Tuesday, December 23, 2014

We're off!!

We started off from a nice, but short, visit with Bob & Susan Peshel to having Bob guide us on our first ride of the trip.  The weather was perfect,  sunny, 60 degrees and a light tail wind.   There is a paved bike path most of the way from Milwaukee to Sheboygan.  A distance of about 50-mi. which we covered in record time (for old people on touring bikes) with Bob setting a blistering pace of almost 14 mph.  We passed through many lovely towns and got our first view of Lake Michigan.  We were astonished to note how beautiful the water of Lk. Mi. is...it's downright Caribbean in color.  Along the bike trail we started a conversation with a local cyclist with the greatest UP accent.  It was like being in a scene from Fargo.   "Yah, you betcha, there's a tavern up in Sheboygen wit the Paaackers game on." 

Being Sunday in football season we were eager to get to camp in time to catch some of the Green Bay Packer game.  We set up a nice camp in Kohler-Andrea State Park and rode off in search of dinner and a TV.  After 3 or 4 miles Bob says "It would be great to come across a little log tavern." when lo and behold there appeared just that.  We went in to find a bar and dining room packed with middle aged couples just having a ball, hootin and hollerin for the Pack and sipping their 'high-balls'.  They were all very friendly and we had a ball...very authentic.  Oh yeah...the Pack came back and pulled out the win.

Next morning we said goodbye to Bob and started making our way up to Door County, the 'thumb' in Lk Mi east of Green Bay.  During the night, it had turned wet on us and we took off into a light rain but were so glad to be on the road again we took it in stride.  The rain stayed with us through the day and finally cleared up a couple miles before our intended camping spot in another nice Oregon St campground.  Our readers may remember our trouble with raccoons on our last trip and how we grew to dislike them intensely.  As it was getting dark we heard a noise at the edge of camp and shined our flashlight in the eyes of a raccoon descending his tree.  We very much did not want to be dealing with a raccoon all night so I did what any animal lover would do...I pepper sprayed the bastard right in the eyes.   It didn't phase him...didn't even make him blink.  This is the dog spray that is supposed to protect us from vicious carnivores and it won't make a raccoon blink.  What is in this crap? Visine?
At any rate, he didn't come back and we had a quiet, if chilly night.  We had gotten Kelly a new sleeping bag which was rated with a 'comfort' rating of 45 degrees and a 'popsicle' rating of 35...that night pushed the popsicle limit at 36 degrees and I awoke worrying that I would have to chip her out of the bag but with some heavy socks and tights she survived the night in style.

The morning dawned beautiful with the sun coming up over the lake for a great sunrise.  The weather had gone 'blue' for us and we enjoyed a wonderful ride along the lake on great roads with little traffic through nice cornfields and cute little towns.  Sometime during the day we got news that, back home, the nearby town of Weed (yes, that's really the name) was burning (go ahead, make your joke) due to a raging forest fire started by an arsonist.  We felt a little guilty about being in such beautiful country, in such fine weather while our home county was burning up but soon recovered and addressed the important question of where to buy a bottle of wine for the evening.  After a moments  thought we remembered we were in Wisconsin, where alcohol is probably included in the school lunch program, and pulled into the next open store for our 'nourishment'.  We spent the night at a small hotel, about 100 ft from the lake and had a great dinner at Scalawags, whose motto is '5-star food in a dive bar'.  The food did not disappoint and we had a great meal and some good conversation with some interesting locals.  A great day all-round.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Heading East

Our day of departure finally arrived and, in order to be sure that we were in Sacramento (a 4-hour drive) on time we left the night before and 'moteled' it about an hour from the train station.  We arrived for our 11 AM departure in plenty of time to find out that the train would be 5-hours late due to troubles on their previous trip from Chicago to the west coast.  We had yet to discover that AMTRAK schedules are estimates at best.  Luckily the train station is within walking distance of the Sacramento "Old Town" river district and we were able to amuse ourselves with lunch and some celebratory Bloody Marys.

