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Showing posts with label wisconsin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wisconsin. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mile 3385.4 – Return to suburbia

When I woke up, much of the tent was still damp. Piece by piece, I started pulling things out of the tent and onto the picnic table nearby. During this process, another camper, Roger, came by seeing that I had only a bike with me. We talked while I packed and ate some cold breakfast. Dan had warned me that the same weather pattern that came through last night was queuing up to hit again in the evening. Since I was going to be racing the weather’s clock, I wanted to get a quick start to the morning. So no oatmeal. Anyway, Roger and I talked for some time, telling each other stories of cycling. Always a good way to start the morning.

Walking from my tent to the bathroom I had hidden out in the night before, I didn’t see any branches downed. Other than some shallow puddles that would be gone by noon, there seemed to be no lasting effect of the heavy storms. I got on my bike and headed down 67. Just past Lake Geneva is a town called Genoa City which lies on the Wisconsin/Illinois boarder. At the line began the McHenry County Trail which would take me to the Fox River Trail and then to the Illinois Prairie Path. This presumably would get me quite close to Bolingbrook, where my parents live. But first, I need to get out of Wisconsin.

Gathered up for the morning, I started to ride south. On the highway I could see the already cleared remnants of downed branches. A few miles further south of where my tent was standing, I entered the town of Eagle. As I came in, I immediately noticed the large police presence in town. I climbed a small hill that highway 67 goes up, but was stopped near the middle of the hill by a policewoman leaning against her patrol car. Apparently, the tornado that I hid from in the bathroom with a frog had ripped through the town not five miles away.

I would again like to take a moment to thank Dan and Dave back in the lab, my personal weather team, for the heads up. I would also like to thank Hermes, protector of travelers, for diverting the worst of the storm away from me. Sorry to all the people whose homes were damaged or destroyed because of it.

The tornado had damaged around 110 houses, but there were no reported injuries. That is very good. The cop told me that there were trees and power lines down across 67 through town, and told me of an alternate way to get back to 67 around town. I took 54 to County S. On this county road there were crews clearing branches from the road and shoulders. I came to a long white fence that looked good except for the half dozen places it was broken by tree. A little way out of town I stopped in at a breakfast joint. On the tv, they were showing the live helicopter view of the wreckage. It was surprisingly close to where my insubstantial little tent was standing when the storm hit. If the storm could level houses, my tent would have been blown halfway to Ohio.

Thanks again, Hermes. I appreciate it.

Further along, I had some examples of bad shoulder to ride on. I went through the resortish town of Lake Geneva, known for quality of the lake, the good food and the Sugar Shack, a club just north of town that has two floors, one of the ladies and one for the gentlemen. If by that description, you still don’t know what goes on there, let me just say it’s a bingo hall. I passed Ryan Braun’s restaurant and a Gino’s East I never knew existed. It was not long after that I came into Genoa City and, not being a very large town, I soon got to the connection to the McHenry County Trail.

The only sign that I had just gone from one state to another was the marker for north bound travelers announcing the end of the McHenry County Prairie Trail. I was in Illinois long enough to read the sign and didn’t even know it. On the route I have chosen, it took me 270:32:25 of riding to cross into Illinois.

The top seven miles of the trail is the old railroad ballast and gravel. It was easy but slow, but in the parts between the trees, the views that opened were quite pretty. All along the trail were groups of workers removing all the fallen debris from last night’s storm. I thanked them as I rode by. I took a break at a little picnic area off the trail in the heart of Glacial Park. This used to be one of the richest waterfowl habitats in the Midwest until agriculture, houses and dams changed much of the landscape. I could make out some herons on the edge of a pond, but they were too far to come out with the camera.

Then a few miles before the town of McHenry, the trail turned paved. I picked up several miles an hour immediately. The rail bed pitch was still relatively flat, so I quickly made it through McHenry and into Crystal Lake. Coming into Crystal Lake is the one bit of this trail that is not railroad grade, as it goes through Sterne’s Woods. All of a sudden I felt like I was on a mountain bike trail in North Carolina, except it was still paved. There were several steep, close inclines that curved at the bottom, so you had to go pretty slow down or risk the blind crash around the corner. Then the woods opened up and there was a pair of hills that looked like it was originally designed for a roller coaster. A few cranks down, and I let gravity pull me to 33.8mph as I got to the bottom. You had to keep as much momentum as possible because what came next I consider an advanced hill. It isn’t expert, it’s not going to kill you, but if you try it unprepared, you’re going to be walking up to the top. After that crest there was a short dip then a turn back into the woods where the small hill with curve motif resumed.

In Algonquin, the trail crossed a street and became the Fox River Trail. Between Algonquin and Elgin, the trail ran along an active railroad track, each trying to sneak in closer to the river. At one point I was passed by a young guy in an orange shirt. At a light not too far along, I closed in on him again, then passed him when he stopped to tell a cyclist walking his bike that he wasn’t far from the bike shop. By now I was holding a steady 19mph pace, so it took him a bit to catch up with me again. When he did he asked if I was doing some sort of cross country thing. I told him about it and he said ‘That’s the most awesome thing I’ve ever heard’. We stopped and I gave him my card. Conrad is a high school sophomore that was riding a nicer bike than the one I had when I was that age. But then, I am riding a nicer one now, so I guess that’s moot. We rode together for probably 7 or 8 miles, weaving in and out of all of the other traffic on the path that was going slower than us. It doesn’t seem like it would be hard to convince him to ride across the country, though he said he’d at least wait until he had his driver’s license, just in case of emergency. Maybe next time I go across, when I’m looking for two other people to travel with… Several miles past when he would have otherwise turned around, he finally had to go back, but it was another person on the trip that I’m glad I met and got to talk to for a while. Keep riding, man.

In Elgin, I encountered a problem. There was construction ahead and a bike path detour. I rolled my eyes but accepted it. I passed a fountain made of water jets set into the ground. Dozens of children were playing in the massive public sprinkler they had set up there. At the river, people were fishing, strolling, cycling, or just sitting on a bench watching the scene.

I crossed under the highway 20 bridge and the woods started again. Not far into it, a long segment of the Fox River Trail was closed off for construction. I don’t know whose bright idea it is to close the bike path from the beginning of June to the end of July. That is possibly the worst pair of months to close a bike path, possibly behind May/June.

But right there was my connection to the Illinois Prairie Path which would send me back down into Wheaton. I was riding along and burst out of some trees when suddenly the path ended at a road that was quite clearly being constructed. I had to lift my 70lb bike up the foot thick concrete, watching out for the several inches of rebar hanging out the side. Crossing the dirt median, I had to lower then raise her again. By riding along the edge of the construction, I got onto a real road, but was told I had to detour to get to the next segment of bike path. Army Trail Road has no shoulder along here, but plenty of traffic, so it was a joy to ride along. I finally got back onto the path in Bartlett.

There was one point where the Prairie path splits off and the signage is confusing, but I managed to find the right part. That part of the patht goes south east through a forest to County Farm Road. At the end of County Farm Road in Wheaton is the high school I went to, but I did not visit it. At a stop light, the trail continued diagonally across the intersection. While a pair of girls on bikes were waiting, I crossed the direction I could. Then, as the light I needed turned green, I started and saw a young punk on a mountain bike speed past the girls and shoot across the intersection. Ok, punk, you’re on. I don’t think it even took 100 yards for me to pass him, again setting a steady 19-20 mph pace. Up to the challenge, he kept pace, steering clear of foot and bike traffic in both directions. About three miles later, the path dumped onto a road. I could hear him say ‘damn’ as we came out. I saw an orange detour sign and swore. I hadn’t been in Illinois 4 hours and I had already had it with the construction. That was what got Justin and me talking. I asked about the detour and we rode several blocks together to the Wheaton train station, where his route split off. I did not know it then, but this very corner would play a big role in my day almost exactly 24 hours later.

From there, Dan had me routed south for a while before resuming east and going through downtown Naperville. I took the more direct and difficult way home. Thus I started to piss off drivers in Wheaton and Naperville. I composed a song, ‘The Reasons I Hate Naperville’ and it was not very complimentary. One guy yelled at me to ride on the sidewalk and called me a name that I’m sure he’s been called before. I invited him to pull over so we could discuss his proposition, but he declined and the car pace was just faster than I could keep up with having already logged 100 miles on the day. It’s a shame, really. I felt like we had a lot to discuss. I was going about 20 at the time, and I want to know what part of a cyclist doing 20 miles per hour on a sidewalk sounds safe. If the counter argument is made that I should then ride slower for the pedestrians, then I suggest that he drive slower for me. That and I may have wanted to give the guy a good close look at my knee, but I digress.

Eventually, I made it back to my parents’ place. Most of the people who lived on the block from when I lived here last are gone, with the marked example of my parents’ two immediate neighbors. The three consecutive homes have housed the same families for at least 29 years. Rolling down the block, I listed off in my head as best I could remember who used to live in each house. I got to my parents’ place and there, patient as always in the front yard, is my favorite tree. It was a perfect height for climbing then, and as we have both grown a bit in the subsequent years, it is still the perfect height for me to clamor into. No trip to my parents’ is complete without a climb into the tree.

Day 54, Kettle-Moraine State Park, WI - Bolingbrook, IL
110.6 miles in 8:20:05. Now 3285.4 miles in 275:57:16 and a high speed of 33.8

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mile 3274.8 – The adventure continues

I woke up in Fond Du Lac, well refreshed. I think not drinking the night before helped. I wanted to get to the Wild Goose State Trail, which leads from Fond Du Lac to Highway 60, just past Juneau. It was a little unclear where the trail started, but I knew I had to get to the Rolling Meadows Golf Course on the southwestern corner of the town. I crossed highway 41, then proceeded to take a slight detour to take in some of the farmland south and west of town. I did eventually make it to the golf course and found the trailhead.

