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Riding in Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota in the Fall

Part 1

I seem to only send in articles about riding outside the UK, well here is another one for which I make no apologies.

Following a couple of weeks on Florida in early September playing golf everyday with my son Mark and some friends I decided to head north to visit friends, Doyle and Karen in Wisconsin.

They are neighbours from across the street in Florida and Doyle is the person, that I suppose, got me into motorbiking in March 2017. That is a long story with which I shall not bore you.

Anyway, I flew from Orlando to Minneapolis St. Paul on September 22nd. Doyle picked me up and drove me to his place which is around 2 hours away near a small town in Wisconsin called Webster.

It happened that I left Florida just in time before Hurricane Ian hit the following week. I’m sure that everyone saw the terrible damage that caused.

While up in Wisconsin, the weather was decent for the time of year. Interestingly, 2 days before I got there it had been 92F (33C) and when I arrived it was 62F (16C) and it would stay roughly 10F above or below during the days of my stay.

Doyle and Karen’s place is in an area called Voyager Village about 10 miles east of Webster in Wisconsin. It is nothing like we know as a village. It is an area of forest and lakes of about 5500 acres dotted through with homes large and small, trailer homes and all sorts of other accommodations. There is a Golf and Country Club with its own airstrip where golfers fly in to play. All quite odd to a simple northern lad.

Doyle and Karen’s place built 3 years ago is a beautiful house with deer in the yard (garden), also I have seen bear walking through on a previous visit.

It is quiet and peaceful with no near neighbours. Endless timber for evening fire pit get-togethers. A wonderful place!

The first ride, the day after I got there was a gentle saunter of 50 miles or so, helping me get to grips with my Yamaha FJR 1300 which I hadn’t seen for 10 months. A bike I found on Craigslist in Minneapolis in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. Doyle was in Wisconsin at that time, and I asked if he’d go and take a look at it for me. I had agreed a price with the seller if it was all he said it was and Doyle went along. It was ONLY 2 hours there and 2 back for him. Anyway, he went and called me the next day and said the bike was on his driveway. He paid for it and rather naively trusted me to pay him!

Said bike is featured below along with Doyle’s Harley Road king, an ex-police bike, chromed up along with other add-ons.

Joe's FJR in the US

Doyle's Harley Road King

Readers of a previous travelogue from me might notice a passing similarity to the white bike there featured.

Anyway, back to the ride, we headed to a small town called Danbury, home of a famous deer story, the Jordan Buck statue (see below). In 1914 a young deer hunter by the name of James Jordan, while hunting along the nearby Yellow River shot what would become recognized as the world record typical whitetail buck. It is currently the 2nd highest scoring deer ever shot in the US. The scoring I believe relates to the number of points on the antlers. I’m open to correction!

Jordan Buck Deer Statue, Danbury WI

It just so happened that the Annual Danbury Deer festival was taking place Saturday which we all went along to with camping chairs to watch the parade.

Danbury is also home to a state-of-the-art gaming facility, the St Croix Casino run by the St Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin.

St Croix is the name of the river that forms the state line between Wisconsin and Minnesota some miles away.

The previous evening was All You Can Eat Fish Fry at the Yellow River Restaurant in Webster. Having been there a few years ago, this was not to be missed. The fish is a favourite of mine from living in Michigan, lake caught Walleye. Lovely!

Doyle, Karen and I were joined by a friend of theirs, Tina who has a weekend lake cottage in the area. She goes up every weekend she can from Minneapolis and fishes, hunts and loves the outdoor life.

A typical bar in the area will do Meat Raffles at certain times of the day. There was one on when we were there. I won a lump of beef, can’t remember what cut. It is in Karen’s freezer.

A super night with an excellent guitar vocalist entertaining everyone.

Sunday was to feature a longer ride. Doyle had planned a trip up to Superior, the town at the very western end of Lake Superior, with a return across the state line into Minnesota and then south and east back home.

As we set off, I was feeling the chill being a well known wimp. I was well covered up with a decent jacket, helmet and gloves. Doyle had a jacket, so it must have been chilly. Gloves but no headgear save for sunglasses. There is no requirement to wear head protection in neither Wisconsin nor Minnesota.

In fact, most states in the US don’t legally require head protection.

As we road the temperature gradually increased getting to about 19 degrees C by the time we made out first stop for breakfast.

Parked up for breakfast at the Manitou Inn

This was a roadside bar on the State Road 35 North called the Manitou Inn Bar and Grill.

The place was very busy with what is a very popular event in these parts, Sunday breakfast, often served with a beer or some other form of alcohol.

As essentially a non-drinker, I opted for tea as my drink of choice. You get a few funny looks for that in these parts. How English is that?

It turns out that Doyle’s father used to work in this bar and lived in a house across the yard which can be seen in the photo above. Doyle told me in confidence that he spent many a drunken night here. I was shocked!

As we came out to get back on the bikes, I noticed a sign on the roadside. It could only happen in the US. A picture of the sign was an absolute necessity, it features below.

It was a promotion for an event 2 weeks hence called the Testicle Festival. I took a photo with Doyle in the foreground and noted him as the donor!

I’m not sure if the bottom right-hand corner is legible but it says ‘Everybody has a ball’. Only in America!!

Ad for Testicle Festival in WI

Still laughing, off we trundled to Superior. Temperature rising slowly. After reaching Superior we turned west, crossed the State line into Minnesota and entered Jay Cooke States Park. Quiet magnificent roads with sweeping bends and hills.

We road down to a small town called Carlton in the park and because the roads were so great, we rode back the way we had come. Stopping on a bridge over the St. Louis River another few photos were taken.

St Louis River, Jay Cooke State Park MN

Followed by another view of the river valley at a Veteran’s Memorial. This was a circular structure with a small stone wall surrounding and when standing in a small mound in the middle your voice could be heard echoing several times.

Memorial Plaque, St Louis River MN

It was a really strange thing to witness.

We had our picture taken by a fellow motorcyclist out for a a jolly on his Harley. Are there any other bikes in America?

Doyle and Joe at Veterans' Memorial

Following the memorial stop we noodled south down State Road 23 passing Pleasant Valley, Nickerson and stopped for a break and refreshments in a roadside bar in Duquette where we had a good natter with the lady owner.

Passing on near Sandstone, back through Danbury and home.

The roads in Wisconsin have an unusual way of naming, many are simply called County Road A, B, C, D etc, more minor roads are AA, BB etc. You need to know your way around these parts as there are so many forests, you can’t see the road for the trees.

I’m stopping here for now, calling this Part 1. Not sure if there’ll be a clamour for Part 2 or more. I’ll await reaction to this before putting pen to paper. If Part 2 sees the light of day it’ll feature time spent at an ‘off-grid’ home, a motorbike trip through Doyle’s life in Minnesota. More friends of Karen and Doyle’s introduced.

I can thoroughly recommend this part of the world for a motorbike tour. The roads are extremely good and quiet, the people are very friendly and the space is mind boggling!

Joe Leech


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