From the warm beaches of Miami to the cold waters of Lake Superior, US-41 runs 2,000 miles. The variety of scenery is sure to compliment the mood of any rider as it passes over the reptile infested Everglades Swamp, through the bustling center of Atlanta and the mountains of Tennessee. It continues on past the river views of Kentucky and Indiana to Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, and further north through Milwaukee.
In short, US-41 is an adventure!
Miami to Naples
Naples to Sarasota
Sarasota to Dunellon
Dunellon to Georgia Border
Georgia Border to Unadilla
Unidilla to Atlanta
Atlanta to Chattanooga
Chattanooga to Hillsboro
Hillsboro to Beech Grove
Beech Grove to Nashville
Nashville to Kentucky Border
Evansville to Shelburn
Shelburn to Warren County, IN
Warren County to Chicago
US-41 Drops away from I-80/I-94 at Calumet Ave and goes through south Chicago as a four lake surface road. It's pretty much what you expect of a large city street, with stop lights at every block, commuter rail stops, and frequent bridges and overpasses. You won't make much more than 30 MPH average on this first stretch, but wait - there are good things ahead.
You'll cross two toll roads and pass by Lake George, meeting US-20 at Indianapolis Boulevard. Within a half mile the route crosses the Chicago Skyway toll road and cross under it again at Ewing Street. It leads over the canal at S Mackinaw, signed there only as US-41. After several more blocks of residential area, the route becomes one of the most famous waterfront rides in North America, South Shore and North Shore Drives.
This is the route of Al Bundy escaping the city after a hard week at the shoe store. It's the Museum of Science and Industry, Promontory Point Park, the marina district, McCormick Place, Soldier Field, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and Buckingham Fountain - the iconic opening shot of "Married, With Children."
It's busy, and often the traffic is moving very quickly, so be aware of what's going on around you. Most of the available parking in this area is expensive, but you might be able to snag a deal because your motorcycle doesn't take up much room. Offer to park in the odd corner of the lot and ask for a discount!
Enjoy the attractions, this really is a special spot.
Chicago to Highland Park
North Lake Shore Dr continues to Edgewater beach and then US-41 takes a 90 degree turn to West Foster Ave and comes close to Rosehill Cemetery at N Western Ave. Rosehill might be worth a stop to rest for some. There are several dozen famous and near-famous interments here. Industrialist, politicians, military leaders, social activists and some that were just unlucky enough to be entangled by circumstances to become a footnote to history.
Among this list are puppeteer Burr Tillstrom, department store owner Montgomery Ward, baseball announcer Jack Brickhouse, copy machine king A.B. Dick, and shoe store tycoon Milton Florsheim. Also lying at rest here is Bobby Franks, the youngster murdered by Leopold and Loeb.
If you do choose to stop here, be aware they don't like folks taking photographs of the graves, and noisy motorcycles are not welcome to just wander around. You'll have to park at the front and hike to the grave. They also don't spend a lot of time trying to tell you where the famous folks are... The dead like their quiet and don't tolerate uninvited tourists.
US-41 Continues beyond the cemetery as a well traveled surface street, eventually turning into Skokie Blvd and Skokie Rd before meeting up with I-94 through the Skokie area.
Highland Park to Wisconsin Border
After being co-located with I-94 for a while as the Edens Expressway, US-41 goes north when the Interstate turns west and turns into a toll road. You are now on Skokie Highway, which is six lanes of divided highway that really scoots along as it runs to the Wisconsin border and meets back with I-94 near its last toll booth.
There really are no good alternative routes along this section. This is a very densely populated area and surface streets are slow, and offer too many opportunities to get hit by somebody that thinks their car is just another good place to talk on their cell phone. That's a warning - motorcycles are nothing more than a target here.
Wisconsin Border to Oshkosh
Well, did you get away from Chicago without major calamity? Good! The next stretch up to Oshkosh is co-located with I-94 and US-45. It's four lane and four lane divided, and offers nothing but high speed and congestion. The 'wander till you drop' alternative is to take Wisconsin State Roads 20, 83, and 175 toward Fond Du Lac. You won't make good time on them, but you will have the opportunity to see and experience what the farm country of Wisconsin is all about.
Nature types and bird watchers should plan to divert over to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge for a couple hours of communing with the birds. It's a nice break, and your tax dollars have paid for this, so why not enjoy it?