Almost immediately I was thrust back into a lush green world. Much of the trail is tree-lined, sometimes to the point of being called wooded. There are breaks and patches between the trees, opening a vista of pastures and farms broken by double lines of trees. There was one camera shot I tried to take that would have been called ‘Cows, Corn, Eagle, Turbine’ but I didn’t quite manage the picture I wanted. Again, the camera is too feeble an instrument to capture the sense of everything around me. Everything was growing, from the wild tall grasses and corn well ahead of the ‘knee high by the fourth of july’ maxim to the birds growing fat on the spiders and insects buzzing around. The landscape possessed a quality lacking in the rock and snow of the mountain heights or the multi-colored sands of the desert: everywhere around there was life. Every shade of green I could imagine was present.

The trail starts southwest but nudges south around the shoulder of the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. Wetlands now entered the scene, grassy meadows covering the hills above them studded with islands of trees. Mallards sloppily played in the water while egrets stood tall and silent at the edge of the grass. I took a break at a bench and watched a large spider explore one of Penny’s tires, only to leave it for more favorable hunting grounds. Unfortunately there were plenty of mosquitoes around and my bug spray is almost running out. I snacked on leftovers of a couple of meals from the past few days, the end of last night’s burrito being the star, then climbed onto the bike again.

The trail goes back into farmland past the end of the Horicon Marsh. My next break was in Juneau, where I asked a woman I saw on the street which of the tree bars in town I should grab a bite in. It was just one of those days where I was constantly hungry. There are about 4 miles of trail left between Juneau and highway 60. For this stretch, a group of local students have put up a scale map of our solar system, with plaques representing the distance to each planet. It really helps to visualize the great distances between the planets. I passed the first four within about half a mile, but then the distance from Mars to Jupiter was pretty long. By Saturn, I had stopped looking for the plaque and almost passed it. Pluto, of course, downgraded to a dwarf planet (it’s not Pluto’s fault there are 7 moons in our solar system larger than it) appeared at the trailhead at highway 60. I took another break there to eat a bit more.

Traffic wasn’t too bad, though I never had a shoulder wider than 4’. I turned south at highway 67 aiming for the southern campground at the Kettle Moraine State Park. I stopped for a break in Oconomowoc, one of my favorite place names in Wisconsin. Oconomowoc, Oconomowoc, Oconomowoc.

As I got to Douseman a few miles down the road, the clouds started getting thicker and the sun lowered itself to the horizon. I entered the park, and, given the looks of the clouds, opted to stop at the closer northern campground instead. I found one of the empty spots on the large grounds and paying my $14 for a non-state resident, pitched my tent. I could hear thunder cracking in the west and as I started loading panniers into the tent, the first drops of rain started falling.

Soon the thunderstorm arrived. The clouds were too thick and the aperture of my tent too narrow to see the individual bolts, but the ever-changing illumination of the trees and clouds was fantastic. It was a light show unrivaled by any technology known to Hollywood. Stage right, a flash of light so bright, you could see color in the trees around. A sizzle, then the roar of the thunder as it streaks above. Stage left, another flash, bright and sustained. A sizzle as the higher frequency waves reach first, a crack as the middle of the pack arrives, then the solid, vibrating boom of the main peal.

My phone rang. My brother sounded a little frantic. ‘Where are you?’, he asked. The Ottowa Lake Campground in Kettle Moraine. He told me there was a tornado warning for Palmyra, the town on the western edge of the park, about 5 miles away. We both quickly agreed that I should seek shelter. I pulled on my rain pants, shoes and raincoat, grabbed the flashlight, phone and a bit of food and hid out in the bathroom, the only structure around I could get into. I stood there for a while watching out the windows as the light and sound show continued. At some point, I noticed I was not alone in the bathroom. In one of the stalls a small frog was sitting on the foot pedal-operated toilet flush. I looked down at the frog, the frog looked up at me. We agreed to let the other alone, and went on enjoying our storm.

At long last, my brother called to tell me the warning had cleared. Thank you for the heads-up, personal weather team! I waited for the rain to lighten up a bit, then went back to the tent. In my haste to leave, I left the flap open a bit too far. I had zipped the mesh door all the way closed, but a turn of the wind had sent a good amount of water inside. My sleeping bag, thankfully, was just beyond the wet. I sopped up what I could with my towel, and slept through the shortest night of the year with raincoat and pants on, using the sleeping bag as a cushion.

Day 53, Fond Du Lac, WI – Kettle Moraine State Park, WI
81.9 miles in 6:43:43 for 3274.8 in 267:37:11 of wheels spinning so far and a top speed of 24.3 mph

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mile 3192.9 – Cycling in the news

Saturday morning, 51 days since starting my trip, I woke up in a dorm room ready for a full day of my college reunion. My first scheduled event was the Alumni Parade at 10:00, but of course I was awake much earlier than that. I grabbed my phone to see if I could find the story about my in the Post-Crescent. Getting to their site, a photo of me popped up with the link to the story. Here it is:

It’s a good write up. There are two minor factual errors, The town in New York I ride to is Nyack, I have never been to Niagra, and my friend I’m going to visit is in Wilmington, not Bloomington. Neither of these are worth calling up the paper to get them to fix, though now I suppose part of the public record of this trip is incorrect. I also wish they had included the name of my blog in the print version, though at least there is a link in the online article.

Satisfied with the story, I wanted to get copies of the paper for my mom, my grandmothers, and a couple to send home to Brooklyn. Grabbing Penny, I set of to search College Ave for some papers. When I got to the avenue, I was met by something I did not expect at all: a farmers’ market. That certainly wasn't there when I lived here. I walked a bit through the crafts and vegetables, past booths offering sandwich sauces and locally crafted draught sodas. There was a truck with a large tank on the back, through the window of which you could see trout swimming. I found a booth that had complimentary copies of the Post-Crescent. I looked down at the paper, and there, front page above the fold and in full color, were Penny and me, riding up College Ave. For this day, I was the biggest story in the Fox Valley. I grabbed several copies.

I rode back to the dorm and emptied a pannier. My plan was to go back to the farmers’ market, grab a number of ingredients, then make breakfast with my camp stove out on the balcony of the dorm. I bought no more than two things from any one vendor, wanting to spread the love around a bit. I got oyster mushrooms, spinach, green onions, goat milk provolone and cheese curds (which were fantastic) a draught root beer, a tomato, peaches and some bratwurst patties. As I was walking back to the end so I could get back on the bike, a guy stopped me and asked if I was the guy who had ridden here. We talked for about 10 minutes, both of us leaving satisfied at the meeting.

I needed eggs to complete my breakfast idea, so I rode up to Jacob’s Meat Market and got eggs and rolls. I made it back to the dorm again and gathered what I needed to cook. Heading out to the second floor balcony, I opened the door. This set off a rather loud alarm. Oops. Sorry, anyone who was still asleep. I went down to the desk and they called security to turn it off. I changed my venue for breakfast then, choosing a small, tree lined circle behind the building. The final product was quite good.

The details of my reunion activities are not really germane to the story of my bike trek. I mailed off the copies of paper to my relatives, played a Swedish game called Kubb which involves strategically throwing sticks of wood at blocks of wood, and at the end of the night, was the last man standing when the partying was done.

This actually was a bit of a problem. The sky was getting light and I was not at all tired. I laid down in my dorm room for a bit, but I was still wide awake. So I did what come naturally to me, I decided to take a bike ride. As I pulled Penny out, I waved to the desk worker. Stepping outside, I got a brilliant view of pink clouds lining a deep blue sky behind Main Hall. I went back in and told the desk worker, who seemed to be wasting time online, to come out and look at the sunrise. We stood there for a moment, admiring the work of sunlight brushing across the upper atmosphere.

Across the Lawe St Bridge, there is a trail that runs out to the eastern end of College Ave. Where College turns into County CE, the CE Trail begins, stretching from Appleton to Kimberley. Just as I reached highway 441, the sun broke the horizon. This was a good trail. I didn’t take it all the way to the end, rather I turned around shortly after a bike shop off the trail in Combined Locks. Back into town, I took the Olde Onieda St Bridge back across the Fox River, getting the western view of campus.

It was now 6:20, I had ridden around 17 miles already and most of my peers were still asleep. I was not getting tired, so went to bed. At 8:00 the church bells a few blocks away started ringing and I couldn’t fall back to sleep after that. I got an email from Ian, one of the organizers of the Tour of America’s Dairyland. The event takes place in locations across Wisconsin, and it happened that they were doing a criterium in Appleton that afternoon. He invited me down to meet them, so around 9:20, as they were still setting up for the morning, I dropped in. I talked to them for a little bit and shook some hands. They were clearly busy, so I said I’d drop by again later in the afternoon.

At 10:30 was our class breakfast with the new university president, Jill Beck. President Beck isn’t brand new, she’s now been there for a number of years, but was new since our graduation 10 years earlier. I had planned to bring up expanding bicycle access on campus and the surrounding community, but instead, by the time she got over to our table, I was just tired. Oh well. I’m going to try to plan an alumni bike ride for future reunion weekends, so I’m sure at some point our paths will cross again.

I got back to the dorm and packed up. I had brought all of my stuff down to the lounge by noon and for a little while reworked my day’s route to include the CE trail again. I wanted to get down to Fond Du Lac at least, at the southern end of Lake Winnebago. But first, I had a bike race to go watch.

A crit is a short circuit race. The track they had laid out went four blocks along College Ave, turned up two blocks and turned again (actually at the corner I used to live on) and then a third left turn to get back to College Ave. The course was .8 miles and there were a set number of laps for the different skill rankings. The biggest race of the day was the last one, the professional men’s rank. I came in at the middle of one of the lower men’s ranking, but it was still a great race.

