “The Simpsons.”

32-57-151_400Next up in this string of cool little Wisconsin cities is Chilton (pop. 3,708), Calumet’s county seat. Chilton features several things to check out, including the Ledge View Nature Center, which can take you through a butterfly garden, high up on a 60-foot observation tower or way down in a series of caves featuring crawl passages, fossils and places called the Bat Room and Wayne’s World. In Mother’s Cave, it’s all crawling. One area called “the Squeeze” recognizes the size of Wisconsinites; you have to fit through a box simulation of the Squeeze before you’re allowed into the cave. Its position on the Niagara dolostone reveals more fossils (coral reefs used to exist there), and they tap the area for maple syrup in the spring months. You can also rent snowshoes and cross-country skis, but it’s best to try doing that in the wintertime. Ledge View is accessible off Highway 57 by taking Irish Road (just before entering Chilton) south to Short Road.

*** Brewery Alert ***

chilton_rowlands01Like an increasing number of Wisconsin communities, Chilton has a local brewpub. Rowland’s Calumet Brewery (25 N. Madison Street, via U.S. 151) features 17 different beers, including interesting names like “Bitter Bitch Belgium Ale”, “Fat Man’s Nut Brown Ale” and a “Total Eclipse”, a monstrously malty opaque beer. Varieties of the beer are also available in liquor stores and restaurants in locations around Chilton and out to places like Manitowoc, Elkhart Lake, Plymouth and Appleton. Rowland’s is along U.S. Highway 151, which runs through Chilton and joins Highway 32 & 57 for a brief spell.

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Highway 32/57 combine with U.S. 151 for the ride through downtown Chilton.

Northward from Chilton and over the interestingly-named Killsnake River (there must be a story in there somewhere), Highway 57 opens up a bit and becomes quite the straightaway for a while, perfect for traversing quickly. It’s also perfect for county sheriffs. One speed zone is in Hilbert (pop. 1,089), birthplace of jazz musician Bunny Berigan in 1908, the last year the Chicago Cubs celebrated a championship (couldn’t resist). Fox Lake (along Highway 33) also claims Berigan and their hometown son, since he grew up there for more of his life before hitting New York and the big time. Berigan’s marker is in Fox Lake, but Hilbert is where he first left any marks at all. In Hilbert, Highway 114 provides access to High Cliff State Park, a beautiful vista high atop Lake Winnebago, which only lies about 7 miles west of this point. A little further up is Forest Junction, whose “junction” claim started with two major railroads intersecting; now Highways 32 & 57 cross U.S. 10 here, making it an increasingly popular bedroom community for people working in Appleton and Green Bay. After all, their slogan is “You CAN get there from here.”

What you get to just past Forest Junction is Brown County and another junction (a relatively new roundabout, actually), this time with Highway 96 in Greenleaf. A rail trail parallels Highway 32 in Greenlead, and the Trail’s End Restaurant hints that you just might be at the end of that trail. Highway 96 accesses Denmark and I-43 to the east and Wrightstown and Appleton to the west. We’re heading north toward the heart and soul of Packer Country.

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Evidence that dinosaurs once roamed this land in DePere??

Civilization emerges in the form of DePere (pop. 22,310), a suburb of Green Bay. It’s pronounced “d’peer”, which a lot of Sconnies also say they fish off of. Split by the Fox River, the name DePere is French (no doy), coming from the term “Les Rapids des Peres”, the “Rapids of the Fathers”. A mission was established here waaaay back in 1671 by French Jesuit priests, led by Father Claude Allouez, whose name adorns the bridge that Highway 32 uses to split from Highway 57 and enter downtown DePere before heading into Green Bay west of the Fox River.

St. Norbert College lies on the west bank of the Fox River. St. Norbert started in 1898 with a single student; today it has over 2,000 and continuously ranks among the best comprehensive colleges in the Midwest, and this author can tell you their alums are loyal. I’ve run into them watching Packer games at Leff’s Lucky Town in Wauwatosa, and instead of Packer gear, many wear St. Norbert College gear – the “Green Knights'” colors are a variation of green and gold, after all, and the Packers have been conducting training camp here since 1958 – the year before Vince Lombardi showed up.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The training camp relationship between St. Norbert College and the Green Bay Packers is the longest between a team and a school in the NFL, dating back to 1958.

Green Bay

Now firmly ensconced on the west side of the Fox River as a 4-lane divided highway called Ashland Avenue (once the historic U.S. 41 route before the freeway was constructed in the early 1970s), Highway 32 makes a beeline north into Green Bay (pop. 104,779), Wisconsin’s oldest city and – not sure if you’ve heard – home to a professional football team. In fact, LLLLAAAAMMMMBEAU FIELD lies just west of Highway 32.; at the intersection with Lombardi Avenue, take a left and one mile away, you’ll hit the stadium.

Green Bay is also the headquarters of ShopKo Stores and Schneider National (admit it, you know the commercials and you’ve seen the “big orange trucks”). Famous people from Green Bay include Tony Shalhoub of Monk fame, ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Anderson, comedian and Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson, Pat MacDonald of the group Timbuk 3 – you know, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”? – that group. Naturally, Green Bay is home to tons of athletes too, among them NFL stars Curly Lambeau, Jerry Tagge, Ted Fritsch Jr., Arnie Herber and Aaron Stecker, as well as baseball pitcher Bob Wickman.

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Lambeau is THAT close to Highway 32. Angle west on Lombardi Avenue and you’ll be there in literally a minute!

Just across the river near Lambeau and Highway 172 via Highway 57, you’ll find Heritage Hill State Historical Park. Technically located in suburban Allouez, this 48-acre outdoor museum lives up to its name. Over 30 historic structures and endangered buildings are perched on a hill overlooking the Fox River in an area that once served as a prison farm. Log cabins from the fur trade era, original stores and public buildings, even buildings from the original Fort Howard are all located here and available for exploration. Populating the grounds in summer are live historic interpreters – many in period attire – to help illustrate what these buildings are all about. More and more fun events take place throughout the year here, too.

On THIS side of the river, train enthusiasts and kids alike will love the National Railroad Museum (2285 S. Broadway), which features over 70 locomotives and train cars including the world’s largest steam locomotive – known as “Big Boy.” You can access that just east of Highway 32 by Lombardi Avenue.

Flanking the stadium is the massive new Titletown District, which includes the Brown County Arena, the Resch Center, and a number of bars and restaurants including the classic Anduzzi’s, Brett Favre’s Steakhouse, the Stadium View bar, and newer breweries and distilleries on streets all named after Packers players and coaches. For example, on Mike McCarthy Way you’ll find Green Bay Distillery, which serves up spirits distilled nearby in Door County. Badger State Brewing Company is on Tony Canadeo Run, and the new Leatherhead Brewing Company is on Lombardi Avenue, all within blocks of Highway 32.

Past the Lambeau Field and Titletown District areas, Highway 32 continues north on Ashland Avenue toward downtown Green Bay, though it doesn’t quite get there. At the junction with Mason Street (Highway 54,), Highway 32 joins it and heads west for a ways to the U.S. 41 freeway. You then break away from Highway 54 and go north all of one mile, whereupon you leave the freeway and join Highway 29 at Shawano Avenue. At that point, you start heading northwest out of Green Bay. If you want to check out downtown Green Bay (and it’s worth a side drive), continue following Ashland north to Walnut Street and take a right…you’ll be right in it. Otherwise, onward!

Downtown & other parts of Green Bay

Following Ashland past where Highway 32 begins to head west and into downtown Green Bay, there are plenty of sights and places to check out. Here are just some of them!

Towards downtown along the Fox River, one of the few northward-flowing rivers in North America, bridges are lit up at night with condos, bars and shops springing up around them. Nearing Highway 29 and Broadway on the west side of the river, a Farmers Market offers produce and other items on Wednesday afternoons from June through September from 3pm-8pm. The Neville Public Museum focuses on art, history and science for northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; it’s a great stop for an afternoon, especially before or after hitting Titletown and/or Hinterland Brewing, which are both within eyeshot.

Green Bay does have a bit of a nightlife area downtown, east along the Fox River. Centered on Washington Street adjacent to Highway 29, the area features an array of bars and restaurants. Places to party include Kittner’s Pub, Hip Cats, Liquid 8, Confetti, Washington Street Pub, the Fox Harbor Pub & Grill, and Stir-Ups (Stir-Ups is a country bar – yes, think about it.) Green Bay’s party crowd hangs out in this area, and it’s not uncommon for Packers players to be seen.

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The handsome Brown County Courthouse, completed in 1908. You’ll find at the corner of Highway 29/Walnut Street & Jefferson Avenue on the east side of downtown and the Fox River, just a little west of Highway 57.

On the east bank of the Fox River, a ride along University Avenue (also Highways 54/57 east a bit brings you toward Bay Beach Amusement Park, which offers everything from roller coasters to carousels and water rides from May through September. The biggest coaster is Zippin’ Pippin, a 2,800-foot long wooden coaster with nearly hundred-year-old origins in Memphis, Tennessee. It was moved to Green Bay and re-opened in 2011, where it’s become quite popular.

