Hurricane

Since we’ve been cleaning our favorite stretch of highway, the most discarded item has been the Busch Light beer can, consistently through the years. Busch Light has been dethroned by Hurricane, a malt liquor from the same manufacturer, so Anheuser-Busch retains the distinction of being the most-littered company.

Music starts at about 2 minutes in .

It is a cold and wet spring; not the most conducive to training for a coast-to-coast ride…then again, we will be riding in all kinds of weather so I’d best hit the road. Last week’s evening club rides were rained out. Sunday’s ride was cold and wet and started an hour earlier than the previous Sunday rides. I missed it. After cleaning the highway I got on the bike for a “choose your own adventure” loop of unknown distance. The temperature topped out at about 50 degrees (10 C).

I headed out on favorite highway F to ID (old US 151) with a plan to turn down JG to Little Norway. I was feeling good along the ridge and missed the turn, deciding I might as well ride along the ridge into Mount Horeb and take JG to Stewart Lake instead. And so it went. An unplanned ride, long enough to get some exercise, not long enough to get tired after 4 miles of walking up and down the highway picking up beer cans.

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a middleweight boxer in the 1960s. Being the child of a boxer, I grew up watching boxing on TV every weekend. As Dylan’s song tells, Carter was wrongly convicted of murder. He was eventually released from prison and died of prostate cancer at the age of 76. He was cared for at the end by John Artis, who had been convicted of murder along with Carter but released on parole. After two dubious convictions, all charges against both were dropped eventually. Carter later worked to exonerate other people who were wrongly convicted.

Favorite Son

Busch Light can in its natural habitat. It will eventually assume its protective coloration. (The blue pigment fades to a pale green. The process has begun.)

A Busch Light can means the half-fast cycling club cleaned its adopted highway again. No further news on that front.

I never tire of this view. Sorry if you do. Look! No litter!
Madison’s Favorite Son, Joel Paterson (from a previous festival – I brought no camera this time)

Our neighborhood summer festivals were combined into one this year. We walked down to the park just long enough to see the set by the Joel Paterson Trio. Joel grew up a few blocks from here. He spent his teen years playing the blues at a neighborhood bar, then moved to Chicago where he plays in multiple bands. A self-proclaimed guitar geek, he plays swing, rockabilly, country, and blues (and a little Hawaiian guitar).

Joel on all instruments in a home pandemic recording
From his all-Beatles solo acoustic guitar album
Guitar and clarinet blues jam
The Western Elstons, his country band
And here’s a full set of his band Modern Sound, from a festival in Spain.

There’s lots more where that came from, including some Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley’s guitarist) and Chet Atkins tributes. I think he should be famous. Listen and see if you agree.

Yeah, I’ve been riding my bike a lot. Back-to-back weekends with centuries coming up in September, so 50-60 mile rides twice a week as well as daily commuting and Wednesday night rides. I haven’t ridden 100 miles in a day since 2019, so we’ll see if I still can.

Hot and humid Wednesday Night Ride

It’s tobacco season, so last week I rode past a crew out cutting tobacco, and this week rode past sheds full of drying tobacco. If you’re not from around here, you probably didn’t realize Wisconsin is tobacco country. Tobacco used to be grown here as cigar wrappers and is now mostly for chewing. It was once a major cash crop. A farmer got an allotment from the state, allowing a set number of acres to be grown. It was hard work (hand planted, hand cut, hand tied and hung, hand stripped from the veins after curing, and bundled for sale) but virtually guaranteed income. If you had an allotment, you grew tobacco. I had a friend who bought a farm with a small allotment and the neighbors thought she was crazy because she chose not to grow tobacco. The tobacco shed (a large barn with louvers that can be opened to increase airflow, and a network of framing from which to hang the poles with bundles of leaves draped over them) was used for storage.

COVID cases are on the rise again and I just finished another tour of duty on the COVID units. Most of my patients this week were not vaccinated. I was vaccinated in December and January. While it is true that I am now magnetic, that’s just my personality and I was that way before the vaccine;) If you have seen the videos of people purporting to prove that the vaccine makes one magnetic, they are either more ignorant than I think they are, or they just blatantly dishonest. The videos show people sticking non-ferrous metals to their skin and claiming it is because the vaccine made them magnetic. I have duplicated that with a penny, bobby pin, paper clip, money clip, button, and a Post-It note. Only one of those would have stuck were magnetism at play. Lest you think I did anything heroic this week, I was safer in this gear (and the sanitation process I go through as I enter and leave each room) than you are if you go into a store, restaurant, or bar (especially if you don’t wear a mask, or anyone else in there doesn’t). You don’t know if you are near someone who is positive. I do.

