We rolled out of Pepin and down the Great River Road, through towns crammed between the Mississippi River (and dual sets of RR tracks) on one side and steep bluffs on the other.

There was a chill in the air and clouds that were slowly thickening. It felt like September in Wisconsin, not July. With rumors of rain and my rain jacket packed away, I wondered how I would fare with a chilly rain.

In Fountain City we stopped to visit Brone’s Bike Shop, a place better-equipped than you have a right to expect in a town of 800. He had bikes from Cervelo, Pinarello, Colnago, Waterford, and a Schwinn Paramount. He had a time trial bike. One Pinarello had downtube shifters and C-Record Delta brakes. Had it been there for nearly 40 years, or was there a story behind it?

The other side of the shop sold coffee (from Wonderstate) and ice cream (from The Chocolate Shoppe). We wasted spent a lot of time there before getting back on the road. A couple of people bought helmets. On my way out, as I was taking my cleat covers off, Roberto asked for my help in getting the protective cover off of a new button battery. I set my cleat cover on the stair railing (as I discovered later) rather than putting it in my pocket, and sat down to try to help. When I went to take off my cleat covers later, I discovered one was missing. I searched my pockets, the floor of the store, the porch, the steps, under the steps. I searched a second time. Finally I went back inside and bought a pair of new cleat covers, putting on one to walk back out of the store. On the way down the stairs I found mine, as I was no longer looking down to search. Gene says it’s all Roberto’s fault. I’m sure he’s right. Now I have a spare set.

The healing power of coffee came through. As we left the bike shop, the sun came out. It was a warm and comfortable day with a bit of sunshine.

Quarter barrel mailbox – is this an only in Wisconsin moment?

We continued on down the river before turning inland and climbing a few of those hills. We started on a state highway, spent some time on a US highway with bad shoulder and high speed traffic, and made a very welcome turn onto county highways and township roads for the end of the day. I made a detour to visit the Mindoro Cut.

The detour started out as a gentle climb. There were signs warning of loose gravel. The road was freshly chip-sealed, by which I mean they spread a copious amount of pea gravel on the road and left it to its own devices. Some may get ground into the surface, some will be churned up and spewed around by car tires, some will wash away.

As the climb steepened and the switchbacks began, the gravel thickened. It was clearly going to be a seated climb and a hair-raising (and slow) descent. It was an out-and-back detour, as there were no roads turning east to Sparta after the cut.

Hand-hewn – no power tools, no explosives, just hammers and chisels.
Cut by a whole crew of John Henrys
For those who don’t want to watch a video, here is the Mindoro Cut
The road surface at the cut and through the switchbacks

With the detour, I turned into our destination in Sparta after 101 miles. Tomorrow, on to Baraboo and then Devil’s Lake State park Thursday.

Two…two…two rides in one!

We started the day soaking wet as usual. I tried packing my sleeping bag in a different duffel from the tent, in hopes of keeping it dryer. The tent fly is double-bagged in zippered plastic bags.

We started riding on the same path we ended on yesterday. After a few miles it became fairly impressive. The path claims to be in the Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame, something which I didn’t know existed. It was about as wide as a town road, leaving plenty of room to ride side-by-side or to pass people with dogs and/or strollers. The pavement was good. Intersections were well-marked. The only problem was the frequency of intersections, all with stop signs and limited visibility. Since the limited visibility was due to the forest we were riding through, I can’t complain.

The stop signs actually provided the only variable in the morning. Otherwise we rode at a constant 19 mph for the first 35 miles.  I rode with Ole Steve until lunch.

We left the trail and rode through Midland, home of Dow Chemical and (if memory serves) the childhood hometown of the only DAR I know.

There is a Dow High School and a Dow Museum. Whether they have a display featuring the uses of Napalm, I don’t know. Leaving Midland, things turned ugly.

We rode through miles of industrial wasteland on busy roads, which gave way to miles of not-quite-suburbs and not-quite-farm country. The roads are straight and flat with suburbs that never seemed to coalesce giving way to corn, bean, and beet fields. Even in the rural area there seems to be a grid system of roads every mile. 