Fond Du Lac and Oshkosh are both large resort areas that take advantage of a large inland lake that is clean, scenic, and a nice place to cool off on a hot summer day. There are lots of day use areas, both commercial and public, that offer decent parking and changing rooms from your road gear into that nifty swimming suit you tucked into your bag.
Unless you are planning to spend some time at the EAA Fly-In, the last week of July and first week of August should be avoided here. Nearly a million visitors stuff the hotels and burden every road for miles around. If you have never been to the Oshkosh Fly-In, and you have any appreciation of flying - DO PLAN to come in, camp for a day or two and enjoy the experience.
The event is well populated by riders and Harley-Davidson joins in the fun with a large exhibit area and frequently plans local area rides as part of the event.
Oshkosh to Menominee, MI
This may be technically be northern Wisconsin, but it looks and rides a lot like the suburbs of Chicago. Four lane and four lane divided, grimy, busy, ugly, and full of commuters. If you are taking this route to enjoy the ride, pull out a detail map and make your way over to the county roads that can take you around Green Bay and over to the Lake Michigan shoreline. They aren't full of things to see, but at least you can slow down enough to think and not have to worry that some Packers fan will see your out of state license plate and attempt to make you a fender ornament.
There's lots to see in Green Bay, and it offers many places to stay at all budget levels, but I prefer to push on into Marinette or Menominee. Both towns have that real 'up north' flavor where a working guy is appreciated and the tourist is welcomed with a Kielbasa and a cold beer. If you don't happen to know what Kielbasa is, get ready - it's much better than pickled pigs feet and must less disgusting than cows tongue. The gastronomic adventures of northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan are unique. Remember I warned you about that.
Menominee to Three Lakes
Beyond Marinette and Menominee the route takes a straight arrow show toward US-2 and then a curious jog to the east to reach Escanaba. It's possible to rip up the road fairly quickly, but the number of large, furry, critters on hoof and paw make it unwise. The more scenic alternative to reach Escanaba is M-35, along the bay. Frequently you can't really see Lake Michigan because of the forest, but don't let that stop you from taking the occasional dirt road to the east and enjoying a rest on the shoreline.
The curious jog to the east on M-41 continues through Rapids River, Trenary, Kiva, and Skandia as the road goes to Marquette. Again, the logical alternative is M-35, this time through Gwinn. Either way, there isn't much to see other than miles and miles of northern forest.
If you don't take the job and you go around Marquette, you'll miss a very interesting town. Many of the old buildings that survive from the boom eras are really interesting and there are many opportunities for some nice photos all around town.
Regardless of your choice, don't miss the opportunity to stop just west of Ishpeming at DaYoopers Tourist Trap
. It's an irreverent look at Upper Peninsula life by an oddball musical group that everybody loves, but nobody admits to knowing.
If you remember the opening segment of ABC's "Wide World of Sports" you will want to plan a stop at the National Ski Hall of Fame and take a look at the old wooden ski jump that for decades has drawn the fearless to this particularly forgotten part of the world. The sight brings a new dimension to "the agony of defeat!"
Three Lakes to Copper Harbor
The quiet beauty of this heavily forested road continues through L'Anse, Baraga, and into Hancock-Houghton, which is really two communities that straddle the inlet to Portage Lake. Essentially, the remainder of the Keewenaw Peninsula is a very large island. There is a rich history of hard rock mining, logging, and Great Lakes maritime culture here that can take days to explore if you are into ghost towns and abandoned mine shafts.
It's difficult to imagine what these boom towns were like over a century ago. After the mines played out, the hearty pioneers left as quickly as they came. US-41/M-26 is the only major road from Houghton to Copper Harbor at the tip of the peninsula. Woody Guthrie wrote about one particularly sad event in his song "1913 Massacre." Life here was brutal in the mining boom.
Although there are several motels, the opportunities to camp inexpensively are inviting - as long as you don't mind primitive campsites. Many of those visiting here are really just passing through, on the way to one of several ferry lines that take visitors to Isle Royale, 48 miles out into Lake Superior.
If you have traveled from the Atlantic Ocean all the way here to the inland sea of Lake Superior, you have a two thousand mile adventure to remember for a lifetime. You've ridden through large swamps, over large bays, across craggy mountains, experienced the traffic patterns of some of America's largest cities, and found yourself at the edge of the frozen north. Congratulations, Rider, you've done something special!