Lake Michigan Circle Tour – The Great Bike Touring Adventure (part 2)

This is the second part of my Lake Michigan tour by bicycle post. This section covers the stay in Chicago, and the route from Chicago to Manitowoc, WI.

If you have not read the first part, it is available here

Lake Michigan Tour by Bicycle – From Chicago to Manitowoc, WI

Chicago - Cloud Gate
The Cloud Gate in Millennium Park,. Commonly know as the Bean.


The next day, I stayed put in Chicago, not so much to rest, but to visit some of Chicago’s attractions. I’ve been to Chicago before, but have not had a chance to visit some places, and some I would enjoy visiting again.

So, I went to the Museum Campus and visited the Field Museum. It is a great museum with number of exhibits. You could spend hours there. However, I did not have that much time, since I wanted to see so many places, so I kind of rushed through in few hours.

Field Museum, Chicago
Field Museum, Chicago.

From there I walked to Navy Pier. I had been to Navy Pier before, but it was nice to walk around again.

Then I walked along the Chicago River on the Riverwalk, on the south side of the river.

Chicago River in Chicago
Chicago River and the Riverwalk (along the left bank).

At lunchtime, I went to Giordano’s for pizza. Another disappointment! The pizza was tiny, and I waited for it forever! Another tourist trap!

After lunch I went and walked through the Millennium Park. I have always enjoyed walking there before, during my previous visits to the city.

From the park I went to Willis Tower to go on the Sky Deck to see the city from above. However, the wait was hour and half, and therefore, I regrettably decided to skip it. I just didn’t have enough time.

In the evening I went on the Architecture River Cruise. This was a great way to see the Chicago’s great skyscrapers and other downtown buildings from the river. They looked spectacular with all the lights after sunset. This is something that I will definitely repeat, and something that I would recommend for anybody visiting Chicago.

Years ago I went on a cruise on Lake Michigan along the Chicago’s waterfront. It was nice, but the river cruise is much more spectacular!

The day went fast. I walked 16 miles throughout the day. So, when I returned to the hotel at night it was already late, and I was tired.

Downtown Chicago at night from the river
Architecture river cruise.

Chicago to Waukegan, IL (50 miles/80 km)

The ride from Chicago to Waukegan was easy. It was mostly trails, paved and gravel. There were few miles of roads here and there, usually with a dedicated bike lane.

From the downtown Chicago, I took the Lakefront Trail north to W Lawrence Ave, which I took west, for about 3 miles. At the North Branch of Chicago River, just past it, on the right hand side, there is the North Shore Channel Trail.
You have to be careful, as the trail splits and crosses the river. So, to keep going north, you need to cross over to the east side on W Argyle St.
I followed the trail for few miles till I got to Green Bay Rd, which I took north for brief moment, to get over the railroad tracks and follow Poplar Ave north (it parallels Green Bay Rd). Finally, at Wilmette Ave I got on the Green Bay Trail. I got off the Green Bay Trail, at Lincoln Ave, just south of Highland Park.
Again, you really have to be careful with this trail because it occasionally follows the local streets here and there. It often splits into multiple legs, or connects with short local sections. Then when you get close to Highland Park, Google maps no longer mark it as a bike trail.
I turned east (right) on Lincoln Ave W, and followed it to Linden Ave, which I took north (left). I rode on it till Central Ave, where I turned west (left). I followed it to St Johns Ave, where I turned north (right). I followed St Johns Ave to Vine Ave, which I took west (left) and it got me to the Robert McClory Bike Path, on the north side of the street (right side).
Again, the same caution as above – Robert McClory Bike Path at times follows the local street, and then after a while becomes a dedicated trail. I am not going to mention these streets, as you can easily follow the trail on Google maps.
The trail took me all the way to Waukegan.
Lakefront Trail, Chicago - part f my Lake Michigan Tour by Bicycle
Lakefront Trail, Chicago.

