89

STH-089 “Trekking and Milling About Between Milwaukee and Madison”

WisMap89_200wQuickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 89 cuts north-south through a number of small but significant towns in the area of southern Wisconsin between the Milwaukee and Madison metro areas. Along the way, you can enjoy the college town of Whitewater, the river town of Fort Atkinson, breweries, wineries and parks in Lake Mills, the twists and turns near the TREK headquarters in Waterloo, and the charming “antique city” of Columbus.

Wisconsin Highway 89 Road Trip

The Drive (South to North): Highway 89 begins at a nondescript intersection where U.S. Highway 14, just in from Darien, Walworth and Illinois, meets up with Highway 11 from Delavan on the way to Janesville. Highway 89 is the northward continuance of where U.S. 14 was heading before it cut west. The first eight miles of the road is fairly unexciting until you join Highway 59, go past the U.S. 12 bypass, and enter Whitewater.

Whitewater

Whitewater (pop. 14,540) spans Walworth and Jefferson Counties and is a college town, home to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater – a noted business and party school. Whitewater is the birthplace of Thomas Hulce, the actor who played Mozart in Amadeus and, more importantly, Larry Kroeger in Animal House (of course, John Belushi, who was Bluto in Animal House, went to UW-Whitewater in real life.) Noted author and historian – and later movie producer – Stephen Ambrose also grew up in Whitewater.

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Technically, Highway 89 joins the U.S. 12 bypass and beelines toward Fort Atkinson. But we like to actually check out the towns along these routes, so continue past the bypass to Highway 59/Janesville Street to head downtown. Along Main Street (Business U.S. 12) you can enjoy Birge Fountain, a beautiful structure of cast iron and bronze that was originally donated to the city in 1903. Some campus-related buildings – including a few Greek houses – line Main Street as do a nice selection of shops, restaurants, and assorted haunts 12,000+ college students enjoy.

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The beautiful Birge Fountain along Business U.S. 12/Main Street in Whitewater dates back to 1903.

Brewery Alert.
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With plenty of thirsty UW-Whitewater students in close proximity, Second Salem Brewing keeps its small nanobrewery busy. The brewery took its name from one of Whitewater’s historic nicknames, harkening back to “witches’ gatherings” that supposedly took place near the water tower, strange creatures in the local lake, and other lore that makes for good stories. You’ll find it along Whitewater Street, just south of Main/Business U.S. 12.

Whitewater also holds Indian Mounds Park, a Native American ceremonial and burial site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Open daily, the Park holds an incredibly diverse collection of animal and geometric mounds, many of which date back over 1,000 years. Speaking of history, Whitewater’s Historic Train Depot traces the city’s past since it holds the Historical Society Museum. The Depot is located along Cravath Lakefront Park, named after one of the two lakes inside Whitewater (the other is Tripp Lake.) Ironically, the lake known as Whitewater Lake is about 5 miles south of town.

Fort Atkinson

As U.S. 12’s new bypass meets up heading west and northwest, you enter Jefferson County and have about a six-mile ride to Fort Atkinson (pop. 11,621), or “Fort”, as all the locals call it. A bustling town (Money Magazine named it “One of America’s Hottest Little Boomtowns”) set along the banks of the Rock River, Fort Atkinson was originally Fort Koshkonong but renamed Atkinson after Henry Atkinson, the fort’s general. A lake named after Koshkonong is just to the southwest.

Along U.S. 12 and Highway 89 on the southeast side of town is the Hoard Historical Museum, which features history of the area including Sauk warrior Black Hawk, Abraham Lincoln’s early days in the area, the “father of American dairying” (for whom the museum is named) and, next door, the National Dairy Shrine Museum, which offers plenty of interactive exhibits, displays, and artifacts covering the fine art of bovine lactation, which of course leads to milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream… so this is important.

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Real children actually play quite a bit in the yards in Fort, but even in the harshest weather these kids are always outside. Check this out after sundown... they're holding "fireflies" that have fiber optic lights so they look like real fireflies at night.

Real children actually play quite a bit in the yards in Fort, but even in the harshest weather these kids are always outside. Check this out after sundown… they’re holding “fireflies” that have fiber optic lights so they look like real fireflies at night.

The Fireside Dinner Theatre is located in Fort Atkinson, even though most of their auditions are held in New York. Drawing people from far and wide, the Fireside combines dining with stage entertainment, celebrating 50 years of Klopcic Family hospitality and more than 35 seasons of professional theatre. This year’s shows include Disney’s “High School Musical”, “The Witnesses” and “The Sound of Music.” The place is huge inside, and that’s just the gift shop. The Fireside is along Business Hwy. 26, just south of town… you can access it from Highway 89 by cutting west on Hackbarth or Rockwell Avenues to Janesville Avenue.

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Chief Black Hawk’s legacy is well-documented across south central and southwestern Wisconsin. In some communities, he has a park or monument named after him. In Fort, it’s a tavern.

In Fort Atkinson, Highway 89 breaks away from U.S. 12 and heads straight north out of town as Main Street. It crosses what is now Highway 26 on its bypass and parallels it to the west for a bit to U.S. 18 just west of Jefferson. Highway 89 joins U.S. 18 for a brief stint; you have access to Jefferson Speedway, a quarter-mile track that bills itself as “Wisconsin’s Action Track”. Most of the racing action happens on Saturday nights, and during racing season hosts the Jefferson Bargain Fair every Sunday. Over 100 vendors come out to the track with various items for sale, as the smell of fuel and tires has usually dissipated by then. There’s also the Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre, Wisconsin’s first digital cinema drive-in – though the drive-in has been here for decades.

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Where U.S. 18 & Hwy 89 meet briefly, the Highway 18 Outdoor Theater is one of the few active drive-in movie theaters left in Wisconsin.

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A salute to Aaron Rodgers along Highway 89 between Jefferson and Lake Mills.

Off U.S. 18, Highway 89 heads through more Jefferson County countryside, which rolling hills and farms – some of which have decorative carvings and more along the road for your enjoyment.

Lake Mills

Next up is Lake Mills (pop. 4,843), which notes itself as “legendary”. Originally called Tyranena from an indigenous name meaning “sparkling waters”, Lake Mills has a history as a stop between the state’s largest city and its capital. It served as a layover for Chief Black Hawk in 1832; the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad started chugging through Lake Mills a few decades later. As the automobile era emerged, travelers on Historic Highway 30 (the precursor to I-94) would come east or west through the heart of town, as they do now on a north-south axis on Highway 89. East-west travelers had to get around Rock Lake, the 1,371-acre body of water on the west side of town. The lake – which was also called “Tyranena” originally – contains the legend of a foreign tribe from long before the days when things were written down. A series of stone structures and effigy mounds were built on the edge of the lake; the structures are now preserved in the lake itself. A legendary gastronomical delight are Legion “Sliders”, available at the small Legion stand right along Highway 89 across from the Downtown Commons. Read more about those sliders here.

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Highway 89 is Main Street through Lake Mills and runs along the west side of Downtown Commons. The Legion, where you can get the sliders, is located along the storefronts where the two American flags beckon.

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On the north side of Downtown Commons, the Lake Mills Library is more “stoned” than a Phish concert.

The 4,843 “mostly friendly residents,” according to the city’s Web site, enjoy a charming, very American downtown. Much of it faces Downtown Commons Park, an attractive town square with a gazebo, farmers market and, in the winter, an ice rink. Check out the library on the north side of the Commons too, if you love good architecture that makes liberal use of stone.

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Above: A study in contrasts; two shots of the same location along Highway 89 in Lake Mills; one summer, one winter.

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The ride through Lake Mills after a snowfall can be gorgeous. The Glacial Drumlin Trail cuts through the south side of Lake Mills, popular with bicyclists in summer and snowmobilers in winter.

*** Brewery & Winery Alerts ***
Like Milwaukee, Lake Mills knows its beer. The city is home to two craft breweries, a newer one right downtown along Highway 89/Main Street and one, longer-established one on the eastern side of town. Their winery is also right along Main, about as close to the center of town as it gets.

Sunshine Brewing Company (121 S. Main Street, (920) 320-9735) opened up in 2018 right along Highway 89. Specializing in Belgian-style ales, Sunshine has its taproom in the front and brewery and event space in the back. Their taproom is open Thursday 5-10pm, Friday 5-11pm, Saturday 1-11pm, and Sunday 1-5pm.

Tyranena Brewing in Lake MillsTyranena Brewing Company (1025 Owen St., (920) 648-8699), dates back a little further and has a strong history in Lake Mills. Tyranena, named for the mystical effigy mounds next to the nearby lake – now called “Rock Lake” – says it brews up “Legendary Wisconsin Beer.” It started up in 1999. Tyranena brews up popular beverages like the Bitter Woman IPA, Stone Tepee Pale Ale, Three Beaches Honey Blonde, Rocky’s Revenge Bourbon Brown and Chief BlackHawk Porter. The brewery’s tasting room often features live music, cribbage and chessboards with snacks. It’s generally open Monday – Thursday 4:30-10pm, Fridays 3-11pm, Saturdays Noon-11pm, and Sundays Noon-8pm. During the summer, the beer garden can be an attractive trip diversion. Tour times vary, but you can find the schedule here.

Lewis Station Winery from the outsideLewis Station Winery (217 N. Main St., (920) 648-5481) opened in a former gas station (pump replicas are right out front) in 2011. By 2018, they secured the state’s first Certified Craft Winery designation. They offer daily wine tastings and a small bistro menu – with the pizzas being especially good – Wednesday through Saturday. Sundays they offer wine only, but that’s okay – it’s a winery first after all, right? Many of the wines are made from California grapes, and they’ve won plenty of awards. You’ll find Lewis Station right at the corner of Highway 89 and County B, the original Highway 30 between Milwaukee and Madison – meaning that was one busy gas station way back when!

On the south end of town, Highway 89 crosses the Glacial Drumlin Trail as it runs along the old C&NW rail line. Lake Mills is one of the main stops along the 56-mile trail, which connects Cottage Grove (just east of Madison) with Waukesha, part of a larger bike trail system that runs from Milwaukee’s Henry Aaron State Park on Lake Michigan’s shore to Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi River.

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Lake Mills is a key stop on the Glacial Drumlin Trail, as the city is a key stop for any traveler between Milwaukee and Madison.

Just east of town along County B (the old Highway 30) is Aztalan State Park, a rich archeological site showcasing an ancient village and ceremonial complex. Archaeologists have uncovered plenty of interesting historic artifacts, here include evidence this area was once the frequent site of human sacrifice. The park’s entrance is near County Road Q, just off County Road B (Lake Street). The Crawfish River winds its way along the park’s eastern edge. Motocross and short-track buffs can check out races at Aztalan Cycle Park. Its quarter-mile red clay oval MX track is visible from the interstate just east of the Highway 89 interchange with I-94. To get there, take Gomol Road north off of Highway B, the main road running east from Lake Mills.

Beyond Lake Mills and I-94, Highway 89 begins a more twisty/turny type of existence, winding around the rolling hills that make for fun driving, especially for motorcyclists. Eventually, you hit ABBA’s favorite Wisconsin town, Waterloo (pop. 3,259). Located on the Maunesha River in Jefferson County’s far, far northwestern corner, Waterloo is the home of Trek Bicycles. Waterloo is also the home of Van Holten’s Pickles, innovator of “pickle-in-a-pouch” and today the world’s largest producer of individually-wrapped pickles. Highway 89 enters Waterloo from the east and Highway 19 hooks up for the ride into downtown as Madison Street. Just over the river in downtown, Highway 89 jogs north along Monroe Street.

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TREK Bicycle Corporation, founded in Waterloo in 1976, is the largest U.S. manufacturer of bicycles and aftermarket products. Trek supplied bikes for three of Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France victories and also outfits the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team for the USA. Its headquarters is west of Highway 89 along Highway 19 on the edge of town. And yes, the bike racks are closest to the front doors of the offices.

A special State Trunk Tour salute to Waterloo from ABBA

Okay, we couldn’t resist. When I think of Waterloo, I think of the song..and it’s a fun driving song anyway as long as nobody’s watching. So, straight from German television in 1974, courtesy of YouTube, enjoy this riveting performance of ABBA’s “Waterloo”, complete with sort-of dancing, lip-synching and fake instrument-playing to the song. And the outfits… well. Oh, and don’t forget the German host in an attempt to look like Napoleon introducing each member afterwards. You’ll see.

Columbus

North of Waterloo, Highway 89 features some 90-degree angle turns as it zig-zags to its final stop: Columbus (pop. 4,479), one of 17 U.S. states that has a city named after the Christopher guy.

Located on the Crawfish River and straddling Columbia and Dodge Counties, Columbus refers to itself as the “Red Bud City” and boasts the largest antique mall in Wisconsin with the Columbus Antique Mall – 78,000 square feet filled with stuff across 444 booths under one roof. The Christopher Columbus Museum in the antique mall features souvenir memorabilia from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and as well as lithographs, china, tapestries, statues, and more. Columbus also has the closest Amtrak station to Madison, which is a fairly quick ride down U.S. 151 from here.

Columbus has done a great job preserving architecturally significant buildings, with the entire downtown district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Architectural and photography students come to check out Jaeger’s Mill on the Crawfish River, or the Farmers & Merchants Union Bank Building (known as the “Jewel Box”), which was one of the last buildings designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan. Students of history may revel in the Sunday morning toll of the steeple bell from Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, partially made up of pieces of French canon captured during the Franco-Prussian War and presented as a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany (no comments were solicited from any area French residents.)

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Stretches of downtown Columbus feature an array of preserved architecture, shops and yes, a few watering holes – including a small, newer brewpub.

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One of the last buildings designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan, the Farmers & Merchants Union Bank draws attention with its facade. City Hall is kitty corner.

Columbus, like many Wisconsin cities, has a brewing history. Started on Park Avenue (once U.S. 151 through town, now Highway 73) in 1859, the Kurth Brewery quenched thirsty Columbusinians (or however you’d say it – Columbans, maybe?) for most of the ninety years that followed. Prohibition originally shut it down in 1920, but the Kurth Brewery managed to bounce back for 16 years after it was repealed, churning out items like Banner Beer and Blue Mound Beer throughout the 30s and 40s until it finally closed for good in 1949. One of the original buildings, right at the end of Highway 89, remains open as a hospitality bar on Wednesday and Friday evenings.

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The Kurth Brewery lasted 90 years, from 1859 to 1949. The original building remains as a hospitality bar, open Wednesday and Friday evenings.

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Highway 89 comes to an end when it hits Highway 73, which is also Business U.S. 151, at the old Kurth Brewery. A short jog northeast on 73 brings you into Columbus’ downtown, all of which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

From the end of Highway 89 and Highway 73/Business U.S. 151, you can check out everything in Columbus or head south on 151 towards Madison or north towards Beaver Dam, Waupun, and Fond du Lac; or take Highway 73 up into Green Lake County for the beautiful hills and lakes ahead. Pick More Roads and GO!!

CONNECTIONS
South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 11, U.S. Highway 14
Can connect nearby to: Interstate 43, about 3 miles south

North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 73
Can connect nearby to: Highway 16, about 1/2 mile northeast; Highway 60, about 1/2 mile northeast; U.S. Highway 151, about 1 mile west

 

Smiley barn along Highway 83 near Mukwonago
83

STH-083“Ten Chimneys, Kettles, and Lakes”

 

WisMap83_200wQuickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 83 connects numerous growing towns on the far west suburban areas of Milwaukee. Along the way, you’ll find a championship golf course at Erin Hills; great small town shopping on charming main streets; beautiful glacial lakes; the site of the first Weather Bureau forecast; a National Historic Landmark at Ten Chimneys; “Chocolate City” and a Yo-Yo Museum in Burlington; and a plethora of historic and cool bars and restaurants provide ample pit stop opportunities.

Wisconsin Highway 83 Road Trip

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Highway 83’s northern end begins in the midst of farmland; Hartford is just down the road, and the twin steeples of Holy Hill come into view shortly after the highway’s start.

83sbbeginThe Drive (North to South): Highway 83 begins as an offshoot from Highway 175, the former route of U.S. 41 and part of the classic Yellowstone Trail, at a rural crossroads. After five miles of open farmland and rolling hills, you reach the first town.

Hartford

Highway 83 enters Hartford (pop. 13,700), as the main north-south road (hence, it’s called “Main Street”), twisting through town along a series of residential neighborhoods on the north and south ends of town. Hartford is a fast-growing city with a long history that includes being an automotive manufacturing center, the place where Libby’s (Libby’s Libby’s on the label label label…remember that ad?) processed most of its beets for the national market and where Broan-NuTone LLC got its start in the home ventilation business. Today, it’s a global company with headquarters in Hartford. Health care has become a major business in the area too, serving has the headquarters for API Healthcare. Quad/Graphics maintains a major facility in the area. For fun, Hartford hosts the Annual Hartford Balloon Rally, which includes evening events with glowing balloons and a fireworks show. It’s one of Wisconsin’s largest balloon events.

The Kissel and Hartford’s Auto History
Hartford holds the Wisconsin Automotive Museum, (147 N. Rural Street, 262-673-7999) the largest such museum in the state. Classic and vintage autos dating as far back as 1906 adorn the museum, which also sports a 250-ton locomotive, automobile artifacts, and a massive Lionel train set layout. It also showcases the Kissel, an automobile manufactured in Hartford from 1906 until 1931 (more on the Kissel in a moment.) The museum lies one block off Highway 83, just northwest of where you meets up with Highway 60 at the main downtown intersection.

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The Kissel marker is along Highway 60 about one half-mile east of Highway 83 in a park along the Rubicon River.

The Kissel Kar Company was founded in Hartford in 1906 when George and William Kissel turned their hobby into a business. They built passenger cars, ambulances, fire trucks, taxicabs and more for 25 years. Among their most popular models were the Gold Bug Speedster (1925) and the White Eagle Speedster (1929), which became internationally famous and coveted by movie stars like Fatty Arbuckle at a time when the “talkies” were just debuting. Aviatrix Amelia Earhart also sported a Kissel, as did actress and stuntwoman Anita King, who became the first women to drive solo across the country in 1915 when she road tripped from California to New York in a Kissel, receiving a hero’s welcome upon her arrival. Kissel “kranked” out 4,000 units annually at their peak in 1922, but the Great Depression eventually led to their demise. Kissel shuttered its factory doors along the Rubicon River in 1931, leaving a legacy for Hartford and thousands of highly-prized collectors’ items to this day.

hartford_wisautomuseumThe Wisconsin Automotive Museum features an exhibition dedicated to the Kenosha-built Nash, and vintage treats like Studebakers, Reos, Pierce-Arrows and the Tucker. It also has automotive artifacts, a 250-ton locomotive and a display area for the Hudson Essex Terraplane.

The junction of Highways 83 & 60 is the epicenter of Hartford’s downtown, and at this epicenter is the largest restaurant in Wisconsin, The Mineshaft. Covering what seems like acres across 5 bars, room for 550 guests at once, a dance floor, a 5,000 square-foot game room area and a stage with performances by bands, The Mineshaft seems like it could have its own zip code. But it shares 53027 with most of the rest of the city.

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To go with the largest auto museum in the state, how about the largest restaurant in the state? The Mineshaft serves over 10,000 guests weekly and features the 5,000 square feet Million Dollar Game Room (that’s $200 per square foot.)

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Just south of Hartford’s main crossroads (Hwys. 60 & 83), Highway 83 heads through some nicer, older neighborhoods.

After some very pleasant residential territory in Hartford, some open space – for the time being – is what greets you for a number of miles toward Waukesha County. The view of Holy Hill lasts for quite some time as you cruise through the Town of Erin, which hosts a sizeable St. Patrick’s Day parade and celebration. Highway 167 takes you right to Holy Hill, which is just a few miles east. County O to the west brings you to Erin Hills, a top-tier golf course that hosted the U.S. Open in 2017.

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Holy Hill’s twin steeples dominate the view along Highway 83 through most of southern Washington County. The road comes within about 2 1/2 miles of it at the closest point, near Highway 167.

Shortly after crossing the county line and veering at County CW, you enter Waukesha County’s “Lake Country”, of which Highway 83 is a primary north-south route.

“Lake Country” consists of a string of communities in Waukesha County that run along lakes from La Belle in Oconomowoc east to Pewaukee Lake in Pewaukee. Highway 83 threads between North, Beaver and Pine Lakes from the village of North Lake to Chenequa (pop. 583). The speed limit is low, but it’s a beautiful drive through the area. This is popular motorcycling territory too, and taverns dot portions of the route. Two sharp turns at the south end of Chenequa bring you to Highway 16, at which point Highway 83 expands for the ride through western Hartland and eastern Delafield.

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This lovely stretch of Highway 83 through Lake Country is also part of Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive.

83lakecntryIf you need shade, the stretch of Highway 83 through North Lake and Chenequa is a great place to find it. Plans to bypass this area for a higher-speed road have been thwarted time and time again. It can be a slow ride through here, but it’s pretty in all seasons.

Past an interchange with the Highway 16 freeway, Highway 83 enters Delafield (pop. 6,472) , Highway 83 becomes a four-lane highway and serves this fast-growing area situated amidst moraines, hills, and glacial lakes. Nagawicka Lake is surrounded by Delafield, which has a nice downtown. It’s known far and wide for antique shopping. Speaking of antiques, Hawk’s Inn serves as a great example of what stagecoach stops were like as far back as 1846; it’s available for tours, as is the Nashotah House, founded in 1842 as a mission. You can access Delafield’s downtown along County C, 2 miles west of Highway 83, via I-94 or County DR (aka Milwaukee Street).

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Delafield’s original name? Hayopolis. Seriously. It was also called Oakland before finally changing to Delafield in 1844.

Delafield is also home to St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy, established in 1884. It was where James Lovell, Milwaukee native and astronaut of Apollo 13 fame, graduated. He came back to address the Class of 2007, when his grandson graduated from the academy. Most of these sights lie near or along County Highway C, which parallels Highway 83 on the west side of Nagawicka Lake. Along Highway 83, Nagawicka Park and the Nagawaukee Ice Arena lie just north of the sprawling development that marks the interchange with I-94. Approching the Interstate, a massive amount of retail and commercial development greets you; you also pass the Lake Country Trail (watch out for bikes), which links Delafield to the west with Waukesha to the east.

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Highway 83 has a major intersection with I-94. This area is the primary shopping area for about ten miles around.

Down one hill, under the freeway and up the next, you leave Delafield and head toward Wales, winding around hills and passing streets with names like “Scuppernong.” Lapham Peak lies to the west; it’s the highest point in Waukesha County. It’s also where Increase Lapham (a fascinating man in his own right, see why) issued the first official American weather forecast (warning about impending storms on the Great Lakes) on November 8, 1870… and it was correct! Lapham is routinely called the “Father of the United States Weather Bureau,” and on nice days the 45-foot observation tower on the peak named after him provides quite a nice view.

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The highest point in Waukesha County (elevation: 1,233 feet, or about 30 feet higher in elevation than the top of the U.S. Bank Building in downtown Milwaukee) features a 45-foot observation tower in the middle of the Lapham Peak unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The Lapham Peak Unit is sandwiched between Highway 83, I-94, U.S. 18 and nearby County C two miles west. The park’s main entrance is off Highway C, accessible via I-94 or U.S. 18.

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Past Lapham Peak, Highway 83 crosses U.S. Highway 18 and enters Wales (pop. 2,523). You leapfrog the Glacial Drumlin Trail, a former rail line that now serves bicycles and others on a long path between Waukesha and Cottage Grove. A good place to access the trail for some riding lies just east of Highway 83 along Wales’ own Main Street, just south of the trail’s underpass.

South of Wales, Highway 83 enters the Town of Genesee (pop. 7,284) and Genesee Depot. A rail crossroads since the mid-1800s, Genesee Depot was a key Waukesha County stop for the railroad. Pieces of history like the Union House, built in the 1860s, and In Cahoots, a watering hole since that same period, grace the intersection of Highway 83 and the railroad.

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The Union House along the rails crossing Highway 83 in Genesee Depot, hosting railroad travelers since 1864.

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Across from the Union House, In Cahoots has been a watering hole in one form or another for over a century, and remains a popular stop for bikers and State Trunk Tourers.

Genesee Depot is also home to the Ten Chimneys Estate, a National Historic Landmark . Broadway greats Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne made their home here and hosted many a get-together involving some of stage and screen’s most illustrious stars. Lunt and Fontanne together (they married in 1922) appeared together in over 24 plays and, more recently, on a postage stamp. Their namesake Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on West 46th Street in New York City indicates their prowess on the big stage. Tours of Ten Chimneys are available from May through mid-November of the grounds and the house. Furnishings, hand-painted murals, décor, art collections and other memorabilia are everywhere, and yes, the house does have 10 chimneys. Even the Gift Shop is unique: from early 20th century hat styles to jewelry to Noël Coward quotes adorning black t-shirts, there’s plenty of interesting things to check out.

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The main house at Ten Chimneys. All ten chimneys are but a fraction of the architectural splendor both inside the house and on the surrounding grounds.

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The dining room, for example, where elegance, beauty and attention to detail combined with what must have been some incredibly good meals.

 

genesee_10chimneys01Finding Ten Chimneys (and tell them you’re doing a State Trunk Tour!): if you’re southbound on Highway 83, follow the signs into Genesee Depot. When 83 turns left in town, take a right and follow the street down several hundred feet. If you’re northbound, look just past the Union House and In Cahoots; where Highway 83 bends to the right, continue straight on the smaller street. Several hundred feet down you will see the entrance to the grounds. You can contact them for more information at (262) 968-4110 (reservations a day or more in advance is strongly recommended) or at tenchimneys.org.

Past Genesee Depot and into the Town of Genesee, you cross Highway 59 and make a beeline on a relatively new four-lane highway (that unfortunately sacrificed a previously nicer forested ride before the widening) toward Mukwonago (pop. 8,519), a growing town that was once the tribal seat of the Bear Clan of Potawatomis. Mukwonago was originally spelled “Mequanego”; the spelling was adjusted in 1844 to avoid confusion with Mequon in Ozaukee County, about 40 miles away. You can see the nine-foot, 1,000-pound replica bear at the Historical Society and check out Waukesha County’s first brick house, built 135 years before the Commodores song of the same name was released. Highway 83 cuts through the heart of Mukwonago as Rochester Street, going past the Village Square before heading south of town and intersection with I-43.

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Just south of Mukwonago, you leave Waukesha County and graze the corner of Walworth… for literally about two-tenths of a mile before hitting Racine County. Farmland begins to dominate for a while, including a cool smiley face barn I happened across a few miles past Mukwonago (above). The Tichigan State Wildlife Area lies to the east as Highway 83 makes a beeline to the next town.

At the junction with Highway 20, Highway 83 enters Waterford (pop. 4,048). Originally known by its Potawatomi name of Tichigan (like the lake just to the northeast), Waterford is now named partially due to its narrow crossing point over the Fox River at Main Street (where one could easily, as they used to say, “ford the water”.) Downtown features stores and bars a’plenty and some nice parkland along the river. Highway 83 stays with 20 through the heart of town and then to the southeast, where Highway 20 breaks east toward Racine and Highway 83 hooks up with Highway 36 for a multi-lane, higher-speed drive for a while into the Chocolate City.

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North of Burlington, you can bypass the city on today’s Highway 36/83. But following the Burlington exit allows you to experience the “City” 36 & 83 routes… which is where the magic is.

What is the Chocolate City? Why, it’s Burlington (pop. 10,485), of course. It’s known as “Chocolate City USA” for its Nestle plant. One motto, “The town with the tall tales”, reflects on its serving as home to the Burlington Liar’s Club. Highways 11, 36, and 142 also reach the town (or in 142’s case, gets as far as the bypass.) But on the State Trunk Tour, we go INTO town. Follow the Burlington exit onto Milwaukee Avenue, which brings you into the heart of town.

Burlington is also not shy about pointing out it’s the hometown of All-Pro quarterback Tony Romo, even though he did play for the rival Dallas Cowboys. Fortunately, Jessica Simpson helped ensure that he wouldn’t stand in the way of the Packers’ (relative) success in the 2007 playoffs.

Burlington, true to its “Chocolate City USA” name, hosts a festival every Memorial Day weekend to celebrate the tasty cacao bean-based treat. Suggested reading prior to attending Chocolate Fest includes the Willy Wonka books and any diet book that suggests you can eat as much chocolate as you’d like. Originally named “Foxville” (perhaps because of the Fox River?) Burlington is big on firsts: it’s been home to the first World War II draftee to receive the Distinguished Service Cross, the first player to bat in the World Series…it’s even in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. It’s also the home of three-time World’s Strongest Man winner Bill Kazmaier, one of the few to earn the title without a name like “Magnus”.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit (+ “tall tale”)
Did you know the first person in Burlington to own an automobile was Leonard J. Smith in 1902?
He is also the first person to express road rage in 1903 by using a specific finger to gesture to a slow pedestrian.

The Top Museum in downtown Burlington.

Burlington’s Top Museum is one of several unique places to visit downtown. “Business” Highway 36 & 83 go through here.

Burlington features some interesting attractions, including the the Logic Puzzle Museum offers a wild array of hands-on puzzles, brain teasers, and more. Next door, the Spinning Top & Yo-Yo Museum offers yo-yos, gyroscopes, spin toys, and plenty of hands-on science exhibits…. over 2,000 in all! Call first and get tickets, though; they are by appointment only.  And, since it’s “Chocolate City USA”, check out the Chocolate Experience Museum (113 E. Chestnut Street, 262-763-6044), which houses exhibits that survive the annual Chocolate Fest, and other chocolate sculptures… even one that replicates the brick road from the Wizard of Oz – only this one is chocolate instead of yellow. Hurry, before somebody eats it!

Speaking of eating, Fred’s (596 N. Pine Street/Highway 11 at the corner of Highways 36 & 83, ignoring the bypass, 262-763-8370) claims to have the “World’s Best Burgers.” That’s a tall order and we can’t definitively say for sure – but they’re pretty close… it’s a State Trunk Tour favorite! You have to order at the bar, and along with tasty burgers they have a good selection of appetizers, beers, and they even have a Tony Romo jersey from the Dallas Cowboys; he worked at Fred’s in his teenage years. They like to spice up their burgers, and the recommended one is the “cheese-sauced” burger. Even in Chicago, they’re saying it’s worth the drive to Burlington… who are we to argue, even though they’re probably Bears fans?

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Fred’s in Burlington, famous for their burgers. They play up the Tony Romo thing, too. He once worked here.

Highway 83 heads southeast out of Burlington (off the bypass or via Pine Street if you were smart enough to go through downtown) and makes its way into Kenosha County, paralleling to the west of the Fox River until the road meets up with Highway 50 for another multi-lane, high-speed ride for about six miles to Paddock Lake (pop. 3,200). At Paddock Lake, Highway 83 turns south past Hooker Lake (assuming it’s named after bait hooks, not the other kind) and the Town of Salem (pop. 9,871).

Further west sits Paddock Lake (pop 3,200). Highway 50 runs right through town; it’s the only place between I-94 and Lake Geneva where the speed limit isn’t 55. It’s 35, and I’m guessing speeding tickets are a handy source of income for the town, so watch your speed!

Brass Ball Corners.
On the west side of Paddock Lake, where Highway 83 turns south and Highway 50 continues east to Kenosha and Highway 75 leads north, is a little intersection known as Brass Ball Corners. This dates back to the 1840s, when today’s Highway 50/83 was part of a busy (for the time) trade route and trail connecting Kenosha, Lake Geneva, and Janesville. A farmer named Seth Huntoon realized this junction would make a popular place for travelers to stop and rest. He built an inn and, to help draw attention to it, hung a wooden ball gilded in gold at the intersection. People decided it looked more like brass, and ever since it’s been known as “Brass Ball Corners”. A more detailed story is here. No word on how many “brass balls” jokes have been made during this 170-year-run.

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A brass ball hangs over where Highways 50, 75, and 83 meet in Paddock Lake. If it clanged, that would be rather funny.

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Brass Ball has its own marker.

Bait stores abound in case you want to fish on Paddock Lake or Hooker Lake (insert snickering here.) Highway 83 leaves Highway 50 and turns south at Brass Ball Corners to head on its final stretch.

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Sometimes county road names can be fun. AHHHH!

Past Salem, Camp Lake and Trevor, Highway 83 parallels U.S. 45 about 3-4 miles west and provides access via county roads to Wilmot Speedway and the Ski Area before finally hitting the Illinois state line.

At the state line, a few bars make reference to their geographical location and right at the line, Wisconsin Highway 83 becomes Illinois Highway 83 and heads into the Village of Antioch (pop. 13,400). But come back to Wisconsin when you’re done there!

The Wisconsin-Illinois State Line

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A bar and a motel mark the state line – as do the signs below, as we see Highway 83 head into Illinois, ad the start of Wisconsin’s Highway 83 on the way out of Antioch and Illinois. It’s definitely better north of the border. Because we’re biased.

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Highway 83’s Wisconsin stretch ends just south of Salem at the Illinois state line, where Antioch (and the Bears and Cubs fans) begins. In Illinois, 83 continues through the Chicago suburbs, eventually turning east and ending at the Indiana line.

CONNECTIONS
North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 175
Can connect nearby to: Highway 33, about 3 miles north; Highway 60, about six miles south; I-41, about 3 miles east via Highway 175 and County K

South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Illinois Highway 83
Can connect nearby to: Highway 50, about 6 miles north; U.S. Highway 45, about 3 miles east via Illinois Highway 173 or County P

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

Wisconsin Highway 60 along the Lower Wisconsin River Road
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STH-060“Coast-to-Coast from a former port on Lake Michigan to a very old fort along the Mississippi”

WisMap60Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 60 is one of Wisconsin’s “coast to coast” routes. It runs from just west of the Lake Michigan shore in the well-to-do northern suburbs of Milwaukee to the Iowa state line over the Mighty Mississippi at Prairie du Chien (French for “prairie of the dog”, which is not the same as “hair of the dog”). It’s a major connector highway from Grafton to Hartford and also serves as a very scenic route along the Wisconsin River from Prairie du Sac to Prairie du Chien as the Lower Wisconsin River Road. Interestingly enough, between these two towns it’s more hills and valleys than open prairie…

Wisconsin Highway 60 Road Trip

The Drive (East to West):

Highway 60 begins in Ozaukee County at some railroad tracks in Ulao. Never heard of it? Well, Ulao barely exists anymore and is the inland twin to an abandoned port town from the 1800s.

It’s easy to find, right off the I-43/Highway 32/57 interchange with Highway 60 at the edge of rapidly-growing Grafton. Old and new sit right next to each other: there’s a huge Colder’s Furniture showroom gallery, a shopping complex anchored by a Target with chain restaurants, and a freeway interchange right next to the old railroad and the junction it spawned. Highway 60 is the beginning of what was to be a turnpike from Port Ulao on Lake Michigan to the Wisconsin River, which eventually runs into Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. So this would have been major connection.

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.

You can buzz east real quick from Highway 60’s eastern end and follow County Road Q 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, where Highway 60 begins today. Ulao lives on with an original building from the time, which is now Juice’s Ghost Town Tavern (the “ghost town” being Ulao, of course) and this cool little Wisconsin tavern and restaurant is a State Trunk Tour favorite – try their prime rib bites! They’re also highly-rated for steaks and clever quips from both customers and servers during football games.

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Past Highway 60’s eastern end, the road continues as County Q two miles east to Lake Michigan, which lurks beyond these trees. The old Port Ulao pier lies below the cliff overlooking the lake. We’d head in and look over the cliff, but it’s kind of private property.

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Highway 60 begins at the railroad and freeway junctions. The railroad, built in 1873, gave rise to Ulao. Juice’s Ghost Town tavern is its main historical marker. This view is looking east.

*** Brewery Alert ***
Grafton features a Water Street Brewery, which also has locations in Milwaukee and Delafield. Six beers are brewed on the premises that features an outdoor deck, full restaurant and plenty of beer memorabilia. It’s just south of Highway 60 – within sight of the Ghost Town Tavern, actually – along I-43/Highway 32/Highway 57. Not bad place to start or finish for the Highway 60 journey.

Heading west from Highway 60’s beginning in Ulao is the booming burg of Grafton (pop.11,459). 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 and under 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.

Through Grafton, Highway 60 runs as Washington Street and then heads for an area known as “Five Corners”. From this intersection, Highway 181 will take you into Milwaukee; County Highway NN will bring you closer to West Bend; and Covered Bridge Road will take you to – you guessed it – a covered bridge. Built in 1876, this is the last remaining covered bridge in Wisconsin. The road jogs around it now, but pedestrians and bicyclists can still use it to cross Cedar Creek. In 2010, it was measured with scanning lasers to help document its history and structure, to help with any future repairs or reconstruction.

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It was until the early 1960s that the road actually USED the covered bridge. It goes around it now, to help preserve the thing. It’s done its share of work already. You can still walk through it.

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The question is: does Ryan STILL love Tracy?

** Drive-In Alert ** Wayne’s Drive-In can be found just behind a bar at the intersection of Highways 60 and 181. Located in a former motorcycle repair shop, Wayne’s opened in 1998 and serves tasty burgers, fries, malts, ice cream, and more with real roller skating car hops. I know; I actually tried it one night while filming for Discover Wisconsin. It’s also one of our favorite drive-ins across the state.

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Behind the corner bar at Five Corners along Highway 60 lies Wayne’s, a 50s-era looking drive-in with authentic skating carhops.

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On a nice sunny day at Wayne’s, Lindsey Lembke of Cedarburg shares Play Dough ice cream with her dog Koda, which totally made Koda’s day.

Heading west on Highway 60 brings you from Ozaukee into Washington County, where as Main Street you run through Jackson (pop. 5,680), one of the fastest-growing communities in the state. U.S. 45 and I-41 cross Highway 60 within a few miles of each other; once past I-41, Highway 60 becomes a multilane highway going right past the southern end of Slinger (pop. 4,109), which was originally called “Schleisingerville”, fer cryin’ out loud. Once an outpost village perched at the edge of Kettle Moraine, Slinger today is booming like Jackson and Hartford, the next stop. To access Slinger’s downtown area, just head north at the intersection with Highway 175, which is the original U.S. 41.