As I stood watching, the guy I had talked to at the Farmers’ Market the previous morning found me. I really wish I could remember his name. He was excited to see me again and introduced his partner. He told me that he was inspired by me and had ridden 20 miles that morning, for the first time in years. He rode out along the CE trail to the bike shop that I had turned around at, got a few new things for his bike and was going to start riding regularly again.

Now this may sound corny or insincere. Standing there in the middle of a bicycle race surrounded by professional cyclists, cycling organizers and mechanics, to be told that I, a lone amateur, had inspired someone to get back on his bike was as proud a moment for me as climbing to the summit of Carson Pass. I have had several people along the way tell me that they want to get back on their bike because of me, this was the first time that I know someone actually had. From this moment forward, regardless of what happens between now and home, this trip has been a success.

I talked with a number of other people in the crowd, one of them even offering me the copy of Saturday’s paper if I hadn’t gotten one. I ended up getting six, so I think I’m covered. One older man, retired military by the looks of him, though possibly a farmer hardened by Wisconsin winters, talked to me for about 20 minutes. He liked to go to bike races and reads the major cycling magazines, though his riding days were behind him. He complimented me on my choice of the Trek 520 and, after a thorough exchange of cycling philosophies told me ‘What you’re doing takes balls. It takes lots of balls. You should write a book.’ Hard to disagree with that.

I met up with Ian again briefly and secured his assistance as I try to set up an alumni ride. There’s quite a bit of the organizing stuff I can do from Brooklyn, but things like finding and marking appropriate routes is better done locally. He again offered to take me out and introduce me around if I wanted to stay until they had cleaned up around 9, but I wanted to get on the road.

I left Appleton at last, taking the CE trail I had ridden 8 hours before. Along the way I passed some bushes full of birds warning passersby to stay away. One of them was flying right behind and above me, calling angrily. Suddenly, there was a bang against the back of my helmet. I was attacked! I was attacked by a bird! Thankfully, the bird didn’t even scratch the helmet. If I wasn’t wearing one, that may have hurt. I rang my bell a couple times and the bird retreated.

I took the trail to its end in Kimberley, then swung south along the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago towards Fond Du Lac. I stopped at a little ice cream shop in Sherwood. The owner, seeing my helmet, asked if I had heard about the guy who had ridden from California to Appleton this weekend. I smiled. Yes, yes I had heard something about that.

As I was approaching Fond Du Lac, the day’s activity was taking its toll. I not only had little energy, but I started to get sleepy on my bike, for the first time I can remember ever in my entire life. I managed to stay awake though. Getting into Fond Du Lac, I found a trail running along the highway that I hadn’t seen on any of the maps. I crossed town and found a room close to the Wild Goose Trail, which I wanted to take south in morning. Shortly the sky was dark, I was fast asleep.

Days 51 & 52, Appleton, WI – Fond Du Lac, WI
67.24 miles in 6:35:35. 3192.9 miles total with a trip time of 261:53:28 and a top speed of 36.1 mph (hit going down the hill crossing the Lawe St bridge)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mile 3124.6 - Get back to where I once belonged

It has now been 50 days since I left San Francisco. While most of that time has been spent riding, I've had a lot of non-riding time in the last couple weeks, since getting to Minneapolis, really. Today I'd be arriving in Appleton for my reunion, the only set date I needed to be anywhere by. After the weekend, I'll be almost clear of the bottleneck, just my parents in suburban Chicago and a couple more friends in Illinois and Indiana to see.

Even though I don't usually eat breakfast for at least an hour after I wake up in the morning, I got out of the shower to see the dining room table spread with food. It was only just 7:30, and that's long before I would start to feed myself. There was only a place for me set, as this grandmother just has a cup of coffee for her first meal of the day too. After I ate what I determined would be a satisfactory amount of food in her eyes, I pushed away from the table. As I was repacking and double checking my route for the day, the photographer from the Appleton Post-Crescent called and we decided to meet up on County CB out by the airport, around noon.

I spent a few minutes maintaining Penny, took a picture of her with grandma, then got back on the road. Though I was going less than 30 miles, it was good to be moving forward. Just across the Fox River as it takes it's course through Lake Butte de Morts and Lake Winnebago, is the trailhead for the Wiouswash Trail. It swings back west as it hits Outagamie County, after which I would have to switch to county roads. The trail was great, however, another old railbed turned rec trail. Now whenever I look at train tracks, I see a bike path.

I passed several people along the way, but for many miles it was just me, the wild raspberry and sumac and the trail. At one point my phone rang. It seems that Mr. Peterson at Lawrence had been busy. The call was from the newsroom of WHBY radio in Appleton, and he wondered if he could have a few minutes of my time. Of course, of course. This wasn't a live interview, he asked questions and taped my responses. It lasted about 15 minutes and while I always have more to say, I at least said enough that I wanted people to hear. As I type this monday morning, I still havn't heard the actual piece that aired, but I have evidence that it did. Someone who had flown in to Appleton for the reunion told me that the cab driver who picked him up was talking to him about it. This is the post on WHBY's website:

As I was wrapping up that conversation, a cyclist with panniers and a handlebar bag went by me. It didn't take too long to catch up to her, and I asked about the bags. She was riding 20 miles today, getting ready for a long trip she and some friends were taking. It was a nice talk, but then I got to my turn off. She continued northwest with the trail and I headed northeast towards Appleton.

Several miles later, I got to the corner of the Outagamie County Airport. The property stretched for several miles to highway CB. I turned and started along another side of the airport's exterior fence. The photographer had no problem picking me out, but as I stopped to talk to him, he said he didn't like any of the shots. The side of the airport grounds isn't the greatest backdrop after all. He said he would catch up to me on campus and get me again there.

I do not know why there is no bike lane, path or trail from Lawrence campus downtown to the mall or airport on College Ave way past highway 41. There should be. I would have ridden that. Instead I got to deal with a good amount of mall traffic and others moving from the interstate towards downtown. Even once you get downtown, there's not a good place for bikes on the road, so most other cyclists I say was riding on the sidewalk.

I don't like that, I really don't. It is not safe for you to be riding there and it's especially not safe for the people trying to walk there.

I got back onto campus and there was the photographer again, set up across from the picturesque Lawrence Chapel waiting for me to come into frame. Once he was satisfied with the pictures he got, we talked a moment. I then rode around to the new Richard and Margot Warch Student Center. This building is really fantastic. It has a dining hall, cafe, shop, conference rooms, offices of student publications and other organizations, a much better cinema room than the old on in the arts building, and mailboxes that you keep the whole time you are a student there.

I walked up to the registration table and told the girl working my name, class of 2000. Her eyes perked up and she said 'you're the guy riding his bike, right?' I think the nametag in my folder of registration stuff should have read 'The Guy', because all weekend long I heard 'Oh, you're the guy...'

Day 50, Oshkosh, WI - Appleton, WI
29.35 miles in 1:39:50. Now 3125.6 miles in 255:18:53

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mile 3095.3 - The city by the lake

Today started with a breakfast grandma had spread on the table by the time I got out of the shower. We spent a good part of the morning just talking and that was nice. In the early afternoon she had a hair appointment and since the weather was fantastic for only the second time in the last week, I wanted to get out on the bike.

Grandma lives a few blocks from the Congress Ave bridge and I rode on the road surface because there were people walking on the sidewalk. A driver asked why I wasn't up on the sidewalk. I'm a vehicle, I told her. Sidewalks are for pedestrians.

I made a straight line for Menominee Park which runs along a portion of the western shore of Lake Winnebago. I got to the park and rode north a little bit, stopping at a bench almost on line with the end point on the breakwater. From that bench, I was within a mile of the place where I was born. I sat for a while, watching the lake's relentless waves. After a while, I saw someone on a bike riding out to the end of the breakwater. If they could get out there, so could I. Jumping back onto Penny, I rode past several people fishing, some people strolling and a few fellow cyclists.

The point at the end of the breakwater is called Ames Point, after a man who was always fishing there. Counting that as the starting point, there's about a 6 mile loop that goes through the park. It passes the beach, sports fields and tennis courts, and then swings around the Menominee Park Zoo. I have some fond memories as a child of going through the zoo with my grandparents, parents and brothers. We would sometimes ride the little kiddie train around or go paddle boating in the little bay, well protected from the waves of the lake.

As I was coming back up to the bench near the entrance I started at, I got a phone call. On the other end of the line was Jennifer Espino, a reporter from the Appleton Post-Crescent. Rick Peterson, the man in the university communications office I had spoken to yesterday had talked to one of the editors at the Post-Crescent and she was given the assignment. I relaxed on a bench, being warmed by the bright sun and cooled by the breeze off the lake, and we talked for about 45 minutes. She finally ran out of questions and I had said all I had to say. She told me it was a great story and said she would talk to the photos editor and get a photographer to meet me as I was coming into town in the morning. Awesome.

I rode back to grandma's house to share the good news. A little later we were both hungry for dinner, so she suggested an Italian place a couple miles away. I offered to drive soon learned that I do not enjoy driving a car in which either of my grandmothers were a passenger. My grandmother doesn't have the greatest sense of direction and there was construction all along the street the restaurant was on. Next time she can drive herself and I'll just meet her there on my bike. I bet I'd get there first.

Day 49 - Oshkosh, WI
10.9 miles in 43:00 so 3095.3 miles in 253:39:03 and a top speed of 28.1 mph

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mile 3084.4 – From Grandma to Grandma

I woke up in the morning, ready to ride, but there were a few things I needed to do first. I wanted to go down to the post office to ship home more stuff I didn’t want to continue carrying, and I could not leave my grandmother’s without eating breakfast. Whether I was hungry or not wasn’t a concern.

