42

STH-042“Sheboygan to the Tip”

 

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

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

Mileage: about 138 miles

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

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

Bypass alternates at: Manitowoc/Two Rivers, Sturgeon Bay

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

The Wisconsin Highway 42 Road Trip

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

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

The Start: Sheboygan

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

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

Golfing and Surfing in Sheboygan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manitowoc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A sugary Manitowoc staple since 1932: Beerntsen’s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kewaunee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Into Door County

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

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

***BYPASS ALERT***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*** Winery/Distillery Alert ***

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

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

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

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Shipwrecked offers these facilities, too. Run for it!

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

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

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

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

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Lots of boutique shopping choices await in Fish Creek.

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

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A bathtub full of taffy… who’s in??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29

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

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

Wisconsin Highway 29 Road Trip

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

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

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

Can you believe there are two Kinnickinnics??

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

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

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

River Falls – the first of two college towns

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

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

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

Menomonie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riverbend Winery just off Highway 29

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

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Chippewa Falls (pop. 13,661) is Eau Claire’s northern counterpart and calls itself “Gateway to the North Woods.” A drive on the old 29 – now known as “Business 29”- takes you through the city on County X, River Street and Seymour Cray Blvd, named after the famous engineer who took supercomputers to a whole new level in the latter half of the 20th century. From Minneapolis-based CDC to his own company, Cray Research (you may have heard of the Cray-2 supercomputer, for example), Seymour Cray played a key role in making computers what they are today. He died in 1996, and Highway 29’s Business route through Chippewa Falls carries his name in memoriam.

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Now County X/Business 29, this was THE main road into Chippewa Falls from Minneapolis for decades. You wind along the Chippewa River for a while before getting into the heart of town.

Chippewa Falls is home to the Northern Wisconsin State Fair, which serves this part of the state with plenty of State Fair-style fun, events, animal showcases, concerts, and more and has since 1897, back when it was a lot tougher for northern Wisconsin residents to get to the main fair in West Allis. The grounds, on the north side of town, host various other events throughout the year. The city has its cultural side, too: the Heyde Center for the Arts opened on High Street right downtown in a former high school in 2000. The building, constructed in 1907, is a beautiful Neoclassical structure and today hosts a variety of performances, concerts, films, the visual arts, and more. Irvine Park (pronounced “ER-vin”) was founded as a city park in 1906 and opened a zoo three years later with a bear pen. Today, this half-square mile complex offers the Irvine Park Zoo, which also has exhibits for tigers, cougars (no, the cat kind), bison, bobcats, and more – including some historic structures and a cave with natural springs.

Rumble Bridge in Irvine Park.

Irvine Park offers a zoo, a range where the buffalo literally roam, historic buildings, and the Rumble Bridge, which offers beautiful views along a nice trail.

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Chippewa Falls has a pretty healthy downtown.

Chippewa Falls connection

Highway 29 Business runs right past the new Chippewa River Distillery

Highway 29 Business runs right past the new Chippewa River Distillery.

BREWERY & DISTILLERY ALERTS!

Right along Business 29 as you approach downtown Chippewa Falls you’ll find the Brewster Brothers Brewery & Chippewa River Distillery. It opened in 2016 right across from its distillery’s namesake river and offers a variety of small craft brews and spirits, specializing in new cocktail concoctions.

Of course, a major stop for many in Chippewa Falls is the Leinenkugel Brewing Company, famous for beers like Leinenkugel Original (originally called “Chippewa Pride”), Summer Shandy, Honey Weiss, Cream Ale, Big Butt Doppelbock (ya hear that, Sir Mix-A-Lot??), Sunset Wheat, Classic Amber…the list goes on and on! Tours are available year-round, every day except major holidays. Check the tour link or call (888) LEINIES for details.

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Amidst a beautiful setting, the Leinenkugel Brewery has been at it since 1867. Tours are extremely popular, so be prepared for a lot of thirsty and appreciative cohorts.

