In Midwest Living magazine reader surveys, Wisconsin’s roadways rank the best in most categories—best roads overall, best maintained, and others. Despite a few problem areas, the state’s 110,300 miles of roads are all in pretty good shape. Best of all—no toll roads yet!
Then again, the stretch of I-94 running through Milwaukee  is one of the nation’s 10 most congested highways. The next-worst roads you’ll experience are Madison ’s Beltline Highway and I-90 interchange, both of which, along with Milwaukee’s interstates, are inhospitable during rush hours. The state Department of Transportation is now operating under a 20-year plan to improve existing multilane highways and expand certain two-lane highways. These two-lane roads are crucial, as they constitute only 4 percent of the state’s highways but carry 42 percent of the traffic.
County roads are designated by letters. You can determine in advance the general condition of the road by the letters designating it. The road deteriorates in direct proportion to the number of letters. Thus, Highway RR will be narrower than Highway R—and possibly decaying. County roads are generally paved, but don’t be surprised if they’re not.
Wisconsin permits radar detectors in cars. There is a mandatory motorcycle helmet law for people under 18 years old. All vehicle passengers are required by law to wear seatbelts. Child restraints are mandatory for children under four.
The speed limit on Wisconsin interstates is 65 mph, reduced to 55 mph in metropolitan areas. Milwaukee’s fringes are well monitored, so be forewarned. You can travel 65 mph on some four-lane highways in the northern part of the state, to the relief of many travelers.
Drivers in the state are very courteous. In fact, many acquaintances of this author have grumbled about the, er, methodical pace of Wisconsin traffic. The interstate arteries surrounding larger cities, especially Milwaukee, are the only places conducive to speeding.
The state Department of Transportation maintains a road condition hotline (800/762-3947, dot.wisconsin.gov/travel) detailing the conditions of all major roads across the state; it also lists construction delays. Hit 511 on your mobile phone to get it.
It’s important to winterize your vehicle while driving in Wisconsin. Always keep your antifreeze level prepared for temperatures of -35°F (half water, half fluid usually suffices). Most important: Keep a full tank of gas—it helps prevent freeze-ups in the line and lets you run your car if you’re stuck in a ditch.
You can always hop aboard Greyhound, but only as long as you’re traveling to communities along very main highways. Lamers is a bus service traveling to and from central Wisconsin to Milwaukee through the Fox River Valley.
The communities of Janesville, Beloit, Racine, Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Bayfield Peninsula have bus systems linking nearby communities. Madison  and Milwaukee  are linked by the oft-running Badger Bus (608/255-6771, www.badgerbus.com ).