Horicon Marsh/Kettle Moraine

Today we rode through the Horicon Wildlife Preserve, a major flyway for geese. At non-migratory season, it is much quieter. When I was there during the fall migration, a flock came in overhead blackening the sky. Nothing like that today. Here is some arrowroot. If you find yourself stranded in a marsh, the root is edible. If you want to get really fancy, you could catch and stew a muskrat, dry and powder the root, and use it to thicken the stew.c508f9a1-d470-45eb-838d-dc167a1074e1.jpegWe rode north to the marsh and it was breezier than anticipated for that early in the morning. The wind was from the northwest. From there we alternated north and east so the wind was on our shoulder one way or another – seldom directly in our face, but seldom directly behind us.

It stayed cool and cloudy all day. It felt more like September than July.

We meandered through the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive.7B0A13BC-5525-4F99-9034-90DC8F8B89D3For those with a geological interest, our first couple of days this week were in the driftless area, the part of Wisconsin never touched by glaciers. Terrain tends to be craggy. The glaciers smoothed things out, so the glaciated parts of the state are more rolling. The area we are in today is where the last glacier stopped, so there are glacial features like kettles (what they sound like), moraines (hills made of glacial debris deposited when the glacier melted), and eskers (ridges of material left behind).

We had several short and steep climbs and descents, so you could be forgiven if this didn’t seem all that different. A bonus was a stretch of new and smooth asphalt that immediately turned into a double digit climb with a sharp switchback. Scenic Road was just that, with lots of rolling hills, of the roller coaster variety. Great views at the tops.

Arriving in Plymouth I stopped into a cafe  to use the bathroom and get a shot of espresso with a morning bun. I was going to text my friend Jeremy to tell him where I was when I got out of the bathroom. I didn’t have to. He had spotted my bike and was waiting for me.

Jeremy started a biking group at work last summer (?). We had a couple of rides together and he moved away. Some of the others in the group did things like move away or get pregnant, so we didn’t ride together this year.

Jeremy was not able to get off work in time to ride with me (though his new bike was in the back of the car), but we hung out in the coffee shop until it closed.

Google Maps told me there was a hardware store a block away and I needed a battery, so I walked down there. It is no longer a hardware store.

My bike computer was getting erratic and didn’t respond to moving the sensor closer to the magnet, so I assumed the sensor/transmitter battery was low. I replaced it with a new one and quickly got a “low battery” signal. It is now completely dormant. My new battery was apparently not so new, though I bought it just before the trip. According to my computer, we rode less about 7.5 miles, though it was closer to 75.

Saturday is a short day of riding but a long day due to the ferry. We’re supposed to arrive in Ludington, MI around 7 PM.

I will never wear shoes

There is only one thing better than walking barefoot in damp grass – that’s walking barefoot in water.

I have kvetched more than once during this trip about my burning feet. You can buy chemical foot warmers to slip into your shoes, why not foot coolers?

I’ve heard lots of comments from other riders about the fact that my shoes come off as soon as I get off my bike.

Bill Camplin understands. Sorry I can’t find a link to the whole song. Today is the closest we’ll get to his place, so today is the day for this song.

Tonight is the full moon (and a total eclipse for much of the world – not here, as it occurs in daylight for us). That calls for another of my favorite songs:

Dear Trauma Team: I hope Tyler is doing great, but not so well that you won’t want me back in a month.

Thursday – Baraboo to Beaver Dam, WI

My boss picked me up after our meeting Wednesday night and took me out for beers. It was great to re-connect and hear some work news. Hey fifth floor! – I hear you are reading these over lunch. Are you reading them aloud?

At breakfast I was met by half-fast friends Rosebud and Tim and my son Mikko. We rode off to Devil’s Lake. As I introduced Mikko to folks on the first climb, they wanted to know how it was we could talk on this climb, when they could barely breathe. Since Mikko is not an experienced distance cyclist (but a very experienced commuter), I explained that he didn’t know any better. It might also help that he’s 40 years younger than we are.

The ferry crossing of Lake Wisconsin (which takes about 8 minutes) was a treat for folks who hadn’t done it before and is always a high point for me on rides in this area.

We headed off (again on mostly town roads, a few county highways, and only brief stretches on state highways) moving east with a strong tailwind. The prevailing westerlies have finally arrived in the sixth week.

I was having too much fun to stop for pictures. Quiet roads and chatting with friends as we rode made the miles fly by. The tailwind helped.

Mikko bailed out at lunch (with a play to go to tonight about 100 miles in the other direction and a busy schedule for the next week, riding all day was not a viable option).

The rest of us rode on to Beaver Dam, stopping for root beer floats on the way in. We found a  bar with good beers on tap (Badger Club from Wisconsin Brewing for me), then strolled around Beaver Dam before dinner in a Mexican restaurant, Palenque. A flock of pelicans were hanging out just above the dam. We also saw a statue of Frank Lloyd Wright as a beaver, and life-sized stone lions guarding a house.

Tomorrow on to Plymouth, where I hope to be met by my friend Jeremy. Saturday it is on to our next ferry, this time crossing Lake Michigan. That will take a bit longer than 8 minutes.

Are we there yet?

Since this is the closest we get to my house, it’s time for another local favorite, and a question I have asked many times already:

We started our morning with a great breakfast at Ginny’s Cupboard in Sparta. The route quickly left the streets and entered the Sparta to Elroy Trail, where we would spend most of the morning. The trail includes 3 tunnels, one of them over 3800 feet long. Water drips from the ceiling and runs down drainage ditches along the walls. In some parts of the tunnel there is a steady rain. Even with a good light, the tunnels require walking. Photos: tunnel entrance, the light at the end of the tunnel, rock cairn outside of the tunnel



The surface is “crushed limestone”, mostly hard-packed dirt. Even so, the surface was better than a lot of the chip-sealed highways out west, and there are no trucks flying by at 80 mph.

Still, it was good to get back on roads for the afternoon. We started on state highway 33, which could have been any highway anywhere. We soon turned off onto town roads and I started grinning. Now this is Wisconsin riding!

We rode up and down ridges with short, steep climbs, big vistas at the top, fast descents, no traffic. After our afternoon water stop we were on flatter roads, but still no traffic and iconic Wisconsin farmland. Saving the best ‘til last, we turned onto Terrytown Road. If my instruments are correct, we climbed 50 feet in 0.05 mile, which would translate to a 19% grade. It continues steeply, though not quite that steep, for a bit farther before returning to rolling hills and on into Baraboo. Photos: Terrytown Road vista, Terrytown Road (not the steep part)





Photos from Tuesday: Sunrise over Twin Bluffs, Nelson, WI; Viking statue, Buffalo City, WI.



Final photos: Rock-in-house (viewed from back yard and through bedroom door) Yes, the bedroom is completely filled by the rock.

Graeme met someone else from Melbourne on the trail and said, “Five weeks I’ve been here and she’s the first one who understands me.”

Tomorrow (today as you read this), if I guess right, we will ride through Devil’s Lake State Park (called Devil’s Lake by the white folks because the real name, which translates more closely as “Spirit Lake”, or “Sacred Lake” must have referred to the Devil since it didn’t refer to Jesus) and ride the Merrimac Ferry.

I expect to be joined by two friends and my son; all half-fast, if you ask me.

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.