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.

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