As described above, I followed some low traffic streets through town and got on Robert McClory Bike Path north of downtown. I followed the trail through North Chicago, and through Waukegan, and stayed overnight north of the city.

It was a relatively easy ride.

Waukegan, IL

According to Wikipedia, Waukegan is a industrial suburb of Chicago with a population of under 90 thousand people. My impression, limited by what I saw from the trail, was that it is a poor, economically depressed town. Actually, some neighborhoods reminded me of some “not so great” areas in Detroit.

 In Waukegan I stayed at the Travelodge hotel. Getting to the hotel from the trail was relatively easy, by riding half a mile on low traffic W Beach Rd, and then riding short section of sidewalk south. However, going from the hotel to get some food wasn’t easy. There were few stores and fast food places about a half a mile distance south of the hotel along N Levis Ave/Cty W34. The street is a major, 4-lane road with a lot of high-speed traffic and no shoulder with just few short sections of sidewalk on different sides of it. The drivers were impatient, and did not want to take time for passing at a safe distance and instead passed only inches away from me. I was glad, that it was during daylight and it was just a short section.

It seems that Robert McClory Bike Path does not have a dedicated website. On some biking websites, people warn that some sections of the trail in North Chicago and Waukegan can be dangerous. Does those comments have a merit?… I believe they do!… While researching it I found out that in October 2022 a 16-year old got shot on the trail in Waukegan in the middle of the day. There are also some other crimes that have been reported happening on the trail, so the shooting wasn’t an isolated incident.  So, be careful when riding there!

I was lucky! I did not run into any issues, while riding the trail there, but it did not give me good vibes.

Waukegan to Milwaukee (73 miles/117 km)

The ride from Waukegan to Milwaukee was relatively simple, but long. From Waukegan, I continued north on the Robert McClory Bike Path/Kenosha County Bike Trail for about 10 miles, till I got to the suburbs of Kenosha. From Kenosha to Milwaukee it was a lot of local trails with relatively short sections of roads between them. While the route, again, will sound convoluted and confusing, if you program it into your GPS, it will be easy to follow.

So, as I mentioned before, the ride from Waukegan to Kenosha was easy. At 89th St I turned east (right) and followed it for about 1/3 of a mile to 22nd Ave, which I followed south (right) for about  quarter of a mile to 91st St, which I took east for about ½ mile, till it turned into 7th Ave going north. Then I followed 7th Ave for over a mile, till 78th St, which I took east. I followed 78th St till it turned into 2nd Ave (about ½ mile). Then I followed 2nd Ave and then 3rd Ave north till I got to Wolfenbuttel Park. I rode around the park and got on the trail going north to 50th St. There I went right (east) across the bridge and got on the Pike Bike Trail. I followed the trail for about 3 miles, till it ended at intersection of Birch Rd and 15th Ave. Then I followed 15th Ave north and then east for about a mile till I got again to Birch Rd and then shortly after I got on the County Bike Trail going north. (If you look at the map, you could save yourself some turning, and you could just follow the Birch Rd. I went along the 15th Ave, because Google suggested it.) I rode on the County Bike Trail for about 5 miles or so, till I go to 16th St in Racine. There I took 16th St east (right) for 300 ft till I got to Quincy Ave, and took Quincy Ave north (left) to Washington Ave (about 500 ft). After crossing the road I got on the Root Riv Pathway going north. I followed it along the Root River Pathway the east (right) leg of it) till it ends at one point along the Liberty St which quickly turns into Ontario St. I followed Ontario St north and then Erie St, Dodge St, Reichert Ct till I got to Pugh Recreational Area. There I got on Lake Michigan Pathway, which I followed for about a mile. Then I followed Michigan Blvd north till Melvin Ave, which I took west for about a mile (till the end), till I got to the County Bike Trail again, just before railroad. I took I north (right). At 3 Mile Rd it turns into MRK Trail. I rode the trails for about 4 miles till I got to 6Mile Rd. Then I followed 6 Mile Rd west (left) for about 1000 ft to Douglas Ave which I took north to 7 Mile Rd. I followed 7 Mile Rd east (right) to the start of the WE Energies Trail, which I followed north for about mile and half, till I got to County Line Rd. I followed County Line Rd west (left) for about a mile, at which point I got on Oak Leaf Trail going north (right). I followed the trail for about 2 miles till it ends at the E Ryan Rd. There I took the E Ryan Rd west (left) for about third of a mile till it ends and at the end of it Oak Leaf Trail starts again. It first went west for about 700 ft and then turns north and in 500 ft turns right and goes behind the school grounds. I followed it for about mile and half till I got to E Drexel Ave, which I took east (right) for about half a mile. There I got on  the Oak Leaf Trail going north again. I followed the trail for a while it wound through some park areas, till, after few miles, I got to Oak Creek Parkway (at 15th Ave, north of South Milwaukee High School). From there I followed the parkway east (left), and later southeast, till it turns into Grant Park Dr, and soon after got on the Oak Leaf Trail again, going through some park land again. I rode the trail for few miles till its end at E Russell Ave. by the Lake Express ferry dock. There I took E Russell Ave west till it ends at S Kinnikinnic Ave/32nd Division Memorial Hwy. I took S Kinnikinnic Ave/32nd Division Memorial Hwy north (right) for half mile, till it got to W Maple St, where the KK River Trail intersects, Then I took the trail east (right) and almost immediately north and I followed it to the bridge on E Pittsburgh Ave/32ne Division Memorial Hwy. I took the bridge to the other side of Milwaukee River.  Soon I turned east (right) on E Menomonee St. I followed it all the way to the parking lot, rode across it, and under a freeway till I got on N Harbor Dr going north (left). Followed it till E Michigan St, where I got on the Oak Leaf Trail yet again, and I followed it north of the city. (Somewhere along  N Lincoln Memorial Dr, you have to cross to the west side leg of the Oak Leaf Trail and follow it inland, and not the leg along the shoreline.)
It got me to the vicinity of the hotel, north of the city, where I was staying overnight.
Milwaukee Art Museum
Milwaukee Art Museum.

This convoluted route of sections of trails and multitude of streets and roads was easy to follow with my GPS. And it clearly proves the value of having a programmable GPS computer. I can only imagine how hard and time consuming it would be with a map.

Milwaukee is a nice city worth exploring. However, I was too tired and did not do much exploring. It also did not help that I was staying north of the city, and not somewhere close to downtown. Next time around, I have to spend more time exploring it.

The ride was relatively easy, but long with 73 miles. Even though there were few miles of roads here and there, they were either low-traffic or with bike lanes.

Today in the morning, after few miles ride, I crossed from Illinois into Wisconsin.

Milwaukee to Belgium ( 35 miles/56 kilometers)

The day was going to be a hot one again. This is after few days with moderately warm weather. Therefore I booked a place in Belgium, which will make it a short ride.

I started today’s ride by continuing north on the Oak Leaf Trail for about 4 miles. At W Bradley Rd the Oak Leaf Trail veers to the west, and the trail going north (straight) is Brown Deer Trail. After about 2 miles, the Brown Deer Trail turns into Ozaukee Interurban Trail. I followed the Ozaukee Interurban Trail all the way to Cedarburg, which happened to be my first stop during the day. I stopped there for a early lunch in the Stilt House Bar, which was recommended by a friend.

Cedarburg is a beautiful small town worth spending a little time in. I just don’t know if I would recommend Stilt House. Food was good but a little expensive.