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Postcard of Slinger showing today’s Highway 175, formerly U.S. 41 (don’t worry, it’s paved now.) Downtown Slinger is about one mile north of Highway 60.

Pike Lake State Park, dedicated in 1971, offers abundant recreation from fishing to wildlife viewing. Powder Hill offers a nice view of the Pike Lake and the kames, kettles and eskers around it (these are all terms for different landforms of one sort or another.)

HARTFORD
Just past Pike Lake, you enter Hartford (pop. 13,700), of which Highway 60 is the east-west road, named Sumner Street. Hartford is a fast-growing city with a long history that includes being an automotive manufacturing center, the place where Libby’s (Libby’s Libby’s on the label label label…remember that ad?) processed most of its beets for the national market, and where Broan-NuTone LLC got its start in the home ventilation business. Today, it’s a global company with headquarters in Hartford. Health care has become a major business in the area too, serving has the headquarters for API Healthcare. Quad/Graphics also maintains a major facility in the area. For fun, Hartford hosts the Annual Hartford Balloon Rally, which includes evening events with glowing balloons and a fireworks show. It’s one of Wisconsin’s largest balloon events.

The Kissel and Hartford’s Auto History
Hartford holds the Wisconsin Automotive Museum, (147 N. Rural Street, 262-673-7999) the largest such museum in the state. Classic and vintage autos dating as far back as 1906 adorn the museum, which also sports a 250-ton locomotive, automobile artifacts, and a massive Lionel train set layout. It also showcases the Kissel, an automobile manufactured in Hartford from 1906 until 1931 (more on the Kissel in a moment.) The museum lies one block off Highway 83, just northwest of where you meets up with Highway 60 at the main downtown intersection.

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The Kissel marker is along Highway 60 about one half-mile east of Highway 83 in a park along the Rubicon River.

The Kissel Kar Company was founded in Hartford in 1906 when George and William Kissel turned their hobby into a business. They built passenger cars, ambulances, fire trucks, taxicabs and more for 25 years. Among their most popular models were the Gold Bug Speedster (1925) and the White Eagle Speedster (1929), which became internationally famous and coveted by movie stars like Fatty Arbuckle at a time when the “talkies” were just debuting. Aviatrix Amelia Earhart also sported a Kissel, as did actress and stuntwoman Anita King, who became the first women to drive solo across the country in 1915 when she road tripped from California to New York in a Kissel, receiving a hero’s welcome upon her arrival. Kissel “kranked” out 4,000 units annually at their peak in 1922, but the Great Depression eventually led to their demise. Kissel shuttered its factory doors along the Rubicon River in 1931, leaving a legacy for Hartford and thousands of highly-prized collectors’ items to this day.

hartford_wisautomuseumThe Wisconsin Automotive Museum features an exhibition dedicated to the Kenosha-built Nash, and vintage treats like Studebakers, Reos, Pierce-Arrows and the Tucker. It also has automotive artifacts, a 250-ton locomotive and a display area for the Hudson Essex Terraplane.

The junction of Highways 83 & 60 is the epicenter of Hartford’s downtown, and at this epicenter is the largest restaurant in Wisconsin, The Mineshaft. Covering what seems like acres across 5 bars, room for 550 guests at once, a dance floor, a 5,000 square-foot game room area and a stage with performances by bands, The Mineshaft seems like it could have its own zip code. But it shares 53027 with most of the rest of the city.

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To go with the largest auto museum in the state, how about the largest restaurant in the state? The Mineshaft serves over 10,000 guests weekly and features the 5,000 square feet Million Dollar Game Room (that’s $200 per square foot.)

Still within in Hartford, you enter Dodge County. West of town, it opens up as you graze Neosho, cross Highway 67, and brush past the town of Hustisford (pop. 1,141). Its downtown area lies just off the highway; you can detour into town and see the Rock River as it flows out of the 2,800-acre Lake Sinisssippi (rhymes with ?). A small dam in town at Riverside Park is one location where fish fight like the dickens to get back upstream – perhaps for spawning?

Continuing the journey across Dodge, you cross the Wild Goose State Trail, a 34-mile biking/hiking/snowmobiling/cross country skiing path linking Juneau (Dodge County’s county seat) and Fond du Lac. Shortly after that Highway 60 joins up with Highway 26, where you head south briefly before starting up west again, this time in conjunction with Highway 16 for the ride into Columbus.

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Highway 60 snakes along the Rock River between Astico and Columbus. Highway 16 is along for the ride here, too.

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A couple enjoys the serene wayside along the Rock River just outside Columbus. The Rock eventually flows to the Quad Cities before meeting the Mississippi.

Columbus

Next up is Columbus (pop. 4,991); Wisconsin is one of 17 U.S. states that has a city with that name. Located on the Crawfish River and straddling Columbia and Dodge Counties, Columbus refers to itself as the “Red Bud City” and boasts largest antique mall in Wisconsin with the Columbus Antique Mall – 78,000 square feet filled with stuff across 444 booths under one roof. The Christopher Columbus Museum in the antique mall features souvenir memorabilia from the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago and as well as lithographs, china, tapestries, statues, and more. Columbus also has the closest Amtrak station to Madison, which is a fairly quick ride down U.S. 151 from here.

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Stretches of downtown Columbus feature an array of preserved architecture, shops and yes, a few watering holes.

Columbus has done a great job preserving architecturally significant buildings, with the entire downtown district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Architectural and photography students come to check out Jaeger’s Mill on the Crawfish River, or the Farmers & Merchants Union Bank Building (known as the “Jewel Box”), which was one of the last buildings designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan. Students of history may revel in the Sunday morning toll of the steeple bell from Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, partially made up of pieces of French canon captured during the Franco-Prussian War and presented as a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany (no comments were solicited from any area French residents.)

Downtown Columbus features a wide variety of shops and draws a good number of visitors on a nice day. Highway 60 intersects with Highway 73/Business U.S. 151 right downtown. A short jaunt along 73 (aka Park Avenue) brings you past a nice part of town, to the original 1902 Kurth Brewery building (described and pictured below), and a connection with Highway 89.

One of the last buildings designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan, the Farmers & Merchants Union Bank (below) was built in 1919 in Columbus. It draws attention with its ornate facade and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. City Hall is kitty corner and the Cercis Brewery is just down the street.

 

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Louis Sullivan’s last “jewel box” design project, in downtown Columbus.

columbus_kurth02*** Brewery Alert, Past & Present ***

Columbus, like many Wisconsin cities, has a brewing history. Started on Park Avenue (today Highway 73 at the intersection with Highway 89) in 1859, the Kurth Brewery quenched thirsty Columbusinians (or however you’d say it – Columbans, maybe?) for most of the ninety years that followed. Prohibition originally shut it down in 1920, but the Kurth Brewery managed to bounce back for 16 years after it was repealed, churning out items like Banner Beer and Blue Mound Beer throughout the 30s and 40s until it finally closed for good in 1949. The last tap room building still stands (pictured at right) just southwest of downtown along Park Avenue.

The resurgence of local and craft beers finally reached Columbus in 2018, when Cercis Brewing Company opened its doors right down from City Hall. Cercis wanted to name itself after the “Redbud City” miniker Columbus uses, but a certain large brewery took umbrage with part of that name, so they went with the name from the genus term for the redbud tree, cercis (they’ve had to explain that many a time.) Cercis offers a variety of local and guest brews and is popular for lunch and dinner too, with an extensive kitchen and increasing recognition for their pizzas. You’ll find Cercis Brewing one block off Highway 60 via Dickason Avenue, in a circa-1920 red brick building.

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A Cercis sampler from the local craft brewer in Columbus, one block off where Highway 60 meets City Hall.

Highway 60, still combined with Highway 16, runs northwest from downtown Columbus through some neighborhoods and out to the U.S. 151 freeway, which has bypassed the downtown area since 1976. There are quite a few larger stores, gas stations, and restaurants here in case you want to fuel up before continuing.

Heading out of Columbus just past U.S. 151, Highway 60 branches off Highway 16 and makes a beeline westward. Past North Leeds, essentially just an intersection with Highway 22 and the junction with U.S. Highway 51 (which joins 60 for about two miles) and into Arlington (pop. 522), the hills of the Baraboo Range become visible. On the horizon is Highway 60’s western half, where the landscape changes.

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The beeline from Columbus to Lodi includes a two-mile stint with U.S. 51 and and the junction with I-39/90/94 as the hills approach.

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Past I-39/90/94, farmers start working at angles on hillier land. This shot is just east of Lodi.

Past I-39/90/94, Highway 60 begins curving around more and more hills as you approach Lodi (pop. 2,929). Lodi’s name means “Peaceful Valley” in one of the Native American languages and is one of only three cities in Wisconsin to host its own agricultural fair. A nice walkway right off the main street (Highway 113, a block or so off of 60) runs through downtown, and nice walkway right off the main street (Highway 113) lets you descend closer to the water and behind some of the downtown buildings to view the area. Lodi’s downtown runs mainly along Highway 113 (Main Street), which heads south to Madison and north to the Merrimac Ferry and Baraboo.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Lodi is one of three Wisconsin cities to have its own fair, the Lodi Agricultural Fair. It’s been running since 1865.
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Susie the Duck race. (Photo courtesy of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce.)

susieduck_lgLodi is the home of “Susie the Duck”, a famous waterfowl who returned to Lodi time and time again to raise clutches of eggs. At the Susie the Duck spot, you can buy handfuls of dried corn from vending machines to feed the ducks – one of whom just might be this year’s Susie. The annual “Susie the Duck Day” celebration features the plastic duck race, where you can buy a small duck that will, along with thousands of others, get dumped into Spring Creek for a “race” to the finish line. We’ll check into what the winner receives.

lodicreek2_lgThe Ice Age Trail runs through Lodi, and Ice Age Park provides a nice look at native vegetation – with pedestrian-oriented walkways with descriptions telling you about them – making it a nice stop. Highway 60 runs right along the Ice Age Park – and Trail – in Lodi and abuts Spring Creek, which flows into Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River, just a few miles to the north.

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Just southwest of Lodi is the Lodi Marsh State Wildlife Area, where the Ice Age Trail runs and both hunters and mosquitoes run amok. Highway 60 provides access to the area as it heads west toward the Wisconsin River. And from this point on, Highway 60 earns the official designation of the Lower Wisconsin River Road.

The views become ever nicer, with Crystal Lake to the south (the lake straddles the Columbia-Dane County line and hosts a campground on a peninsula jutting into it) and more layers of hills to the north.

*** Winery & Distillery Alert ***

A short junction with Highway 188 provides access to the Wollersheim Winery & Distillery, about one mile to the south. Yes, you’re in wine country.

Just past Highway 188, you cross the Wisconsin River and head into Prairie du Sac (pop. 3,231), where you also you meet up with Highway 78 and begin to follow the river’s western bank. This is Eagle Country, where bald eagles – and maybe even some with hair – can be regularly spotted. From this point forward, Highway 60 more or less follows the Wisconsin River all the way to the Mississippi.

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Prairie du Sac and Sauk City (pop. 3,019) are essentially twin cities and collectively the area is called Sauk Prairie. Sauk City itself is Wisconsin’s oldest incorporated village (1854) and is the site of the first Culver’s restaurant ever (1984). Culver’s headquarters, meanwhile, is in Prairie du Sac. Don’t ever question putting butter on a burger around here.

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The Wisconsin River at Prairie du Sac features great fishing, scenic terrain and good eagle-watching.

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Sauk City’s downtown features several sports bars, including the Press Box – illustrated quite vividly on its facade.

Lower Wisconsin River Road Scenic Byway brochureLower Wisconsin River Road Begins

Technically from Lodi but in earnest once it crosses the Wisconsin River at Prairie du Sac, Highway 60 also becomes the Lower Wisconsin River Road. As they describe the upcoming stretch that awaits:

“From the Empire Prairie to the Mighty Mississippi, Wisconsin’s 100-mile Scenic Byway 60 follows the graceful curves of the Lower Wisconsin River. This patch of our planet sparkles, by sunny day or starry night, with the wild beauty of Nature left to its own devices for thousands and thousands of years. And nowhere is Heraclitus’s adage that you can’t step into the same river twice more apt. In constant flux, the “River of a Thousand Isles” continuously sculpts its sandbars, shifts its channels, varies its flows, and repaints its colors according to the whims of the weather gods.”

Okay, so they use prettier words than we often do. But that’s fine. Either way, it makes for a beautiful State Trunk Tour drive. Once Highway 60 leaves Highway 78 and joins U.S. Highway 12 briefly out of town, it branches off  to the west to follow the Wisconsin River…although it stays a mile or two away for much of the ride through the rest of Sauk County. The scenery is great; areas of the road become narrow and twist around with tight curves amidst landforms like Ferry Bluff, portions of which come right up to the road. The majestic Baraboo Range is often visible to the north while the Lower Wisconsin Scenic Riverway lies to the south.

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Between Spring Green and Sauk City, views like this are commonplace on both sides.

The first straightaway you encounter after a while happens when you approach U.S. Highway 14, Highway 23, and Spring Green (pop. 1,444). Home of American Players Theatre, offering Shakespeare in a natural amphitheater, Taliesin, summer home and school of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the ever-famous House On The Rock, Spring Green offers no shortage of things to see. Access to the sights are south on Highway 23, mostly south of the river.

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Lots of Wisconsin cities have registered low temperatures, but the -53 on January 30, 1951 gave Lone Rock claim as the coldest place in the United States, at least for a while (you knew a place in Minnesota would eventually get colder). But they play off the “cold hands, warm heart” saying with this sign along Highway 60 as you skirt the north edge of town.

U.S. Highway 14 and Highway 60 both careen westward in a straightaway fashion into Richland County and grazing the north edge of Lone Rock (pop. 949), accessible via Highways 130 and 133. West of Lone Rock, the Pine River Trail follows the highway to Gotham (pronounced “GO-tham”. not “Gaaath-um”, as I found out.) The Pine River is another one of Wisconsin’s great rail-to-trails and runs from Richland Center back towards Spring Green.

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New York City it ain’t. But that’s alright with the citizens of Wisconsin’s own Gotham, who probably prefer peace and quiet to the shriek of the “A” Train and Yankees fans.

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The bicycles plying the Pine River Trail are quieter as they approach the Bat Cave “exit” in Gotham. The snowmobiles and ATVs are less so, I’m thinking… Highway 60 crosses the trail ahead, just after leaving U.S. 14.

From Gotham west, Highway 60 is even more serene. You’re once again in the twisty, turny territory that rounds the hills and, on occasion, hugs the river’s northern coastline. Bogus Bluff, which actually seems pretty valid, is to your north. The road goes through the Lower Wisconsin Scenic Riverway along this stretch and on and off for much of the duration.

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West of Gotham, Highway 60 twists past hills (left) and often runs right along the Wisconsin River (right). There’s a long way between services on these stretches, go make sure gas, food and internal relief needs are taken care of when chances arise.

At the intersection with Highway 80, you can hop over the river and check out Muscoda (pop. 1,408), the “Morel Mushroom Capital of Wisconsin.” In fact, Muscoda (once known as “English Prairie” in this historically French part of the state) hosts the Annual Morel Mushroom Festival in May, complete with a mushroom contest (biggest, smallest, most unique, most in cluster, things like that.) The Wisconsin River Canoe Race also takes place in July, where canoers race from as far away as Spring Green, about 21 miles upstream.

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Although Highway 60 skips past Muscoda just across the river, signs like this remind you to take a trip across via Highway 80 and check out the Morel Mushroom Capital.

Past 80 and the junction with tiny Highway 193, which loops you back to 80, Highway 60 jogs away from the river for a few miles. This is where you’ll see a sign for Eagle Cave, the largest onyx cave in Wisconsin. It was discovered back in 1849; 89 years later it was finally open to the public. They’ve hosted a cave exploratory program since 1954 and are popular not only for tours, but overnight camping. Four main and four subterranean walking levels take you through over 3,000 feet of passages.

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Shortly after Eagle Cave, there’s another bridge across the river at Port Andrew – called Tippisaukee at one time – where County T leapfrogs Coumbe Island to land on the other side in Blue River (pop. 429) with a connection to Highway 133.

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Through the trees in autumn, you get a good look at the beauty of the Wisconsin River at this point, near Boscobel.

The drive continues into Crawford County, where Highway 60 follows the Wisconsin as it bends southwest towards the Mississippi. Shortly after crossing the county line, you hook up with U.S. Highway 61, which joins for just under two miles. At Easter Rock, U.S. 61 breaks south over the river into Grant County and Boscobel (pop. 3,047). Boscobel is “Wisconsin’s Wild Turkey Hunting Capital”, so if you feel like hunting wild turkeys, you’re in luck. Boscobel is also the birthplace of the Gideon Bible and the Gideon Society… so the people who got the idea for placing Bibles in hotels and motels all over the country came from here.

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Boscobel Station, across the river from Highway 60 via U.S. 61.

Boscobel offers up a beautiful downtown lined with a number of well-preserved – or adapted – 19th century buildings; fans of architecture should check it out, several blocks east of U.S. 61. The Rock School (207 Buchanan Street) is another stunner, once shockingly designated for demolition. Boscobel Station, built in 1857, has historically served as a “nerve center” of town and includes a new museum.

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Easter Rock, as 60 (this time eastbound) approaches U.S. 61 across the river from Boscobel.

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The Wisconsin River here – while wide – is not very deep most of the year. In fall especially, the water levels are low enough where sandbars frequently show up. During winter runoff in spring, the level can be almost up to the road.

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The river on one side and bluffs on the other mark this whole stretch of Highway 60 in western Wisconsin; sometimes you get some nice vistas of long road stretches, too.

From U.S. 61 and access to Boscobel, Highway 60 continues southwest, wedged between bluffs and the river. About eight miles past Boscobel near the mouth of the Kickapoo River, Highway 131 begins at 60 and will take you north along the “crookedest river in the world” and some of the best canoeing in the Midwest. The Kickapoo River State Wildlife Area lies to the northwest as you enter Wauzeka (pop. 768). The next stop – and a brief one, at that – is at Bridgeport (pop. 946). Here, Highway 60 hooks up with U.S. Highway 18, Highway 35, and the Great River Road for the ride into the PDC.

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West of Wauzeka on Highway 60, there’s plenty of zigging and zagging.

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The markers get crowded at Bridgeport, where Highway 60 meets up with U.S. 18, Highway 35, and the Great River Road for the ride into Prairie du Chien.

