As stated before I'm obsessed with the Rustic Roads program that is offered in Wisconsin. This collection of backroads gives me a run for my money and this road trip is no exception. I expect, no less, than one Rustic Road to lead me to the point of panic, anger, frustration, and annoyance with the state's inability to better mark these routes. They are so beautiful and give a true picture of Wisconsin that I really wish more had markers that guided the drivers from start to finish.
Because, after all, what is Wisconsin? That's right, Packers, beer, and cheese. That is what we're known for but I have to say that not much is said about the state. Hell, we're barely mentioned when a severe winter storm charges through, unless, it is breaking records in April than we're momentarily mentioned on the weather channel but even then it is from a local affiliate. It's not all bad that we're not making news, it can be said that this is a pretty, easy-going state that does its own thing. Which is even more of a reason to mark these Rustic Roads so everyone can see Wisconsin's true beauty. Hell, just ask our neighbors how beautiful our countrysides are, both Minnesota and Illinois love to block our roads every single weekend in the summer and twice as much during the holidays. But I digress.
This road trip started out on a cool morning with the first ice on the windows of the cars. A chilly 39 degrees with fog and frost on the fields and in the ditches. I left early knowing that it was going to be a long day on the road which lead to driving into the sun but also allowed me to watch the fog be lifted up off of the ground by the rising sun that was blinding me as I headed East. There were a few areas where the road and the cars before me disappeared into the thick fog only to wonder if the road still existed on the other side. Such a great way to start the day.
Then the challenges started to present themselves. The first being my fellow drivers along the highway. I've said it once and I'll keep saying it until people learn to drive properly. I do not care how fast you are driving so long as you are not slowing me down or hogging the left lane. Likewise, you should not care about how fast I'm driving or be "offended" when I come up alongside you to pass. Twice, two cars in a row, I move into the left lane to pass and just as I'm about to they decide to speed up, only to slow back down a few feet later. I do NOT play this game and floored it passed the first guy and caught up to the second one. Who, saw that I was going to pass him and also decided to speed up. Truly guys, who the hell are you trying to fool. You and I both know not only are you not going to maintain that higher speed but you don't have the balls to go a long distance AT that high speed, but I do have the balls. So, I speed up and there is a bit of a race before he realizes I'm not backing down and leave him in the dust. After that, neither of them ever came near my care again. See. I knew you didn't have it in you.
It's almost like life. There will always be someone who wants to fight you to be ahead and you have a choice to either accept defeat or move forward. I always choose to move forward, they can stay in the past and eat my dust because I have better things to do than to play your game to soothe your ego.
I later turn onto another major Highway that heads East towards Wausa and Green Bay. The traffic starts out heavy but eventually fades away to a few cars here and there. Scenery turns in to more fields, farms, rolling hills and wait, is that a ShopKo in the middle of the field? Oh, yeah, it was and apparently still operating. It was literally in the middle of nowhere because there was no sign for a town and no way to turn off the highway to access it. So even though it is within spitting distance of a major highway there is no way for commuters or visitors to easily access. I guess you need to know the secret passage to get to it because it didn't look like the roads near it were well marked. In fact, it was almost five miles past it before there was any sort of a turn off for that side of the road. Interesting. Then again, typical Wisconsin.
Moving on, I finally reach the first Rustic Road which I almost missed completely because it wasn't well-marked and I had a semi blocking the right lane. I quickly dodged over and off of the shoulder and was able to make, albeit, extremely sharp right turn without squawking any tires or causing any accidents; thank you Universe. The next Rustic Road was closed due to road construction, yeah like that is going to stop me. There is more than one way to access these roads and I'm determined to do it. So I did, a little old-school map reading later and I was on the opposite enjoying the Rustic Road drive.
