Category Archives: Wisconsin

Day 28: Two thirds of the country done

I am writing this post from Luddington, Michigan, a beach town on the shores of Lake Michigan.  I am now two-thirds of way through the trip!

This morning I was in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin.  I needed to pedal 57 miles before 1 pm in order to get to the ferry that would take me across the lake.

At home I try to cram as many things into each day as possible and don’t leave much slack in my schedule.  On this bike trip lots of unexpected things have happened so I decided that I needed to leave extra early in case something unforeseen occurred.

I left the window shapes in my motel open so that the rising sun would get me up.  During the night I was treated to a spectacular lightening and thunderstorm that lasted a long time. With the storm came a torrential rain.  I was quite glad the storm was happening while I was safe in the motel.

I was on the road at 6:30 am.  My goal was to be at the ferry by 11 am, which would give me two hours in case anything went wrong.

Fond Du Lac has a large number of bike trails.  The streets had puddles but the bike trails  were dry.  I was pedaling along nicely, making good time on a trail when Google maps told me I needed to get off the bike trail and turn right.  The bike trail ended, however, with a left hand turn.

I decided to peddle along the sidewalk for a few feet and take the first driveway on the right.  There was a puddle at the end of the driveway but I was more concerned with looking for cars driving down the road I was merging onto than splashing through a puddle.

The puddle, however, was not what I expected.  It was actually a huge pothole.  My front tire went into the pothole and I ended up on the ground.  Wow!  That was unexpected.  Luckily, I was going very slowly.

Another bicyclist was there within one minute, asking if I was okay.  I checked the bike.  It looked fine.  I checked myself. I felt okay.  So there was only one thing to do.  Get back on the bike and continue pedaling to the ferry.

I spent a lot of time thinking about why I didn’t have a bike crash for the past 30 years and then crashed twice this trip.  My conclusion is that I am not getting enough rest and pushing myself each day to my physical limit.  Being over-tired and sore is making me sloppy.

The rest of the ride to the ferry was uneventful.  I went past numerous dairy farms, many proudly advertising that they provide milk for “Land o’Lakes” products.

I pulled into the ferry terminal at 11 am, which was two hours before when I needed to be there.  The boat had very nice lounge chairs on the bow.  I took one and then had a long nap in the sun.  The boat ride across Lake Michigan was uneventful.  The lake was calm and peaceful.

Luddington, Michigan seems like a nice town, but I will not have a long time to explore it since tomorrow I am back on the road to complete the last third of the journey.

Day 27: Friendship to Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin

Today was a lovely day of bicycling.  Using Google Maps is an interesting experience.  The program provides turn-by-turn directions.  The phone is mounted on my handlebars so when I am using this program I concentrate first on the physical road, then on the surroundings, third on the traffic and then last at the map.  I run through this sequence every minute or two.  The first three steps are typically the same each time.  The last step is many time the surprise.

While the map tells me where to turn, the roads it picks out for bicycling are often a total surprise.  Today the roads turned out to be mainly pleasant surprises, with just a few doses of adventure.  It is almost as if Google doesn’t want to make biking too easy so it occasionally throws in some gravel some other unexpected situation.

I left the motel in Friendship a little after 8 am this morning.  I had the choice, follow state highway 21, which I did yesterday afternoon or try Google’s suggestions for roads which ran in the same direction.  I was a bit unsure which to take but the sun was still rising and I was heading due east.  This meant on the highway there was the chance some cars and trucks might not see me because they were blinded by the rising sun, so I took the back roads.

The first five miles were lovely.  I saw some deer and rabbits.  The road was smooth.  Life was good.  As the miles rolled by the road condition got steadily worse.  The sealed road became an unsealed road.  Then the unsealed road became a gravel road with a no ATV sign.  Just when I thought the road had become as poor as possible for Wisconsin, I found a large tree lying across the road blocking the path.  I was able to go under it but the tree closed off the road for any other type of vehicle.

In more western states the poor conditions would go on for many miles but in Wisconsin dirt and gravel roads don’t seem to last very long.  About 3 or 4 miles later the road became paved again and the cycling got much easier.

Google sent me through back roads where Amish or Mennonites were living.  I passed a girl in a long black dress with a starched white bonnet on her head.  I passed a man with a full Amish style beard hitching up a  team of horses.

One of the more interesting things for me was their corn fields.  Almost all the corn fields I have passed so far are very thick and dense.  It is impossible to see through the first row of corn to the second row in most of the fields I have pedaled by.  In Amish country, the corn was not spaced tightly together.  I could see many rows into the field.

The Amish often don’t use modern technology in an attempt to preserve their ways.  It was interesting to see how modern planting, growing and harvesting techniques squeeze more corn into each acre than older methods.  This is important because growing food is a key issue as the planet’s population continues to expand.

I had lunch just outside of Berlin, Wisconsin.  I was sitting at the bar finishing off my grilled cheese and water when a man walked in and started asking me all kinds of questions about my bike.  He was quite excited to see a long distance cyclist in town.  We chatted for awhile.  His name was Joe and he is interested in pedaling from Wisconsin to the Grand Canyon and wanted to know all the different choices I had made.

Joe also said one of the best bike shops around was located just down the street.  Joe and I went to Mike’s Bike Shop (his Facebook page is here).  Mike gave the bike a long appraisal and said she was fine for the rest of the trip and didn’t need anything beside air in the tires.  You know you are dealing with an honest bike shop when they say nothing needs fixing or repairing right now, even though the bike has 2,500 miles of wear on its components from the training plus cross-country ride.

