My Dad told me, “Always go home a different way than you went, or you’ll never learn your way around.” I’ve always tried to follow that advice, and as a result, I’ve ridden just about every road in Wisconsin. One day I realized that the road I live on, Wisconsin State Road 67, is one of the most varied and interesting roads I know.
Though I have ridden all of it at one time or another, I had never ridden it all at once—175 miles from beginning to end. Like any self-respecting motorcyclist, I knew at once that problem must be rectified, so I set off from my home near Iron Ridge one bright and warm June morning. The plan was to start on the southern end of Wisconsin Route 67, on the Illinois border near Beloit, and ride to its northern end a few miles outside of Manitowoc.
At the southern end of Route 67 the terrain is, well, Illinois-like—a landscape dominated by farms growing corn and soybeans. This part of Route 67 has yet to be “modernized” and the roadsides are close, with large, old oak trees growing between the road and the farm fields, their branches overhanging the road.
The view from my Honda VTX1800 changed as I rolled into Fontana. This is a resort town on the western shore of Lake Geneva, and the town and its marina were full of tourists enjoying the warm weather. I parked my bike near the lake, found a park bench and spent a few minutes watching the boats, the birds and the people before I headed north out of town.
A few miles up the road, at Williams Bay, I stopped to check out the Yerkes Observatory. This beautiful facility was built by the University of Chicago in 1897, and is still used for astronomical research. It’s open to the public on Saturdays, and as I idled out of the park-like grounds I made a mental note to return another day for a tour.
The next 35 miles of Route 67 is designated a “scenic route” by Rand-McNally, the kind of road that riders who live in Wisconsin daydream about in January to keep from losing their minds. The stretch to Elkhorn was busy, but as I approached the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, the traffic diminished and the road became curvy and gently hilly. I rolled the throttle on until I got to Old World Wisconsin. This fascinating and charming attraction consists of over 60 historic structures spread out over several hundred acres. All of these buildings were disassembled, moved from their original locations all over Wisconsin and reassembled here to tell the story of the original owners. The staff is dressed in period and ethnically correct clothing, doing the things the settlers of rural Wisconsin would have spent their days doing. The day I was there, hay was being cut and baled using horses and authentic equipment. I watched a family cutting wood and had a nice conversation with a woman doing laundry on a washboard. I could have spent the whole day there, but it was time to get back to State Route 67 and the 21st century.
At the village of Eagle, Route 67 crosses State Route 59. The nice roads and scenery nearby make Eagle a popular gathering place for motorcyclists, and the bars and restaurants welcome riders of all brands of bikes. Knucklehead Pub & Grub is a popular place to take a break, and its motorcycle themed décor and outdoor seating area make it a busy place on a nice day. I ordered a chicken sandwich called the “Flying Pig” because chicken is a healthy choice. I’m sure the generous helpings of bacon, cheese and barbeque sauce on top and fries on the side did nothing to diminish its healthfulness.
From there it was north again, crossing Interstate 94 at busy Oconomowoc, then into the most rural parts of the trip. This is dairy farm country, and I rolled through Ashippun and Neosho before getting to my hometown of Iron Ridge. This area was home to the first iron mines in Wisconsin. Not much remains of that history, but a traveler can check out some old photographs of the mines in operation and get a great meal at the Iron Ridge Inn.
Then I rode through Mayville, with its wide Main Street and historic downtown buildings, on to Theresa, Lomira and Campbellsport, where just a few miles out of town you enter the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Here Route 67 becomes curvy and hilly again, and before long I entered the small town of Dundee. The Hamburger Haus is a rustic drive-in place, and popular with motorcyclists. Not feeling the need for another high-calorie meal, I motored through Dundee without stopping.
I was on the last leg of the ride now, rolling past Long Lake on some nice twisties, then through Plymouth, where I just had to stop and check out a giant fiberglass cow in front of a cheese factory. It was late afternoon when I approached Elkhart Lake, home of Road America raceway. Nearly every weekend throughout the summer, there’s racing of some sort on the four-mile road course. AMA Superbike, SCCA and NASCAR races can be seen here, in addition to vintage car and motorcycle races.
I finished my Route 67 ride near Chilton, where Route 67 ends at U.S. Highway 151. I took a different route back home (thanks, Dad) and reflected on the day’s ride. A ride on Route 67 is a microcosm of any ride in Wisconsin. Some prairie, some hills, lakes and forests. Some development and a lot of agriculture. But all of it beautiful.
(This article Midwestern Beauty was published in the November 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)