Plymouth, WI to Ludington, MI

It was cloudy and cool again as we left Plymouth, like it was threatening rain again, but the rain held off. We stopped back at the Plymouth Family Restaurant for a breakfast buffet. I got on the road with Molly and Marisa, but ended up going on my own for a while, then sometimes riding with Bruce and Patti, or Brian and Meg.

This was one of the few days so far where we had favorable winds for a considerable portion of the ride, especially on a stretch of road called County Road X, where we were able to pedal at close to 30mph with seemingly no effort.

It was a short mileage day, about 40 miles to Manitowoc, WI. We got coffee and explored the two bike shops in town, then went to the nearby home of a woman named Kathy, a former Cycle America staffer member who allowed us to have our lunch stop at her house.

We changed into street clothes at Kathy’s place, then at a little past noon, we headed down as a group to the lakeshore to board the S.S. Badger, the ferry across Lake Michigan.

The ferry was a pleasant four-hour ride. I hung out on the deck for a while with Brian and Meg, and also enjoyed some of the free bingo on the game deck below with Colleen, Molly, Marisa, Robert, and a few others. Peter won a game of loser’s bingo. Brian and I had a Leinenkugel’s from the bar.

As we docked in Ludington, we entered our eighth state, and the final time zone (Eastern). We had to ride just a few miles through town to get to the Cartier Campground. After setting up our tents, most of us walked back to town to get dinner. I ended up at an Italian place called Luciano’s with David Butler, Todd from Philly, Colleen, Colin, both Matts, Molly, Marisa, and Sue. A few people stopped at the local microbrewery, but I headed straight back to camp with most everyone else.

Waupun to Plymouth, WI

Well, we knew days like this would come, so we finally have it. It rained steadily all through the ride today. Bob Hensler (a.k.a. Montana Bob) said his goodbyes to us this morning, as he left on his bike with his two daughters, all three wearing “Sponge Bob” bike jerseys. I got an early start at 7:00am, again with Colleen, Molly, and Marisa. It was not too cold, so the rain was not too bad, once we got off of the main highway away from traffic, and onto nice county roads outside of town.

After a wet lunch, we followed the Kettle Morain Scenic Drive, a beautiful road past marshes, lakes, and woods. We stopped at the local bike shop in Plymouth, Back Door Bicyles, on the way to the high school. I bought a small cable lock, and a new mirror that attaches to my helmet. At the start of the trip, I used an eyeglass mirror that I had bought from a vendor on the TOSRV ride. Some time after my accident in Idaho, I misplaced that mirror. After completelly unpacking and re-packing my bags twice, I have decided that it is lost for good. I had recently beenusing an eyeglass mirror that I borrowed from Brian Hall, so I gave that back to him after setting up the new one on my helmet.

The school was comfortable, and the showers were nice and hot. After getting cleaned up, I walked back into town with the women, and we got some lunch at De O’Malley’s Pizza Pub. Then Colleen, Marisa, and I went to the public library to catch up on e-mail. When we were finished, we still had a little more time to kill before dinner, so there was a coffee shop just around the corner. We went in and chatted for a while with Jane, David Butler, Debbie, Richard, and Adrian, who is a friend of Richard’s from Denver with us for the week. Dinner was a buffet at the Plymouth Family Restaurant just up the street.

After Tour Talk back at the school, I ended up winning second place (and $10) in this week’s road relics contest, with the cell phone faceplate and charger cord that I had found the morning we left Pepin. David Butler won with a charred doll figure that he had found and labeled “the effect of forgetting to wear sunscreen.”

A number of people went back downtown to celebrate Lisa’s birthday, but I suddenly felt very tired, so I went to bed early.

Baraboo to Waupun, WI

A short ride of 62 miles today, in near-perfect conditions. It was cloudy, which kept the sun at bay, but still warm. The wind was out of the south, which only affected us occasionally when the route turned south, but every time, we would almost immediately have a left turn eastward again. The rolling farmlands were peaceful and beautiful. Lunch was at a picnic shelter next to the lovely Fox Lake.

The town of Waupun is home to four prisons, but despite this, it’s a pleasant place. The staff of the high school, the Future Farmers of America club, and the Chamber of Commerce gave us one of the best welcomes that we’ve experienced on the whole tour. The indoor sleeping area was in the school gymnastics room, which provide lots of soft and cozy mats to sleep on.

I rode all day with Colleen, Molly, and Marisa. I had another slow leak in my rear tire today; I decided to fix it when we got to the first water stop around mile 24. When we got to town, we all had different errands to do; I rode to the east end of town to find a coffee shop, then rode a couple of miles to the west side to find the ACE Hardware to buy a big nail for Huck’s award.