Noluck

In a normal year, this would have been the first Wednesday Night potluck. I would have brought a rhubarb pie. Dave would have brought his famous braised asparagus, with cayenne and lots of garlic. This is not a normal year. While it was billed as a potluck, I saw half a dozen people at the park shelter. Too rich for my blood and, it appears, most others’.

The ride starts in Blue Mounds and immediately drops downhill to Tyrol Basin. With names like “Mounds” and “Basin” you could have guessed what direction we ride. In those first few downhill miles, it is best not to think about the fact that you will have to go back up at the end. Enjoy it while you can. The good news is that it’s not four miles back up. The bad news is that’s because the other side of the hill is steeper.

From Tyrol Basin the route follows the route of the Wright Stuff Century for a few miles, so they are roads filled with memories. We climb the famed Fesenfeld Road. I always know I’m near the top when I see this giant oak. One advantage to riding alone is that this is the first time I have stopped to take a picture of it.

From this tree there is a bit of up and down before a screaming downhill into a gentle left hand bend. The only problem is the traffic coming from the other way around that bend. Some of them might turn left across your path. Today the pavement is damp in the shady areas, which tend to be the downhills. Feeling the water sprayed onto your legs by the front wheel is a hint to feather the brakes.

In the next valley I met two friends in a field. Right after I took the picture, the sheep started over toward the fence, whether because it likes human company or thought I was coming with food, I don’t know. Not wanting to come between friends, I cross the road to shoot the historical marker.

At the midpoint of the ride we reach the lowest elevation. While it has been up and down to here, it has been mostly down; meaning from here it’s mostly up. There is a six mile lead-in to the infamous Mounds Park Road; six miles slightly uphill and usually with a headwind. Nothing like reaching the base of a climb already tired from six relentless miles – you can never stop pedaling for those six miles. Today the headwind was brisk, but I got lucky. A group of four strong riders overtook me at the beginning of that stretch. I tucked in behind and we rode it together. I took the last pull before the turnoff, so I paid my way. We rode faster and I felt fresher than if I’d done it alone.

The best part of Mounds Park Road is that, when the road flattens out to give you a rest, the slope decreases to 8 or 9%, unlike the double-digit grade most of the way. At the top we turn into a long and shady descent. Normally this is a fast drop, but less so today due to the wet pavement. Since I had a recent patient who was admitted after a 40 mph downhill crash, I was maybe more cautious than usual.

The final climb back to the park is, as regular readers know, my favorite stretch of road and the adopted highway of the half-fast cycling club. After the ride, I sit on a roadside bench, sipping a Scotch Ale and cheering on the other riders as they climb to the finish. It is the only channel on this TV, but it’s a good one.

Trash into…trash

The winner for today’s highway cleanup (for weight and volume) was soggy cardboard. For the sheer number of items (thus the number of times we had to bend over to pick them up) it was smoking materials – butts, packs, lighters. The brand winner was Marlboro, with Pall Mall a surprising second. I guess even smokers have gone retro. Pall Mall has been around since 1899, Marlboro since 1908. According to The Guardian, five people who played The Marlboro Man in advertisements died of smoking-related diseases.

In second place overall for sheer number of items picked up were the flexible plastic reflectors that were glued down last year to mark the road for pavement striping. We picked up a bunch last fall. Today I think we picked up the rest of them. Over time the glue fails and they wash into the ditch. The road never got re-striped, so the only purpose those reflectors served was to provide a few hours of work for whomever glued them down and some more work for us to pick them up.

We were about to retire the brand championship with repeated wins by Busch Light beer cans, but today they just edged out (due to a six pack tossed in the last 100 yards before the park entrance) Icehouse Edge, a high-alcohol beer sold in 24 ounce cans. Since each Edge can contains roughly the alcohol equivalent of 4 Busch Light cans, we might call this a tossup.

Every time we clean this stretch of highway, we think about the potlucks held at this park after Wednesday night rides – it’s just about rhubarb pie time and we will miss Dave’s famous asparagus. No potluck again this year.

The view of our adopted highway during the post-ride meal as we watch the stragglers coming up this hill.

All this talk of winners who are actually losers made me play this on the way home.

We got home just in time to beat the much-needed rain. Maybe it will wash to pollen off of the car. The local weather folks recently changed from saying it was a dry year to calling it a drought.

Today in history: It was 51 years ago today that the National Guard massacred student on the campus of Kent State University; the day that another generation of white people learned that we are not immune.

I just read The Progressive interview with John Cusack. He ends by saying “Capitalism will sell you the rope to hang yourself with and then make you pay for the coffin and pass the debt on to your kids.” I don’t know if it’s original to him – it seems to be his own variant on an old line.