The plan began I don’t know when. My buddy Jameson (lamoson) and I both have wanted to ride the TWAT for quite awhile. We hadn’t settled on where when or how until the planets had aligned just right. See, my wife and I were selling our house, and I knew I’d need some way to relax after all that. Jameson had spent the past eternity rehabbing his house and was finally seeing its completion nearing. So 2 weeks after closing on my house, we planned to jump ship on a Sunday afternoon, with strict requirement that I be back before Friday for a rehearsal dinner for my sister in-laws wedding. Years ago, I missed my other sister in-laws rehearsal dinner, so I was responsible to not make the same mistake twice. Don’t Be Late!!!
Our plan was straight forward. I’d leave my house on my KTM 350. Meet Jameson at his place near Lake Geneva, WI. We’d leave Sunday afternoon, following Stateline Road West to the start of the TWAT. We would then head North on the TWAT to my parents cabin near Soldiers Grove, WI right off the TWAT. From there, we’d blast our way North. We’d go as far as we could, and camp along the way. We’d blast our way North, and then do the same, heading South, back home to arrive sometime Thursday PM. I secretly thought…..ehh, I can get home Friday and be OK, but figured I’d plan on the safe end of things.
So a week or so before the ride, Jameson informs me, he’s got a 3rd guy looking to go with us. 2 problems for him. He was to be at a wedding the Sunday that we were leaving, and according to him….he’s a nancy with a KTM 690 and riding from his place in Wisconsin to ride the TWAT was too far. This guy….I tell yah. Things ended up panning out however. Caleb decided that he’d be zonked from the wedding he was going to, so would drive\trailer out to Jameson & I near Soldiers Grove, WI. He’d meet up Monday AM, and we’d all roost into the distance.
To get things straight here, let’s sort out our cast of characters.
Myself – Riding my 2013 KTM 350 (pic in the old house….goodbye old friend)
Jameson – With his KTM 950
Caleb – Riding a KTM 690
Day 1 – Sunday…afternoon
I left my in-laws house (my current residence) to meetup with Jameson. It’s about 40 minutes from my place to Jamesons. About 2 minutes into the ride, I could tell it’d be….interesting. I’ve spent some time on my 350. From racing harescrambles, to gnarly riding out in Moab. This was a different ball of wax. I had a giant tank bag my dad gave me, with all sorts of luggage and crap strapped to the back. I had an area the size of my waist to sit, keeping me locked into one position. Not how I like to ride. I topped up with fuel, zeroed my trip meters, and was off to meetup with Jameson.
Jameson locked & loaded to roll:
I adjusted my luggage a bit, and neglected to take a picture, because, well….I have a tendency to not take pictures. I try, but I fail at times.
With that, we were off, and ready to hit the open road. Jameson navigated us along a handful of Wisconsin backroads, slowly meandering our way to meetup with Stateline Road. For those not familiar, Stateline Road weasels it’s way the border between Wisconsin and Illinois. The road starts about 5 minutes from my house, and works it’s way all the way west to Galena, IL or somewhere thereabouts. About an hour in, I needed to relieve myself, so as I tend to do while out riding solo, I found us a small park to rest at.
Don’t look so surprised –
At this point, we both reveled at the magic that is the Garmin Montana. I wirelessly synced data from my device to his. Magic. If you look close enough, you can see the data in the air.
We moseyed on, heading due West. Ok, not due West, but in a total zig-zag along the IL\WI Border. This was fun, but after awhile got to be annoying. That’s not right. The reality is this. You’re riding along farm fields, as far as your eyes can see. Corn to the left, Corn to the right. For some reason, they decide to put stop signs at every single intersection along the way. No one is out here. Cows, maybe. I don’t know. I didn’t care however, as we were riding, the sun was out, and we were enjoying it.
