188

STH-188“From the Winery to the Ferry”

 

WisMap188_200wSouthern terminus: Dane County, at U.S. 12 in Roxbury

Northern terminus: Columbia County, at Highway 113 and the Merrimac Ferry in Okee.

Mileage: about 12 miles

Counties along the way: Dane, Columbia

Sample towns along the way: Prairie du Sac, Merrimac

Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 188 follows the Wisconsin River to the east from U.S. 12 just south of Sauk City to Highway 113 where it meets the Merrimac Ferry. A short highway, it nevertheless makes for a pleasant drive with plenty of twists and turns, nice views and a winery making for a very enjoyable stop.

The Wisconsin Highway 188 Road Trip

188nbbegin_800

The short but fun little drive up Highway 188 starts right off U.S. 12, and other than the winery, you have one destination, according to the sign: Lake Wisconsin. The Merrimac Ferry also awaits.

188rolling_500The Drive (South to North): Highway 188 begins at U.S. 12 just south of Highway 78 just south of the Wisconsin River in the Town of Roxbury. Nestled in the hills and bluffs that frame the area around the Wisconsin River, Highway 188 keeps you busy with curves and hills. About two miles into the route, you’ll encounter the Wollersheim Winery.

WINERY ALERT!
The Wollersheim Winery is tucked into the hills, with vineyards stretching all along around a cluster of buildings where they work their magic. As far back as the 1840s, this beautiful setting was selected for winemaking. Indeed, Wollersheim’s original winery building dates back to 1858, and an expansion that holds the gift shop and visitor space opened a mere 150 years later. Wollersheim Winery began here in 1972 and continues as a family business to this day.

wollersheimbarrel_800

The entrance to the Wollersheim Winery, colorful in the warm months with plenty of flowers.

Today, Wollersheim Winery produces over 240,000 gallons of wine annually and rakes in award after award (here’s just what they won in 2009.) They are open year ’round from 10-5 and offer guided tours daily. Find out more here or call them at (800) VIP-WINE.

wollersheim_oldbldg_800

The original winery building for Wollersheim, visible on the right, dates back to 1858.

wollersheim_eagle2_800

Before or after a tour, feel free to sit up near the eagle and sample some wines. You get a lovely view of the winery’s buildings, grapevines and the cave that served as the original wine cellar. And yes, there are bald eagles around.

Wollersheim also owns the Cedar Creek Winery in Cedarburg, along what used to be Highway 57 (and still is, according to the “spirit” of the State Trunk Tour.)

Beyond the winery, Highway 188 continues to wind around before meeting up with Highway 60, just east of the Wisconsin River bridge that takes it into Prairie du Sac (pop. 3,231). This is Eagle Country, where bald eagles – and perhaps some with hair – can be regularly spotted.

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.

prairiedusac_wisriverfishing

The Wisconsin River at Prairie du Sac, whether you’re on the west bank (Highway 60) or the east bank (Highway 188), features great fishing, scenic terrain and good eagle-watching.

Highway 188 follows Highway 60 to the east for about a mile before breaking north again. From Highway 60 on north, there’s very little in the way of businesses, towns or even residences for most of the stretch; it’s pretty much all about twisting and turning as you enjoy the scenery. The Wisconsin River is just to the northwest of Highway 188 the whole time, which is why you’re always going north, then east, then north a bit, and then east again. This stretch is fun to drive or ride on, but note that it’s a bit narrow and there are a lot of blind curves. Barrel down the road carefully!

188nb_nof60_800

North of Highway 60, Highway 188 rides the edges of hills and you get sweeping views of the Baraboo Range to the north. On this section, you’ll make more than a few 90-degree turns.

north188sign_800nb188_bhills_800

Highway 188 heads through a lot of farmland; the soil is rich because you’re in the valleys formed by the Wisconsin River. The Baraboo Range provides a formidable background. Portions of Highway 188 climb up on some ridges overlooking the river and Lake Wisconsin. Here’s a nice shot of a barn with the range in the background. Further down, you descend one of the ridges and get this view of the bluffs in the distance.

