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"Old 41 from Milwaukee to Fondy"
Southern terminus: Milwaukee County, at U.S. Highways 41 & 45 in northwest Milwaukee
Northern terminus: Winnebago County, at U.S. Highway 45 south of Oshkosh
Mileage: about 68 miles
Counties along the way: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Winnebago
Sample towns along the way: Milwaukee, Menomonee Falls, Richfield, Slinger, Addison, Theresa, Lomira, Fond du Lac, North Fond du Lac
Bypass alternates at: You can use U.S. Highway 41 to bypass any town or section of Highway 175, since they parallel each other most of the way.
Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 175 basically is what U.S. Highway 41 was before the 4-lane expressway version opened in the mid-1950's. So basically, every town U.S. 41 skims past, Highway 175 goes through the heart of. It's an interesting study in how towns change when the main road is relocated; some spiffed up their main streets, some seemingly relocated everything toward the new highway. But if you've never really seen places like Lomira or Slinger or the downtowns of Menomonee Falls and Fond du Lac, take 175 instead of 41 and check ‘em out!
The Drive (South to North): Highway 175 picks up on Appleton Avenue where U.S. 41 veers off at the sweeping ramps along U.S. Highway 45 northbound (the Zoo Freeway, Exit 47A) in Milwaukee.
|Highway 175 ends with sweeping ramps to U.S. 45 just inside the Milwaukee city limits.|
Within blocks of the interchange, you reach Menomonee Falls (pop. 32,647), Wisconsin's largest "village" (they haven't gotten around to applying for city status yet.) Menomonee Falls occupies the northeastern corner of Waukesha County and serves as corporate headquarters for the Kohl's Corporation, Cousins Subs, and even Strong Funds before Eliot Spitzer got his hands on them.
Highway 175 is a six-lane boulevard heading into the downtown area, but tapers to a smaller street and enters the heart of downtown, referred to as the "Historic Village Centre". The downtown crossroads intersects with Highway 74 (Main Street) and passes a variety of craft stores, boutiques, salons and restaurants.
After Menomonee Falls and the rapid growth along County Line Road (where you enter Washington County), Highway 175 becomes more of a rural-type two-lane road and begins to string together a series of towns as the road to Fond du Lac begins, making for a nice drive in the country.
Part of that nice drive in the country includes scenic views, like from atop Meeker Hill (pictured below). Remember, this used to be U.S. 41 and all that through traffic must have had a tough time chugging through here, especially when people would travel up north for the weekend.
|Atop Meeker Hill, featuring a view topping 15-20 miles. As you can see, the view varies based on whether it's June or January.|
Highway 175 provides good access to the twin steeples of Holy Hill, by either heading west at the Highway 167 crossing in Richfield or south on Highway 164, accessed by a ramp after an underpass at Ackerville.
Near Ackerville and the underpass under Highway 164, Highway 175 has a bar that names itself partially after it - Sheryl's Club 175. As you know, it's State Trunk Tour policy to salute establishments that name themselves with their highways.
Today's Highway 175 dealt with busy traffic prior to 1953, when this stretch was part of U.S. 41 and the Yellowstone Trail. Old gas station sights like this are common. And somehow fascinating, since they capture a different time and have changed little since.|
Many may not know where downtown Slinger (pop. 4,109) is, but Highway 175 cuts right through it just north of Highway 60. Cool older buildings like St. Peter’s church show architecture from the time Slinger (originally called "Schleisingerville" fer cryin’ out loud) was an outpost village perched at the edge of Kettle Moraine. As a matter of fact, the downtown intersection is at the start of Highway 144, part of the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive.
|Postcard of Slinger showing today's Highway 175, formerly U.S. 41 (don't worry, it's paved now.)|
|Little-league ball against a backdrop of hills with a lookout tower in Slinger. Slinger Speedway is just on the other side, and Little Switzerland Ski Area is a stone's throw from there.|
Several points of interest lie just a few blocks north from downtown Slinger via Highway 144, including Little Switzerland Ski Area, featuring 15 runs and 5 chair lifts, and Slinger Super Speedway, known as the World's Fastest Quarter Mile Oval.
State Trunk Tour Fact:
Little Switzerland Ski Area, named after a neutral nation, opened on December 7, 1941, the same day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that led to U.S. involvement in World War II.