On the way, I passed the local bike shop, so I stopped in to take a look around. It was an odd little place called Ron’s Lawn & Sport. They had a surprisingly good selection of mid-level Trek mountain bikes, surrounded by an assortment of new and used lawn mowers and weed wackers. After I left the hardware store, I got caught in a few raindrops on the way back to the school, but nothing major.

After I got showered, we still had a couple of hours to kill before dinner. Molly, the three Appleton ladies, and I decided to go back into town for a drink at a bar called The Last Chapter. One of the Chamber of Commerce ladies offered to give us a ride, but could only take four of us, so I told them all to go ahead, while I went on foot and met them there. I had a Leinenkugel Red. The three Appleton ladies left, but Molly and I decided to have another, so I had a Leinenkugel Cream Dark. As we walked back to the school, we got caught in a pretty heavy downpour.

After dinner and Tour Talk, they showed the movie "Cold Mountain" in the school’s auditorium.

Sparta to Baraboo, WI

I slept in a bit today. Usually, I’ve been waking up two or three times a night, and will use the restroom or just check the time and try to get comfortable again. Today, I only recall waking up and rolling over once at 4:30am. Even though I set my alarm for 5:30, I didn’t wake up until almost 6:20; I don’t remember if I just turned my alarm off or what. I did my usual dressing and packing routine quickly, and made it back to Trinity Lutheran Church on my bike a little before 7:00 for breakfast.

I’ve been able to sleep on my sides more comfortable lately, which is my usual preferred position, so I guess I was just catching up on much-needed good sleep, on top of the long day yesterday.

Bruce and Patti were ready to go, so I stuck around and waited to leave with Robert. We went at a very casual pace; I just used the ride as a recovery day.

The route started us off on the Elroy-Sparta State Trail. It is a rail-trail that is not paved, but the loose gravel is very minimal, and the dirt is pretty well packed, so it’s not a bad ride even on a road bike. There are three tunnels of three-fourths, one-half, and one-third of a mile, which you are required to walk through, and I used my headlamp, which was helpful.

We stopped at Gina’s Pies Are Square, a fantastic pie shop and cafe in the town of Wilton just off the trail. Jeremy, Mary, and several other riders were there as well, including Charlie, Geri, and Sally, three women from Appleton, WI who are on the tour for the week. Now I can’t decide if the pie was better here or at the A&M Cafe in Interior, SD. I’m sure in both cases, timing has a lot to do with their appeal.

Lunch was at the end of the trail at mile 36 in Elroy. Then, we had the option of taking either a road route, or continuing on what is called the 400 Trail. The road route was very hilly, and the trail was 6 miles shorter, so Robert and I opted to stay on the trail. It went on for another 25 miles. We were pretty tired of trail riding by the end, but we heard the road route was pretty windy, so I think I made the right choice, considering how I felt today. We still had another 20 miles of road to cover anyway, with its fair share of hills. After the last water stop, we met George from San Diego, so I went ahead on my own.

About ten miles from Baraboo, I went through the small village of Rock Springs. As I passed through, I saw Peter sitting on the corner with Huck (from Vermont, on the tour for two weeks). I didn’t notice anything unusual, so I said “How’s it going?” and whizzed on by. I saw a bar around the corner, and there were several bikes parked out front (one of them look like Colin’s), so I thought this looked like a perfect time to stop for my first mid-ride beer.

It turn out that the people inside weren’t with our group, but were four Canadians for Thunder Bay, Ontario, doing their own cycling tour of Wisconsin. So I enjoyed a Miller Genuine Draft on tap (somebody explain that concept to me) with them as we swapped stories about our trips. During the conversation, one of them asked, “Are you with that guy sitting across the street, bleeding all over the sidewalk?” I didn’t have any idea what they were talking about.

It turns out that Huck had fallen, scraping his knee pretty badly, as well as breaking his wrist. Peter had been waiting with him for the SAG van to take him to the hospital. He got back to camp that night, all bandaged up, but feeling great, and was back on the bike the next day. I found out later that he had fallen before lunch, so he had ridden at least 35 miles in that condition before I had seen him! So for all of this, I plan to give him the weekly “Tough As Nails” award this Friday.

Finally in Baraboo after 79 miles, dinner was a fantastic buffet at the Glacier Rock Inn. A few of us went back there after Tour Talk; I had a Fat Squirrel, which is an amber ale from a local brewery.