I took a shower and packed everything up. Once I got my panniers ready, I set them all in the living room and took only what I needed to the post office. As I was loading it all into a medium flat rate box, I got a phone call from Rick Peterson from the Lawrence Communications Office. He had heard about my transcontinental trip from the Alumni Relations Office. (On the reunion weekend reservation form, I had mentioned that I needed a place to store the bike, since I was coming across the country and didn’t have a lock with me).

I stepped out of line and he interviewed me for a good 20 minutes. He said that it was a great story, and he was going to put it in the reunion weekend newsletter. He asked if I had a picture of myself and the bike to send him, so I emailed him a picture I had of us in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. It seems like so long ago that I was standing on Baker Beach, but it hadn’t even been a month and a half.

Well, the postmaster had listened to my side of the interview (as well as the several customers that went in and out) and was suitably impressed. She asked a few more questions, then inquired if I wanted some cherries to take for my ride to Oshkosh. Sure, I love cherries.

I got back to grandma’s and a bowl, cereal and milk were all waiting at the table for me. Even though she had only a cup of coffee, the banana I had made a show of eating was not a sufficient breakfast in her mind. I quickly ate, then, wanting nothing more than to get back on the road, loaded Penny up and was shortly waving goodbye to grandma.

The rolling green hills along the road from Princeton to Oshkosh was where this cross country dream began. As a kid, I wanted to ride my bike along highway 23 into Ripon, but at 11 or 12, a 40 mile ride was simply impossible. Don’t worry, young Josh, it would only take 20 years to realize this dream. I have driven this road so many times that know which buildings are hiding past which hills. I passed the wayside only three miles out of town that runs adjacent to the farm my grandfather grew up on. The farm is still tangentially in the family, my great uncle Anton took over the farm when my great grandfather got too old for the business. Anton’s wife died so he remarried later in life, then several years ago Anton himself passed away. So the land is now under control of my great uncle’s widow, who herself is well advanced in years.

This part of the trip is just as beautiful to me as any other I’ve been through. It may seem like boring farmland interspersed with 100-acre clusters of woods, but to me the vibrancy of the green fields, the stalwart power of the towering trees and the quiet burble of the brooks and streams that crisscross the landscape is as enchanting as the mountains and far more so than the deserts and plains.

In Ripon, I caught up with the southern end of the Mascoutin Valley Trail. The trail at that end is somewhat overrun with grasses, so much so that there was a lawnmowing crew out to cut the grass back down. As I passed the crew chief, he stopped me to ask how far I was going. Oshkosh today, but I’m making my way back to Brooklyn. We talked for a few minutes and I gave my card to one of the girls on the crew. As I left he waved and welcomed me to enjoy their trail. Once it crossed the county line, the trail became wider and better kept, the crushed limestone more regular and, in fact, more even than several of the gravel roads I had ridden on in the west.

Passing more farms and fields, I eventually came to highway 21, which my other grandmother lives just off of, on the other side of Interstate 41. I crossed into Oshkosh, and less than two and a half hours after leaving my maternal grandmother’s I arrived at my paternal grandmother’s. She had a nice lunch waiting for me and informed me that we had reservations for a special chef’s dinner that night. The retirement community that her house is in has a real chef and every month he gives demonstration dinners. Since it is June, he grilled everything. The appetizer was grilled pizza with fontina, crimini mushrooms and white truffle oil. For an entrée, flank steak with a chipotle-cilantro rub and sweet corn, and dessert was a grilled sweet potato s’mores pie. It was all quite tasty.

Since there were only a few guests among all the residents there, one of the administrators went around asking the guests to introduce themselves to the 40 or so assembled diners. I said my name and that I was my grandmother’s grandson. Then I was asked how I had gotten here tonight, So I briefly explained that I had ridden my bike from San Fransisco. Thus began my minor celebrity status at the ol’ folks’ home. Throughout dinner, I had several people approach me to ask questions of my life and journey. Among the other diners were Bill and Barbara Urbroch. Barbara is my godmother, though this was only the second time as an adult that I have seen her. Bill was a favorite professor of my parents’ when they attended UW Oshkosh and I could easily see way. Laid back and soft spoken, but with a quick wit, Bill is an excellent conversationalist. It was really nice to see them and we talked long after the dinner ended, until the crew clearly wanted to clear the tables from the veranda.

Day 48, Princeton, WI – Oshkosh, WI
43.0 miles in 2:25:04. 3084.4 miles total in 252:56:03, and today’s top speed of 29.8mph

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The vacation within the trip

Since I still had more than a week between arriving at my grandmother’s place in Princeton and when I needed to be in Appleton for the reunion, I took quite a bit of time off. On one hand, it was nice to get to spend time with my grandmother and see a number of my friends. On the other hand, I’m supposed to be in the middle of this big, impressive bike trip and I spent far too many days not cycling.

I spent all day Friday and Saturday with Grandma, then Sunday morning, after making breakfast and taking grandma to the grocery store, I took her car down to Madison. I could have ridden the 85 miles from Princeton to Madison, but that would have taken most of a day to get there and another day to get back, instead of the hour and a half a car takes. Since I was more interested in seeing my friends than riding to Madison, I took the car. Once again, I found that I just do not like being in a motor vehicle. Sure, they go faster than a bicycle and have more cargo space, but those are the only two advantages I found.

My first stop in Madison was to Best Buy to try to get my camera repaired. Of course they will send it back to happy magical repair land where the elves will use their ancient magic to undo the moisture damage all the rain caused. Then in two or three weeks, most likely, they’ll ship it to my home. In the meantime, I needed a camera. Because it was not terribly expensive and I already had all the accessories, I got the same model. Ug. I could return the new one within 2 weeks, but then I’d be cameraless again, and I don’t like that.

After a brief visit with my friend Terry, I stopped at Broom Street Theater, where many years ago I worked on a number of plays. It is a small community driven experimental theater, and I was happy to see it is still doing well. The play, Television: The Play, was funny and creative, allowing audience members to choose the next scene through a program guide style menu projected on the back wall. Go see it, people around Wisconsin. I also got to see a number of people I knew from back when I worked at the theater, so that was nice.

After the show, I enjoyed the rainy Marquette Festival, a big outdoor concert on a shore of Lake Monona. Good music, decent food, plenty of beer. After that Terry, her boyfriend David and I went to the Weary Traveler for dinner, which was nice. Since I was staying with Terry and David, I drove back to their place on the other side of town. As I was pulling up to their house, I got a call from Terry saying neither of them could remember where they parked the car. Clearly, they shouldn’t be driving then. I drove back to get them then dealt with all the construction again crossing back to the west side. Ug ug ug.

The next day I spent some time with my friend Zach, who was part of the group I used to play cards with twice a week. They were playing that night and while most of the people in group from eight years ago were no longer there, I was welcome to join them. I made arrangements for Zach to drive me there and back later, but I had a few other things on my docket first. I took a nice long walk with my friend Robin, who it is always good to see. That night was auditions for the next Broom Street Show, written and directed by my friend Heather Renkin. Heather and I acted in a couple shows together years ago, and I did lighting design for another show she was in. I thought it would be an hour and a half of free entertainment, and it would be nice to be on that stage again. It was. Afterwards Heather and the stage manager tried to convince me that I should just stay in Madison for the next 12 weeks, they would happily cast me if I didn’t have to go back to Brooklyn. Thanks guys, but my kitty needs me. Then I went to play cards into the wee hours of the morning.

Tuesday was Terry’s birthday, so I left her a nice present, but I had told grandma I would be back in Princeton by noon for lunch. My Uncle Ed was driving up from Middleton to see me. Well, I got to Princeton at about quarter after 12, and it was as if I ruined the party. That grandmother is a worrier, and all sorts of scenarios from a flat tire to death by explosive collision played in her head. I told her that if I got a flat or died on the way, I’d call her to let her know. What happened was merely some slow and annoying traffic.

After dinner that night, I took Penny out for a ride. It had been four and a half days since I had last ridden, and both of us were glad to be reunited. I didn’t take the gps, so I don’t know exactly how many miles of country road I took in outside of town. I think about 8, but they weren’t going to go on the official tally anyway. As nice as it was to spend so much time with friends and family, I wanted to get back to the business of cycling. Thankfully the next morning I was headed to Oshkosh. Unfortunately, that is only a bit over 40 miles away, and I’ll stop there for two days to visit with my other grandmother.

Days 43 – 47, Princeton, WI
No miles that really count, unknown top speed (but I think I got above 30 at one point)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mile 3041.4 – Over the hills and through the rain to grandmother’s house we go

Starting in Medford, I had one goal for the day, to make it to my grandmother’s place in Princeton. The immediate challenge is that Princeton is a tad more than 130 miles from Medford. But it just didn’t make sense to stop for the night within an hour or two of the free bed waiting for me there. Also, grandma had baked a pie.

Passing south of Medford, I seemed to hit another one of those intangible boundaries. I have left the great north woods and now entered America’s Dairyland. Sure there were still trees, but they were now borders or backdrops to farmland. Great grazing pastures, rows of neatly planted corn and fields of burgeoning green cereals were now rolling past me. The hills had flattened slightly, not dropping nearly as dramatically as the road crossed rivers and streams. My observation about the dairyland was proven when, not 20 miles south of Medford, I came to the town of Colby.