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The Leinie Lodge tasting area offers a wide variety of their brewed beverages and a gift shop where you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something you’ll like.

Chippewa Falls is known to giddy female movie-goers worldwide in the late 1990s as the hometown of Jack Dawson, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the movie epic Titanic. The famous hole in the script deals with Lake Wissota, which actually did not exist when Titanic sunk — it was developed in 1916, when work on a dam created the now-famous body of water.

Downtown Chippewa Falls features old school advertising signs

Quite a few old advertising signs adorn buildings throughout Chippewa Falls.

At Chippewa Falls, Highway 29 hits a junction with U.S. Highway 53, now on a freeway bypass that connects to Duluth-Superior, Rice Lake and Spooner to the north and provides access to I-94 for destinations to the south. “Business 53” follows the original route through downtown Chippewa Falls, which is also today’s Highway 124 through town. Of course, since we’re “touring” Highway 29, we’ll keep heading east.

As you pass Lake Wissota east of Chippewa Falls, Highway 29 continues its path as a major 4-lane expressway. The “old” 29 parallels this road just to the north as County X, which runs you right through the center of towns like Cadott, Boyd, Stanley and Thorp. The new 29 as an expressway provides exits to each of these towns. Cadott, at the junction with Highway 27 (Exit 91), features the Wisconsin Veterans Tribute. Part of the River Country Plaza Truck Stop at the exit, you’ll find many significant memorials, an AH-1S helicopter, cannons, markers and more all under an eye-catching cadre of flags from all over the world.

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The flags of the Wisconsin Veterans Tribute, at Highways 27 & 29 in Cadott.

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From Cadott, Highway 29 continues east across central Wisconsin as an expressway. Just to the north, County X parallels as the original route of Highway 29. While the expressway bypasses slightly to the south, County X/old 29 heads right through the heart of towns like Boyd, Stanley, Thorp, Withee, Owen, and Curtiss. All are located on a railroad line that came through in the early 1880s, giving rise to the towns and their industries, which often centered around lumber, milling, or dairying. Stanley (pop. 3,633), which extends between Chippewa and Clark Counties, became known for brickmaking; Withee (pop. 487) became a Mennonite settlement.

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We found this old directional sign that pointed travelers on Highway 29 to Curtiss probably in the 1940s and beyond for several decades. Where did we find the sign? In western Oconto County in front of a residence, whose last name we can only guess…

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The name just works, what can we say?

Thorp (pop. 1,620) where Highway 73 extends north from 29, still makes frequent use of horse-drawn wagons in town. Along Highway 29 you’ll find one of our favorite names for a diner, the Thorpedo. It’s a classic type of spot to get great home-cooked food when you’re on the road. Thorp is also home to the Marieke Gouda Store & Holland’s Family Cheese, where you’ll find the award-winning Marieke Gouda cheeses and all kinds of other foods, accessories, and more from Holland’s Family Farm. “Marieke” is named for Marieke Penterman, who grew up on a dairy farm in The Netherlands, came to America, met her husband Rolf, and together they started a dairy farm in Thorp in 2002. Her cheesemaking skills led to Gouda styles that started garnering awards in 2007 and the U.S. Grand Champion Award in 2013. This facility opened in November, 2013 and you’ll find it right along Highway 29 at Exit 108, where Highway 73 meets up for the eastbound trip.

You can view the cheese factory from the store itself; they make cheese every day but Monday. There’s also family fun to be had on the farm various days (like a jumpy pillow), so don’t be surprised if the kids want to hang out there for a while as much as you do.

Marieke Gouda cow entrance

Between Thorp and Withee, Highway 29 crosses the Black River, which begins in the Chequamegon National Forest a little bit north of there and flows through Black River Falls on its way to the Mississippi.

On the Clark-Marathon County line at the junction with Highway 13 is Abbotsford (pop. 2,000), known as “Wisconsin’s First City”. That’s “first” in terms of the alphabet, by the way, not in population or how early it was founded (those distinctions go to Milwaukee and Green Bay, respectively). You can get off the expressway and follow “Business 29” through town, which is part of the original Yellowstone Trail, too. Trailblazer markers remind you.