Pepin to Sparta, WI

I forgot to mention yesterday that I had my first flat tire since Day Two in Wenatchee, WA. When I pumped up my tires before leaving Northfield, MN, my rear tire only had about 40 psi in it. I decided then to just pump it up and see how it went. I was able to ride through to lunch, then pump it up again, and made it to Pepin, then changed it when I got there. I was able to find the shard of glass in my tire that had caused the flat.

I rode the whole day today with Patti and Bruce. It was very cold when we left Pepin, and also quite foggy. We continued along the remaining shore of Lake Pepin, and further as it became the Mississippi River again. About mid-morning, Patti got a flat tire; as we fixed it, we were joined by Debbie again.

Just before the four of us reached lunch, I found my road relic for the week–a bit of coiled cord that looks like it came from a phone charger. Later in the afternoon, I also found a piece of broken casing from a cell phone, so they will go well together.

The ride was a long 95 miles, through many rolling hills. When we reached Sparta, we went into town and stopped at the Deke Slayton Space and Bike Museum. There we saw many antique bicycles, plus an amusing bike safety film from the 1950’s or 60’s. Then we went to Ginny’s Cupboard for our traditional post-ride snack. I had a latte with my PBJ sandwich. I took a ride to the edge of town to check out Speed’s, the local bike shop, but didn’t buy anything. It was almost 5:00pm by the time I got to Sparta High School, so I got showered as quick as I could, then walked up the street with Matt Olson just in time for dinner at Trinity Lutheran Church.

Most of us just sat around and chatted back at the school after Tour Talk. I got to bed early around 9:30.

Northfield, MN to Pepin, WI

It was another pretty cold morning as we got started today; my thermometer only read 50 degrees. Breakfast was on-route today, so that had some snacks at the school to help get us started; I just grabbed a Kudos bar and a banana. Breakfast was at a diner about 20 miles into the route, in the town of Cannon Falls, which also happens to be the home office of Cycle America.

Just after breakfast, we entered the Cannon Valley Trail, a paved rail-trail. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous, purely out of superstition, since this was the first bike trail I had to ride on since the accident on the trail in Idaho. But I made it without incident for the 20 miles of trail to the town of Red Wing, where we had lunch.

After lunch, Bruce and I joined up with Debbie from DC and Patty from Sacramento, two new riders this week. We rode around a bit to see if there was anything worth seeing in town. Just outside of town, we crossed a bridge over the Mississippi River into Wisconsin. Most of the rest of the route was a very scenic road bordering Lake Pepin, which was formed where the Chippewa River joins the Mississippi. When we arrived in Pepin, we stopped for the traditional coffee shop to eat our PBJ sandwiches; I opted for a chocolate malt instead of the usual iced mocha.

Rest day in Northfield, MN

A fun and productive day off. I woke up around 8:00am and got dressed, and rode towards town to find the laundromat. I didn’t need to do laundry today, but a group of people were dropping off their clothes, then heading to breakfast. When I caught up to them, we headed downtown to the Tavern Restaurant, which is below the Archer House Hotel. We had the best breakfast that any of us could remember; I got steak and eggs. With us were Colleen, Robert, Bruce, Lynette, Alan, Jane, Brian, and Meg. Lynette could not finish her pancakes, so I ate those as well. After we ate, Molly and Marisa invited us up to their room at the hotel to watch the final Tour de France stage live; I was the only one to take them up on the offer. I left around 11:20am, after seeing Lance win and then his interview afterwards.

I wandered around town a bit and checked my e-mail at the Goodbye Blue Monday coffee shop while the rest went off to finish their laundry. Later, I met Robert, Brian, Colleen, and Jane at the movie theater; we saw “The Notebook” because it was the only thing playing at a convenient time. I looked around town a bit more, then joined a few people at the Contented Cow again to have a drink to kill time before dinner. Dinner was a buffet at Chapati, and Indian restaurant, which is also connected to the Archer House Hotel.

Tour Talk was at a park in the center of town. A bunch of people went to the Contented Cow again; I went and had one beer (Summit IPA from Minneapolis). I had ended up spending the entire day in town on my bike, but did not bring my headlamp, so I headed back to the school before it got dark. I had several packages in the mail that had been picked up at Cannon Falls, MN on Saturday, so by the time I got all of those organized, it was almost 11:00pm before I got to bed.

