2017 Wisconsin motorcycle trip

Day 1

This past year both John & Debby and Donna & I had been on trips that involved passing through the Gettysburg area. We thought it would be a nice place to vacation and spend more time at so we decided it would be our vacation spot for 2017. The number of bikes increased to five with the inclusion of our previous tripmate Patrick Countryman and his buddy Wes. Patrick's wife Christy couldn't come because of a new job.

Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. First the Potters, then the Kurdzioleks, had to withdraw from the trip due to circumstances beyond their control. This past spring we received more bad news. My brother Monty and his girlfriend Stephanie, who have been our fall tripmates since 2011, parted ways. It wasn't looking very good for group motorcycle trips this year. Donna & I started pondering places to go.

Tentative plans for our fall trip had been to go to Michigan. Donna suggested the southern Wisconsin area as an alternative. She also pondered going to St. Louis and seeing some of the sites as she had never been there. We've both wanted to revisit the American Pickers store near Davenport, IA since they built a new shop. A plan was forming! It eventually developed into this.

About a month before the trip Donna changed jobs within the hospital. She went from working five 8-hour days to three 12-hour days. Her new schedule allowed a couple days off prior to our trip so we decided to shift the trip ahead a couple days. This gives us a couple more days after the trip to relax and wind down.

June 13


Vacation day is finally here! The bike is clean. I spent a whole day polishing the trailer. It looks like new.

Another component of this trip is celebratory. The past few years we have done a lot of projects around the house: new metal roof; new siding; remodelled about 1/3 of the interior; built a roof over the rear deck; and refurbed the old garage with various projects. Donna has done a lot of landscaping. Anyone who has tried to do major home improvements on the nights and weekends while maintaining your life knows what a mental ordeal it is. This is the first trip we've taken in years where we didn't have house projects weighing on our minds.

On the puppy front, Donna's other daughter Kenya will be house and puppy-setting. Shanon, our usual dogsetter, now lives in Clarksville. My mom & dad will stop in when they collect the mail.


Bedford, IN. 8:54, initial mileage 93,233 - We didn't plan to leave until 9am or so, so we are on schedule. Donna got ice and some drinks for the cooler.

Soon we were off and northbound on IN-37. I brought up the routes in the GPS so it could navigate today's route. One problem. The routes weren't in there. Only the ones from last fall's trip. I guess I forgot to put them in.

I had mapping issues when making routes for this trip. My Garmin 478 is old and doesn't have a lot of memory. When updating maps it can only take a subset of the North America maps. I choose the North Eastern subset. It includes most of the states east of the Mississippi River and several west of it. It claims to include the states I need for this trip such as Missouri and Iowa. However I've found that after installation some states (including Missouri) aren't in the GPS.

From a software standpoint, Garmin seems to make everything difficult. Their instructions are hard to follow or are nonexistent and their help files suck. Supposedly I should be able to manually load the maps I need to the GPS. However, this never worked. The maps were always 'locked' for the GPS. I eventually found out what the trick is.

If I download new maps to the 478 GPS I have on the bike Mapsource associates the maps with that particular GPS. However, if I download new maps to Donna's Nuvi Mapsource then associates the maps with the Nuvi and they are considered 'locked' to the 478 GPS. I have a 478 for the bike, a 478 for the Jeep Liberty, an old Nuvi for the Ford truck, Donna's Nuvi, and a newer Garmin RV GPS for the Volvo truck. Each time a GPS is updated it becomes the new 'owner' of the maps. To be able to manually load the maps to the GPS that GPS has to be the 'owner' of the maps. Once I figured it out I was able to download all the states I needed for the trip. Apparently in all this confusion I never loaded the routes for the trip into the GPS.

In my trip reports I often speak ill of my old 478 GPS. Most people probably wonder why I don't buy something newer. The 478 is an "oldy but goody". It is an auto/marine unit with a non-touchscreen that is very readable in direct sunlight. The screen is also highly customizable. The new GPSs, even the motorcycle versions, still have lots of aggravating issues with sunlight and programming and useability. So I continue to use my old 478 despite some annoyances with limited memory and slow responsiveness.


Riding through Ellettsville Donna requested a restroom break. Her morning coffee needed to leave. I used the opportunity to load the routes for the trip into the GPS. A problem solved. Look at that shiney trailer. Donna is also taking pictures with her Samsung S5 phone. It actually takes much better pictures than my camera...sharper and in widescreen format.

Donna's nickname for my home computer is my 'mistress' because I spend so much time on it. She calls my laptop my 'mini mistress'. When she walked back from the convenience store she teased me about only lasting 30 miles before I had to fondle the mini mistress. She's so funny.


My sweetheart and I.


Whenever I ride IN-46 it reminds me of going back and forth to college from 1981 to 1985. It's hard to believe I graduated over 32 years ago. I'm old. It's nice to be traveling this road for pleasure and starting our vacation.

We got some light rain for about 30 seconds from an unseen cloud. It felt good.


I can remember when this spur east of Riley was active. Now it is abandoned. As a train nerd it saddens me. The economic reason for the spur is gone, followed by the railroad. There used to be active train crossings in Ellettsville and Hoffman Crossing. Now they only exist in our memories. I will be on the lookout for trains this trip.

I was surprised how much development has popped up between I-70 and US40. It used to be farmland. There's now a highway IN-641 that provides a thoroughfare between IN-46 and US41.


The first stop for the trip is to show Donna where I went to college...Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. She has never been here and I know from Google map views there have been lots of changes since I was here in the early 80's. The campus should be quiet since this is the summer quarter.


This is Speed Hall where I stayed my freshman year. This used to be the last building on a dead end road. Now the road circles the campus and there are probably a half dozen new dorms and apartment buildings along the way. The cafeteria building is much larger now and is undergoing a renovation. The classroom buildings are at the heart of the campus. They've added at least two more new buildings from what I could see.


This is Sharpenberg Hall where I spent my sophomore year. They've did a lot of landscaping. There used to be a parking lot in front of the building. Now it is across the creek in conjuction with a new, huge gymnasium. In 1985 the gym was an old airplane hanger.


I'm glad to see the old 'Rose Polytechnic' smoke stack is still standing. We rapelled off part of this in ROTC. The buildings behind the stack are the classroom complex.


Here are the apartments where I stayed my junior year. It appears they have been usurped by the fraternities.

When I was at Rose it was a 'men only' school. No girls and really laid back. They started admitting women in the mid-90's. Nothing wrong with that but it kind of killed the mystique in my mind. Nearby St. Mary-of-the-Woods is 'all female' so the two schools balanced out. A speaker at school once called Rose a "bastion of conservatism". I always liked that description and was proud of the school's conservative traditions. Recently the current president spoke out publicly against some of President Trump's policies. I guess the place has lost some of its conservatism. Sigh...


The Terre Haute courthouse.

Leaving Rose-Hulman, we took Wabash Avenue through town. I was going to show Donna the house we stayed at my senior year but things have changed so much I had no idea where it was. I couldn't find the Burger King I used as a reference. We passed thru the city center then headed north on IN-63. Terre Haute used to be a major rail hub but I noticed some of the railroad trackage was gone. A rail line used to run along the north side of Rose-Hulman. Now only the overgrown railbed is left. Sigh...


I get to see this happy smile for a whole week.


An annoying component of this trip is the heat. It has been beautiful but the day of our trip temperatures increased into the 90's with no immediate end in sight. At least we have humidity to cool us as we move. In preparation for the trip Donna had purchased some spray-on sun screen. I normally dislike sun screen, but this stuff was great. Not greasy, and it smelled good.

As we headed up the highway I suddenly got a sick, scary feeling. Did I remember to put the laptop back in the trailer in Ellettsville? Did I leave it on the trailer fender while I was talking to Donna? Surely not...but did I? I pulled over and checked. The laptop was in the trailer.


Our next stop is at the Beef House Restaurant at the intersection of I-74 and IN-63 near Covington, IN. They serve great food. Their sign agrees it is hot.


Parked at the Beef House. Donna is ready to eat. We both did the lunch buffet. Their food is excellent, comes in large portions, and is priced well. I had chicken & noodles over mashed potatoes. It was good, but because of the heat I only ate about half of it. Donna was the same.


Covington, IN. 12:51, mileage 93,372 - We gassed up at the Pilot Travel Center across the road. We have hit all our planned stops. Now we have 303 miles to go to our destination in Madison, WI. We'll take I-74 to Danville but then it will be two-lanes the rest of the way.