And “the PDC” on the State Trunk Tour is Prairie du Chien (pop. 6,018), Wisconsin’s second oldest city (Green Bay is the oldest, in case you were wondering.) The Fox and Sauk tribes were here for hundreds of years prior to French explorers arriving and saying “voila!” Early establishment began in 1673, with the first trading posts developed in 1685 by French explorer Nicholas Perrot. Fur trade, along with Prairie du Chien’s natural location near the Wisconsin River and Mississippi River confluence, guaranteed the small settlement would prosper for years to come. Prairie du Chien’s history spans five centuries, including the only significant Wisconsin battle in the War of 1812. PDC’s first fort, Fort Shelby, was built by Americans built captured by the British in the War. By 1816, it had been replaced with Fort Crawford. The Black Hawk War, which took place in 1832, featured a commanding officer in the form of Colonel Zachary Taylor, who later became 12th President of the United States. A lieutenant during the same time named Jefferson Davis not only married Zachary Taylor’s daughter (named Sarah “Knoxie” Taylor, proving cutesy nicknames existed in the 19th century), he later became President of the Confederate States of America. Neither worked out well; the future President Taylor didn’t approve and poor Sarah passed away from pneumonia only months after their 1835 marriage; his new country in the 1860s didn’t last very long, either.

pdc_marquettestatue1A statue of French explorer Father Marquette towers above the Wisconsin Welcome Center in Prairie du Chien, facing his university about 160 miles due exactly to the east. The view from the base looking up brings a whole different perspective.

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The fur trade may have kept many warm, but it made a few millionaires on top of it. Local resident Hercules Dousman was the first millionaire in Wisconsin, and in 1871 his son H. Louis Dousman built Villa Louis, a National Historic Landmark on St. Feriole Island. The plot of land upon which Villa Louis stands once held Hercules Dousman’s original house, as well as Fort Crawford and Fort Shelby. Today it’s a museum operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society, the first historic site for the organization.

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The Villa Louis mansion, just part of what lies in store on the grounds of this National Historic Landmark on PDC’s St. Feriole Island.

Did school ever feel like prison? Well, Prairie du Chien has a prison that was once a highly-regarded Jesuit boarding school. Campion Jesuit High School operated from 1880 to 1975 and counts among its alumni the likes of Vicente Fox, Mexican president from 2000 to 2006; George Wendt, Norm of Cheers fame, a number of movies and noted Bearssss Superfan Bill Swerski; sportscaster George Blaha; former Wisconsin governor Patrick Lucey; and politician and prankster Dick Tuck (yes, his real name.) As long as we’re name dropping, Pat Bowlen, longtime owner of the Denver Broncos, was born in Prairie du Chien – one of the few Wisconsin natives who liked Super Bowl XXXII.

A carp-droppin’ tradition. A relatively new tradition in Prairie du Chien happens on New Years’ Eve. In 2001, they started lowering a carp via crane to coincide with the ringing in of the new year. Similar to the apple in New York City or the peach in Georgia, residents count down the last minute or two of the year while the carp – a 30-pound female named “Lucky” – gets lowered via crane from about 110 feet high. Now called the “Droppin’ of the Carp”, it’s certainly one-of-a-kind.

Prairie du Chien contains five National Historic Landmarks and nine sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Wyalusing State Park lies just to the south of the Wisconsin River via the Great River Road.

Highway 60 technically ends at the Iowa state line, in conjunction with U.S. 18. Of course, being a federal highway, U.S. 18 continues west, eventually ending in Wyoming. While still on land, the western end of Highway 60 features an official Wisconsin Welcome Center and Prairie du Chien’s own Visitor Centr. Stock up on information packets and admire the statue of Father Marquette towering above with a beautiful view of the town.

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Highway 60 ends – or begins, depending on your direction – where U.S. 18 meets the Mississippi on this bridge in this view from the Marquette, Iowa side.

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Coming back into Wisconsin at Highway 60’s western start provides a nice view of the hills and bluffs framing Prairie du Chien.

Overall, Highway 60 is a terrific State Trunk Tour route. Lots of connections, a broad cross-section of the state, a good mixture of towns and scenery makes for a pleasant “Great to Great Drive”, as in a Great Lake to the Great River. Watch for related video in the coming months!

CONNECTIONS
East Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: I-43, Highway 32, Highway 57
Can connect nearby to: Highway 33, about 4 miles north

West Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 27, Highway 35, U.S. Highway 18

Highway 59 in Eagle
59

STH-059“From The Cheese City To The Brew City”

 

WisMap59Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 59 connects Monroe with Milwaukee, essentially joining Cheese Days with Summerfest. Writhing across southern Wisconsin, Highway 59 brings you through numerous small towns, sprawling farmland nestled in rolling hills, Kettle Moraine, Waukesha, Wisconsin State Fair, Miller Park and Milwaukee’s south side, just short of the city’s downtown and lakefront in the bustling Walkers Point neighborhood. At 115 miles, Highway 59 makes for a good afternoon cruise with plenty of time to check out the sights at either end.

Wisconsin Highway 59 Road Trip

The Drive (West To East):

Monroe

Highway 59 begins in Monroe (pop. 10,843), the hub of Green County and the “Swiss Cheese Capital of the USA.” Monroe High School’s team nickname is the Cheesemakers, after all. The Swiss influence is everywhere, from the flags dotting the surrounding landscape to the architecture downtown to the fact that The Swiss Colony is headquartered here.

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The Green County Courthouse in Monroe, surrounded by a bustling town square. Highway 81 used to come straight through town with Highway 11; it now angles around on the freeway bypass and heads northwest from the city. But you should definitely check out downtown.

Downtown Monroe offers a charming and rather bustling downtown square. Surrounding the impressive, Romanesque Green County Courthouse, are shops offering everything from boutique clothing to electronics. A stop in Baumgartner’s on the Square (1023 16th Ave., 608-325-6157) lets you sample more cheese and beer products made in the area, including a Limburger with mustard and onion served on rye bread. In the name of humanity, the dish is served with a mint on the side.

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bceiling_800Baumgartner’s is a cheese and sausage shop in the front, tavern and sandwich shop in the back. On the high ceiling above, check out the dollar bills hanging from the ceiling – which almost look like hibernating bats if you’re not looking closely! If you give them a dollar, they’ll use their special technique to “throw” it into the ceiling, where they’ll stick until Cheese Days every other year, when they take the bills down and donate them to a chosen charitable organization in the area. It’s worth the buck to watch it happen!

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Monroe is the only place in North America where limburger cheese is currently produced. Wisconsin law makes it tough: it’s actually illegal to produce this cheese without a master cheesemaker’s certification.

Another good stop is the Minhas Craft Brewery, (1208 14th Ave., 608-325-3191), located just south and west of the town center. For a long time known as the Huber Brewery, it’s the second oldest continuously operating brewery in the U.S, brewing beer in one form or another since 1845 – three years before Wisconsin entered statehood. They were purchased by Mountain Crest Brewing Company, a Canadian outfit planning that expanded the Monroe facility (read about it in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story here). As it stands now, the brewery continues to brew Huber’s traditional beers: Premium (which won the Bronze in the 2002 World Beer Championships) Bock and Light, as well as a great old non-Huber-but-totally-Wisconsin throwback: Rhinelander Beer. Although Rhinelander’s original brewery shut down in 1967, Minhas has continued its recipe and now brews the beer in Monroe. The popular Canadian beer Mountain Creek is now brewed here – a result of the Mountain Crest investment – as are a few malt liquors. Tours are available at 11am, 1pm and 3pm Thursday through Saturday.

Downstairs, the Herb & Helen Haydock World of Beer Memorabilia Museum features historic and modern beer brand memorabilia from all over the country; it’s definitely worth dropping in! There’s also a gift shop and they’ve kept historical pictures to browse, along with other memorabilia highlighting the area’s brewing history.

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Monroe is also the home headquarters of the famous mail-order company (and prime source of cheese, meats, nuts and more) The Swiss Colony, which started here in 1926. The main building is right along Highway 69 on the south side on Monroe.

Out of downtown, heading south briefly on Highway 69 brings you to the Monroe Depot Welcome Center, part of Monroe’s original train depot. Outside, you’ll find the charm of a train station, a fiberglass cow and some large copper kettles. Inside, you’ll find visitor information, the National Historic Cheesemaking Center, which has plenty of old tools cheesemakers used dating back to the 19th century, and original train depot materials, including old schedules, an original bench, photos and more.

Cows and kettles dot the landscape in front of the National Historic Cheesemaking Center.monroedepot2_500

At lower left, an original typewriter and schedule from the days way back when the trains roared through here as part of the Depot Welcome Center; at lower right, some of the cheesemaking equipment in the National Historic Cheesemaking Center, which is part of the Depot. Plenty of vats, weights, wringers, presses and old packaging that held cheeses made back in the 1800s.

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From Monroe, you can go east on 9th Street, north on 20th Avenue , and east again on 6th Street to catch the official beginning of Highway 59, which starts as you cross the Highway 11/81 bypass.

As soon as you cross Highway 11 & 81, open country greets you. Large farms, rolling hills and cows a’plenty, along with the occasional Swiss flag, make for a pleasant drive as the road stair-steps north and east for about 13 miles to Albany (pop. 1,148). A picturesque scene in Albany is the crossing over the Sugar River, often flanked by fishermen hauling up a catch from the flowing waters underneath. A small dam on the north end of the bridge adds to the scenery.

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The Sugar River as it prepares to flow under Highway 59 in Albany.

sugartrThe Sugar River Trail, one of the better (and often underutilized) rail-to-trail projects in the state, crosses Highway 59 on the outskirts of Albany, 14.5 miles into the route.

There is a small parking area if you wish to hit the trail on foot or bike for a while; trail passes can be purchased at the adjacent Mobil station along the route. Otherwise, you can keep going, hook up with State Highway 104 for a short jog, and cross east into Rock County.

The section of Highway 59 between Albany and Evansville illustrates the very definition of rolling hills; at times it resembles a small, gentle roller coaster.

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Highway 59 between Albany and Evansville is quite serene, with plenty of small, rolling hills.

A nice diversion lies off the road in the form of Magnolia Bluff County Park, with its beautiful rock outcroppings and scenic vistas. A nice spot for a picnic or just to relax for a bit, the Park offers grills, restrooms, drinking water… everything but the brats.

After joining State Highway 213, which connects south to Beloit, Highway 59 shoots straight into Evansville (pop. 4,901). This city has an impressive array of 19th century architecture. A drive through Evansville ’s 22-block Historic District reveals Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Prairie Style and more. A walking tour does it even more justice; call City Hall (608-882-2266) for a brochure and guide. At the northern edge of town, 59 hooks up with U.S. 14 to Union before heading east again. The ride is pretty easy (and fairly bland) as you go through Cooksville into Edgerton.

Original hometown of golfer Steve Stricker and author Sterling North, Edgerton (pop. 4,993) sits at the crossroads of State Highway 59 and U.S. 51, the north-south road considered the (non-Interstate) backbone of the state. At the time of this writing, Highway 59 was being reconstructed through town, and the detour took you through residential areas reflecting the town’s wealthier days when it was the center of a tobacco-growing region. In the 19th century, Edgerton prospered from tobacco, and numerous Queen Anne-style mansions in town attest to such wealth.

Just east of Edgerton, the interchange with I-39/90 gives rise to restaurants, gas stations and other establishments, including Newville (notice there’s never any Oldvilles?) You also approach Lake Koshkonong, one of the largest lakes in Wisconsin, right where it turns back into the Rock River. Koshkonong was actually man-made, created from a wide marshland the river ran through. Many of us have heard about Lake Winnebago ’s shallowness. Koshkonong’s rivals it: the lake averages only about six feet deep. A Milwaukee Bucks player could practically walk through it without having to swim or snorkel (standard disclaimer: kids, don’t try it.)

Past Newville, a shortcut to Whitewater is available via County Highway N. Meanwhile, Highway 59 cuts south to Milton (pop. 5,090). Unlike many instances with 59, the road does not go right into the city center; it brushes past it to the west by a few blocks, bypasses it slightly to the north, then jogs south along Business Highway 26 before heading east again out of town, including a junction with the new Highway 26 bypass.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
Milton’s original name was Prairie du Lac. When settlers applied to get a post office in 1839, the name was dismissed because it sounded too similar to “Prairie du Sac”. It was renamed for Paradise Lost author John Milton, familiarized to people everywhere via Professor Jennings’ (Donald Sutherland) lecture in National Lampoon’s Animal House. Interestingly enough, two major stars from the movie (John Belushi and Thomas Hulce) either went to college or grew up in nearby Whitewater. Karma? Perhaps.

Just past Milton’s eastern “downtown”, Highway 59 jogs south for a few blocks right past the Milton House Museum, a National Historic Landmark. It’s dedicated to the Milton House, a hexagonal stagecoach inn constructed in 1844. It has three claims to fame: it was the first poured grout building in the United States, it’s the oldest concrete building still standing in the U.S., and it’s one of 14 officially recognized stations on the Underground Railroad from the pre-Civil War days. Joseph Goodrich, Milton’s founder and a staunch abolitionist, provided the Milton House for runaway slaves on their way to Canada or points north. Goodrich was a busy guy: the same year he founded the Milton House, he founded the Milton Academy, which evolved into Milton College, which lasted until 1982. It was the oldest college in Wisconsin until it closed. Football fans know the college for its most famous alumnus, Dave Krieg, who played in the NFL for a whole lot of seasons, including some notable ones for the Seattle Seahawks.

*** Winery Alert ***

While in Milton, check out the Northleaf Winery. Established in 2008, Northleaf makes over 25 varieties of wine with grapes grown across the nation. They also specialize in pairing chocolates and other delectables with their wines. The Tasting Room dates back to the 1850s, when it served as a wheat warehouse. In the 1920s it was a Buick and Overland dealership and by 1947 was the Sunnyview Apple Orchard Warehouse. Apple cider was pressed there until 1991. Today, grapes are pressed and terrific wines are the result.

Whitewater

After the junction with the newer Highway 26 bypass, Highway 59 heads back northeast about 12 miles to Whitewater. This area is dominated by farms as you head into Walworth County and into Whitewater itself (pop. 13,437), home to the popular University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (a noted business and party school) and birthplace of actor Thomas Hulce, who played Mozart in Amadeus and, more importantly, Larry Kroeger in Animal House (of course, John Belushi, who was Bluto in Animal House, went to UW-Whitewater.) Noted author, historian, and movie producer Stephen Ambrose grew up in Whitewater. It’s a creative town.

*** BYPASS ALERT ***
Highway 59 officially jogs onto the new Whitewater bypass, which also carries Highway 89 and U.S. 12 around the college town. You actually go around the city to the south and east and jog back west slightly along Business U.S. 12 (Milwaukee Street), before heading north on Newcomb Avenue, which is handy for time, though it adds 2 miles to the route. The other option – and more appropriate for a State Trunk Tour – is to follow the old 59 route through town.

For history in Whitewater, check out Indian Mounds Park, a Native American ceremonial and burial site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Open daily, the Park holds an incredibly diverse collection of animal and geometric mounds, many of which date back over 1,000 years. Speaking of history, Whitewater’s Historic Train Depot traces the city’s past since it holds the Historical Society Museum. The Depot is located along Cravath Lakefront Park, named after one of the two lakes inside Whitewater (the other is Tripp Lake.) Ironically, the lake known as Whitewater Lake is about 5 miles south of town.

Along the downtown stretch (Business U.S. 12/Main Street), plenty of shops, restaurants, and business that cater to Whitewater’s 12,000+ college students will offer something to enjoy.

*** Brewery Alert ***
With plenty of thirsty UW-Whitewater students in close proximity, Second Salem Brewing keeps its small nanobrewery busy. The brewery took its name from one of Whitewater’s historic nicknames, harkening back to “witches’ gatherings” that supposedly took place near the water tower, strange creatures in the local lake, and other lore that makes for good stories. You’ll find it along Whitewater Street, just south of Main/Business U.S. 12.

The Carlin House offers unique construction design and a great look at an original 19th century home with authentic furnishings, right along Highway 59 in Palmyra.

Palmyra

Heading out of Whitewater and crossing into Jefferson County, the land consists mainly of farmland with some forested areas. Palmyra (pop. 1,766) starts a more scenic section of Highway 59, since here it hooks up with the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. Palmyra got its name from an ancient capital in present-day Syria, once the center of a great empire noted for productive sandy soil. Palmyra has a long history with mineral springs, with sanitariums flourishing the area from around 1870 until the 1950s. The town even hosted the Druggist’s National Home for aged and infirm druggists until the late ’50s. Today the town spans the Scuppernong River and serves as a gateway to the Kettle Moraine, welcoming in Highway 106 downtown.

The historic Carlin House was completed in 1845. It’s one of the oldest and most unique houses in southeastern Wisconsin. It’s a “grout house,” built by laying courses of a kind of cement on top of one another, which earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The Carlin House is furnished with mostly 19th century antiques, some of which are original to the house and the historical integrity of the floors, wallpaper, lights, and furnishings have been well appointed. The adjacent Turner Museum explores both local art and a mix of Palmyra’s history and future. The Carlin House & Turner Museum are open Saturdays 10am-2pm May into October and by appointment; docents are often available. You can call 262-495-2412 for details.

Kettle Moraine

On Highway 59 east from Palmyra to Eagle, you enter Waukesha County and, officially, the Milwaukee metro area. The first thing you see, though, is Kettle Moraine’s Southern Unit Headquarters. Kettle Moraine is    The headquarters of Kettle Moraine Southern Unit offers permits, a mini museum, walking trailheads, a gift shop, parking, and more.

Just past Kettle Moraine you’ll pull into Eagle (pop, 1,707). Awash in history, Eagle sits in a valley along a railroad at the junction with Highway 67. 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 along 67; a more historical stop is Suhmer’s Saloon (262-594-3006), which Highway 59 runs right behind just before crossing Highway 67. 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, then the Stumble Inn (since with the aged steps going down into the bar, you need to be careful not to stumble) until about 2010 when it became Suhmer’s Saloon. 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…

Old World Wisconsin is just a short drive south on Highway 67, but if you want to keep going on Highway 59, you follow the intersection carefully to the northeast for the push through Waukesha County’s Kettle Moraine area.

Heading northeast from Eagle, you alternately traverse farmland and forest with some good hills in between. Going through North Prairie and Genesee, you get the sense of the impending suburban building boom that stretches from Milwaukee and Waukesha; farmlands becoming subdivisions are increasingly common along this stretch.

Approaching Genesee (pop. 7,284) and the intersection with Highway 83, you can detour north for about one mile to Genesee Depot. A rail crossroads since the mid-1800s, Genesee Depot was a key Waukesha County stop for the railroad. Pieces of history like the Union House, built in the 1860s, and In Cahoots, a watering hole since that same period, grace the intersection of Highway 83 and the railroad.

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The Union House along the rails crossing Highway 83 in Genesee Depot, hosting railroad travelers since 1864.

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Across from the Union House, In Cahoots has been a watering hole in one form or another for over a century, and remains a popular stop for bikers and State Trunk Tourers.

Genesee Depot is also home to the Ten Chimneys Estate , a National Historic Landmark . Broadway greats Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne made their home here and hosted many a get-together involving some of stage and screen’s most illustrious stars. Lunt and Fontanne together (they married in 1922) appeared together in over 24 plays and, more recently, on a postage stamp. The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on West 46th Street in New York City is, of course, named for them, an indication of their prowess on the big stage. Tours of Ten Chimneys are available from May through mid-November of the grounds and the house. Furnishings, hand-painted murals, décor, art collections and other memorabilia are everywhere, and yes, the house does have 10 chimneys. Even the Gift Shop is unique: from early 20th century hat styles to jewelry to Noël Coward quotes adorning black t-shirts, there’s plenty of interesting things to check out.

