Our Rides: The Intersection of Speed and Tranquility

Main Stand at Road America. Photos by Randy Stern
Main Stand at Road America. Photos by Randy Stern

If you live somewhere in the Midwest and are into cars and/or motorsports, then this is your “happy place.”

Located between Fond Du Lac and Sheboygan is Road America. Also known as the “National Park of Speed,” the famous motorsports venue is located right smack in the middle of Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine on 640 acres. It is a wonderland for the car enthusiast.

The main attraction is over four miles of winding track with plenty of surprises in store for the bravest of drivers.

Race weekends is when this motorsports venue comes alive. Sure, there’s miles of traffic coming from all directions getting there. Once you’re there, you are treated to an open environment that never feels confined – just like a national park.

Inside, there’s so much to do. There is a karting course that is as challenging as the main track. You have an off-road course that is also challenging. Plus, you can camp overnight on race weekends.

Road America is an experience unto itself. That is why I attend an annual event with one of the media associations I belong to for almost every year since 2013. Just to be at one of the top motorsports venues in the U.S.A. is something to absorb and celebrate no matter what you do there.

That is why all of the major American motorsport circuits have Road America on their schedule. The biggest race weekends are reserved for IndyCar, IMSA, NASCAR, Fanatec GT World Challenge, and MotoAmerica Superbikes. The Sports Car Club of America also use this for regional racing for their Chicago-based region.

The Osthoff Resort

Enrique Ramirez, a key figure around Road America who wore plenty of hats over the years at the track, explained that the idea of this great road course is because, simply, it’s parkland. “They have activities,” explained Ramirez, “not only the racing and things on track, but there is an 18-hole disc golf course, there’s karting, they’re off-road trails. We do corporate events, weddings. You name it, we do it here. And it’s a beautiful facility, and it all centers about around racing. But there’s something for everyone.”

According to the United States Postal Service, Road America is located in Plymouth, Wisconsin. However, we often associate it with the town just north of the track – Elkhart Lake. That is how we refer to Road America is by its more placid-sounding burgh.

Elkhart Lake is small – just around 1,000 people live there. Unlike its neighbor to the south with nine times the population, Elkhart Lake maintains its charm with a town center that is far from the car enthusiast crowds. You can sense the inherent snobbery of the address. Even on non-race days, the presence of a pristine Porsche of any given year or another sports car of its ilk is a telltale sign of its zip code.

Whenever I attend the annual media confab at Road America, our group stays at the Osthoff Resort (101 Osthoff Dr., Elkhart Lake). Located closer to the center of Elkhart Lake, this four-star property has dozens of rooms including two- and three-bedroom suites. Our media association usually boards in the two-bedroom suites – each bedroom has its own bathroom. The “main” bedroom gets a whirlpool bathtub for maximum luxuriating. The suites also have a large living room, a dining area, a kitchen, and a balcony.

The Osthoff also has a few restaurants, a spa, indoor and outdoor pools, and a private beach on the lake. This is why it is considered the primary place to stay for race teams and broadcasters on the big motorsport weekends.

When we do our nightcaps during the media confab, we will wander across the street from the Osthoff to the Siebkens Resort (284 S. Lake St., Elkhart Lake). Built in 1916, the Siebkens also offer plenty of rooms, including suites on a smaller property. Between the two resorts, you definitely have the advantage staying at a lovely place by the lake rather than roughing it inside Road America on a rainy weekend.

Lake Street Grill

If you did not get a room at the Siebkens, then you have to check out the motorsport-themed Stop-Inn Tavern. This is where you get to hobnob with motorsport stars and their handlers.

There are plenty of places to stay between Elkhart Lake and Plymouth. Less expensive lodging is normally found not just in Plymouth, but in both Sheboygan and Fond Du Lac. Again, be mindful of traffic on race weekends.

Admittedly, there had been only one restaurant I ate in town when I was with the media association. The Lake Street Café (21 S. Lake St., Elkhart Lake) serves up a “California Bistro-style” menu and atmosphere. It is very down-to-earth with some comforting food on the menu. There are other places to dine in town and beyond to fit every budget.

By this point you’re probably thinking where the LGBTQ+ angle is for this story. There are two.

Those of us who love the automobile usually tend to like motorsports. We are among the fans that flock to these events. We actually participate in them – whether as drivers, pit crew back in the paddock, other support staff and in the motorsport press. In this arena, we exist. We might be as visible as some of the folks you’ve seen through Racing Pride.

Track Action at Road America

We also exist in the automotive media and in the industry itself. When I attend the media confab at Road America, I am always grateful to see my fellow LGBTQ+ colleagues there. While our numbers are few, we do our best to celebrate each other.

Without question, Road America is the main attraction here. That is why it has major significance to any automotive enthusiast – LGBTQ+ or not. It is also why it is called the National Park of Speed – flanked by a tranquil little town that welcomes enthusiasts and everyone else from all over.

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