We were pleased to find that the train employees were all a bunch of characters.  Kammi, the attendant for our sleeper car, was a non-stop talker and very helpful and Gerald, who took dinner reservations, took one look at Kelly and declared she must be a model, then took one look at me and said "What are you doing with THIS guy?"  I made me feel homesick for NJ to be insulted by a total stranger.  He then told us how he had been asked to dinner by the fella in a sleeper at the other end of the car.  We found all the train workers to be very friendly and helpful on both legs of our trip.
One of the things we like about the train is that they seat you with other travelers for meals and seem to try to seat you with different people at each meal.  Our first dinner was spent with two very pleasant folks named Anna and Tom.  Tom is actually father-in-law to Aaron Ralston, the hiker who had to cut off his own hand when it was pinned beneath a rock in the Utah canyon country.

We found the food on the train to be surprisingly good.  I had a very credible steak for dinner both nights on the train and all the food was actually quite good.  We had reserved a "roomette" which is a  private car about 6-1/2 feet long and 3-1/2 feet wide.  Two chairs which face each other can turn down into a bed and there is a bunk above which folds down into another.  It is strongly recommended that whoever is in the upper bunk double down on their yoga stretches before attempting to put on jammies and don't forget your prostate medication because midnight bathroom runs are challenging to say the least.

Sunrise found us on a lunar landscape in the Utah desert but by late morning we had made it to the Colorado mountains and entered Glenwood Canyon, the western gateway to the Rocky Mountains.  The entire stretch through this section is quite spectacular and the train follows the Colorado River as far a somewhere about halfway across the mountains.  The leaves were just beginning to change and it was quite beautiful.  Unfortunately, darkness fell before we made our decent to Denver but we should see that portion of the mountains on the return trip.

The next morning we awoke in the green fields of Nebraska.  Not being very good at sitting with nothing much to do but look at the scenery I had been apprehensive about this section of the journey.  I had assumed that by the time we hit Indiana I would be spending quality time gnawing at the straps of my straight jacket but this was not the case.  We had been so deprived of green scenery at our home town in California that it was a pleasure to watch the green fields and puffy clouds cruising past our windows.  The trains are not like planes, where you have to stay put for your entire trip.  You can get up and go to the viewing car to visit with other travelers and watch the view out the floor to ceiling windows, go to the cafĂ© car, or simply enjoy walking past the peasants in coach class and feeling superior. 

Finally, we pulled into Chicago where we were transfer to the commuter train to Milwaukee.  By this time we were still a couple hours late and we had about 10 minutes to make our connection, the last train to Milwaukee that day.  I figured there was no way our bikes would make it there with us but they surprised us by having them there waiting for us.  All in all, the train was a very pleasant experience and a good opportunity to de-compress from work, for tomorrow...We Ride.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 RAAM

Well, we're off again.  Kelly and I are signing up for the 2014 RAAM. No! Not the Race Across AMerica,   that is nuts.  Our RAAM is the Race Almost Around Michigan.  On Sept 11 we will be taking the train from Sacramento, CA to Milwaukee, WI and riding up and around Lk. Michigan.  The next three weeks will be spent exploring the Wisconsin coast of the lake with a nice loop through Door County, a very scenic peninsula east of Green Bay, and continuing up to the  Upper Pennisula (UP) of Michigan.  We plan to stay pretty close to the lake and will be crossing back to the Wisconsin side via the ferry in Ludington, MI.  We missed this part of the world on our cross country trip due to the fact that we didn't want to battle the summer mosquitos (they've been known to carry off small Yuppers, as the folks of the Upper Pennisula are known) and our butts were sore.

On our cross country trip we had taken the train to escape the wastelands of  N. Dakota and the madness of the fracking operations that have taken over that part of the country.  We so enjoyed that phase of our journey that we decided to include another train trip in this adventure.  It should be an interesting trip as the route goes through Nevada (ok, so I guess it's not all going to be interesting. Nevada brings to mind a futuristic penal colony...with less gentile inhabitants) Utah and Colorado before hitting the corn belt for the final leg into Chicago where we will change trains for the commuter run into Milwaukee.  We'll be staying the night with old friends from NJ, Bob & Susan Peschel, who live just north of Milwaukee.  Bob has graciously offered to guide us on our first day of cycling from the Milwaukee area to a campground near Sheboygan.