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The main house at Ten Chimneys. All ten chimneys are but a fraction of the architectural splendor both inside the house and on the surrounding grounds.

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The dining room, for example, where elegance, beauty and attention to detail combined with what must have been some incredibly good meals.

Guests to Ten Chimneys over the years the Lunts lived there included Katharine Hepburn, W.C. Fields, and most infamously Noël Coward, probably the Lunt’s most frequent Ten Chimneys guest. Coward was known for many things, including some of the most famous plays ever written; today the theatre in Westminster, London where he first performed in 1920 is named the Noël Coward Theatre, which was named in his honor in 2006. He acted in many plays and also performed intelligence work for the British Secret Service during World War II (in fact, he was approached by neighbor Ian Fleming in the 1960s to play the villan’s role in Dr. No, which he turned down… with the phrase “Dr. No? No. No. No.”) Meanwhile on the Ten Chimney grounds, he has known for walking through the house in the buff on his way to go for a swim because he liked to skinny dip in the pool, causing at least one cook to quit. Others presumably stared or did double-takes at various times.

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Part of Ten Chimneys’ Museum Store and reception area includes a variety of things to see, including a stage to check out, backstage samples, a Dick Cavett video interview of the couple from 1970, furniture and more; the stage is above. And of the many things available at Ten Chimneys, you can buy specialty shot glasses with “the great drinkers” like Yeats, Wilde, Thomas and Fields. Just don’t use them while State Trunk Touring, okay??

genesee_10chimneys01Finding Ten Chimneys (and tell ’em you’re on a State Trunk Tour!): Head north on Highway 83 about one mile. Right past the Union House and In Cahoots, where Highway 83 bends to the right, continue straight on the smaller street. Several hundred feet down you will see the entrance to the grounds. You can contact them for more information at (262) 968-4110 (reservations a day or more in advance is strongly recommended) or at tenchimneys.org.

Waukesha

Further up from Genesee, you reach the outskirts of Waukesha (pop. 70,718), which Money Magazine recently ranked 36th on its “100 Best Places to Live in the U.S.” list. Waukesha originally incorporated in 1846 as Prairieville and changed its name the following year. “Waukesha” means “fox” in Potawatomi language, and the Fox River runs right through town. Waukesha is home to the oldest college in Wisconsin, Carroll College, which was founded in 1846 (the University of Wisconsin has established two years later.) The BoDeans, comedian Frank Caliendo, Olympic gymnasts Paul and Morgan Hamm, musician Kurt Bestor and author Vernor Vinge all hail from Waukesha to some extent, and Les Paul, inventor of the electric guitar, was born in the city in 1919. The bypass Highway 59 runs on today is named after him.

***BYPASS ALERT***

Approaching Waukesha, you have a choice between following the original Highway 59, which cuts right through the city, or the newer alignment that bypasses the city to the south and east. If you choose to go through the city, follow County X/St. Paul Avenue into town, go east on Wisconsin Avenue, north on East Avenue, east on Main Street, south on Hartwell, and then east on Arcadian to re-join the current road at the Les Paul Parkway and junction with Highway 164 (hey, nobody said it was easy.)

If you go through the city, explore downtown Waukesha a bit; it offers a wide assortment of shops, parks and places to see. Among them is the Waukesha County Historical Society & Museum (101 W. Main Street, 262-548-7186), which chronicles Waukesha ’s rather interesting history with water and mud. The springs in the village were believed to provide water that could, among other things, cure diabetes. Resorts were built to attract visitors to come and “heal” themselves with Waukesha ’s water. Attempts to pump Waukesha’s high-quality water to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago were almost successful – almost. During the first half of the 20th century, the Moor Mud Baths gave rise to the Grand View Health Resort, a precursor to today’s health spas. All of that and more are chronicled in the museum.

Waukesha, home of the first forward pass

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No, not a pass in a bar (although there are plenty of those in Waukesha bars). The first legal forward pass in American football took place in Waukesha on September 5, 1906. During a game against Waukesha’s Carroll College, St. Louis University’s Bradbury Robinson tossed up a pass which fell incomplete – a turnover under 1906 rules. Later in the game, he tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass. It was considered a way to make the game safer; the previous year, there were 19 fatalities nationwide in football and President Teddy Roosevelt threatened to shut down the game unless changes were made.

Left: A depiction of the Brad Robinson throwing the first legal forward pass, as shown in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1906.

The older parts of Waukesha, which downtown certainly is a part of, are known for wacky street layouts that some have described as “like a set of wheel spokes with no hub.” It’s easy to get lost, but you won’t stay that way for long. If you do get lost and stumble upon U.S. 18, just follow that east to Highway 164, then head south briefly to re-join eastbound Highway 59.

If you choose to bypass Waukesha and stay on Highway 59’s current alignment, you follow the multi-lane Les Paul Parkway. This is the newer, sprawling area of Waukesha. There’s much of particular interest to see along the Parkway, but it pops you over to Arcadian Avenue quickly so you can head east toward Milwaukee.

At Barker Road, Highway 59 becomes Greenfield Avenue and from here, it’s city and suburb all the way to Lake Michigan. The booming areas in Brookfield and New Berlin are split by 59 here and the road was recently expanded to four lanes all the way into Milwaukee County, which begins at 124th Street. A mile later, you cross Milwaukee’s original beltline highway, Highway 100, and then hit Milwaukee’s freeway bypass, I-41/I-894/U.S. 45.

In West Allis (pop. 60,152) at the intersection with Highway 181/84th Street, you reach Wisconsin State Fair Park. The road skims the southern end of the park, and you can check out all the exhibit halls and even get a good view of the famous Milwaukee Mile, part of America’s love of racing since 1903. It’s the oldest operating motor speedway in the world, and the only one that hosts races for NASCAR, the Champ Car World Series, and the IRL (Indy Racing League.)

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Indy racing action at the Milwaukee Mile, which has enjoyed a recent resurgence, although it can be year-to-year.

Here’s some good trivia: the Green Bay Packers played many of their Milwaukee home games in the field inside the track at the Milwaukee Mile from 1934 until 1951.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The 1939 NFC Championship Game took place inside Wisconsin State Fair Park’s Milwaukee Mile track, where the Packers defeated the New York Giants 27-0.

Downtown West Allis runs from State Fair Park to the old Allis-Chalmers plant at 70th Street, which once employed as many as 30,000 workers. The last of Allis-Chalmers’ production ended in 1986; today portions of the massive complex remain, retrofitted for retail and office space. The West Allis Farmers Market takes place on the south side of Greenfield Avenue in the warmer months, and redevelopment efforts continue in this city that endures.

Approaching 60th Street, Highway 59 angles from Greenfield Avenue over to National Avenue at an intersection called “Six Points”. Crossing 60th, you enter West Milwaukee (pop. 4,201), a small (717-acre), independent village. A State Trunk Tour favorite for German food is Kegel’s Inn (5901 W. National Ave., 414-257-9999), which has much of its original 1933 decor and a highly touted Friday night fish fry, along with many of the traditional German favorites.

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The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument towers above Wood National Cemetery on the north side of Highway 59. It’s bisected by I-94.

The Zablocki VA Medical Center and the Wood National Cemetery (5000 W. National Ave., 414-382-5300) emerge on the north side of the street. Wood National Cemetery is a United States National Cemetery covering 50 acres with over 37,000 interments. It was originally established in 1871 as Soldier Home Cemetery and was renamed in 1937. Of note is the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors monument, a 60-foot high granite monument that has been watching over the cemetery since 1903.

Another pit stop of interest – particularly for baseball fans – is 4th Base (5117 W. National Ave., 414-647-8509), which offers up an old-school baseball bar atmosphere, local beers on tap, and high-grade, upscale meals prepared by the chef. The prices aren’t posted for the meals, so if you wanna roll the dice, go ahead. It may end up pricey, it might not; either way, the meal will be a culinary treat. Several other bars operate nearby, as does the Best Western Woods View Inn (5501 W. National Ave., 414-671-6400) – appropriate for staying in if you try all of the bars and restaurants along this stretch.

In your view to the north is Miller Park, home to the Milwaukee Brewers and a host of concerts and other events. Highway 59 here works as a great shortcut entrance to Brewers games for those wishing to avoid the super-busy I-94 just to the north. On game days, expect quite a crowd of cars, bikes and buses as you approach Miller Park Way, which connects to the ballpark and I-94 as a mini-freeway which also happens to be the start of Highway 175, which runs north from here as the replacement for what was U.S. 41 for over fifty years – when 41 was upgraded to Interstate, it was moved to the freeway with I-894 back in West Allis.

East from Miller Park , Highway 59 goes into the City of Milwaukee (pop. 602,000). National Avenue is a key south side route across the city and traffic can be quite heavy during peak hours. Neighborhoods here include Silver City, an area that has seen tough times but is beginning a resurgence based on new immigration from Asia. At the intersection with 35th Street, a look to the north reveals a long viaduct that leapfrogs the Menomonee Valley, an area almost a mile wide and three miles long that traditionally housed many of Milwaukee’s factories, tanneries and railroads and has undergone quite a resurgence of its own. Heading east at 32nd Street, the Hoan Bridge appears on the horizon to the east, giving a hint of the upcoming lakefront. At 27th Street (also the start of Highway 57), you can head north one block and visit the Mitchell Park Domes, an indoor horticultural wonder that may look like a bra factory, but in fact features a multitude of plant life in arid and tropical settings in two large glass geodesic domes, as well as a third seasonal dome whose displays rotate throughout the year.

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Highway 59 – as National Avenue – continues east through neighborhoods and a continuing array of emerging bars and restaurants in the heart of Walkers Point. At 6th Street, Highway 38 begins and heads south to Racine; a short drive north on 6th Street leads you to the Iron Horse Hotel, a unique boutique hotel popular with stars of stage and bikers alike, and the Harley-Davidson Museum, which opened in 2008 and is a major attraction in itself. North of there, you can connect with Highway 145 on the same street once you enter downtown Milwaukee.

The intersection with 5th Street is considered the heart of Milwaukee’s “Latin Quarter,” featuring tons of Mexican and Latin-American restaurants. Just north on 5th Street, you’ll find Sprecher Brewing’s Walkers Point Tap Room, part of the Sprecher Brewing Company, which started a few blocks away in 1985. It was one of the first craft breweries in the United States to open after Prohibition.

Continuing east, State Trunk Highway 59 ends at 1st Street (Highway 32), about 115 miles from its origin in Monroe and in the heart of the Walkers Point neighborhood. Downtown, the Historic Third Ward district, Summerfest and more are all literally within a mile or two of where you stop.

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The eastern end of Highway 59 in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point, a neighborhood of bars and restaurants, new condos, and easy access to downtown Milwaukee, which is about one mile north via 2nd Street or 1st Street/Highway 32.

From the end of Highway 59, downtown Milwaukee is only about one mile north on 1st Street.

A lot more coverage of these areas is coming up!

CONNECTIONS:
West Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 11, Highway 81
Can connect nearby to: Highway 69, about 2 miles west

East Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 32
Can connect nearby to: I-43/94, about 1 mile west; Highway 38, about 1/2 mile west; U.S. Highway 18, about one mile north; Highway 57, about 2 miles west

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.

Sturgeon Bay itself has two sets of “downtowns,” really – one on the “mainland” and the other across the waters of its namesake bay. On the mainland side, you’ll find some good shops and restaurants as well as the main campus of the Door County Maritime Museum, which has been undergoing significant expansion lately.

Across from the museum where the Steel Bridge begins, you’ll also find Sonny’s Italian Kitchen and Pizzeria, which offers one of the coolest patio views in town, and Bridge Up Brewing, which started the fermentation process in Sonny’s lower level in 2019.

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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 rest of Sturgeon Bay lies, including its primary downtown strip along 3rd Street, which is also part of Business Highways 42 & 57. There’s more boutique shopping along this stretch, along with Door County Candy Co. (we love the mint-covered Oreos, but they have thousands of other options as well) and the craft brews you’ll find at Starboard Brewing Company.

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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

50

STH-050“From Kenosha’s streetcar to Andes Candies through the heart of Lake Geneva”

WisMap50Quickie Summary: Short as it is, State “Trunk” Highway 50 is a major east-west thoroughfare connecting Kenosha with Delavan and moving a lot of traffic throughout the region. Along with its endpoints, places like Bristol, Paddock Lake, Pleasant Prairie, and especially Lake Geneva are served by Highway 50 as it muscles its way across the eastern half of southern Wisconsin. Much of the route is expressway-like and provides good connections to other major routes.

Wisconsin Highway 50 Road Trip

The Drive (East To West):

Kenosha

Highway 50 begins within a few blocks of Lake Michigan in downtown Kenosha (pop. 99,889), Wisconsin’s fourth largest city. Originally known as Pike and then Southport (a name many businesses still use), Kenosha got its current name in 1850, a descendant 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 today 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.

Kenosha – Downtown & HarborPark

Highway 50 begins as 63rd Street at Sheridan Road (Highway 32), just south of Kenosha’s downtown and HarborPark. 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 6th Avenue and Public Craft Brewing Company on 58th Street. 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! Ah, what the heck – check out their video below from DDD!

Taken from the Wyndham Gardens Hotel, 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 on 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 builds tools in Kenosha and 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 and supply manufacturers around the nation. 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. After touring around on the streetcar, you can pick up the beginning of Highway 50 a few blocks south of here. kenoshatrolley_800

Have you checked out enough of Kenosha’s downtown and HarborPark sights? Then let’s get to the start of Highway 50 and get moving west!

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Highway 50 begins as 63rd Street at Highway 32 (Sheridan Road, intersection pictured above), a rather unassuming start to a road that becomes a major artery across the southern part of the state. Except for a small jog in town here (Highway 50 used to end at 75th Street, about a mile further south), the route has remained essentially unchanged since state highways were first laid out in 1918.

DRIVE-IN ALERTS!! Heading west from downtown, Highway 50 continues on 63rd Street before angling southwest on Roosevelt Road. Several older restaurants and drive-ins dot this area, including Andy’s Drive In (at 30th Avenue & Highway 50, 262-658-2067), featuring “Classic Car Nights” with street rods and cars from the ’50s and ’60s every Wednesday evening from May through October.

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Another noteworthy drive-in diversion is The Spot, which requires a jog south to 75th Street along 22nd Avenue (75th used to be Highway 50 all the way to the lake). The Spot serves up incredibly tasty burgers, fries, deep fried cheese curds, root beer floats, malts, ice cream and more. After all, one can’t drive on an empty stomach. To re-join Highway 50, head west on 75th Street; at 39th Avenue, Highway 50 joins 75th Street again.

Heading out of Kenosha, Highway 50 is clearly the area’s main commercial thoroughfare; if you need something, you’ll find it along this stretch. As you reach the intersection with Highway 31, you reach Pleasant Prairie (pop. 19,719 and rapidly counting), the booming village whose large tracts of available land are quickly filling up with subdivisions, shopping centers and new manufacturing plants. You can look south as you drive past County Highway H and see the billowing steam from the local power plant, which is often visible from an airplane 100 miles away.

With all the new stuff popping up, it’s only fitting to note the history, too. Just west of Highway 31, you’ll go up over two sets of railroad tracks; in between, an exit ramp for “77th Avenue”, which leads to some businesses in what looks like a remnant of a town in itself. It is: it’s called Truesdell. The settlement, located along the main rail line between Milwaukee and Chicago, was a switching point for trains and hosted passenger trains until 1945. Truesdell’s post office opened in 1870 and lasted until 1953, when Kenosha overtook the town. Their postmistress, Jennie Alsted, operated the post office from her home’s back porch for the final 31 years of its existence.

Highway 50 is a busy 4-lane thoroughfare here, and a few more miles west you reach the intersection with I-41/94. Massive developments now sit at an interchange that once housed nothing but a Howard Johnson’s restaurant and motel, one gas station and a McDonald’s. Today, the only White Castle in Wisconsin is on Highway 50 just east of I-94 – check out the drive-thru lines at 2am.

*** BREWERY & BRATS ALERT ***
Additional State Trunk Tour-approved Pit Stops.
For beer and bar food lovers, there are three key pit stops in the vicinity of Highway 50’s interchange with I-94/41: Uncle Mike’s Highway Pub, the R’Noggin Brewing Company, and the Brat Stop. Uncle Mike’s offers 250 varieties of beer. I’ll repeat that: they offer 250 varieties of beer. Fifty-eight of them are on tap and literally hundreds more come in bottles, from Milwaukee and Malta, Lake Mills and Sri Lanka…breweries from all over Wisconsin, the U.S. and over 30 more countries. Of course, they serve up bar food, big TVs for game-watching, and an outdoor patio. A popular stop for bikes on tour, Uncle Mike’s is located along I-94/41 about 1/2 mile north of Highway 50 along the freeway’s east side frontage road.

R'Noggin just north of Highway 50Literally next door to Uncle Mike’s is an actual brewery, the R’Noggin Brewing Company. Launched in 2016 by two brothers inside a former D.O.T. truck service building, R’Noggin offers a variety of craft brews including many seasonals. Their Tap Room is open seven days a week and includes outdoor seating via the wide-open garage doors – ones that once served huge trucks – and allowing for outdoor imbibing.

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A longer tradition awaits at the Brat Stop, a local hangout since 1961. With an extensive bar, restaurant, cheese soup, live music stage, event venue space and more, the Brat Stop sells a ton of brats every week – literally. It’s also the first place State Trunk Tour author’s father, who grew up in Kenosha, got busted for trying to use a fake ID. And that was back the year it opened! Expect to see a lot of Illinois license plates in the lot and plenty of Bears, Cubs, and White Sox fans showing up to watch games, but hey – don’t let that stop you from going in.

Further west on Highway 50, you can move at a pretty good clip. The intersection with U.S. Highway 45 can take you south less than one mile to Bristol, home of Merkt’s Cheese Company (262-857-2316) and those delicious spreads. Stop into their store and pick up the Sharp Cheddar with Wine or some other variation, and don’t forget the crackers. Cheese spread is kind of messy without crackers.

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Paddock Lake is popular with boaters. This view is at 243rd Ave., just off Highway 50.

Further west sits Paddock Lake (pop 3,200). Highway 50 runs right through town; it’s the only place between I-94 and Lake Geneva where the speed limit isn’t 55. It’s 35, and I’m guessing speeding tickets are a handy source of income for the town, so watch your speed!

Brass Ball Corners.
On the west side of Paddock Lake, where Highway 83 comes in from the south and Highway 75 leads north, is a little intersection known as Brass Ball Corners. This dates back to the 1840s, when today’s Highway 50 was part of a busy trade route and trail connecting Kenosha, Lake Geneva, and Janesville. A farmer named Seth Huntoon realized this junction would make a popular place for travelers to stop and rest. He built an inn and, to help draw attention to it, hung a wooden ball gilded in gold at the intersection. People decided it looked more like brass, and ever since it’s been known as “Brass Ball Corners”. A more detailed story is here. No word on how many “brass balls” jokes have been made during this 170-year-run.

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A brass ball hangs over where Highways 50, 75, and 83 meet in Paddock Lake. If it clanged, that would be rather funny.