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Hard to miss the big cone outside the Hawkeye Dairy.

Highway 29’s old route goes right through town as Business 29 (and on the State Trunk Tour, you should try and cut through every town you can when there’s otherwise a bypass), which features plenty of old-school businesses to check out, including Duke’s for Italian beef, antique shops and taverns. Between Old 29 and today’s 29 along Highway 13 is the Hawkeye Dairy, which features a wide variety of cheeses, sausages, and ice cream – it’s hard to miss the massive cone!

45×90: The Center of Two Hemispheres

geographicalmarker4590sign_500Think you’re the center of everything? Well, just off Highway 29 you can come close. From eastbound 29, turn north on County M (by mile marker 149), and head about five miles north; take a right on County U and then left onto Meridian Road. The meridian of which it speaks is the 90th Meridian (90°W), halfway between the Prime Meridian (which runs through London as 0°) and the International Date Line (180°).

But that’s not all.

About 1/4 mile north of County U, you’re also at the 45th Parallel (45°N), which is halfway between the Equator and the North Pole (theoretically, at least – the flattening of the earth’s sphere near the poles leaves room for debate.) But either way, a parking area in the middle of the cornfields is the starting point for a 300-yard walk that leads you to the center of both the Western and Northern Hemispheres – or the “Northwest Hemisphere” as the signs say.) Stand there and feel the self-absorption!

45x90 Marker at exact point, NW of Wausau

Yep, that dot is the exact point where 45N and 90W meet, a point you’ve seen on every globe, ever.

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The exact 45×90 location was marked and opened for visitors in 2017, carved out of a farmer’s field just off Meridian Road near Poniatowski.

Get more details on the 45×90 spot here!

Meanwhile, back to Highway 29 and continuing east, you can make quick time towards Wausau. Once you cross Highway 107 at Marathon City, a nice view of Rib Mountain guides you in. Rib Mountain (elevation: 1,924 feet) is an imposing ridge that dominates the surrounding landscape and provides area residents with great winter skiing right nearby. The hill is one billion years old, but doesn’t look a day over 600 million. It’s the third-highest peak in the state and has the highest “prominence,” its height compared to the average surrounding terrain. With the prominence being about a 760-foot difference between peak and surrounding average terrain, it’s obvious why it can be seen so well for miles and miles around. Rib Mountain is the site of Rib Mountain State Park and the Granite Peak Ski Area, which was one of the first ski areas in the nation when it opened in 1937. The tower towering on top of Rib Mountain rises an additional 400-plus feet and broadcasts 95.5 WIFC, one of the longest continuously-running Top 40 stations in country… which is one reason that signal booms over 100 miles in every direction.

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Rib Mountain comes into view well west of Wausau. At 1,924 feet, it’s the second highest point in Wisconsin and hosts both Rib Mountain State Park and a pretty cool ski area.

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Highway 29 now joins I-39/U.S. 51 at a relatively new freeway interchange. The old 29 continued east into the city via Stewart Street on what is now Highway 52; today’s 29 follows the freeway south and then east again south of Rib Mountain. The map at the lower right illustrates both options.

Wausau

Wausau (pop. 39,106) itself is the the dominant metro city in central Wisconsin, the center of a “primary statistical area” according to the U.S. Census that includes all of Marathon County and brings in nearby cities like Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, and Merrill. It’s the 141st largest metro area in the country with about 308,000 people (by comparison, Milwaukee takes in most of SE Wisconsin and is ranked 33rd nationally with 2.07 million, while Madison is 69th with 844,000 people, taking in Janesville, Beloit, and Baraboo.)