Getting in shape for 3 weeks on a bike has been a bit challenging this summer.  We seem to be situated at ground-zero for the worst wildfires in the US this summer.  We've got firefighters here from all over the country.  Just today, I saw a fire rig from NEW JERSEY...I didn't even know they had forest fire equipment.  Drought conditions were exceptionally bad to begin with and, once the fires started, they took off with a vengeance.  We have also had a very hot summer with temperatures hovering in the mid to upper 90's most days.  Usually, from our back deck we can see Mt Shasta (40 miles to our southeast) as if it were in the backyard.  This year we have had days when we couldn't see the other side of the valley, less than 1.5 miles away.  Some days, we are also treated with falling ash which rides the air currents and sifts down like snow on everything.  Riding your bike for an hour in these conditions is somewhat like smoking a pack of Camels.  Not great for long distance riding. 

Our gear for the trip will be similar to our previous trip with a few exceptions.  Kelly will switch from the BOB trailer to standard panniers.  She didn't feel the bike handled well with the trailer and that it was extra difficult on hills...like it was always pulling her backward.  We will also be carrying a much trimmed-down kitchen setup.  Instead of a Coleman backpacking stove (pretty heavy) we will be bringing a simple alcohol stove.  Not so good for cooking meals (which we ended up not doing much anyway) but plenty good enough for instant coffee (Starbucks of course....we ARE from the Northwest after all) and oatmeal.  A single pot and a plate, cup and spork for each of us rounds out the kitchen.  We'll be bringing mostly warmer clothing as temperatures should be in the 60's during the days.

We're very excited about this trip and are anxious to get on the road.  It's always great to see new country and, by all counts, this is one of the most picturesque places you can ride.  Add to that the wonderful, courteous mid-western people and it should be a great trip.  We'll take lots of pictures and will provide a full blog-report on our return.  We will not be taking our I-pad this time and will have no way to blog during the trip but will be sure to keep our journal notes to fill you all in on our trip.  So, wish us good road-vibes and we will see you on our return in early Oct.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wrapping it up

   Friends, if it's an adrenaline rush you seek, I highly recommend cycling out of town in the fog and half-light of early morning along narrow, winding roads, being passed by a parade of large construction vehicles piloted by a team of Neanderthals whose breakfast of Dunkin Donuts coffee and amphetamines is just kicking in.  Such was our last day on the road and quite a doozy it was.  Pennsylvania sent us off with a parting shot of horrific traffic and a series of six to eight hundred foot climbs that gave us our toughest climbing of the entire trip.  We must have climbed, seriously, four to five thousand feet in total in the first forty miles.  At this point we detoured from highway 6, south along the Susquehanna River, to meet with Marty in Pittston, PA for our escape rendezvous.  We un-ceremoniously loaded our gear in the back of his pickup and made for the home turf of Wayne, NJ and the end of our trip.
   At journey's end, from our home in California to New Jersey, we had traveled just over 3000 by bicycle, about 620 by vehicle, 750 miles by train and 120 miles by boat.  We repaired two flat tires and went through a set of tires each.  There were no mechanical breakdowns worth noting and only a minimal number of physical breakdowns aside from some sore rashy butts, a brief gout attack and my self-inflicted bratwurst poisoning.  We were flipped off twice and honked at only four times in anger and uncountable times in encouragement.  Along the way we met hundreds of wonderful, helpful people while running into only a few buttheads...too few to matter.  We lived on gas station food for what seemed like weeks and Kelly and I have made a solemn oath to never eat another honey roasted peanut for as long as we live.  Ditto for Jack's Links Beef Jerky.  Unbelievably, we encountered headwinds for only about a day and a half while enjoying numerous days of tailwinds, many of them real screamers. 
   Now that we’re back, people inevitably ask if there were times we just wanted to quit and go home.  Kelly and I never felt that way and although there were days where we were definitely ready to get the day’s riding over with we never even considered packing it in.  In fact, the oddest sensation we had was that the trip had been too easy and at some point, two thirds of the way across the country, we wondered how we had gotten so far.  I must say that, although some of the scenery was somewhat less than stimulating (think Wisconsin…gosh is that another silo, Wow!) I was never once bored riding through it.  There were a lot of hours of just being inside our own heads and I’d like to tell that I came to some profound insights into the meaning of life but I just can’t.  The fact is I don’t know what the Hell I was thinking for all that time.
   Along the way we learned a few things.  We learned that big things can be accomplished with many small steps.  We learned that we need way less to be happy, healthy people than we typically have.  It is an immutable law of bike touring that, even when there has been almost no traffic, a large truck will pass you on the steepest, narrowest part of any hill.  As in life, all the things we worried about; traffic, hills, wind, bugs, tornadoes, plague, pestilence turned out not to be big issues and, with all our efforts at planning, events seldom occur as we wish but they always turn out ok.  I learned to cook bratwurst thoroughly and that I hate raccoons.  I also learned that my wife, aside from being the most beautiful and sweetest gal in town, is a tough and resilient traveler whose great attitude helped make this a wonderful journey for both of us.  This will factor very favorably in her eight-year marriage review coming up next month.  (Announcement: for those of your who may be humor-challenged, the preceding statement was a joke).  In all, it was a great trip and I heartily recommend it to anyone who has a few months and more than a few dollars to spend.  Thanks to all of you who’ve joined us by reading this blog so, until our next adventure, this is Brad and Kelly signing off.
            Keep ‘em spinning