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Brass Ball has its own marker.

Bait stores abound in case you want to fish on Paddock Lake or Hooker Lake (insert snickering here.) Highway 83, just in from Illinois, joins 50 for a short stretch while the brief Highway 75 heads north to access the Bong Recreation Area (insert more snickering here). Highway 83 joins 50 for about 5-6 miles before it heads northwest to Burlington.

Continuing west on Highway 50 brings you to just one of Wisconsin’s tourist meccas, Lake Geneva. As you approach the U.S. 12 Freeway, gaze at the Grand Geneva Resort to your right. Or better yet, pull onto the access road and check it out. It was originally a Playboy Club & Resort. Hugh Hefner’s Playboy empire began in Chicago, and since the law states Chicagoans must vacation in Lake Geneva, ol’ Hef built a Playboy Club here. It closed in 1987 but the impressiveness of today’s Grand Geneva will make you forget all about bunny tails. The Grand Geneva Resort & Spa is a sprawling complex featuring world-class golf, spas, event hosting and more… it even has its own small airport. The drive in off Highway 50 twists and turns for what seems like a mile or two before you reach The Lodge and other resort buildings. It’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of Milwaukee and Chicago, as well as the bustle of towns brimming with tourists. This is a “get away from it all” resort and spa.

Highway 50 entering Lake Geneva

Just on the other side of U.S. 12 is Lake Geneva (pop. 5,979) itself. A longtime popular vacation town, Lake Geneva’s downtown strip is filled with stores, restaurants and attractions that cater to the thousands upon thousands of tourists – many from Illinois – who descend on the city every year. On warm weather days, it can be a slow push through town, but the activity can grab your attention and you’ll enjoy the views. Because of its resort-like nature, many refer to Lake Geneva as the “Newport of the West.”

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Lake Geneva from the air in fall. One of the few ways that are a cooler approach to the town than Highway 50.

On summer weekends, expect a packed Highway 50 as it goes through the heart of Lake Geneva filled with tourists and sightseers ready for a great day in this vacation town. The ratio of Illinois plates is rather high here.

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Downtown Lake Geneva is filled with shops. Some are part of national chains, some are small independents. All cater to both locals and the hordes of visitors, many of whom spend extended stays here in the summer.

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So here’s the deal: the city is called Lake Geneva, the lake is called Geneva Lake. It’s the second deepest lake in Wisconsin, going as far down as 135 feet. Boat rides are exceptionally popular on the lake, which is 7.6 miles long and is lined with resorts and mansions.

Lake Geneva is the city; Geneva Lake is the lake. Filled with boats in the summer, the lake is the second deepest in the state and measures 21 miles around its shoreline. Mansions, including those occupied by the Wrigley family of chewing gum and Chicago Cubs fame, line the shore, especially between Lake Geneva and Williams Bay. Many residents along the shore actually get their mail via boat. Lake Geneva brings out the creator in people: it was home to Sidney Smith, creator of the Andy Gump comic strip; Joe and Jay Martin, writers of the Mr. Boffo, Willy ‘N Ethel, and Tommy comics; and this is the place where the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game was developed. A soap opera was created here too, as evidenced by the convenient State Trunk Tour Tidbit below.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The Young and the Restless soap opera was developed by producers William Bell and Lee Phillips in Lake Geneva. They set the show in nearby Genoa City, although they modeled the town after Lake Geneva… the two towns are actually quite different.

Golf, anyone? Lake Geneva features championship courses at places like Geneva National, right along Highway 50 about four miles west of Lake Geneva. Geneva National features courses designed by Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino and is rated in Wisconsin’s top 10 by Golf Digest, a hefty feat in a state with so many great courses.

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You wouldn’t believe what some of these snow sculptors can make.

Lake Geneva embraces winter, too. The U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championships take place here the first weekend in February and carvers from all over the nation create some amazing designs. Too bad they all eventually melt – even though with Wisconsin winters, some last for quite a while!

After crossing a busy 4-way stop intersection with Highway 67, Highway 50 heads toward Delavan Lake, immensely popular with fishing enthusiasts. It’s possible – though unlikely – that one could snag the elephant buried in the lake. Yes, the elephant. We know nothing further on this at this time, but we’ll delve into it further next time we’re at a bar there…

After ducking past some new development and under I-43, Highway 50 enters Delavan (pop. 7,956) and ends at Highway 11, just short of downtown. Delavan is quite the circus town: it’s the original home of P.T. Barnum’s “Greatest Show On Earth” (P.T. stood for Phineas Taylor, in case you were curious) and from 1847-1895 about 26 circuses made their headquarters here. A 12-year-old runaway named Harry Houdini stayed in a livery stable in Delavan’s Park Hotel, along Highway 11 on the west side of town. Delavan is the native home of Gary Berghoff (Radar O’Reilly on M*A*S*H) and home to those delicious Andes Candies. Also on the west side of Delavan lies the site for Wisconsin’s first School for the Deaf.

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West of Lake Geneva, Highway 50 is part four-lane highway and part two-lane, but often busy…yet scenic. Here the road straddles the area between Geneva Lake to the south and Lake Como to the north.

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Highway 50 comes to end in Delavan and the junction with Highway 11 Downtown is just west of the intersection.

Giraffe statue in Delavan

A giraffe indicates a monument that highlights Delavan’s circus history. The plaque tells you more, so make sure you stop and read the thing.

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A brick main street and active storefronts make downtown Delavan, home of Andes Candies, six Frank Lloyd Wright structures and historically a circus town, a fun stop along Highway 11, just past the end of Highway 50.

Highway 50 is a major east-west highway in southeastern Wisconsin. It’s a city street, a tourist-packed main street and a four-lane expressway, giving access to everything from Lake Michigan to tiny fishing ponds, new museums and old historical spots, championship golf courses and sprawling resorts.. all within 45 miles. It makes for a great, variety-packed short afternoon trip.

From Delavan, Highway 11 brings you back east, towards Elkhorn, Burlington, and Racine; west is Janesville, Monroe, and points beyond!

CONNECTIONS:
East Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 32
Can connect nearby to: Highway 158, about 1 mile north; Highway 31, about 5 miles west; I-94/41, about 8 miles west

West Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 11
Can connect nearby to: I-43, about one mile east; Highway 67, about 8 miles east

St. Josephats Basilica
38

STH-038“Kringle and Roots to Brews and Harleys”

WisMap38Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Wisconsin Highway 38 connects downtown Racine with downtown Milwaukee on a more inland route than Highway 32. In place since 1924 from Racine to Highway 100 in Oak Creek and since 1947 all the way to National Avenue in Milwaukee, it winds through Racine neighborhoods of all kinds, fertile farmland in Racine County, serves as the main thoroughfare through fast-growing Oak Creek and is the main road connecting to Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport. It then winds through some commercial and residential districts in Milwaukee before ending in the city’s “Latin Quarter” just south of downtown Milwaukee and the Harley-Davidson Museum. Along the way are three breweries, two airports, a distillery, and a plethora of museums. It provides a nice tour of the Racine-Milwaukee corridor as an alternate to I-41/94.

Wisconsin Highway 38 Road Trip

The Drive (South to North):

Racine

Highway 38 begins at Highway 32, at the corner of State and Main Streets in downtown 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 tastiest mark on the city; Racine is known as the “Kringle Capital of the World.” Famous locales like Lehmann’s, O&H, and the Larsen Bakery (many of which are just west of downtown along nearby Highway 20/Washington Avenue) crank out millions of the tasty iced and filled pastries every year and ship them worldwide. You can, however, 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.)

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 most of them went to the Vikings. They play at Horlick Field on the north side of town; their season begins in June, so no frozen tundra.

Racine Art Museum, just south of where Wisconsin Highway 38 begins.

The Racine Art Museum (RAM) along Main Street, just south of where Highway 38 begins.

 

Racine's Monument Square, where Highway 20 has its eastern terminus. Highway 38 begins just a few blocks north.

Racine’s Monument Square, where Highway 20 has its eastern terminus. Highway 38 begins a few blocks north.

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 south of where Highway 38 begins) 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. 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.

*** BREWERY ALERT ***

Racine Brewing logoA block from where Highway 38 begins, along Highway 32/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.

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 along 4th and 5th Streets leading down to the water. Annual events include the Racine Boat Show and Salmon-A-Rama (which is fun to say, actually).

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Boats busily buzz under a bridge crossing the Root River, just before it empties into Lake Michigan. Highway 38 crosses the Root River just a few blocks west of where it flows into Lake Michigan.

Johnson Wax Tower, just south of where Highway 38 begins

S.C. Johnson’s Johnson Wax Research Tower, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s the tallest office building in Racine, although it’s not downtown.

Other things to see in Racine include the Johnson Wax Golden Rondelle (1525 Howe Street), built in 1964 for the New York World’s Fair; the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Johnson Wax Research Tower (pictured at right); the beautiful Wind Point Lighthouse (4725 Lighthouse Drive, Wind Point), one of the oldest (1880) and tallest (108 feet) lighthouses on the Great Lakes; and the Racine Zoo (2131 N. Main Street, about 1.5 miles north of downtown), which offers an impressive array of over 75 animal species, overlooks the lake, and offers its “Animal Crackers Jazz Series” on Wednesday and Selected Sunday evenings.

Check out more on Racine with our State Trunk Tour Podcast conversation!

Highway 38 winds out of downtown via State Street and angles on a northwesterly direction… to the point where it eventually becomes Northwestern Avenue. You head through an interesting set of neighborhoods; ones that have seen better days sit right next to the upscale Racine Country Club and beautiful Colonial Park. Long-closed factories lie on the other side. One of the attractions you pass is the Wustum Museum of Fine Arts (2519 Northwestern Avenue, 262-636-9177), which features 13 acres of parkland, a one-acre formal garden and a classroom and studio, all crowned by a Italianate-style farmhouse that dates back to 1856. This was the original Racine Art Museum; but the collection grew so large they had to build a new location downtown to hold it all.

Near the intersection with County MM, Green Bay Road and Rapids Drive coupled with a small bridge over the Root River (yes, again), you’re close to John Batten International Airport, the largest privately-owned, public-use reliever airport in the United States. The “public use” is primarily for corporate jets (Racine holds several international corporate headquarters) and local aviation enthusiasts; don’t look for commercial flights to and from the place. It is, however, now large enough to offer customs services 24/7…who knew? Its airport code is RAC; the larger airport for the region lies ahead, also on Highway 38.

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At the intersection with County K just northwest of the Racine city limits, there’s a roundabout that lets you spin back into Racine if you really want, or just forge ahead to the tiny settlement of Husher and the somewhat larger settlement of Milwaukee.

Beyond the roundabout with County K, Highway 38 becomes a “country” road, a two-lane highway meandering through fertile farmland and occasional clusters of homes. When it reaches Six Mile Road (aka County G), Highway 38 joins in, going west through the little hamlet of Husher. Part of the Town of Caledonia that makes up most of Highway 38’s non-Racine existence in Racine County, Husher offers the Husher Pub & Grill and a few homes – and a speed limit reduction. It was originally to be called “Hoosier”, but the pronunciation led to it being referred to as “Husher” instead.

Just past Husher, Highway 38 turns northerly again along Howell Road, which leads you past an increasing succession of “Mile Roads” (and 1/2 mile roads) until you cross the Root River – for the third and final time – and hit the only county line along the route.

At this point, you’re in Milwaukee County and the city of Oak Creek (pop. 33,946), which was a vast township that incorporated in 1955 to avoid being annexed by the city of Milwaukee. Oak Creek today is a growing suburb that once hosted the headquarters of Midwest Airlines and today holds Bucyrus International, which has its main operating plant (and former HQ) in adjacent South Milwaukee. Oak Creek also held a major Delphi plant and other manufacturing facilities; economic changes have led to turnover in those buildings, with some along Howell very empty bit others experiencing a rebirth in the “new economy.” Shortly inside Oak Creek, Highway 38 as Howell Avenue expands to a six-lane boulevard and stays that way through the heart of the city. Although Oak Creek doesn’t have a “downtown” per se (they’re building one right now), the strip from Highway 100/Ryan Road past Puetz Road to and Drexel Avenue holds plenty of commercial activity there.

At County Highway ZZ (College Avenue), you enter Milwaukee (pop. 596,000), the nation’s 28th-largest city and, of course, the largest in Wisconsin. Milwaukee is home to everything from major breweries (MillerCoors’ Milwaukee brewery is among the world’s largest) to major corporations such as Johnson Controls, Manpower, Rockwell Automation, Roundy’s, and more. Summerfest is the World’s Largest Music Festival and other ethnic festivals on the same grounds along the lakefront keep things buzzing all summer. All of the region is served by the major airport, General Mitchell International Airport. Also known by its airport code of MKE, Mitchell Int’l is named after General Billy Mitchell, a Milwaukee native who many consider the father of the U.S. Air Force. As of 2016, MKE offers nonstop flights to 37 destinations across the country plus Toronto and Mexico, as well as 160 international destinations with only one connection – usually Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, or Detroit.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
According to the Airports Council International, during 2nd Quarter 2010 Mitchell International was the third fastest-growing airport in the world, bested only by airports in Istanbul, Turkey and Moscow, Russia. Take THAT, O’Hare!

One fairly unique thing along Wisconsin Highway 38 is the tunnel under the main east-west runway at Mitchell International; built in 1965, it allows Howell Avenue to flow freely as planes take off, land, and taxi above. While the design is a little more commonplace today, in the 1960s this was somewhat of a novelty. But it’s the only spot on Wisconsin’s State Trunk Highway system where you just might pass directly under a taxiing jet.

Wisconsin Highway 38 features an airport runway overpass.

Don’t be surprised if a jet crosses (over) your path while driving on Highway 38.

Beyond the airport, Highway 38 goes into a residential neighborhood of Milwaukee that has recently reemerged as the “Garden District.” As Howell Avenue and then Chase Avenue, you can enjoy a nice, tree-lined boulevard past a series of pre- and post-World War II neighborhoods before crossing Oklahoma Avenue, entering an industrial area that includes the main plant where they make Klements Sausages, and then heading up and over I-94 into one of the city’s oldest residential districts. At Lincoln Avenue, Chase Avenue ends and Highway 38 angles onto 6th Street. To your left is one of the most beautiful churches in the nation, St. Josephat’s Basilica. Built by Polish Catholics from materials salvaged from a Post Office in Chicago, the magnificence of St. Josephat’s led to Basilica status in 1929 and it still serves the heart of the Catholic community in Milwaukee today, although most attendees are of Latino origin.

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Highway 38 shifts from Chase Avenue to 6th Street at Lincoln Avenue, heart of a south side neighborhood called Lincoln Village, This fountain welcomes you to the area.

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Highway 38 turns from Chase Avenue to 6th Street at the beautiful St. Josephat’s Basilica. It’s even more gorgeous inside.

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Highway 38 sneaks through south side Milwaukee neighborhoods, parallel to nearby I-43/94, as 6th Street. For a long time, this was one of the main streets into the city from the south.

A trek through near-south side Milwaukee leads you under I-43/94, which you just went over a few mile or so back. At this point, you’ll be in Walkers Point, specifically a section known as Milwaukee’s “Latin Quarter”, a re-emerging area of restaurants, shops and lofts that reflect the continuous change – and reinvention – of Milwaukee’s neighborhoods. The 2016 opening of Urban Harvest Brewing Company along 5th Street is part of this resurgence.

Highway 38 technically turns east at Washington Street and then follows 5th Street northbound to National Avenue (Highway 59) where it ends, but you can also stay on 6th Street and at National you’ll see an “END 38” sign. In the same line of vision, you can see the 6th Street Viaduct, a cable-stayed bridge that takes travelers into the Menomonee River Valley and the Harley-Davidson Museum before lifting them back up to leapfrog into downtown Milwaukee.

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The brilliant colors on the Esparanza Unida Building along Highway 38 as it nears the end will grab your attention, especially on a sunny day.

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Highway 38 technically ends at National Avenue/Highway 59, along 6th (and 5th) Streets. A brief push north takes you downtown and to a number of interesting sights, including the Harley-Davidson Museum, less than a mile away – just follow your ears.

Just beyond the end of Wisconsin Highway 38:

Just past the technical end of Highway 38, 5th Street northbound passes plenty of Walkers Point haunts, including the Brenner Brewing Company, a microbrewery established in 2014.

5th Street northbound and 6th Street southbound combine to enter a large roundabout at the northern end of Walkers Point. Adjacent to the roundabout, you’ll find the Great Lakes Distillery, the Iron Horse Hotel and the 6th Street Viaduct, a beautiful cable-stayed bridge complex that connects you to downtown and the Harley-Davidson Museum.

CONNECTIONS

South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 32
Can connect nearby to: Highway 20, about 1/2 mile south; Highway 11, about 4 miles south

North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 59
Can connect nearby to: I-43/94, about 1/4 mile west; Highway 32, about 1/4 mile east; Highway 145, about 1 mile north; U.S. Highway 18, about 1 mile north; Highway 57, about 2 miles west

33

STH-033“Coast to Coast covering Circuses, Canoes, Cow Pies, Coulees and more”

WisMap33Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 33 is a “coast-to-coast” state highway, connecting La Crosse on the Mississippi with Port Washington’s scenic harbor on Lake Michigan. From the big blue waters of the Great Lake to the beautiful coulees framing La Crosse, you encounter hairpin turns in what seems like a mountain range, Baraboo’s famous Circus Museum, ski slopes of Cascade Mountain, the natural wetlands of Horicon Marsh, and some of the best canoeing in the nation along the Kickapoo. It’s a terrific cross-section of southern Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Highway 33 Road Trip

The Drive (East To West): Highway 33 begins along the main street leading into Port Washington (called Grand Avenue) at the intersection with Highway 32. From the eastern terminus, you can see the hill dropping into downtown and the beautiful harbor on Lake Michigan, which is postcard-worthy on a nice day. Port Washington Tourism notes a “New England fishing village charm”, and they’re not lying.

The Start: Port Washington

Port Washington (pop. 10,683) is a beautiful harbor town with the largest collection of pre-Civil War buildings in the state on the National Register of Historic Places; they can be easily navigated in walking tours downtown. While there, check out the lighthouse that marks the harbor entrance… and count the number of tourists taking its picture. Just north on Highway 32 is the headquarters of Allen-Edmonds Shoe Corporation and the “Shoe Bank”, where you can get discounts on the upscale men’s wear.

Port 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. Highway 33’s eastern start is just west of here.

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Port Washington’s beautiful, bustling harbor.

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Looking to the east from Highway 33’s end at Highway 32, Lake Michigan provides a beautiful backdrop. The western end of Highway 33 comes within blocks of the Mississippi River, but can’t be seen from the road.

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Above: 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 a Duluth Trading Company retail store and offices. The landmark sign has been refurbished and towers over the view towards the lake from where Highway 33 begins heading westward and ends heading eastward. Highway 32 continues the ride east to the waterfront and Rotary Park. Below: 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.