Then came Rustic Road 24. The one that is the symbol of a true Rustic Road. This route ended in the middle of NOWHERE, with no way of turning around and as I continued forward the road kept getting more and more narrower and the trees were getting thicker and hung over the road lower and lower. We also had some pretty wicked storms pass over us in the last 24 hours and this area wasn't spared, twigs, branches, and parts of trees lined the road and the dirt road became a rock road. Rocks that looked sharp, dangerous and threatened to pop my tires stared back at me as I tried to go fast to get the hell out of there but not to fast to cause myself problems.
This is also the road that would be seen on Unsolved Mysteries, "she went down that road and never returned." My hands start gripping the wheel and pushing back these thoughts as I fear this road will come to an end and I'll have no way of getting back to civilization or at least a paved road. The corners are also getting sharper and on a corner or two, there is an abandoned SUV or Pickup sitting on the side of the road. I fully expect someone to jump out, hit my car and say, "I need help, stop" and then that is the end of me, thankfully, that does not happen. But I do get the joy of meeting an SUV coming in the opposite direction which gives me hope that the road does lead to somewhere. Another turn reveals a large limb of a tree blocking part of the road and a stop sign behind it. I'm able to drive around it and just before the stop sign is another sign full of bullet holes. Now if that doesn't build my confidence, I don't know what will.
Finally, I'm back on a paved road and feel like I can breathe again. Whew! Heading back to reality and to the Rustic Roads the next ones turn out to be uneventful with one of them leading to a rich and wealthy community. I haven't seen beautiful homes like these in forever and can't help but slow down to take photos and enjoy the view. Some even have a hint of Southern Plantations.
But the Rustic Roads aren't going to let me get away so easily. As I near the last three for the day, I had to re-route myself to access one because of an event that was going which blocked the original access point. The second one was horribly marked which had me missing the turn and getting about 4 miles off track before figuring out and turning back. Lastly, the directions to the final one weren't correct, thankfully was able to GPS it but it too was badly marked. Thankfully I had the route's streets marked so I didn't have any issues.
It doesn't all end bad. As I was on the last part of the Rustic Road I came across a Trailhead and pulled in. By now, Aria and I had been in the car driving for over 6 hours without a break, now it was break time. She happily jumped out of the car and we took a few minutes to stretch our legs and enjoy some quiet time off of the road. An older couple was met, who were very friendly and complimenting Aria with no end. This, of course, got her excited and barking which is not bad but it is never just one bark. We finally went our sperate ways and I took this time to take some shots of Aria along the walk, I even gave her a few minutes of off-leash time. We then leashed back up and headed back to the car, finished up the route and headed over to Green Bay.
I'm a Choice Hotels gal, mainly, because they have more chains that are pet-friendly and their prices are reasonable. This stay is no exception and I had enough points for a free night stay; can't beat that! Even though it is under construction I am SO not impressed. Although I think every hotel along this road is under construction, but whatever. The lobby is small and cramped, parking lot is the same with limited parking spaces, however, they do have plenty of grassy areas to walk Aria. The water was luke-warm at best and I had to stand in ankle-deep water because the drain couldn't keep up with the water. But the rooms are clean and by 8p the halls are quiet. The locks are secure, in fact, so secure that even I had a hard time opening the door to unlock it. Plus after about 10-20 minutes the front desk called to see how my room was. Now I have NEVER had a Choice Hotels property ever do that, so they get a bit of a reprieve for that.
Tomorrow brings day two of my Green Bay Rustic Roads adventure and it'll also be the longest. Thank the Universe for caffeine. It won't be so bad once I'm heading back towards home because I'll be able to sit back, set the cruise and speed along. However, tomorrow does bring me to Lake Michigan, the Wisconsin Coast and a ferry ride over to Washington Island. It'll be Aria's first time on a boat, hope she likes it!!!
Here it is, day two of the Green Bay Rustic Roads road trip. It became obvious about halfway through the night that I have been way too focused on these Rustic Roads. How do I know? Because each and every dream I had revolved around the Rustic Roads, the routes to be taken and the views along the way. I finally gave up on sleep at 430a and began getting ready for the day's drive.