Slinger Super Speedway has been around in one form or another since 1948 and was paved in 1973. A paved "X" infield allows for Figure 8 racing, and the quarter-mile oval hosts races for stock cars and modifieds of almost all types. Drivers like Matt Kenseth, Dick Trickle, Alan Kulwicki, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt, Kyle Petty, Ernie Irvan, Sterling Marlin, Ted Musgrave, Rusty Wallace and, well, the list goes on and on.
|Always a roaring loud and fun time, Slinger Super Speedway features a variety of races with plenty of action. The surrounding terrain is nice, too.|
After Slinger comes the little crossroads of St. Lawrence, which features a charming chalet-looking place called the Little Red Inn, a bar called the St. Lawrence C-Way (clever, no?), and the gracious St. Lawrence Church (1880-82), featuring loud chiming bells that echo through the burg. Just north of tiny St. Lawrence, 175 intersects with Highway 83, which blends right into the roadway if you're going northbound.
|St. Lawrence Church. St. Lawrence is a tiny hamlet between Slinger and Addison. You can access Highway 83 from St. Lawrence to the west, and U.S. 41 to the east; meanwhile, The Little Red Inn hugs the corner of Highway 175 and County K as St. Lawrence's other landmark.|
|The view from northbound Highway 175 between St. Lawrence and Addison looks across a valley holding the North Branch of the Rock River and the Theresa State Wildlife Area toward hills in Kettle Moraine's Northern Forest Unit. Fertile farmland abounds in this area.|
|Farms abound too, and many are tucked into small valleys that line Highway 175. Watch for slow-moving farm vehicles at times, which must have caused massive backups way back when this was U.S. 41, the main road from Milwaukee to Appleton and Green Bay.|
Cheese store alert. Widmer's Cheese Cellars has been producing a variety of cheeses in Theresa since 1922. Specializing in Wisconsin native cheeses brick and colby, Widmer's 12,000 square foot facility uses the same open vats and well-worn bricks that press the whey used since Widmer's opening. The facility includes a small store area with a full view of the cheesemaking area. A quick left on Henni Street right past Solomon Juneau's cabin will bring you there. Stop in, take in the scent of cheese being made (not for everybody) and load up on fresh curds - that's what the State Trunk Tour does. They offer tours but times can vary, so check here for details.
After skidding west of Addison in a new alignment past Highway 33, you enter the village of Theresa (pop. 1,252), pronounced "ther-ay-sa". Theresa holds the distinction of being named after the mother of Solomon Juneau, who'd founded this other place called Milwaukee years earlier, moved out, established Theresa, and therefore was the first European settler to begin urban sprawl in Wisconsin. The downtown area features a variety of "old-school" buildings, including a series of signs that have been up since this was U.S. 41.
|Above: Solomon Juneau first founded in Milwaukee, then fled in later years to establish Theresa, named after his mother. His final homestead, built in 1848, is along Highway 175 in town. Right: Highway 175 is part of the historic Yellowstone Trail, a trailblazing path through the early days of American driving. Not as early but still becoming a slice of old Americana are the old logos on signs, such as the one for 7Up on this store in Theresa.|
In Theresa, Highways 67 and 28 join 175 just past the Rock River crossing. All three highways head north for a few miles before Highway 28 breaks east toward Kewaskum; Highway 67 stays until Lomira, when it heads east toward Plymouth.
Lomira (pop. 2,233) is one example of a town that was once focused on this road when it was U.S. 41, but now most of the activity and development lies further east along the busy freeway that is today's U.S. 41. But where the freeway view of Lomira reveals gas stations and fast food restaurants, Highway 175 offers a slower, easier ride, smaller, quaint structures, a variety of homes and the attractive St. Mary's Catholic Church. A lot of nice old churches adorn this road.
The stretch from Lomira to Fond du Lac is straight as an arrow, paralleling U.S. 41, which lies about a quarter mile to the east. You pass the Quad/Graphics plant near Highway 49, and a sign of the future around Byron: giant turbines providing wind-generated electricity.
State Trunk Tour Fact:
The massive Quad Graphics plant in Lomira is the largest single printing facility in the Western Hemisphere.