As we looped around Danville, IL, we saw some windmill parts loaded onto railroad flatcars. Ahhhhh...trains.


We took IL-1 out of Danville. The puffy clouds provided some temporary relief from the sun and heat. Even 'sun queen' Donna was thankful for the clouds. The landscape was flat farm land. There were lots of beautiful, old, large farm houses surrounded by hundreds of acres of crops.


At Watseka we sat through a stoplight to let an ambulance pass. Donna had remembered earlier that she had forgotten to pack her pillow. There was a Walmart in sight so we decided to go there and find a pillow. It would be a nice break from the heat. Besides the pillow we also got some kleenex for Donna's allergies and some chapstick.


Last fall I went to Madison, WI, and purchased a Volvo VNL 780 that we will one day use to pull a toyhauler. There was a semi truck parts yard across the road from Walmart. We might need truck parts one day...but I hope not.

We got a few merciful sprinkles from a lone cloud.


Riding through Kankakee Donna got a good picture of the local railroad station.


We saw a bunch of antique cars around Kankakee. They must be having a rally or get together.


Anyone in the midwest is used to seeing tractors on the highway. This guy was courteous and pulled over for traffic. That is not as common.


I chose IL-113 leaving Kankakee because it follows the Kankakee River and I thought it might be scenic. However, about all we saw were the trees blocking the river view.


At Braidwood we waited forever for the stoplight to change. We noticed this 80-mph warning sign for the railroad crossing.


Coal City, IL. 14:58, mileage 93,493 - Our last fuel stop for the day. We gained an hour when we crossed into Illinois. My cellphone changes time automatically. My GPS, camera, and bike clock don't. The two guys walking away came over and checked out the trailer and discussed motorcycles. This seems to happen several times a day and makes me appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to take bike trips. Most of the people we talk to have that "one of these days" look in their eyes.


The radio station, the local bank sign, and the Goldwing all agreed it was 96*. It was hot. We have been listening to radio stations, preferably classic rock. Sometimes we listen to the popular stuff. Donna likes it but most of it seems juvenile and low-talent to me. They seem to repeat the same lines over and over. Song writing genius.


As we rolled into the open country we were soon greeted with heavy clouds. Donna said there were storms popping up to our east. It appeared we would miss them. A side benefit was no sun and a nice, cool breeze.


From a distance we noticed a large plume of smoke being wisked away by the winds. As we got closer we could see it was a structure fire. Hopefully not one of those nice old farm houses. We passed a fire tanker heading to the scene and saw another filling at a hydrant.


We were on IL-47 for about a hundred miles. I chose that road because it looked like it missed the surburbia of Chicago. Well, kind of. There were long stretches of country highway (which was nice) interrupted by fingers of suburbia and the related annoyance of stoplights. If I were to replot this route again I think IL-47 wouldn't make the cut. We followed this semi for a long time.


Near Starks one of those small pop up storms started raining on us. Not bad, but since I didn't have my face shield deployed we pulled into a BP station. It was full so I pulled in front of a biodiesel pump that was covered. We took the opportunity to use the restroom and refill the ice in the cooler. In ten minutes the rain was gone. Look at that shiny trailer.


A nice side benefit of the change in weather was a 20* degree drop in temperatures. It was very welcome.


We eventually reached the Wisconsin border and noticeably smoother roads.


We saw some huge, beautiful barns. The land is also becoming hillier which is a nice change.


At the town of Lake Geneva we rode by the lake of the same name. The beach was very narrow and right next to the highway. The town seemed nice and invited you to stay longer. This will be a benefit of having a toyhauler...we'll be dragging our hotel room with us for more flexibility.


Donna remembered she had forgotten to bring razor blades so we stopped at the Walgreens in Fort Atkinson, WI. Razor blades have gotten expensive over the years but they appear to be more expensive here judging by the grimmace on Donna's face. She bought the cheapest pack they had to get her by.

By now we had covered 398 miles, the temps are cooler, and we are getting close to the hotel. Donna has much to smile about.


At 19:48 we arrived at the Super 8 in Windsor. It felt good to be at our destination and have the longest ride of the trip behind us.


After checking in and unpacking we decided to walk next door to the A&W restaurant for supper. We spent the rest of the night taking showers and watching TV.

I slept well. Ahhhhhh....vacation.



428 miles.

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Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9
Epilogue





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