Back in late 2004 was when I broke my hiatus from riding a motorcycle. It had been 20+ years since I'd done any riding and late that season was when I brought my ST2 Ducati home to begin Phase 2 of my riding hobby. Since the bike was a sport touring machine, it was only natural that I should join the online forum sport-touring.net and since I was a Minnesota resident, that put me in Region 4 of the national membership. Anecdotally the tightest grouping of members that are nearest to me is probably in a band between Milwaukee and Chicago.
Many of my former posts have highlighted the roads in southern Wisconsin that I so enjoy....and of course there are reasons for that; the roads across the river make for some very fine riding. The riders down in that corner of Region 4 often came NW; I went SE and we sort of met in the middle to ride those great roads. These days I'm spending less time at their structured events though since we share a large geographic area of riding, we run into each other fairly often. The most recent event that I officially joined was a "Coffee
" up on Washington Island, the northern outpost of Door County.
Back in 2007, I was joining events on a more regular basis. In November of that year, a Sunday day ride was called and I decided to join in. The ride was to start with an early breakfast in Mt. Horeb, WI which is relatively near to Madison, the capitol of Wisconsin. Even on my less favorite higher speed roads, making an 8AM breakfast would have forced at the very latest a 4AM October start. I went with a more reasonable plan, that being an overnight stay nearby with a much gentler start around 7AM.
Around that time, an old scrapbook with family history on dad's side was shared with me. There were many dates, old photos, names, places, etc. that dad's dad had researched and dug up long before there was an Internet. Some of the correspondence was dated in the 1940's; letters were typed using real typewriters with real inked signatures. I was able to leverage easy Internet access to study old plat maps that weren't mine, those maps combined with family names and county records made it fairly easy to focus in on some locations where 1880's and 1890's family members farmed and owned land.
So that was my plan, to mix in some of my favorite back road exploring in general with some much more focused hunting of old family locations. The late October weekend was a lovely one, my Honda Pacific Coast was a great machine for the planned two day ride.
One of my favorites, Eagle Valley Road
At the deep end of the valley, Glowdowski Rd. finally getting serious about climbing up to the ridge.
You can just see the Stop sign peaking through the slot beyond at County Road JJ
On County Road I, looking east. Ahead the road turns south, proceeding east into the woods would put you into Fort McCoy, one of Wisconsin's U.S. Army "Total Force Training Centers". Now at 60,000 acres, it was established in the early 1900's
and almost, really a l m o s t took my great, great grandfather's farm. That property is adjacent to what is now Fort McCoy.
Bordering the western edge of Fort McCoy and just north of where the Cooper farm was, this on County Road I.
This farmstead is shown here in a modern photo, a clear likeness is in a scrapbook of ours that is black and white. Missing here is a fine old barn and silo; the house, driveway location and porch are exactly alike in both photos.
1880 Isaac Cooper farmstead, the line of trees on the horizon the western edge of Fort McCoy
Other Cooper farms are nearby.....
It was a beautiful day for history hunting....
I left the Sparta area and worked my way south towards Elroy. Here I'm stopped beside the Omaha Bicycle Trail; the old right-of-way is tucked in the brush, lower right.
Inside the PC's rear trunk is my lunch and it was time to stop.
Overgaard Road, an old favorite.
This is not "pea gravel"......I call it razor rock and I've seen it before in this part of Wisconsin, few other places have I seen anything this coarse. I've stopped and rubbed my hand over it, my very calloused hand. This stuff would polish steel.
Fox Road, almost to my destination for the night in Reedsburg.
County F, just northwest of Reedsburg. If you like high speed sweepers.......
From Hoff Road, looking NW towards the reservoir lake in the valley.
That was it for Saturday's ride. I stayed at my old standby motel in Reedsburg, often our overnight spot for Slimey Crud Run weekends. Sunday morning was cold and foggy-wet for my before-7 start so that I could make Mt. Horeb in time for our 8AM rendezvous time.
The Roundabout in Mt. Horeb. The large gas station parking lot was our gathering place before heading further in to town for breakfast at the Spring Garden.
I was too busy with "hello's" and meeting the guys I hadn't yet ridden with to get photos of our breakfast stop. Our group finished eating and headed west, this our first stop for gas and a break in Boscobel, right on the Wisconsin River.
FJR's, V-Strom's, bikes more or less Sport Touring, a KLR and misc. others.....This was our lunch/snack stop.
From here, we crossed the river and headed north, the same direction that was more 'home' for me than it was for the rest of the riders. As I remember it, Scott led the way for the group and he's always done an admirable job. This group was on the large side for me. I've put a lot of miles on behind Scott when there' just a few of us in the gang.
Gays Mills, a Wisconsin town that has threatened to move more than once due to river floods that have been very tough on businesses and residents. So far, they've stayed put but other towns along the Kickapoo have not been as patient.
Our last stop as a group.....the maps are out and there will be more than one way home as everyone breaks up into smaller groups. All of these guys will ride mostly east to go home, some of them from the Milwaukee area and some from Chicago. I was the only Minnesotan, so from here, I headed the opposite direction.
After leaving the group, I mostly stayed on larger roads though mixed in a few County roads when they were actually more direct (or more fun). Here I'm stopped at Esofea, a Vernon County Park that is within a stone's throw from the location of our annual Labor Day Wildcat Rally. I've probably visited this park 100 times and camped there at least a dozen times.
2007 was a summer of more than one gully washer rainfall in the area. Anyone and everyone that attended the 2007 National Moto Guzzi Rally that was held in SE Minnesota knows far more about flooding water than they ever needed to know. How some of the attendees that weekend weren't drowned I don't know. Many of my rally friends WERE there and lost much of their property; many bikes were ruined and never recovered. The same storms that caused that havoc in MN swept across the Mississippi River and continued the devastation on this Wisconsin side of the river. Two weeks before the storm, I camped, with the Ducati, in the far right distance of the field in this photo. The North Fork of the Bad Axe river is just to the right of this framed view. Around 7AM that storm weekend morning, there was 4ft of water over this valley grassland.
There had been a bridge over the small river from just behind my bike, where I'd just entered the park. For two years, the missing bridge was bypassed with a gravelly water crossing. The tires and rims on the PC are cleaner than they'd been 10 minutes before this photo was taken. Keep in mind, this park is southeast of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, down wind from where the storms had cursed SE Minnesota a couple of months previous.
If you've not seen the devastation of the flooding at the rally, check this.
I was at the Guzzi Rally that weekend in August, rode most of the day on Saturday in relatively hard rain, listened to my NOAA weather radio (a blessing) and heard that only more rain and harder rain, were predicted for overnight and the following day. Our 'free' steak dinner was to be served around 6:30 that Saturday evening and based on the forecast and the fact that our daughter was flying out the following morning to return to her fall semester at school, I left without my steak meal and rode the 75 miles home in pouring rain...some of the ride in the dark and that was NOT done lightly.
I turned on our area's AM News clear channel early the following morning, hot coffee in my hand and comfy in my dry jammies. The Houston County Sheriff was on the radio....."if we catch anyone out driving on these roads today, they'll be arrested. We've got so much devastation here that we are absolutely overwhelmed."