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Oh, Canada..da da da dada da

   As we made our way toward the Canadian crossing we rode through typical Michigan countryside and got in late to a delicious dinner of Campbells soup for me and canned green beans for Kelly..Yummy! The campground started out quiet but soon our nightly entertainment started.  First was a local cat banging around in the garbage can near our tent.  After chasing the cat off and covering the can we settled in again until we were next treated to a loud cell phone argument between some guy and his girlfriend which was initially annoying and then quite funny as we heard him trying to weasel out of obvious lies.  Finally, his battery died and we were just dosing off when the friendly neighborhood raccoons started their rounds.  As you can tell, the bloom is off the camping rose for us and we are pretty much ready to rejoin society.
  This campground made us wonder about a phenomenon we have encountered throughout the midwest.  The campgrounds are mostly full of RV's apparently parked in parks for the summer.  They have decks, patios, lawn furniture and tiki lamps surrounding their spaces and are parked cheek to jowl with a hundred other similar rigs around a quarter acre pond in hot, humid, bug infested woods.  What are their homes like that this is the way they choose to spend their weekends?  We have yet to figure this out and have seen it since we entered Minnesota.
   We next made our way to Marine City, Mi where we were planning to take the ferry across the St Clair River into Ontario.  As we pulled up to our motel in a rather lively thunderstorm my tire exploded.  I literally walked my bike into the lot to deal with it in the comfort of our room. I found that my tire had worn completely through and was shredded beyond repair.  I had brought a spare for Kelly's bike but none for mine (dont ask why).  There is no bike store within 30 miles of Marine City and since it was Friday night, an internet purchase couldn't arrive until Monday sometime.  We were stranded! Luckily, there was a young fella, Ryan, who was fixing a leak in our motel toilet and overheard us talking about our problem.  He said he was going to the sporting goods store and would give us a ride.  We gladly took up his offer and by afternoon were back with new tire in hand.  I went to install my tire and found it was an inch too big for the rim.  Apparently, a 26" tire is not necessarily a 26" tire...you need the right 26" tire.  Back to square one. At the last minute I found a bike store with an employee who lived in the town where we were stranded.  He dropped the right tire off on his way home and we were back in action.
    The next morning, after a short ferry ride costing a whole dollar, we entered Canada for our ride through Ontario.  We enjoyed a beautiful day, sunny and cooler, riding along the St Clair River and then inland through well kept farmland and quaint Canadian towns.  We ended our day at Rondeau Provincial Park on the north shore of Lake Erie.  The park was spacious and very well kept and we had one of our best camping nights of the trip.
   We rose early and got a good jump on the day hoping to beat the predicted increasing temperatures.  Since we had sent our cooking stove on ahead, we hoped to catch some breakfast in the first town along the route, some six miles down the road.  What we found was a nearly deserted town with a diner which looked to have been closed for years.  The next eatery shown on our map ended in similar results.  Finally, after 30 miles of hungry riding we came across a little roadhouse for a nice attitude-improving lunch.  The riding was very pleasant again through typical flat farmland with little traffic. Our day ended in mid afternoon in the little beach town of Port Stanley where, after failing to find the campground shown on our map, we "bit the bullet" and settled on a very overpriced motel room.  However, it was right on the beach and we enjoyed a great afternoon of lounging on the white sands of Lake Erie.  Again, we were pleased and surprised at how clean the lake waters are these days.  Port Stanley is a pleasant little beach town which reminded me of some of the beach towns I remember from the Jersey shore of years ago...just with more class.  We liked this town very much.
