On Wednesday morning, one of the first things I did was check out the weather. I couldn't help it as I walked out of the hotel in the morning to find snow. Yes, it is still April. Weather.com had a snow advisory for much of central Wisconsin, with areas like Madison expecting 7-10 inches.
Ouch. Luckily my class was only a half-day on Wednesday, so I was able to get an early start. I think that if I had left in the afternoon the combination of regular Chicago rush hour with all the snow would have just been murder. As it was, the Interstates were certainly not clear - there was stop and go traffic as I made my way from downtown out I-90 westbound into Wisconsin. One downside of having picked up a bunch of these southern Wisconsin counties in previous trips is that it took me about 3 hours (and about 175 miles) before I hit my first "new" county - Marquette (#51). A few miles later, I exited I-39 north and headed east on WI-23. It was about a 16 mile one-way jaunt to pick up Green Lake (#52), but there was no other better way to do it. If you look at the Wisconsin county map, you can see that most of the counties are twice the size of Marquette and Green Lake. I'm not sure why they decided to split them so small, but it's annoying. I had looked for ways to cut out some mileage on the way back by diagonally getting to I-39 one exit further north (either by county roads or a jaunt on WI-22), but with the snow, I decided to just go back the way I came.
Continuing on I-39, I sauntered through Waushara (#53) and Portage (#54) before setting out for my 2nd out and back of the day, this time on County Road W, westbound to pick up Wood (#55). The road itself was not too bad (you could typically do 30-40 mph), but there were MAJOR snow drifts on parts of the road that made driving "interesting". At CR U, I turned right and did a little British-style driving to make sure I was in Wood. Driving through Kellner, WI, I got myself a bit unsure of where I was headed, but stayed the course and found myself on WI-54 eastbound, headed back to I-39. In Plover, I stopped to refuel and get some Wendy's. Here you can see a bit of the weather I was dealing with:
Somwhere in Plover, I first started seeing signs that WI-54 was closed for construction. As I started looking at the map to try and find an alternate route, I saw another sign that listed that it was open to I-39. Since that was as far as I was taking it, I breathed a sigh of relief. Continuing on I-39 and then US-51 northbound picked up Marathon (#56) and Lincoln (#57). In Merrill, US-51 ends its limited-access-ness (at least according to Mapquest), and I took the last "exit" to WI-64 and then WI-17, and headed northeasterly. After about 20 miles I got into Langlade county (#58) and I started looking for my turnoff on to CR Q. Just after the county line, I saw a turnoff to the right, but I continued straight because I was expecting to go left. It took me about a 1/2 mile or so to realize that I had missed my turn. Within a few miles I picked up another county, Oneida (#59), and after one near false-start, successfully navigated my way around the northern side of Pelican Lake to US-45. I believe it was here that I saw a sign for a "Church of Jesus Christ Restoration Branch". My first reaction was that this was some sort of LDS splinter group. I tried to do some Googling to verify this hypothesis, but was unable to confirm. So, either it's some other similarly named church, or it's just too small for me to find (I mean this was a hand-made sign staked up on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere...)
CR Q goes around the north side of Pelican Lake, with CR G going around the south side. Both dead-end into US 45, but about 6 miles apart. Since I was heading north, CR Q seemed like the logical bet, but the online mapper had suggested CR G. I wasn't sure if that was a particular reason or not (like CR Q didn't really exist or was in crappy condition?) but when I got to the T-intersection at the west side of the lake, there were signs pointing left for US 45 north and right for US 45 south, so I took CR Q around the north side. It wasn't a problem, except for the general snowiness.
A few miles north, I did an out and back on US 8 to pick up Forest (#60) and then continued for another hour or so north on US 45, picking up Vilas (#61) and then on into Michigan. Ahhhh the good ol' U.P. Before this little trip, the sum content of my knowledge of the UP consisted of the fact that my aunt Bonnie was originally from there, and that Michigan was forced to accept it in exchange for a strip of land on the Ohio border following the Toledo War. That may be a slight exaggeration. I continued on US 45 into Gogebic (#62) and Ontonagon (#63) counties, then took M-26 into Houghton county(#64). In the city of Houghton, I crossed the Portage Lake Lift bridge over the Portage waterway. I did not notice this when I crossed (it being dark), but from the Wikipedia page and picture, it appears that in the summer, the bridge raises to an intermediate level to allow boats to cross under while still maintaining road traffic. After crossing over into the town of Hancock, I turned left onto US-41 and followed that north to Keewenaw (#65). There was not a county welcome sign (that I saw anyways). My map had me looking for the "town" of Kearsarge, which I did not see. I should have been looking for Allouez (which was on my map but I just didn't notice it). I passed through there and when I got to Mohawk, MI, I saw that it was definitely in Keweenaw county, so I turned around. There was a welcome sign for Houghton County going southbound though. I followed US-41 back the way I came, back over the bridge, and then into Baraga (#66). At this point, it was about 1:30 a.m. CDT, and I was feeling a bit tired, so I pulled into some gas station and took a little nap. I ended up sleeping for about an hour and then set on. No more than a minute after I was back on the road, I passed into Marquette (#67). A few miles later, I turned right on to M-95 and made my way into Dickinson (#68) and then an out and back on M-69 West into Iron (#69). The original plan had me then taking M-69 east, but I found that it was a much better option to continue on M-95 south into Iron Mountain, and then make 2 short out and backs on US-2 West and US-141 South to pick up the final 2 Wisconsin counties on my trip, Florence (#70) and Marinette (#71). Trying to get these couunties from the Wisconsin side would have added significantly more time to my trip.
Back in Michigan on US-2 eastbound, I travelled uneventfully into Menominee (#72) and Delta (#73) into the city of Escanaba. I then rejoined US-41, this time going northbound, into Alger (#74). Then it was M-67 northbound, and just before I made the turn on to M-94 east, I pulled into another parking lot to take a nap. At this point it was about 5 a.m. (EDT now). I slept for about an hour again, and when I woke up and tried to pull out, the wheels just spun. I had been able to pull in due to my initial momentum, but with 3-5 inches of snow on the ground, I wasn't going anywhere from a standstill. I tried forward and reverse, but nothing. By now it was light out, and there were some cars driving by as I surveyed my options. I put it in neutral and got out of the car (it was still snowing lightly). I rocked the car back and forth a bit. Of course I couldn't move it by myself, but I moved it a bit. I got back in and I don't know if it was that or something else, but I was able to put it in reverse and spin myself a bit backwards, and then once I put it in drive I started going. Phew.
After a brief jaunt on M-94, I began an 80 mile trip on M-28 eastbound, through Schoolcraft (#75), Luce (#76) and Chippewa (#77), then M-123 to Mackinac (#78) and finally on to I-75 southbound. By this time, I was running kind of low on gas so I kept a lookout for gas stations. I figured there might be one at the onramp to 75, but nope. I crossed over the 2-mile Mackinac Bridge and my Upper Peninsula became AWFUL BLUE. The bridge was pretty cool. I was going to take a picture but you know, I've done that before and it just doesn't come out very exciting. Still, travelling between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron was kinda neat. The very first exit in the Lower Peninsula had a Shell station, but I couldn't tell if there was re-entry to 75, so I didn't stop. As I passed by, it did look like there was, but it was hard to tell since the interchange was an odd design. Passing through Emmet (#79) and Cheboygan (#80), I remained on the lookout for gas stations. The next 3 exits (about 20 miles) had no services! Finally, I was able to score some at the M-68 exit. The Interstate itself was not plowed very well - I was actually behind a pair of plow trucks, but even behind them it was still barely one lane wide. Inside the gas station, I took a pic of one of my favorite grammatical mistakes
At this point, I decided to punt on part of my plan. Originally, I was going to continue down 75 a bit to do an out and back to the west, picking up Otsego, Antrim and Charlevoix counties before heading east, but I decided that those counties would still be there later (deep breath), and in an effort to get home a little earlier, I instead headed east on M-68 into Presque Isle County (#81) and shortly thereafter, went south on M-33 into Montmorency (#82). From here on, the roads were pretty clear. I'm not sure if the more southern parts of Michigan just didn't get as much snow, or if I just gave the snowplows enough time to clear it out. I spent some time trying to find CR 624, which was going to cut off a few miles by taking a more direct route to M-32 east. With the snow, I debated whether or not to just stay on M-33 to M-32, but in the end stuck with the plan and went with the county roads. The county roads were not plowed as well (but still not that bad) - I think that in normal weather, taking these county roads would definitely be worth it, but with the snow, it was probably about a wash.
Just east of Hillman, I made it to M-32 and Alpena (#83) and then followed M-65 south into Alcona (#84). A brief out and back on M-72 got me Oscoda (#85) and then back on to M-65 into Iosco (#86) and Arenac (#87). Somewhere in here, I took my 3rd nap of the day, at a Shell station. Afterwards, I turned westbound on to Maple Ridge road which took me close to I-75. Before getting on the Interstate, I did an out and back south and northbound to pick up Ogemaw (#88) and Gladwin (#89). On I-75 southbound, I saw a sign
This is actually a replica that I found online from some other prison, but that's what it said (more or less). I took I-75 through Bay (#90) to M-84, which I followed southbound into Saginaw (#91). Turning around just south of the county line, I encountered my first instance of a Michigan left interchange. On the road, I thought that this was a new type of intersection which I had recently read about (a Continuous flow intersection), but it appears that these are different (though similar) types of interchanges. The Michigan left has been around for about 40 years, and is named that because it's not very common except for in (wait for it) Michigan. I saw several of these, especially later in the day as I went through Detroit.
Back on M-84 north, I skirted the southern edge of Bay City, where, hearkening back to the prison sign I saw earlier, I saw a billboard mentioning a wanted criminal named (I kid you not) Lando Calrissian Jones. East of the city, I passed a Meijer and made my way to M-25, which I took into Tuscola (#92). At Unionville, when M-25 headed north, I continued straight on Bay City-Forestville Road, which I took into Sanilac (#93). A brief out and back on M-53 picked up Huron (#94) and then I continued on M-53 south for 50 miles into Lapeer (#95). At Almont, MI, I did an out and back on Almont Road to pick up St. Clair (#96). I got lucky there as the road was not well marked in the city limits, so I took a guess as to which road was going to turn into the road I needed. Back on M-53 I entered Macomb (#97) for my final (new) county of the day. On the entry to Detroit, I passed by 32 mile road, which was the first time I noticed the Mile road numbering system, the most famous of which is 8 Mile.
From then, it was just a trip home on I-75. I did take my 4th and final nap of the day just over the Ohio border in a Meijer parking lot. Of cousre I stopped in first to check if there were any good sales for the week! I ended up getting home just after 11, so with the exception of my 4 hour-long naps, and taking the time zone into account, I was driving for 34 consecutive hours.