In September of 2014, Renee and I were able to take our first overnight motorcycle trip. Our plan was to ride to Galena, Illinois and then jump on the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail and ride it as far as we could in one day. This was our first overnight trip, so as you can guess we learned many lessons along the way.
The Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail is a 600+ mile route that begins on the Wisconsin/Illinois border and ends on the shores of Lake Superior. The route itself was designed to avoid pavement as much as possible. For more information about the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail, go to this web site:
Our ride day started out by dropping off the dog at the kennel, loading up the bike, and filling up the gas tank. With all that activity it was 8:00 by the time we rolled out of town. Lesson #1 was obvious, it took us much longer to get going than I thought it would, so more preparation prior to departure would have helped. Eventually we were under way and anyone familiar with Iowa farmland can guess what the start of the ride was like. I can describe it in two words; straight and flat. Seriously, the first real turn was like 10 miles into the ride.
After a few miles and a right turn, we ended up in a little town called Low Moor. Low Moor is a very small Iowa farm town and I have been their twice. Both times I have had to wait for trains
From Low Moor we continued North to Clinton. My plan was to bypass Clinton, but I missed my turn and we ended up doubling back all the way into town. I think this added about 45 minutes to our ride. By the way, we weren’t really lost, we just weren’t where we wanted to be at that time.
After Clinton, we followed the river road (Hwy 67) up to Sabula. By this time we were getting cold so we stopped in Sabula to warm up a bit. Lesson #2, if it’s cool when you are standing still it will be a lot colder when you’re riding. We were pretty chilled by the time we got to Sabula, so we ended up putting on more layers. We should have started out with more layers, and at this point Renee didn’t really have great motorcycle gear, so her teeth were chattering until the sun started to warm us up.
After leaving Sabula, we crossed the Mississippi on the steel grid bridge. I have never liked this bridge due to the narrow lanes, low railings, steel grid deck, it’s height above the river, and the rock wall dead end on one end (in the direction we were travelling).
Our approach to the BRIDGE OF DEATH:
Looking back at the Bridge of Death. Made It!
Once we were safely across the bridge, we turned North on Hwy 84. We just got rolling and ran into some road construction. We had to follow the pilot car.
When we cleared the construction, we followed 84 North to Hanover then we jumped off 84 onto Blackjack road. This is a fun road that is actually a shortcut into Galena. We stopped in Galena for a drink and a photo op.
Now, is a good time to mention that before we got to Clinton, my brand new helmet started to hurt. I couldn’t understand why because when I got it, it seemed to fit real well and was very comfortable. However, after wearing it for over an hour my head started to ache and I started to feel sick. Not a good start to a long day of riding. I tried many different things but in the end nothing helped.
The routine for this trip would be to ride as long as I could stand it, then we would have to stop and I would take my helmet off for a few minutes, then back on to ride some more. I was usually able to last about an hour or so before stopping. This was fine, but made for slow progress. Lesson #3, try out your gear out well before you take a long ride.
While we were in Galena, we decided to get something to eat and I realized it was already 11:00. We were 3 hours into the ride and we are only at Galena, this is double the time it would take by car (on the shortest route). Between the frequent stops and the detour into Clinton it was taking us a really long time to get to the start of the Trans Wisconsin Trail.
Leaving Galena, we were finally on the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail but it didn’t feel like much of a change except that we crossed into Wisconsin. From the very beginning the Trans Wisconsin Trail proved to be an awesome route. Our first road was a really fun little country road that took us past the Sinsinawa Mound Center.
From their web site: “Sinsinawa Mound is committed to study, education, spirituality, and the arts. Through our programs and retreats, persons from many spiritual traditions are invited to experiences of intellectual, spiritual, and aesthetic awakening.” I just think it’s neat to look at. Read more about it here.
Our next stop was in Dickeyville for a photo of the Grotto and to fill up the tank. We have toured the Grotto in the past so we didn’t stop today, but it is pretty neat so I would recommend it.
It’s hard to smile when your head is in a vice.
On the outskirts of Dickeyville we took a left and dropped down into the valley on more gravel. We had been having fun up to now, but at this point the fun grew exponentially. We were on roads that neither of us had been on before. We had our directions and a vague sense of where we were going, but we had no idea what was around the next corner. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and we were riding together down a hilly back road. How could it get any better?
We followed the Trans Wisconsin Trail and eventually we came out on the HWY 133 below Potosi, right at the entrance to the Mississippi River peninsula. The peninsula is a fun little side quest. It’s a gravel road that crosses under the train tracks and runs out to a boat landing and park area.
On the way back to the highway we spotted a couple of Sandhill Cranes.
Now the Trail had been really fun up to this point, and believe it or not it kept getting better and better. Out of Cassville we continued on Hwy 133 to VV to Closing Dam Road. I was keeping an eye out for our turn because I could see we were getting close on the GPS. Finally I stopped where I thought I should turn and to tell the truth, it really didn’t look like a road at all.
Does this road go anywhere?
There wasn’t a road sign, but this was the only road around, so we took it. Welcome to Good Nuff Hollow. This road had the first water crossings on the Trans Wisconsin Trail which made it a lot of fun.
Now, you can see that there was not a lot of water running in September. In reality, these crossings were more like puddles than anything. But it was a first for us, so we enjoyed it a lot.
Eventually we ended up in Glen Haven and stopped for a stretch (and a break from my vice-like helmet). Glen Haven is also the starting point of Dugway Road, another fun and interesting road that is carved out of the hillside.
Unfortunately, it is also a popular graffiti site.
After Dugway Road, and several other great back roads we ended up in Prairie du Chien. We were getting tired so we decided to ride over to Marquette to get a hotel room.
Lesson #4: Book your hotel before you are ready to stop. We almost couldn’t get into the hotel we wanted because they were having a problem with their online reservation site. Thankfully, the desk clerk got us a room.
The hotel where we stayed was the Cobblestone Inn. We liked this hotel so much that we actually stayed there on a subsequent trip.
Here was our route for Day 1:
The next day was all about the road home. We came up river on the Illinois/Wisconsin side of the Mississippi and we rode back home on the Iowa side. The plan was to stay on main roads as close to the river as possible. Unfortunately, we didn’t stop as much so we didn’t take many pictures during the ride home. Not that there was nothing to see, we just didn’t do it.
So our route home was:
Here are a few more random pictures from this trip:
Even though we had a few hiccups, we learned a lot about what worked for us (and what didn’t) and we had a great time.
To Be Continued….