This was going to be a long day, obviously, getting longer since I'm up an hour before the alarm goes off. I do a quick check of everything and begin to plan the day. The part I'm dreading the most is the drive back to my hometown because it is going to be 5.5 hours long and I'll be driving at least that through the Rustic Roads and up to Northport. Deep breathes, I can do this but it is going to be a very long day.
Aria and I get ready and by 630a we're heading East, into the rising sun, for the first Rustic Road. I was blind 3/4 of the way to the beginning point of the route, which had me driving slower than usual to avoid hitting anyone or anything that should choose to jump out onto the road. Thankfully, I made it there without issue but the sun continued to blind be throughout the route which made taking photos frustrating and annoying. But I digress, made it through and was thankful that the route was well-marked. Point for me!
But I didn't give enough thanks to the Universe because the next few routes had me missing turns, and backtracking a couple of miles here and there to re-hook up with the correct route. Not a huge loss but adding them up was starting to put me behind schedule. My plan was to be at Northport by 1030a to catch the 11a Ferry over to Washington Island but as these little misses started adding up it was looking like that plan might not happen. Thankfully, my phone's GPS got enough of a signal to guide me through the last two routes and I was able to get back on time and make it to the Ferry on time. Blessed be!!
I arrived at the Pier right at 1030a and pulled up to the area for the autos taking the ferry. I paid the fee, used the facilities and headed back to the car where the ferry was pulling in. I took Aria out to let her see what was going on and even got a few pictures of her looking at the ferry that was backing into the pier to let the vehicles off. She was not impressed at all and was extremely happy to be back in the car. Once on the ferry and parked, she curled up on the floor in the back and let the light rocking of the boat put her at ease and eventually asleep for the 30-minute ride over to the Island.
I took this time to take photos of the lake and the mainland and then stood next to the car with my arms and head on the railing, letting the cool lake breeze push back my hair and blow away any remaining stress or worry about the day. It was a gorgeous day to be one the water and it relaxed me to the point of total peace all the way over. But as we pulled in the clock in my head started clicking. I was hoping to do the drive in time to make the 12p ferry back but there was no way that was going to happen and when I drove off there were a line of cars waiting to get on which could make even the 1p ferry hard to get on.
New goal, be back to the pier by 1230p to, hopefully, guarantee a spot on the 1p ferry because, according to the schedule, it leaves every hour on the hour and it is a first come, first serve basis. Thank the stars above this route is marked THE ENTIRE WAY!! Blessed be! Maps go away and I'm able to enjoy the entire Rustic Road route and even found a deserted beach for Aria and I to enjoy for a few minutes.
She was able to take a few minutes to enjoy the warm sand and cool Lake water against her paws while I took pictures of the shoreline and Rock Island in the distance. But the Islanders have a weird sense of humor. As I'm taking my photos something on a large boulder catches my eye, I turn and see it is a snake. I lean in a bit closer to see that the snake is blue. Uh, what? Why?
Not even going to ask any more than that, Aria and I have a schedule to keep and more of the Rustic Road to see. It's amazing how this small amount of downtime can really change your time frame but I don't care it was worth it but time is quickly ticking by and I have no idea where on the Island I am in reference to the Pier. Because even though the Rustic Road Route is marked the actual road is not. Finally, after a few more miles and turns, I see a sign that I remember from the map and know that I am close to the end. Almost there and I'm pushing 1215p, then I see the road ahead of me that'll take me back to the ferry.
I come around the last corner at 1228p and see the pier and TWO ferries. One that has the tail open and the other that appears to be backing in. I glance over at the ticket booth and the gal inside sticks her arm out and waves me on once, stops, looks to the boat, and waves it again a few more times. I quickly pull through, hand the guy my ticket and get onto the ferry. A few minutes later, 1235p to be exact, they are closing the gate and pulling out.
