Half-fast fall colors tour

Pandemic edition (again)

Every year about this time we round up the usual suspects and head for the hills (Baraboo, that is).

The usual breakfast spot closed early in the pandemic. Last year we ate at home. This year Our Fearless Leader went one better. He has a friend on the route, on a tiny road off of a town road. We gathered there for a breakfast that couldn’t be beat (3 kinds of quiche [“quickie” to GW Bush, if you know that old joke], bacon, bagels, coffee, and mimosas) and waited until the sun warmed things a bit. We rode the usual route (the ferryless variant), just from a different spot. It’s a circle, so we could theoretically start anywhere.

Our usual lunch spot is now closed Mondays (probably another pandemic casualty), so we went for choice #2, which we’d always rejected as too expensive. It is a distillery with a great patio overlooking the Baraboo River. Alas, the bar still opens at 11 AM on Monday, but the kitchen is closed. (If you’re not from around here you might wonder why the bar has to open that early if there’s no food. If you’re from around here, that doesn’t need an answer.) Choice #3 was a diner with outside seating. It was a beautiful day to eat outside. The diner, due to staff shortages, was not serving outside and there was a 30 minute wait for a table inside – both the wait and the table inside were no-gos, so we ended up at a supermarket deli and ate on the lawn of the Visitor Center/Chamber of Commerce. (Baraboo is home to the Circus World Museum and former home of the Ringling Brothers.)

We added a new rider this year – Cowboy Bob. Below is his steed.

Note the name – “Morab” is a horse breed – a cross between a Morgan and an Arab. The paint job is skewbald, not likely on a Morab, but don’t tell Cowboy Bob. All Morgans are descended from one horse, owned by a man named Justin Morgan. Bob named the bike for a cross-country self-contained bike ride. Why Morab? He read of an early transcontinental journey in which the only horse that made it was a Morab. FYI: The bike is a 1979 Bottecchia, steel frame, with updated components.
In case you missed these details – note the spurs extending from the dropouts, and the rope pattern on the rims. Double-click (or spread fingers on a Mac trackpad, or right click and click “open image in new tab” – whichever works for you) to zoom in.

In the morning we rode through Sauk Prairie – the former Badger Army Ordnance Works now being restored by 4 owners – the Ho-Chunk Nation, WI Dept of Natural Resources, USDA Dairy Forage Research Center, and Bluffview Sanitary District. Less than half of the land is open to the public, but that leaves >3000 acres to explore via rustic roads and trails. The land formerly produced ammunition for WW II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars. That left a lot to clean up when it was decommissioned. Part of the Badger Army Ordnance Works’ claim to infamy is that at the turn of the new year 1969-70, the New Year’s Gang “borrowed” a plane from a nearby airfield and attempted to bomb the site to stop them from building munitions for the war in Vietnam. While the bombing failed, it is alleged that the same group bombed the Army Mathematics Research Center later in 1970. (excerpt from “Half-fast Fall Ride”, October 7, 2020.)

Crane sundial, 11 AM. Photo by Rosebud

From the prairie we headed to Devil’s Lake. “At the time when white trappers, then settlers were moving into the area, they learned from the local Ho-Chunk people that their name of the lake was Tewakącąk which roughly translated, meant “Sacred lake”. Sometimes this was also interpreted as “spirit” or “holy” lake. So you can see how with a little misunderstanding, and most likely some prejudice as well, the name “Devil’s Lake” came to be. While the Ho-Chunk considered the lake sacred space, those early European turned toward something more sinister.” (Devil’s Lake State Park Area Visitor Guide) I would take that a step further to say that anything sacred that was not christian was deemed the work of the devil.

We stopped to wade in the lake before tackling the switchbacks up through the quartzite bluffs – favored by many rock climbers in the area. My jacket went to a jersey pocket for the climb and stayed there the rest of the day.

Devil’s Lake switchbacks.

The route back after lunch was shorter. Our usual route is 30 morning miles and 25 afternoon miles. The afternoon makes up for the lack of distance by adding a lot more hills. After 44 miles, TM told us he had an extra loop that would add three miles. Most of us joined him. Three turned into six. The long 40 mph downhill made it worthwhile – but we paid for it with a 300 foot climb on gravel (fresh chipseal of the sort that is just pea gravel spread on the road in hopes that vehicle tires will grind it into the pavement before it washes away – no oil, no tar) to get back up to the road we had been on. After 51 miles we were back where we started with time for wine and hors d’oeuvres before the sun sank behind the hills.

A splendid time was had by all.