The Roxbury Tavern to Crystal and Fish Lakes is a long-time favorite loop. It works better on a kayak than a bike this year.

Photo by Pam Fornell

Notice the speed limit sign just right of center. This is a road. A detour was required for the ride this week.

The Roxbury Tavern was not your typical country roadhouse. When Tom took it over, he wanted to change the atmosphere and the clientele. He banned smoking, back when banning smoking in a bar was like banning singing in church. He threw out the TV sets, the juke box, and the pool table. He wanted people to sit at tables, eat, talk, and drink, probably in that order. When the kitchen closed, the bar closed and he went home. It closed earlier than any bar I’ve seen.

On tap was Esser’s Best, from nearby Cross Plains. Bud Light and Miller Lite were gone. He served Sunday brunch, with live bluegrass on the back porch. He had nightly specials – his pasta night, with Italian sausage and garlic bread was a favorite (and it was on Wednesday nights, when we ride). He made his own spiced ketchups and served homemade pickled vegetables as appetizers. Burgers and fries were still available, and better with garlic ketchup.

If we stopped for dinner after a ride, we called ahead so Tom knew he’d have a bigger crowd and keep extra staff on hand. He didn’t like surprises. Tom has retired and I haven’t been inside the place since the new owners took over. I’m kind of afraid to, wondering if it looks like a typical country roadhouse again. When the new owners took over, the headline on the newspaper story said “New owners… trade tradition for game day crowds”. They brought back the TV, juke box, and pool table.

P.S. I forgot to mention the car that played chicken with me that evening. I was riding down a flat, straight, open stretch of road when an oncoming small black sedan drifted into my lane. I was riding as close to the edge of the road as a I could. I thought about dismounting and running off the road. I checked the edge and saw that it was grassy and level so I could escape on the bike if necessary. We made eye contact and the driver continued to aim for me. She was clearly not on her phone or distracted. Her left wheels were about three feet off the edge of the pavement. If she kept going straight I would survive. If she swerved further left, I’d head off road or die. I didn’t think she really wanted to kill me, just intimidate me. Just in time, she eased back into her own lane – late enough for intimidation, early enough for it to be a smooth move. I guess you could say, as a game of chicken, I won. It did not feel like a victory. My pants stayed dry.