Wausau has been known far and wide for insurance. The Employers Insurance of Wausau – which became Wausau Insurance Companies – ran many national ads that many recall today, especially with the music and focus on the “Wausau” name on an old Milwaukee Road railroad depot. (here’s a YouTube sample – the last 6-7 seconds are what people saw over and over again) before the company was taken over by Liberty Mutual in 1999; they retired the Wausau name ten years later. Grrrr. The city is also known for American ginseng; while Wisconsin cultivates close to 95% of the ginseng grown in the U.S., much of it is grown in Marathon County. You can see the artificial shade covers over ginseng fields all over the area. But with forests nearby and a big river providing power for sawmills, it was the lumber industry – and then paper production – that really got Wausau going early on; it’s still a big chunk of the economy here. Wausau is the largest city along the Wisconsin River, which runs right through the center and downtown areas. In general, the older part of the city is to the east of the river and newer areas are to the west.

Recreation abounds: the Wisconsin River splits the city and widens into a lake at times, providing great canoeing and kayaking; of course, Rib Mountain offers skiing, hiking and mountain biking; and numerous restaurants abound for both foodies and aspiring competitive eaters alike.

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Our high-tech map showing the main route of 29 (solid line) and the original city route (dashed). It’s more fun to go through town.

Today’s Highway 29 runs as a freeway in from the west and then follows U.S. 51 south for about seven miles before heading east again past Wausau, serving as a bypass to the heart of the city. But you’re best served seeing and experiencing Wausau, of course!

Go through the city itself on Business 29, which is also the start of Highway 52. To follow 29’s old route before the freeway bypass opened in 1963, follow Stewart Avenue (Highway 52) east instead of joining Highway 29, U.S. 51 & I-39. Stewart will bring you over the river and into downtown. The graphic at the right gives you a good eyeball view of how this works around Wausau. Much of the new growth is along the freeway west of the river, but the heart of the city and most of its points of interest lie to the east.

histmarker_1stteachersschoolOne of Wausau’s early names was “Big Bull Falls” due to the falls and rapids along the Wisconsin River. Around 1840, the area started to take the name Wausau, roughly meaning “a place which can be seen from far away” in the Ojibwe language. On your way downtown, you’ll see the campus for UW-Marathon County, which has its roots as the first teaching school in the state.

Stewart Street brings you into downtown Wausau, which thanks to the Dudley Tower has some level of skyline. At 241 feet tall, it’s the tallest office building in Wisconsin outside of the Milwaukee area (the State Capitol and Van Hise Hall in Madison are taller, but neither are office buildings.)

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Completed in 2007, the Dudley Tower is the tallest commercial building outside of Milwaukee in the state.

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A salute to kayaking marks the crossing of the Wisconsin River into downtown Wausau on Stewart Street, the original Highway 29 route (now part of 52.)

Part of downtown Wausau includes the River District and a beautiful set of downtown blocks with a mix of old and new. A mall opened in the 1980s on the south edge of downtown (which Highway 52 and “Business” U.S. 51 circles around) and offers indoor shopping. Adjacent are blocks of shops, restaurants, bars, offices, hotels, apartments, and condos that has dramatically increased the vibrancy of the city’s downtown. The lovely Grand Theater went up in 1927 to replace an earlier opera house; the Center for the Visual Arts features several free exhibits in gallery spaces and hosts events like ChalkFest, Exhbitour, and a series of kids’ events throughout the year. These cultural facilities and adjacent offices, coffee shops, and restaurants surround the 400 Block, an open green space in the heart of the city that hosts farmers’ markets, holiday celebrations, summer concerts, and more.

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Answers may vary depending on your attitude.

Just off the Block, the Wausau Visitor Center is located at 219 Jefferson Street and offers plenty of information about the area, plus this sign (right) that could be interpreted more than one way.

From downtown, follow 6th Street south to Grand through the city. This is also Business U.S. 51, the former route of U.S. 51 before the freeway on the west side opened in 1963.

