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August 27, 2003

M-R-K Trail, Racine County -- VIEW MAP

Beginning Mileage:  1130.4
   Ending Mileage:  1139.7
    Total Mileage:     9.3

My friend Karen had been telling me for a while that we should go for a bike ride.  So, finally, we set up a day to ride, and it turned out to be a beautiful Wednesday!

We started out from Karen's house in Crestview, which is about 1/2 mile from where the trail crosses Six Mile Road.  We headed south, crossed Five Mile Road, and then descended the long hill to Douglas Avenue (WIS-32), and awaited a green light.

Across Douglas, the trail makes a couple turns on its way back up to the trail grade.  We continued south, crossing Four Mile Road and St. Rita Road.  I had to slow down and wait a couple times for Karen, as I like to go fast!  We then crossed Three Mile Road into Racine, and went behind Burger King, Taco Bell, etc.

At South Street, we had to stop and wait for traffic, which worked out well since a train was coming down the parallel Union Pacific tracks.  Two EMD GP60s powered the train, UP 2022 and SP 9721.  I wished that I had my camera with me, but I caught the same two engines on the same train in October (for pictures of this train, see the Vulcan page).

The passing train enabled us to cross South Street more easily, and we continued on our way down to the end of the M-R-K Trail at Layard Avenue.  The Root River Pathway follows Layard Avenue to the west, and there is a nice map that shows where to go.  My bike's odometer indicated that we went only 3.6 miles, but I know that we actually went more like 4.2 miles.  Yes, my odometer is inaccurate, sorry!!

We turned around and headed north, retracing our steps.  At Six Mile Road, I decided that we should continue to the north end of the trail at Seven Mile Road.  Again, my odometer inaccurately gave the distance between Six Mile and Seven Mile at 8/10ths of a mile, when I know that it is at least 1 mile between the two roads!  At Seven Mile, I saw another train powered by LLPX GP38-2 2238, wearing UP colors.  The train consisted of two empty gravel hoppers and a whole string of empty WEPX coal cars, at least one of which carried a "Pleasant Prairie" sticker.

At Seven Mile Road, the county on-road bike route heads west.  We turned east, followed Seven Mile to Michna Road, and then took a shortcut through Cliffside Park to get back to Karen's house.

Trail History
Like the Franklin/Muskego and Burlington-Norway trails that I had been on previously, this trail was once part of The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company's interurban railway system.  This line was part of the "new" high-speed line built between 1928-1932 to replace an earlier route that extensively used street routes between Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha (hence the M-R-K).

In 1938, TMER&L split into two companies:  the electric utility which became Wisconsin Electric, and eventually WeEnergies; and the railroad and transit company.  The route to Kenosha changed hands a couple of times before being abandoned in 1947, its transportation service replaced by buses.  The right-of-way was used by Wisconsin Electric for continued maintenance of the electric power lines, until Racine County converted the route to a bike trail.  I don't know whether this trail was developed at the same time as the on-road bike route (1970) or at a different time.

Trail Conditions
The trail is paved with limestone chips, except for the approaches to Douglas Avenue, which are asphalt-paved.  I guess the County got tired of having to repair the ruts after heavy rains!!  The entire line, except for the aforementioned Douglas Avenue approaches, is almost completely flat, which makes for a very easy ride.  Some parts of the trail are great for railfanning the parallel Union Pacific, although this line is lightly traveled except for the coal and gravel trains.

The trail connects at both ends with other trails/bike routes, so it would be easy to make the M-R-K Trail part of a longer bike ride!  Additionally, there is a "trail connection" to Cliffside Park.

Happy cycling!

Click Here for a map of the M-R-K Trail

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