   The next morning dawned with cloudy skies which soon turned to rain.  Unlike our western storms, the rainstorms here are pretty warm and we rode for several hours without rain gear.  We found that, if wearing rain parkas while riding, you are wet from sweat and hot instead of just wet.  I'm sure we looked miserable but it's really not a bad way to go.  We pulled in for the night at another provincial park where we scored a site just 50 ft from the shore of the lake.  Our friend Steve (Otto) from back home met us there for a couple days of traveling. He was on his own cross country journey in his Volkswagon van and we were thrilled to share such extravagances  as a cooler with cold beers and a home cooked chicken dinner.  It was another night of great camping in a Canadian park and we were becoming very impressed with their parks.  Imagine all this and free health care...maybe they are on to something.
   In the morning, Otto and I took off for a 'guys' ride while Kelly took a well-earned day off driving.  It was a real treat for me to ride without the dreaded panniers on my bike and I felt as if I was on a motorcycle.  After another great night in camp we took a day to be real tourists and drove to Niagara Falls to enjoy the wonders of nature with an estimated 10,000 Japanese tourists.  It really is a remarkable sight which was only slightly diminished by forking over $15 to the Jimmy Buffet retirement fund for a mediocre burger at Magaritaville...should be named Mediocre-ville.
   It was great to share time with a hometown friend but was time to return to our bike journey so in the morning we had Otto smuggle us back into the US at Buffalo, NY and drop us at a campground along our route.  We now headed south to Pennsylvania for the final leg of our trip.  In our first Pa camp we encountered the beast I've been dreading since we left Ca...the New Yorker!   " Bobby! Whataya doin?  Get the Hell ova heah"  We had finally arrived in the East!
   In the morning we completed a short 40 mi. ride to meet up with Ian Marshall, an old high school friend, who lives with his charming wife, Megan, in State College, Pa where they are both professors at Penn St.  We had a great dinner at a local brew pub and in the morning Ian and Megan joined us for a ride as they guided us on a tour of the rail trail up the Grand Canyon of Pa.  It was a beautiful ride with cooler, dryer weather and was one of the most enjoyable touring days of the trip.  We stopped in the nearly perfect little town of Wellsboro for our afternoon ice cream break....if there had been an outdoor pub we might still be there.  Moving on, the hills increased and, after a long search for any campgrround or motel, we were lucky to get the last motel room in town under $120.  Apparently, there is gas field development going on in northern Pa and the workers are taking up all available motel rooms with prices rising to meet the new demand.  After riding another day with deteriorating roads and heavy construction traffic we are ready to call it quits and have arranged for family to come rescue us with a ride from the Scranton area, near the NJ border.  Tomorrow we will ride our final day of our tour, a 60 mi. ride to our tour...Check in again for our last post and a wrap up of our tour.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mamma said there'd be days like these...

