Note: JMeiser, who I'm pretty sure is the original developer of the Trans-WI route and race organizer for that event contacted me via the bikepacking.net forums, asking me for some comments on the route. I thought my notes could be useful for other folks who might try to ride this route, so I have copied them them below for people to search out. You can follow along and see the route by folllowing this link. Here is what I had to say:
I appreciate the opportunity to comment. I think the route has a lot of potential, it was a great trip and I got to see a lot of different parts of WI. In fact, you should consider contacting Adventure Cycling or WORBA about making this an "official" bike route across the state.
Overall I think there may be a difference between what a tourist wants out of a route and what makes a good race route. For example, a tourist is going to want to go through or near a town or park at regular intervals so they can resupply or stay for the night. And while with a race course you may want to make a route as challenging as possible, for touring something scenic and interesting is preferred, often following the shortest line of least resistance between points (points being good sections of trail/road or scenic wild areas or towns in this case).
For example, the section of the route between the WI River and Viroqua seems to zig-zag around and go up and down from valley to ridge and back again to an excessive degree. Is there a reason the route goes almost all the way back to the Miss. River? Is that trail in Slide Hollow park worth going over that way? I actually developed a "Kickapoo Valley Cut-Off" to shorten this section of the route and give me an opportunity to see the Kickapoo Valley region. In the end we decided we needed to stay indoors that night, so we didn't use the route since the nearest town that had a hotel was Viraqua. But after about 3 hours of only getting 30ish miles (on pavement!) going up and down those hills, we bailed off of the route south of Mt. Sterling and took Hwy 27 along the ridge top into Viraqua and made much better time doing it. Not as scenic, but traffic wasn't bad at all.
The first "trail" I hit on the route was west of Ft. McCoy, between Camp Ave and Anchor Ave. The gate there at Camp Ave is a little intimidating as there is no indication its public land. The first part of this bit of trail is overgrown, but passable. However, there is a point where the route splits off to the right, and heads onto an abandoned trail that was completely overgrown. I kept going on the same trail which angled off NW and dumped me out on Birch Rd, an old 2-track lane. I think this is a more reasonable route up to Anchor Avenue.
Immediately north of I-94, the sand road are ridiculously difficult and the deer flies are maddening. I appreciate having some challenge like this in the route, but at some point enough is enough. I bailed out and took Brockway Rd north, and I think this is really the only reasonable option, because these pure sand roads aren't going to be rideable really for anyone save perhaps a rider on a Pugsley, and they wander around for miles. I took Brockway to Hwy 54 and that back to the route.
The route goes RIGHT PAST Levis Trow, but not on the trails THROUGH it! Maybe you were trying to avoid people having to pay a trail pass fee, but this seems like a huge missed opportunity. It looks like you can pick up a trail right from the north end of Bachelor's Ave @ Hwy 95, and ride mostly singletrack around the south and east side of the mounds and across Goreman Ave to meet with the Trans-WI route again. Unfortunately the trails/roads were saturated to flooded as I went through here and I wasn't able to do this.
Near the north end of Bald Peak Ave where it meets Co Hwy I (near "Tioga" about 20 miles south of Thorp), the route cuts off of Balk Peak Ave westward on some ATV trails. Though the ~1 mile long stretch that goes SW is open, the section you turn right on there to head NW is no longer an open trail. It would be best to run the route up to Co Hwy I and then west back over to those ATV trails. However I can't speak to the condition of those trails over there since I was feeling sick that day and just took Co Hwy M straight north into Thorp.
NW of Thorp, at "Maplehurst", the intersection of CoHwy A and CoHwy T, the route sends us off onto Wildlife Road, then north on a small track up to Burma Dr. I read some trip reports from the 2010 race stating that this was private land and you had to ask permission to ride it, so I just took CoHwy T up to Burma Dr. When on Burma Dr. I tried to see where this track met the road and saw no road or trail of any kind. So I suggest just skipping this section of "trail".
North of Perkinstown the route needs a little work. It sends you west on CoHwy M on what seems to me to be a pointless (though scenic) loop on Forest Roads 574 and 572. Probably better to just take CoHwy M north to Forest Road 112. Then there is the whole bit where there is no bridge over the Yellow River on the route. I took FR112 north, then east on Homstead Rd, then north on Yellow River Road to go around this.
Then there is the stretch of "trail' or "road" north of CoHwy D (aka North St on google maps) that is COMPLETELY IMPASSABLE. It is completely overgrown (in areas bushwhacking through the woods was significantly easier then trying to follow the trail itself), then dumps down into a wetland, which is where I stopped, and then god only knows how wide that creek is. It was flooded even 50 yards away from the creek so there was no way I was going to go further. It would be better to just take Hwy D east to Hwy N, then take that north back to where it meets your route. This to me was the single biggest problem with the route.
North of Hayward I wondered if it was necessary for the route to sweep so far east to the west side of Lake Namekagon. I was feeling pretty sick that day and had some equipment issues as well, so I bailed out to US63 north of Seeley and took that north to Drummond. So I missed the whole stretch. Maybe you've got some good trail in there, but it seems like there are dirt roads that run just west of Cable that could be used instead that would run you closer to town for resupplying, also avoiding the temptation to short-cut the route.
The last 60ish miles of the route I thought were superb. But people should we be warned that there are no services at all. However, there is a bit there between Star Route Rd and Hwy13 where I suspect if the roads were wet it would be impassible. It was pretty dense clay, when I went through there were deep petrified truck tracks. Seems like the kind of soil that would have you dragging a bike if it were wet. Just something to note.
I hope you can tweak the route and get it some more attention. it was a great ride!