The following writing is about my recent bike tour in Wisconsin. Hope you enjoy, I sure did!
8:30am Sunday June 5, 2011. I am sitting on the SS Badger ready to depart Ludington, MI. for Manitowoc, WI. First leg of week-long bike tour of WI. Full of apprehension about the miles and hills ahead. Bike loaded with gear, water, and too much stuff weighs in at 70# Yikes. Reminds me of the Bill Bryson book “ A Walk in the Woods” about hiking the Appalachian trail, and the out of shape hiker pitching out half of his gear during the first day because it weighed too much! Hopefully, that will not be me at tonight’s camp! Out
Sunday night. Made it to camp in Dundee WI. 58 miles, gentle breeze at back, hot sun. Great campground, tent camping is down a single track, see picture. Riding partners is my long time bike friend Pat Szubilac from Calumet, MI. and his friend James Bialas of Houghton. Split a six pack of New Glarus Brewing Pale Ale, quite good. Out
Monday Dundee to WI Dells
Off and riding at 7:00, heading straight west to WI Dells, 101 mile day ahead. Strong wind out of the SW, blowing dark ominous clouds right at us. Lightning strikes on occasion, light to moderate rain fell for about 2 hours. Finally reached Waupun about 10:00 am for coffee and cinnamon rolls, yum when you are cold and wet. Off again continuing west, clouds gone and sun burning hot! Applied sun tan lotion multiple times during the day. Plan is to hit a town near the 60 mile mark for lunch. Soon we discovered that all the towns had died and no businesses were still operating, or the bar in your house taverns were not open. We started stopping and getting water from exterior faucets of farm houses. The burning sun in Waupun had turned into a fiery orb in the sky and the temps climbed. My bike computer said 104 during one spell on the road. Of course as would be expected the lunch town was also nonexistent, so on we rode eating energy bars, cliff shots, etc. trying to eat enough to stay moving forward. The cross wind in the morning turned into a full frontal attack by afternoon. At mile 90 we hit the town of Briggsville, gas station for water, cola, anything you could keep down and would create energy. Only 10 more miles and those two hills the attendant talked about, with that great big, “are you 3 crazy” smile. Off we went into the west, plodding onward. First hill conquered; on we went to the second hill, yikes a big long hill that keeps on giving. I ended up toast with leg cramps and stomach issues from the energy foods and walked the upper half. I watched James and Pat peddling by in serpentine fashion all the way to the top. I was rewarded by blisters on my heal and feet from my fancy new carbon soled mtb shoes. We finally reached the Dells about 7:00 pm. Hot, hungry and thirsty. James and Pat headed off to downtown for dinner while I decided to hang in camp and nurse my wounds, and whooped body back into some type of riding form for the following morning. Took me 1.5 hours to eat my rehydrated dinner and drink water. No nature calls since early morning! Still hot as blue blazes when I tried going to bed, no rest for the … Out!
Tuesday; Dells to Nekoosa. 90 miles
Tough night of sleep last night, multiple cramps in multiple muscles, lots of tossing and rubbing legs. Heading north from the Dells up the WI river valley. Cool morning riding on tree lined roads. Predicted be another hot one! Hills have been smaller and less each mile we rode. Wind out of the south so it’s pushing us along. I did not think there was anything worse than riding straight into a head wind until the temps today hit 106 and we were riding with the breeze, that means 106 and no breeze, back into the oven we rode! And those nice tree lined roads also disappeared and so did any cover from the scorching sun. We had to buy more sun tan lotion as we were using it a rate far above expected, but no burns worth mention yet. Arrived Nekoosa late afternoon found our way to the campgrounds. Soon discovered the camp had been hit by a twister 2 weeks prior and it was messed up really well. We found a nice grassy lot with agree for shade but still a great breeze, nice!