Colby, as you may know, is known around the world for its fine haberdashery. Men’s hats and gloves of the finest quality are produced there. Also, I guess they make cheese. In the center of town park, there is a historical marker about the world famous Colby cheese, first created in a cheese factory just outside of town. In all of the historical markers I have stopped to read along the way, this was the first one dedicated to food production. I suppose when there’s no gold or silver to mine, you find something else to do. On the way out of town, I stopped at the Colby Cheese Shop and bought a small block of Colby. More moist and mellow than its cousin cheddar, Colby is usually served relatively fresh, with the oldest cheese in the shop only 3 months old. Cheddar is usually aged 6 or 9 months, though it is not uncommon to age it for a year. I have once seen a three year old cheddar, but that’s more unusual. I guess Colby just likes to get eaten earlier.

South of Colby, the shoulder widens out to a very comfortable 8’. Other than one little patch of construction in which I had to actually slow down to get in line with the car traffic, I traveled unbothered by the motorists. I passed through several small towns most either slightly smaller or a bit larger than the city of 1600 I would wind up in at the end of the night.

I came to Marshfield, a city of 18,000 known for its medical services, and a bike path lead me nearly the entire way through town. Unfortunately, I missed a cutoff that would have saved me about 4 miles, but didn’t realize until I had stopped at a gas station on the southern end of town to take a break and pulled out the map. Oh well. A few miles south of there, I stopped at a wayside to read the historical marker, and met a family who were on their way up towards the Apostle Islands. We talked for a while, and it turns out the man’s brother had ridden across the country three years ago, upon his turning 50. They wished me luck and we went on our ways. It is always nice to meet nice people though.

South of Marshfield is the junction of highway 13, which I had ridden since just outside Superior and highway 73 which would carry me as close as four blocks from my grandmother’s. Unfortunately, those four blocks were still over 70 miles away, and I had already covered 60 miles. In Wisconsin Rapids, I crossed the Wisconsin River, which looked to me just as slow and lazy as I remembered it. Maybe the rapid part was elsewhere. I passed the minor league ballpark, (home of the Rafters) which had an ad saying ‘It’s easier to catch a fly ball when you have cotton candy in your hands’. That may be true, but then you’d have to lick the sugar off the ball.

I stopped at a fast food joint and noticed that the padding on one of my gloves was starting to free itself from its mesh bonds. Joy. I didn’t think they would last me all the way across, but I was hoping they would. Less than a mile later, though, I found a bike shop and took that as an omen to get a new pair. I did, but not until I was a way down the road did I realize that I really should have gotten the XL size and not the L. I guess I just have XL hands, the gloves are a bit tight. They will stretch though. The other slightly annoying part of new gloves is that it will change my glove tan lines. My glove tan is strong enough that it started drawing comments back in Minnesota.

Unfortunately, the clouds that had been thickening and darkening for most of the afternoon had now started to open up. I put on my leg warmers and for a while the rain was pretty light. But, from Wisconsin Rapids to grandma’s is about 58 miles, so even a light rain multiplied by that distance will get you wet.

Highway 73 was now traveling by itself, going east below town while 13 continues south to Wisconsin Dells. Some of the land use began to change again, I was now passing efficient rows of cranberry bogs and diagonally planted ranks of pine trees. Coming from the unchecked growth of the national forest in the north, the orderly precision of the tree farms seemed foreign. Trees don’t just line themselves up like that, but I suppose corn in the wild wouldn’t either.

Then, in a markless spot between a cranberry farm and a cornfield, Penny and I hit mile 3000. I got to 3000 miles in about 247 hours, which doesn’t seem too bad to me. It was rainy steadily by then, I got a couple shots of the spot with my camera and rolled on. There were still more than 40 miles left to my day. The highway went under Interstate 39, and I stopped at a gas station for water and a snack. Standing under the eaves of the building, I leaned against a window and ate. A couple came out of the station and asked where I was headed. ‘Right now, just to Princeton, but I’m going to New York.’ They had been to the Flea Market in Princeton just the previous Saturday. That happens to be three blocks from grandma’s house. Not only did they know where Princeton was, but the street she lived on.

More miles passed and it was starting to get hungry. Entering the town of Wautoma, I couldn’t help but grin against the cold and the rain. There was a sign pointing straight for Oshkosh and Princeton and to the right to get to Montello. I know all three of these places. I stopped at a bar downtown for a burger and some beer. I was pleasantly surprised when my meal came with freshly fried potato chips. Yum.

A few blocks past dinner, at mile 3022.0, I came to the intersection of 73 and Oxford St. When I was so small, I was not yet speaking in full sentences, my family lived in one of the houses on Oxford Street, just a couple blocks down from the highway. It was getting late and I wanted to get to Princeton, so I didn’t go down to find the house (my dad couldn’t remember which house number it was anyway). I did pull out my camera to get a picture and made a horrible discovery. The camera wouldn’t turn on. I had kept it in a pocket of my raincoat, but apparently enough moisture got inside that it was now not working. This is a bad thing. The rain had at least abated, so that was positive.

I had 19 miles left to Princeton and only one town, Neshkoro, remaining to go through. Between the landscape and the lighting from the setting sun, this was some of the most beautiful scenery I had gone through since the Black Hills. I saw about 20 deer including a couple that didn’t notice me until I was about 40 feet away from them. She looked up, saw me and bolted. The other deer heard the first scramble to get away and watched her for a second before gazing to the road to see what caused her flight. I was within 20 feet of her at that point. And my camera wasn’t working. The second deer ran off too and I was left to myself again. The sun had set by now, but there was still enough light in the sky to see clearly.

Finally through Neshkoro, I now had less than 10 miles to go. There wasn’t much traffic which was nice as my helmet lights were starting to fail. I hadn’t charged them since Utah, but I hadn’t used them that much either. I passed the sign welcoming me to Princeton and, much to my surprise, didn’t recognize the landscape at all. I have never approached Princeton from the northwest, I usually enter town from Montello to the south or Green Lake to the east. But then I crested a hill and saw the cemetery that my grandfather has rested in for nearly 25 years. From there I could almost get back to my grandmother’s house with my eyes closed. That’s good as it was now starting to get dark.

I couldn’t stop myself from laughing out loud from joy as I crossed the Fox River. I wasn’t home, but this was certainly a homecoming. I rode through the three block downtown and turned the corner past the old vacant Tiger Brewery on the river. There is still a deeply embedded notion in my heart that I should acquire that building and start my restaurant there. I rode past the familiar painted logo on the building’s front which has been fading since long before I was born. From there, I could see the light in my grandma’s living room window, as her's is the first house up the street from the river. I pulled up to her front door and both of us was very glad to see the other. I was relieved that my 130+ mile day ended in a familiar bed, she was worried that I said I’d be there around sundown and that had passed. The apple pie was worth the wait though.

Day 42, Medford, WI – Princeton, WI
133.2 miles for a total of 3041.4. Wheels spun for 9:20:59 today for 250:30:59 total and a high speed of 27.3

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mile 2908.2 – On Wisconsin!

Because I hadn’t gotten nearly as far as I wanted the day before on account of the rain, I wanted to get a solid day of riding in today. So my goal for day 41 was to get from Ashland down to Medford, about 120 miles away. I managed to get myself onto the road early (for me, around 8:20am) and due to it not raining and the relatively easy terrain, I was making good time. About 11 miles outside of Ashland, I hit mile 2800 for the trip. Woo hoo, only about 1200 more miles to go!

About 25 miles into the day, I came to the town of Mellen. Mellen has something I love and wish more towns had, benches lining the main road every so often. I stopped at one of them and sat down for a short break. Mellen also has a willow tree that grew from a sprig of the willow that shades the grave of Joan of Arc, which is pretty cool. I still had a long way to go, so I continued down the road.

This part of the state actually has the oldest mountains in North America, but hundreds of millions of years of rain, wind and snow have whittled them down to unremarkable hills. They are covered with the dense forests that a century early had been thoroughly logged to produce the timber that built the west. Now most of the original sugar maple and hemlock forest is gone, but the white and red pine and have flourished, now protected as part of the Chequamegon-Nicollet National Forest.

I came to a wayside with a historical marker noting that I was now on the Great Divide. The waters north of me flowed into Lake Superior and thus eventually through the St. Lawrence and into the Atlantic. The waters south of me flow into the Mississippi and exit into the Gulf of Mexico. Given what’s going on in the gulf right now, if I was the water, I’d rather take the longer northern route. But water, for its part, obeys gravity and doesn’t get much choice in the matter.

As I sat on a picnic table eating some cold pizza, a woman drove up in her car. We talked a moment about where I was riding to and from, and she asked if I minded if she sat down and shared lunch with me. Of course not. This was Diane, who was having a frustrating day. We sat on the table, she in a pale yellow raincoat and no shoes, I still had my biking gloves still on. We talked for a long while about the area, about gasoline consumption and the frustrations of home and family. Her boyfriend owns a restaurant that is struggling to break even in the current economic climate. She lives on a large ranch and has three horses, but is employed in Pine Falls, about 50 miles away. Not wanting to leave the land she’s been on for several decades, she has no choice but to drive 100 miles a day getting to and from work. This doesn’t leave her any time to ride her horses. She told me about the terrain and towns coming up and informed be that most of the hills were now behind me. That’s always a good thing to hear. Eventually she had to get going back to work, but offered to take my picture before she left. Since I have very few pictures of myself on the trip, I assented. It was yet another of the chance encounters that have really made this journey enjoyable. Good luck with everything, Diane.

Continuing along, I was making a steady pace of about 17mph. Diane had told me that in Butternut, they had a record black bear in a glass display case. Sure enough, there was a 686lb bear that had been killed in 1968, taxidermed, and put up for display. Out of Butternut, I crossed the Flambeau River and well into the afternoon, made it to Phillip, where I had wanted to end on the rain-shortened day before. I stopped at the A&W and enjoyed some cheese curds and root beer. Mmm, fried cheese…

One of the other roadside attractions Diane suggested I check out is just south of Phillip, Fred Smith’s Concrete Park. Fred Smith could neither read nor write, but spent his life making concrete sculpture that he studded with shards of glass. Sounds dangerous to play on, yes. The larger than life-sized folk art covered topics from the natives helping the original European settlers of the area to the farmers plowing up the cleared forests, to the Budweiser wagon, loaded with casks of beer and pulled by a team of horses. It was really something to behold. I stopped for a while, but knowing I had more than 40 miles left ahead of me, didn’t stay long enough to see everything.