For biking enthusiasts, the Interurban Trail winds through town, and all of Ozaukee County, on a former rail line. For music enthusiasts, it’s good to know that Port Washington – along with neighboring Grafton – was an early hub for Blues, Gospel, even some Country music a century ago. Grafton, about five miles southwest of Port Washington, had a building that hosted the legendary Paramount Records from 1917 to 1932. There, 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. Many of the musicians were African-American and came up from Milwaukee or Chicago (often originating in St. Louis, Memphis, or New Orleans) and would record in Grafton and then stay overnights in Port Washington, where the record company had its offices independent from the studios. Both towns embrace this grand era of music and celebrate it annually on Labor Day weekend with the Paramount Music Festival, a three-day outdoor live music salute to the music styles of early musicians and those who followed them.

From Port Washington’s charming downtown, Highway 33 heads west through residential neighborhoods before a roundabout with County LL, which was once the highway bypass of Port Washington as U.S. 141 before the freeway was completed about a mile away in the late 1960s. An old interchange built in 1957 lasted until the early 2010s.

Highway 33 is actually one of the oldest roads in Wisconsin, tracing its roots to the 17th century as a trail connecting Horicon Marsh with the harbor on Lake Michigan in today’s Port Washington.

Heading west from Port Washington and crossing I-43/Highway 57, you enter Saukville (pop. 4,068), which sits along the Milwaukee River and is one of the fastest-growing communities in the state. A number of upscale golf courses lie nearby, including The Bog, whose entrance abuts the highway. Entering Washington County at Newburg (pop. 1,119), you encounter a mixture of farmland, forests, and some marshland.

West Bend

Before long, you hit West Bend (pop. 31,078), the second largest city on Highway 33 and the seat of Washington County. As Washington Street, Highway 33 dives right into town and shaves across the north end of West Bend’s beautiful downtown district, which can be accessed directly via Main Street. Featuring a wide variety of shops, the West Bend Theater and a slew of 19th century brick architecture – several holding notable jewelry stores – it’s a great place to spend a chunk of time shopping and just enjoying the day.

Art lovers will take note of the Museum of Wisconsin Art (300 S. 6th Ave., 262-334-9638), which holds a sizeable collection from Carl von Marr and a unbelieveable doll house – seriously. Walter Zinn, who had a malting company way back when, started building a doll house for his daughter Lenore in 1911 for her fifth birthday and just couldn’t stop. By 1957, he had developed a 27-room mansion of a doll house that contains over 1,200 miniature items, including artifacts brought back from overseas trips. On the next block, the Washington County Historical Society (320 S. 5th Ave., 262-335-4678) offers museum fun in their 19th century courthouse and a jailhouse. The Society also operates the St. Agnes Historical Site nearby, which features homestead sites built between 1856 and 1878 that are well-preserved.

Appliance lovers will love the Regal Ware Museum (18 E. Washington Street), located right on Highway 33. Since 1911, West Bend and “suburb” Kewaskum have been meccas for the manufacture of small cooking appliances and utensils. The name “West Bend” has peered out to users of blenders, mixers, and utensil users everywhere for decades. In 2002, Regal Ware (which started in Kewaskum in 1919) took West Bend over and, despite being worldwide conglomerate, continues to manufacture items in the area. So what can be exhibited at such a place? How about the world’s first whistling tea kettle? Or inventions that never quite made it to market, like the electric pizza cutter? Kitchenware products throughout the decades – reflecting everything from elegant styles to fashion eras some may wish to forget – are on display at this new and rather unique museum. Built inside a former credit union, the Regal Ware Museum is the only museum in the nation with an operable drive-thru window. Check out a YouTube video of the museum here, made by somebody we stumbled upon.

The west side of West Bend brings Highway 144 along for the ride and a freeway junction with U.S. Highway 45, which bypass the city. West Bend’s growth continues along Highway 33 to the west, approaching Highway 144’s turnoff southward toward Cedar Lake and Slinger, being part of the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive.

33divideOn the ridge right next to 144’s turnoff, you cross the Subcontinental Divide, designated with a marker along the south side of the highway. East of this marker, all water flows into Lake Michigan and out to the Atlantic Ocean; west of it, water flows to the Mississippi River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not quite the Continental Divide through the Rockies, but it’s still pretty major. At this point, you’ve climbed 600 feet in the 20 miles since the Port Washington harbor at Lake Michigan.

Further west, the junction with I-41 marks the entrance to Allenton; you swoop down into the (unincorporated) town, cross the Rock River and railroad line and head back up. On the climb, you have a nice view back east. Allenton is where former NASCAR driver and current General Manager of Roush Fenway Racing Robbie Reiser was born. His father John Reiser also raced throughout Wisconsin and the nation, founded Triton Trailers and managed the Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series race shops. He obviously lived there for a while too, so racing is tied in with Allenton’s history – and yet, the speed limit on Highway 33 is pretty strictly enforced.

The Yellowstone Trail Junction.
You may notice a small street sign saying “Yellowstone Tr.” on it. While today’s Highway 33 swoops left slightly, what you see marked as “Yellowstone Trail” is a small segment of the old Highway 33 that once crossed under Highway 175, which prior to 1954 was U.S. 41 and part of the nationwide Yellowstone Trail, the famous route “from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound.” A rather cool Art Deco-style bridge (below) was built back in 1933 to carry U.S. 41 over Highway 33 in what was an early attempt at bypassing a town – in this case, Allenton – and creating a safer intersection by using grade separation.

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The Highway 33 underpass under the Yellowstone Trail, 1933-2005.

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The story of an old bridge and the Yellowstone Trail along Highway 33 on the west side of Allenton.

The bridge was torn down in 2005 and now the two roads meet at a regular 4-way stop (that’s no fun, what the heck??) But you can still trace parts of the old route, and right next to where the bridge stood stands the Simon Weiss House. The house was built in 1896 and was the neighbor of the bridge for 72 years; the historic marker to the right tells the story.

33at67Approaching Highway 67, Highway 33 ducks under a major railroad line, one of many that connect the northern woods with the big cities that processed the trees and minerals that came down. Today, you’ll also notice between Allenton and Horicon that there are windmills everywhere – this area, like the ridge on the north end of Horicon Marsh, has a lot of wind and was designated as a good place for wind farms.

 

Horicon and the Horicon Marsh

Shortly after entering Dodge County and crossing Highway 67, you come upon Horicon (pop. 3,775), known as the “City On The Marsh”. The marsh, of course, being the Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, both a State Wildlife Area and a National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a pretty unmistakable feature; 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.

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The view stretches far and wide along Horicon Marsh, which sprawls to the north from Horicon and Highway 28, just north of where it begins at Highway 33. This is a prime spot for bird watching, and several areas along the road have turn-outs and side roads where you can set up with some binoculars and plant yourself.

The Horicon Marsh covers about 50 square miles – equivalent to about half of the City of Milwaukee. The southern third of the marsh, around Horicon, is managed mostly by the state; the northern two-thirds (up by Highway 49) is under Federal control by the Fish and Wildlife Service. 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 – think of it as a rest area on the bird migration highway. (Find out more about birding here.) Horicon Marsh draws nature lovers, bird watchers, hunters, scout groups and naturalists. It can draw mosquitoes too, so bring some repellent.

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.

As you go into Horicon’s downtown area, Highway 28 begins and heads back northeast, along the southern boundary of the Marsh. Meanwhile, Highway 33 heads right into downtown. John Deere has a large plant in the city that cranks out lawn and garden tractors, golf and turf reel mowers and utility vehicles. It’s been there a long time, and will hopefully continue for a long time. Horicon also has access to the Wild Goose State Trail and naturally draws on the scenic beauty of the marsh and also maintains a nice park system, particularly along the Rock River, whose headwaters come out of the marsh. Oh, and the high school team nickname? The Marshmen.

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An old war relic sits in a park in Horicon, overlooking the Rock River and the John Deere plant behind it. Horicon cranks out a LOT of tractors, snow blowers and other sundry, handy machinery. Meanwhile, Highway 28 starts on the east side of Horicon, right off Highway 33. After a cruise through some neighborhoods, Horicon Marsh is just around the corner.

Highway 33 cuts right through Horicon after the junction with Highway 28 and then ducks southwest out of town, pushing west past the Wild Goose Trail, a great rail-to-trail path connecting Clyman Junction and Fond du Lac while skirting the west edge of Horicon Marsh. The intersection with Highway 26 is known as Minnesota Junction. Note, however, that it looks nothing like Minnesota. There was a noticeable lack of Vikings fans and lutefisk at the junction on this particular day.

Crystal Creek Cheese House along Highway 33

Crystal Creek Cheese House, where you can battle potential osteoporosis in a tasty way.

Shortly thereafter to the south you’ll see the Dodge County Fairgrounds (I happened to catch the Fair on my trip) right near the Crystal Creek Dairy House (920-887-2806), which not only has a nice selection of cheese but serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a specialty in burgers and homemade ice cream. But the “CHEESE” sign is what catches the eye as you drive by.

Just past the fairgrounds and the Beaver Dam Raceway, a 1/3-mile banked clay oval track, Highway 33 meets the U.S. 151 freeway, which is a bypass of Beaver Dam to the east.

 

 

Beaver Dam

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Highway 33 runs through the heart of Beaver Dam, which features an extensive downtown strip and, apparently, access to dams and beavers.

Founded in 1841, Beaver Dam (pop. 15,169) is Dodge County’s largest city. Bobby Hatfield, one of the Righteous Brothers, was born here and actor Fred MacMurray of the classic TV show My Three Sons – and many movies – grew up here. Beaver Dam is home to Wayland Academy, a college preparatory high school that was established in 1855 as a Baptist university. Graduates of Wayland include pro wrestler Ric Flair; Jensen Buchanan, formerly of Another World and General Hospital fame, Olympic speed skater Maddie Horn, and a series of congressional representatives, reporters and columnists and even a NASA rocket scientist (Andrew Mulder), although apparently you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to go there. Highway 33 cuts right through the center of Wayland’s 55-acre campus.

Midwest Cream Cheese Competition, Beaver DamHey, this is Wisconsin, the cheese capital of the nation – and perhaps the world. Do you like cream cheese? If so, know that Beaver Dam is home to one of the largest processing plants for Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese. In fact, Beaver Dam hosts the annual Midwest Cream Cheese Competition in salute of this distinction, so bring your best cream cheese-related recipe.

The downtown stretch of Highway 33 follows Business US 151 for a while before angling north to run parallel to Beaver Dam Lake, upon which the city sits. There were no actual beaver sightings during the Tour, however…maybe it was an off day.

Highway 33’s northern jaunt leads to nearby Fox Lake (pop. 1,454). The Depot Museum on Cordelia Street (920-296-0254) sits in a building constructed in 1861 just off Highway 33, which is known as Spring Street through town. Along with information, it features about one block of no-longer-used railroad track and an adjacent walking trail that winds through and describes the native vegetation. Adjacent is an historical marker noting Fox Lake as the birthplace of noted jazz musician “Bunny” Berigan, who played with Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers, and Bing Crosby. Louie Armstrong was a big fan, too, as the marker indicates.

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Built in 1861, the Fox Lake Depot remains to give people information about the railroads and let people play on real railroad tracks without fear of getting run over.

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Adorned with older Buick and Pontiac neon signs, this classic dealership facility is today home to Streich Motors, along Highway 33 in Fox Lake as you begin to head west again.

Fox Lake is about 62 miles from the starting point in Port Washington… or 100 kilometes for all you metric freaks. This is a longer trek across farmland and the approaching hills. You cross Highway 73 and see lots of rural things, like mailboxes with fish mouths for doors. Parts of “Old” Highway 33 are visible just west of the intersection with Highway 73, giving you an idea of what some of the roads were like way back when. Hints of landforms to come also become visible heading westbound, as some of the hills in the distance begin to show themselves and beckon.

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Old sections of Highway 33 are still in use – or at least visible – in areas. This was grandpa’s route on 33, taking decades to deteriorate; to the right, you can see the new, current highway adjacent to the old one.

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Highway 33 beelines across Columbia County past rolling farmland, with impending hills in the distance as you approach Portage.

Portage

Highway 33 entering Portage

After parading across some territory and crossing Highways 22 and 44, the next town in question is Portage (pop. 9,728), named for its location at the only traditional land break along the Fox-Wisconsin waterway, a 1.5 mile “portage” between the two rivers which connect the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Used as a land portage for centuries by Native Americans and then European settlers to cross between the two major basins of the country, it was eventually connected via the Portage Canal. The Canal was constructed between 1849 and 1876, the dream of investors to make the Fox-Wisconsin corridor one of the great water highways in the nation. However, the railroads took over in importance and the Canal couldn’t compete. It still exists, treated by pumps and an aeration flow system. Efforts are underway to restore the canal, the use of which by boats ended in 1951 when the dam and locks making its use possible were closed to protect the separate water basins. The Canal’s south bank is now part of the National Ice Age Trail, created in 2006, which also included cleaning up the canal.

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Above and Below: Portions of the original Portage Canal, connecting the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.

Portage Canal

It’s home to Fort Winnebago Surgeon’s Quarters Historic Site, part of former Fort Winnebago. It was built in 1828 between the rivers on the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway to help protect the portage. Decommissioned in 1845 and ravaged by fire in 1856, little remains today, but the old “Surgeon’s Quarters” stayed intact and is open for tours. Built in 1824, this log cabin started as a trading post at this strategic junction and later served as the Surgeon’s Quarters for Fort Winnebago (hence the name.) The Old Indian Agency House is another point of interest on the grounds.

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Fort Winnebago site along Highway 33

Fort Winnebago Surgeon’s Quarters Historic Site, right along Highway 33.

Portage is the county seat of Columbia County and considered by many where “up North” begins – including its Chamber. Its strategic location, once defined by a connecting waterway and Fort Winnebago, is now defined by the I-39 and I-90/94 split and junction of Highway 16, and U.S. Highway 51, while Highway 33 goes through the heart of town as Cook Street. Still, Portage boasts a sizeable downtown that overlooks the waterway area, filled with shops and businesses catering to both tourists and residents from miles around. Writer Zona Gale hailed from Portage and used the area as a setting for her Pulitzer prize-winning play Miss Lulu Bett in 1921. It’s a nice walking downtown, and this Walking Tour Guide can help you enjoy stretching your legs and discovering shops, restaurants, and other points of interest.

Highway 33 in Portage as Cook Street.

HIghway 33 at U.S. 51 & 16 in downtown Portage

Downtown Portage, a significant crossroads for a long time.

Downtown Portage is a bustling crossroads, where U.S. 51 and Highway 16 also meet.

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Portage includes some nice parks, like the lovely Pierre Pawquette Park, named after an early French settler.

Just past downtown Portage, Highway 33 crosses the Wisconsin River and heads toward two major interstate junctions. The first is I-39 (and formerly Highway 78 until 1992), which heads north toward Wausau and south to Madison and Illinois. The I-90/94 interchange arrives about two miles later, which is the main route between Madison and the Twin Cities. Cascade Mountain, the well-known skiing area, lies just to the south of this interchange and hints at the topography to come; the Baraboo Range, which kicks off the western half of the Highway 33 Tour, undoubtedly the prettiest from a topography standpoint.

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Exposed rock formations along Highway 33 hint at what’s available for climbing and gazing upon in nearby Devil’s Lake State Park.

Between Portage and Baraboo, the Baraboo Range – and the “Driftless Area” of Wisconsin – takes over the local topography. The glaciers that worked like massive irons, flattening out the land and leaving small lakes everywhere in the Midwest didn’t quite catch this part of Wisconsin. Lucky you: Highway 33 snakes around increasingly impressive landforms featuring bluffs, rock formations and deep valleys as a result. Check out the Lower Narrows historical marker, which outlines information on the Baraboo Range and ancient rock formations you’re driving through.

Man Mound

Just off Highway 33, get a little history by checking out the Man Mound National Historic Landmark. By following Man Mound Road, you can access what’s left of a Native American burial mound, originally built to look like a man from above. It remains significant as the only surviving anthropomorphic effigy mound in North America. Measuring 214 feet long by 48 feet wide (before construction of the road cut through the legs and shortened him by about 50 feet), this was one large man. Likely built sometime between 750AD and 1200AD, it was “re-discovered” in 1859, dedicated as a county park in 1908, and became a National Historic Landmark in 2016.

Man Mound Park & Historic Marker

It’s not obvious from this shot, but the Man Mound does clearly show the outline of a man, made hundreds of years ago. The legs got chopped off by what is now called Man Mound Road; the feet end in a farmyard across the street.

Baraboo

Named after the Range, Baraboo (pop. 11,550) hosts a number of organizations and was named one of the 20 best small towns to visit in the U.S. in 2013 by Smithsonian.com. It, similar to Delavan, is a circus town: Baraboo is home to the Circus World Museum, once the headquarters and winter home of the Ringling Brothers circus. Today, the living museum hosts the largest library of circus information in the U.S. Crane lovers probably know that Baraboo is home to the International Crane Foundation, the world’s foremost organization dedicated to preserving and restoring crane species. Famed ecologist Aldo Leopold is a native son, and the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center at the Foundation is LEED-certified as perhaps the “greenest” building in the U.S. It’s carbon-neutral and uses locally-harvested wood products. But Baraboo is probably most known for the circus — the big one, for all practical purposes.

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An early Ringling Bros. poster. Apparently barrels were very popular at the time.

Baraboo and the Circus…and the College. In 1884, seven brothers named Ringling (Al, August, Otto, Alfred, Charles, John and Henry) founded the Ringling Brothers Circus in Baraboo. Actually, it was called “Yankee Robinson and Ringling Brothers” but Yankee went away at some point. They traveled the country, wowing people with a show that for a while had a monstrous official title: “Ringling Brothers United Monster Shows, Great Double Circus, Royal European Menagerie, Museum, Caravan, and Congress of Trained Animals”. They eventually bought the Barnum & Bailey Circus and by 1919, they were merged into the name most people knew them by: Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The “Barnum” in question, by the way, is P.T. Barnum, who is credited with the phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute.” (Barnum was all wet, by the way – there are hundreds of suckers born every minute.) There was a Ringling Clown College for a while. It started in Venice, Florida in 1968, moved to Baraboo in the early 90s and then relocated back to Florida before closing in 1997. Graduates and instructors from Ringling’s Clown College include Bill Irwin, Penn Jillette, Steven “Steve-O” Glover, and Philippe Petit (the guy who walked a tightrope between the Twin Towers in New York in 1974.) Honorary graduates of the school include Dick Van Dyke and weatherman/octogenarian greeter Willard Scott who, interestingly, was the first person to portray Ronald McDonald in a TV commercial. But we’re getting off track here.

Embedded in the concrete surrounding the Sauk County Courthouse are elephants, camels, everything short of cotton candy to help illustrate Baraboo’s circus connection. Not enough to convince you? Check the historical marker on the big rock across from the Al Ringling Theatre.

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Just south of Highway 33 along Highway 113 is part of the west side of Baraboo’s beautiful town square, which frames the Sauk County Courthouse. Encircling the square are shops a’plenty, along with bars, restaurants and the impressive Al Ringling Theatre. Built in 1915, it’s often known as “America’s Prettiest Playhouse.”

From the “You Never Know What You’ll Find on a State Trunk Tour” Dept:
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On the Sauk County Courthouse grounds, an impromptu oversize chess match.

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Imagine getting a ticket for going 3 mph.

