Crane/My Sunday Feeling

After my short jaunt on the bike Wednesday, a half-fast friend called about a ride on Thursday. I had afternoon plans so we had to go in the morning. We took variation 17A to Paoli. I just made that up. I’ve written about riding to Paoli before; a popular destination before I began riding there nearly 50 years ago. We rode a different route than I’ve ever taken.

One can no longer fill one’s water bottle at the town pump. They removed the handle early in the pandemic and have not put it back. Or else the pump don’t work cuz the vandals took the handles.

We came home through the arboretum. Just past Longenecker Garden we came upon a woman standing in the road photographing a sandhill crane standing in the road. We slowed down and passed between them the only line available. The human seemed to take more notice of us than the crane did.

As we rode away, I marveled at how inured to humans cranes have become in the past few years. Just then a shadow passed over me, close enough that I ducked. The shadow had a huge wingspan, appearing bigger by the fact that it was no more than five feet above me. I looked up to see a crane (the same one?) soaring just out of reach and then landing in the grass twenty feet off the road.

Photos: a selection of local cranes; none the crane from this ride, to the best of my knowledge.

My Sunday Feeling

Sunday is still laundry day, retirement or not. It was gratifying to see that there were no socks when I hung my laundry. No socks means no work. The newspaper today reprinted an editorial from 1922 asking “Is the barefoot boy a vanishing institution in our cities?” Bill Camplin, in his great 1993 kids’ album “Flying Home”, said “I Will Never Wear Shoes”.

“I Will Never Wear Shoes”. Bill Camplin, from the album “Flying Home”

Saturday is the day that retirement really sunk in. I went to the big local farmer’s market – I haven’t been able to go to that market on a non-holiday weekend for 22 years. I saw my old friend Bob and he showed me a poster they placed near his stand to commemorate the market’s 50th anniversary. It was a picture of him at his market stand in 1973. When I became produce manager at the co-op in 1975 I began buying apples from Bob and his cousin Edwin. Edwin doesn’t go to the market but Bob’s wife Jane does. She wanted to talk about bike touring, as she has toured England and France and the coast-to-coast trip intrigued her.

Wednesday Night Bike Rides no longer have to be on Wednesday nights, nor at night, for that matter. Monday afternoon the half-fast cycling club returned to one of our favorite Wednesday night rides out of Mt Horeb, touring the hills of western Dane and eastern Iowa Counties – the edge of the Driftless Area. Dinner followed at a Mt Horeb brewpub. Having just watched the Tour de France over the past few days made me wonder how/if these hills would be categorized on their system.

By the time you read this, my bike and gear should have arrived via van and trailer from the east coast. The bike will need some TLC before it returns to the road for the Peninsula Century Challenge next month.

Love letter to WI

If you ask why I live here, one answer could be “turn right off of hwy 33 outside of La Valle onto Schutte Road, follow it as it morphs into La Valle, turn right onto Twin Pine, left onto Old Ironton, and when you get back to hwy 33, look back and I think you’ll know.”

Mike Ferrentino wrote an essay called “Vehicle to Something Greater” describing the changes in his mental state as he rode home after work one day.

The town roads through these hills don’t go anywhere fast. Schutte Road may take you to the Schutte family farm, Enchanted Valley Road will take you through an enchanted valley. They may not be transportation TO anywhere but they are that “vehicle to something greater” that Ferrentino is talking about. Reedsburg may be farther away than it would be on the highway, but “something greater” is right around the next bend or up that next climb.

The ride today was to start on the Sparta to Elroy Trail, the first rails-to-trails conversion in the US. I was planning an alternate route. The trail is an experience not to be missed, with its multiple tunnels, but the crushed limestone surface means you need to clean the mouth of your water bottle before you take a drink and you will need to clean and lube your chain before you ride again. If it’s dry, it’s dusty. If it’s wet, it’s like riding in wet sand. I have ridden it both as part of this tour and as part of a loaded tour, carrying tent, stove, food, etc. I did’t feel the need to do it again.

At last night’s briefing, the alternate highway route was offered openly, and the second half of the ride, which was previously on the 400 Trail, was written as on roads with the trail as an orally described option.

State highway 71 started out with beautiful pavement with a clean and wide shoulder. After the town of Norwalk both deteriorated. There were about ½ dozen 1-2 mile 7% climbs. We had constant views of the heavily-wooded ridges. In the valleys we were in clouds and on the ridge tops the sky got light, almost as though we were going to see the sun.

At picnic the sun came out to stay and that is when the ride turned from very good to heavenly. The sense that the roads don’t go anywhere fast reminded me of this from Mose Allison.

Pictures were not the first thing on my mind and don’t convey the sense of riding these roads. I have written before of my hierarchy of roads (town roads with names preferred, county highways with letters if needed to get somewhere, state highways with numbers only as a last resort). Since this trip is partly about getting somewhere we have needed to ride bigger roads than I prefer. Today was one of the days that reminds me of why I ride. Today was like a Wednesday Night Bike Ride, when the destination is not important, the ride is.

