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.


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.


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