   We continued our journey east through Wisconsin through typical farmland scenery and nice roads with little traffic.  Wi. farms are all very picturesque and immaculately kept. Even old farm machinery seems to be artfully placed.  Days have continued really hot and humid so we try to get on the road by 6:30 or so.  Neither of us (no, really, me either) wants to get up at five but it's really a great time to ride.  Beside being cooler, there is more opportunity for seeing wildlife.  As we are cruising past a wooded cornfield Kelly spots a "Very Large" black dog by the road ahead engaged in taking his morning 'movement'.  As we get closer we see that it's actually a large black bear (answering that age old question...No, they do not shit in the woods). We get the pepper spray ready, just in case, but, of course he runs off as we come up to him...a nice treat.  Near the end of the day we come to a section of road construction on our route.  Since detours tend to be lengthy in these parts we decide to go for it.  It ends up being about two miles of loose gravel which Kelly handles wonderfully with her loaded bike and trailer.  I'm more impressed every day with how tough she's gotten and how she handles anything that comes along.  We end up lounging by the pool in a very nice campground and being treated to an amazing rain and lightning storm from the safety of the camp game room.
   Our last day into the ferry town of Manitowoc seems long due to increased hills and legs tired from six consecutive days riding.  We finally get to town and treat ourselves to a well earned night in a motel and a night on the town with a good dinner and trip to a blues club.  The ferry ride across Lk Michigan is a nice change from riding and we enjoy the four hour, 120 mile crossing.  The lake feels like the ocean once away from shore and looks surprisingly clean.  We've made an on-line reservation in a Ludington, Michigan motel and, as sometimes happens with the budget-concious traveler, the accomodations are somewhat less than five-star.  The motel marquis boasts a "love tub" available but I tell Kelly I tried to get it but it is currently being disinfected.  Ludington is a pretty small town, right on the lake, and we go downtown for a late dinner in another nice brew-pub...they sure do that well around these parts.  After a short morning ride we spend the day sunning and swimming at a beautiful white-sand beach along the refreshing waters of Lake Michigan and spend the night in the state park campground.
   As we begin our ride the next morning we immediately like the riding in Michigan.  Our route takes us through nice hardwood forests, more open and sunny than the northwoods of Wi., and flat roads with little traffic that wind through recreational "lake communities" and little towns.  We can't believe how far we've come and congratulate ourselves on how easy the ride has been. The day ends in a nice, mostly deserted, state campground and my last journal entry reads "This ride has almost been too easy.  we've had nothing go wrong at all"...I should have known better.
  It started about an hour after we went to sleep.  Kelly woke me saying "There's something out there."  We could here a kind of step-step-thump noise.  Captain Ahab on a midnight stroll?  We shine our lights out the tent flap to see five sets of glowing eyes at the edge of our camp.  Being 'the Man' I'm elected to check it out and go out to find a raccoon family dragging my fully loaded food pannier into the woods.  The big one leading the pack looks like a damn wolverine but gives up my pack without a struggle and they go off to torment some other camper.  We bring the food pannier into the tent and spend the next sleepless hour or so listening to the neighboring camps chasing off the intruders and are just falling asleep when they come back to get chased off again.  This time I pile all the packs on our trailer and turn on the strobe warning light to keep them away. At this point, I'm starting to feel a little queasy but don't think too much of it and try to settle down to finally get some sleep.  The raccoons continue making their rounds of the campground and I'm still awake and feeling worse by the minute.  A half hour later I'm in the grips of the worst nausea I've ever experienced and crawling out the tent door for a barf-fest like I've never experienced.  With bodily fluids spouting from every available orifice, I'm purging everything I've ever eaten...there's that penny I swallowed when I was six.  The rest of the night is spent laying curled up in the dirt outside the tent cycling through a sweat-freeze-hurl sequence, wishing for the raccoon-wolverine to come rip my throat out and put me out of my misery.  Things have not improved by morning and there is little Kelly can do for me.  I continue to lay there til late morning when it is starting to get really hot again.  We can't bear the thought of a long, hot afternoon at this camp and Kelly finds some cabins we can stay in, but they are six miles away and I'm still feeling really weak (we figure the culprit was an undercooked bratwurst I cooked as a pre dinner snack). A couple of water bottles over my head revive me a little and we mount our bikes to wobble off to find our haven.  After riding about three miles we check the map and find we are gong the wrong direction.  We reverse our path and go for a while more only to come to a dead end...WRONG WAY AGAIN,  Remember we've had no sleep or food.  We reverse again and go back to our first intersection which, conveniently has no signposts.  We've now gone six miles and are a mile from our last camp.  We pull out the ipad, with the gps, and, even with a 'you are here' mark, in our addled state we don't know which way to go and it's VERY HOT!  A passing motorist gets us pointed in the right direction and we finally reach our cabins after the longest ten miles I've ever ridden.  The cabins are very 'rustic' but are a refuge from raccoons and sun and we're grateful to be there.
   By morning I've recovered enough to hit the road again and we wobble off to our next adventure vowing never to offend the travel gods again.   The next couple of days are spent cycling the pleasant roads of Michigan and we enjoy another 36 mile stretch of rail-trail riding, this time on the Pere Marquette trail system across central Mi. We decide to rest up for a day in a motel in Bay City, just south of Lake Huron and on the Saginaw River.  It's a pretty town with a nice lakefront area and we can't tell if it's an up and coming place or town on the decline.  Turns out to be the latter case...too bad.  We're now waiting out some predicted, severe thunderstorms and will be heading out shortly. Hopefully, by the weekend we'll be crossing into Ontario, Canada
   Until nextime...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Crossing Middle America