The road not taken

The last turn toward Baraboo is onto Terry Town Road, one of my favorites. It meanders a bit and then turns up. Then it really turns up, but only for a very short distance, then just gradually climbs to an amazing ridge top vista, looking over the valley before a 40 mph descent and then a fast and gently rolling approach to West Baraboo. My face hurt from grinning.

Terry Town Road

Noluck

In a normal year, this would have been the first Wednesday Night potluck. I would have brought a rhubarb pie. Dave would have brought his famous braised asparagus, with cayenne and lots of garlic. This is not a normal year. While it was billed as a potluck, I saw half a dozen people at the park shelter. Too rich for my blood and, it appears, most others’.

The ride starts in Blue Mounds and immediately drops downhill to Tyrol Basin. With names like “Mounds” and “Basin” you could have guessed what direction we ride. In those first few downhill miles, it is best not to think about the fact that you will have to go back up at the end. Enjoy it while you can. The good news is that it’s not four miles back up. The bad news is that’s because the other side of the hill is steeper.

From Tyrol Basin the route follows the route of the Wright Stuff Century for a few miles, so they are roads filled with memories. We climb the famed Fesenfeld Road. I always know I’m near the top when I see this giant oak. One advantage to riding alone is that this is the first time I have stopped to take a picture of it.

From this tree there is a bit of up and down before a screaming downhill into a gentle left hand bend. The only problem is the traffic coming from the other way around that bend. Some of them might turn left across your path. Today the pavement is damp in the shady areas, which tend to be the downhills. Feeling the water sprayed onto your legs by the front wheel is a hint to feather the brakes.

In the next valley I met two friends in a field. Right after I took the picture, the sheep started over toward the fence, whether because it likes human company or thought I was coming with food, I don’t know. Not wanting to come between friends, I cross the road to shoot the historical marker.

At the midpoint of the ride we reach the lowest elevation. While it has been up and down to here, it has been mostly down; meaning from here it’s mostly up. There is a six mile lead-in to the infamous Mounds Park Road; six miles slightly uphill and usually with a headwind. Nothing like reaching the base of a climb already tired from six relentless miles – you can never stop pedaling for those six miles. Today the headwind was brisk, but I got lucky. A group of four strong riders overtook me at the beginning of that stretch. I tucked in behind and we rode it together. I took the last pull before the turnoff, so I paid my way. We rode faster and I felt fresher than if I’d done it alone.

The best part of Mounds Park Road is that, when the road flattens out to give you a rest, the slope decreases to 8 or 9%, unlike the double-digit grade most of the way. At the top we turn into a long and shady descent. Normally this is a fast drop, but less so today due to the wet pavement. Since I had a recent patient who was admitted after a 40 mph downhill crash, I was maybe more cautious than usual.

The final climb back to the park is, as regular readers know, my favorite stretch of road and the adopted highway of the half-fast cycling club. After the ride, I sit on a roadside bench, sipping a Scotch Ale and cheering on the other riders as they climb to the finish. It is the only channel on this TV, but it’s a good one.

Baiku

Bicycling magazine used to give away a bike each spring. Each year was a different contest. I never won. One year they wanted a picture of your bike to show why you needed a new one. I sent a photo of a bike I’d made from snow. I figured it would melt soon so I needed a new one. They disagreed.

Another year they wanted you to tell them why you should win a particular bike. I wrote a song called “My Serotta” to tell them why I should win the Serotta Ottrott. It was written to the tune of “My Sharona”. They were not convinced.

Then they asked for baikus – haikus about bikes. I sent a bunch. I didn’t win again. Here are rewritten versions of two of the losers – one about my daughter’s first ride, one about my imagined last ride.

First ride – age 5

Holding the saddle –
I let go as she rides off.
She doesn’t look back.

Last ride – age 95

Steep mountain descent.
Heart stops – dead before I land.
Body found smiling.

The Norway Maple in the yard of our old house (across the street from where we live now) succumbed last year. Counting growth rings is harder than it seems, so I don’t know how old it was. I’ll guess it was around 50 years old, having been mature when we moved in there 27 years ago. Our son (who was born that year) wanted a particular cutting board this year, so I was looking at cutting boards, and end grain maple boards (like butcher blocks) seemed like a top choice (though he chose edge grain walnut). Most are made by gluing a bunch of small pieces of wood together. I figured, what’s a stump but a big chunk of end-grain wood? Who needs glue?

So I took various saws across the street and started cutting. Once I got a slice free I had to get it relatively flat and smooth. “Relatively” is an important disclaimer there – cutting through 18 inches of wood and having two flat and parallel sides is easier said than done. But now I have a tree-shaped end-grain maple cutting board. I liked the shape of the tree rather than cutting it into a rectangle. I left a few scars intact – I’ll say it’s because I liked the way they looked, but I could also say I would have had to take off a lot of wood to get it totally smooth, and without a planer (and especially not one that can accept an 18 inch surface) to run it though. The colors are natural. It has been treated only with a food-grade mineral oil and wax mix.

It must be spring. The loons are passing through on their way to Canada. The robins are back. It is 75 degrees (24 Celsius) and sunny. The first warm Sunday of spring means it’s motorcycle crash day. Lots of people will be out for the first time, riding too fast, and not noticing the sand and gravel collected on curves. Wednesday Night Bike Rides start this week!