*** Brewery Alerts ***
Tucked inside a former factory south of downtown just blocks east of Business U.S. 51 (also the original Highway 29 through town) via Thomas and Genrich Streets, Bull Falls Brewery opened in 2007 and serves up a variety of brews – mostly in cans – that started with their popular Oktoberfest. They have a nice tasting room and offer tours at select times or by appointment for $5. Calling 715-842-2337 will get you details. Bull Falls is named after an actual falls on the Wisconsin River, which is close by. The brewery also hosts quite a few events throughout the year – several involving barbecue.

Wausau hosts a professional baseball team, the Wausau Woodchucks of the Northwoods League. Also worth a stop is the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum (715-845-7010), featuring numerous works of nature-based art and sculpture, including its world-renowned “Birds In Art” exhibit.

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According to the tongue-twister, woodchucks can’t chuck wood. But the Wausau Woodchucks can knock balls out of this park.

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Considered a gem of a museum in Wausau, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum features some world-class art and exhibits.

“Old” 29 rejoins the current Highway 29 south of Wausau at Exit 171. From Wausau and its eastern suburbs of Rothschild, Weston and Ringle, Highway 29 is expressway all the way east to Green Bay. Bicycle enthusiasts may note that the Mountain-Bay Trail, a rail-to-trail conversion that runs the span between Wausau and Green Bay, parallels this stretch of 29 just a few miles north.

Shortly after crossing the subcontinential divide (the point where water starts draining to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean vs. the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico), you reach Highway 49, which begins at Highway 29 and heads south to Elderon, Waupaca and eventually the Horicon Marsh area. After crossing into Shawano County, Highway 29 (as the now-freeway bypass) snakes around little Wittenberg (pop. 1,177), where U.S. 45 joins for a few miles heading east before heading south toward Clintonville.

wittenberg_neuskessignBacon Alert. In the midst of this coupling with U.S. 45, Highway 29 passes Wittenberg’s most famous business: Neuske’s Applewood Smoked Meats. Neuske’s makes “the beluga of bacon”, according to the New York Times. Neuske’s was founded in 1887 by Prussian immigrants, drawn to Wisconsin because everybody was immigrating here at the time and Wittenberg appealed to them – in part because of the significance of the city’s German counterpart (apparently Wittenberg, Germany is where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church, touching off the Reformation. A little history note for ya.) Neuske’s began with a smokehouse and during the Great Depression R.C. Neuske sold smoked bacon, sausages, hams and turkeys to budding resorts across northern Wisconsin. Long story short, today Neuske’s sells through mail order and supermarkets across the nation and a few foreign markets. Their bacon (a State Trunk Tour favorite) is the preferred bacon for a plethora of famous, tony restauarants across the country, including Balthazar and An American Place in New York, Commander’s Place in New Orleans, The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, and Pinot in Los Angeles. But lucky you, you can buy Neuske’s right at the Wittenberg Retail Store, located on Grand Avenue between Exit 196 and 198, in full view of Highway 29. In fact, Grand Avenue was Highway 29 before the expressway was built. So there.

Further east, you reach Shawano (pop. 8.298), the main city between Green Bay and Wausau. Shawano is perched on Shawano Lake and offers the most amenities on this stretch. Highway 29 officially bypasses the city to the south on a freeway bypass – which is only fitting, since the name “Shawano” is Native American Menomonee for “to the south.” You can follow Business 29 into town and go through its center. Being the main city between Wausau and Green Bay, it’s also the main city along the Mountain-Bay Trail.

In the downtown area, Business Highway 29 follows a stretch of Green Bay Avenue for several miles, combining 29 with State Trunk Tour Highways 22, 47 and 55. Gas tends to be a little cheaper in Shawano than surrounding areas, so just note that for the trip.