Just next door to the action and noise, the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary is next door, providing 700 acres of refuge for animals. The Sanctuary features live animal exhibits, educational displays, miles of hiking/skiing trails and various wildlife viewing opportunities; they care for more than 4,500 orphaned and injured animals each year. It traces its roots to 1936, when it established as a site for waterfowl rehabilitation with an assist from Aldo Leopold. The Sanctuary is free and open year ’round. The whole area of Bay Beach lies along the waters of Green Bay, adjacent to where the Fox River empties into this arm of Lake Michigan.

** More Brewery Alerts! **

titletown_front_lgGreen Bay calls itself “Titletown”, so when some guys decided to start up a brewery here before all the others in this recent resurgence, it only made sense to call it the Titletown Brewing Company. Coincidentally(?!) Titletown Brewing started in December of 1996, right before the Packers’ first Super Bowl victory in nearly three decades. Located downtown on Dousman Street/U.S. 141 just west of downtown and the Fox River, Titletown occupies a classic old railroad station built in 1899. Titletown brews Packer-backer beverages such as the Johnny “Blood” Red and Canadeo Gold as well as a great root beer called Sno-Cap, which uses Clyde the Penguin as its mascot. Trains, football, beer, food… definitely a good stop on the State Trunk Tour. Meanwhile, across the street Hinterland Brewing started the year prior in a former meat-packing warehouse (yes, how the “Packers” got their name) and brews up their popular Packerland pilsner, several IPAs, an English-style ale, and a number of seasonals. They’re parlayed their success into a gastropub down in Milwaukee and an affiliation with a restaurant up in Fish Creek in Door County. They offer tours on Saturdays – get details here.

Meanwhile, Highway 32 proper joins Highway 54/Mason Street westward towards I-41, where it rides with the Interstate northward quite briefly before joining Highway 29 westbound on a large, new flyover ramp that sends you northwest out of the city.

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An “old school” Arby’s sign along Mason Street, where Highways 32 & 54 combine for a bit. You don’t need big old hat sign too often anymore.

Below: Here’s what U.S. 41 at the Highways 29/32 exit USED to look like. It’s now I-41 and access to 29/32 heading northwest is a massive flyover ramp. Pictures to come!

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For a little while, you’re on the same expressway that takes Highway 29 west to Wausau. You get off sooner than that, though, at Pulaski (pop. 3,060), which Highway 32 goes right through. Pulaski was first settled – not surprisingly – by Polish immigrants. They named the town after famous Polish Revolutionary War General Kazimierz Pulaski, who also created the first cavalry in the United States. Yes, flatlanders, it’s the same guy that Chicago names its “Pulaski Day” after. Pulaski hosts the annual Polka Days – one of the largest Polish festivals in the U.S.

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Pulaski has a nice downtown, including the Assumption BVM Church, the largest rural Catholic church in the United States. It’s located right along Highway 32 as you head through town.

Through Pulaski – parts of which cover three counties (Brown, Oconto and Shawano), you also cross the Mountain-Bay State Trail, an 83-mile bike trail following an old railroad bed that links Green Bay to Wausau. If you’re up for some biking, Pulaski’s a good place to bring the bikes and hit the trail. If you’re forging onward on your motorcycle or in your car or truck, then you’ll be straddling the Oconto-Shawano County line for a while up past another Polish-inspired settlement, Krakow, on the way to meet with Highway 22 and then fully getting into Oconto County.

Oconto County.org and Highway 64

There, you join 22 westward into Gillett (pop. 1,256). It has nothing to do with the razor – that’s Gillette – the town was named after Rodney Gillett, an early settler in the 1860s. Gillett is home of the Oconto County Fair and the Earthaven Museum, an earth sciences museum a few miles north of town along Highway 32 just down Valley Line Road. The Earthaven Museum features thousands of rocks, minerals and fossils with extensive collections of early human tools and artifacts. It’s a rockin’ time. Get it? Okay, we’ll move on…

Gillett ATV Capital along Highway 22ATV Capital of the World

Gillett bills itself as the “ATV Capital of the World,” owning the trademark and everything. While a tall order to claim, Gillett backs it up with over 18 miles of maintained ATV trails just within their small city limits and the adjoining towns of Underhill and Maple Valley. A popular starting point is at Zippel Park, which is also home to the Oconto County Fair every summer.

North of Gillett, Highway 32 turns to and fro a bit and lines up on the 45th parallel for the ride into Suring (pop. 605). The town prides itself on its smack-dab-on-the-45th location, as evidenced by the “Halfway between the Equator and North Pole” flags hanging from street lights downtown.

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Suring makes it clear what latitude you’re on. Heading west of town, an old railroad bridge remains next to Highway 32, even though the old line doesn’t.

Now that you’re closer to the North Pole than the Equator (although TECHNICALLY, the halfway point in terms of mileage between the two is 45° 8′ 45.7″N because the earth is an oblate spheroid…but I’m sure you knew that from science class, right? Yeah, I didn’t either.) Continuing north along Highway 32, you squeeze past lovely Anderson Lake (pictured below left), cross into Oconto County, arrive into the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest and hook up with Highway 64 for the ride into the town of Mountain (pop. 860). Mountain is spread out far and wide and is a popular stop for campers, hunters and those who wish to imbibe at the School House Bar (lower right below.) County Highway W is the only real crossroad going through Mountain.

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The Schoolhouse Bar, where the classes now generally involve learning what beverage you should have. It’s a popular stop for ATVers, snowmobilers, and bikers.

After “downtown” Mountain, Highway 64 cuts away and heads west toward Antigo and Minnesota; Highway 32, meanwhile forges northward through the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest and towns like Lakewood and Townsend.

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Anderson Lake is just one of many beautiful places that will dot the landscape along this stretch of Highway 32.

The tall, neat lines of pines that frame Highway 32 comes from the extensive logging the area around Mountain and Lakewood experienced over the years. In fact, some areas of these woods have been cleared and regrown four or five times.There is one area, however, that’s still virgin timber: Cathedral Pines, an officially designated “State Natural Area.”

32nofmtn_800A protected old growth area of pines, hemlocks, maples, beech, basswood, yellow birch and white ash trees, Cathedral Pines is also home to an active Great Blue Heron rookery, where members of this endangered bird species continue to inhabit. You can reach Cathedral Pines by turning left (south) onto Forest Road 2121 (also called Archibald Lake Road) just past Lakewood. The main parking and viewing area is about a mile and a half down the road. Highway 32 itself borders Cathedral Pines to the northeast for 1.3 miles.

townsendflowage_800Through this area, Highway 32 cuts through forest and slides past a variety of lakes, rivers and areas like Townsend Flowage (pictured at left) that make for lovely views when driving, or stopping to picnic and swat away mosquitoes.

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Into Forest County (appropriately named, since you’re still in the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest), Highway 32 goes through Carter before hitting its larger neighbor, Wabeno (pop. 1,264). Interestingly, the town got its name from a tornado that blew through back in 1880; the Native Americans named the 1/2-mile to 1-mile wide strip of fallen timber “Waubeno”, meaning “the coming of the winds” or “the opening”. Waubeno grew up, like many towns up here, as a lumber town. By 1905, five sawmills cranked out 35 million board-feet of lumber annually, a trend that lasted several decades until mills shut down during the Great Depression. Much of the local economy moved to farming, with some tourism now mixed in. Wabeno also won the award for “Wisconsin’s best-tasting water” in 2003, and has been bottling and selling it ever since.

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Larry the Logroller along Highway 32 in Wabeno

Larry the Logroller is probably Wabeno’s most recognized symbol. Standing 22 feet high, the bearded fiberglass town greeter grins over you like he’s just ready to kick your tail in a logrolling contest.

Wabeno’s most notable landmark is Larry the Logroller, a 22-foot high fiberglass symbol of the town’s logging history. Similar to a Paul Bunyan statue, Larry brandishes a logging tool as opposed to an ax. He stands guard over a city park along the north branch of the Oconto River, which also holds the Wabeno Logging Museum and a 1901 Phoenix Log Hauler, a steam engine locomotive that, while not active, still works if somehow needed.

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Coming into Wabeno, beams of sunlight cast down towards a church…fitting, I’d say.

 

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Along Highway 32, the “Bottoms Up” bar helps reinforce their name by creative use of their Old Style sign.

Another charmer is Waubeno’s Public Library, essentially a log cabin originally built by Chicago & Northwestern Railroad in 1897 for use as a land office. Under town ownership since 1923, it remains a library built of logs – one look, you KNOW you’re up North. It’s the only remaining log cabin library in Wisconsin.

Another indication you’re up here is the extensive network of snowmobile trails; the Lumberjack Memorial Snowmobile Trails consist of a network of over 100 miles of groomed snowmobile trails organized by Lumberjack Memorial Trails, Inc., which formed out of five separate clubs that united in 1974. Their website tracks the condition of each trail and provides information on pit stops and more. Wabeno and Laona are at the heart of this trail network.

