Monday, August 3

Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive on the BMW F650GS

Sometimes letting go is the only thing to do. I had another 1000 plus miles weekend planned. What I have to show is roughly 320 miles on the GS and less than 50 on the ST. Recall, I'm in the BMW mileage contest--I think, which is another story I'll save for another time.

Saturday I had research on the Underground Railroad planned that would take me to Indiana and OH. Excitement? Anticipation? Anxiety? I don't know. But I didn't sleep Friday and by 4am Saturday morning, just two hours from the time I wanted to depart, I was sleepy, cranky, and bewailing the insomnia that seems to have a stranglehold on me. I canceled the trip and for the rest of the day dragged around, doing an incredible performance of a zombie that was nothing short of academy award winning.

Sunday, I would spend the day with Dave's new BMW F650GS, the twin engine, detuned 800cc. His knee problems have him temporarily sidelined. I am going to hang in there and make this sacrifice to help him out by doing the honorable thing and helping to take care of his bike. It's tough work, but I'm willing to go the distance. Dave, I've got your back--or is that "...your bike."
I was up early preparing the bike--probably should have done that the night before. But we have our rituals. Well, my Cortech tank bag couldn't be attached properly. Neither did a second tank bag I tried. It took close to an hour of frustrating fiddling. Dave's tank bag is a towering top hat sort of bag, which is simply not to my liking. I rigged up my small tank bag, which sat cock-eyed on the tank. I departed almost two hours later than I planned.

Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive (KMSD) has been calling me for a a long time.
It starts near Whitewater and ends about 115 miles northerly at the Sheboygan Marsh near Elkhart Lake. I'm more than 100 miles away so getting an early start is key. To me, it is never too early to head out. I live for those times, where I can motor along without all my defenses on extreme high alert, a time when the streets are quiet, almost barren. Some are entirely devoid of cars, which can feel like I'm alone in the world. I can settle back a bit and enjoy the hum of the F800ST engine, take in the smells of nature--alive and dead-- and the observe landscape whizzing by. It's a time that also brings out deer in search of breakfast.

I decided to take the back way to WI, avoiding the Interstate and tollway. Any chance I get, I will do the northern portion of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, which carries me through some of Chicago's finest neighborhoods. It's the route I like most because it winds along Lake Michigan, allowing gorgeous views. On an early Sunday morning this normally congested route has few cars but in place of this are bicyclists--tons of them. They are ubiquitous! They ride solo and in packs--sometimes four abreast, taking up 3/4 of the lane with impunity! As a former bicyclist, I always wave and give them their space. In addition, motorcyclists were out in droves Sunday. Before losing sight of the lake, I saw a beautiful doe in Winnetka, appear instantly on the street. She looked lost and confused as she pranced across Sheridan Road. I wished her safety and kept moving. Probably etched in her DNA is residue memory that what is now Sheridan Road used to be prime foraging ground before the humans came.

It took more than a couple of hours to reach WI but on days like this, when the weather is perfect, time is never really an issue. Still, by the time I located the start to being the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive, the chances of completing the entire course were fading. In all, I did approximately 1/4 of the KMSD but that was enough to assure my return to do the complete route and the Holy Hill side trip. The KMSD is made up of several units within the Kettle Moraine State Forest, which covers thousands of acres of land. My ride was limited to the Southern Unit. The roads are replete with long sweeping curves and rolling hills. Motoring along quiet county roads like "H" and "ZZ" "VV" are nothing short of amazing. County road C is a favorite. Look for the green and white acorn shape signs and follow along. At times that's challenging but even getting terribly lost on these roads is fun. Just let go.

Let no one say that the Midwest is only flat and straight. The KMSD demonstrates advancing and retreating of the Wisconsin glacier thousands of years ago. The diversity in the landscape is breath-taking. The road curves, sweeps, has rolling hills and beautiful cliffs. Moraines that are hundreds of feet high can still be seen in the area. It is worth a stop at the Kettle Moraine State Park, where the history of the area can be demystified.

Along the route one encounters interesting historical sites and enough quaint stores and shops to help break up the isolation of the county roads. I should have snapped a photo of one obviously popular place where a bunch of bicyclists and motorcyclists co-existed over ice cream or a cold beverage.

Although there are plenty of photo ops on the site, I didn't take many. Pulling over on many of the roads takes considerable care as many of the shoulders are filled with sand and gravel, which makes sense given that moraine are comprised of gravel, rock and sand. Curves can be tricky in spots and stopping requires careful footing. I settled back and just enjoyed the ride. I plan to return soon. I realize now this trip warrants an overnight stay so that I'm ready to roll in WI the day of the ride and devote an entire day to riding all the units. Stay tuned.

I rode enough to do a little review of the F650GS, which I'll post in a few days. I will say, it is a fun bike with great ergos and enough power to hang with the big guys. It has, without question, a tortuous stock seat. More later on the incredible GS twin.

Mileage: 320
Fun factor: 8 out of 10
Letting go: 10/10


Unknown said...


These roads with gravel shoulders and few places to pull over safely is just the ticket for using your Video Cam. Nice GS. I think that one day it may like to explore the backroads of British Columbia.

Your posts are always precise and filled with detail. It is very evident that you do a lot of research and planning before you put "pen to paper"

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

irondad said...

Poor baby! Having to endure riding a new bike to help out a friend. Then pile on all that wonderful scenery. I feel so badly for you! :)

It's interesting what you mentioned about letting go. Sometimes I find myself going someplace just to rack up miles. That probably shouldn't be the motivating factor, should it?

Steve Williams said...

Sounds like a great ride and the landscape is wonderful. We have some end moraine regions northwest of here but I have not explored them much.

Reading your comments about the doe appearing in the road has retriggered one of my subconscious concerns to rise to the surface. Again. Deer strikes.

We have so many deer here in Pennsylvania and are the number one deer-vehicle collison state. So there is good reason to wonder about the risk. And unfortunately the only real safeguard is to slow down. Not so painful on the scooter but more of a challenge on some of the motorcycles. At least at some mental level.

And it is a real challenge if you want to chew up hundreds of miles in a day. At times I feel like I may be playing some stange kind of lottery...

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sharon:

Your rides and mine have several things in common. One is the inability to sleep the night before. Whether it is the excitement of the event, or the anxiety that comes from thinking you're leaving something out, I too start most ridews with little or no sleep.

I too wil end up trying t get some piece of equipment onto the bike 20 minutes before I'm suypposed to go out the door... And it is never a seemless fit. I ususally end up leaving the gear at home.

Finally, the prettiest places along the road are those with absoluytely no room to pull over... Or they are on top of a cliff face, full of gravel, with negative camber.

I have no patience with deer. I have found them suddenly in front of me three times without warning, this month alone. Three of my friends have all hit deer on their motorcycles. One guy has hit them twice -- without dropping the bike.

According to the PA. Department of Fish and Game, deer can be hunted to within 15% of their total number, and make a total rebound in their numbers within two years. I think it's time to start handing out ammunition.

Great post... Great pictures. I sypathize with David and his knee problems.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads