Thursday, March 18, 2010

Royal Enfield ride on Wisconsin roads
offers the pleasures of a slower pace

Royal Enfield motorcycles must be perfect for motorcycling in rural Wisconsin. My wife's family is from the northwestern woods, up along the Flambeau River, so I've driven a lot of Blue Roads in the state.

Frank Lepisko confirms this in the following essay he wrote about a 50-mile ride. Frank runs the web site for Royal Enfield dealer S-K Service in Hatley, Wis. His companion was Bill Kasten, father of Steve Kasten, together the co-owners of S-K. Bill rides a 1995 Royal Enfield Bullet.

Here's the story:
I turn the radio off on my Honda GL1800 and sit up taller in order to get an ear full of Bills’ Royal Enfield 500 single ahead as it runs up through the gears and blats out its signature “bud-bud-bud-budda-budda” with the odd intake chuff thrown in for color.

“We” are a non-descript, unpretentious pair of bikes motoring through the two-lane Wisconsin farm country on a Wednesday summer morning toward breakfast in a small “sit at the counter” hole- in- the- wall luncheonette, older than either of us.

Ankle high green fields of corn and grass interspersed with stands of lush, green, shady trees roll by at a whopping 50 mph.

With each friendly “budda” from the long stroke single, weeks of doom ridden Internet blogs melt away. Bill takes great pride showing me a favorite fishing spot on Norrie Lake, where the remains of a logging business are strewn across the bottom of the lake; which explains the lakes’ reputation as a pan fish hot spot. He points out what were once a rail depot and boarding houses.

It takes a few miles for me to adjust to the leisurely pace from the 70-mph-plus run up the Interstate to get to the meeting place, S-K Service in Hatley. Bill, now an authorized Royal Enfield dealer, was once the area's largest Yamaha dealer and has ridden every inch of these county roads for years.

Reaching our breakfast destination, we back in diagonally to the curb across from the luncheonette, stash helmets and jackets in the ’Wings luggage, amble across a dead quiet main street.

Disney’s top “imagineers” would be hard pressed to recreate the authentic quiet small town ambiance. Inside the eatery the walls are dotted with framed black and white photographs from the town's history.

Our teenage waitress quickly has us seated, has our order, and is filling coffee cups before six aging local farmers roll in and hold daily court around a circular table set for four.

“Good mornings” are tossed back and forth. Two eggs “over,” hash browns/toast and bacon, net $4.95 from each of us for the register.

Wittenberg: our quiet main street destination is in a town I’ve only seen as a name on the state highway exit sign. Though plenty of people have lived out happy lives behind that name, I’m surprised such a quaint spot exists within an easy 20-minute ride.

After breakfast it’s a quick fill up then out to Elderon, where we stop at the local VFW to check out a Vietnam-era Cobra helicopter and M-60 tank on display.

We motor on Highway 153 to Day and the “Day homestead,” an actual horse-drawn stagecoach stop. It’s a log cabin dated 1879, which housed a school and post office in its time.

Afterwards we ride into Bevent to grab a bottled Point soda pop and enjoy the shaded bench outside the Bevent Store, a gas station/grocery in the old pre-Wal Mart flavor. Milk? Fishing hooks and monofilament? Aisle 3. Bait? They’ve got that, too. Bill and I settle for the bottled cooler sodas.

Heading into Bevent we come upon an irrigation sprinkler at the end of its travel. It is shooting a full arc of water up and over both lanes. The roadway is fresh black asphalt and drenched in a film of water spray. I try to squirt by the sprinkler head without making any violent changes of direction but I still catch an errant blast on the fairing. In the rising mid-morning heat it brings a smile as it feels pretty good.

The sedate pace set by the Enfield single is perfectly calibrated for this ride. Life, after all, doesn’t have to be about clipping apexes, scraping knees and blasting 85 miles an hour with your hair on fire.

I fear this authentic slower-paced aspect of the sport is lost on the new generation of rider brought up on fuel injection, traction control, and full race riding positions. I find the plethora of buttons and navigation system display on my thoroughly modern GL1800 almost a laughable waste.

Yes, I can cover a continent comfortably two-up, solely with the application of time and fuel money. But experiencing real “motorcycling” can be as simple as an unexplored local county highway close to home; and is about enjoying the laid back simplicity of the ride.

Copyright: Frank Lepisko, June 24, 2009


  1. Anonymous3/19/2010

    I have great memories of going to summer camp on Fence Lake in Lac du Flambeau and canoeing all the lakes and streams in that area. I'd love to go back now a ride the back rodes on a new RE.

  2. I really enjoyed your article about riding with Bill Kasten. I have a 2003 RE500ES with a Cozy Classic sidecar rig and one of my fondest memories of Wisconsin is riding with Bill on the back roads near Hatley during his and Steve's Fall reunion rides. We're now in Rhode Island but still have our Royal Enfield. I put more time in riding the Enfield than any of the other two-dozen plus bikes in the garage! Keep up the nice blog.

    Larry Fisher


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