Next up, further north through the woods, you reach Laona (pop. 1,367). Home of the popular Lumberjack Steam Train that will take you to an historic logging camp, museum, country store and blacksmith shop, Laona is also a center for forestry and snowmobiling, like Wabeno just down the road. It’s also home to the World’s Largest Soup Kettle, a legacy of the town’s Community Soup Day which started with free soup in the 1920s and continues today (BYOB – bring your own bowl – if you happen to be there on the proper day.)

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The nation’s first School Forest was founded in Laona in 1927.

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In Laona, Highway 32 meets with U.S. 8, the main highway from Minneapolis to Escanaba and a key route east-west across Wisconsin’s North Woods. We join U.S. 8 for about 11 miles westerly to Crandon (pop. 1,961). The only incorporated community in Forest County, Crandon serves as a county seat and was named after Frank Crandon, a tax commissioner with the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad who helped Forest County get established (it was part of Oconto County prior to 1887.) Like so many towns in this area, Crandon originally grew via a bustling lumber industry that tripled the town’s size in the early 1900’s and brought a slew of settlers and loggers from Kentucky, so much so that Crandon still holds an annual Kentuck Day’s Festival. Crandon is also home to the Crandon International Off-Road Raceway, which hosts the World Championships Off-Road Races every year; in fact, they’re 40 years old now. The World Championships usually take place over Labor Day weekend.

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Highway 32 meets with U.S. 8 and Highway 55 for the ride through downtown Crandon. This convergence of roads, fairly major for the region, has helped make Crandon a popular destination for travelers and vacationers.

crandonhotel_500Much of Crandon’s downtown was built during its “boom” era, which is roughly 1900-1930. The Hotel Crandon (200 N. Lake Ave., 715-478-2414) is an example of “old school”, including the sign claiming the hotel to be “modern” and “fireproof.” Not sure if that’s true, but after all, it’s still there after all these years.

In Crandon, U.S. 8 breaks off and heads west toward Rhinelander, while Highway 32 – coupled with 55 – pushes north to Argonne. There, Highway 55 heads north towards Iron River, Michigan (it’s pretty much just forest all the way there), while Highway 32 zigzags northwest into the highlands and the town of Hiles (pop. 404). At this point, by Pine Lake, you’re about 1,633 feet above sea level, more than 1,050 higher than Milwaukee or Kenosha. Being such high ground, a) it gets really cold here in the winter and b) this area is the headwaters for two major Wisconsin rivers, the Pine River and the Wolf River. This area of Highway 32 follows (sometimes roughly, but still) an old military road that dates back to before this was United States territory. The route connected Green Bay with towns in the U.P. on the shores of Lake Superior. Hiles sprung up as the junction of headwaters and this military road, with settlement dating back to 1860. By 1920, Hiles boasted streetlights, a fancy water fountain in the village park and a modern six-room schoolhouse (everybody else pretty much had one-room schoolhouses), complete with central heat and cement sidewalks. It was quite advanced for the time, although nowadays one of the appeals of these small towns is that time seems to stand still.

chickeninthewoods_500Past Hiles and into Oneida County, Highway 32 twists and turns as it navigates the shores of a series of lakes; we’re entering the Chain O’Lakes area, part of the largest chain of freshwater lakes in the world.

You never know what you’ll find on the State Trunk Tour. There’s gotta be a story behind “Chicken in the Woods Road”. Meanwhile, the nearby Harbor Restaurant and Campground near Three Lakes salutes Highway 32…

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In Three Lakes (pop. 2,339), Highway 32 meets up with U.S. 45, which stays with it to the end. Three Lakes, which is actually amidst hundreds of them, was named so because of frustrated railroad surveyors who had to alter their planned route because of – you guessed it – three lakes. Three Lakes is also the home of model and Big Brother 8 cast member Mike Dutz, who was also on Lifetime’s show Gay, Straight or Taken? (he was the straight and available one.)

*** Winery Alert ***
Three Lakes is home to Three Lakes Winery, which was an early pioneer in cranberry wine and other types when it debuted back in 1972. Their popular Tasting Room – located in a former Chicago & Northwestern Train Depot – is open seven days a week all year except Christmas and New Years’. They’re open 9am-5pm every day except Sunday, when they’re open 10am-4pm. You’ll find Three Lakes Winery right where U.S. 45 & Highway 32 meet County A in the downtown area.

From Three Lakes, Highways 32 & 45 head north into Vilas County. The county seat comes up pretty quickly!

That would be Eagle River (pop. 1,443), one of Wisconsin’s most popular vacation towns. It’s nicknamed the “Snowmobiling Capital of the World“, and competitions are held here throughout the winter months. Extensive trails stretch for miles from the town and around the multitude of lakes in the area. In warmer months, boating is very popular on these lakes… so many area lakes (28), in fact, that the Eagle River/Three Lakes Chain compose the largest number of interconnected lakes in the world. These lakes are frozen a good chunk of the year, obviously, and on the weekend closest to New Years’, area firefighters and volunteers cut 3,000 foot-thick blocks of ice from nearby Silver Lake to build the Ice Palace. The Ice Palace has been constructed almost annually since the 1920s and usually stands about 20 feet high, lit up at night with a multitude of colors. Tourists are welcome to check it out and take pictures; just don’t build a fire nearby or chip off any ice for your beverage.

Highway 70 comes in from the east and joins Highways 32 & 45 into town. Restaurants and motels line the route, and Wall Street, one block north through the heart of town, is where most of the action is. Lining the Wall are shops, confectionaries, bars, restaurants and the Vilas Theater. A good stop for food, drink and even the occasional live band is BBT’s (715-477-2313) along Wall Street. Just down is the Country Store, a confectionary with numerous fudge choices, candy, chocolates and ice cream where a “scoop” is half the size of Rhode Island.

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In a five-day period, thousands of pounds of ice find their way from a nearby lake to become part of an annual tradition, the Eagle River Ice Castle. It often lasts for 60-90 days, depending on temperature, sunlight, and how many people breathe warm air onto it.

eagleriverwelcomewinter_800Snowmobiling Capital of the World

Okay, back to this snowmobiling thing. Home of the annual World Championship Snowmobile Derby, Eagle River’s Derby Track hosted its first race on February 9, 1964 – about 40 years after Carl Eliason of nearby Sayner invented the first model that was comparable to today’s snowmobiles (and, that evening, The Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show). The races since have drawn participants and spectators from far and wide – tens of thousands, regardless of the weather. The races are held in mid-January, meaning it can be sunny and near 40, the typical cold of 6 above zero, or wind chills of -50 – as it was in 1994. There’s plenty of room to watch around the track, and luxury boxes are even available. Additional races and attractions have been added over the years; you can read a pretty comprehensive history right here. Eagle River averages 53 inches of snowfall each year – nothing too crazy, especially when areas closer to Lake Superior average over 100. But with hundreds of miles of trails and the invention of the snowmobile having taken place in the area, this is the epicenter of the sport. Bottom line, this is a place to road trip to in the midst of winter’s grasp!

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Racers line up for the oval. Straightaway speeds can reach 100mph. Are there are no seat belts.

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Snocross is awesome to watch, including at night. They can really get some air!

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The rarely-seen Derby Track in summer. A lot less action.

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Along Wall Street, Eagle River’s main street.

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Two scoops from the Country Store in downtown Eagle River.

Just down is the Country Store, a confectionery with numerous fudge choices, candy, chocolates and ice cream where a “scoop” is half the size of Rhode Island. Plenty of other treats are available too, whether it’s 20 below or 95 above outside.

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The local fishing contingent features its own two cents on available t-shirts.

 

 

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An eagle statue for Eagle River is right by the old railroad station at the west end of downtown. It looks cool during the day, but more soaring and dramatic with the light at night.

As Highway 70 leaves to head west toward Woodruff, Highway 17 comes in from Rhinelander and joins Highway 32 & U.S. 45 for a few miles through the north side of town and past the AMSoil Derby Track, the local airport, and a bunch of shops (this is the prime shopping town for tens of miles around), and county roads connections to the nearly endless chains of lakes in the area.

We head northward through Conover and shortly before hitting the state line, cross a teeny tiny Wisconsin River. Why is it so small? Because we’re only about two miles from its headwaters at Lac Vieux Desert, the Wisconsin River’s source along the Wisconsin-Michigan line.

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Yup, the Wisconsin River really is this small here, only about two miles from its headwaters.

histmarker_wisriverhead_500The Wisconsin’s source in Lac Vieux Desert is only about 15 miles north of Eagle River along the Wisconsin-Michigan border, and it’s still pretty small as it flows past Eagle River. Of course, it gains significant size and strength as it flows nearly 400 miles and drops over 1,000 feet on its way to the Mississippi! The Wisconsin River actually begins at a small dam that accessible via a walking path if you take County E east to Shore Road, then head just slightly north. There’s a sign and parking area so you can go check it out!

State Line Time – the End of the Line

After 325 miles, Highway 32 comes to an end at the Michigan state line. U.S. 45 continues into the U.P. before ending in Ontonagon on the Lake Superior shore – a loooong way from its start in Mobile, Alabama! We stop where Wisconsin stops, although this state line turned out to be fairly interesting.

