Adventure Recap: Wisconsin

The Excellent Adventure started at the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, Oregon on May 1, and ended at the Atlantic Ocean at Sandbridge Beach, Virginia on August 11, 2019.  I’m posting recaps of the Adventure, now that I have time to write about the experience.

Adventure Ride Day 33–Saint Croix Falls, WI to Birchwood, WI

June 20 –   A beautiful day for a ride.  Temperatures in the low 70s. Lightly traveled country roads through Wisconsin woodlands and small farms.  My pace was slower than normal due to the weight of the panniers I was carrying for the two-day ride from the Twin Cities. This was a good lesson for me to pack less and lighter for future rides.  Lunch at a sports bar in Cumberland.  Arrived early at our campsite for the night at Birch Lake.  The family in the next site was very impressed with the accomplishment of bicycling across the country until Stephanie arrived with the camper.  Then they compared our nice Mercedes Sprinter RV to their popup tent trailer and decided they were the ones who were really roughing it.

Stephanie and I drove into the very tiny town of Birchwood to see what we could find for dinner.  We ended up at a family-run  grill, where the menu was burgers, pizza and beer.  This turned out to be the same menu at almost every eating place we entered in Wisconsin.  Our waitress was a young girl who had never strayed far from the town.  She told us about a Korean man she had met locally and was continuing to correspond with in Korea.  She told us she had never seen an Asian person before and she was now obsessed with what she perceived to be Asian culture.  She planned to go meet him in the coming months.  Her naivete was obvious, and we left the restaurant with the hope that she’d make it back.

The campground was on a lovely lake, where the kids could swim while boats and skiers cruised the water.  All night long we heard the sound of frogs and crickets.

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Balsam Lake, Wisconsin
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Another Wisconsin lake
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Our campsite near Birchwood

Miles: 71.68
Avg. speed:  11.4 mph
Ascending feet: 2,582 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,395 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,249 ft.
Net elevation gain: 67 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 34–Birchwood, WI to Day Lake, WI

June 21 – Another lovely ride through the northern lake country of Wisconsin.  Country roads over rolling hills through forests, past lakes, vacation cabins and remote campgrounds.

Stephanie and I met at a “bar and grill” along the way.  Of course, the menu was mostly burgers and beer.  Stephanie asked, “What’s the local beer?”  The bartender said, “You’re in Wisconsin.  All beer is local.”  Which is pretty much true.  But he didn’t just give us a Bud Lite.  He gave us New Glarus “Spotted Cow”, which we found is truly the local beer of choice here.  Too bad it doesn’t ship outside of Wisconsin.

Camping tonight at Day Lake campground, a US Forest service campground near Clam Lake.

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Stephanie and Rosie at Day Lake Campground

Miles: 70.37
Avg. speed:  13.2 mph
Ascending feet: 2,411 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,478 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,448 ft.
Net elevation gain: 206 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 35–Day Lake, WI to Boulder Junction, WI

June 22 – This morning’s highlight was the ride through lovely Glidden, Wisconsin.  There was a sign on the road to “see the largest black bear- next left”, so I turned into the main street of the town to see what I could find.  The first sight was of the Dead Squirrel Bar and Grill.  Don’t know why their sign is a picture of a happy squirrel, though, instead of a dead squirrel.

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A woman on the street asked me what I was looking for and I told her I was looking for the bear.  Turns out she was the development director for the town and she told me where to find the bear as well as everything else there was to visit in her town.  She apologized, after hearing that I was travelling through her town on a cross-country bike ride, that the town newspaper guy was not around so they could put it in their paper!

Anyway, here is the biggest black bear killed in the area, stuffed and given a place of honor in its own little museum.

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The rest of the ride was classic northern Wisconsin—long stretches of woods, marsh, and lakes along quiet country roads.  Near the end of the ride, heading into Boulder Junction, a fun bike trail took me closer to town.

The campsite for the night was an RV campground where many families had clearly made camp for the season.  Some RV owners had built decks and fences around their RVs, some had installed fixed PVC pipe for their drainage and water lines in lieu of the typical hoses and “stinky slinkys” that most RVs hook up to the water and sewer.

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Miles: 83.16
Avg. speed:  12.4 mph
Ascending feet: 2,386 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,673 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,660 ft.
Net elevation gain: 214 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 36–Boulder Junction, WI to Eagle River, WI

June 23 – This was a short, fun ride through the forests and gently rolling terrain past more lakes to Eagle River.  We planned to stay in Eagle River for a couple of days to visit with Jack and Sue.  Sue is a cousin and good friend to Stephanie.  Jack is involved in several ventures, and is an avid collector of Civil War memorabilia.   Their cabin is a fabulous, relaxing place.

