When the wind chill hits 30 below, you have two options: (1) whine and bitch and complain while shopping bargain travel packages to Florida; or (2) embrace the suck. I'm pretty much all about option 1, but have always admired the hardy people of Wisconsin for their ability to withstand all of Old Man Winter's cruel sadism, and to dish it right back. This past weekend I traveled with some pals up to the Northwoods to investigate.
After a quick stop at a Menominee Indian reservation convenience store for pemmican, Point and discount roll-your-own tobacco ($12.99 a bushel bag), we headed out west on Highway 45 to the uncharted regions east of Wausau. Eleven AM: just outside Aniwa, our first brush with danger - humongous mutant badger and squirrel!
Phew! Close call. Turns they were only the mascots of a roadside vernacular strip club.
The squirrel keeps a lonely vigil on the Freudian log-shaped edifice, featuring a patriotic Hamms-themed garage door.
From there, Northwest to Antigo where we established a base camp at the home of our our intrepid sherpa Bob, and dined on traditional Hardees roast beef and curly fries (not pictured). From there, a final 18-mile push to Merrill and our objective: Counsel Grounds State Park, home of the fabled Merrill Ice Drags. Every winter the townsfolk stake out an eighth-mile drag strip on the frozen surface of the Upper Wisconsin River, as some sort of tribute to the Northwoods Cheese Gods.
And behold: the elusive Kenosha crapwagon! Wisconsin is the native habitat of AMCs, so they actually thrive here. This Gremlin was hitting some serious ETs with trap speeds near 100 mph. Also seen: one of the few Chevy Vegas that survived the deadly ferrous oxide plague of 1975-85.
If your taste runs more towards shiny Mopars perhaps you will enjoy this 1964 Plymouth Belvidere...
A couple of righteous Opel GTs we there, cutting mid-six ETs and speeds over 117 mph.
And to dig 'em into the ice, a blown alcohol BBC with Dart heads...
Or, for safety, a rear-engine blown alcohol big block.
These "Outlaw" class cars are capable of 1/8 mile ETs in the mid fives with speeds over 140 mph, but a wavy ice surface Saturday kept them around 125. But you know what? Writing about drag racing is like dancing about architecture. Here's a movie (music: "Stereo Freeze" by Jackie Mittoo)
More footage coming later with my semiregular monthly movie.
As the sun set and the toasty daytime 6 degree temperature began to plummet, we loaded up the caravan and headed back south through the wild insurance men of Wausau, the discount breweries of Stevens Point, snaked the dangerous straights between the good and evil water towers of Plover, plowed through a herd or stampeding hippies in Madison, tacked east to Milwaukee and south to the the Brat Stop sausage-beer-cheese-heavy metal hair band outpost in Kenosha.
Success! Beers and brats consumed, drags watched, headbangings headbanged, no casualties recorded. Wisconsin, I shall return!