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Make your escape
Itís springtime, a season for slipping into a driving mode and rambling. Among the limitless "best" driving destinations are long-time favorites and several new explorations to consider. The only criteria: Get up and go! With this seasonís high gas prices, the following suggestions are within a half-day drive from greater Milwaukee, making it easy on the pocketbook.


June 9, 2010

Crooked River Resort/Kickapoo Crossing
8019 State Highway 61, Readstown
(608) 629-9999

Kickapoo Valley Reserve
S3661 State Road 131, La Farge
(608) 625-2960

Wildcat Mountain State Park
E13660 State Highway 33, Ontario
(608) 337-4775


Kickapoo Valley

The snakelike Kickapoo River has earned its title as the crookedest river in Wisconsin. Early Native Americans had a sense of humor when naming the ancient waterway. The word "Kickapoo" is from the Algonquian meaning "he who goes here, then there." The 65-mile-long river valley is less than a mile wide, with its cliffsides home to several endangered plants.

The Kickapoo is the Wisconsin Riverís longest tributary, wandering about 130 miles from Wilton to Wauzeka. If a traveler could fly straight as a bird, this distance would be only 60 miles.

The Kickapoo Valley Reserve is a tract of lovely landscaping located between the villages of La Farge and Ontario. The area is jointly owned by the state and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in trust for the Ho-Chunk Nation. In 2002, a large segment of the reserve was designated as a State Natural Area.

The river itself is perfect for fishing or merely pleasure paddling. It has an easily manageable current that toddles along at a sleepy 2-1/2 mph. The Crooked River Resort and other outfitters offer tubes, canoes or kayaks, along with paddles, life jackets and seat cushions. Shuttles are generally available for a ride back to base.

Bicycling is popular throughout the up and down region, with 25 miles of paved roads in and around the reserve, connecting to more than 100 miles of both challenging and moderate roadways in the immediate vicinity. State Highway 131 north of Rockton is considered among Wisconsinís most picturesque pavements, meandering across the river several times within a short pedal.

The highway intersects with the boundary of Wildcat Mountain State Park. Among the 25.8 miles of prime hiking trails in the park, Hemlock Nature Trail and Mount Pisgah are extra-special for viewing May wildflowers. Benches along the steep route are handy for taking a break and admiring the vista. The peak is 1,220 rarified-for-Wisconsin feet above sea level.

Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau
101 W. Grandview Parkway Traverse City
(231) 947-1120(800) 940-1120

Mackinaw Area Visitors Bureau
10800 W. U.S. Highway 23 Mackinaw City
(231) 436-5664(800) 666-0160


Michiganís West Coast

Michigan is barely a sneeze to the east across Lake Michigan, whether driving around the southern tip of the lake or enjoying a ride across the S.S. Badger car ferry from Manitowoc to Ludington or the speedy, hair-tossing, Lake Express from Milwaukee to Muskegon. The latter can carry 46 vehicles and 12 motorcycles, with terminals on each side of the lake with Hertz car rentals.

Upon disembarking, 19 parks and beaches are within a short drive of the docks, with swimming, picnic areas, hiking, fishing and accompanying amenities for family or couple getaways. So be prepared with blankets, sand buckets, suntan lotion, sandals and wide hats. If caught short of shoreline supplies, there are always plenty of nearby gift and curio shops. Rentable condos, houses and hotel/motels in Grand Haven, Grand Rapids and Holland, as well as other communities stretching northward along the coast are eager to host Badgers in Wolverine County.

Duffers canít go wrong in Michigan. The stateís 900-plus golf courses place it among Americaís leading golf destinations. Top notch greens are found in the arc around Traverse City, whose residents brag they are a "complete golf destination," one constantly being renewed, updated and renovated.

For instance, the old Kingís Challenge, an Arnold Palmer-design on the lusciously landscaped Leelanau Peninsula, has just been reworked and renamed as the Manitou Passage Golf Club.

But the big game in town back in 1763 was lacrosse, not golf. During a match watched by soldiers at old Fort Michilimackinac, the local Ojibwe left the playing field and captured the compound. Hundreds of re-enactors re-create that event on Memorial Day weekend at Colonial Michilimackinac, a National Historic Landmark. The festivities include an 18th century trade show.

The fort grounds are at the foot of the 26,372-foot-long Mackinac Bridge, open for hardy runners on Saturday, May 29. To participate in the annual race, runners need to preregister and be able to gallop a minimum of 12 minutes per mile.