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Above: Highway 32 ends with the “Welcome to Michigan” sign; only U.S. 45 keeps going. Below: Turning around, this is the scene as you enter Highway 32 southbound coming in from Michigan; no huge “WISCONSIN” sign, although a wooden one shows up a mile or so down the road. County Road B runs along the state line briefly before angling in by a block or two on the Wisconsin side to run through the heart of Land O’Lakes, which is literally several thousand feet to the west.

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A sizeable marker along the roadside, however, marks the state line quite exactly. On the left, notice the tree cut in the background, following the state line. In this shot, Michigan is on the left and Wisconsin is on the right. The picture on the right is a close-up of the marker, showing the state line as the strip of grout. It was taken from the Wisconsin side.

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The Gas Station That Spans Two States

straddlingwi-mi_400What was really interesting – at least to a geography geek like me – was the BP station. It literally straddles the state line. I gassed up in Michigan but paid for my gas in Wisconsin. Below: the actual state line is marked with lighter tile inside the convenience store. In this shot, I’m in both Michigan (my left foot) and Wisconsin (the other one) at the same time. In the shot at right, you can see that you can buy Wisconsin lottery tickets on one side of the line, and Michigan lottery tickets on the other. The bait for sale is on the Wisconsin side; most of the Pepsi products and magazines are on the Michigan side. Is there a rhyme or reason to this? I’ll have to find out next trip. But it was cool.

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Yes, two state lotteries can be played at the State Line BP – you just have to be on the proper side of that line for each state.

And that concludes our trip on the Red Arrow Highway, State Trunk Highway 32. It was a long but very enjoyable haul from the Illnois state line near Kenosha all the way up to Land O’Lakes on the Michigan border. Along the way, there’s so much to see… a very highly recommend route! Keep watching this page, as we’ll be providing updates and keep up with changes.

CONNECTIONS
South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Illinois Highway 137
Can connect nearby to: Highway 165, about one mile north; Highway 50, about 4 miles north; Highway 158, about 5 miles north

North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: U.S. Highway 45
Can connect nearby to: Highway 17 about 11 miles south; Highway 70, about 18 miles south

29

STH-029“From the Mississippi river split to lighthouses on Lake Michigan”

WisMap29Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 29 is a “coast to coast” highway, running between Prescott at the Mississippi/St. Croix river split and the shore of Lake Michigan in Kewaunee. On the way, you traverse hills along the St. Croix River Valley, brush by several UW college campuses, kiss the middle of two hemispheres at once, look up at Rib Mountain and check out Wausau, go through the heart of Green Bay, and even visit Poland before landing at Lake Michigan’s doorstep. The middle two-thirds of Highway 29 is high-speed expressway; west of Chippewa Falls and east of Green Bay it’s a rural two-lane just like most state highways. It’s one of the most significant east-west roads in the state and carries the designation of the World War I Veterans Memorial Highway for its entire length.

Wisconsin Highway 29 Road Trip

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The Drive (West To East): The best place to start is actually with U.S. 10 and Highway 35 in the heart of Prescott, the westernmost incorporated city in Wisconsin. Prescott lies right at the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers; looking upstream, this is where the Mississippi River turns away from the Wisconsin-Minnesota border and heads straight for Minneapolis and St. Paul. Prescott itself (pop. 4,000) dates back to 1839, named after its founder; his first name was Philander (I believe they just called him “Phil” for short.) Prescott’s location just 25 minutes from downtown St. Paul counts it within the Twin Cities metro. For some, it’s a suburb; the outskirts are seeing subdivisions popping up. But in the downtown area up and down Broad Street (also Highway 35), the original Prescott includes antique shops, a goldsmith shop and a walking tour of historic homes, plus a marina. A State Trunk Tour favorite is Muddy Waters Bar & Grill (231 Broad Street, 715-262-5999). Seems like every year it gets bigger and adds more decks out back that overlook the rivers, a road and rail bridge, and the barges being flanked by boaters and jet-skiers (whom I assume aren’t present in the winter.) The Wisconsin Welcome & Heritage Center, which chronicles local history and features displays, sits next to Muddy Waters at the U.S. 10 bridge crossing into Minnesota.

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The confluence of the St. Croix & Mississippi Rivers at Prescott. The rail bridge pictured is part of the main line from New Orleans to St. Paul.

From Prescott, heading northeast via Broad Street/Highway 35 brings you to the technical start of Highway 29, about one mile north of downtown. Once you hit 29, open countryside beckons. The road, multiplexed with Highway 35 for the 11 miles into River Falls, winds around, up and down hills and valleys that characterize the area close to the St. Croix River. And it’s pretty.

Can you believe there are two Kinnickinnics??

I guess it stands to reason: Wisconsin has more than one Fox River, more than one Wolf River… but more than one Kinnickinnic River? Indeed. One is in Milwaukee, draining the city’s south side into Lake Michigan. The other flows through western Wisconsin into the St. Croix. Kinnickinnic State Park, located along the latter, offers swimming, boat mooring, fishing, cross-country skiing, panoramic views and good bird-watching. Note to fishermen: this version of the Kinnickinnic River is a nationally recognized Class One Trout Stream. Incidentally, the word “Kinnickinnic” comes from the Ojibwa, meaning “what is mixed.” Seems that Kinnickinnic deals with mixing various plant material, including tobacco. Highway 29 offers access to the river and park between Prescott and River Falls.

You can “float the Kinni” with rentals from the Kinni Creek Lodge and Outfitters (877-504-9705), which also offers cabins and features a B&B. They’re located along Highway 35 just north of where Highway 29 turns east in River Falls.

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In rural Pierce County, Highway 29 snakes into and around hills that are part of the northern “Driftless Area.”

River Falls – the first of two college towns

Next up on Highway 29 is River Falls (pop. 14,015), “The City on the Kinni”, as it calls itself. River Falls is definitely a college town, with about 14,000 regular residents and 6,000 college students. The city is home to UW-River Falls, which served as the summer practice facility for the Kansas City Chiefs until 2009, and Chippewa Valley Technical College. Like Prescott, River Falls is also increasingly a Twin Cities suburb (Twin Cities workers seem to be seeking out homes in Packers territory.) Highway 35 branches off and heads north at this point towards Hudson; Highway 29 continues its push east through Pierce County. After a short coupling with U.S. Highway 63, Highway 29 heads east into Spring Valley (pop. 1,189), home of Crystal Cave, “Wisconsin’s Longest Showcave!”, as it says. Discovered by accident in 1881, Crystal Cave offers tours taking you through multiple levels of dolomite bedrock revealing stalactites, stalagmites, rippling flowstone, and more. And times, it feels like you’re in a dinosaur’s mouth looking up at its teeth. But don’t, like, let that stop you from checking it out. The cave is cool year ’round, since it burrows down as much as 70 feet from the surface.

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State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Founded the same year Wisconsin became a state (1848), River Falls’ original name was Greenwood. Problem was, there already was a Greenwood, Wisconsin. Then they noticed there a falls along the river, and the name change seemed obvious.

Spring Valley is clearly a valley – as you cross the Eau Galle River, you can see the bluffs and ridges on either side. Swimmers frequent the Eau Galle Dam and Recreation Area, home to the largest earthen dam in the Midwest.

Menomonie

Beyond Spring Valley, you enter Menomonie (pop. 14,937), which flanks the Red Cedar River. There is a Menominee River in Wisconsin, and a Menominee, Michigan across from Marinette; the Muppets even had a song called Ma-Na-Ma-Na. But this Menomonie, with its slightly different spelling, is the one that tends to confuse people. (To further the confusion, there’s a Menomonee Falls and a Menomonee River in southeastern Wisconsin.)

Menomonie’s downtown runs along State Highways 29 and 25, which combine for a short distance. U.S. 12 also runs through town and I-94 flanks the town to the north, which allows some people who live in Menomonie to commute to Minneapolis or Eau Claire. Menomonie sprung up because of its handy location on the southern shores of Lake Menomin, a reservoir section of the Red Cedar River that bisects both Menomonie and Dunn County. Consistent settlement in Menomonie dates back to 1830, predating Madison, St. Paul, and Eau Claire. Rapid growth in lumber production during the 1850s and 1860s did a few things: it gave Menomonie the gravitas to snag the Dunn County seat, it gave the city bragging rights as home to the “greatest lumber corporation in the world” for a while (Knapp, Stout & Company produced over 5.7 million board feet of lumber in 1873 alone), and it produced enough population and wealth to create a university campus (today’s UW-Stout) and now-historic landmarks like the Mabel Tainter Theater – more on those in a minute.

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Bowman Hall’s tower rising above the UW-Stout campus. Bowman Hall dates back to 1897 and is the oldest surviving building on campus.

Highway 29 winds extensively thru Menomonie, combining with Highway 25 and U.S. 12 downtown. Like River Falls, Menomonie is a college town, home to UW-Stout, named after one of the early settlers who had a hefty hand in the lumber business and became a U.S. Senator to boot. Founded in 1891 as the Stout Manual Training School, it went through several name changes before becoming Stout State University in 1964 (first time it was named as a “university”) and then UW-Stout when the University of Wisconsin system consolidated in 1971. In 2007, UW-Stout was officially designated as “Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University” by the UW System Board of Regents… so if you want to study polytechnics, this is the place to go. It’s also a pretty well-respected hospitality school. Today, UW-Stout has about 9,300 students and the campus covers 131 acres, some of which abut and cross Highway 29 going through town.

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The Mabel Tainter Theater, built in 1890 and still fulfilling its mission of bringing the finest in arts and culture to Menomonie and western Wisconsin. The theater and areas around it host a series of events throughout the year. (Photo Credit: Flickr)

Menomonie is also home to the Mabel Tainter Theater, a gorgeous sandstone theater built in 1890…you can see the picture above of its interior. The name “Tainter” is big in this town because a talented young engineer named Jeremiah Burnham Tainter invented the Tainter Gate here. A Tainter Gate is a device designed to help control water flow on rivers and at dams. The clever twist vs. other gates is that a Tainter Gate has a curvature which allows the rush of water to help open and close the gates, minimizing the need for power assistance. The first version was built and demonstrated on the Red Cedar River here in Menomonie in the 1886; to give you an idea of its adaptation since, consider that the Upper Mississippi River uses 321 Tainter gates alone. Get a better sense of how it works here.

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Part of Wilson Place, an 1859 home that today serves as a museum in Menomonie.

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The Tainter Mansion, which now serves as the UW-Stout Alumni center. Gates for dams and water locks essentially built this place.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Menomonie was ranked #15 in Smithsonian Magazine’s “Best 20 Small Towns in America” in its May, 2012 edition.

Menomonie certainly has its share of industry for a town its size. Enjoyed Swiss Miss Cocoa lately? There’s a good chance that it was made in Menomonie. Same for Sanalac nonfat dried milk, all part of a large ConAgra facility here. Windows, metal food cans, iron fittings, and a variety of machinery parts make Menomonie a manufacturing center.

North along Highway 25 past the UW-Stout campus, where you U.S. 12 departs, you can angle east on Pine Avenue to the Rassbach Heritage Museum (1820 Wakanda Street, 715-232-8685). Tucked behind local schools and athletic fields, the Rassbach Heritage Museum traces Dunn County’s history and features exhibits involving early automobile design, folk art, lumber milling, a children’s discovery area, and more.

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On Menomonie’s north side just off Highway 25 and U.S. 12, the Russell Rassbach Heritage Museum offers a look at the city and county through the centuries.

Heading east from Menomonie and past the Hoffman Hills Recreation Area, Highway 29 parallels I-94, which runs just about 1-2 miles to the north, over to Elk Mound, when the two routes cross. At this junction, which features a store called Private Pleasures (I’m guessing it’s an adult store; I didn’t stop in, honest), Highway 29 begins its voyage as a 4-lane expressway, which it continues as all the way to Green Bay.

The upgrades to Highway 29 have been going on for almost two decades and the result is a new, smooth, fast highway that lets you jet across the middle of the state with ease. It’s more interesting, of course, to stop and check things out, so that’s why I recommend stopping off in some of the towns the upgraded Highway 29 now whizzes past.

Winery Alert.
Shortly after you follow the original Highway 29 via County X, a quick right on 103rd Street leads you to River Bend Vineyard & Winery, seven acres of vineyards with a lovely tasting room. Many of River Bend’s wines are from the grapes they grow on the premises, with some imported from Australia in the off-season. They create and age their wines in oak barrels right in the building. During summer weekends, they often have live music in their patio yard; people are welcome to bring food and enjoy River Bend’s wines while enjoying the atmosphere. They also have a fairly new distillery, so inquire if you get a chance to visit!

Riverbend Winery just off Highway 29

Riverbend Winery is just off Highway 29 along a bend in the Chippewa River. Sample wine, explore the vines, and maybe even experience an outdoor music performance on a nice summer day.

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Chippewa Falls (pop. 13,661) is Eau Claire’s northern counterpart and calls itself “Gateway to the North Woods.” A drive on the old 29 – now known as “Business 29”- takes you through the city on County X, River Street and Seymour Cray Blvd, named after the famous engineer who took supercomputers to a whole new level in the latter half of the 20th century. From Minneapolis-based CDC to his own company, Cray Research (you may have heard of the Cray-2 supercomputer, for example), Seymour Cray played a key role in making computers what they are today. He died in 1996, and Highway 29’s Business route through Chippewa Falls carries his name in memoriam.

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Now County X/Business 29, this was THE main road into Chippewa Falls from Minneapolis for decades. You wind along the Chippewa River for a while before getting into the heart of town.

Chippewa Falls is home to the Northern Wisconsin State Fair, which serves this part of the state with plenty of State Fair-style fun, events, animal showcases, concerts, and more and has since 1897, back when it was a lot tougher for northern Wisconsin residents to get to the main fair in West Allis. The grounds, on the north side of town, host various other events throughout the year. The city has its cultural side, too: the Heyde Center for the Arts opened on High Street right downtown in a former high school in 2000. The building, constructed in 1907, is a beautiful Neoclassical structure and today hosts a variety of performances, concerts, films, the visual arts, and more. Irvine Park (pronounced “ER-vin”) was founded as a city park in 1906 and opened a zoo three years later with a bear pen. Today, this half-square mile complex offers the Irvine Park Zoo, which also has exhibits for tigers, cougars (no, the cat kind), bison, bobcats, and more – including some historic structures and a cave with natural springs.

Rumble Bridge in Irvine Park.

Irvine Park offers a zoo, a range where the buffalo literally roam, historic buildings, and the Rumble Bridge, which offers beautiful views along a nice trail.

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Chippewa Falls has a pretty healthy downtown.

Chippewa Falls connection

Highway 29 Business runs right past the new Chippewa River Distillery

Highway 29 Business runs right past the new Chippewa River Distillery.

BREWERY & DISTILLERY ALERTS!

Right along Business 29 as you approach downtown Chippewa Falls you’ll find the Brewster Brothers Brewery & Chippewa River Distillery. It opened in 2016 right across from its distillery’s namesake river and offers a variety of small craft brews and spirits, specializing in new cocktail concoctions.

Of course, a major stop for many in Chippewa Falls is the Leinenkugel Brewing Company, famous for beers like Leinenkugel Original (originally called “Chippewa Pride”), Summer Shandy, Honey Weiss, Cream Ale, Big Butt Doppelbock (ya hear that, Sir Mix-A-Lot??), Sunset Wheat, Classic Amber…the list goes on and on! Tours are available year-round, every day except major holidays. Check the tour link or call (888) LEINIES for details.

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Amidst a beautiful setting, the Leinenkugel Brewery has been at it since 1867. Tours are extremely popular, so be prepared for a lot of thirsty and appreciative cohorts.

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The Leinie Lodge tasting area offers a wide variety of their brewed beverages and a gift shop where you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something you’ll like.

Chippewa Falls is known to giddy female movie-goers worldwide in the late 1990s as the hometown of Jack Dawson, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the movie epic Titanic. The famous hole in the script deals with Lake Wissota, which actually did not exist when Titanic sunk — it was developed in 1916, when work on a dam created the now-famous body of water.

Downtown Chippewa Falls features old school advertising signs

Quite a few old advertising signs adorn buildings throughout Chippewa Falls.

At Chippewa Falls, Highway 29 hits a junction with U.S. Highway 53, now on a freeway bypass that connects to Duluth-Superior, Rice Lake and Spooner to the north and provides access to I-94 for destinations to the south. “Business 53” follows the original route through downtown Chippewa Falls, which is also today’s Highway 124 through town. Of course, since we’re “touring” Highway 29, we’ll keep heading east.

As you pass Lake Wissota east of Chippewa Falls, Highway 29 continues its path as a major 4-lane expressway. The “old” 29 parallels this road just to the north as County X, which runs you right through the center of towns like Cadott, Boyd, Stanley and Thorp. The new 29 as an expressway provides exits to each of these towns. Cadott, at the junction with Highway 27 (Exit 91), features the Wisconsin Veterans Tribute. Part of the River Country Plaza Truck Stop at the exit, you’ll find many significant memorials, an AH-1S helicopter, cannons, markers and more all under an eye-catching cadre of flags from all over the world.

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The flags of the Wisconsin Veterans Tribute, at Highways 27 & 29 in Cadott.

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From Cadott, Highway 29 continues east across central Wisconsin as an expressway. Just to the north, County X parallels as the original route of Highway 29. While the expressway bypasses slightly to the south, County X/old 29 heads right through the heart of towns like Boyd, Stanley, Thorp, Withee, Owen, and Curtiss. All are located on a railroad line that came through in the early 1880s, giving rise to the towns and their industries, which often centered around lumber, milling, or dairying. Stanley (pop. 3,633), which extends between Chippewa and Clark Counties, became known for brickmaking; Withee (pop. 487) became a Mennonite settlement.

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We found this old directional sign that pointed travelers on Highway 29 to Curtiss probably in the 1940s and beyond for several decades. Where did we find the sign? In western Oconto County in front of a residence, whose last name we can only guess…

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The name just works, what can we say?