Okay, back to circus stuff: following Highway 113 south from 33 past downtown, the road turns to parallel the Baraboo River and approach the Circus World Museum, a place where boys, girls and children of all ages can see how circuses have worked and entertained people for generations. As they say, “experience the thrill that never gets old,” featuring a Circus Museum, an area called Ringlingville, a wide variety of circus animals and the World’s Largest Circus Wagon Collection. Many buildings in the Circus World Museum date back to the 19th century and plenty of plaques will tell you more.

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The entrance to Circus World, right along Highway 113 on Baraboo’s south side.

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The Circus World Museum offers plenty of history, animals and smells.

Devil’s Lake State Park, located south of Highway 33 as you enter Baraboo from the east, is Wisconsin’s most visited and, at over 10,000 acres, there’s plenty of room for nature lovers and adventurers of all kinds. Follow Highway 113 or U.S. 12 south to access the park.

Baraboo’s geography isn’t just a pleasant treat for State Trunk Tourers; it’s a hotbed for structural geology. University of Wisconsin researchers, including Charles Van Hise, used the area to advance the science and today the Baraboo Hills are designated one of the “Last Great Places” by Nature Conservancy due to the relatively unique plants, rocks and animals in the area.

Highway 33 skims the north side of Baraboo as 8th Street, where it intersects the northern end of Highway 113 (the route southward to the museum) and enters the village of West Baraboo (pop. 1,414) and passes the Ochsner Park & Zoo (903 Park Street, 608-355-2760), right by a bend in the Baraboo River. The Zoo dates back to 1926 and includes lynx, monkeys, llamas, tortoises, and more.

In West Baraboo, Highway 33 joins meets up with Highway 136, which was previously U.S. 12. Highway 136 continues west and heads towards North Freedom, Rock Springs, and Baraboo; as of 2017 now, it also heads south via the former U.S. 12 to Devil’s Lake State Park. To the north, Pine Street is also the former U.S. 12 and continues now as County BD. Plenty of hotels greet you here. Highway 33 technically follows the new U.S. 12 expressway bypass just west of the Pine Street intersection, but you can take Pine Street/County BD if you prefer the original road. One key stop a few miles north is just where Highway 33 leaves U.S. 12 and begins to head west again.

Cow Pie Alert!

Cow Pie store along Highway 33Ever enjoyed a Cow Pie? No, not the stuff in the grass, the delicious chocolate, caramel, and pecan concoction from Baraboo Candy Company. They invented and popularized the treat, shipping it all over the world. The original featured chocolate, and variations now include dark chocolate, peanut butter, and others. Baraboo Candy also makes chocolate bars, Mint Meltys, a variety of candy and other sources of deliciousness, many made right in-house. You can enjoy a Cow Pie right from source just off Highway 33; the store is located on old U.S. 12, which now County BD, about a mile north of where Highway 33 turns west from U.S. 12. So if you want to get your Cow Pie fix, just continue north one mile from where Highway 33 turns west. Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells and the Baraboo-Dells Flight Center are on the east side of the road, and you’ll see the Baraboo Candy Company store on the west side. It’s an easy stop (they have had fewer “walk-ins” since the bypass opened) and it’s a quick ride back to Highway 33 to continue west towards Reedburg.

The Baraboo Candy Company store is open 9am -5pm Mondays – Saturdays and 10am – 3pm Sundays. You can call ahead at (608) 356-7425.

Reedsburg

After that short stint with U.S. 12 and the old vs. new road, Highway 33 breaks west again, soon picking up Highway 23 for the ride into Reedsburg (pop. 9.537). Prior to entering the city, the Pioneer Log Village and Museum provides a first-hand look at log buildings, antique furnishings and a glimpse of what life was like in the 19th century frontier days. Tours are available from 1-4pm on weekends during the summer. The Museum of Norman Rockwell Art (227 S. Park St.) features almost 4,000 of the famous artist’s works. Speaking of artists, famous comic artist and cartoonist Clare Briggs hailed from Reedsburg. It’s also the starting point for the “400” State Trail, which runs to Elroy as part of the state’s increasingly-extensive rail-trail system for bicycles, hikers, cross-country skiers and snowmobilers.

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This marker almost marks the exact spot of the 90th meridian, the halfway point between the Prime Meridian and the International Date Line. The actual spot is within a few hundred yards – but why don’t they just put it right at that spot??

Reedsburg sits on the 90th Meridian, which marks the halfway point between the Prime Meridian (which runs through Greenwich and London, England) and the International Date Line, marking the exact center of the Western Hemisphere. A marker in the median of Highway 33 notes the meridian’s location – actually, for some reason, it sits 325 feet west of it. The city once hosted a World War II POW camp and pioneered both the first Ford dealership and the first sanctioned Little League in Wisconsin.

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Downtown Reedsburg, which Highway 33 goes right through as the main street along with Highway 23, extends for a while with storefronts on either side. It’s a wide street compared to most smaller towns’ main streets, and the views – especially of the Baraboo Bluffs – show the beautiful topography that beckons.

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Built in 1906, the Reedsburg Train Depot served passenger traffic until 1963. Today, it’s a popular stop along the “400” Bicycle Trail, which runs on the railbed of the former train between St. Paul and Chicago.

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We spotted this on a trailer sitting by itself in Reedsburg. What’s it about? We don’t know, but being sign geeks we liked it!

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Colorful sunflowers added to the beauty of the drive along Highways 23 & 33 just east of Reedsburg,

After Highway 23 breaks away to head south, Highway 33 starts moving west and northwest, winding through and around the hills and valleys into places like La Valle (pop. 326 and, creatively enough, “La Valle” is French for “The Valley”) and – once you cross into Juneau County – Wonewoc.

In Wonewoc (pop. 834), Highway 33 is the main street and parallels the Baraboo River through downtown. Canoeing, a theme which will be visited again on this stretch of 33, is popular with both residents and tourists. The “400” Trail, which began back in Reedsburg, ends in Wonewoc where it finds new trails to hook up with. The downtown area is quiet and small, but features a number of bars for some food, a beer, or spirits. And speaking of, the Wonewoc Spiritual Center covets spirits of a different kind. Founded as the Joint Stock Spiritualist Association in 1874 as known for a long time as the Western Wisconsin Spiritualist Camp, the Wonewoc Spiritual Center hosts a sizeable number of members every summer, who enjoy the serenity of hills surrounding the town and the area.

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Only a church steeple reveals itself above the trees in Wonewoc, tucked in a valley along the Baraboo River and the “400” Trail. And, of course, Highway 33.

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Locals said this was the tallest building not just in Wonewoc, but in all of Juneau County. I’d probably have to confirm that… silos are taller than this thing!

Past Wonewoc by a few miles is Union Center, where you intersect with Highways 80 and 82 and head west to Hillsboro (pop. 1,302). Known as the Czech Capital of Wisconsin, Hillsboro is the last town on Highway 33 with over 1,000 people until you get to La Crosse. It’s home to annual Czech festivals and counts among its native sons B.J. Schumacher, who rides regularly with Professional Bull Riders, Inc. (also known as “PBR”, but that gets confused with a different type of PBR in this state.) It’s also home to Hillsboro Brewing Company, which started up in 2012 and offers its brews in a former shoe store in the heart of downtown, where Highways 33, 80, and 82 converge.

Highway 33 and Highway 82 in downtown Hillsboro, at Hillsboro Brewing's Tap Room

Highway 33 and Highway 82 in downtown Hillsboro, at Hillsboro Brewing’s Pub.

*** Brewery Alert ***

A glass at Hillsboro Brewing Pub in Hillsboro, Wisconsin

A nice craft brew stop along Highway 82 in the heart of Hillsboro: the Hillsboro Brewing Company.

Hillsboro is home to Hillsboro Brewing Company, (608-489-7486), which launched in 2012. Home to notable craft brews like Joe’s Beer and the Leaping Lemur Cream Ale, Hillsboro offers cans and taps at their downtown pub location right at the main corner downtown. It’s a great old building that served as a shoe store and a slew of other businesses dating back to the 19th century, the last time Hillsboro had their own (legal) brewery. Due to growing demand, Hillsboro Brewing built a new facility called the 2E Brewery on the outskirts of town which is slated to open late fall 2018. Their newer brewery adds capacity and event space while keeping up with their growth.

HIllsboro Brewing at the corner of Highways 33, 80, and 82

The heart of downtown Hillsboro features the Hillsboro Brewing Company on its main corner, right along Highway 33.

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The Amish population is significant between Wonewoc and Cashton on Highway 33, especially near this market parking area in Hillsboro. Just like guys driving Corvettes like to park at the remote area of the lot, the Amish horse & buggy riders often do, too. Both vehicles can leave stains on the pavement, just very different kinds.

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Above: Announcing the Country Market along Highway 33 (coupled with 80 and 82 here) is a large mouse holding groceries, which is better than a large mouse in your groceries, I suppose. Just a short distance later, another huge fiberglass mouse tells you about more available cheese. There should be no calcium deficiencies in this area.

In Hillsboro, Highways 80 breaks south; three miles later Highway 82 splits off to the southwest.

Hillsboro and the Cheyenne Valley… Diversity before diversity was cool

In the mid-1800s, a sizable group of African American settlers came to eastern Vernon County and established Wisconsin’s first integrated schools, churches and sports teams. Interestingly, a racially diverse and by all accounts harmonious community was more easily achieved in rural Wisconsin in the 19th century than some areas are able to have today. Although much of the old community is gone, landmarks remain… including many of the area’s famous “round barns”, many of which were designed and built by Algie Shivers, one of the settlers. About half the barns he supervised and participated in the construction of still stand, and some are seen along Highway 33. There is an official driving tour of the Cheyenne Valley exploring this, which can be download in .PDF format here. Highway 33 from Hillsboro to Wildcat Mountain State Park is part of the tour.

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Terracing crops may be necessary for farmers out here, leading to interesting swaths of corn, soybeans and other growables that the cows can gaze upon and appreciate.

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Part of the drive between Hillsboro and Ontario on Highway 33. As you can see, there’s a reason the lanes are marked for “no passing.”

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The Driftless Area of Wisconsin, which you’re smack dab in the midst of at this point on Highway 33, is the only part of Wisconsin with no natural lakes.

Speaking of, the segment of Highway 33 resembles a twisty Colorado mountain road at times through the gorgeous Cheyenne Valley and approaching Wildcat Mountain State Park. Over 3,600 acres of scenery, trails and wildlife await in the park, which offers great views of the Kickapoo River Valley. Meanwhile, hairpin turns await you on Highway 33… seriously! You have to drop to about 20 mph to make it around some of these curves. Check out one of them in the pictures below, just east of Ontario…you might forget you’re in Wisconsin. (Click on any picture below for a larger version.)

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This is all part of one big hairpin turn in Wildcat Mountain State Park along Highway 33. These are some tight curves!

Entering Ontario (pop. 476), you cross Highway 131 and the Kickapoo River, often called the “Crookedest River in the World.” This is major canoeing territory. Canoe rental places provide opportunities for taking a break from the drive and paddling your way up or down the Kickapoo and checking out the rock formations and (at times unusual) plant species lining the banks.

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Canoes line the banks of the Kickapoo; you can rent them in Ontario and work your way through the twists and turns.

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Past Ontario, Highway 33 enters Monroe County and works westerly across ridges and coulees, providing a twisty-turny drive (if you have a directional compass in your vehicle, it might be spinning like a top) and great views all around. You’ll go through Cashton (pop. 1,005), where you cross Highway 27. The cartoon strip Gasoline Alley, which has been around since 1918, was created by Frank King; he was born in Cashton and grew up in nearby Tomah.

Juusto Cheese at Pasture Pride along Highway 27 in Cashton, just south of Highway 33Cashton is also home to Pasture Pride Cheese (608-654-7444), just south 33 along Highway 27 – you can see it from the roundabout. They offer a variety of cheeses using milk from the nearby Amish farmers, going all grass-fed for their cows and goats. Pasture Pride is also home of that “Juusto” Cheese, the baked Finnish style of cheese that looks baked and is extra buttery in flavor – that’s what the judges who shower them with awards generally say.

Just past Portland you cross into La Crosse County, the second-most populated county on Highway 33 after Washington. Some of the best views have yet to come; at Middle Ridge, feel free to play the Who’s song “I Can See For Miles”… because you can.

Coulees, coulees everywhere
Not to be confused with “cooties”, which I was accused of having back in second grade, “coulees” are ravines with deep, steep sides. They’re formed by erosion and often harbor little mini-worlds of plants that could otherwise not grow in the surrounding land. “Coulee” is derived from the French verb couler, meaning “to flow.” The things you learn on the State Trunk Tour…

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Sample view near Middle Ridge, in La Crosse County. Coulees are the prime geographical feature in these here parts.

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The Holy Family Grotto in the Town of St. Joseph was built in the late 1920s for the Franciscan Sisters at St. Joseph’s Ridge. It combines rocks, shells, glass, and mortar to form a beautiful monument to faith and patriotism.

La Crosse

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The drop into La Crosse gives you good perspective on the terrain lining the eastern side of the city; Highway 33 descends from St. Joseph’s Ridge into town as State Road, then Jackson Street.

Highway 33 continues along St. Joseph’s Ridge for the ride into the final destination, La Crosse (pop. 51,818). Situated on a rare piece of flat land amidst beautiful coulees and hills, La Crosse emerged as a Native American trading post due to its position at the confluence of the Black and Mississippi Rivers. La Crosse holds a number of “quality of life” accolades, often involving low crime or livable small city status; I note USA Today also named La Crosse one of the “Top Ten Places Worldwide to Toast Oktoberfest” (more on that in a second.) Long known as a brewery town, La Crosse was home to G. Heileman Brewing Company for almost 140 years, cranking out a variety of brands, most notably Old Style. Today, the sprawling brewery complex lies right along the north of Highway 33, just south of downtown La Crosse, where it continues to run as the City Brewery.

6pack_500Once Heileman and the home of Old Style, the “World’s Largest Six Pack,” which holds enough beer to fill 7.3 million cans, lives on as the storage tanks for the City Brewery, founded in 1999. City Brewery brews about a dozen of its own beers as well as Mike’s Hard Lemonade and several flavors of Arizona Tea. This is one block north of Highway 33’s western end.

The World’s Largest Six Pack (obviously pictured above) is indicative of La Crosse’s fun style, and you can access it by following U.S. Highway 14/61’s northbound lanes for just a few blocks, then turning left one block and heading back south. Highway 33’s western end is one block south of the gigantic, John Blutarsky-pleasing sight.

La Crosse is Wisconsin’s largest city on the Mississippi River and holds the corporate headquarters of Kwik Trip, the Trane air conditioning company, and FirstLogic. This is where journalist Chris Bury got his start before moving on to Emmy Awards and little shows like Good Morning America, Nightline and World News Tonight. Model and actress Alexa Demara hails from La Crosse; FHM magazine called her “the hottest thing to come out of Wisconsin since Brett Favre’s spiral.” A century earlier, actress Minnie Dupree came out of La Crosse to a prominent career in New York theatre. Young actor Brandon Ratcliff also hails from the city.

It’s also a college town, home to Viterbo University, Western Wisconsin Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. In keeping with the spirit of the World’s Largest Six Pack, La Crosse also hosts one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States and has been doing so every year since 1961.

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One of La Crosse’s most notable landforms, Granddad Bluff made an appearance in Mark Twain’s Life On The Mississippi, towers over 500 feet above the city and brilliantly reflects the afternoon sun. It makes the whole city prettier; this shot was taken from a K-mart parking lot.

Highway 33 descends into La Crosse as State Road, then as Jackson Street, to the point where you might find your ears popping. Just north of Highway 33 as you enter town is Grandad’s Bluff, the most notable landform in the area – next to the Mississippi River, of course. You basically enter the city on the south side of town, crossing Highway 35 and then ending at U.S. 14 & 61, right at the City Brewery, formerly the Heileman Brewing Company. It’s still a large complex!

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Highway 33 comes to an end just a few blocks shy of the Mississippi River at U.S. Highways 14 and 61, less than a mile from where those two roads cross into Minnesota. Downtown La Crosse and City Brewery are visible to the north at the intersection ahead.

From the end of Highway 33, head north on U.S. 14/61 into downtown La Crosse, where you can enjoy Historic Pearl Street. It’s filled with Civil War-era buildings, specialty shops, a microbrewery, galleries, antique shops, coffee houses and, at night, college students doing what they do best when they’re not studying. The Pearl Street Brewery, once located on Pearl Street, now sits nearby on the north side of town in a former Rubber Mills Boot factory. On the east side of downtown along 9th Street, the Swarthout Museum features changing exhibits from prehistoric to Victorian; over on 5th Street, the Children’s Museum of La Crosse has exhibits for our future leaders on three floors, along with a climbing wall for all ages. All of this can be reached by your car, or you can hop the La Crosse Trolley in the warm weather months for a little “no need for the gas pedal” tour.

La Crosse is home to the La Crosse Loggers, one of the Northwoods League baseball teams. They play at Copeland Park (aka “The Lumber Yard”), which sits north of downtown just off U.S. 53. The Loggers play a 70-game season from June through August. This is a good baseball town; it’s where MLB players Damian Miller, Scott Servais, George Williams and Jarrod Washburn all hail from.

16_gdadbluffOne of La Crosse’s most notable landforms, Granddad Bluff made an appearance in Mark Twain’s Life On The Mississippi, towers over 500 feet above the city and brilliantly reflects the afternoon sun.

Drive-In Watch:
Rudy’s Drive-In is one of the great ones in Wisconsin. Built in 1966, Rudy’s features roller-skating carhops and a sheltered carport where you can pull up and order your probably-unhealthy-but-delicious food from the menu sitting right out your window.

rudys800Car shows and “Cruise Nights” happen regularly throughout the summer. You can find Rudy’s two blocks west of Highway 35 along Highway 16 (La Crosse Street).Highway 35 basically bypasses downtown La Crosse, instead going right through neighborhoods. You have good access to downtown via U.S. 14/61 or Highway 16.

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Along with I-90 to the north, the two main bridges spanning the Mississippi River and connecting La Crosse with La Crescent, Minnesota are collectively called, creatively enough, the “Mississippi River Bridge.” Yeah. Individually, the nearer one in the picture is the Cameron Avenue Bridge, which opened in 2004; the other is the Cass Street Bridge. Opened in 1940, the Cass Street Bridge originally carried both directions of traffic; today, each bridge carries one-way.

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Downtown La Crosse, across from an island beach in the Mississippi. That’s the skyline right there – if you don’t count the bluffs in the backdrop.

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Paddleboats ply the Mississippi in the summer and make stops in La Crosse at Riverside Park.

So there you have it! Highway 33, 200 miles from the Great Lake to the Great River, with some great towns and great scenery along the way. Enjoy!

CONNECTIONS
East Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 32
Can connect nearby to: Highway 57, about 2 miles west; Interstate 43, about 2 miles west; Highway 60, about 4 miles southwest

West Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: U.S. 14, U.S. 61
Can connect nearby to: Highway 16, about 1/2 mile north; U.S. 53, about 1/2 mile north; Highway 35, about 3/4 mile east; Interstate 90, about 5 miles north

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