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

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

If you follow the Highway 29 freeway bypass – which saves probably 10-15 minutes – check out the view as you cross the tree-lined Wolf River. Especially on the eastbound run, the view of the trees framing the river makes for a great picture. If only I’d had my camera ready at the time…

East of Shawano, Highway 47 combines with 29 to Bonduel and Highway 55 sticks around until Angelica. At Bonduel, check out Doc’s Zoo & Muscle Car Museum (715-758-9080), which features a variety of 60’s muscle cars, motorcycles, a classic 1930’s Standard gas station, and a whole line of unique autos, including one of the 1958 Plymouth Fury cars used in the Stephen King classic “Christine”. It’s hard to miss; part of Doc’s Harley-Davidson, Inc. of Shawano County, you’ll notice Bo & Luke Duke’s General Lee looking like it just leaped the building (yes, it’s one of the actual General Lee cars used in filming “The Dukes of Hazzard.”)

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The General Lee just after “leaping” over Doc’s Zoo & Muscle Car Museum. At right, I never thought I’d see this…but if you click on the picture to enlarge it, yes…it’s apparently a walrus penis windchime. Ouch.

Just northwest of Green Bay, Highway 29 ducks into Brown County and then Outagamie County for such a short time, you can see the Brown County sign ahead of you again. The signs themselves are small, but you literally cut the northeast corner of Outagamie within a few blocks. Highway 32 joins in too, fresh from the North Woods and Gillett. The two head together towards Titletown.

On the west edge of Green Bay itself lies Pamperin Park. Not be confused with the medicine Pamprin, Pamperin Park is the largest park in Brown County and the Green Bay Metro Area. The park offers a huge wooden children’s playground area, a stone pavilion, fireplace, gardens and a picturesque suspension bridge. Pamperin serves as a nice recreational stop for relaxation or letting kids get their energy spent before resuming the journey.

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Pamperin Park is quite the playland.

GREEN BAY

Entering Green Bay (pop. 104,057, a.k.a. “Titletown U.S.A.”), Highway 29 finishes being an expressway at a huge interchange with I-41 and simply becomes Shawano Avenue, cutting through the heart of downtown. Green Bay is Wisconsin’s oldest city and – not sure if you heard about this or not – are the smallest city to host a National Football League team. They’re called the “Packers” and…what, you’ve already heard about them? Okay.

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

** Multiple Breweries and One Distillery Alert! **

titletown_front_lgGreen Bay calls itself “Titletown”, so when some guys decided to start up a brewery there, it only made sense to call it the Titletown Brewing Company. Coincidentally – or perhaps not – Titletown Brewing started in December of 1996, right before the Packers’ first Super Bowl victory in nearly three decades. Located on Dousman Street/U.S. 141 just west of downtown and the Fox River, Titletown occupies a classic old railroad station built in 1899, as well as a newer brewery and tap room across the parking lot with the Titletown smokestack on top. Titletown brews Packer-backer beverages such as the Johnny “Blood” Red and Canadeo Gold as well as a great root beer called Sno-Cap, which uses Clyde the Penguin as its mascot. Trains, football, beer, food… definitely a good stop on the State Trunk Tour. Meanwhile, across the street Copper State Brewing Company opened in 2017 where Hinterland Brewing was before they moved to the Titletown District (more on that in a moment) in a building that was originally a meat-packing warehouse (yes, how the “Packers” got their name.)

Meanwhile, in the Titletown District, just west of Lambeau Field the aforementioned Hinterland Brewing opened in 2017, having relocated from its original brewery that dated back to 1995. Juts southeast of Lambeau in the same district you’ll find Badger State Brewing Company, a relative newcomer with a great selection of in-house craft brews and others from across Wisconsin. Leatherhead Brewing Company is a few doors down along Lombardi Avenue, and just over on Mike McCarthy Way, you’ll find the Green Bay Distillery. It opened in 2011 with a classic vodka and a cherry vodka (handy for Green Bay winters) and expanded to gin and whiskey in subsequent years. Their restaurant has a full menu – including a full menu of macro- and craft-brewed beers if spirits aren’t your thing. Either way, they are all easy walking distance to Lambeau Field, the Resch Center, Ray Nitschke Field, the Brown County Arena, the famous Stadium View bar, the famous Andouzzi’s, Brett Favre’s Steakhouse, and much more.