Thorp (pop. 1,620) where Highway 73 extends north from 29, still makes frequent use of horse-drawn wagons in town. Along Highway 29 you’ll find one of our favorite names for a diner, the Thorpedo. It’s a classic type of spot to get great home-cooked food when you’re on the road. Thorp is also home to the Marieke Gouda Store & Holland’s Family Cheese, where you’ll find the award-winning Marieke Gouda cheeses and all kinds of other foods, accessories, and more from Holland’s Family Farm. “Marieke” is named for Marieke Penterman, who grew up on a dairy farm in The Netherlands, came to America, met her husband Rolf, and together they started a dairy farm in Thorp in 2002. Her cheesemaking skills led to Gouda styles that started garnering awards in 2007 and the U.S. Grand Champion Award in 2013. This facility opened in November, 2013 and you’ll find it right along Highway 29 at Exit 108, where Highway 73 meets up for the eastbound trip.

You can view the cheese factory from the store itself; they make cheese every day but Monday. There’s also family fun to be had on the farm various days (like a jumpy pillow), so don’t be surprised if the kids want to hang out there for a while as much as you do.

Marieke Gouda cow entrance

Between Thorp and Withee, Highway 29 crosses the Black River, which begins in the Chequamegon National Forest a little bit north of there and flows through Black River Falls on its way to the Mississippi.

On the Clark-Marathon County line at the junction with Highway 13 is Abbotsford (pop. 2,000), known as “Wisconsin’s First City”. That’s “first” in terms of the alphabet, by the way, not in population or how early it was founded (those distinctions go to Milwaukee and Green Bay, respectively). You can get off the expressway and follow “Business 29” through town, which is part of the original Yellowstone Trail, too. Trailblazer markers remind you.

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Hard to miss the big cone outside the Hawkeye Dairy.

Highway 29’s old route goes right through town as Business 29 (and on the State Trunk Tour, you should try and cut through every town you can when there’s otherwise a bypass), which features plenty of old-school businesses to check out, including Duke’s for Italian beef, antique shops and taverns. Between Old 29 and today’s 29 along Highway 13 is the Hawkeye Dairy, which features a wide variety of cheeses, sausages, and ice cream – it’s hard to miss the massive cone!

45×90: The Center of Two Hemispheres

geographicalmarker4590sign_500Think you’re the center of everything? Well, just off Highway 29 you can come close. From eastbound 29, turn north on County M (by mile marker 149), and head about five miles north; take a right on County U and then left onto Meridian Road. The meridian of which it speaks is the 90th Meridian (90°W), halfway between the Prime Meridian (which runs through London as 0°) and the International Date Line (180°).

But that’s not all.

About 1/4 mile north of County U, you’re also at the 45th Parallel (45°N), which is halfway between the Equator and the North Pole (theoretically, at least – the flattening of the earth’s sphere near the poles leaves room for debate.) But either way, a parking area in the middle of the cornfields is the starting point for a 300-yard walk that leads you to the center of both the Western and Northern Hemispheres – or the “Northwest Hemisphere” as the signs say.) Stand there and feel the self-absorption!

45x90 Marker at exact point, NW of Wausau

Yep, that dot is the exact point where 45N and 90W meet, a point you’ve seen on every globe, ever.

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The exact 45×90 location was marked and opened for visitors in 2017, carved out of a farmer’s field just off Meridian Road near Poniatowski.

Get more details on the 45×90 spot here!

Meanwhile, back to Highway 29 and continuing east, you can make quick time towards Wausau. Once you cross Highway 107 at Marathon City, a nice view of Rib Mountain guides you in. Rib Mountain (elevation: 1,924 feet) is an imposing ridge that dominates the surrounding landscape and provides area residents with great winter skiing right nearby. The hill is one billion years old, but doesn’t look a day over 600 million. It’s the third-highest peak in the state and has the highest “prominence,” its height compared to the average surrounding terrain. With the prominence being about a 760-foot difference between peak and surrounding average terrain, it’s obvious why it can be seen so well for miles and miles around. Rib Mountain is the site of Rib Mountain State Park and the Granite Peak Ski Area, which was one of the first ski areas in the nation when it opened in 1937. The tower towering on top of Rib Mountain rises an additional 400-plus feet and broadcasts 95.5 WIFC, one of the longest continuously-running Top 40 stations in country… which is one reason that signal booms over 100 miles in every direction.

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Rib Mountain comes into view well west of Wausau. At 1,924 feet, it’s the second highest point in Wisconsin and hosts both Rib Mountain State Park and a pretty cool ski area.

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Highway 29 now joins I-39/U.S. 51 at a relatively new freeway interchange. The old 29 continued east into the city via Stewart Street on what is now Highway 52; today’s 29 follows the freeway south and then east again south of Rib Mountain. The map at the lower right illustrates both options.

Wausau

Wausau (pop. 39,106) itself is the the dominant metro city in central Wisconsin, the center of a “primary statistical area” according to the U.S. Census that includes all of Marathon County and brings in nearby cities like Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, and Merrill. It’s the 141st largest metro area in the country with about 308,000 people (by comparison, Milwaukee takes in most of SE Wisconsin and is ranked 33rd nationally with 2.07 million, while Madison is 69th with 844,000 people, taking in Janesville, Beloit, and Baraboo.)

Wausau has been known far and wide for insurance. The Employers Insurance of Wausau – which became Wausau Insurance Companies – ran many national ads that many recall today, especially with the music and focus on the “Wausau” name on an old Milwaukee Road railroad depot. (here’s a YouTube sample – the last 6-7 seconds are what people saw over and over again) before the company was taken over by Liberty Mutual in 1999; they retired the Wausau name ten years later. Grrrr. The city is also known for American ginseng; while Wisconsin cultivates close to 95% of the ginseng grown in the U.S., much of it is grown in Marathon County. You can see the artificial shade covers over ginseng fields all over the area. But with forests nearby and a big river providing power for sawmills, it was the lumber industry – and then paper production – that really got Wausau going early on; it’s still a big chunk of the economy here. Wausau is the largest city along the Wisconsin River, which runs right through the center and downtown areas. In general, the older part of the city is to the east of the river and newer areas are to the west.

Recreation abounds: the Wisconsin River splits the city and widens into a lake at times, providing great canoeing and kayaking; of course, Rib Mountain offers skiing, hiking and mountain biking; and numerous restaurants abound for both foodies and aspiring competitive eaters alike.

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Our high-tech map showing the main route of 29 (solid line) and the original city route (dashed). It’s more fun to go through town.

Today’s Highway 29 runs as a freeway in from the west and then follows U.S. 51 south for about seven miles before heading east again past Wausau, serving as a bypass to the heart of the city. But you’re best served seeing and experiencing Wausau, of course!

Go through the city itself on Business 29, which is also the start of Highway 52. To follow 29’s old route before the freeway bypass opened in 1963, follow Stewart Avenue (Highway 52) east instead of joining Highway 29, U.S. 51 & I-39. Stewart will bring you over the river and into downtown. The graphic at the right gives you a good eyeball view of how this works around Wausau. Much of the new growth is along the freeway west of the river, but the heart of the city and most of its points of interest lie to the east.

histmarker_1stteachersschoolOne of Wausau’s early names was “Big Bull Falls” due to the falls and rapids along the Wisconsin River. Around 1840, the area started to take the name Wausau, roughly meaning “a place which can be seen from far away” in the Ojibwe language. On your way downtown, you’ll see the campus for UW-Marathon County, which has its roots as the first teaching school in the state.

Stewart Street brings you into downtown Wausau, which thanks to the Dudley Tower has some level of skyline. At 241 feet tall, it’s the tallest office building in Wisconsin outside of the Milwaukee area (the State Capitol and Van Hise Hall in Madison are taller, but neither are office buildings.)

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Completed in 2007, the Dudley Tower is the tallest commercial building outside of Milwaukee in the state.

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A salute to kayaking marks the crossing of the Wisconsin River into downtown Wausau on Stewart Street, the original Highway 29 route (now part of 52.)

Part of downtown Wausau includes the River District and a beautiful set of downtown blocks with a mix of old and new. A mall opened in the 1980s on the south edge of downtown (which Highway 52 and “Business” U.S. 51 circles around) and offers indoor shopping. Adjacent are blocks of shops, restaurants, bars, offices, hotels, apartments, and condos that has dramatically increased the vibrancy of the city’s downtown. The lovely Grand Theater went up in 1927 to replace an earlier opera house; the Center for the Visual Arts features several free exhibits in gallery spaces and hosts events like ChalkFest, Exhbitour, and a series of kids’ events throughout the year. These cultural facilities and adjacent offices, coffee shops, and restaurants surround the 400 Block, an open green space in the heart of the city that hosts farmers’ markets, holiday celebrations, summer concerts, and more.

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Answers may vary depending on your attitude.

Just off the Block, the Wausau Visitor Center is located at 219 Jefferson Street and offers plenty of information about the area, plus this sign (right) that could be interpreted more than one way.