I told before how I bought the six-pack cooler in Pierre, SD to use as a trunk bag. That same day, I was showing it to Robert, and he ended up lending me his Topeak trunk bag to use instead, which is made to fit on the rack that I had bought. I liked it so much that I ordered one of my own from REI (I did the order online from the school in Miller, SD). At the same time, I also ordered a new air mattress. The one that I had bought in Ennis, MT was comfortable, but it was such a pain to deflate and fold up. I noticed that David Butler had one that was only $20 from REI, and it had a built-in foot pump, and was a twin size, so I ordered one just like it. A replacement for my broken tent pole had also arrived; thanks to my friend Claire back in Pittsburgh for taking care of that for me. I also received a package of mail from that my friend Jamie forwarded to me from home; it included a couple of medical bills from Idaho, so it looks like dealing with that will not be as simple as one would hope…

Hutchinson to Northfield, MN

It was a picture-perfect sunny day today. It started out a little cool again in the morning, which was nice. Hutchinson was rumored to be the mosquito capital of the tour, but we didn’t have many problems with them there in town. However, we did get swarmed at the first water stop this moring, so we didn’t linger too long there. Lunch stop was in the town of Belle Plains. After lunch, the terrain started to get a little hilly again, and the winds picked up a bit, but I was feeling much better today, so the ride was still enjoyable. Total of 89 miles, and the end of my first full week of riding since recovery.

Northfield is the home of two colleges, St. Olaf and Carleton, so as a college town, has a fun little downtown area. A couple of us stuck with the same plan of the past few days–packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to go after lunch, then stopped for coffee in town after the ride and enjoyed our sandwiches as a late lunch/recovery snack. The coffee shop today was a funky place called Goodbye Blue Monday. The local cycling club was there, having just finished their weekly group ride, so we chatted with them and got to tell them all about our tour.

The Northfield High School where we are staying is a nice building, although due to summer maintenance, the hot water is off. Greg and Dawn from Minneapolis, who had been with us for a couple weeks prior to this past week, drove down to say hi and feed us some snacks–chocolate, cheese and crackers. After the invigorating cold shower, a group of us rode our bikes back into town to a Mexican/Guatemalan place for dinner. Afterward, we headed to the Contented Cow Pub. On my way out, I had a nice chat with Christina from Kansas, a girl with pink hair. Luckily, I had brought along my headlamp and rear blinky light, as I had to ride back to the school in the dark at 11:00pm.

Montevideo to Hutchinson, MN

Another example of what a difference a day makes. Today was the same mileage (84) over the same kind of flat terrain as yesterday, but the winds picked up today, making this ride day longer and more wearing. On the plus side, it was one of our coolest days to date, starting at 58 degrees in the morning. Most of the bank thermometers in the towns we passed read in the mid-60’s, and the one when we arrived in Hutchinson read 72 degrees. Lunch was in Olivia, the “Corn Capital of the World.”

We stayed at a recreation center in Hutchinson. As soon as we arrived in town around 2:00pm, Bruce and I saw Scott in the rec center parking lot, so the three of us decided to ride on downtown for a coffee, where we were joined by Kira. We checked out the local bike shop on the way back.

At dinner, we had the voting for the first weekly “Road Relics” contest, which was organized by Molly. I ended up coming in third, for the “Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits” cassette tape that I had found, which featured the appropriately-titled track “Back in the Saddle Again.” We also had the weekly awards ceremony, many of which revolved around Alan from Australia, who will be finished his time with the tour tomorrow. Many people headed downtown with him for a send-off party, but with the long day today and another long day ahead tomorrow, I wanted to get to bed early, after doing my weekly laundry.

Watertown, SD to Montevideo, MN

We crossed into Minnesota today at about mile 39, our sixth state. The staff traditionally marks this state line as the official halfway point, even though mileage-wise it may be different, since the route changes from year-to-year, but we are halfway done in terms of riding days. Several people said they actually turned over 2100 miles on Tuesday. The halfway point that I saw marked on the road on Monday turned out ot be not for us, but for another tour group.

The first town in Minnesota was Marietta, where we had our lunch stop. We also passed through Madison, the self-declared “Lutefisk Capital USA.”

The conditions were just like yesterday, only somewhat longer at 84 miles. With mostly flat country roads through farmlands, with relatively little wind, the miles went by pretty fast.

When we arrived in the town of Montevideo, I considered going to the middle school to get cleaned up before exploring town, but David Butler and Bruce convinced me to go straight into town with them. I was glad I did, because lots of others from the tour were there, and we had a great time. We checked out the local bike shop, then hung out at a coffee shop called Java River, where I had an iced mocha, then later a bubble tea. I was even talked into doing karaoke with Matt Olson, Alan, and Richard; we sang “If I Had $1,000,000” (by the Barenaked Ladies).

After dinner, a bunch of us rode back into town to watch today’s Tour de France stage at a local bar. Lance won the stage by inches in a sprint finish.