188barn_800

188bluffs_800

Highway 188 comes to an end at the Merrimac Ferry, which carries Highway 113 across the Wisconsin River between Okee (the side Highway 188 is on) and Merrimac, on the other shore in Sauk County. You can go north on 113 and cross the ferry, or continue straight, which puts you southbound on 113 and on the road to Lodi, looping back to the Highway 60 you crossed before near Sauk Prairie.

nb188end_800

As Highway 188 Ends: The Merrimac Ferry

Highway 188 ends at Highway 113’s junction with the Merrimac Ferry – the last remaining ferry on the State Trunk Highway system. The Merrimac Ferry began as a toll ferry in 1924, becoming free in 1933. It has been ever since. The Colsac III, launched in 2003, is the third boat (hence the “III”) to serve this run and can accommodate 15 cars at a time. Expect a pretty hefty line during summer weekend days, especially in August. They’ll take care of you, though: vendors offer ice cream and other ways to enjoy the day, even when you have to sit and wait. The Merrimac Ferry generally runs from about April 15 through the end of November. – but weather can always be a factor. You can always call them at (608) 246-3871 to check availability and wait times.

merrimacferrywinter_800ferryapproach_800

merrimac6_800

The Merrimac Ferry runs from April to November. In the winter, the Colsac III is tied to the south shore, on the Highway 188 side.

113rracross_800

It’s definitely worth the crossing!

At the end of Highway 188, you can follow Highway 113 back south towards Lodi and Madison, or head across (in season) via the Merrimac; Highway 113 can take you to Baraboo and Highway 78 also awaits on the other side, which can take you back south to Prairie du Sac on the west side of the river or north towards Portage and central Wisconsin. Or, you can double back to the winery… it’s up to you. Have fun!

 

CONNECTIONS
South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: U.S. 12
Can connect nearby to: Highway 78, about 1/4 mile north

North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 113
Can connect nearby to: Highway 78, just across the Merrimac Ferry

113

STH-113 “A Ferry Nice Drive”

WisMap113_200wQuickie Summary: Wisconsin Highway 113 serves Baraboo (the “circus city”), Devil’s Lake State Park and the shores of the Wisconsin River around Merrimac before crossing the river on the state’s only free river ferry. From there, Lodi, Dane, and the only Waunakee in the world await before you hit the north side of Madison, Dane County Regional Airport, breweries and more ending at U.S. 151/East Washington Avenue, a major gateway to Wisconsin’s State Capitol. In only 40 miles or so, the scenery and variety makes for an enjoyable morning or afternoon jaunt. Yes, I used the word “jaunt.”

Wisconsin Highway 113 Road Trip

The Drive (North to South): Highway 113 begins at Highway 33 in the northern portion of the city of Baraboo (pop. 11,550), named as one of the 20 best small towns to visit in the U.S. in 2013 by Smithsonian.com. Just west of the junction with Highway 33, the Ochsner Park & Zoo offers the opportunity to view and learn about a variety of animals, from snow leopards to wolves and more. And this is a city that knows animals; Baraboo is home to the International Crane Foundation. 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.

Early Ringling Bros. poster

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 know 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 Ringling Theatre.

baraboosq_cementbarabooringlingmarker_800

 

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:
baraboochess_600

On the Sauk County Courthouse grounds, an impromptu oversize chess match.

speedlimit2_200w

Imagine getting a ticket for going 3 mph.

Okay, back to circus stuff: following Highway 113 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. History abounds along this stretch of Highway 113; a series of buildings in the Circus World Museum date back to the 19th century and plenty of plaques will tell you more.

circusworldfront_300

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

 

 

 

 

camelhouse_800

The Circus World Museum offers plenty of history, animals and smells along Highway 113.

113sb_sbaraboo_800

The drive south out of Baraboo on Highway 113 gets increasingly hilly and beautiful as you approach Devil’s Lake State Park and the Wisconsin River.

devilsdoorway_599x398As you leave Baraboo on Highway 113, the Baraboo Hills greet you and so does Devils Lake State Park. The most popular state park in Wisconsin (up to 1.4 million visitors annually), Devils Lake State Park offers 29 miles of hike and bike trails, a unit of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve and a segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Parking for part of that trail is available in a lot right off Highway 113. Access to Devil’s Lake State Park is best found via County DL (I’ll bet you can guess what “DL” stands for, right?) Devil’s Lake State Park is about 1.5 billion years old in geologic terms, though it didn’t become a state park until 1911. Heaven for soil scientists, geologists, hikers, bikers, campers, skiers and climbers, it’s without question one of the most topographically interesting areas of the state.

