Over the river and through the woods, to work I go

Bike lanes on recently repaved Washington Blvd.

One of the things I love about riding a bike to work is choosing my route each day.  I live in the Washington Heights neighborhood, which is super walkable and bikeable.  We have bike lanes on most of the major arterials and lots of destinations a short ride from home. I love my neighborhood and one day I will devote a blog entry just to all the fab places within a short bike ride from my home.

Although I love my neighbrhood,  a few years ago, I complained that my commute to downtown was only about 5 miles. Someone on the Milwaukee bike to work listserv was quick to reply that I did not have to take the shortest route to work each day.  Another person at work told me he adds 20 miles to his trip home.  That was like a revelation. So now I choose my route to work based on how quickly I get out the door after making breakfast for my family and walking the dogs.  I start work at 7am, so I need to be pretty efficient if there is to be any extra time.

Oak Leaf Trail through Doyne Park

I will describe some of the highlights of one of my favorite routes.  I begin on smooth pavement and bike lanes with Washington Blvd.  The street is lined by historic homes and well kept lawns.  The next highlight is biking through Doyne Park. In Doyne there are two options, the official route on the Oak Leaf Trail, and the unofficial dirt trail used by mountain bikers, dog walkers and trail runners. I usually take the very pleasant paved official route.  But once in a while I feel like riding the mtb route. With 28c tires on my commuter, the trail is no problem.

Follow me kids...Mother goose with gosslings in tow in Stormwater Park

After Doyne I head down Wells St and N 44th St to get to the Hank Aaron State Trail which runs along the Menomonee River here.  The first section of the trail is planted extensively with native prairie plants that are all just beginning to come into boom.  This section is also great fly fishing.  When the trout and salmon are running you can just about walk across the water on their backs as the river is so thick with them.

There have also been a lot of geese raising their gosslings along the trail.  They enjoy all the ponds which are part of the passive storm water management system for the valley industrial park.

Pedal this bike and the bird up above flaps its wings.

Heading east past the roundabout at 25th St. I have the option of the taking the river/art loop or staying along Canal St where I might get to see the miniature horse Mr. Picasso, the Valley’s only equine resident taking a walk Andy, who owns the boat yard right along the trail.  Picasso can do a number of tricks in addition to being cute as a button.

Picasso and Andy

Then I take the long route past the Harley Davidson Museum, which built a trail through their museum campus.  The Harley Museum is a cool place to visit and it has great cafes inside. 

Next I head over the 6th St. Bridge past the Iron Horse Hotel.  The Iron Horse is an upscale boutique hotel with a super cool lobby and bar.  The Iron Horse pretty much defines “motorcycle chic,” a great place to stop for a cocktail on the way home from work.

Prairie in Lakeshore State Park

The last highlight of the ride is the trip through the Lakeshore State Park, a new park built on landfill in Lake Michigan.  It is right off the Discovery World Museum and Milwaukee Art Museum campuses, both totally worth joining as a member so you can stop in any time for a quick fix of art or science.

Bike lanes on 6th St. Bascule Bridge

The short route from my home is mostly downhill and takes 15-20 minutes door to door for the 5 mile ride.  This one is about 8 miles and takes about 30 minutes longer. Reviewing all the lovely little details on this route makes me wonder how I ever get to work on time.  Sure it takes longer and I have to get up really early to have time to enjoy this urban escape.  But don’t you agree a little detour from daily life is worth taking once in a while?


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
This entry was posted in commuting and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Over the river and through the woods, to work I go

  1. Jason says:

    I love the new bike lanes on Washington Blvd. Smooth. Why are the cyclists wearing chef hats, though? Who came up w/ that bike lane graphic?

  2. Tim says:

    Love the photos. Inspired me to explore new routes to and from work, too.

    • daveschlabowske says:

      Thanks for the comment Tim. I can’t believe it took me so long to begin viewing my ride to work as something more than a commute or a training ride. Maybe cuz I’m getting old.

  3. Denny Yunk says:

    Hey Dave – great post. I’ve begun doing the same thing recently, along the same route, no less. It takes me about 15 minutes longer than going down Highland, but it’s so much more enjoyable. That’s one of the things I enjoy about bike commuting – it’s so much fun that I’m in no rush to get it over with.

    • daveschlabowske says:


      Do you ever take the mtb trail too? After all, you have a perfect “rough stuff” bike.

      • Denny Yunk says:

        I wasn’t aware of it until I read your post. I tried to spot its entrance yesterday, but I didn’t stop to investigate, as we had guests coming over.

  4. Jason says:

    Denny, the entrance is underneath the Hawley Rd. bridge. SW side. If you start to enter the parking lot of the Home for the Blind, you’ve gone too far.

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