From downtown, follow 6th Street south to Grand through the city. This is also Business U.S. 51, the former route of U.S. 51 before the freeway on the west side opened in 1963.

*** Brewery Alerts ***
Tucked inside a former factory south of downtown just blocks east of Business U.S. 51 (also the original Highway 29 through town) via Thomas and Genrich Streets, Bull Falls Brewery opened in 2007 and serves up a variety of brews – mostly in cans – that started with their popular Oktoberfest. They have a nice tasting room and offer tours at select times or by appointment for $5. Calling 715-842-2337 will get you details. Bull Falls is named after an actual falls on the Wisconsin River, which is close by. The brewery also hosts quite a few events throughout the year – several involving barbecue.

Wausau hosts a professional baseball team, the Wausau Woodchucks of the Northwoods League. Also worth a stop is the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum (715-845-7010), featuring numerous works of nature-based art and sculpture, including its world-renowned “Birds In Art” exhibit.

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According to the tongue-twister, woodchucks can’t chuck wood. But the Wausau Woodchucks can knock balls out of this park.

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Considered a gem of a museum in Wausau, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum features some world-class art and exhibits.

“Old” 29 rejoins the current Highway 29 south of Wausau at Exit 171. From Wausau and its eastern suburbs of Rothschild, Weston and Ringle, Highway 29 is expressway all the way east to Green Bay. Bicycle enthusiasts may note that the Mountain-Bay Trail, a rail-to-trail conversion that runs the span between Wausau and Green Bay, parallels this stretch of 29 just a few miles north.

Shortly after crossing the subcontinential divide (the point where water starts draining to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean vs. the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico), you reach Highway 49, which begins at Highway 29 and heads south to Elderon, Waupaca and eventually the Horicon Marsh area. After crossing into Shawano County, Highway 29 (as the now-freeway bypass) snakes around little Wittenberg (pop. 1,177), where U.S. 45 joins for a few miles heading east before heading south toward Clintonville.

wittenberg_neuskessignBacon Alert. In the midst of this coupling with U.S. 45, Highway 29 passes Wittenberg’s most famous business: Neuske’s Applewood Smoked Meats. Neuske’s makes “the beluga of bacon”, according to the New York Times. Neuske’s was founded in 1887 by Prussian immigrants, drawn to Wisconsin because everybody was immigrating here at the time and Wittenberg appealed to them – in part because of the significance of the city’s German counterpart (apparently Wittenberg, Germany is where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church, touching off the Reformation. A little history note for ya.) Neuske’s began with a smokehouse and during the Great Depression R.C. Neuske sold smoked bacon, sausages, hams and turkeys to budding resorts across northern Wisconsin. Long story short, today Neuske’s sells through mail order and supermarkets across the nation and a few foreign markets. Their bacon (a State Trunk Tour favorite) is the preferred bacon for a plethora of famous, tony restauarants across the country, including Balthazar and An American Place in New York, Commander’s Place in New Orleans, The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, and Pinot in Los Angeles. But lucky you, you can buy Neuske’s right at the Wittenberg Retail Store, located on Grand Avenue between Exit 196 and 198, in full view of Highway 29. In fact, Grand Avenue was Highway 29 before the expressway was built. So there.

Further east, you reach Shawano (pop. 8.298), the main city between Green Bay and Wausau. Shawano is perched on Shawano Lake and offers the most amenities on this stretch. Highway 29 officially bypasses the city to the south on a freeway bypass – which is only fitting, since the name “Shawano” is Native American Menomonee for “to the south.” You can follow Business 29 into town and go through its center. Being the main city between Wausau and Green Bay, it’s also the main city along the Mountain-Bay Trail.

In the downtown area, Business Highway 29 follows a stretch of Green Bay Avenue for several miles, combining 29 with State Trunk Tour Highways 22, 47 and 55. Gas tends to be a little cheaper in Shawano than surrounding areas, so just note that for the trip.

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Four State Trunk Highways converge and go through Shawano’s main drag: 22, 47, 55, and “Business” 29, which was the mainline 29 until they built the bypass.

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From the “You Never Know What You’ll See on a State Trunk Tour” Dept: a camel grazes in the front yard of a home along the main drag downtown. The Shawano County Fair was in town at the moment – we can only assume there was a connection there.

If you follow the Highway 29 freeway bypass – which saves probably 10-15 minutes – check out the view as you cross the tree-lined Wolf River. Especially on the eastbound run, the view of the trees framing the river makes for a great picture. If only I’d had my camera ready at the time…

East of Shawano, Highway 47 combines with 29 to Bonduel and Highway 55 sticks around until Angelica. At Bonduel, check out Doc’s Zoo & Muscle Car Museum (715-758-9080), which features a variety of 60’s muscle cars, motorcycles, a classic 1930’s Standard gas station, and a whole line of unique autos, including one of the 1958 Plymouth Fury cars used in the Stephen King classic “Christine”. It’s hard to miss; part of Doc’s Harley-Davidson, Inc. of Shawano County, you’ll notice Bo & Luke Duke’s General Lee looking like it just leaped the building (yes, it’s one of the actual General Lee cars used in filming “The Dukes of Hazzard.”)

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The General Lee just after “leaping” over Doc’s Zoo & Muscle Car Museum. At right, I never thought I’d see this…but if you click on the picture to enlarge it, yes…it’s apparently a walrus penis windchime. Ouch.

Just northwest of Green Bay, Highway 29 ducks into Brown County and then Outagamie County for such a short time, you can see the Brown County sign ahead of you again. The signs themselves are small, but you literally cut the northeast corner of Outagamie within a few blocks. Highway 32 joins in too, fresh from the North Woods and Gillett. The two head together towards Titletown.

On the west edge of Green Bay itself lies Pamperin Park. Not be confused with the medicine Pamprin, Pamperin Park is the largest park in Brown County and the Green Bay Metro Area. The park offers a huge wooden children’s playground area, a stone pavilion, fireplace, gardens and a picturesque suspension bridge. Pamperin serves as a nice recreational stop for relaxation or letting kids get their energy spent before resuming the journey.

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Pamperin Park is quite the playland.

GREEN BAY

Entering Green Bay (pop. 104,057, a.k.a. “Titletown U.S.A.”), Highway 29 finishes being an expressway at a huge interchange with I-41 and simply becomes Shawano Avenue, cutting through the heart of downtown. Green Bay is Wisconsin’s oldest city and – not sure if you heard about this or not – are the smallest city to host a National Football League team. They’re called the “Packers” and…what, you’ve already heard about them? Okay.

Green Bay is also the headquarters of ShopKo Stores and Schneider National (admit it, you know the commercials and you’ve seen the “big orange trucks”). Famous people from Green Bay include Tony Shalhoub of Monk fame, ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Anderson, comedian and Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson, Pat MacDonald of the group Timbuk 3 – you know, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades“? – that group. Naturally, Green Bay is home to tons of athletes too, among them NFL stars Curly Lambeau, Jerry Tagge, Ted Fritsch Jr., Arnie Herber and Aaron Stecker, as well as baseball pitcher Bob Wickman.

** Multiple Breweries and One Distillery Alert! **

titletown_front_lgGreen Bay calls itself “Titletown”, so when some guys decided to start up a brewery there, it only made sense to call it the Titletown Brewing Company. Coincidentally – or perhaps not – Titletown Brewing started in December of 1996, right before the Packers’ first Super Bowl victory in nearly three decades. Located on Dousman Street/U.S. 141 just west of downtown and the Fox River, Titletown occupies a classic old railroad station built in 1899, as well as a newer brewery and tap room across the parking lot with the Titletown smokestack on top. Titletown brews Packer-backer beverages such as the Johnny “Blood” Red and Canadeo Gold as well as a great root beer called Sno-Cap, which uses Clyde the Penguin as its mascot. Trains, football, beer, food… definitely a good stop on the State Trunk Tour. Meanwhile, across the street Copper State Brewing Company opened in 2017 where Hinterland Brewing was before they moved to the Titletown District (more on that in a moment) in a building that was originally a meat-packing warehouse (yes, how the “Packers” got their name.)

Meanwhile, in the Titletown District, just west of Lambeau Field the aforementioned Hinterland Brewing opened in 2017, having relocated from its original brewery that dated back to 1995. Juts southeast of Lambeau in the same district you’ll find Badger State Brewing Company, a relative newcomer with a great selection of in-house craft brews and others from across Wisconsin. Leatherhead Brewing Company is a few doors down along Lombardi Avenue, and just over on Mike McCarthy Way, you’ll find the Green Bay Distillery. It opened in 2011 with a classic vodka and a cherry vodka (handy for Green Bay winters) and expanded to gin and whiskey in subsequent years. Their restaurant has a full menu – including a full menu of macro- and craft-brewed beers if spirits aren’t your thing. Either way, they are all easy walking distance to Lambeau Field, the Resch Center, Ray Nitschke Field, the Brown County Arena, the famous Stadium View bar, the famous Andouzzi’s, Brett Favre’s Steakhouse, and much more.