 

devilslakemap_dnrwiClick left for a details and a map of the Devil’s Lake State Park area, courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website.

The picture illustrates how these rock formations look lining Devil’s Lake itself, giving Sconnies and visitors from other areas of the Midwest the impression that they’re approaching the mountains “out west.” Plenty of hikers head up to the top and enjoy the scenery along with a granola bar or two.

The drive along this stretch is hilly, twisty-turny and quite fun. You make your way downward because you’re about to travel along the Wisconsin River.

Merrimac Ferry

Highway 113 joins Highway 78 for the ride east to Merrimac (pop. 416), home of the Merrimac Ferry – the last remaining ferry on the State Trunk Highway system. The Merrimac Ferry began as a toll ferry in 1924, becoming free in 1933. It has been ever since. The Colsac III, launched in 2003, is the third boat (hence the “III”) to serve this run and can accommodate 15 cars at a time. Expect a pretty hefty line during summer weekend days, especially in August. They’ll take care of you, though: vendors offer ice cream and other ways to enjoy the day, even when you have to sit and wait. The Merrimac Ferry generally runs from about April 15 through the end of November. – but weather can always be a factor. You can always call them at (608) 246-3871 to check availability and wait times.

113southtoferry

Approaching the Merrimac Ferry; we’re about to be “on a boat.”

ferryapproach_800

Awaiting the ferry on the Merrimac side. You can drive your car onto the ferry to head across, or simply tag along as a pedestrian. A one-way trip takes about 7 minutes.

merrimac6_800

The Colsac III on its run toward the Columbia County side of the river; this is part of Highway 113.

ferryside_800

Checking out the side of the road along Highway 113… it’s a little wet from the ferry. The railroad bridge frames your view to the east. It’s pretty cool to watch when a train is crossing, too.

113rracross_800

Across the ferry, you enter Columbia County. Highway 188 begins there and heads southwest towards Prairie du Sac and the Wollersheim Winery & Distillery; Highway 113 begins a ride along the southern arm of Lake Wisconsin, a picturesque extension of the Wisconsin River with 57 miles of shorelines and bluffs towering above. Pine Bluff is particularly noticeable as you cruise within sight of the water for several miles, past the tiny settlement of Okee. Farmland begins to dominate again as you make your way to the next town – one that salutes a historic duck and produced a Duke.

That town would be Lodi (pop. 2,929), which founded in 1846 for its water power potential because of Spring Creek, which runs through the downtown area. About one hundred years later, the town adopted a mascot named “Susie the Duck” for a duck that returned to build a nest in the downtown area along Spring Creek year after year. While the original Susie is long gone, wild ducks continue to flock to this area. Lodi celebrates with an annual “Susie the Duck Day” – and the highlight is the rubber duck race.

lodi_susieducksign

The story of Susie the Duck. New Susies keep coming back every year to hatch eggs in downtown Lodi.

lodi_creek

Spring Creek runs through downtown, and nice walkway right off Main Street (Highway 113) lets you descend closer to the water and behind some of the downtown buildings to view the area.

lodi_susieduckpour

Pouring plastic ducks into Spring Creek for the rubber duck race. Ernie from “Sesame Street” would be in heaven. (Photo courtesy of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce.)

Lodi’s downtown runs mainly along Highway 113, right at the crossing with Highway 60, which heads east to Grafton near Lake Michigan or west to Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi. 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.

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.

South of downtown Lodi, Highway 113 runs along a portion of the Ice Age Trail and Ice Age Park. There’s also easy access to the Lodi Marsh State Wildlife Area, a large wetland complex filled with springs and cattail marshes, and it’s noted for a habitat popular with mamy varieties of moths, including several rare species. Who knew? Into Dane County, Highway 113 starts to do some zigzagging. You zig into tiny little Dane (pop. 799), then zag and zigzag again (this is a great excuse for typing “z”‘s) into the only town of its kind…

waunakeesign_800

Yes, you hit the only Waunakee (pop. 8,995) “in the world”, as they like to point out. It was founded as Leicester in 1870; the following year, two early settlers persuaded the St. Paul Railroad, via cash and land, to relocate through their property instead of the original intended location two miles north. A post office and other buildings sprouted up, and the village incorporated as Waunakee (one Native American meaning: “the fair and pleasant valley”) in 1893. Just into town, Highway 113 hooks up with Highway 19. Together, they go through downtown and head east for a few miles.

