Find your own way to roar
More columns
written by Bill:
Your comments about this column are welcome ~ e-mail Bill at
The Spectator
A place for intelligent writers
A place for intelligent readers
founded 2004 by ron cruger
Bill Barth
They don't like what they see
Punish conduct, not thought
Emotion. The enemy of reason
What's so scary about tea partiers?
Celebrate being alive
Yes. Be careful
Lessons to learn from conflict
No longer needed?
Why Americans are angry
   It must have sounded like the world was coming to an end, there in the bucolic quiet of Wisconsin’s vast Northwoods.
  Those who have seen one of the summer’s biggest movies — “Public Enemies,” starring Johnny Depp — may recognize the name Little Bohemia, a resort property closer to Canada than it is to most American states.
  It was here the FBI, acting on a tip, closed in on notorious bank robber John Dillinger and his gang. The Depression-era bad guys intended to hide out for a few days of rest, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Agent Melvin Purvis and a squad of officers arrived and touched off a shootout that is still remembered.
  Dillinger, of course, got away. The bullet with his name on it waited in Chicago, outside the Biograph Theater.
  Little Bohemia preserves its colorful history by not patching the bullet holes. There are holes in the walls. Holes in the balcony. Even the bullet-shattered glass is preserved inside thick panes added to the frames after the guns fell silent.
  The resort was one of the memorable stops along the way this past weekend as my two sons, Kyle and John, joined me on a much-needed motorcycle escape. For decades, I’ve been finding the peace of the open road when the stress of the everyday world demands an outlet. For Kyle and John, it was a first serious trip on two wheels.
  From the grins they were wearing after we arrived back home, more than 800 miles later, it’s a cinch this won’t be their last motorcycling adventure.
  There’s a reason Wisconsin remains the ancestral home of Harley Davidson. It is, undoubtedly, a biker’s heaven.
  For example, our trip started with a dash west, the better to skirt around the edges of one of those big Midwestern thunderstorms. Keeping the storm to the north, we meandered through the dairy country of southwestern Wisconsin, with its rolling hills and deep green pastures. Riding the ridges presents a panorama of breathtaking views.
  After a night along the Mississippi — yes, it involved a riverboat casino — the ride took us north on the Great River Road, hugging the high bluffs as we leaned into the winding highway.
  Bending northeast at La Crosse, we discovered 20 miles of heaven on Wisconsin Highway 108, which curves through the coulee country from West Salem to Monrose. The curls and cutbacks are amazing, making it difficult to keep one’s eyes on the road, which isn’t necessarily a good thing on a motorcycle. Suffice to say, if life’s twists some day place you in west central Wisconsin, do take the slow road on Highway 108. If you’re lucky, you may even see an Amish family out for a leisurely buggy ride.
  I won’t bore readers with more travelogue-style ramblings, except to note that our trip also took us to the far Northwoods — “above the tension line,” as they like to say in Wisconsin. The beauty of the state — its deep woods, rolling terrain, pristine lakes and whitewater rivers — makes Wisconsin one of America’s foremost tourist magnets. Friendly people in small towns complete the package.
  For us, the motive was twofold — escape reality for a few days, and renew the joys known to all dads and sons. Or, at least, the joys all dads and sons should know.
  Sure, I worry about the safety of my boys on their big roaring two-wheelers. Like, no doubt, my mom and dad worried about me.
  I do my best to convey all that experience has taught me in nearly 40 years of riding, knowing too well that can’t cover all the contingencies. Skill and caution can be life preservers, but I also hope luck is their constant companion, as it has been mine.
  I also wish them the thrill of the open air, the sweeping vistas around every turn, the aromas of America’s countryside rising to meet the oncoming rider, the peace of leaving behind routine for the excitement of discovery. Properly deployed, a motorcycle is a mental health machine.
  Our small worlds can consume us, one day at a time, siphoning away pieces of one’s soul.
  Don’t surrender to the mundane.
  Motorcycling works for me. Looks as if it may work for Kyle and John.
  Find your own version of escape. A more open and appreciative mind awaits you there.