Disclaimer: No, I am not making any of this up.

Located on Highway 142 about 9 miles west of Interstate 94 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, you will find the scenic Bong Recreation Area. This 4,500+ acre state rec area was originally set aside to become the home of a supersonic bomber base in the 1950s, but with the launch of Sputnik and the development of ICBMs and other long-range weaponry, America's ardor for aircraft was somewhat dampened. Don't worry though, only about $29 million in taxpayers' money was sunk into the project before it was abandoned. The land lay mostly vacant until 1974, when it was designated Wisconsin's first state recreation area.

A wide variety of activities are offered at Bong, including hot air ballooning, hang gliding and falconry, as well as trails for hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, horseback riding, ATVs and dirt bikes, and mountain biking. Several large prairie areas are also popular sites for flying remote control airplanes and launching model rockets. In addition, the park is widely considered one of the best sites in the state for birdwatchers and naturalists. The fishing is excellent, and includes Northern pike, walleye, largemouth bass, trout and various panfish. Hunting and trapping are also allowed in season, and over 200 family campsites are available.

But of course, the question you really want the answer to is how the park got its name. It was not named after the stoner's best friend, but rather Wisconsin native Richard Ira Bong, the US aviation combat Ace of Aces of WWII and all time. All of his record 40 confirmed aerial combat victories were scored in a P-38 Lightning in the Pacific Theater. Bong was killed in Burbank, California in 1945 during a test flight of a Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star, when its engine failed shortly after takeoff. He was able to eject, but at too low an altitude to give him any hope of surviving. He was awarded at least a dozen medals in his life, including the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Regardless, it is not an uncommon sight when driving along I-94 to see a carload of stoners pulled over by the side of the road, taking turns photographing each other in front of the "Bong Rec Area" highway sign. Located about 35 miles south of Milwaukee and 60 miles north of Chicago, the Bong Recreation Area is close enough to be practical, and yet remote enough to be peaceful and relaxing. If you'd like to visit, you can make reservations online at reserveamerica.com, or call the Bong office at (262)878-5600. If you do decide to call, let me just say that I'm sure they've already heard every joke you can possibly think of. Twice.

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