Devil’s Delight!

When I was in high school, I had a riding partner. We’ll call him Al, which is a good thing, since that’s what his parents called him. We rode motorcycles together. We also washed dishes together for the infamous Grace. If I haven’t written about her before, she’s another story all together. Let me know in the comments if you want to hear about her some other time.

Al and I graduated from motorcycles to bicycles when we turned 21. We were perfectly matched. We would ride side-by-side, mile after mile, in the same gear at the same cadence. When we came to hills, I would ride up the hill, turn around and ride down, then ride back up a second time with Al. It seems arrogant now but, at the time, it was just a lot of fun – I loved climbing hills. Gels and energy bars and Shot Bloks didn’t exist in those days. I carried dates (and sometime figs) in my handlebar bag and, when a big hill loomed, I’d eat a date for energy for the climb.

One day Al and I were riding in the Baraboo Hills. We were flying down a steep descent. Suddenly, the road turned 90 degrees and simultaneously turned to gravel. There was no way we would make the turn. There was no way for either of us to warn the other. We both aimed for a gap in the trees and hit the brakes. We came to a stop in the woods. We’d missed all the trees, we hadn’t flatted, we hadn’t crashed. We dropped our bikes, hugged each other, took a deep breath, and got back on. When we reached the bottom, we saw the road sign – “Devil’s Delight Road”. No doubt how it got its name.

I came to discover that Devil’s Delight was more fun to go up than down. It is one of the few roads around here steep enough to require switchbacks – most climbs are short enough that they just carve the road right up the hill, no matter how steep.

I began to fantasize a route – the Devil’s Delight Double Century, or El Diablo Doble – I wasn’t sure which I’d call it. Maybe after I retire I’ll finally set up the route. Don’t hold your breath. But it’ll have to include the 18% pitch on Terrytown Road.

But that’s not why I asked you here today. Today was the Lodi ride; from Lodi to the Merrimac Ferry, across Lake Wisconsin on the ferry, up Devil’s Delight, to the top of Devil’s Lake State Park, flying down through the switchbacks to the lake, then back to the ferry and back to Lodi. We also crossed the Ice Age Trail multiple times.

Devil’s Lake
Switchbacks ahead!

If you want statistics, you’ve come to the wrong place. How many watts did I put out? Attach a lightbulb to me and see if it stays lit. I can tell you my heart rate remained in the optimal range throughout – that’s non-zero. How many miles did I ride? Enough to get me back to where I started. I might tell you how many fawns darted across the road in front of me, and whether mama was on the other side scouting out the territory or darted out into my path after the baby as I was flying down the bluffs in the park. (Mom went first; I was safe, as was the baby.) I might tell you how many sandhill cranes I saw in the marsh along Marsh Road. (Zero, because there were trees between us – but it was either a really noisy crane or a lot of ’em.) I might tell you what flavor of ice cream I ate as I waited for the ferry. (None – I didn’t want ice cream in my belly before climbing the bluffs, and on the way back I didn’t have to wait for the ferry – I arrived just as it was unloading and walked straight on.) Anyway, that’s the life of a half-fast cyclist – I’d rather tell you what ice cream I ate than how far or fast or hard I rode.

First rosebud, front yard.
Peony, back yard – ants love ’em for the nectar.

No Hope/Ride Your Age

I spent a recent Sunday morning exploring the area around the towns of Hope and Cottage Grove. The ride started with a minimal plan. Head out of town. On the way out, I decided Buckeye Road was the way to go. On the way out Buckeye, I decided to ride south to Stoughton. On the way to Stoughton, Sigglekow Road looked too pretty to pass up. And so it went. I rode on Hope, South Hope, Vilas-Hope, and No Hope Roads. It was the first day to give a hint of summer, with the temperature in the 8os and a brisk southerly wind. With that wind I figured I’d have a tailwind to push me home, but my loop ended up going more northerly than I thought it would, so I started and ended with a headwind. As I rode past a pond, I saw hawks circling. That put me in mind of Kate Wolf.

Too late…you missed the hawks.

Cresting a hill, I came upon this glasswork in a front yard. I wondered if it’s the work of Dale Chihuly, who studied glassblowing here under Prof Harvey Littleton, who was known as the “Father of the Studio Glass Movement.” It may be a student of his or a copy of his style (or someone with a lower budget than the other works of his I’ve seen). We also have a scientific glassblower in town, Tracy Drier. Having once plumbed a wall that I wanted to encase in plexiglass so others could see it, I understand the aesthetic appeal of work not meant as art.

It was only a hint of summer. More chilly and rainy weather followed.

The following Sunday saw me on the Bombay Bicycle Club‘s “Martinsville Meander”, and meander we did. The route included an “Alpe d’Huez option” with three steep climbs over a ridge arranged back-to-back-to-back. The climbs didn’t seem too bad this time. They were downright fun. I thought I might even be ready for the Horribly Hilly Hundreds. Then I realized I still had 35 miles to get back to town. I ended up riding my age. I still have a long way to go to match my State Senator, who rides his age every year for his birthday. Fred Risser is now 92.

It seems that all roads lead to Vermont Church, even though Vermont Church Road is the only one that goes by there. The church sits at the top of a hill. That was one of the many hills we climbed Sunday. It seems that Christians think God is in heaven and heaven is “up there”, so building your church on the top of the hill brings you closer to God. I don’t know what the speed of prayer is, but it seems the difference between a hill and a valley wouldn’t affect transit times all that much.

Speaking of religion, I’ve been watching MASH reruns lately. Anybody else notice that Father Mulcahy is pretty hot in a tight t-shirt? Must be some heavy lifting saving souls in a war zone. He’s got some nice arms there.

My daughter stage-managed a production of Sister Act (the musical based on the movie – how’s that for backward?). When Deloris decides to go straight and Sister Mary Robert considers entering civilian life, Deloris bequeaths her “FM boots” to the young novice. Sister Mary Roberts asks what FM means. Deloris replies “Fu..ather Mulcahy!) Being a college production, no one knew who Father Mulcahy was. They did know what FM means.

We also passed a church at a remote crossroads. It got me to wondering…we build our bars right in the center of town, but our churches at a remote crossroads. Does that mean we’re more embarrassed to be seen coming out of church than out of a bar? Is that just a Wisconsin thing? Just thinking out loud here…