Side Trip to Lambeau.
For Lambeau Field seekers on this route, the “frozen tundra” lies about 3 miles south of Highway 29; you can cut south to it via I-41, Oneida Street, or Military Avenue. Trust me, you WILL be able to find Lambeau, the home of the Green Bay Packers…the cross street is Lombardi Avenue, after all.

Okay, back to Highway 29…

As Highway 29 enters downtown, it crosses the Fox River, one of the few northward-flowing rivers in North America. Here, bridges are lit up at night with condos, bars and shops springing up. At the intersection with Broadway, a Farmers Market offers produce and other items on Wednesday afternoons from June through September from 3pm-8pm. Highway 29 is also Walnut Street here, and just north along Dousman Street (U.S. 141) is the Neville Public Museum, which focuses on art, history and science for northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There is also a Children’s Museum, currently undergoing redevelopment.

East of the Fox River, blocks adjacent to Highway 29 feature an array of bars and restaurants. Places to party include Kittner’s Pub, Hip Cats, Liquid 8, Confetti, Washington Street Pub, the Fox Harbor Pub & Grill, and Stir-Ups (Stir-Ups is a country bar – yes, think about it.) Green Bay’s party crowd hangs out in this area, and it’s not uncommon for Packers players to be seen…and perhaps you can see their Super Bowl ring!

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

For train enthusiasts, Green Bay is the site of the National Railroad Museum (2285 S. Broadway, south of Highway 29 via Highway 32), which features over 70 locomotives and train cars, including the world’s largest steam locomotive, known as “Big Boy.” Also, just across the river off Highway 172 (Green Bay’s southern freeway bypass), you’ll find the lovely Heritage Hill State Historical Park. Technically located in Allouez, this 48-acre outdoor museum lives up to its name. Over 30 historic structures and endangered buildings are perched on a hill overlooking the Fox River in an area that once served as a prison farm. Log cabins from the fur trade era, original stores and public buildings, even buildings from the original Fort Howard are all located here and available for exploration. Populating the grounds in summer are live historic interpreters – many in period attire – to help illustrate what these buildings are all about. More and more fun events take place throughout the year here, too.

We’ve already mentioned much of the downtown attractions that tend to be just west of the Fox River, but one is coming up on the east side of the river at the bay if you detour north via Highways 54/57 and under I-43 a bit. That’s Bay Beach Amusement Park, which offers everything from roller coasters to carousels and water rides from May through September. The biggest coaster is Zippin’ Pippin, a 2,800-foot long wooden coaster with nearly hundred-year-old origins in Memphis, Tennessee. It was moved to Green Bay and re-opened in 2011 and has remained quite popular.

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

Back to Highway 29, heading through eastern Green Bay a strip known as “Olde Main Street” offers a variety of shops. Around these points, Highway 29 meets up with US Highway 141; this was the main road out of Green Bay towards Milwaukee before I-43 was constructed.

Leaving Green Bay, Highway 29 turns southeast heading out of town, crossing over I-43 on the way to Bellevue (pop. 14,570), a fast-growing village that incorporated in 2003. About two miles later, U.S. 141 turns to I-43 and ends; Highway 29 becomes a two-lane road again and makes a beeline east along the remaining 22 miles to Lake Michigan.

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The bustling burg of Poland. So what kind of jokes do they tell here?

Along the way, it’s mostly farmland. But you do go through Poland, in this case not the country but an unincorporated burg named after the nation that is indeed the source of approximately 60% of all lightbulb-changing jokes. It might be best to skip telling them here. However, if you want to share your theories about aliens from other planets, well, the UFO landing port (slogan: “We’re not the only ones”) in Poland is a good place to do it. Featured in RoadsideAmerica.Com, the port is owned by Bob Tohak and he maintains it in anticipation of aliens landing someday. And you thought immigration was a wild subject now!