Port Washington, WI
Port Washington, WI
From Cedarburg I continued on the Ozaukee Interurban Trail, going northeast. In about mile and half the trail ends at the 7th Ave. From there I followed the 7th Ave north (left) to Beech St and then Beech St east (right) to the 11th Ave, on which I continued north (left) for a very short while till it ends at North St. On the north side of North St the Ozaukee Interurban Trail continues north, practically as an extension of the 11th Ave. I continued on the trail with some short brief interruptions, all the way to the outskirts of Port Washington. The trail ends there at W Oakland Ave. I followed the street east (right) to S Park St, which I took north (left). Soon the Ozaukee Interurban Trail started again on the east side of the street. I continued on the trail all the way to the waterfront. There I went north (left) on the S Wisconsin St to E Pier St, which I followed east to Harborview Ln, which I took north (left) to E Jackson St, which I took east (right) to get on the Ozaukee Interurban Trail again. This time the trail took me all the way to the town of Belgium.
Ozaukee Interurban Trail - - part of my Lake Michigan Tour by Bicycle
Ozaukee Interurban Trail in Belgium, WI.

Belgium is a really small town with nothing in it to see. If the day wasn’t as hot as it was, I would have continued north to Sheboygan. However, tomorrow suppose to be another really hot day, so extra hours of rest made sense.

Belgium to Manitowoc (51 miles/82 kilometers)

Today was going to be another hot day, so I got on the road at 8. The ride started easy and I was going only a relatively short distance to Manitowoc.

At first it was close to 10 miles along the Ozaukee Interurban Trail, all the way to Oostburg. The trail ended at the De Master Rd, which I took east (right) to S 6th St. Then I followed S 6 St north (left) to Town Line Rd, which I briefly followed east (right) to Minderhaud Rd. Then I rode on Minderhaud Rd north (left) to Wilson Lima Rd, which I followed east (right) again. After about a mile I got to Sauk Trail Rd, which I took north (left). I followed it for about 2 miles, till I got to a V Rd which almost immediately connected me with S Business Dr which I followed north (right) to Sunset Rd. Then I took Sunset Rd west (left) to S Taylor Dr. I took it north (right) to Stahl Rd, which I followed west (left).  When it curved north it turned into Racetrack Rd.
By the way, these are already suburbs of Sheboygan.
Pelicans in North Point Park in Sheboygan, WI
Pelicans in North Point Park in Sheboygan, WI.
I followed it till it turned east and ended at S Taylor Dr, which I followed north (left). I rode it for about 3 miles. Then I turned right (east) on New Jersey Ave. I followed it to S 15th St, which I took north (left) to S River St and almost immediately I went east (right) on Pennsylvania Ave. I got across Sheboygan River and followed the street all the way to the shoreline. There I got on the trail following Broughton St. When the trail turned away from the shoreline, I got on Barrett St, which turned into Park Ave, and I followed it till N 3rd St. At N 3rd St, I followed the street north (right). It turns into North Ave. I got off it on the N 6th St and took it north (right). At Pershing Ave, I turned west (left) and followed Pershing Ave briefly till N 8th St. I took N 8th St north (right). It turned into Eisner Ave.  I took it west to Lakeshore Dr, which I rode north (right) for a while. It took me to town of Cleveland. There, I stopped to snack and rest at the Hika Bay Park.

In the park I met a young couple from Wisconsin bike touring from Geneva, WI to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They were going one way and taking a combination of buses and trains back. They also skipped busy roads along the route by taking buses. A nice and easy way to get into bike touring.

The stretch from Sheboygan to Manitowoc was all on roads, but they were not very busy.

From the park I kept going north on Lakeshore Dr. It took me all the way to Manitowoc. Actually, in the city it changed the name to S 10th St.

When I got to the city, I relaxed after the ride at the Washington Park under nice deep shade of mature trees.

The ride was fairly easy, except for the excessive heat. In the evening I went out on foot and explore the town a little bit.

Manitowoc, WI - long my Lake Michigan Tour by Bicycle route.
Manitowoc, WI.

To be continued…

Rich S.
Rich S.
Rich S. is a lifetime photographer and traveler based in Metro Detroit area. He has been traveling the Great Lakes area for over 30 years. Follow his blog about his trips, interesting activities and destinations in the Great Lakes region.

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