By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Sep 12, 2007 at 5:13 AM

It might not be Sturgis, but Tomahawk will become the motorcycle capital of the Midwest this week and for the rest of September.

The Tomahawk Fall Ride brings in more than 40,000 motorcycle enthusiasts and others to the area each September. The event not only brings in entertainment and the newest motorcycles and accessories from Harley-Davidson, but it also raises money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). In fact, the Tomahawk Fall Ride is the largest local fundraiser for MDA in North Central Wisconsin.

MDA hosts a wide variety of activities at SARA Park. Activities begin Thursday, Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. and conclude on Sunday, Sept. 16 at noon.

You could win a 2007 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide motorcycle or a 2007 Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster motorcycle in a raffle at the park. Both are custom painted.

Vendors sell a variety of motorcycle products and refreshments.  Official Fall Ride merchandise sales and Tomahawk Operations Harley-Davidson merchandise often are the most popular items.

Demo rides on Harleys are provided. Live music will also be held. On Thursday, the Vic Ferrari band will play, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Ice Arena. There will be a $5 cover charge per person, refreshments will be available and door prizes awarded.

Howard Luedtke will play from 10  a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, and the Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin' Altar Boys will follow. Luedtke and Blue Max will play Saturday.

The Riverside Rendezvous Brat Fry and Bon Fire at SARA Park Beach is another popular event. The Tomahawk Chamber and Downtown Business Council host this event . This year’s brat fry is sponsored by Nelson’s County Market. There will be live music by Irene Keenan.

More info on the Tomahawk events can be found at

While the focus of the fundraising events are this weekend, the Fall Ride actually runs all month. There’s no finer time or place for riding than fall in Wisconsin, and autumn colors already are starting to show in parts of the Northwoods.

Here are a few of the state’s more popular touring areas for both motorcycle and auto enthusiasts, according to the State Department of Tourism:

Hilltop Color Tour -- A perfect side trip for cyclists en route to Tomahawk, this tour features the state’s highest points. Driving north on Interstate 51, visitors can’t miss Rib Mountain State Park. At its peak, 1,940 feet above sea level, a 60-foot-tall observation tower provides a breathtaking vantage point for seeing the Wisconsin River Valley.

After visiting Tomahawk (45 minutes north of Rib Mountain), bikers can head west one-half hour to Timm’s Hill, near Ogema. At 1,952 feet above sea level, it is Wisconsin’s highest point.

From Timm’s Hill, take Wis. Highway 13 south to U.S. Highway 10 and head west to the Highground Veterans Memorial Park in Neillsville, which sits atop a ridge overlooking hillsides blazing in autumn blush.
Great River Road -- Motorcyclists driving to Tomahawk from the south and west may want to spend a day meandering along Wisconsin’s Great River Road (Wis. Highway 35). Recognized as a National Scenic Byway by the Federal Highway Administration, Wis. Highway 35 parallels the Mississippi River for 250 miles from Kieler to Prescott, weaving through nostalgic river towns, lush wildlife refuges and numerous historical sites. Rising as much as 500 feet from the riverbed, the tree-topped limestone bluffs along the banks of the Mississippi become pedestals for beautiful autumn colors.

The Great River Road forms the western boundary of Wisconsin’s unglaciated area, a unique topographical region that offers some of the best riding in the Midwest, according to Peter Egan, editor-at-large for Cycle World and Road & Track magazines.

“The area bordered by Interstates 90/94 on the east and north, the Mississippi River on the west and the Illinois state line on the south is absolutely fantastic for motorcycle touring,” says Egan. “It is very hilly and rural, with winding two-lane roads that cross creeks and bridges, climb ridges, flow down into valleys and intersect quaint small towns with biker-friendly cafes.”

(Flooding and landslides in August closed parts of Highway 35, but it is fully open now.)

Driftless Area -- In addition to the Great River Road, Egan recommends riding in the Elroy/Kendall/Ontario area (near Wildcat Mountain State Park); touring down the Kickapoo River Valley through LaFarge, Viola and other small towns along Wis. Highway 131; and cruising the Wisconsin River Valley on Wis. Highways 14 and 60 in Sauk and Richland Counties.

Bayfield/Apostles -- Visitors coming from any direction may want to detour two hours to the north of Tomahawk and tour the Bayfield Peninsula/Apostle Islands area. The Apostles are a chain of 22 islands in Lake Superior off Wisconsin’s northern tip. While 21 of the 22 islands are a National Park Service property and not accessible to motorcycles, Madeline Island is reachable by car ferry from the picturesque port town of Bayfield.

Cranberry Road -- Another popular fall motorcycle (and auto) tour routes include the Cranberry Highway route from Warrens to Wisconsin Rapids, which curls past 50-some miles of fields, farms and flooded crimson cranberry bogs.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.