Side Trip to Lambeau.
For Lambeau Field seekers on this route, the “frozen tundra” lies about 3 miles south of Highway 29; you can cut south to it via I-41, Oneida Street, or Military Avenue. Trust me, you WILL be able to find Lambeau, the home of the Green Bay Packers…the cross street is Lombardi Avenue, after all.

Okay, back to Highway 29…

As Highway 29 enters downtown, it crosses the Fox River, one of the few northward-flowing rivers in North America. Here, bridges are lit up at night with condos, bars and shops springing up. At the intersection with Broadway, a Farmers Market offers produce and other items on Wednesday afternoons from June through September from 3pm-8pm. Highway 29 is also Walnut Street here, and just north along Dousman Street (U.S. 141) is the Neville Public Museum, which focuses on art, history and science for northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There is also a Children’s Museum, currently undergoing redevelopment.

East of the Fox River, blocks adjacent to Highway 29 feature an array of bars and restaurants. Places to party include Kittner’s Pub, Hip Cats, Liquid 8, Confetti, Washington Street Pub, the Fox Harbor Pub & Grill, and Stir-Ups (Stir-Ups is a country bar – yes, think about it.) Green Bay’s party crowd hangs out in this area, and it’s not uncommon for Packers players to be seen…and perhaps you can see their Super Bowl ring!

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The handsome Brown County Courthouse, completed in 1908. You’ll find at the corner of Highway 29/Walnut Street & Jefferson Avenue on the east side of downtown and the Fox River.

For train enthusiasts, Green Bay is the site of the National Railroad Museum (2285 S. Broadway, south of Highway 29 via Highway 32), which features over 70 locomotives and train cars, including the world’s largest steam locomotive, known as “Big Boy.” Also, just across the river off Highway 172 (Green Bay’s southern freeway bypass), you’ll find the lovely Heritage Hill State Historical Park. Technically located in Allouez, this 48-acre outdoor museum lives up to its name. Over 30 historic structures and endangered buildings are perched on a hill overlooking the Fox River in an area that once served as a prison farm. Log cabins from the fur trade era, original stores and public buildings, even buildings from the original Fort Howard are all located here and available for exploration. Populating the grounds in summer are live historic interpreters – many in period attire – to help illustrate what these buildings are all about. More and more fun events take place throughout the year here, too.

We’ve already mentioned much of the downtown attractions that tend to be just west of the Fox River, but one is coming up on the east side of the river at the bay if you detour north via Highways 54/57 and under I-43 a bit. That’s Bay Beach Amusement Park, which offers everything from roller coasters to carousels and water rides from May through September. The biggest coaster is Zippin’ Pippin, a 2,800-foot long wooden coaster with nearly hundred-year-old origins in Memphis, Tennessee. It was moved to Green Bay and re-opened in 2011 and has remained quite popular.

Just next door to the action and noise, the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary is next door, providing 700 acres of refuge for animals. The Sanctuary features live animal exhibits, educational displays, miles of hiking/skiing trails and various wildlife viewing opportunities; they care for more than 4,500 orphaned and injured animals each year. It traces its roots to 1936, when it established as a site for waterfowl rehabilitation with an assist from Aldo Leopold. The Sanctuary is free and open year ’round. The whole area of Bay Beach lies along the waters of Green Bay, adjacent to where the Fox River empties into this arm of Lake Michigan.

Back to Highway 29, heading through eastern Green Bay a strip known as “Olde Main Street” offers a variety of shops. Around these points, Highway 29 meets up with US Highway 141; this was the main road out of Green Bay towards Milwaukee before I-43 was constructed.

Leaving Green Bay, Highway 29 turns southeast heading out of town, crossing over I-43 on the way to Bellevue (pop. 14,570), a fast-growing village that incorporated in 2003. About two miles later, U.S. 141 turns to I-43 and ends; Highway 29 becomes a two-lane road again and makes a beeline east along the remaining 22 miles to Lake Michigan.

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The bustling burg of Poland. So what kind of jokes do they tell here?

Along the way, it’s mostly farmland. But you do go through Poland, in this case not the country but an unincorporated burg named after the nation that is indeed the source of approximately 60% of all lightbulb-changing jokes. It might be best to skip telling them here. However, if you want to share your theories about aliens from other planets, well, the UFO landing port (slogan: “We’re not the only ones”) in Poland is a good place to do it. Featured in RoadsideAmerica.Com, the port is owned by Bob Tohak and he maintains it in anticipation of aliens landing someday. And you thought immigration was a wild subject now!

Into Kewaunee County, you also hit little unincorporated Pilsen, named after Czech town where Pilsener beer was invented, so I think you know how to salute the place. In wine is more your thing, the Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery can be found a few miles south of Highway 29 along Sleepy Hollow Road, just east of Pilsen. Parallel 44 is named for its geographical location along not only Kewaunee County but also the Bordeaux region of France and the Tuscany region of Italy – two of the finest areas in the world for winemaking. While the climate in Kewaunee isn’t quite the same as Tuscany’s (shame, isn’t it?), owners & winemakers Steve Johnson and Maria Milano manage to grow a variety of French hybrid grapes that have led to award-winning wines. Their first harvest was in September, 2007 and things have only grown since then. They offer tours and complimentary tastings – within reasonable limits! Weekly tours are available Saturdays at 3pm, and you can call them at (920) 362-1550. They also host a series of events and concerts in the summer, and their “Frozen Tundra Wine Fest” in February.

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Parallel 44 is off Sleepy Hollow Road and County J, a few miles south of Highway 29. The “Ledge” refers to the Niagara Escarpment, a unique geological feature that results in things like fertile soil and the existence of both the Door County peninsula and Niagara Falls. The Climate sign (lower left) illustrates how the combination of temperatures, sunlight and precipitation results in this area actually being a great one for growing certain varieties of wine grapes.

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A February sunset viewed from the Parallel 44 Winery; the church on the horizon is the center of nearby Stengelville.

Kewaunee

The final stop on Highway 29 is Kewaunee (pop. 2,833). With an attractive harbor, Kewaunee was a popular Native American settlement for centuries; the French followed suit in 1634, when Jean Nicolet landed here. In 1674, Father Marquette celebrated a Holy Sacrifice of Mass here. But it wouldn’t be until 1836 when permanent European settlement took place – largely on rumors of a “gold rush” led speculators to believe Kewaunee could become a Chicago-esque, booming city someday. They laid out wide avenues and bought up lots in preparation, but things ended up falling a little short. No matter. The city thrived as a lumber town and trading center, finally becoming a city in 1893.

Like nearby Manitowoc and Sturgeon Bay, Kewaunee became a shipbuilding city. A number of vessels, including the U.S.S. Pueblo, were built and launched in Kewaunee. Car ferry service lasted for many decades, although it is no longer available today. The maritime heritage of the city is well-reflected across the city. The harbor area and marina hosts a lot of pleasure craft and the Tug Ludington (detailed below) offers tours. It’s also a very popular fishing spot, with two piers and plenty of boat and charter rental opportunities.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Kewaunee was the site of the first car ferry service across Lake Michigan, with a line established across to Frankfort, Michigan and back in 1892 (at the time, the cars were pretty much railroad cars.)

Attractions include the Tug Ludington, a U.S. Army tug built in 1943. Made to help with World War II efforts, the tug participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy and assisted with harbor operations in France and Virginia before being transferred to Kewaunee in 1947, where it lives a much calmer life. It rests in Harbor Park in downtown Kewaunee and is available for tours. Kewaunee Historical Jail Museum (613 Dodge Street), is an 1876 structure featuring a six-celled jail, the sheriff’s living quarters and a lot of the original materials and arrangements to show you what incarceration was like for the outlaws of the day. Also downtown, check out the World’s Tallest Grandfather Clock, which was up the hill previously but reassembled downtown in 2015. It’s so new we have to get a new picture of it!

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The Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse has been looking over Kewaunee’s Lake Michigan harbor since 1931. It makes use of a fresnel lens, using some of the original materials from the first lighthouse built here in 1891.

On this particular day I happened upon Troutfest, an annual event saluting – yes – trout! An Art Fair, motorcycle run, Venetian boat parade, fireworks, music, and a parade are all part of the festival. The final few blocks of Highway 29 in downtown were closed for the parade, actually, so I detoured through town and happened upon this:

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From the “You’ll Never Know What You’ll Stumble Across” Department: spotted two blocks south of Highway 29 in Kewaunee.

Yes, you never know what you’ll find on the State Trunk Tour. Near Lake Michigan, Kewaunee is a hilly town and as I stood at the eastern end of Highway 29, at its downtown intersection with Highway 42, listening to a marching band playing Blink 182’s “All The Small Things”, I couldn’t help but marvel at how fun the 300-mile trek across the state was, from the Mississippi River all the way to Lake Michigan.

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Kewaunee Trout Fest parade-watchers await the show at the end of Highway 29, at the corner with Highway 42…

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…and when the parade passes by the end of Highway 29, they march on toward the Lake Michigan shore, visible in the background.

 

CONNECTIONS:
West Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: U.S. 10, Highway 35
Can connect nearby to: Highway 65, about 13 miles northeast

Eastern Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 42
Can connect nearby to: Highway 54, about 12 miles notth