There is a lively electoral campaign for Road Commissioner. One candidate’s signs say, “Fix our roads now!” I saw and felt his point. The road is beyond repair. Jackhammers, new road bed, and new pavement appear to be the solution.

There are crack-filled ruts corresponding to the four paths worn by vehicle wheels. The shoulders are crumbling. 

We arrived in the tourist town of Frankenmuth. I stopped for ice cream and walked through town before heading to our campsite at Jellystone Park. “Toy Story 2” is showing in the camp theatre tonight. I don’t know if I can stay up that late. A moot point, as our dinner and meeting ran well into the movie.

Dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow are in dueling restaurants across the street from each other. Greg says a local family controls much of the town but an internecine feud resulted in part of the family opening a restaurant across the stree from the already-existing family-owned restaurant. To keep the peace we eat in both.


One of the people I rode with this morning said that, at his work, they block his late afternoon schedule on Wednesdays and label it “church”. Today is Sunday, the day when many of the Christian persuasion go to church.

Vermont ChurchThree loads of laundry started the day, followed by 60 miles of church. We rode up Vermont Church Road which leads, of course, to Vermont Lutheran Church, home of the annual Bike Breakfast and Blessing of the Bikes. This year it will be Sunday, May 20. The church is, fittingly, at the top of a hill.

Church was not confined to this building. Today is one of those days when people say, “You couldn’t have asked for a nicer day!” I thought about what I would ask for. I couldn’t come up with anything.

I saw more motorcycles than bikes on the road. For that matter, I didn’t see any bikes going my way for about 25 miles.

I ended up in the fast group through no fault of my own. As you well know, I’m only half-fast. The first climb separated us and the guy next to me said, “I think that’s the end of the pack.” The four of us rode together for the next 30-some miles. There was a route Wiilowjpgoption that we hadn’t discussed. We were on the “long route” and there was an “Alpe d’Huez Option” with two more big climbs. I was at the front of the group on a descent and took the easy way out. When next I looked back, no one had followed. I passed two other riders in the next mile and then saw no one until two of the original group caught me coming back into town. I was thankful for the company (and the lead-out through unfamiliar suburban territory).

The willows are in bloom. The countryside was filled with that glorious color we call “spring green” (to be confused with the town of the same name), the delicate yellow-green of blossoms that will give way to the fuller-bodied green of leaves.

Church wasn’t over yet. On the radio on the way home I heard Alison Krauss singing “Down in the River to Pray” on WVMO (You can listen on-line, as it is a low-power station that reaches the west side of town on a good day.)

Church was still in session with “Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen“, a live stream on the first Sunday of the month. If you keep reading, this won’t be the last you’ll hear of this program. I’ll be encouraging you to tune in August 5, 12:30 PM CDT. I’ll be in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Where will you be?

Today featured the Pro Arte Quartet. (A quartet founded in Belgium in 1911, they found themselves stranded in Madison, WI, USA when WWII broke out in Europe. They were offered an artist-in-residence position at the University of Wisconsin and they’re still here.) For the second half of the program they were joined by the Hunt Quartet (a graduate student quartet) for Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat minor. The standing ovation was well-deservedto my ears.

I suppose it would be stretching the metaphor to consider my post-ride beer with lunch at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner to be a sacrament. Monty’s is in a former gas station (run by a childhood neighbor’s dad and uncle as Havey Brothers Texaco) and is the first place my son entered upon moving to Madison. (I can’t say “set foot in”, as he was 3½ months old and didn’t walk in.) We had lunch there on the way home from the airport, so he hadn’t yet seen his new home. When he was two he asked for a job there, it being his favorite restaurant. The waiter promised him an application. He expressed his displeasure when we arrived home and he hadn’t received his application. He showed them by becoming a musician instead of a fast-food waiter. (One might argue they are not mutually exclusive.)

The ice cream at the walk-up ice cream stand tulipafter lunch likewise was probably not

Image from The Capital Times

sacramental, but the tulip was. And the bike sculpture is a final image from the walk home. Now to fold and put away that laundry from this morning and iron my shirts.