After leaving the bike shop and saying goodbye to Joe, I finished the day by riding the Mascoutin Valley State Trail.  This trail is another abandoned railway line.  It was not in as good a condition as some of the other rail-trails I have been on in Wisconsin.  Someone clearly understands this because part of the trail is being reconstructed to a much higher standard.  It is a shame they didn’t finish the construction before I needed to pedal its length.

The day ended in the Microtel Inn in Fond Du Lac.  It is likely at $265 per night to be the most expensive 12 hour motel stay of this trip.  I talked to the front desk managers and they said if the Oshkosh Airshow was not taking place the rate for my room would be about $65.  Sometimes you win, and sometimes you don’t.

The motel is about two miles from any restaurant so for the first time in my life I called a restaurant. ordered food and had it delivered to my room.  It was certainly easier than either walking a long way or getting an Uber/taxi. Plus the food (large salad and a veggie lasagna) was quite good.  I might even do this again.

I am off to bed very early.  Tomorrow I have a 2 pm ferry ride across one of the Great Lakes (Lake Michigan) to Luddington, Michigan.  By using the ferry, I don’t have to pedal through downtown Chicago and other cities like Detroit.  The downside of taking the ferry is that I have to pedal all my miles well before the ferry is set to sail so it will be a very early start.

Day 26: Onalaska to Friendship, Wisconsin

Oh no! Major equipment problems.  No, the bike is fine.  I am fine.  The laptop, however, is dying.  I bought this ASUS laptop only 7 months ago.  It is all solid state, so it has no moving parts to be destroyed while bicycling.  However, the battery is having problems and this morning it took over five minutes to get the machine to power on.

This is a big problem because I charge my phone (needed for maps), camera (so you can see the pictures), and my lights (so cars can see me) all off the laptop.  Plus, I write this blog each day on the laptop.  If it will not boot again you will hear less from me.

It is interesting how life has changed.  The last time I cycled across the country I needed no electricity, Internet and I phoned home once a week.  My maps were physical pieces of paper from AAA.  I am not set up that way today.  Montana was difficult because it had tough terrain, few services, few people and also because I had three days of no cell-phone coverage.

Stay tuned, but if my posts become shorter it is not because less is happening on the road, but because I don’t have a full-size keyboard to type out what is happening.

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It is now night time.  The laptop booted.  The battery is clearly dead but if I get a good wall outlet I can get the machine to stay on.  I also bought a separate cell phone charger at Office Depot.  I found a store near the motel and jogged over.  No, I did not take the bike.  I want to spend as little time sitting on that saddle as possible.  With the separate charger, even if the laptop dies, I can still keep going.

After the technical issues were dealt with, I started pedaling on the same rail trail as yesterday.  They renamed the path the La Crosse River Tail, but I didn’t notice much difference.  This trail ended in Sparta, Wisconsin which claims to be the cycling capital of the USA.

I went into the tourist information office which was located beside the rail trail to ask why they are the USA’s capital.  The lady behind the desk told me that in the 1960s they were the first place in the USA to buy an old abandoned railway line and convert it into a bike trail.  There is a picture above of the first bike rail trail in the USA.

I then pedaled another 60 miles on the shoulder of a local highway.  It was busier than I expected.  After looking at the map I discovered that Walmart had put a distribution center in the middle of Wisconsin along the highway I was traveling, which explains all the tractor trailers from food companies like Nabisco whizzing by.

I ended the day with another small crisis.  I try to book motels a day or two ahead of time.  Oshkosh is about 80 miles from Friendship, Wisconsin where I am presently.  Looking at hotels on the Internet shows no vacancies.  Going 30 miles north (Appleton) or south (Fond du Lac) shows a few vacancies but the prices are unreal.  One hotel was asking about $500 per night.

My wife found out that Oshkosh this week is having a major old-time airplane show.  Every antique plane buff in the country is in Oshkosh this week.  I spent a lot of time trying to find a room and finally found one for $265.  It is about 10 miles off the bike route and has no restaurants close by.  Given I have no tent, sleeping bag or mat there really is no choice but to pay the going rate since sleeping on a park bench in sweaty bike clothes is not a viable option.

I lecture every semester about supply and demand.  I clearly state that when demand shifts dramatically, prices jump.  While I understand the theory, I hate it when the price jump happens to me in practice.

 

Day 25: Redwing, MN to Onalaska, WI

I made it to Wisconsin this morning!  After spending a very long time getting across Montana, I am amazed at how little time it takes to pedal across some of the Midwest states.

Over the last two days I have crossed the Mississippi River five times.  I am not really sure why there is a good bike trail or road for a few miles on one side of the river and then the bike trail/road swaps to the other.  Whatever the exact reason, even at the upper reaches of the river, the size and amount of water flowing through this river is amazing.

Now that I am in Wisconsin I am eating more cheese.  I crossed the Mississippi into Wisconsin at lunch time.  I stopped at the first spot that sold cheese which was less than half a mile from the bridge.  I ordered a cheese sandwich at the Nelson  Cheese Factory.  It was delicious.

My dinner is almost always the closest place to the hotel or motel where I am staying.  After pedaling all day I don’t have the strength to walk very far and I am certainly not getting back on the bike.  Tonight, I went across the parking lot to a Japanese sushi restaurant.  They had sushi with cheese and avocado on the menu.  I had to try it.  It actually tasted pretty good.

I am sure much more happened today but I am having trouble staying awake.  The sun is going down.  It is time for me to go to bed.