Wait, what? I thought you said you left every hour, on the hour, until 5p. Interesting but I'm not going to argue or complain this puts me 30 minutes ahead of schedule and I will gladly take it. I also realize that I haven't had anything to eat since 530p last night and know there aren't any immediate quick places to eat in the area.
Oh well, there are gas stations all over, eventually, I'll find something. The ferry pulls into the mainland, and I'll admit, it went a hell of a lot faster than the one over to the Island. Is this your last trip boys? Again, not going to complain. I get off of the ferry, make my way through Newport and head back over to Highway 42 to weave through the many, small towns that line the Lake Michigan Coastline which all seem to be having some sort of an Autumn Fest because the streets are lined with cars and pedestrians. Or maybe they're celebrating Pumpkin season because every other home or field was filled with pumpkins.
Once I made my way through them and got through Sturgeon Bay traffic backed off and speeds became faster and more consistent but still no food. I admit I was looking for a Kwik Trip which is gas station chain that is popular throughout Wisconsin and are quite heavy along this route, or so I thought. Apparently, when you're looking for something it can't be found.
But there has to be one in Green Bay, right? Right! But it is at the exit AFTER my turn off and I'm not about to play go around in this city. Two hours later, in the middle of nowhere, I not only find a Kwik Trip but it is a truck stop Kwik Trip. Thank the Universe. I've also had to use the facilities this whole time which was priority number one when I pulled in. After that, I looked at the food selection and was not impressed or hungry for any of it. But I forced myself to grab a cheeseburger to ward off a possible hunger headache. An added bonus was I had accrued enough points to make that one a FREE one. Oh, yeah! Thank you, Universe!! I haven't forgotten about Aria, this stop is also surrounded by grassy areas so Aria and I step out so she can do her business before we continue.
Now comes the miles until E game. Normally, this would have me sweating bullets but I also remember, from the drive up, that there are a lot of gas stations or truck stops along this route. The thing is I don't want to fill up too soon and use most of it to get home and have to fill up again in a day or two. If I can hold off as long as possible I'll have nearly a full tank by the time I get back home, leaving me to have gas for the rest of the week. I know it's fucked up the way I think but it's what I do. I'm also calculating the miles left in the tank to the miles on the GPS to the next major turn off which is near a major town. It can be done but it is going to be extremely close. Finally, I see the sign that says Cenex Truck Stop 33 miles which will put me right at the miles left to E spot I want to be. Done and done!!
But if you think my car isn't sarcastic you are sorely mistaken. After I see this sign and do a quick calculation in my head the miles to E begin to drop at a steady and quick pace. I literally curl my lip at it and say, "don't care, we're not stopping until exit 91." Which is where this truck stop is located. I make it with miles to spare, pull in, gas up, use the facilities, grab a sandwich and chips from Subway and hit the road again. Ten minutes later I'm turning on Highway 53, the last section of Highway that'll allow me to drive a high speed; legally.
I'm not on this route, which is only 32 miles long, for a mile and it starts to feel like I've been on it for 10. Groan, this route feels like the longest route in the world and I swear the miles on the GPS were clicking down slower than usual. I groan, want to cry and get the hell off of this road but there's nothing I can do but grip the wheel and take it. I roll down the windows and turn on the a/c. The cool air revives me and helps me get through these miles until my next turn off.
Finally, I'm in the last 20 mile stretch of my journey and halfway through those miles, I'm once again driving straight into the Sun, this time setting. Do I have the timing or what? At least I know this route and the turns but it was still a pain in the ass to drive. Plus I live in the country and this is the time of day the deer are out, lining the road or jumping up out of the ditches. Thankfully, once again, I made it home without issue.
In the end, this was an amazing trip and no matter what happens along the way I so love taking these road trips. I learn a lot about the areas and myself each and every time and wouldn't trade the experiences for the world.
Driving across country can bring about some interesting situations. Broken down on a day by day basis enjoy my adventures and set backs along the way to some beautiful destinations.