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#800102 - 09/09/12 03:04 AM Dances With Cows Too
Joe Frickin' Friday Offline


Registered: 07/28/00
Posts: 17552
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI (USA)

Here’s Day 1 of my ride tale for a recent trip I took to Wisconsin.
For noobs, the title is a reference to a similar trip I took two years ago.


Day 1: Thursday, August 9
Route: Ann Arbor, MI to Madison, WI
Distance: 268 miles in the saddle plus 78 miles by ferry

The last time I visited Wisconsin on my RT, things went so well that it would have been silly to expect the same level of perfection. And indeed, things on this trip got off to a questionable start. After weeks and weeks with no rain, southern Michigan was experiencing a troublesome drought – and then, on the day I was supposed to depart, it was raining hard enough that instead of riding into work that morning for a lunchtime departure, I opted to drive in, come home from work at noon and then ride out. On the plus side, that gave me a chance to have one last lunch with my wife before leaving town for a few days, so maybe it wasn’t all bad. (Hey, Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, right? grin)

Once I got on the road after lunch, it didn’t rain terribly hard, but it was enough to require rain gear – an annoying proposition when it’s warm out, especially since my Airglide jacket’s waterproof liner was also insulated. Still, a wet ride is better than an afternoon at work, so I didn’t grumble too much as I made my way toward Muskegon.

A few uneventful hours later, I arrived at the Lake Express car ferry terminal where I was greeted by three other riders who also happened to be taking the ferry that afternoon. I had timed things pretty tightly, and the ferry appeared in the harbor only about half an hour after I had arrived:

(If you’re unfamiliar with the LE ferry, it’s the sexy-lookin’ ship on the right)

Once I had my bike tied down on the vehicle deck, I went up topside to watch the crew finish departure preparations:

I was a bit puzzled when the deck crew finished their rope work and stood with their hands over their ears. I should have taken the hint: a few seconds later the ship’s horn sounded, alerting everyone within a fifteen-mile radius that we were about to back away from the pier.


Making our way down the Muskegon river to Lake Michigan:

The Muskegon shoreline has several lighthouses, and of course the ferry passes by all of them before reaching open water. First, the Muskegon Pier Light, which has been around in its present shape since 1903:

The last light before reaching open water is the Muskegon Breakwater Light, which has been around even longer, since 1871:

If you’re a lighthouse fanatic, don’t worry: ownership of both of these sites were recently transferred to the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, so you can expect them to be maintained for a long time to come.

Once we reached open water, the ferry promptly ramped up to full speed. Despite a very light drizzle falling from the sky, the sun deck had been crowded during the low-speed run across Muskegon lake. But once we reached Lake Michigan and hit our 32-knot cruise speed, the drizzle and cold gale coming across the deck proved too much for the rest of the passengers, most of whom were dressed for more mild conditions:

Me? Hey, I was head-to-toe in rain gear, and I still had my earplugs, so I was all set to enjoy pretty much anything Mother Nature cared to throw at us:

The teeny-bopper a few seats down from me wasn’t up here for the weather or the scenery. I’m pretty sure she was looking for privacy from her family as she busily exchanged text messages with the boyfriend she left back in port. grin

This spring was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. One of the most famous facts about the Titanic was that it only had enough lifeboat capacity for about half of the people on board. A stroll around the Lake Express reveals how far maritime safety has come in 100 years. For starters, if you’re a fan of Deadliest Catch, then you probably know what this is:

EPIRB stands for Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon. If the ship sinks, this device automatically separates from the hull and floats to the surface. An on-board GPS receiver determines its position, and then begins broadcasting that information to orbiting satellites. If the ship goes down, stay close to this thing: the US Coast Guard will be on the scene shortly.

The edge of the deck is also festooned with several of these large drums:

Each one contains a self-inflating life raft – and yes, there’s more than enough capacity for everyone on the ship. Moreover, they will not go down with the ship: that small yellow cannister on the hold-down strap is a pressure sensitive release mechanism. If it gets more than six feet below the surface of the lake, it will release the strap, allowing the drum to float free to the surface.

Off to one side, the ship also has a davit crane and a Zodiac boat, suitable for water rescues:

Life jackets are hidden in plain sight:

As well-equipped as this vessel is, her crew do their part, too. In early summer 2005 The Lake Express reported a signal flare that led to a Coast Guard rescue of another boat. Later that summer they directly rescued a hypothermic man from his capsized boat 20 miles out from Milwaukee (and a year later he got married on the Lake Express). Nice to know you’re in good hands when you’re on this ship. smile

After a half-hour of high-speed running, the lonely teeny-bopper headed below deck (no more cell phone service this far out grin). My only remaining topside companion was a middle-aged woman who was dressed for the weather, and seemed to be enjoying it as much as I was:

After enjoying the solitude on deck for a while, I retreated to the stern. This was still an outdoor area, but the relative shelter from the winds made for a more suitable environment in which to read:

By the time I finish this book, I expect to have all of you agreeing enthusiastically with whatever position I choose to espouse. rofl

Before long we arrived at the pier in Milwaukee, and I made my way the final 80 miles to Madison for a late dinner. If you’ve read my first Wisconsin ride tale, then you know exactly where I went for dinner:

And yes, that was almost enough ketchup. rofl

A short ride to my hotel on the west side of town finished my day. I had survived the least pleasant day of the trip – it wasn’t all that bad – and sheer riding bliss was just hours away.

