Baraboo re-do

Who knew you could get to Baraboo by car as well as by bike? Even on some of the same roads! Frankly, any scenery that looks good at 60 mph looks better at 20. But this weekend found the half-fast cycling club off to Baraboo for the second time in a week; this time in a car.

The occasion was our 25th wedding anniversary. We stayed in an apartment above the Little Village Cafe. It was a beautiful 2 bedroom apartment overlooking the town square and decorated with circus posters.

I had no idea who Mister Mistin, Jr was, so I had to look him up. He was the star of the 1953 season of the Ringling Brothers Circus, discovered by John Ringling in a circus in Sweden. In Sweden he performed under the name of “Baby Mistin”, but Ringling, to emphasize the child’s prodigiousness, dubbed him “Mister”. Mistin had made his debut in Belgium at the age of two and, by the time he came to the US, claimed to speak five languages. His tenure with the Ringling Brothers lasted one season.

Baraboo is a small enough town to walk everywhere – to the Al Ringling Theatre next door, to the Circus World Museum, to the park and zoo, to the children’s museum, and to the Driftless Glen Distillery. Devil’s Lake State Park, Parfrey’s Glen, and Durward’s Glen are all a short ride (or drive) away. Walking past the children’s museum at night we saw a dragon (one of several in town) and a firetruck.

A great dinner at The Little Village, breakfast at the Broadway Diner (where we sat almost close enough to the griddle to cook from our stools), but the hike in Devil’s Lake was derailed by a cold mist that made the apartment seem much more inviting. We finally ventured out after dark again for dinner at the Driftless Glen Distillery. A phenomenal dinner ( a great mushroom sauce on pasta) and the spirits weren’t bad, either. Back across Lake Wisconsin on the Merrimac Ferry and the real world beckons once again. The leaves that were just a pretty sight in Baraboo have to be raked here.

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Al Ringling Theatre – from traditionalbuilding.com

The Last Roundup (Blue Spoon to Little Village)

“It was a fine fall morning; early and cold and sweet as cider. It was one of the prettiest times of year at one of the  prettiest times of the day…” (Ken Kesey, Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear)

And so we met at the Blue Spoon Cafe in Prairie du Sac, WI.  Breakfast (for me) was cakes bluespoonand eggs with coffee. It was about 35 degrees, no wind, a bright sun low in the sky. By the time we finished our breakfast and were ready to hit the road, it was over 40; still pretty crisp, but with a promise of warmth to come.

We (the stalwarts of the Half-fast Cycling Club) headed out, crossing the Wisconsin River and making our way to the Merrimac Ferry.ferry (For Cycle America folks, the morning route was more or less the route from the July 26 posting “I will never wear shoes“, only in reverse.) We wound our way up the switchbacks of Devil’s Lake State Park and on to lunch at the Little Village Cafe in Baraboo, home of the Circus World Museum (and former home of the Ringling Brothers). Lunch was a grilled chicken sandwich with pesto accompanied by an Argentine Malbec, followed by bourbon pumpkin cheesecake and espresso. No pictures of food. I’m not that kind of guy.

Leaving Baraboo the temperature was over 60 degrees. The wind began to pick up, out of the west, meaning we’d have a headwind early but a tailwind to push us home. The afternoon is the hillier part of the ride, so it was a good thing we were well-fueled. We headed up Happy Hill (and were happy), Freedom Road (where we felt free) and Swiss Valley (where we saw Brown Swiss cattle).  Rollie and I waited for the others by an old stone barn foundation with a silo in the middle. Since I’m used to seeing silos outside of the barn, I decided it’s really the top of an ancient and long-buried castle.

You can see the slits for the archers to shoot through at the top of the parapet, and the lookout tower above. After crossing a busy highway (with only a few feet of milled pavement – see the August 6 post “Back in the US, back in the US, back…”) we crossed onto a bike path for the last few miles. We saw a bald eagle perched above the river, which looked much better through the viewing scope than in the accompanying photo.eagle

Back to the Blue Spoon for drinks and hors d’oeuvre on the patio overlooking the river (just upstream from the eagle) and then it was back home for dinner, driving into the rising and nearly-full moon. Today was probably the most beautiful day of the month, a perfect day for what may be the last ride of the year that is just for fun and not to get somewhere. We’ll see how many of the Half-fast Club are up for the New Year’s Day ride.

Life is what happens…

…to you when you’re busy making other plans. John Lennon said that in the song ¨Beautiful Boy¨.

He wasn’t the first to say it. Cartoonist Allen Saunders (Steve  Roper and Mike Nomad, Mary Worth, Kerry Drake)  said it in 1957. I don’t know any other writer who had three comic strips in syndication at the same time. Saunders’ strips were soap operas before TV came along, though they continued into the TV era.

Comic strips are the thinking person’s Twitter. Squeezing something pithy into one or four panels is a pretty good trick. A weeklong (or longer) story arc is like a tweet storm. When I say ¨the thinking person’s Twitter¨, I’m thinking less of Saunders and more of Watterston (Calvin and Hobbes), Mallet (Frazz), Wiley – last name Miller, but he signs “Wiley” –  (Non Sequitur), and Trudeau (Doonesbury).

Back to Lennon; I can’t help thinking of our president whenever I hear Lennon’s “Happiness is a Warm Gun” – “Lying with his eyes while his hands are busy working overtime.”

Today’s plan was for the annual Fall Colors Bike Ride – the famous Blue Spoon to Little Village festival of fine foods.  Tim, the instigator, announced that he’d be out of the area after we set a date. I found out only the night before that “area” meant “continent”. Tenny was the next to bail – a bad cold. When we were down to two, Rosebud begged off, saying he could do this week or next, but not both.

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Sugar Maple

I decided to do it as a solo ride. Since I’m used to following Tim, I thought it would be safer to scout the route ahead of time via map and make myself a cue sheet. That’s what I did but, when going to bed last night, the bathroom faucet wouldn’t turn off. When getting up this morning, the kitchen light wouldn’t turn on. I also realized that the point of this ride is mostly getting in one last ride with my friends and I would miss that doing it alone, even if we do it next week.

So it was off to the hardware store for parts to do some home repairs. On the walk back I ran into a couple standing at a bus stop and asking where to find the Capital City Trail – “the one that goes to Milwaukee”. I pointed out the trail, which they were standing next to (a bit confusing, as it is a sidewalk for the short stretch in their view).

I mentioned that Milwaukee is a long walk. She replied, “Seven hours. It’s a nature walk, plus we’re trying to get home.” She told me how their plans had been derailed and this was their contingency plan. I pointed out that the trail is not continuous to Milwaukee and how to get to the actual trail to Milwaukee after the Cap City trail ends. If they make it in seven hours, I’ll be mightily impressed.

By early afternoon the temperature had climbed to >40 degrees. Time for a ride! Instead of the Blue Spoon and Little Village, I settled for Farm and Fleet and the library. But the cafes wouldn’t have had the replacement water filter cartridge I needed, nor the library book that was on hold. So much for plans. Now life, on the other hand…