Northwest Ridge Routes With a Side of Pie
Creating a Shamrock Tour® around Eau Claire, WI, presents an interesting dilemma: Four loops cannot begin to cover all the challenging and scenic roads available. A double—or even a triple—Shamrock Tour is possible, considering all the interesting road and scenery options in Wisconsin’s northwest corner.
The number of rivers flowing into and out of the area on their way to the Mississippi River is partially responsible for the great selection of riding roads. The fact that Eau Claire is also ringed by national, state, and county forests and national wildlife preserves also helps maintain the rustic, scenic, and lightly traveled routes in the area.
Ultimately, we used three criteria to determine the final four Shamrock loops: Each loop had to feature an interesting destination (a museum or historical site, for example), a significant section of scenic and challenging road, and a recommended dining experience. Scott Burkart and Dennis Scott, members of a local Can-Am Spyder club, accompanied me on portions of this route, as did my sister, Kathleen Currie, and Shelli Morrow, both of whom served as photographer.
THE ORCHARD AND RIDGE LOOP (170 Miles)
The Eau Claire/Chippewa Falls area is known for its orchards, and the reason for this immediately becomes apparent on the ride along State Hwy 37 west. As we leave Hwy 37 and cut across to State Hwy 93 on county highways B and II, the orchard signs are virtually tacked on top of each other. On double I, a unique orchard billboard advertising a “glass orchard” grabs our attention and pulls us off the road. What is a “glass orchard,” we wonder. We soon find out, as we wheel into what appears to be a typical orchard with rows of apple trees. A showroom has baskets of apples on display, but the main attraction is a collection of glass apples, pumpkins, and jewelry crafted by the two proprietors, who are glass blowing artisans.
While we are amazed by the unique glassware, Dawn, the glass artist on duty, is just as intrigued by our rides and comes outside for a test sit and photo session. She sends us on our way with a promise that she will have a glass motorcycle figurine for us when we return.
Hwy 93 heading south soon takes us into coulee country, which features scenic ridges, steep descents, and plenty of curves. Locals had informed us that any trip down Hwy 93 must include a stop at Pammy K’s diner at the four corners in Eleva to test the homemade pie. We can report that both the strawberry rhubarb and the lemon meringue are top-notch. A turn west on State Hwy 95 at Arcadia gives us the first taste of serious ridge riding. Following 95 west as it floats along the Fountain City Ridge is almost a surreal riding experience. At any moment you feel like you might ride into a cloud or drop off the narrow, twisting pavement as you follow the ridge peak.