Sweetie Pies in Fish Creekís Settlement Shops: The shopís "mile-high" apple concoction or the traditional cherry are perfect for sneaking back to a campground or motel room. For those who canít decide on which pie is best, the "threeberry" is the way to go, with its mix of blueberry, raspberry and blackberry. By calling in advance, two persons (first-come, first-served; 16 and older) can help make pies on Tuesday and Thursday production days, June through August. Sweetie Pies, 9106 Highway 42, Fish Creek, (920) 868-2743

Door County Coffee & Tea: This relaxing coffeehouse was launched in 1993 with 100-some brews now offered at its retail outlet. The company roasts kickback Specialty Class 1 Arabica in small batches through what industry gurus call a "fluidized air-bed roaster." Technicals aside, the results are evident in each cup. This cozy getaway is about six miles north of Sturgeon Bay, in the crossroads of Carlsville. For a wake-me-up kick, the drive-through opens at 6:30 a.m. Door County Coffee & Tea Co.,5773 Highway 42, Sturgeon Bay, (920) 743-8930 or (800) 856-6613.

Deathís Door Vodka: Then comes evening sipping, unwinding harbor side with a Deathís Door small-batch vodka, made from organically grown wheat from Washington Island. The name refers to the dangerous waterway between the peninsula and its islands, a challenge to old-time and todayís sailors alike.


Door County

The "thumb" on Wisconsinís mitten-shaped map, the 70-mile-long Door County Peninsula has forever been one of the stateís best getaway values. Native Americans, French explorers and early Icelandic settlers realized that early on. Itís the same today. Whether hauling the family, doubling with a significant other or even going solo, whatís not to like about this chunk of woods, prairies and condo-dappled landscape. In addition to a car, the Door can be seen from the comforts of a trolley, a Segway Personal Transporter, horseback or oneís own folding Porta-Bote.

A vacationer quickly runs out of fingers and toes on which to count the possibilities: sports fishing off the 250 miles of Green Bay and Lake Michigan coastlines, dozens of galleries offering honestly good art, grazing deer, tent or RV camping, rigorous hiking, hilarious summer theater, aromatic fresh bread and locally made sweet jam. Add both miniature golf and lush 18-holers, fish boils, campfires and símores, sailing, explosive sunrises and mind-numbing sunsets.

Eat out your respective sand-encrusted hearts, Cape Cod, Baja and Florida. The Door has remote Rock Island, too.










Guthrie Theatre
818 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis
(612) 377-2224

Park Square Theater,
20 W. 7th Place, St. Paul
box office: (651) 291-7005
(877) 291-7001 (toll free)

Meritage Restaurant
410 St. Peter St.
(651) 222-5670

Penumbra Theater
270 N. Kent St., St. Paul
(651) 224-3180

La Grolla
452 Selby Ave.
(651) 221-1061


Twin Cities

Vacationers are not seeing double in Minnesota. There are actually two distinct cities comprising The Twin Cities including St. Paul and Minneapolis, making it the 13th largest metropolitan area in the United States.

St. Paul was named the territorial capital in 1849, awarding the town much needed prestige. The original settlement was better known as Pigís Eye Landing, after Pierre (Pigís Eye) Lambert who ran a roadhouse there. Yet the Rev. Lucien Galtier, one of the communityís first priests, got the locals to change the village name to that of his favorite saint. However, visitors can toast Lambertís memory with a tall, frosty pilsner from the medal-winning Pigís Eye Brewing Co. based in St. Paul.

Minneapolis got its start around Fort Snelling, established in 1819 at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Soldiers kept tabs both on British traders from Canada and the original native Dakota residents as they hunted mallards along these two flowages.

Thatís long past. But the fabulous Guthrie Theatre has a grand new home along the Mississippi, with the in-house Sea Change restaurant open for post-curtain fun. These days, such theater-restaurant combos are as abundant in the Twin Cities as baskets of lefsa at a Norwegian picnic.

St. Paulís Penumbra Theatre has offered the best in African American themes since its founding in 1976. Complementing Gus Edwardís "Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking," running through May 23, is Chef Antonio Tettamanziís nearby La Grolla. The restaurant regularly offers a three-course dinner/show package with Penumbra.

The Park Square Theatre and Meritage, both close to downtown St. Paulís Rice Park, make for a perfect marriage of stage and cuisine. The 35-year-old theater company is on a pedestrian mall near the World Trade Center. Look for the Midwestern premier of Katie Forgetteís "Sherlock Holmes and The Case of the Jersey Lily," running May 28 through June 23. Meritageís outdoor seating is perfect for a warm spring outing.


This story ran in the May 2010 issue of: