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Every Wednesday at 6:45 a.m., 8:45 a.m., and 5:45 p.m., we turn back the clock on WXPR with local historian Gary Entz to find out what life in the Northwoods used to be like. This is part of a new initiative by WXPR to tell the history and culture of northern Wisconsin.You can keep track of A Northwoods Moment in History and all of WXPR's local features on the WXPR Local Features podcast, wherever you get your podcasts.

A Bicycle Adventure to the Northwoods

Wisconsin Historical Society

On a steamy summer day in early August of 1960, two teenage boys living in Warrensville, Illinois, John Hudetz, age 15, and Peter Jonssen, age 14, were at home and talking about the good times they had in past summers at their uncle Ted Jonssen’s Rustic Lodge on Muskellunge Lake just north of McNaughton.  While chatting they decided what a great idea it would be to pay Uncle Ted a visit.  The two boys took their sleeping bags, a single change of clothes, and slipped them into packs hung over the handlebars of their bicycles.  On August 8, three days after coming up with the idea, they hit the road.

Hudetz and Jonssen had decent bikes, but not the sort that a modern cyclist would take for cross-country touring.  Hudetz had what was described as a “lightweight” bike, which meant it was a 10-speed.  Jonssen’s bike was described as “mediumweight.”  It was an ordinary city bike, probably with three speeds.  The first leg of the journey was the most difficult as their muscles had to become accustomed to the constant peddling, but they made it to Jonssen’s grandmother’s house in Rockford, Illinois, where they got a good rest and a hearty meal.

The cyclists made good milage on the second day and reached Columbus, Wisconsin.  They spent the night sleeping under a bandstand in a park.  On the third day Hudetz and Jonssen made it to Amherst and spent the night at a wayside.  On the fourth day the teenagers hit heavy rain and made it no further than Wausau.  They got a two-dollar room at a cheap hotel, washed their clothes, and went to a movie.  The weather was good on the fifth day of their journey, and by early evening Hudetz and Jonssen were pedaling into the entrance of the Rustic Lodge on Muskellunge Lake.

The entire journey was 350 miles.  The boys carried no food with them and ate all their meals in drive-ins or roadside cafes.  Neither boy had trouble with his bike, which was fortunate as they had no bicycle repair tools with them.  They also traveled side roads and avoided main thoroughfares like Highway 51 as much as possible.

Like many summer visitors, Hudetz and Jonssen stayed for a long weekend then hit the road for the return trip.  This time they set a goal of four days to reach home.  The two left the Rustic Lodge early in the morning of August 16, and by evening reached the small town of Ringle, where they spent the night.  Hudetz and Jonssen made better time the second day and reached Princeton, where a kindly farmer let them sleep overnight in his barn.

The two boys faced a strong south wind the entire trip and on the third day the rain came again.  They reached Edgerton where local police officers allowed them to sleep in a cell to avoid the overnight downpour.  They rode hard on the fourth day and made it home to Warrensville late in the evening.

A 700-mile round trip on bicycles in 1960 made a Northwoods visit for Hudetz and Jonssen an adventure to remember.

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