   As we near our next state line, Wisconsin, we are treated to more mellow roads through the fertile farmlands of Minnesota.  The riding here is not so spectacular as the western states but is very peaceful and we often get lost in the moment of cruising through the miles of green fields and quaint farm houses.  The afternoons are really starting to heat up and we are relieved to come upon the Adventure Cycling Bunkhouse near Dalbo, Mn.  The bunkhouse is a free service run by an ex-military, turned farmer, named Donn Olsen.  Donn started the bunkhouse in 2005 when he helped out a couple of cyclists who needed a place to camp.  He found there was a need for places to stay along the Adventure Cycling route and he enjoyed meeting with touring folks.  He finished off the lower floor of his unused barn, put in some sleeping rooms and created the wonderful oasis that many now enjoy.  After a hot afternoon of cycling Kelly and I were thrilled to walk into the air conditioned main room complete with a stocked refrigerator, ice cream, frozen pizza, cold drinks, ours for a small donation, and a hot plate for cooking.  A clean solar shower was also available.  All this for free.  Donn even goes out to rescue the occasional stranded cyclist...the man's a saint.
   Our last day in Minnesota found us crossing the Mississippi River, already a large, powerful, muddy river, before crossing into Wisconsin at the town of St croix Falls.  Our day finished with a very hot climb with busy traffic out of the river valley in the Wi side where we treated ourselves to an evening at a nice hotel with a pool and spa with a day off the following day...a nice break after a week of cycling.  We find that about 5or 6 days in a row is about our max.
   Our first real day of cycling Wi took us through lush, rolling terrain across more farmlands and wooded areas.  As the afternoon wore on the hills became steeper and more frequent.  In  a place where the don't have a ski hill with more than 400 ft of vertical how can the riding be this tough?  After a night at a pleasant little camp on the Chetek River we headed out in the rain to see what else Wi had to show us.  After a wrong turn, resulting in a 10 mi. detour, we got back on track on deserted roads snaking through some deep north woods country.  No description of Wisconsin is complete without mentioning their state bird...the deer fly.  these nasty little motivators definitely keep you on the move.  While mosquitos seem to prefer tapping into Kelly, the deer flies obviously prefer man-flesh.  Powering my bulky touring bike through the northwoods with my limbs flailing wildly I must have looked like nothing so much as an entrant in a Special Olympics cycling event.
   We're getting into some very hot afternoons now and, although the riding is great, counting the lite beer cans along the road is losing its entertainment value.  Actually, I'm a bit disappointed...I thought  Wisconsans had better taste in beer.  Like much of the country, the midwest is having an especially hot and humid summer with little rain.  It's getting too hot to camp and we seem to be moteling more and camping less as we go along.  After spending last night at the  "Wildlife Bar and Campground"  (at least they have their priorities straight) we got on the road by six and were done by 10:00 with the temperature already a sultry 91 degrees. We are currently holed up in a motel in Shawano, Wi escaping the heat in our air conditioned room. I'm hoping to ride into Manitowac Wednesday with an old high school friend, Bob Peschel and we should be at the ferry to cross Lake Michigan on Thursday where we will be entering our final time zone and onward to Michigan, Ontario and the final leg of our trip.