Road to nowhere

Wisconsin once had the nation’s best system of secondary and tertiary roads. When the economy was dominated by family dairy farms, the milk truck had to be able to make daily pickups all year. That meant well-paved and well-maintained roads.

If a road was named after a person, they were the first white settler to farm there, not a wealthy developer wanting fame. If a road was called “Oak Grove”, it was because there was an oak grove there; it wasn’t a suburban fantasy to sell over-priced lots in a former cornfield.

The roads were used by the people who lived there, the milk trucks, (and bicyclists). These were the roads that made me fall in love with bicycling. As the dairy industry consolidated, with larger farms, each with more cattle, the back roads fell into disrepair. Money for infrastructure is not popular, especially when it serves the remaining small family farms and not the captains of industry.

But these “roads to nowhere” are what we a rode across Wisconsin. Today we are in Manitowoc. The ship doesn’t sail until 2pm Sunday. We can’t get into showers until 1:30. After picnic I pitched the tent and loaded what laundry I could fit into my tiny lumbar pack and headed to the laundromat. Then it was a trip to the Y for a shower, then clean up time for the bike. The chain is only a week old but today’s fresh (and dusty) chipseal ensured that a clean and lube was needed.

First view of Lake Michigan
Future cyclists in training

We rode north and east until we reached Lakeshore Road, which offers only fleeting glimpses of the lake, as we made our way to Manitowoc.

The sky is the bluest of blues…all along the lakeshore and as I sit outside a brewpub in Manitowoc. Various blue sky songs have been running through my head. I settled on this one, as Dickey Betts was always (unfairly) in the shadow of Duane Allman. [You may have to imagine this one or look it up yourself, as both wi-fi and cell service have failed me this evening. We’ll see if either makes a comeback.

Tomorrow we will be incomunicado for four hours (five by the clock due to a time change) as we make our way across the lake. There are no cell towers or wi-fi in the middle of a 100 mile wide lake.

I won’t yell “clear” for you

When I’m riding with others, I point out hazards (gravel, debris, holes). At an intersection I will call out “car left” as a warning if I see a car approaching from the left that a following rider might not notice.

Other riders call “clear” to tell you no one is coming, so you can run stop signs. Don’t look to me to do that. Calling “clear” is taking responsibility for another’s life. It is giving your assurance that a situation is safe. I am not willing to make that decision for another, nor do I expect them to make that decision for me. I do not want to encourage others to abdicate responsibility for their own safety. The same reasoning is why you won’t find me bungee-jumping.


We have arrived in Northfield for a day off. My tent is dry, my laundry is in the machine.

It was a beautiful day – warm, sunny, breezy. I saw trees – not just tree or a windbreak, but actual woods!

Even the air smells and tastes richer here.

We saw the famous 2-story outhouse. I couldn’t figure out how you get in the upper door, and I wondered why there is a power line to it.

I also passed a sign for a “Man Sale”. I couldn’t figure out what that was. Later I saw a sign for a “Man Sail” and it appeared to be a garage sale of stereotypically male stuff. I also got a picture of our fearless leader hard at work.

The most remarkable thing about this group of people is how unremarkable we are. Sure, we have our eight time iron (wo)man and a former competitive arm wrestler (who retired when she broke her arm in competition) and the guy who has ridden cross-country seven times now (five of them self-contained), but if a bunch of us walked into a café you wouldn’t think anything of it if we weren’t wearing these weird biking clothes. If a bunch of NFL players walk into a café, you know it. We are a bunch of unremarkable people doing a remarkable thing.


A while back I wrote about what to bring for a trip like this. Today I’ll talk about how that has worked out so far.

My duffle bag is infamous for its density. It contains tools and parts I hope not to need. The other night a rider needed a 16Nm (Newton meter) torque wrench. The one the mechanics have only reads to 6Nm. I had one.

I had my first “patient” (besides myself) needing Kinesio-tape. She saw the tape on my hamstring tendon insertion (which lasted a week, peeled off, and the tendon is now fine, thank you very much for asking).

I taped her Achilles‘ tendons and she told me that she rode pain-free for the first time after that.

I bought a new tent for the trip. My old one was pretty ratty. The new one has side entrances instead of at the end. They are on both sides and both have vestibules. I can store gear in one and use the other as an entrance.

It is a two-person tent so, when it is raining, I can keep all my gear inside with me. In addition to the usual gear pockets in the corners, there is a really handy net pocket in the ceiling, above my head, where I can safely store my glasses.

I bought a new sleeping pad. My old self-inflating pads are fine for a short trip but I would not want to use them for a bed for two months. This one is self-inflating and 2.5 inches thick. It is great, though would be heavy for backpacking.

I have a great fall/winter/spring sleeping bag but it is way too warm for summer. I have car camping bags (heavy, flannel-lined). I bought a new lightweight summer down bag. An unexpected bonus is that the zipper pull glows in the dark. I never realized that would be useful.

I thought about bringing only a flannel sheet and a fleece throw instead of a sleeeping bag. That still might have been a good idea.

I’m not mentioning brand names, lest you think this is a commercial site and someone is paying for my praise. If you want to know more, ask in the comments.

Some parachute cord and a few clothespins have come in really handy. While I usually wash my bike clothes in the shower with me, my collapsible kitchen sink has been handy when that was not possible (and to soak my feet).

I brought a mid-sized saddle bag; bigger than the one I usually carry that fits only a tube, patch kit, tire levers, and ID. It can’t hold rainwear or extra layers, but the straps that came with the sleeping pad  enable me to lash that stuff under it. So far it has been big enough.

Inside, it holds tire changing stuff (including patch kit, two tubes, two CO2 cartridges, and an inflator), sunscreen, Cytomax – not any more – I drank it -money, ID, and (currently) an emergency shot of espresso that I saw in a convenience store a few towns back. (Not any more – I drank I it in an emergency)

An item that goes unnoticed is a water bottle and cage. Having a combination that works makes life much easier. I can reach down, get the bottle, drink, and put it back without looking or changing cadence. That’s a bigger deal than it seems and, if your bottle and cage don’t work well together, can be a repeated pain in the *ss.

Stuff wears out and gets used up

Stuff I’ve needed to replace:
– tires (2)
– tubes (about 5)
– chain (new one going on tomorrow)
– shorts (they touch my under-saddle bag with each pedal stroke – repeat that enough times and they wear through)
– Dr Bronner’s soap (16 oz bottle almost empty – used as soap, shampoo, laundry soap), sunscreen (on my second tube), toothpaste, dental floss
– Cytomax (4.5 lb can of powdered drink mix gone)
– Hammer Gel (16 oz bottle of concentrated electrolyte/carbohydrate)
– chain lube (almost gone)

Across the Mississippi!

After a day off Sunday we will cross the Mississippi River into Wisconsin on Monday.

We have ridden >2500 miles. Five people are leaving after this week and 14 more are coming on. (I guess Wisconsin is popular.)

We’ll end the week with a ferry across Lake Michigan.