Cycling Capital of America?

We left Pepin on a beautiful morning, bound for Sparta, WI, home of the Deke Slayton Memorial Space and Bicycle Museum. Slayton was one of the original Mercury astronauts, though grounded until Apollo due to a heart condition. He is also a Sparta native. 

Sparta is also the northern terminus of the Sparta-to-Elroy trail, the first rails-to-trails conversion in the US. Thus, it claims to be the Bicycling Capital of America.

 We rode The Great River Road (WI highway 35), which is well-paved with a wide shoulder and runs along the Mississippi River and its sloughs and backwaters. Some beautiful river crossings on bridges not conducive to stopping for pictures.

We visited the rock-in-house, a local landmark created when a large rock fell and rolled down the hill and into the back of a house. The house was left as-is. The clock radio in the kitchen is on to a local station, the lights are on. It looks like someone could come home any time – except there’s this 55 ton rock in the back of the house.

We did some riding on county and town roads (better yet!) before heading inland toward Mindoro, though we were not able to ride the famed Mindoro Cut (a hand   cut gap in the limestone 74 feet deep, 86 feet long, and 25 feet wide), the second-deepest handcut gap in the Western Hemisphere. It was cut with hand tools in 1907-08.

We passed a farm with a collection of windmills and, later,  (this one is for Ric, who worked on the Windmill Repair Projet in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua) a working Chicago Aermotor, still operating a pump. In the days before rural electirification, most farms around here pumped their water with a Chicago Aermotor.

Roller coaster hills led to Sparta after 92 fabulous miles, mostly wind-aided. Arriving in town at 1:30, they weren’t ready for us, so I toured the Deke Slayton Museum. 

The internet connection here is very slow and no photos will upload (“upload failed” after five minutes.) I’ll try again tomorrow when we’re on a colleg campus again. They seem to have better service.

Crossing the Rubicon (or at least the Mississippi)

7/23-  Breakfast in the St Olaf cafeteria with a horde of others. It looks like the diving camp and the cello institute are over, but the chess camp is ongoing. The chess kids are all carrying folding chess boards. While we were waiting in line for the cafeteria to open, a game broke out. 

It was a lazy start to the day. A short and easy day was planned and we were warned not to arrive in Pepin before 2 PM. We lingered over breakfast and rode to Cannon Falls, Cycle America World Headquarters, where we were greeted by the Chamber of Commerce offering chilled water and peanuts.

We rode the Cannon Trail, a beautifully paved trail through the woods along the Cannon River to Redwing (home of Redwing Shoes). The path looked and smelled like  home, that being the smells of mixed forest, lush undergrowth and grasses, and fresh water. Lunch was in a park along the Mississippi, with brats to celebrate our entry to Wisconsin. And, yes, he parboiled them in beer and onions before grilling.3BC543C5-523F-4138-92FA-E92C0E639EAB

We rode through the town of Redwing, briefly on Highway 61 (where “God said to Abraham/Kill me a son”), which goes to Memphis, then onto US Highway 63 for a white knuckle crossing of the Mississippi.

In Wisconsin (which is “Open for Business” according to our Governor, who had the “Welcome to Wisconsin” signs altered to say that) we turned onto Highway 35 “The Great River Road”. 

Following instructions to take as much time as possible, I stopped at every scenic overlook and read every historical marker. One of the overlooks mostly overlooked a stand of wild hemp. I took another picture of Maiden Rock after instructing everyone who stopped at the previous overlook that they needed to stop and read the sign about the story of Maiden Rock.   

I chatted with a couple of Harley riders who had started in Grand Rapids, ridden through the UP to Wisconsin, and were now bound to wherever they got before they got tired and decided  to stop.

Stockholm is home to some great little shops and a village park with camping. We hung out eating, drinking, and looking at the shops. I found a bentwood rocker in an Amish furniture store but the sag wagon wasn’t around to carry it for me. It was a really comfortable chair with bent willow arms and curved  oak slatted seat and back. If any of you are passing though Stockholm with a car, you’re welcome to buy it for me.

We arrived in Pepin with more time to kill. It was now late enough to stop for a beer. All the bars along the waterfront were closed. What kind of Wisconsin town is this?

In Pepin we are being fed by folks raising money for their Laura Ingalls Wilder festival. It seems she was born here, so we encounter another town laying claim to her legacy.

No internet access in Pepin, so this post is coming to you a day late. Uploading the photo took minutes, so that’s the only photo you get.

Tomorrow’s post will follow this one with a few hours. It will also be skimpy on photos.