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Rosie was shy, but happy to sleep on the couch.
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Sue, Stephanie, Jack and Rosie

Miles: 33.11
Avg. speed:  14.2 mph
Ascending feet: 1,006 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,800 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,662 ft.
Net elevation gain: 6 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 37– Eagle River, WI to Pickerel, WI

June 26 – During our visit with Jack and Sue, they took us all over this part of Wisconsin, including a trip up to the Michigan Upper Peninsula.  The folks in the U.P. (there aren’t many) might be called “U-pers”, and it feels like being in Canada.  The accents morph from the Norwegian-Wisconsin sound to include Canadian euphemisms (eh?).

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Beavers did this.
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Lookin’ good, eh?
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Sue and Jack all tied up in knots at Bond Falls.
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Bond Falls in the Michigan Upper Peninsula

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We said good-bye and headed off to our next Wisconsin family visit down in Pickerel, where Stephanie’s Aunt Virgie and Uncle Jim live in their lakeside home.  This was another lovely ride through lake country.

Virg and Jim treated us like royalty at their house, cooking up a great steak dinner for my protein fix.  Rosie had a great time chasing squirrels outside by the lake.  Virg and Stephanie talked about what everyone in the family is doing.  Jim, who owned a trucking company before he retired, showed us his garage of projects and the dump truck he still offers up for local jobs.

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Rosie surveying her squirreldom at Pickerel Lake

Miles: 57.05
Avg. speed:  14.7 mph
Ascending feet: 2,226 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,680 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,548 ft.
Net elevation gain: -105 ft.

 

Adventure Ride Day 38– Pickerel, WI to Plover, WI

 

June 27 – From Pickerel we had one more family stop, to the Stevens Point area where Stephanie’s cousin Dan lives.  Today’s ride was due south along progressively busier roads.  I’m now heading into the heart of the Midwest, and the temperatures are finally warming up to summertime heat.

Dan Kruzitski’s history is as a competitive cyclist.  He’s a great instructor for those attempting to be successful racers.  He offered to ride with me for a few segments of the ride, fitting it into his tough schedule, which involves taking the night shift during the week to haul truck loads across the state.

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Dan Kruzitzki – loves his Bianchi bikes!

Dan let us stay at his condo, which was fine for Rosie:

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Miles: 81.12
Avg. speed:  13.9 mph
Ascending feet: 1,213 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,669 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,090 ft.
Net elevation gain: -558 ft.

 

Adventure Ride Day 39– Plover, WI to Wisconsin Dells, WI

June 28 – The effort today involved finding paved roads.  Dan  joined me for the first part of this ride out of Plover.  I planned the route using Ridewithgps, which had plotted a course that seemed OK at first, but turned out to follow gravel roads for much of the way.  I’m fine with gravel for a mile or two, but when it turns into 5 or more miles, the loss of time, the effort, and the pounding over loose rocks gets to be too much for me.

After the first couple of miles on gravel, Dan and I plotted a new course that appeared to put me on a paved road, so we headed east to get on that road.  Dan then left me to get back home. (He drives a truck at night and it was bedtime for him.  He’d meet us tomorrow for the ride into Madison.)

I abandoned my original route, which appeared to run along more unpaved roads and trails, and decided to take paved county roads to the Dells.  This added about 10 miles to the planned ride, but it was a lot faster than plowing through gravel, with a lot less shaking for my bones and my head.

Miles: 78.79
Avg. speed:  14.6 mph
Ascending feet: 1,290 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,162 ft.
Ending Elevation: 913 ft.
Net elevation gain: -177 ft.

Rather than staying overnight at Wisconsin Dells, Stephanie and I drove down to Spring Green, a few miles farther south and the location of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and architecture school.  We had a planned rest day allowing us to go on a walking tour of the buildings and grounds, learning a lot about the man’s life, his talent and his faults, and the events that led to the development of the property in its current state.

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We also had an opportunity to visit “the Little Brown Church” nearby.  The cemetery surrounding this church is where some of Stephanie’s mother’s ancestors are interred.  So we took some time to photograph headstones that might help us flesh out the family tree.

Adventure Ride Day 40– Wisconsin Dells, WI to Madison, WI

June 30 – Stephanie’s cousin Dan Kruzitzki joined me on today’s ride.  I rode 10 miles from Wisconsin Dells to Baraboo to meet him to ride the remaining 50 miles.  He’s such a biking demon that he decided to do a century today, so he drove to Madison and biked the 50 miles BACK to Baraboo to meet me.  He rides at about twice my speed normally, so he was kind enough to slow down for the ride back to Madison.

