While the S.S. Badger has been honored with a placement on the National Register of Historic Places, its beginnings were humble. First setting sail in 1953, the Badger originally carried railcars, along with a few select passengers, across scenic Lake Michigan year round. Now the last of the United States’s coal-fired steamships, the 410-foot vessel ships cargo of a different kind, transporting guests and their vehicles across Lake Michigan with the comforts and amenities of a modern cruise ship, with efforts to improve their ship environmentally in the near future.
While the boat embarks along between Ludington, Michigan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin, guests amble through the open deck for views of the scenic shorelines or set up shop on deck chairs, armed with a cool drink and a Mermaid-to-English dictionary. The ship’s shaded interior entertains with movies, guests shouting at celebratory bingo, and arcade games giving off musical tones as kids set new high scores. For a more muted ride, private staterooms let guests snooze away the hours, and a quiet room elucidates the ship’s history in hushed solitude. An in-house bar blends, shakes, and stirs ingredients into a range of refreshing cocktails, while the café showcases artfully crafted sandwiches like a deli hall of fame.
The Capitol Pedaler was designed and built by a Dutchman in bicycle-happy Amsterdam before arriving in Madison to whisk travelers around town in eco-friendly style. Lovingly referred to as ?The Big Red Bike?, it adopted its signature hue state-side in honor of the Wisconsin Badgers, and frequently takes breaks from escorting pub-crawlers and wedding parties to ferry fans on game day. Capable of accommodating up to 14 passengers, with the recommended group size of at least six?eight pedalers the vehicle typically cruises at 5?7 miles per hour?the perfect speed for drag racing local steamrollers.
Prechosen routes include excursions to the zoo or the Old Sugar Distillery, making up to three preselected stops en route at local bars, public parks, and coffee shops. While alcoholic drinks aren?t allowed on the foot-powered party bus, passengers are welcome to bring their own snacks and nonalcoholic drinks to enjoy between stops, and can blast premade playlists of party songs or favorite commercial jingles courtesy of an on-board stereo with iPod and mp3-player connections.
The Wisconsin Badgers have appeared in the Rose Bowl every year since 2010, and Badger Trips of Wisconsin has ensured that more than 1,000 Wisconsin football fans have been there to represent Madison in person. This year, with the Big Ten conference champions set to clash with the Stanford Cardinal on New Year’s Day, Badger Trips fulfills what has become its annual duty by organizing luxurious travel packages to Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena. Along with tickets to The Granddaddy of Them All, the packages include customizable necessities—including airfare and hotel stays—and extra perks such as transportation to Rose Bowl events, which means fans won't need to rent a car or hitch a ride on Bucky Badger’s shoulders to get around.
In homage to Harley-Davidson's legendary hogs, Steve "Doc" Hopkins built a 24.5-foot-long, 10-seat motorcycle powered by seven engines that he dubbed the "Timeline." Then, in homage to the bike, Hopkins opened the Timeline Saloon & BBQ. There, the cooks prepare what you might expect at a restaurant themed after a 10-seat motorcycle: barbecue. Though there's pulled pork, beef brisket, and chicken on the menu, the ribs are the standout dish. First, they're marinated in apple juice, teriyaki sauce, and maple syrup for 48 hours. Next, they're slow-roasted in the onsite smokehouse and slathered in one of five sauces. If you're worried that there won't be enough food, their cooks also prepare an epic, 7-pound burger.
Before or after your meal, explore the restaurant's sprawling premises, which include a Harley-Davidson dealership, classic car and motorcycle museum, antique shop, and zoo with alligators, a camel, tortoises, and other animals that would look cute in motorcycle vests.
Stationed on the shores of Lake Mendota, SkipperBud?s staff pairs clients with their choice of vessel before launching them into the lake?s placid waters. Up to 12 passengers can lounge on the Sylvan pontoon?s wraparound couches as the vessel cruises past the university campus and circles Governor?s Island. The more compact Sea Ray, meanwhile, kicks up waves as it races to the dock.
Refreshing zephyrs glide off freshwater lochs and onto SkipperBud's, an all-purpose marina on the shores of Lake Mendota. New and used boats from high-end brands such as Starcraft and Sea Ray bob beside the sprawling facilities, where savvy salespeople bring decades of know-how to the 40-year-old company. Engine parts, safety tackle, and watersports equipment are also on hand, as are adept boat mechanics trained to tinker on most boat models and engine types. Indoor storage facilities fend off the icy barks of Old Man Winter, and, in the summer, make for easy access to Lake Mendota's launch points.