Highway 175 also negotiates a ridge on its path; the view to the west stretches for miles and miles, as does the massive wind farm. Over 80 wind turbines churn in this territory - a since they all have those red aircraft warnings lights on top, it's quite sight a night. During the daylight, just past the intersection with County B in Byron, you can look north and see parts of Fond du Lac and Lake Winnebago, ten miles away.
|Lake Winnebago, and parts of Fond du Lac, visible from Bryon along Highway 175, almost ten miles south.|
|Highway 175 ran through Fond du Lac and all the way to a junction with U.S. 45 just south of Oshkosh until 2007, when it was scaled back to the new U.S. 151 bypass around the south end of Fond du Lac. For the purposes of this tour, we'll head into Fond du Lac until we reach Lake Winnebago.|
Dropping down into Fond du Lac (pop. 42,203), you enter a city that literally means - in French - "bottom of the lake", the lake of course being Winnebago. Crossing over U.S. Highway 41 and the new bypass carrying U.S. Highway 151 is where Highway 175 technically ends now, but we'll continue north. Just past the U.S. 41 underpass lies the Kristmas Kringle Shoppe, where it's always Christmas and people stop in from all over the country.
Fond du Lac is the home to Mercury Marine, Marian College, the "living museum" of the Galloway House and Village, and a downtown that's fairly vibrant for a city this size. The former Highway 175 (and U.S. 41, remember) is Main Street in Fond du Lac, running right up through downtown. You can choose one-way alternate routes around the downtown strip, where U.S. Highway 45 joins, or run straight up Main Street to get the full flavor of shops, restaurants, and some good old architecture, much of which dates back to the late 19th century.
Straight up Main Street, downtown Fond du Lac offers up a long line of great old buildings with 19th century architecture. Storefronts are full and it's a great place to park and walk around.
By the way, if you buy lottery tickets, do it in Fond du Lac. Since the 1990s, a number of winning Powerball jackpot tickets have been sold along Main Street, prompting many to dub it the "Miracle Mile." On August 5, 2006, another winning ticket was sold at Ma & Pa's Grocery Express, indicating another wave of winners might be lurking there. It would sure help with gas!
State Trunk Tour Fact:
Fond du Lac is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having created the world's largest working fondue pot (8 feet in diameter, can hold 2,500 pounds of melted cheese) during their Fondue Festival in 2007.
Between downtown and Lakeside Park, you cross Highway 23, a major east-west state road, and the cool collage painting on the south side of Mike's Music & Sound.
|Can you identify 'em all? The collage along Mike's Music & Sound on Main Street in Fond du Lac. (You can click on the picture and get a larger view if that helps!)|
The old Highway 175 turns left onto Scott Street, at the entrance to Lakeside Park. A good diversion is to head straight into the park and enjoy the southern shore of Lake Winnebago. Being the "bottom of the lake" city, Fond du Lac sits on the southern end of this largest inland lake in the state, and one of the larger lakes in the nation; the north shore, near Appleton, is 30 miles away.
A strong suggestion from the State Trunk Tour is to follow U.S. 45 at this point along the westrn shore of Lake Winnebago up towards Oshkosh. Eventually, you reach Ardy & Ed's Drive-In (2413 S. Main Street, Oshkosh, 920-231-5455), a must-stop.
|A true drive-in stand since 1948 (it was originally an A&W), Ardy & Ed’s plays oldies across the parking stalls, features roller-skating car hops who put your burgers, fries, cheese nuggets and/or malts on a tray on your window so you can enjoy the all-American process of eating in your car. Across the street, Lake Winnebago provides a blue background on a sunny day.|
Abbie Courter of Oshkosh was one of the car hops we talked with. While watching her and her co-workers navigate the cars while skating and balancing food, I asked her, "Does anybody ever wipe out on skates?"
"It doesn’t happen as often as people, well, hope, I think," she said with a laugh.
|The classic American burger and chocolate malt (with extra malt) hangin' off the window of the Escape Hybrid as the Highway 175 Tour concludes. A great way to top off the tour.|
Ardy & Ed's fits nicely into the State Trunk Tour spirit. It's the perfect end to your drive on Highway 175. You can still head north into downtown Oshkosh if you'd like.
And there you go: you've just covered what U.S. 41 used to be, from Milwaukee all the way up to Oshkosh!
Mileage in the Ford Escape Hybrid: 34.6 MPG
Gas used on the trip: about 2 gallons
Can connect immediately to: U.S. Highway 41, U.S. Highway 45
Can connect nearby to: Highway 100, about 1 mile south; Highway 145, about 1 mile north; Highway 190, about 3 miles south; Highway 74, about 3 miles northwest
North Terminus: (updated for 2009)
Can connect immediately to: U.S. Highway 41, U.S. Highway 151
Can connect nearby to:Highway 23, U.S. Highway 45 about 3 miles north
Upcoming events in places along Highway 175:
Menomonee Falls, Falls Fest, July 25-28, 2013
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