MINI PENNY: The Wisconsin Trip Part 1 // The Journey

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Wisconsin Trip Part 1 // The Journey

This road trip to Wisconsin is easily one of the best vacations I've taken in many, many years. I took a ton of photos, so I'm splitting these posts up into three! Today's is going to be the largest of them all, so be prepared for a lot of images after the jump.

Last Wednesday, my boyfriend and two of our friends left Chicago on Harleys and headed towards Northern Wisconsin. We had a few hiccups along the way, but overall it was hilariously fun and I would do it a million times over (except preferably with my own bike... wink). Click through for more of our adventures!

Day 1: Chicago to La Crosse, WI
We left the city early in the morning. From the get, we knew it was going to be a chilly one. Joel was extra smart and packed a billion extra layers, which I wholly took advantage of over the week. We weren't blessed with sunny rides. Instead, most of the trip was overcast and very windy. The first leg of the trip was a little stressful on my end considering I felt as though the back bag wasn't secured well enough, but we tore it apart and re-strapped it outside the city.

After that, we stopped at a Harley dealership in Janesville. We made a habit of stopping at many of these along the way to see what types of t-shirts they had available. I was on the hunt for a pair of leather gloves (which I ended up finding on the third day in Duluth!) and Natalie for a sweatshirt.

We rode along for quite some time before realizing we had missed an exit out in the country. But (!) luckily, we ended up near the New Glarus brewery! I'm not really "into" beer, but I got something cider-like and enjoyed the pit stop nonetheless. Touring the brewery itself was really fantastic.

And onward, we made a stop for gas in Black Earth, which has to be the coolest name for a town that I have ever heard. Onward, we began to hit a little rain and pulled off to a small convenience store to wait it out. A Kermit hockey purchase was a must, and we decided to call it a night in La Crosse. Two words: hot tub.

Day 2: La Crosse to Superior
We got back on it pretty early the next morning and were hoping to be met with better weather. The first part of our run was alright — some blue skies peaking in and out and no rain, but it was cold.

We were taking the scenic route to our destination, and I must say that Wisconsin reminds me a lot of southern Ohio! It was all strangely familiar to my childhood.

The ride was pretty easy and we made a few stops along the way to stretch our legs. Most of our friends who were traveling up from Chicago for the wedding were staying in cabins near the venue, but Joel and I were staying in Superior. We met up with a few people at the campground and proceeded north.

We all pulled over at The Hammond to get some grub, but since Joel and I weren't actually hungry, we called it a night. I only wanted photos of their cool signs, but everyone else wanted steaks. Hah! We checked into the hotel, got a burger at The Anchor Bar (highly recommended!) and relaxed after the long ride.

Day 3: Duluth and Superior
Joel and I had plans to spend the day exploring, but we were interrupted quite a bit with mechanical issues. Firstly, we noticed the bike was making a strange noise, so we rode to the Duluth Harley dealership to get it checked out. The bike is a '91 and this particular dealership wouldn't work on older bikes, so they gave us a recommendation to check out a local mechanic back in Superior.

Before heading back over the bridge, we stopped by a couple of stores. At that point, we were more concerned about getting the bike checked out and to possibly solve the problem at hand.

The shop ended up being in an industrial part of Superior. We pulled up on the motorcycle and I immediately noticed this row of old campers!

Okay, so the bike. The guy you see in the background is Wes, who works at Superior Motorcycles. He was our hero this day. He took off some covers and found that the primary chain was stretch. He didn't have the part, but told us where we could go get one. We walked down the street to another motorcycle shop (lots of people ride motorcycles up north, lucky for us!) and buy the chain. After taking it back to Wes, we find out that the chain we were sold wasn't the right length. We take it back to the other shop and go through a dance for a bit and it turns out that they didn't have the right length chain in. The bad news is that if one were to be ordered, it wouldn't come in for about a week. The good news is... maybe we can de-grime the existing chain enough to get us back to Chicago. So we go with the de-grime option after a few hours of working at the issue and are on our way. Wes was so incredibly helpful and helped us get back on the road.