Wednesday; Nekoosa to Telleda, 87 miles
Off early again, trying to beat the heat, yea right. North still, following the valley up to Plover, then east through, first cranberry country and then into potato country. Heat continued to build and I felt worse with each passing moment. Stomach issues from the first day came back to haunt me again. Let’s see every time you take a
drink of water you feel like throwing up and you must keep drinking or die! After wrenching twice in the stretch between Plover and Iola, I made the decision that if I could find a car ride from Iola to Telleda that I would bail on the day. Through the mercy of biker heaven the first guy I asked in Iola was a rider himself and yes he would give me a ride when he got off at 3 pm. Pat and James plodded off as I peddle in the opposite direction of the town swimming lake. Embarrassed as a quitter, but feeling 1000 times better I arrived in camp just a few minutes after Pat and James with bike gear and an iced 12 pack of WI microbrews. Temps continued to soar all day to a high of 103, but since I was swimming there is no official afternoon temp available. We walked into Telleda for dinner and noted on through way back that the temp and humidity were dropping as predicted.
Thursday: Telleda to Kewanee 88 miles.
Headed southeast now toward Green Bay and then straight east to lake MI. Woke to temps in the 50’s and cold, left camp with jackets on and James in knee warmers. I am feeling super today, no issues with the past day’s health woes. Rode about 10 miles and jumped on a WI state rail trail. These are not your ordinary rail trail, fine gravel topped with chips and dust, packed down like a road bed in the two travel tracks. Mostly all lined with trees, long slow grades and we were able to haul it fast in our three person pace line. Loaded with 35 lbs. of gear on a touring bike that weighs 34 lbs. on a shaded, gravel two track and running an average of 16 mph, it doesn’t get much better, I thought! As we rode we picked up twigs blown by the recent storms, two stops for sticks in shifting equipment and questions between us about what would happen if the stick caught in the fender, we speculated but who really knew? Well we were about to find out, I finished my pull at the front of the pace line and moved to the back following James when all of a sudden I heard a noise and my front wheel stopped cold and I and the rest of bike were face planting into the trail. Several scary seconds as I checked first to make sure I was alive? Check. Could I move my body? Check. Was anything broken? I was still in a pile on the ground with a 70# bike laying on me, I could barely move anything. Pat came to my rescue pulling off the bike and looking at me then the bike saying oh crap, we have a problem Houston, or at least that what it sounded like to me. I checked no broken bones! But some impressive bleeding and smashed finger that was between the handle bar and the ground when they met each other.
The bike on the other hand was in serious condition. Fender supports were wrapped tight into wheel and nothing would move. Disassemble the front rack system, remove the wheel, fender supports, reinstall the wheel and check the rim, spokes, rotor… looks ok so back on the bike it goes. It still won’t rotate; brakes are wacked so we adjust again and again. Finally it’s “just take it off and I’ll ride without”. Wheel rotates but look, the fork is bent! WHAT? Yep the force bent the fork backwards several degrees, just enough clearance between the tire and down tube to clear. Great the wheel rotates, clears the frame, let’s put it back together and get going, we still have 60 more miles to go today.
Hit Green Bay for a late lunch, stop at Walgreen for a finger splint, tape, antibiotic ointment, everything the ER would have done, and pushed on toward the lake. We made it in to camp about 6 pm, showered bandaged and rode across the street to Costko for beer and my camp dinner of ramen noodles and tuna fish. It’s amazing how improved things taste when there is a large hill between you and the downtown shops 🙂 Cold evening and off to bed early with all my clothes on in the light weight sleeping bag. Rain started in about 4 am. continued through mid-morning as Pat and I peddle the remaining 35 miles south to Manitowoc and the ferry home. Our 3rd partner James turned and rode back to Green Bay and then 270 miles north to home in Houghton, he is an animal!
Final thoughts: This was Pat and my second tour together, it’s nice to have a good friend to share my bike passions and failures with. Someone you can ride for hours with and talk or just ride in complete silence and know that it is OK. Thanks Pat! If you the reader ever make it to the Keweenaw look up Pat for great rides!
Most important is Thanks to Susie for supporting this habit of mine and understanding that I am OK when I call home and report on my crashes and failures. You’re the love of my life!
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed!