Located in the scenic, northern limit of Wisconsin’s driftless area (the part of the state where the ancient glaciers never touched), is a hand-hewn rock removal project that took place in 1907/1908 to create a road through a ridge. The project was promoted by a national bicyclist’s program, known as the Good Roads Movement, and was undertaken to improve and shorten travel over the steep Phillips Ridge in La Crosse County. Its premise was to get cream from a small farming community called Mindoro to West Salem’s railroad tracks. This primarily hand dug section is 86′ long, 25’wide and 74′ deep and was at first believed to be all soft sandstone. The fact that it was standing there for so long became evident when the core contained very hard dolomite. That then prompted the use of dynamite, but the spoil was still removed with pick, shovel, wheelbarrow, and lots of $1.20/day human labor. It is, today, the last remaining untouched, and now largest, human road cut still in existence. Or, at least that is what your friendly government officials would like to have you believe. Knowing humans, you just gotta believe that there is more to the story than to get a rural bicyclist over a ridge to a tiny cow town. In 1908, the Ford Model T was first coming off the assembly line and in no way was this backwater road designed to make it easier to climb. The fact that a creamery existed, pointed to fermentable grains being grown in the area to feed the cows. Using high elevations to make alcohol inaccessible to government agents hired to track down illegal stills, one can easily see a bunch of corrupt, local officials getting government money to build a barrier to prevent other government agents from horning in on their profits. The cut protected the stills from an unguarded western approach and that is all there is to this historic and scenic and profitable story that beacons average Joe to leave his TV and go see America in its normal light, corrupt and All About Money. 

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