We left Pepin on a beautiful morning, bound for Sparta, WI, home of the Deke Slayton Memorial Space and Bicycle Museum. Slayton was one of the original Mercury astronauts, though grounded until Apollo due to a heart condition. He is also a Sparta native.
Sparta is also the northern terminus of the Sparta-to-Elroy trail, the first rails-to-trails conversion in the US. Thus, it claims to be the Bicycling Capital of America.
We rode The Great River Road (WI highway 35), which is well-paved with a wide shoulder and runs along the Mississippi River and its sloughs and backwaters. Some beautiful river crossings on bridges not conducive to stopping for pictures.
We visited the rock-in-house, a local landmark created when a large rock fell and rolled down the hill and into the back of a house. The house was left as-is. The clock radio in the kitchen is on to a local station, the lights are on. It looks like someone could come home any time – except there’s this 55 ton rock in the back of the house.
We did some riding on county and town roads (better yet!) before heading inland toward Mindoro, though we were not able to ride the famed Mindoro Cut (a hand cut gap in the limestone 74 feet deep, 86 feet long, and 25 feet wide), the second-deepest handcut gap in the Western Hemisphere. It was cut with hand tools in 1907-08.
We passed a farm with a collection of windmills and, later, (this one is for Ric, who worked on the Windmill Repair Projet in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua) a working Chicago Aermotor, still operating a pump. In the days before rural electirification, most farms around here pumped their water with a Chicago Aermotor.
Roller coaster hills led to Sparta after 92 fabulous miles, mostly wind-aided. Arriving in town at 1:30, they weren’t ready for us, so I toured the Deke Slayton Museum.
The internet connection here is very slow and no photos will upload (“upload failed” after five minutes.) I’ll try again tomorrow when we’re on a colleg campus again. They seem to have better service.