Top Ten U.S. Road Biking Routes

Driftless Area, Wisconsin

Wisconsin got its nickname, the Badger State, not from the animal, but from the badger-like dens burrowed into the hillsides of its southwestern region by early 19th-century miners (known as "badgers") protecting their lead ore claims. That and a general sensitivity to the land (and of course the well-deserved reputation for cheese) are part of this state's heritage. Today, perhaps as a function of that, there is also a commendable awareness of the bicycle as a viable alternative means of transportation. An increasing number of state byways have been declared "Rustic Roads," indicating they pass over rugged terrain and through native vegetation and wildlife. Speed limits are restricted on these roads, making them perfect for the pedaler. If only this kind of civic-minded behavior would be copied elsewhere. . .

Southwestern Wisconsin is known to some as the Driftless Area. Unlike the rest of the state, it is characterized by steep hills and narrow valleys. In fact, it would make a New Englander feel right at home. The contrast is due to the wanderings of errant ice during the glacial ages, when the other two-thirds of the state was planed and scraped into more level submission. The land bergs never quite made it to the southwest. As a result, the more spectacular and gentle-handled effects of water and wind erosion are there for you to enjoy.

Some of the nicest cycling is in the area south of the Wisconsin River and west of Wisconsin Route 23. Consider two areas of indulgence. North of Route 18, you can tour Frank Lloyd Wright country; south of the same, you can visit some of the miner realms that helped give Wisconsin its character. The Spring Green Valley was the home of Mr. Wright, architectural genius who gave America some of its most distinctive and naturally inspired buildings. Works by this brilliant mind and his apprentices are easy to spot, and some of the more outstanding examples, like Taliesin and the House on the Rock, are tourist attractions in their own right. Farther to the south, Route 151 between Dodgeville and Platteville offers a different, industry-oriented look at this state's history. The Mining Museum in Platteville is a good place to start.


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