Sunday, September 23, 2018

We Played Fort

Sixty (well maybe 55-56 to be factual) years ago we used to "play fort".  This weekend we two "played the fort" in a much different and more age appropriate way.  Over the last while, Eric had learned that to one extent or another, we'd be welcome in Public Areas at Fort McCoy as Recreational users.  This weekend we Recreated!

A few years ago, actually more like 10, I had started digging into my great great grandfather's history around the Sparta, Wisconsin area.  Coming west from PA, they settled, renting at first and then buying property just outside of what is now Angelo.  Looking at various plat books of the area from back in the 1870's, I found the property listing for the Cooper side, still trying to find where his wife had lived though know from records that it was nearby.  While learning more about the Cooper part, I was curious about Fort McCoy which wasn't yet in existence in the late 1800's, rather it began in 1909, later growing in size to its current size of 90 sq. miles.

In the image below, I've highlighted in red where Isaac's property was, its eastern line on the western boundary of Fort McCoy.  By next summer (when we ride the area again) I'll have made contact with Cooper's that still live in the area and see what more I can both learn and share.

The north/south road just inside the Fort boundary is Burma Road and from there, through the trees, I could look down yesterday upon the building site from the high ridge that the Fort road snakes along.

Just leaving the campground Friday morning....

See what he does??  Churns up the soft stuff and then my bike gets all dirty.

The Ski Hill on Base....

Freshly graded gravel on the already-mentioned Burma Road.

Lots of Tank Crossing signs....we didn't see any moving.

Burma Road looking north...

Friday's stop at the Observation Point...Saturday we'd return when there was actual rapid fire target practice in the valley beyond.

A stop at the flowage....Eric pointed out a Golden Eagle that circled us once and then left.

Steeper than it looks, rubber sheets to control erosion.

It wasn't just Eric making a mess.....

This quite simply describes our weekend....

 We left the Fort, headed to Oakdale for lunch....Eric knew of a place...

Views like this a lot more of what we're used to...

Laughing Larry's Lunchroom....if there's even a remote possibility that you can stop, you should.  Larry's food is great, his company as'll thank me.  Two truck washing bays, one on each side, the CAFE in the center.

Place mats....pages from trucking magazines....the menu.

The door leading out to the wash bay....helpful reminders....

This especially caught my eye but wasn't acted upon.

Singing fish in the Men's room..."Don't worry, be happy"

This driver came into the diner, looking only for coffee but right away wanted to know which one of us had the KTM.  A motocrosser/flattracker going way back with even now a garage full of high powered machines, he appeared to be a lot more interested in talking "bikes" than in getting this load from Winona to Chicago.  We talked while his truck was getting clean, then he pulled it out for the guy behind him so that the other guy's truck could get clean.

We left Oakdale heading northeast, played around on some county roads north of Elroy, up through Kendall and finally back to near Angelo for dinner at Club Oasis.  Eric took charge of Friday's meal locations and the results are in.....he's now our designated Meal Locator.  The supper club served up an amazing Fish Fry, we were lucky to get there when we did.

Outsmarting ourselves, we stopped and picked up this wood that had asbestos-like proof.

Saturday morning, a solid 32 and foggy.

Up County E, bordering the eastern edge of McCoy.

Paul joined us for breakfast, really nice to see him again!

After a pleasant leisurely breakfast, Paul left for home, Eric and I circled around the north end of McCoy and down the west side.

Pointing out the 140 years ago home of Isaac Cooper.

Not really back to the campground but close, we approached the Observation Point from the east and discovered that there were target shots being fired.

When we got there, there were bursts of shooting and puffs of dust out there in the target area.


Our goal for the afternoon was to do the south section, south of Hwy 21.

Base housing....

Overlooking a vast open area....we'll later ride across it.

In a "city's" roundabout.....

Roads that go and go and go....

We quite literally saw hundreds of these bird houses.  Numbered, opened up with a tag...National Audubon Society.

Coop in one of the villages....

We never went through a CLOSED gate.....we didn't have to, none of them ever were.

We were finding softer....and then softer....

Some rougher too.....

After the Himalaya decided to take a prone rest in the soft sand....I've lost a few pounds, maybe lacked the strength to keep it upright???

At this point, I'm digging an irrigation ditch....much wheel motion, woefully little forward motion.

I knew he'd be up there somewhere....I had his track to follow though his much less pronounced than mine.

Some brushing here, a little there....good as new.

Eric wondering how many more times I'd tip it over....:)

 I weebled and I wobbled but I didn't fall down.

 Here we are on a mound in that large open area.

Barbecue in Tomah....and afterwards a stop for some wood that actually performed like wood should!

317 miles here represented by these red lines.

The North section of Fort McCoy and surrounds .....

The Southern section.....

This morning in our campsite.....

A balmy 42 at departure time....

 Not really ideal in deep sand....

Probability is extremely high that Eric and I will be visiting soft sand in the very near future with me using an outfit with this hookup instead.  I've confidence that even ol' Coop will be able to make this one go.

Hope springs eternal!

We had fun....we had enough fun that we're determined to go back and do it again next year.  Every one of those same roads can be run in reverse!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Dave, we had a good enough time to return, now that we know a bit more about how things look.

  2. Nice ride report...and yeah, the knobbies should help with the loose sand....the stuff looks like I would have engaged the 2WD on the Ural to deal with it.

    1. Thanks Dom, with that 3rd wheel dragging out there, I think you'd have needed 2WD for some of it, certainly not all.

  3. Your adventure brings back a lot of mixed memories. I dug a lot of foxholes in Fort McCoy sand. Looks like you had a lot more fun with it than I ever did.

    1. Scott, I can try to appreciate the difference. Our son just graduated from a school at Fort Benning and I thought of him a lot all weekend. I gave him a real hard time about Reveille blasting over multiple loudspeakers in the valley at 6AM but it didn't seem to bring out a bit of sympathy.

      Thank YOU for your service!

  4. OMG. "Let's play fort!" Oh man, that's a memory alright. It's like "Let's play house!", but for boys only. But you know, inevitably, there must have been a girl involved SOME time. Sheryl/Mary/The Putzes. Can't remember though. You having brought up the subject, will surely remember.
    I wonder if that is a common sentence said by boys everywhere/anywhere? NOT just in Roseville.

    1. I was hoping you'd chime in. I can remember a few of the places we played. Some of the Big Boys up the street had really cool ones....made out of honest to dog materials!! I also remember that if we got caught in them what might happen, we were sure of imminent death or worse, torture. Rick Speiss..someone up the street had a multi-story, maybe there were more??

      Some of those guys also were the ones first riding around on Honda Cubs and from what I remember either coming home or not from Vietnam.


      My brain starting to overheat and that memory bank needs a rest.....