We met at Keith's house, a short distance from our place. His driveway is on an incline. We were nearly suited up and ready to go, when Aaron made an unsuccessful attempt to move the Blazer up the driveway due to the snow and ice. He chose to back down the driveway and put the Blazer into 4-low to get up to street level. Once up, he soon found that the transfer case on the Blazer refused to come out of low range. After a half hour or so tinkering with it, with no result, we limped the Blazer home and made the choice to take the Jeep instead.
While I had been driving the Jeep locally, I hadn't taken it on any long-distance trips since we decided to transplant in a donor transfer case and transmission. We'd been waiting for nicer weather to make this happen... and it hadn't happened yet. Keeping in mind that the transmission slips some, and I had no 4-wheel drive options available to me... and the speed sensor/speedometer wasn't working... we chose to take it long distance, to untested and unknown terrain anyway.
These are things good stories are made of, right?
So we cruised to Galena without incident - approximately 125 miles to the western border of Illinois. Stopped for a quick bite to eat before hopping north over the Wisconsin border in search of the southernmost terminus of the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail. The directions and maps that Keith brought with were pretty straightforward in the routing, and we soon found ourselves on countryside farm roads.
In my personal research of the trail, I knew to anticipate paved and gravel roads in the southern sections of the route. This is exactly what we found in the beginning. But the roads were winding, and many were snow covered... and with my lack of anything but decent tires and 2-wheel drive, I still found them to be a little fun.
After time passed, we did come across more remote sections of road. I imagine that without the snow, they would be dirt and gravel. Although most of those sections that we drove had at least 2"+ of snow cover. And better winding roads. And some pretty decent hilly areas - enough so that I broke the rear wheels of the Jeep loose a number of times. We encountered a few water crossings and lots of evidence of wildlife. I can only imagine the difference between these sections of road now and in the spring or fall seasons.
We continued on, following the roads along Mississippi river valley until we ended up near Prairie Du Chien. It was there we crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa. We stopped on the Iowa side, in Marquette, for a few photos of the vehicles before we went our separate ways. It was nearly 4pm by the time we turned around and we had a 3-1/2 + hour drive ahead of us.
It's of the general opinion that the trail we've seen so far is very doable by any vehicle that's not too close to the ground (ie: sports cars), and that has decent tires... in the nicer months of the year. I would have liked to have had at least 4-hi for better peace of mind this time, but we still managed just fine.
We did have some buggy issues related to the lack of a speed sensor, but we made it the entire 400+ mile trip without major issues - go Eugene!
I have read that the terrain on the trail gets more interesting the further north it gets - it's there that we'd still like to go. It's our hopes that we can take a long weekend once the weather gets warmer to travel farther up the route, if not all the way to Lake Superior, where it ends.