#800127 - 09/09/12 12:24 PM Re: Dances With Cows Too [Re: Joe Frickin' Friday]
Kathy R Offline

Registered: 09/29/01
Posts: 9968
Originally Posted By: Joe Frickin' Friday

I just LOVE that photo!

I was intrigued by that book cover and found this interactive page


#800130 - 09/09/12 12:31 PM Re: Dances With Cows Too [Re: Kathy R]
Paul Mihalka Offline
Old Fart

Registered: 07/20/00
Posts: 12058
Loc: Sykesville, MD
Great start to a new ride tale. Dancing with cows: Just don't let them step on your toes... wave
Age is a issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter... (Mark Twain)
Many years and 1 million (s)miles.

'05 R1200GS lotsa miles (sold)
'09 Yamaha Majesty - yes, a scooter

#800201 - 09/10/12 02:47 AM Re: Dances With Cows Too [Re: Kathy R]
Joe Frickin' Friday Offline


Registered: 07/28/00
Posts: 17552
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI (USA)
Originally Posted By: Kathy R
I just LOVE that photo!

I have to confess: that's just a scan of a post card. dopeslap (but hey, at least it's a post card I bought in Madison... grin)

#800202 - 09/10/12 02:49 AM Day 2 of Dances With Cows Too [Re: Kathy R]
Joe Frickin' Friday Offline


Registered: 07/28/00
Posts: 17552
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI (USA)
Day 2: Friday, August 10
Route: Madison, WI to Hudson, WI
Distance: 392 miles

Although the first day had been rainy, the forecast for the remaining three days could not have been better: sunny, with highs in the mid-70’s. This was remarkably good timing, considering the blistering heat that had assailed the upper midwest for the previous month or so. I got up early to take advantage of it.

7:30 AM, my eisenpferd stood ready for departure:

My first stop of the day, greeting some locals:

Apparently cattle rustling is (mostly) a thing of the past, and so farmers resort to ear tags instead of branding; I rarely saw a cow on this trip that wasn’t sporting brightly colored plastic ear tags.

They say the cheapest thing on a BMW is the rider:

My tires were a bit low that morning. I would have happily paid for air, but in Wisconsin they’re just giving it away, so yay for me. grin

Corn country:

Yeah, it’s the dairy state, but they’ve got horses too:

Not my road, but I wish it was:

Don’t bother trying to corner a cow in this barn:

“My realtor sold me a real piece-of-crap house:”

When I first moved to Wisconsin as a little kid, I laughed and laughed at all the references to “Kickapoo.” It’s the name of a native-American tribe, but it has been co-opted by numerous businesses and landmarks in the state. No disrespect intended to the Kickapoo people, but if English is your first language, Kickapoo is funny.

Some damn big grain elevators (yes, that’ s a train going by in front of it):

For this shot, I removed my artificial leg and leaned on the bike for support:

(If you’ve never met me, no, I do NOT have an artificial left leg; it’s just resting on the footpeg, hidden by the sidecase. grin)

I’ve spoken before of the Mindoro Cut. It’s one of the twistier sections of my route, named for its summit where the pass through the ridge was notched out by hand a hundred years ago. Other riders know about this section of road, too:

And before anyone gets any ideas, yes, the town of Mindoro already has a hair salon called “The Mindoro Cut.” rofl

In stark contrast to southern Michigan, central Wisconsin seemed to be getting quite enough rain this season. The corn there was tall and healthy:

Cows are funny, funny animals. Coming down a straight stretch of road, I spotted a field with a dozen cows lying down in the afternoon sun. I rolled to a stop on the far side of the road, intending to taking a snapshot of them. The cows decided they weren’t going to take this lying down, so they all jumped to their feet and stared at me:

I don’t know what their deal was. Nervous? Curious? Or maybe they’re just used to being fed by a guy in a bright yellow jacket. Who knows…

These cows were, um, less interested in me:

The perfect weather and idyllic roads continued:

In Elmwood, I stopped at Sailer’s Meats to say hello to the UFO’s:

This cute little grill was also out on display:

After reaching Hudson a few miles later, I checked into my hotel, got tidied up a bit, and headed a few miles north to the Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter for dinner. Shortly before leaving for my trip, I posted a public dinner invitation for this evening; Brian Hagen (mnTwin on the board) accepted, made a reservation, and told me he and his family would meet me here. I arrived early and had an awkward time explaining myself to the restaurant’s host. I told him I was here to meet up with a guy I met over the internet – but I didn’t know his last name (for the reservation), didn’t know what he looked like, and I didn’t know how many people were going to be in our group. I wasn’t even sure whether he was here yet or not. I took a walk through the restaurant, hoping that if Brian was there, he might recognize me in my motorcycle gear. No joy, so I sent Brian a text message, and was rather relieved to find that he was still enroute. They arrived soon enough, and we sat down to enjoy some great German food together:

That’s Brian on the left with me, and his wife and kids on the right. Some of you met Brian and his son at the UnRally in Colorado this past June. If you want to know anything about Jimmy Buffet (especially where his next concert will be), ask Brian or his wife; they’re Buffet’s biggest fans. grin

Oh yeah, Mama’s got a squeeze box:

This lady was roaming the restaurant with her accordion all evening, and she played it like she had been playing her whole life.

On the way back to my hotel I stopped in Lowell Park in downtown Stillwater to behold the Stillwater Lift Bridge, which spans the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin:

(click on image to open full-size panoramic in a new browser window)

This bridge has been open for 81 years now, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. For more info on the bridge, here’s a shot of an informative plaque I found in the park. Through-truss bridges like this one are becoming increasingly rare as they reach the end of their useful life and are replaced by newer designs that are more in keeping with modern engineering and aesthetic sensibilities. I saw something similar on my previous trip to Wisconsin, when I found that a truss bridge near Durand had been replaced by a low, stout concrete-and-steel bridge. (The fact that I scoured the internet and could not find any pics of Durand’s new bridge speaks volumes about its aesthetic appeal. grin)

After taking in the scene for good long while, I trundled the last few miles back to the hotel and called it a night.

#800213 - 09/10/12 04:38 AM Re: Day 2 of Dances With Cows Too [Re: Joe Frickin' Friday]
mnTwin Offline

Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 335
Loc: Twin Cities, MN

Mitch, still kicking myself because I haven't done much riding in God's country this season. I did go to Torrey and the UN, but still...

Kudos to the squeeze box player--she played The Entertainer without breaking a sweat. Good music, good food, and good times!

#800240 - 09/10/12 01:34 PM Re: Day 2 of Dances With Cows Too [Re: Joe Frickin' Friday]
Albert Offline

Registered: 07/27/00
Posts: 4508
Loc: Southwestern, PA, USA
I always love your ride reports Mitch. Keep it going! thumbsup
Al (that's not my picture!)
06 RT

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."
Ernest Hemingway

#800286 - 09/10/12 05:20 PM Re: Day 2 of Dances With Cows Too [Re: Albert]
tallman Offline
Picture Perfect Humorist

Registered: 12/22/02
Posts: 19610
Loc: Tallahassee, Florida
Parrotheads in dairyland, who knew?

Al Capp's comic strip Lil Abner had Kickapoo characters and touted Kickapoo joy juice.

but I think the recipe was different even though this waas produced by Capp enterprises.
Keep the pics coming...
If my mind wanders, should I follow it?
Conch Town Krewe
2003 K 1200 GT
1996 R 100 RSL
1980 R 100 RT
1972 R 75
1968 R 50
All now gone...

#800309 - 09/10/12 07:51 PM Re: Day 2 of Dances With Cows Too [Re: mnTwin]
Rocer Offline

Registered: 10/22/08
Posts: 1182
Loc: Haliburton ON
Thanks for "Cows Too" Mitch and also for another look at the Milwaukee Clipper as you sailed past her. She's under renovation with tours available for the parts that are finished but there's also an online video tour.
The M.C. made round trips on the same route in either 6 or 7 hours depending on whether they fired up it's 4th boiler. Compared to the Lake Express running at 32 knots the M.C. ran at 18 knots consuming something like 5,500 U.S. gal of fuel. Ticket prices in 1950 were $3.33 / passenger + $8.00 / auto. This all from Wikipedia that you linked the first "Cows" ride report. How do these numbers compare with your experience?

It's always great to have a little boating thrown in with a ride report. Thanks again.

Edited by Rocer (09/10/12 07:53 PM)
“Stay where you’re to till we comes where you’re at “

00 R1100RT

#800321 - 09/10/12 09:04 PM Re: Day 2 of Dances With Cows Too [Re: Rocer]
Joe Frickin' Friday Offline


Registered: 07/28/00
Posts: 17552
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI (USA)
Originally Posted By: Rocer
Compared to the Lake Express running at 32 knots the M.C. ran at 18 knots consuming something like 5,500 U.S. gal of fuel. Ticket prices in 1950 were $3.33 / passenger + $8.00 / auto. This all from Wikipedia that you linked the first "Cows" ride report. How do these numbers compare with your experience?

Round trip for me was $135; round trip for the motorcycle was $80. So grand total, $215, or $108 one way (compared to your $11.33 one way for the Milwaukee Clipper).

Re: fuel consumption, I couldn't find any specific figures, but I did an estimate based on typical diesel engine fuel consumption rates and the assumption that the Lake Express uses 10,000 of its available 12,000 horsepower: I came up with 1100 gallons of diesel used for a single crossing. That's a lot less than the Clipper, but then it also carries far fewer cars and passengers.

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