A leisurely 70 miles

The day started with a great breakfast at St Olaf College. Private schools tend to brag about their food service – if you’re going to charge $50K or more per year, you’d better have good food.

We were warned not to arrive in Pepin too early, as The Trail Boss had business to conduct at Cycle America Intergalactic Headquarters, which was our first stop of the day.

Only riders from this planet, though not this hemisphere

From there we rode the Cannon River Trail, a paved rail-to-trail conversion for about 20 miles through the woods along the Cannon River. See 2018 post for photos.

Picnic was in Redwing, MN, home of Redwing Shoes, makers of fine work boots.

We crossed the Mississippi River on US Highways 61/63, a trip much less harrowing than before due to the addition of a bike/pedestrian lane. The highway was still a bit daunting for a few miles until we turned onto WI Highway 35, The Great River Road, which parallels the Mississippi.

First view of Wisconsin, crossing the Mississippi

The river widens into Lake Pepin, a 22 mile section of river a couple of miles wide, and passes Maiden Rock, named for the native woman who jumped from that rock on her wedding night after a forced marriage.

Lake Pepin
Maiden Rock. I’m sure there is a photo of the sign with the story somewhere in the archives.

We rode into the village of Stockholm (population 78) for pie and espresso. This was the first time I’ve had blueberry/peach pie baked by anyone other than me. (I make a peach/blueberry – more peach than blueberry, the opposite of theirs.) It was a great pie and we doubled the town’s population for a few hours. There are gift shops in town and an Amish furniture store. I sat in a bentwood rocker there four years ago and almost called my wife to come and pick it up, it was so comfortable. There was a similar chair there today. I think I’ll be back for it after the tour. There was a beautiful elm dining room set and several quarter sawn white oak tables.

Stockholm, home of great pies

After a tour of the village and its park (camping allowed) we rode on into Pepin, where they had Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewing on tap in order to help us avoid being too early.

The Little House in the Big Woods

This is our second town to lay claim to Laura Ingalls Wilder. De Smet, SD is home of the Little House on the Prairie; Pepin is home to the Little House in the Big Woods.

Tomorrow it is on to Sparta, home to astronaut Deke Slayton and the museum of bicycles and space; also the northern terminus of the Sparta-to-Elroy trail, the first rails-to-trails conversion in the US, known for its long and dark tunnels.

Double your pleasure

I missed Wednesday night’s ride. I was delivering my bike to Cannon Falls, MN, intergalactic headquarters of Cycle America. While there is peace of mind in knowing my bike will be delivered to the starting point of the ride (without having to dismantle and ship it, or drag it through an airport), I’m not sure I saved much money, putting $130 worth of gas in the car that day. (Not that I used it all on my 520 miles of driving.) It also rained all day here, so I’m not sure I would have ridden anyway. For the first 100 miles, visibility was about 100 yards. I was following an orange truck that I only realized was orange when the sky lightened temporarily. It was mostly a vague grey box in front of me with red lights shining out. The sun was shining in Minnesota. When I got home I realized the 520 miles I drove will take me a week on a bike.

Thursday night’s ride was in my favorite area. Since I won’t be here for the Wednesday Night New Glarus ride, and I was going to be there anyway, I figured I would do the Wednesday Night route for a warmup, then meet my friends for the Thursday route, since they start and end at the same spot. And when training to ride across the continent, 25 miles just aren’t enough.

It didn’t go exactly as planned. Retirement means not having to follow a strict schedule. The book I was reading was too good to put down so I read a few more chapters before leaving the house and only rode a bit of the Wednesday route, though still enough to turn the 25 mile ride into something more that 40.

New Glarus area ridge

Writing about favorites inspired me to stop writing and go visit another favorite. I figured I wanted to get in one more highway cleanup before the trip, so I will save this and head out. See ya later.

The highway is clean. Aside from the usual detritus, today yielded a wheel well liner. Post-cleanup we enjoyed a ride on the clean highway and lamented the many Bud Light cans on the rest of the ride.

I never get tired of this view. Good thing they put a bench here for me to sit on.

Home: a love story

One of the half-fast cycling club graduated from UCLA. It was tough getting through college with dyslexia. He told me they gave him a sweatshirt. It looked like this:


Image from Pinterest

That’s not what we came to talk about today. We were riding in the Baraboo Hills and it got me thinking about places. Much of what I know about the place I call home came from the book The Physical Geography of Wisconsin.; and the physical geography of this place is one of the reasons I love to explore it by bike.

A question from a reader led me to realize I live in paradise.

Fifty miles to the west of me is Spring Green, home to Taliesen (the home of Frank Lloyd Wright) and American Players Theatre (one of the great classical theatres in the US – one of the founders was Randall Duk Kim – you may know him as The Keymaker from The Matrix Reloaded. I know him for playing Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the titular Titus Andronicus on back-to-back nights).

Spring Green is in the heart of the driftless area. Much of north central North America was covered by glacier in one or more previous ice ages. The driftless area in the southwest corner of Wisconsin was missed by every glacier. It is a land of steep and craggy hills. The eastern edge of the area is rich farmland (hence the town of Black Earth), whereas farther west it is too steep and irregular to support much farming and leans more toward wooded hills and dark valleys. The driftless area is home to the Dells of the Wisconsin River, known to geologists for its rock formations; known to the rest of the world for its waterparks. Much of my time on a bike is is the driftless area.