So then we head back to Duluth for lunch and some malts. We walked around the lakefront and enjoyed the views and took it easy. After shakes, we head back to the bike and find that it won't start. Like, the damn ignition is just a click and nothing else. Lift up the seat and what do we see? One of the cables to the battery had snapped at the terminal. Shit.

By this point, Wes and Superior Motorcycles was closed. We had no option but to rig the connection and get ourselves back over the bridge to the shop that had inadvertently sold us the wrong chain. They were still open and after about an hour of shooting the breeze with some old timers, they made us a new cable and we were again on our way.

Damn, right? It felt like everything was going wrong. At this point, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the rehearsal dinner.

The rehearsal dinner was at Fairlawn Mansion, which is this huge building with lots of crazy patterns and decor on the inside. It was totally bonkers and beautiful, but we were exhausted. After eating, we cut back to the hotel for more hot tub and early bed times.

Day 4: The Wedding
We found what had to be the coolest coffee shop in town, Red Mug. This was our little breakfast spot before heading back over to Duluth to (hopefully) actually get to explore this time.

The great news is that we made it over the bridge and back and to the wedding! Firstly, Duluth had a lot of cool little shops to check out. I picked up some extra base layers for the ride home, some fancy root beer, and we made friends with butterflies.

The wedding itself was gorgeous. But I'll go into those photos and all that in other post.

Day 5: Solon Springs to Black River Falls
One of Joel's friends offered us his motorcycle to ride home for safe measure while he trailered Joel's ride home. That a true pal, right? I was worried that the ride would be less comfy, but it was just fine and Justin, Natalie, Joel and I started jamming south towards home.

Things were going alright (it was very windy), but then we popped up on an exit ramp to stretch our legs. As we're coming up the ramp, Joel looks over and sees a belt fall off of Justin's bike — no good.  Immediately, his bike is immobile and he begins pushing it to the motel across the street. At this point, Joel and I are pulled over at the side of the on ramp making some phone calls to friends, trying to figure out what to do.

A silver pick up drives up next to us and asks us if we need help. Inside is a husband and wife duo with a few kids. Joel begins explaining the situation and the man (Jody) gives us useful info about which nearby Harley dealerships are open on Sundays. And then asks us if we need a place to stay for the night or if he can help us tow the bike somewhere.

This type of thing doesn't really happen in Chicago.

Jody and his wife load up Justin's bike in their pick up while Joel and I ride back north to pick up the replacement part. It takes us about and hour to get to the dealership and back to Jody's house — and when we do, they're all helping take off bolts and get the problem solved.

It took about three hours altogether to fix that broken belt. We were all speechless that a family gave up their afternoons to help four total strangers with a broken motorcycle. It was around 6 or 6:30 when we were on our way south again, but we couldn't leave before giving the family lots of thank you and hugs and handshakes. They were the type of people who absolutely restore your faith that genuinely good people exist.

We made it to Black River falls for the evening and found yet another hot tub.

Day 6: Black River Falls to Chiacago, The Final Stretch
We stayed in this Arrowhead Lodge that had a whole lot of Twin Peaks vibes going on. It was great — we told our waiter our travel woes and he left the pool/hot tub open late for us and everything.

By the time morning came, we were ready to close out our last day of travel in a pseudo leisurely fashion
Our original plan the day before had been to get to Madison. Since we had that mishap with Justin's bike, we decided to re-route through Milwaukee and pit stop at the Harley Davidson Museum (more on that later this week!) to help avoid heavy Chicago rush hour traffic. The ride was, again, very windy and pretty cold, but the further south we got, the warmer I could feel it getting.

The Harley Museum was great, and we stopped at a necessary cheese castle for soups and sandwiches. By the time we rolled into Chicagoland, the Sears Tower was a sight for sore eyes. Traveling is always a blast, but coming home to my own bed is always my favorite ending.

Stay tuned to more posts this week about the wedding and the museum we visited!

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