Brewery Alert. Right in downtown Waunakee in a renovated building, the Lone Girl Brewing Company brews up a variety of craft beers right on site, with a full menu restaurant that includes fried muenster cheese curds and some other unique twists. The rooftop offers seating and movies in the summer. It’s a dynamic addition to downtown Waunakee, right where Highway 113 crosses the railroad tracks. The original train station, as well as the Chamber of Commerce office, are right next door.

capitalfromwaunakee_800

A crane of the neck to the south on a clear day just might reveal the buildings of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin State Capitol, at this point almost 10 miles away as the crow flies. At certain times, you can see the water of Lake Mendota, which separates this area of Dane County from Madison proper. The capitol, of course, is at the far left of the picture; the sprawling building complex in the middle is UW Hospital. Other tall buildings on the university campus, including Van Hise Hall, are visible on clear days.

Octopi Brewing's 3rd Sign Brewery sampler

Samples of 3rd Sign brews at the Octopi Brewery in Waunakee.

Another Brewery Alert. Also, in the light industrial park shortly before Highway 19 heads east an 113 begins to head back south, you can connect to Octopi Brewery, a craft brewer that brews for others along with a nice line of their own brands under the name 3rd Sign Brewing. Opened in 2016, their Tap Room offers a wide variety of samples and makes a good stop.

From Highway 19, Highway 113 heads south into Madison (pop.243,344), Wisconsin’s second largest city, of course the state’s capital, and – as some have famously claimed – “77 square miles surrounded by reality.”

From flying to fly balls, the next attraction along Highway 113 – now called Sherman Avenue – is Warner Park, home to Madison’s Northwoods League baseball team, the Madison Mallards. Often referred to as the “Duck Pond”, the stadium holds 7,500 plus standing room for baseball games and offers up a dozen closed-circuit TVs so fans can monitor the game when they’re not in their seats. A popular “B” (or “C” or “D” or so) List Celebrity Friday Nights promotion hosts everyone from Emmanuel Lewis (Webster from “Webster”), to Sonny Shroyer (Enos from “The Dukes of Hazzard” and, amazingly, an eponymous TV show spinoff for about 3 episodes) and William “The Refrigerator” Perry of the NFL Team That Shall Remain Nameless from South of the Border.

danecoairport_welcome_signJust north of all this is Madison’s airport, Truax Field/Dane County Regional. With an airport code of MSN, it fortunately came before Microsoft’s attempts at duplicating AOL, so they couldn’t sue. An airport since 1937, it was activated as an army base in 1942 and deactivated in 1968, though it still holds the 115th Fighter Wing, flying F-16’s. The commercial portion of the airport is expanding rapidly, with a new parking garage, terminal expansions and adjacent business parks spouting up. Highway 113 is the main “gateway” to the airport; you’ll pass it just north of Aberg Avenue.

Brewery Alert
Right where you can turn into Madison’s airport, you’ll spot the Ale Asylum Brewery. Originally located just west of here, Ale Asylum brews up several popular beers including Ambergeddon and Hopalicious. They brew on-site and have a full restaurant; tours are available on Sunday afternoons.

This is THE route from Madison’s downtown to the airport. On the way, you pass the world headquarters of Oscar Meyer Foods, home of a variety of meats and the ever-popular Weinermobile. Direct access to the interstates east of Madison (I-39, 90 & 94) can also be had via Aberg Avenue, which also leads to Highway 30, a key route out of Madison that was also the key road to Milwaukee prior to the I-system taking over.

113sbend_800

Highway 113 ends as First Street, at East Washington Ave., also known as US 151.

madison_capitol01

It’s clearly visible in the distance from the end of Highway 113, but if you follow East Wash (US 151) southwest, you can end up with a nice close-up view of the State Capitol, like this.

Highway 113 ends at U.S. 151 (East Washington Avenue, a.k.a.”East Wash”) in Madison, in view of the state capitol just down the road. (map)

CONNECTIONS
South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 30, U.S. Highway 151
Can connect nearby to: Interstate 39/90/94, about 3 miles east; U.S. 51, about 2 miles east

North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 33
Can connect nearby to: U.S. Highway 12, about 1 mile west