Further down the road, I came to a wayside where the Ice Age Trail crossed highway 13. The Ice Age Trail is a 400 mile long hiking trail that coils around from the southwest corner of the state, up through the national forests to Timm’s Hill and then east towards Lake Michigan. It is a work in progress, and eventually, they hope to complete the loop, basically encircling all of central Wisconsin. I did ride past Timm’s Hill, the highest point in the state at 1951’. Even though it lies only a couple miles east of the highway, I couldn’t see the peak over the tall pine trees along the road. Oh well.

After that, I did something that I had not yet done. I hit my second 00 mile in one day. A little more than six and a half hours after reaching mile 2800, I was now at mile 2900. Unlike mile 2800, which happened in an unremarkable cluster of birch, 2900 happened at a well defined spot, a few yards before the intersection of Highway 13 and Alfalfa Ave in the town of Whittlesey. Woo hoo, only about 1100 miles left to go!

I finally made it into Medford. While I really should have camped out for the night, between the Cubs/Brewers game and the Blackhawks playing to try to win the Stanley Cup, I wanted to find a place where I could sit down, have a couple beers and watch the game. The first motel I tried only had double rooms left for $78. That was quite a bit more than I wanted to pay, so I doubled back to the Medford Inn. Walking into the hotel office, I was greeted by a large brown dog. As it turned out, this was Moosie, who lent his name to the ice cream parlor next door. Finally a young woman came out to help me. I got a room, but the only singles she had left were on the second floor. I brought the bike in to go upstairs and she asked about my trip. Just as I was starting with ‘Well, I started in San Francisco…’, the owner walked in. They listened to my story and asked some questions, and by the end of it, the owner had offered to give me one of the doubles on the first floor instead. Perfect. I also asked where I could go to watch the games, and as it turned out his brother owned the tavern next door.

I took a quick shower and went next door, brazenly wearing my Cubs hat amid the room packed with Brewers fans. The Cubs won that game. As I was preparing to leave, one of the guys sitting at the bar asked if I wanted to do a shot, so we had a couple shots of Jameson. Since the baseball game was over, the owner changed the tv to the hockey game, in time to see the presentation of the trophies. The Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961. Now 4 of the 5 major sports teams in Chicago have won a championship in my lifetime. The one remaining, the one that I care about the most by far however, hasn’t won in my grandmothers’ lifetimes. Oh well. I got another round of shots to toast the Blackhawks victory, then made my way back to the room.

Day 41, Ashland, WI – Medford, WI
119.4 miles in 7:17:24. 2908.2 miles total in 241:10:00 and a top speed of 33.4

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mile 2788.8 – The Best Laid Plans of Bikes and Men

I woke up shortly after sunrise on Day 40 and immediately my thoughts were on the other campers who made so much noise last night. As I lay there, several thoughts of revenge for their rudeness went through my head. I could quietly walk around their campsite and cause some mischief that would not be discovered until long after I left. I could go over to the metal trash cans and start to play loud, crashy music with the lids. My favorite thought would be to go around to all of their vehicles and quietly relieve their tires of air. I was certain that I could get that accomplished without waking them and again, would be long gone before it was noticed. But that is not the kind of person I am, and while I entertained these thoughts in my head, I set to work on making breakfast.

Breakfast was one of the wild rice bratwurst I had picked up the night before, the last packet of hot apple cider I brought from New York, some instant oatmeal and one of the three remaining bottles of beer from last night. On the label of the New Glarus Crack’d Wheat beer, there is a short paragraph about the quality of the ingredients, and it ends in a line proposing a toast to adventure and friends in Wisconsin. I do agree with the sentiment, I just wish I could call my camping neighbors friends. I washed my dishes in the water pump at the campsite then struck camp. I did take a moment to take a picture of the loud campers’ tents. From this picture, one really wonders how they could not have known I was there. Maybe I am invisible as well as silent.

Packed up again, I started to ride out of the campground and saw one of the loud campers from last night groggily stumbling away from the bathroom. He looked up at me then quickly turned his head the other way. I wanted to greet him loudly and ask why he was so quiet now when they all seemed so full of noise and opinion not even 7 hours before. But instead I rode up into the cluster of parked vehicles and made a clear show of writing down their license plate numbers. Karma works in unexpected ways.

Now I don’t like to make generalizations about groups of people, I am the kind that likes points out counterexamples to generalizations. But I did notice one thing in common on all of their plates: the word Minnesota. So, to the owners of a black Ford F150, plate # 586 DNZ; a taupe Ford Focus, plate # 130 ALG; a taupe Ford F350,# D 9473; a blue Ford Explorer, # NEE 440; and the white camper, a Rage’n RVT whose plate was on the side opposite me, I hope you all enjoyed the rest of your stay in Wisconsin. As one of the signs in Tom’s Burnt Down Café read, ‘You’re not in Minnesota anymore, you can be nice now’.

Riding back into town towards the ferry back to Bayfield, I passed by the graveyard on the island. Propping Penny up against one of the stone pillars at the entrance, I wandered around for a while, looking at the markers. I saw a number of people with birthdates in the late 1800s, the earliest being from 1876. There was a father and son from the 1910’s that had both died of drowning in consecutive years. There were also lots of military veterans with flowers and flags still up from Memorial Day. I spent probably 15 minutes wandering around before heading back to the bike. As I started riding away from the cemetery, I looked up at the sky and thought to myself ‘I think it’s going to rain on me’. Sure enough, not 30 seconds after I thought that, I felt the first drops. I looked back up at the sky and thanked it for corroborating my observation.

By the time I made it back to the ferry dock, it was raining. I took what shelter I could behind the ticket booth, then once the ferry had arrived and let off its passengers and cargo, I ran onboard and under the small covered section. The rain didn’t seem like it was going to let up any time soon, so I fished my rainpants out of a pannier and covered the very not waterproof sleeping bag in a plastic shopping bag.

Back on Highway 13, I started seeing something I hadn’t since Superior, heavy trucks on the road. Most of the trucks take US 2 between Superior and Ashland, avoiding the extra miles as 13 vaguely follows the shoreline. But I started to pick them up here again. By the time I got near Washburn, the town between Bayfield and Ashland, I was wet and a little annoyed at all the traffic. I found Rachel’s Café, the place where the pizza I had for dinner last night had come from. So I went in for lunch. It took a few minutes for me to find someone to order from, but eventually I ordered another pizza.

As I was waiting for that to cook, I went back out to get my phone charger from the bike. In the courtyard outside, hiding under an overhang from the rain was a family of three. The father asked if I was going cross country, and that, of course, started a long conversation. The son was one of the bakers and his parents had come by on his lunch break. From the bits of conversation I overheard, it sounded like the son was preparing to propose marriage to his girlfriend. His mother seemed willing to give him her mother’s wedding ring for the occasion, but wanted to make sure that that the son was certain before she did. Anyway, we talked a bit and they were a nice family and wished me luck and safety on my journey.

Back inside, my lunch was ready. As I ate it, I checked the weather maps on my phone. It was all rain west of me. Ug. As I was getting everything together to leave, one of the owners came out and seeing my bike helmet, asked if I had ridden there. Happy to talk to her (and delay going back into the rain a while longer), we discussed a wide range of topics from the local food and arts scene, to cycling in general and political activism. She was also telling me that they were only a couple weeks away from rolling out a new menu that included a lot of northern Italian fare and featured a good deal of local produce. It was a really great conversation and I gave her my card and assurance that when I am next in the area, I’d stop in again.

Then back out into the rain. When I had gotten up that morning, I wanted to go about 90 miles to Phillip. By the time I got to Ashland, the rain started coming down harder, and I called it a day. It was only 3:00, but I knew that I would just be riding through the wet. My socks were already completely saturated and when I stepped off the bike, I could hear the squish of water in my shoes. I stopped at the Crest Inn and was able to get the ‘riding your bike through the rain’ discount. I got into the room, shed all the wet clothing and promptly took a hot shower. It’s funny that the first thing I want to do when coming in out of the rain is take a shower. But cold rain and hot shower are very different kinds of wet. I really wish there was a hair dryer in the room, I would have applied it to my shoes.

A couple hours later I took the hotel owner’s suggestion and grabbed dinner at a place half a block away. I went in looking for a sandwich, but saw that they had a Reuben pizza on the menu. Intrigued, I ordered that. Yes that meant I had pizza for 66% of my meals today, but it was really quite good. There aren’t a lot of places with the moxie to put sauerkraut on a pizza. I then retreated back to the room to watch the Cubs play the Brewers and attempt to catch up on my posting.

Day 40, Madeline Island, WI – Ashland, WI
31.7 miles in 2:19:04. Totals now 2788.8 miles in 233:52:36 and a high speed of 32.5mph

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mile 2757.1 – Madeline Island

I still have plenty of time to make it to Appleton for my reunion, so I decided to take the ferry from Bayfield over to Madeline Island for the day. The day started with writing a bunch of posts, trying to get up to date, but blogspot was down, so I wrote them but wasn’t able to post them. Sigh.

