Some days cannot be ignored when it comes to saying “everything else can wait — I’m going for a ride!”
Saturday, March 21, was one of those days here in Southwestern Wisconsin. Clear and cool with dazzling sunshine and blue skies, it was the perfect day to kick off the 2015 riding season with a day trip around Wisconsin’s Driftless Area.
The Driftless Area is so-named because none of the four glaciers that scraped away much of the ancient landforms that existed in pre-glacial times ever touched this part of Wisconsin. As a result, none of the detritus or “drift” of the glacial age exists here—so, geologists have called it the “Driftless area.”
The geology of the area provides land forms ranging from the broad, flat-bottomed river valley of the Wisconsin River to the tight, twisty steep upland cuts, valleys and coulees of the Kickapoo and Pecatonica River valleys, the Ocooch Mountains and roads that thread through these spectacular features. Along the way there are rolling green farmlands that are home to family farms in operation since the Civil War and striking sandstone towers, rock walls and pinnacles usually associated with Utah, not Wisconsin.
One of the stops on the trip was at Pier Park in the tiny village of
Rock Bridge — so named for one of those striking stone formations. Rock Bridge is about 10 miles north of Richland Center, Wis., on state highway 80.
Pier Park features a massive stone formation that has a long overhang at the main parking area that allows you to park under hundreds of tons of sandstone, top soil and towering pine trees whose roots systems are thirty feet overhead!
A naturally created tunnel runs from the entry side of the park about seventy feet right through the rock to the west side of the park and a foot bridge that crosses the Pine River. A stair case allows you to mount the top of the rock formation and walk on soil at the level it was thousands of years ago before the outwash from melting glaciers eroded the rest of it away and carried it off to the Mississippi.
From Rock Bridge, a good part of the morning was spent meandering town and county roads north of the Wisconsin River. Eventually, I reached the Sugar Maple MX course a couple of mile north the village of Hill Point on Tuckertown Road, off state highway 154.
Sugar Maple MX hosts AMA-sanctioned motocross racing for both motorcycles and ATVS and the action is pretty impressive. The course is demanding with lots of elevation changes and the kind of rugged track that tests riders of all ages and levels.
My ride brought me there during a practice day, so there wasn’t any competition underway, but there were lots of riders getting some work out on the course and some were riding as hard as if they had points on the line. That made for some great photo opportunities (2015 Sugar Maple MX schedule below).
A long loop east and south brought me back across the Wisconsin River to the Spring Green area, which features some architectural landmarks including Taliesin, the home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright who was originally from Wisconsin, though his career took him all over the world and the incredible creation known as House on the Rock, of another noted local architect, Alex Jordan. Both of those points of interest are located along state highway 23 south of Spring Green—but they weren’t stops on this trip.
Nearly every good day in the saddle in these parts includes a stop—or more than one—at some point along the broad Wisconsin River. The Lower Wisconsin Riverway is protected by landmark legislation passed back in the 1980s that prevents dams, locks and other commercial types of development from encroaching on the natural beauty of the river from Prairie du Sac all the way to the Mississippi River.
Only a few miles from home was my last stop of the day at the boat landing on the Wisconsin on the south shore of the river along state highway 133 near Lone Rock. From this vantage point, the return of migratory birds, Canada geese, ducks, cranes, aquatic birds and song birds of all kinds can be seen—as well as return of fishermen enjoying the open water.
This was my first chance to spend some serious saddle time on my Triumph T214 Bonneville. The Bonneville’s agility and moderately firm suspension made it a joy to ride on the twisty, technical back roads southwestern Wisconsin has to offer.
The claimed output of 68 horsepower at 7,500 rpm is not overwhelming, but it is user-friendly and comes on right where it does the most good on uphill curves. Of course, getting too frisky on the back roads at this time of year is risky because there is still a lot of sand and pea gravel in the corners and uphill sections left over from the town road crews making the roads drivable with snow and ice.
Brakes that aren’t overly-grabby are a good feature on sand-slick roads, too. On that count, the Triumph delivers, as well. Smooth, quiet and progressive to lever pressure, the twin piston Nissin non-ABS disc brakes front and rear are easy to get accustomed to.
The only question for me about the T214 was the seat—it is very traditional in configuration and very firm in construction. In the hours of easy back road touring I did, I was able to confirm those characteristics: very firm and not very contoured. It wasn’t uncomfortable, mind you, but it may not be perfect for really long days in the saddle or to all tastes. Being non-stepped, it does allow for a lot of position changes and standing on the footpegs to stretch out is also an option. For a day-trip, it worked pretty well.
So, the 2015 riding season got underway. But as I write this, it is snowing.
2015 Sugar Maple MX Schedule:
- April 19th (MX & ATV) No Points
- June 27th (Bikes Only) D16 Points
- June 28th (Bikes Only) D16 Points
- August 16th Hairscramble – Round 9 of the WIXC
- September 27th (Bikes Only) D16 Points
For more information on AMA sanction Sugar Maple Motocross, click here.