We see the mysterious sign right next to our house every day, stating that the Merrimac Ferry is down the road, with lights to indicate when the ferry is closed. But the lights never flash. Today we investigated (inbetween loads at the local laundromat) the Merrimac Ferry, the last remaining ferry in the Wisconsin State freeway system, and the only free ferry left in the state.
The trip is a bit longer than one would think. From the sign saying the ferry is up ahead, you head down 12, take a right on 18, go through Waunakee, head down 113, take a left on 113, go through Dane, continue through Lodi, drive through rising hills on the way to the Dells, and finally come to Lake Wisconsin, a vast expanse stretching out to your right, and then narrowing for the ferry crossing. It's a journey through the Wisconsin countryside.
Dane is a village of some 800, in a town of the same name of some 950, which is a bit odd, considering the county is of the same name, implying that this is somehow the county seat, or was. Its a beautiful little village, with an old-fashioned bank.
Until you view it from a different angle, and see its gone through some changes, trading business in money for business in looks.
Dane also has a lake, filled with petulant Canadian Geese.
Further down the road is Lodi, where my cousin lives. Its a town with the feel of old money, and Victorian homes.
Old Lodi has a very classic 1800s downtown look. The police station below is the small building to the left of the city hall.
All day the winds have been gusting, with some reaching up to 50 mph. When we arrived at the Merrimac crossing, the willows were filled with the breeze.
If you come from Seattle, you're expecting something different when you hear about a ferry. Two decks for people, two for cars, taking some 200 cars at a time, with at the very least a twenty-five minute crossing. This is a smaller affair, taking only fifteen cars across at a time, with seven minutes to cross. As soon as I drove up on it, I could feel the car rocking in the waves. The water sprayed over the boat, drenching our car, and tasting oddly...fresh.
The ferry was originally powered by hand, and still uses two ropes on either side, pulling itself with a gasoline engine and surging without a pause right up to the gangplank on each side.
There's not much to see on the other side of the crossing. An ice cream store, which is more exciting when it's not 50 degrees out. So we immediately turned around, and barely caught the ferry heading back. And got to see some of the great beauty of Autumn in Wisconsin, arriving home to see the falling of the first small flakes of the Long Winter to come.