Ferry cross the (not) Mersey

“Cause this land’s the place I love/and here I’ll stay” (or at least return to in 3.5 weeks)

“I thought Wisconsin was flat”: most heard comment in the last two days.

Dinner last night was at Tumbled Rocks Brewery outside of Baraboo, with S&T, I, M, & L from my former job. After a walleye filet with grilled potatoes and green beans (plus helping the kids with their fries) accompanied by a Scotch Ale and a Dunkel, it was decided that I needed more calories so added a Champagne Crème Brûlée.

This morning we had a tour of Baraboo. Leaving campus we coasted down toward town but, on the way out, there was a short but steep hill that had some of the folks walking and led to a few of those comments above.

There is a nice (by which I mean short and steep) climb into Devil’s Lake State Park and then a switchback-laden descent to the lake. After a ride along the lakeshore there is a gradual descent back to the highway, then a turn through wetlands and down to the ferry. I offered folks the option of an additional pre-ferry loop up Devil’s Delight Road to the ridge again with a descent farther down. They all declined.

Along the lakeshore
A few of the crew crossing the lake. Terry (in Canada jersey) is the blogger at terrysspokereport@blogspot.com. Four countries are by the five people in the foreground.

There was a healthy hatching of mayflies overnight to introduce folks to that feature.

Mayflies on the boat. I brushed one off of my rear brake 50 miles later.
View from the ferry crossing Lake Wisconsin

After the ferry we continued through some of my favorite country before turning east into the flatter (more rolling) glaciated area. We came within about 25 miles of my house.

I have ridden past this many times but never stopped to take a picture. Note the “person” behind the wheel.

After lunch in Rio (pronounced “rye-oh”), we continued on to Beaver Dam. Ice cream and white cheddar popcorn helped delay my arrival but I was still much too early for the trailer unloading. The tent was spread out to dry and then packed away, as we are staying in the dorms of Wayland Academy.

Someone scoffed at my “Horribly Hilly Hundreds” jersey and asked, “how many feet of vertical?” When another someone pointed to the number “11,000 feet” on my back, his expression changed to one of respect. Yeah, Wisconsin is flat.

It may be just me, but I think from the turnoff to Schutte Road mentioned yesterday to the ferry crossing today may have been the best day of this tour.

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.

Half-fast Fall Ride

In this strange bike racing season, the Tour de France was barely over when the World Championships were held. Now we’re in the midst of the Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta a España will overlap with that, beginning October 20, while the Giro ends on the 25th.

For those who missed the Tour, it was an exciting race, won in the final time trial by Tadej Pogačar, who also won the King of the Mountains jersey in that same time trial, after easily having sewn up the Best Young Rider competition earlier. Pogačar came back from almost a minute down to win by almost a minute over his Slovenian countryman, but not teammate, Primož Roglič. Not often do you get a time trial on the last day of real racing, with a categorized climb to boot.

A beautiful day for the Half-fast Fall Ride. Low-lying frost greeted us on the way to the meet-up. The usual breakfast place has gone out of business ( a COVID casualty) so we all ate our own breakfast at home. We tried a new morning route, bypassing the ferry crossing in exchange for exploring 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.

Much of the land was and will be prairie, but it runs up into the bluffs just south of Devil’s Lake with some steep climbs up narrow roads, as well as some areas not open to the public. There is a beautiful and lightly-traveled (at least today) bike trail running through it. The climb up through Devil’s Lake was gorgeous as usual and a brisk tailwind pushed us for most of the morning. You know what that means for the afternoon.

We were able to eat lunch outside in Baraboo before our leisurely return to Sauk City. We earned the name half-fast today, this being the slowest 55 miles I’ve ridden in some time.

The ride was a perfect sendoff as I begin my two week tour of duty in the COVID-19 unit. Our Fearless Leader is home from his brief stint. On the way out he tweeted that we should not be afraid of COVID, because “we have developed, under the Trump administration, some great drugs…” What he didn’t mention is that you and I would not receive the treatment or the medication he received. Nor will we discharge to round-the-clock care with a staff of nurses and doctors. And he also neglected to mention that we paid for his treatment, since he paid $750 in taxes for the most recent year we know about, and his care may well have cost that much per hour, not counting his helicopter rides. He has no co-pays, co-insurance, nor worry that one of his care team might have been out of network and not covered at all. Lest we forget, the bulk of his taxes actually go to the War Department (now known, in one of the earliest examples of newspeak, as the Department of Defense) and debt service, so maybe his taxes didn’t pay for a whole hour. And, by the way, it has been reported that Dear Leader holds stock in the company that developed the “COVID-cocktail” and said stock price has gone through the roof since his treatment. So ask Dear Leader if he will pay for your care as you have paid for his. If so, have no fear.

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.