I went down to breakfast, which clearly outstripped all other breakfasts I’ve been served so far. It started with the fruit of the day, which was a blueberry and rhubarb crumble. I love rhubarb, especially the fact that every part of the plant except the stems that we eat is poisonous to humans. I would like to know who initially tested all that out. After the cobbler was a basket of croissants and chocolate muffins, then my entrée, eggs scrambled with locally harvested wild oyster and chicken of the woods mushrooms. I love how meaty those mushrooms are. That came with a side of roasted sweet, purple and Yukon gold potatoes. It was all quite nice.

I then went back to the room, finished the blog post I had been working on, and since I had 45 minutes before checkout and hadn’t drained the hottub from the night before, I added some fresh hot water and gave myself another nice little soak in it. As I was checking out, I mentioned that of all the places I had stayed in the United States, this reminded me most of the hotel and restaurant that I had worked at in Italy. Everything was done with a sense of style and refinement, and I appreciate that. I told them that I will come again, but make sure that I have at least three days next time. As I started carrying all of the panniers and lastly Penny down from the room, it started a conversation about my travels.

So yes, Old Rittenhouse Inn in Bayfield, WI. I loved it and would recommend it to anyone who is staying even vaguely near the area.

I rode the couple blocks down to the ferry terminal. I got to purchase a round trip for one person and one bike. Penny cost me half of what I spent on myself to get on the boat, which together was less than taking on one car. So Penny and I were carried for 2.6 miles to the ferry dock on Madeline Island. I’m not sure how I’m going to show that on the final route map, but I’ll figure something out.

Madeline is the largest and most populous of the Apostle islands. It had been inhabited long before Europeans realized that the world was round and even attempted to sail west. The population varies, from 2500 people in the height of summer to 1/10th that amount in the dead of winter. In fact, the ferry stops running when the water freezes over (usually sometime in January) and island students take a windsled across the choppy ice to school in Bayfield until February when the ice is thick enough to drive a car over. There is part of me that would love to come back in February with my mountain bike equipped with big, knobby tires and ride across the ice. The other part of me realized how uninviting the weather is that time of year and might be happier going to The Bahamas.

One of the most immediate things that I liked about the island is that there is a bike lane on the road for the 7 miles road between the town on the western end and Big Bay State Park, one of the island’s biggest attractions. Also, the island is very pretty.

I got down to the park, had a bit of lunch at a table overlooking a rock outcropping into the lake, then took a short hike down a trail. Since I couldn’t bring Penny with me, I was too nervous about her and all of the gear to leave her for more than five minutes unattended, even though I had seen only five other people in the 45 minutes I’d been in the park. We rode around to the beach side of the park. I ignored a sign that said no bikes, but did at least dismount and walk her from that point. Down at the beach I took off my shoes and got my feet into the cool water. I understand that for several weeks between July and August that it is pleasant to swim in this water, but it was too cold for anything but my feet to go in.

Barefoot, I walked along a 1/2 mile boardwalked trail that leads through a bog and sand spit to one end of a lagoon. I was walking Penny along with me, fully prepared to pay any economic or karmic consequences if she were to damage anything. Thankfully, she behaved. All along the path there were signs identifying the plants and informing us about the horribly harsh conditions they have to deal with to survive. The acidic soil is sandy and constantly shifting, the wind drys out everything in the winter and the snow in winter is measured in yards. But the birch and white pine and red pine and sugar maple, the wintergreen, bearberry, huckleberry and blueberry along with dwarf juniper, reindeer moss and ferns all survive somehow.

There was one point that a squirrel hopped up onto the boardwalk about 20 feet in front of me and, well, yelled at me. He was standing on his hind legs looking at me and clearly letting his displeasure at my presence known. Maybe he was telling me off for bringing the bike, I don’t know, I don’t speak squirrel. He let me get within about 6 feet of him before scurrying back under the boards. Past him, I got to the lagoon and turned around.

Eventually I made my way back to the park entrance and then rode around the to the other side of the bay, where the Big Bay Town Park is. I decided to camp there instead of the state park as I thought it would be less crowded. I found a spot within site of a group setting up their site and pitched my tent. Then, grabbing only what was most needed and valuable, I rode back into town for dinner.

I ate at Tom’s Burnt Down Café. Apparently Tom has had a couple fires along the way, and the current incarnation is open air, with tarps and what appeared to be an old sail as cover. The few walls are covered with handpainted signs with witty and funny sayings. I had a few beers and a pizza from Rachel’s Café, whose location I learned was in Washburn, the town before I get to Ashland back on the mainland. I was clearly the only non-local there in hour plus I sat at the bar, a group that included a small parade of well behaved dogs. On my way back up to the campsite, I stopped at the grocery store, picking up some more beer to take with me and some wild rice bratwurst that would be breakfast.

When I got to the park, the neighbors were gone. I went down to the water with my beer and just sat for a long while until it started to get cooler. I went back up to the tent and laid down to read. The group from the next site over returned a short while later and were a little loud. After the sun set, I dozed in and out of sleep, waking up to the random loud noises coming from my neighbors. At this point they were not at the tents a couple dozen feet away, but by a camper near the entrance to the park, yet I could still hear them clearly. The park sign states that quiet hours are 10-7. I’m a pretty easy going person, I don’t begrudge other people a good time and I understand how exciting a game of Eucher can get. But by midnight, I really did just want to sleep. So, I strapped on my sandals and walked over to them. In a calm voice, I informed them that it was midnight, they weren’t the only people in the park and asked if they could refrain from hollering. I was immediately accused of being rude. No, I responded, this is me being calm and respectfully asking that you acknowledge the park rules. I live in Brooklyn, I can show you rude. One of them claimed that they didn’t know anyone else was there, which I find funny considering that my tent was within sight of theirs. One of the women, Ann, I know her name was because I had spent the last 5 hours hearing them, started to get huffy about it and I replied with a shrug and sauntered back through the dark to my tent.

When I asked them to be quiet and they responded by calling me rude, I think that’s bad manners. A few minutes after I got back to my tent, one of them let off a short blast on an air horn, to which the rest of them laughed. That, my friends, is bad karma. Not long afterwards, I saw flashlights headed to their tents as they none too silently went to sleep themselves. Finally though, it was actually quiet and I could hear the water from the lake flowing into the lagoon a few hundred feet down a cliff below me.

Day 39, Bayfield, WI – Big Bay Town Park, Madeline Island, WI
28 miles in 2:03:33 for 2757.1 total in 231:33:32 and a top speed of 23.5

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mile 2729.1 – The Greatest Lake

I had stopped in Superior the night before because of the increasing rain and then managed to drink quite a bit without really eating. Apparently I didn’t factor in the decreased tolerance to alcohol when my caloric output so vastly exceeds my intake. I walked back to the room and passed out without touching the pizza I had brought back. What can I say, I’m back in Wisconsin and the beer is cheap.

I woke up rather disoriented, the tv and lights were still on. I felt like I had just nodded off for maybe 15-20 minutes, but looked at the clock in the room which said 4:53. I didn’t believe that, but not too much later the sky started to get lighter. I tried to sleep a bit more, but never got fully asleep or awake. Combined with how cold it was, I really didn’t want to get out of bed. Finally I did and groggily took a very hot shower. The showerhead was one of the best I’d found in any motel so far. I got everything together and opened the door to find a steady rain coming down.

I shut the door.

Opening up my clothing bag, I pulled out my rain gear. I had gotten rain covers for my shoes back in San Fransisco, but discovered in Wyoming that they did not actually keep my shoes dry. So I had thrown them into the box of stuff I sent home from Minneapolis.

There is a bike path along the lake in the city and was pleased to not be elbow to mirror with the traffic on the highway. One thing I liked about this trail is that half of it is paved for bikes and half is gravel for horses, joggers, etc. Unfortunately, I’d say the conditions of the pavement were poor to fair, but fair pavement is far better than gravel in the rain. I came to a sign announcing the Tri-County Corridor, a multi use trail that stretched 62 miles to Ashland. It wasn’t quite the route I had planned, but I’d happily take their bike trail instead of the highway.

Well, as soon as I hit the city limit, the trail turned entirely to gravel. More accurately, a gravel-based soup. I rode on it for less than 100 feet then decided that I did not want to take 60 more miles of it. I swung over a block back to Highway 2 to find that the highway was now becoming a four lane limited access road with a plain, uninviting sign barring cyclists. I found a back roads way to get me down to Highway 13 and soon enough was rolling along in the the highway's 3’ paved shoulder.

This part of the road was fairly flat until it crossed rivers. At rivers the road would drop downhill to meet the bridge then rise back up to its previous height immediately afterwards. Given that I was within a couple miles of the lake and that there are lots of rivers and streams that feed in Lake Superior, I was doing quite a bit of up and down. About 20 miles out of the city of Superior, I came to the well spread out town of Cloverfield. By this point, my shoes and socks were pretty damp, but still manageable. Then, I came to a puddle that crossed the width of the shoulder just as several cars were coming up from behind me. I had no choice but to go through the puddle, and that completely saturated my footwear. Ug.

There were a couple abandoned buildings in various states of falling apart. I found the old Cloverfield town hall, within sight of the new one. The building’s doors had been removed, so I decided to get out of the rain to take a food break. Inside there were stacks of dusty, forgotten folding chairs, a couple large closed barrels and an undeniable reek of petroleum. There was another room off to one side that seemed to be a depository for misused and broken firefighter equipment. I saw old jackets, several lengths of hose and a couple cracked helmets. Tacked to a wall was a placard advertising a firefightering supplier in Minneapolis that at best guess had been there since the early 50s. I gingerly set Penny against some faded wallpaper instead of the large swaths of exposed insulation. I pulled out some cold pizza and the bag of raspberry gummy candy I got in Minneapolis. In the 15 minutes I was under the roof, I did not see a single car pass. More importantly, the rain finally came to a stop.