Stand Rock (WI Dells) image from Science Source. Don’t try this at home.

Fifty miles to the north are the Baraboo bluffs, home to our annual fall ride. This is on the edge of the driftless area and home to Devil’s Lake and the Circus World Museum, as well as Dr Evermor’s Forevertron. Devil’s Lake (roughly translated from Tewakącąk, the Ho-Chunk name, which may be more accurately translated as sacred lake or spirit lake but, due to the racism of European settlers who deemed anything sacred but not christian to be the work of the devil, was translated as “Devil’s Lake”). The lake was formed by a terminal moraine which trapped its outflow. While the bulk of Wisconsin drains to the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico, this lake drains slowly into the underlying bedrock. A drain was added in 2002 to remove years of accumulated phosphorus from runoff. The hills are Baraboo pink quartzite, and estimated at 1.3 billion years old.

Devils’ Doorway -Devil’s Lake. Image from journaltimes.com
Dr Evermor and the Forevertron image from Madison.com

Fifty miles to the east is the Kettle Moraine State Forest. A “kettle” is a depression left by a melting ice block as the glaciers receded, while a “moraine” is a ridge of rock pushed along by a glacier, then left behind as the glacier receded.

Ride one way and I can see what Wisconsin looked like before the ice age. Ride the other way and I can see how glaciers changed the landscape.

Hiking along a moraine. Image from u/alrobertson on reddit.com

Fifty miles to the south is New Glarus, home of my favorite of the Wednesday Night Bike Rides. (Actually, this one is closer. Fifty miles gets you past Monroe. New Glarus is only about 25 miles.) New Glarus was settled by Swiss immigrants who found the verdant hills and valleys reminiscent of home. It is one of the few places you can still find dairy cattle that are not Holsteins.

Contour farming near New Glarus. Image from halffastcycling.club.

Smack dab in the middle of all that is Taychopera or DeJope, AKA Madison, WI, AKA home sweet home. I can walk less than a mile to see an effigy mound that reminds me that this was sacred space long before I (or anyone who looks like me) was here.

Favorite Ride

It was sunny, hot, and humid when I left work. A light wind; a great day for a ride.

I arrived early at the meetup point. Someone said there was a thunderstorm in Dodgeville headed straight toward us. As I waited for my friends to arrive, I checked the radar. A thunderstorm cell was headed our way and looked like it would arrive just as we were to start. The air turned cool. The wind died. The sky turned dark. The wind picked up. A few raindrops fell.

The rain stopped. I checked the radar. The storm cell had changed from a yellow to a green spot and had veered south. It would be raining on the roads we were to ride, but would probably move east ahead of us. We saddled up and hit the road.

I had forgotten to bring a cue sheet, but these were roads I know well. I rode the 30+ mile route from memory. We rode on some slightly damp roads but never felt more than a few drops, just enough to cool us down a bit.

As we rode along Dougherty Creek, we came upon a steep and deeply verdant hillside with a small herd of Brown Swiss cattle. I imagined this is what Switzerland looks like and why the Swiss settled here and called it New Glarus.

The ridgetop vistas were stunning, as usual. The corn is probably neck-high. The short and steep climb from Dougherty Creek to the ridge seemed easier than usual. The broad sweeping curves we carved at 35+ mph on the descent into town brought ear-to-ear grins to our faces. Pizza and beer closed out the evening.

After darkness fell, one high cloud still caught the sun.
I learned a new use for Coban/vet wrap this week. (Note stegosaurus listening in the background.)
Dividing Ridge Road

I raced a train to work today. As I approached the tracks that I would parallel, I heard the crossing bells. I didn’t hear a train horn so I figured the engine was not nearby. Rounding a bend I saw hopper cars going my way. It was time to guess – if I was near the end of the train I could head for the nearest crossing and wait; if I was near the head of the train I could try to outrun it and cross up ahead.

I figured action beats inaction so I continued parallel to the tracks, and upped my speed. Approaching Brearly Street I heard the train horn. I was gaining, and knew I’d made the right choice. Approaching Paterson I saw the engine and knew I could pass it. I had three more chances to cross before I would have to revise my route. Approaching Livingston I heard the crossing bells come on and knew I couldn’t make it there. I found a reserve and went faster. As I approached Blount Street I knew I could make it. I heard the engineer back off the throttle a bit for the upcoming curve. Just then, the warning bells started. I had the train by more than a block, it was moving at 12 mph, and I could go just a bit faster than I was already. The crossing was a new one with rubber at the tracks so it was a smooth crossing. After I crossed, I backed off. As I turned on Main Street I saw the engine cross Blount. I felt the burn in my lungs from a hard effort. I still had 4.5 miles to cool down before I got to work.

Taking it easy, I made the turn to Carroll Street. The walk light at Johnson was on, which meant I knew I could make that crossing. It started to blink “Don’t Walk”, which meant I could make it as long as I didn’t dilly dally; my light would turn yellow on the 11th blink. I made the crossing and now I could sit up and take it easy the rest of the way. I could get to the wooded lakeshore path and enjoy the beauty of a cool and crisp morning – a morning that required a jacket. I could watch the dappled sunlight filtered through the trees. I could look out over the sailboats gently swaying on their moorings. I could wave to the early morning runners. And I could arrive at work way earlier than I planned, thanks to that early morning sprint.

AM commute, though not today.
Three years ago today. Dubois, WY.