Taking the Cougar to Illinois to Get Cheese

Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. Why would you leave the Dairy State to get cheese in Illinois? In many ways, I don’t have an explanation other than, “Why not?” One thing I like to do when I’m bored is going on Google Maps and scope out different places.

I know that Green County, Wisconsin, is well-known for its cheesemaking. It was one of the first counties in the state to embrace it. I decided to type in “cheese factory” in Google Maps, and this is what I came up with. Judging by the sheer number of cheese factories in the area, its legacy still remains.

I noticed Wenger Spring Brook Cheese. It appeared to be only about a mile or two from the Wisconsin-Illinois state line. This may actually be the closest thing to Wisconsin cheese without being Wisconsin cheese! I made a mental note that I wanted to visit it and tried to figure out a good time to do so.

Eventually, I found a perfect Saturday to take a road trip and head that direction. The weather was nice, and I needed to get my Cougar out to get some highway miles on it. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much for a website or social media for Wenger Spring Brook Cheese. I couldn’t even find hours listed on Google Maps.

My saving grace was that there was a phone number listed. I called it, and someone answered. I found out that they were usually closing around the time I called. However, I was told they were making a few more vats of cheese, so someone would be around if I could come in the next couple of hours. It’s only about a 45-minute drive, so that wouldn’t be any issue.

Now one thing about owning an old car is its quirks. Gaskets and seals tend to wear out. In my case, the shifter seal on the transmission leaks. I eventually need to fix this permanently, but as of right now, I’m just keeping an eye on transmission fluid levels.

I took the Cougar for a little drive to get everything warmed up and then checked the transmission fluid. It was a little low, so I added some more fluid.

Now, everything was good to go, so I hopped in. The Cougar only has an AM radio. Since there’s not much on AM, I bought a Bluetooth speaker instead. I have it synced with my phone and play music from that.

I looked at my fuel levels to make sure I had enough gas. It seemed like I was good to go, so I hit the road.

Per usual, the GPS took me down a bunch of backroads. It definitely made for a scenic drive.

Now, I’m not one to typically speed other than about 5 miles per hour over or whatever traffic is going. I don’t want to be the slow poke holding everyone up because I must strictly adhere to the speed limit, but I’m not going to go fast enough to get me a ticket. The last speeding ticket I received was a decade ago.

Since I was taking some back roads, I was goosing on the Cougar a bit. The speedometer is about 5-10mph off (another quirk). I was driving down some back county road, and my speedometer said I was doing about 65-70. This would be somewhere a little above 60 on a 55mph road.

Now, being in the middle of nowhere, there wasn’t a soul to be found. Then all of a sudden, a sheriff’s deputy turns out behind me from a gravel road. I let off a bit, and now I know I’m only doing about 55. The GPS was taking me all over the place, and I was constantly turning onto new roads. The cop followed me for a few turns.

I thought I was in for it, and I’d get some sort of ticket or stern warning, but eventually, he turned onto another road. So, I guess I got lucky, or I wasn’t speeding as much as I thought I might have been. I probably should recalibrate that speedometer sometime soon.

My next challenge was road construction. This is where I did the opposite of speeding and probably could have got an impeding traffic ticket. The last thing I wanted was rocks to ding the body of the Cougar.

I got past the road construction and passed a dairy along the way. However, I still had a ways to go before getting to the dairy in Illinois.

If you ever look at maps, at least in the Midwest, you’ll notice that the roads near a state line are curved a bit.

These curves are probably an easy way to delineate the state line. On the back roads, there are usually no welcome signs. For Wisconsin, they only had a sign saying County Road G ended.

For Illinois, there was just a sign stating the weight limits of the road.

I turned down a few township roads, and eventually, the cheese factory was in sight.

It appeared I’d have to drive in the back where the store was.

The inside of the store was very simple. It was basically the back of a loading dock with a cash register and a sheet on the wall with prices of cheese.

I decided to get a pound of Munster cheese. The lady who took my call went into the back and got it out of the cooler. She then cut a pound block and wrapped it up.

I then drove the Cougar to the front and took a picture. This cheese factory is definitely a cool mom-and-pop sort of operation.

I figured I could squeeze a little more out of this adventure. So, I hit the road back to Wisconsin and headed towards Monroe.

Of course, for half of the way, I got behind a truck which was the type of slow poke driver I vow never to be. Unfortunately, he reduced his speed well before he needed to, and this road was too busy that I could not pass.

I made it to Monroe and parked in front of the courthouse.

I then walked to Baumgartner’s to get one of their famous cheese sandwiches.

I figured I’d try to get the stinkiest sandwich I could find. The Limburger combo with braunschweiger sounded right up that alley.

When I ordered, the waitress actually asked me if I had ever had Limburger before (I hadn’t). Then, she asked if I wanted to try it first before ordering a whole sandwich. To me, this was an all-or-nothing deal, so I said I’ll just give the whole sandwich a try. My grandpa used to wolf these kinds of things down; he lived to be 92, so in many ways, this may be good for me.

The sandwich quickly arrived. I made sure to add horseradish mustard to it. I’d have one pungent sandwich with the Limburger, braunschweiger, onions, and horseradish mustard!

I will say this was a lot better than I expected. My grandpa used to eat pretty nasty things, and a lot of the smells turned me off to this kind of food. So, in many ways, I liked this sandwich. But, I will say, the breath mint they provided wasn’t enough to cut through the smell. I was now wondering if Victoria would let me back into the house when I came home.

The one thing that sucks about Belleville is there’s no hardware store. That’s one thing sorely missing. Luckily, New Glarus has a hardware store, and it was right along the way home. So I stopped and got some weed killer and grass seed.

My last stop before home was to get gas. With a 351 Windsor, the Cougar isn’t exactly the most fuel-efficient.

Also, since the Cougar is carbureted, I need to run no ethanol gas in it. That commands a bit of a premium.

I filled up, and the damage was $50.

I calculated my gas mileage. I got a whole 13mpg! Needless to say, the car is great for short trips around the area. It’s probably not the best financial decision to go too far, though. I finally made it home and then dug into the cheese I bought. It was good!

This was one of the first little road trips I took with the Cougar. It was fun taking it to another state and enjoying the cheese that this area has to offer. Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois seem to be a nice gem for that!

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