Somewhere along the way, we crossed this bridge, and I took a picture:
At this point, we weren’t too far from the actual start of the TWAT. I think I was about 150 miles in? I was soaking up the fact that my 350 was getting 55-60mpg thus far (and would for the rest of the trip) meanwhile, the 950 was somewhere in the 30-35mpg range. But that doesn’t matter, because fossil fuels be damned. We had to ride!
First proper stop along the way was a little jaunt that puts you in the Mississippi River
Sunsets and god awful garbage can windscreens
We headed back onto the trail, at which point I saw a Rustic Road sign. I’m doing my best to catalog them (of which there are 115, and I’ve done now 25 or so)
The TWAT works its way along the Mississippi North (I think?). Pretty early on, you hit a gravely section. This Southern portion of the route gets you into the zone of that overhanging rock, you know, the one with all the stuff you’ve seen 10,000 times….
Struttin’ Jameson approves
Now this is where we got confused. Ok, I shouldn’t say “we”, but more so Me\I. This is the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail, and not far in, it appears to have a doozy of a jaunt West into Iowa for awhile around Prairie Du Chien. I can’t and won’t complain. I was riding, and enjoying it. The roads over here were awesome. We however were running into one teeny weeny polkadot bikini of a problem. Daylight. Yes, I had installed some fancy pants LED’s on my bike, but it is prime Field Rodent…err Deer season, and I’d prefer to keep things upright as best I could, and not interfere with 4 legged beasts.
My initial concern of 4 legged land beasts was for Deer. Somewhere on this Iowa jaunt, another 4 legged beast became my primary concern. We were on a small back road, with an apparent cattle farm to our side. This is normally not an issue, however in this situation, there appeared to be 2 younger beef production units in the middle of the road. On the side, inside the fence is what appeared to be the mother, giving these beasts the stink eye.
At this point, I was ahead of Jameson….no lie, those KTM 350’s go like stink. So I come barreling down this road, and lay on my hoofs. My mighty steed comes to a screaching halt, as I see these 2 leather factories in the middle of the road. I sit there for a second, seeing Jameson isn’t too far behind. All of a sudden, these 2 goons turn towards me, and start getting huffy puffy, like 2 street tuffs. Jameson rolls up, and I ask….well…what’s your thoughts. We were both mildly unsure, so I figured, ok, let’s roll up slow, and when we’re nearby, lets gas it and get outa dodge. I give a mild honk, and begin motoring along. The 2 cows seem to get the idea, and move a bit towards the shoulder. All of a sudden it’s like these guys planned an ambush on us and start galloping right at me\us. Now at this point, I do my best to get the 350 moving. Unfortunately, I’m currently geared for extensive highway riding, and was in 3rd gear to keep my revs down to not spook the leathery beasts. I neglected to downshift and just about get run over by Jameson! Hells horses, we scoot another mile or so down the road and stop. Jameson relayed that he about got ramrodded by one of the cows, and was ready to take me out to get out of the way. We had a good chuckle, and got back on the road.
If they were 4 feet tall, I’d tell yah they were a mile.
A bit further down the road, we realized we needed to find our way out of Iowa, and over towards Soldiers grove for the evening.
I don’t have any pictures at this point, but I can put into words the next hour of riding. We found a cutoff in the Iowa side, on Cr-X52. We followed this North along the Mississippi until we got to Lansing. We zipped East on 82, and promptly South on 35 until we hit 171. Thankfully I’m relatively familiar with 171, as at this point it was pitch black outside, and my visor was absolutely coated in bugs. We wound our way along 171 and into Gays Mills, WI. We stopped in at the convenience store, grabbed some beer, and made our way to my parents cabin. By the time we got there, it was about 9pm. Around 10pm, Jameson decided he needed to change his rear tire. I opted to help by watching, and point out what he was doing wrong
After the tire swap, we called it a night. The next morning, Caleb would arrive, and we’d work our way North with great speed, and all that jazz.
Day 1 Map
Day 2 To follow –