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August 25, 2003

Racine County Burlington - Norway Bicycle Trail -- View Map

Beginning Mileage:   1120.9
Ending Mileage:      1130.4
Total Miles Traveled:   9.5

Today seemed like a good day for a bike ride, even though the weather threatened of rain.  After finding some cheap gasoline (for the truck!), I headed for Racine County's Burlington - Norway Trail.  I parked at what looked like an end of the trail, just south of Wind Lake.  As I was about to get out and start riding, the sky opened up and lightning coursed through the sky.  But the weather looked more promising to the south, so I headed toward Burlington.  After circling around the south end of the trail, I finally decided to park at CTH W just south of Hwy. 36/83.

The first section of the trail was an easy ride, very level due to its past, and I was able to get up to speeds of 20-25mph!  Here, the trail is covered with crushed limestone -- not exactly the best kind of trail right after a rainstorm!  At the end of the first section, there is an abrupt curve right before the Fox River, and the trail crosses Hwy. 36/83.

The trail continues west through Saller Woods, apparently a part of Racine County's park system.  The terrain here is slightly more challenging, but the initial stretch of the trail is, again, paved with crushed limestone.  About halfway through the woods, however, the county has begun paving the trail with asphalt.  The trail through the woods ends at, and continues north on, CTH W, where the county has (very wisely) decided to pave bike lanes on both sides of the road, at least where the trail follows it.  In fact, today was the day that the paving was being done!

A short distance to the north, the trail left the roadway and headed east, back through the woods.  This, too, was freshly paved, and the rainwater/fresh oil slicks that covered the mostly downhill trail were making me nervous.  I was on the brakes all the way to the Fox River, fearing a wipeout.  At the Fox River, a beautiful, new, high bridge crosses the river; at the end of the bridge I was greeted by caution tape strung across the end of the bridge.  I later figured out that this stretch of trail was closed!  It was also labeled on the maps as "Under Construction 2002-2004".  Oh well.

The trail continues north, passing between the Fox River and a large cornfield before joining a parkway drive in Case Eagle Park.  The speed limit here was 15, but I was actually going 25-30 here.  North of the park, the trail again follows the former railroad right-of-way, except for a short stretch that would otherwise run through a couple of front yards in Rochester.

The trail is "freshly paved" all the way to Hwy. 20/83, where the crushed limestone again begins.  North of 20, the trail passes through Waterford and crosses three streets.  Near Hwy. 164, I was greeted with a steep-looking hill.  I rode up the hill to Hwy. 164, and decided that this would be my northern terminus (Mile 1126.2).  The trail continues north to the Waukesha County line, and I understand is partially complete to the Milwaukee County line, but that will be part of a future ride.

Riding back down the hill was great, as I was able to pick up enough momentum to reach speeds of 30-35mph!  At Hwy. 20/83, I decided to stop at the Burger King at Hwys. 20-36-83 (Mile 1127.5 - BK).

I also decided to avoid the "closed" parts of the trail and ride down Hwy. 36/83 instead.  This route was much more hilly than the trail, however!  I rejoined the trail south of Saller Woods and the Fox River, and continued back to the truck.

History of the Trail
Like the Franklin/Muskego trail that I had been on previously (Aug. 19), most of this trail was once part of The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company's interurban route to Burlington.  This route split off from the East Troy line at St. Martins, and roughly paralleled Loomis Road/Milwaukee Avenue (Hwy. 36) all the way to Burlington.

TMER&L eventually decided that the electric utility business was much better than the railroad business, the railroad was eventually abandoned, and the company became Wisconsin Electric, and eventually WeEnergies.  Much of this route was just power company maintenance road for many years, and various reconstructions of Hwy. 36 also removed some sections of the right-of-way.  This route was probably one of the first sections of the former TMER&L to be converted to bicycle trail, as the trail exists in some of my earliest memories of auto trips along Hwy. 36, although I never got the chance to ride it -- until now!

Trail Conditions
Until 2004, when construction will supposedly be complete, the newly paved section of the trail would definitely be "at your own risk".  But the asphalt paving will definitely help!  When I rode on it, one more layer of asphalt was yet to be paved, so most intersections had a bit of a bump where the pavement had not yet gone.  Grading and ditch work were still incomplete as well.  The crushed limestone portions of the trail were in good condition, except where there was a significant grade, where erosion and "uphill effort" had loosened much of the gravel.  There was also at least one spot where some "critters" had dug a hole right in the middle of the trail.

All in all, an excellent trail to ride -- once it's done!  I hope to ride the entire trail soon!

This trail is now known as the Seven Waters Trail, according to a newspaper article forwarded to me from Craig Holl.  Additionally, another trail connecting to the south end of this trail will be built in 2007, according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

After my bike ride, I took a ride west of Burlington, and I found *another* trail that heads west from Lyons on a former Milwaukee Road right-of-way -- another future ride, for sure!


Seven Waters Trail map

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