Into Kewaunee County, you also hit little unincorporated Pilsen, named after Czech town where Pilsener beer was invented, so I think you know how to salute the place. In wine is more your thing, the Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery can be found a few miles south of Highway 29 along Sleepy Hollow Road, just east of Pilsen. Parallel 44 is named for its geographical location along not only Kewaunee County but also the Bordeaux region of France and the Tuscany region of Italy – two of the finest areas in the world for winemaking. While the climate in Kewaunee isn’t quite the same as Tuscany’s (shame, isn’t it?), owners & winemakers Steve Johnson and Maria Milano manage to grow a variety of French hybrid grapes that have led to award-winning wines. Their first harvest was in September, 2007 and things have only grown since then. They offer tours and complimentary tastings – within reasonable limits! Weekly tours are available Saturdays at 3pm, and you can call them at (920) 362-1550. They also host a series of events and concerts in the summer, and their “Frozen Tundra Wine Fest” in February.

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Parallel 44 is off Sleepy Hollow Road and County J, a few miles south of Highway 29. The “Ledge” refers to the Niagara Escarpment, a unique geological feature that results in things like fertile soil and the existence of both the Door County peninsula and Niagara Falls. The Climate sign (lower left) illustrates how the combination of temperatures, sunlight and precipitation results in this area actually being a great one for growing certain varieties of wine grapes.

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A February sunset viewed from the Parallel 44 Winery; the church on the horizon is the center of nearby Stengelville.

Kewaunee

The final stop on Highway 29 is Kewaunee (pop. 2,833). With an attractive harbor, Kewaunee was a popular Native American settlement for centuries; the French followed suit in 1634, when Jean Nicolet landed here. In 1674, Father Marquette celebrated a Holy Sacrifice of Mass here. But it wouldn’t be until 1836 when permanent European settlement took place – largely on rumors of a “gold rush” led speculators to believe Kewaunee could become a Chicago-esque, booming city someday. They laid out wide avenues and bought up lots in preparation, but things ended up falling a little short. No matter. The city thrived as a lumber town and trading center, finally becoming a city in 1893.

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

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

Attractions include the Tug Ludington, a U.S. Army tug built in 1943. Made to help with World War II efforts, the tug participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy and assisted with harbor operations in France and Virginia before being transferred to Kewaunee in 1947, where it lives a much calmer life. It rests in Harbor Park in downtown Kewaunee and is available for tours. Kewaunee Historical Jail Museum (613 Dodge Street), is an 1876 structure featuring a six-celled jail, the sheriff’s living quarters and a lot of the original materials and arrangements to show you what incarceration was like for the outlaws of the day. Also downtown, check out the World’s Tallest Grandfather Clock, which was up the hill previously but reassembled downtown in 2015. It’s so new we have to get a new picture of it!

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

On this particular day I happened upon Troutfest, an annual event saluting – yes – trout! An Art Fair, motorcycle run, Venetian boat parade, fireworks, music, and a parade are all part of the festival. The final few blocks of Highway 29 in downtown were closed for the parade, actually, so I detoured through town and happened upon this:

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From the “You’ll Never Know What You’ll Stumble Across” Department: spotted two blocks south of Highway 29 in Kewaunee.

Yes, you never know what you’ll find on the State Trunk Tour. Near Lake Michigan, Kewaunee is a hilly town and as I stood at the eastern end of Highway 29, at its downtown intersection with Highway 42, listening to a marching band playing Blink 182’s “All The Small Things”, I couldn’t help but marvel at how fun the 300-mile trek across the state was, from the Mississippi River all the way to Lake Michigan.

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Kewaunee Trout Fest parade-watchers await the show at the end of Highway 29, at the corner with Highway 42…

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…and when the parade passes by the end of Highway 29, they march on toward the Lake Michigan shore, visible in the background.

 

CONNECTIONS:
West Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: U.S. 10, Highway 35
Can connect nearby to: Highway 65, about 13 miles northeast

Eastern Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 42
Can connect nearby to: Highway 54, about 12 miles notth