A while later, after I had crossed the valley containing the Brule River, the sun had gotten strong enough that I was actually casting a vague shadow below me. I like casting shadows.

For this whole stretch, the highway runs a couple miles inland from the lake. There were a couple left turns in the road to get closer to the water, but 13 kept teasing me by turning east before I got there.

Riding along, I started seeing individual deer along the road that would let me approach to within a couple hundred feet then bolted into the trees. There was also a pack of a dozen motorcyclists that all waved back to me as we passed each other. Finally, nearly 40 miles into my day, I got my first clear view of Lake Superior. Crossing from Duluth I went over the wide mouth of the St. Louis River. In Superior itself, even though I rode along the waterfront, it was a harbor created by a barrier island half a mile offshore. This, then, was my first ever fully unobstructed view of the largest freshwater lake on the planet. I could see the northern shore at this point, on 23 miles away. That part of the shore is still Minnesota, I hadn’t gotten far enough east for it to be Canada yet. At the line of the international boundary, the lake is too wide across to see the opposite shore.

A few miles later, there was a wayside park, so I sat on a picnic table, shed my wet windbreaker and ate some more. By now, many of the clouds had blown past me, so there was actual blue in the sky again. From here, the day improved drastically. The sun came out fully, which both warmed things up and dried me out quite a bit. Not completely dry, but I moved from being wet to damp, and I see that as an improvement.

I came to the town of Port Wing, which is credited as having the first unified rural school district in the state that offered free busing for its students. Behind the historical marker mentioning this and touting the quality of the local brownstone, there was a replica of the early school bus. Since it was 1903, it was a horse drawn wood covered wagon that looked like it could have been used to transport inmates as well as students. Across the street from all this was a convenience store, and I enjoyed a bottle of Sprecher Cherry Soda. I prefer their root beer, but most of their sodas and beers are great.

In the 7 miles between Port Wing and the next unincorporated burg called Herbster, the road did some climbing. From a base height of 612’ in Port Wing, there were three consecutive climbs, first to 720’, then a flat stretch, then to 830’, a bit of flat, then up to 925’. Then, in the same three step sequence, the road dropped back into Herbster coming in at an altitude of 612’.

Just east of Herbster, I got to mile 2700 for the trip. I kinda wonder how many more centuries I will cover before I see my home again. The next town after Herbster is Cornucopia. If I was in charge of naming the high school sports team, I would call them the Cornucopia Everythings. I doubt there is a sports team called the Everythings out there, but this would be a good place for them. I stopped at the Village Inn for dinner. It was still a little on the early side to be eating, but I hadn’t had any hot food since my roadside fried cheese curds coming into Duluth more than 24 hours previously and still hadn’t entirely warmed up from the morning’s rain.

What came next was possibly the best meal I’ve had on the trip that I didn’t cook myself. It started with a beer-cheese soup that was garnished with popcorn. I like the idea and I’m totally going to steal it. After a rather forgettable salad, there was the entrée, trout covered in a spinach and artichoke sauce all wrapped in puff pastry and then topped with a hollandaise. The trout, as I learned, was still swimming in the lake when I woke up this morning. I could taste it too. I talked to the waitress for a while about my trip, apparently she had passed me on the road sometime earlier. Her son and husband who were in the kitchen are cyclists, and through her asked about various aspects of the ride. The Inn also has rooms available that sound very nice, but I wanted to get the next 20 miles down the road to Bayfield. Anyway, great food, reasonable prices, I’d definitely go back.

The road continues north and east, following the peninsula that juts out towards the Apostle Islands. Near Sand Bay, I hit what I imagine with be the northernmost point on this trip. Going up a hill and down, I came to the Red Cliff Reservation. If I smoked tobacco, I would have stocked up here. But, as cigarettes and long distance cycling are not a good match, I passed it up along with the local casino. In Red Cliff there were signs posted about the local tribal council elections. The road hit the water and swung back south towards Bayfield and I could start to see the islands.

It was now getting to be 8pm and I needed a place to stop for the night. I didn’t want to camp, so I started calling some of the several hotels in town. Bayfield, it seems, is one of those places where there just is not a room for less than $100 a night. I got a few quotes, called one place where I got no answer and another where I got a machine. Then I called the Old Rittenhouse Inn. The man who answered was not the regular receptionist who was busy at the moment, but he invited me to come down and check out the rooms. So I did. Yeah, I’m glad I wound up there. The Inn is in an old, grand Victorian home, is beautiful, well appointed and well kept, and has a whirlpool in most of the rooms. Yes, this is where I was going to stay the night. I didn’t go for one of the two empty suites on the top floor, though if I had a week and the money, that is exactly where I would want to stay. I chose one of the more modest rooms and I even got a decent discount off the regular price. And by modest, it was still the most luxurious room I have stayed in on the tour. My legs were quite relaxed after getting out of the hottub and the bed was so comfortable that I got the best night sleep I had since John and Shelley’s place in Minneapolis.

Day 38, Superior, WI – Bayfield WI
81.4 miles in 7:02:11. Now up to 2729.1 miles in 229:39:59

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mile 2647.7 – The Munger Trail

Right next to the hotel I stayed in in Hinckley is the Golden Pine restaurant. It offers a brunch buffet on the weekends, and being Saturday morning, I stopped in to check it out. If I couldn’t tell by the accents, the presence of hot dish on the buffet was a sure sign that I was in northern Minnesota. Jah’ders and You Betchas aside, I was headed even further north today.

Hinckley is a town of 1400 people in nowhere in particular, MN. However, it has the trailhead to the Willard Munger trail, leading to Duluth some 70 miles away. The trail was fantastic, again an old railbed that has been recovered and paved for recreational usage. Even with the cool, wet weather, there were plenty of people along it. I was passed by one cyclist who rode along with me for a while before we got to his turn around point. I saw a pack of cyclists approaching, 8 members of a family out for a ride. There is one spot where the trail deviates from the old rail line as it curves around some woods and fields. That is the only spot on the trail where the grade gets above 3%, but for nice long stretches, it is as flat as one could wish for.

By the time I got to Moose Lake, I was ready for some lunch. My plan was to go the half mile off the trail to the Lake, eat on the shore then get back to the trail. I got off the trail and found a giant map of the area painted onto the side of a café. That was cool. As I got up to the lake I could hear the revving of engines ahead. Finally, I saw a park filled with people and some sort of watercraft race getting started on the water. I had gone in for a look, but was caught up to by a woman who informed me that it was $12 to get into the park today to watch the race. Since I have exactly zero interest in things with obnoxiously loud engines racing each other, I turned around and headed back towards the trail. I grabbed a couple slices of pizza at a place downtown then got back on the trail.

There was a spot further along where I was passed by a couple, I’d say in their late 40’s. They passed me, and for a good mile or so hung out a bit in front of me. But clearly they had put on speed to pass me, as their pedaling became more labored to keep up the pace. Soon enough with my steady speed, I passed them again and it was not long until they were out of sight behind me for good. I’m not racing you, I’m just able to keep up a 17mph pace even with my loaded bike for at least an hour without a break. At least on a surface like what I was riding over.

There were several periods of light rain throughout the day. The first was more like a cool mist that coalesced into drops big enough to be drawn down to the ground by gravity. The last was an actual light rain which came down hardest as I was crossing an old railroad bridge over the St. Louis River north of Carlton. But by the time I got into Duluth, the sun had broken through the clouds for the first time all day. I stopped at a roadside cart for some fried cheese curds. I have little doubt that in paradise they serve fried cheese curds to cyclists.

Leaving the Munger trail and a bit of the city’s Western Waterfront Trail behind, I took Highway 2 east to the William Bong Bridge. Crossing over a much wider part of the St. Louis River as it feeds into the harbor that makes up the world’s most inland port, I finally made it into the state of my birth, Wisconsin. Even though I lived in the state for more than 7 years over three different stints (though to be fair, I didn’t have much control over the first one from birth til not quite 2), I had never before seen Lake Superior. They call it a lake, but I think inland freshwater sea is a more fitting description. Only slightly smaller than the Caspian Sea, the lake contains enough water to cover the landmass of North and South America with a foot of water. Called Gichigami in Ojibwe, the earliest evidence of a human population around the lake dates back to the end of the last ice age. By the time French fur trappers arrived at the lake, it was known as Anishnaabe Gichgamiing or the Ojibwe’s Ocean. Anyway it is big.

Once I passed through the more industrial port part of town, I skirted along the northen end of the UW-Superior campus. There was a football game going on, which seemed slightly out of place. It’s June people, play baseball or basketball. I found a room for the night as the rain started again, and by the time I had forayed out to hunt for dinner it was coming down more heavily.

Here, google maps failed me. I had searched for restaurants and saw what appeared to be a local pizza joint. I walked the mile or so to where the map said it would be and found a railyard there instead. There was not only no pizza joint, but there was no possibility of a pizza place having been there. Disgruntled, I walked back up to the main street and into a bar. I ordered a draught Leinenkugel’s and was pleasantly surprised when the bartender asked for $1.95 in exchange. $2 pints quickly regruntled me. The pint and a shot of Maker’s Mark together were $5.70. After a couple rounds of these and a long conversation with a semi-believable local drunk (in which he was trying to hook me up with a rather embarrassed girl whom he had just met) I went back out into the rain. There was a Little Cesar’s in the same strip mall, and, still not having eaten anything, decided it was probably a good idea to get some food. I walked back to the motel room and evidently talked to Emily for at least half an hour (most of which I don’t remember). I then passed out with the pizza completely untouched and the TV still on. That’s what I get for mixing $2 beers with a completely empty stomach.

Day 37, Hinckley, MN – Superior, WI
79.6 miles today for 2647.7 total. 5:36:10 ridden today, 222:37:48 for the trip and top speed of 25.8.