Rain clouds were threatening all morning.  While we hoped to avoid a storm, we were not so lucky.  The drizzle started as we rode through Devil’s Lake state park, and then it became a steady rain.  The day turned dark, so our front and rear lights were on for safety in the slow-moving traffic.  As we left the park, the rain turned into a torrent, with thunder and lightening coming closer.  We were soaked.  We found shelter around a commercial building to wait out the storm.

After about 15 minutes the rain slowed to a drizzle and we headed on to the ferry to get us across Lake Wisconsin.

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We were soaked from the rain as we crossed Lake Wisconsin on the ferry.
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Dan’s Bianchi racer and my old Bianchi touring bike.  Maybe if I had his bike I’d go faster?

The rest of the ride was through more Wisconsin farm country until we got to Middleton, which is just outside Madison.  Then we rode through neighborhoods of upscale homes and shopping into Madison.

Dan then left us to head back to his condo in Plover.  We had a couple of planned rest days in Madison.  Stephanie graduated from the University of Wisconsin, so there were old haunts to visit.

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We drove the camper to the site of the old cabin lodge run by Stephanie’s grandparents, now a city park.
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A heron at Lake Mendota

 

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The old campground.

Erin, Stephanie’s friend from California, and her kids happened to be in Madison at the same time, so we were able to spend some time with them at the UW Union on the shore of Lake Mendota.

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Almost everyone is having fun.
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Erin and Stephanie’s reunion in Madison.

Miles: 59.6
Avg. speed:  13.4 mph
Ascending feet: 3,077 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,256 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,062 ft.
Net elevation gain: 154 ft.

 

Adventure Ride Day 41– Madison, WI to Milwaukee

July 3 –  The ride from Madison to Milwaukee followed a couple of long rail trails, where trees provided shade from the hot sun.  Farm country gave way to the industrial city of Waukesha, continuing into Milwaukee.

As I entered Milwaukee, the route took a poorly-maintained city bike path.  There were muddy puddles along the path.  I attempted to avoid one of the puddles and ended up off the path in deep mud, which stopped me cold.  With no time to clip out, I dropped onto the asphalt.  I wasn’t hurt, but the fall was a pretty hard one, and my helmet took quite a blow.  I was only about 7 miles from the end of the day’s route and the hotel, but I wondered if I had hit my head hard enough to warrant getting it checked out.  I called Stephanie to talk it out, and decided to ride the rest of the way in.  The roads in Milwaukee are pretty bad—the weather cracks the pavement, heavy traffic pounds out potholes, and there doesn’t seem to be enough investment in road maintenance to keep the roads in shape.  It’s a problem I’d see throughout this industrial part of the country.

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This is who made my ride so fun.  Our date in Milwaukee.

We had a rest day on July 4 in Milwaukee.  Nothing appeared to warrant a visit to the ER.  Stephanie has extended family in Milwaukee and we had a nice lunch with them.

Miles: 95.98
Avg. speed:   12.8 mph
Ascending feet: 1,719 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,083 ft.
Ending Elevation: ft.
Net elevation gain: ft.

 

Adventure Ride Day 42– Milwaukee to Chicago

July 5 – Another hot, humid day.  I rode bike trails for much of the day, though, so there was a good bit of shade.  Virtually flat almost the entire way.  The areas around the trail were mostly industrial and blue-collar neighborhoods through Racine and Highland Park.  I stopped at the Trek bicycle store in Highland Park to replace my helmet, which had been cracked by my fall on the ride into Milwaukee.

As I entered the northern suburbs of Chicago, the neighborhoods changed remarkably.  The houses on the tree-lined streets were large, gracious homes.  Clearly more affluence here than in southern Wisconsin.

I navigated through Evanston and northern Chicago to the Lakefront Trail along the shore of Lake Michigan.  The hot holiday weekend was an occasion for thousands of people to enjoy the parks and beaches along the lake.

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Northwestern University in Evanston, and my new high-visibility bike helmet.

The Chicago skyline appeared.

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I made my way through Grant Park and back onto the busy road to our hotel for the next couple of nights near Midway Airport.

Miles: 99.85
Avg. speed:   12.3 mph
Ascending feet: 1,414 ft.

Peak elevation:  703 ft.
Ending Elevation:  619 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -43 ft.

Chicago was a turning point for the ride.  Here, Stephanie fell, broke her wrist, and had to fly to Richmond, VA for surgery.

My brother Bob graciously joined the Adventure in Chicago, driving the RV, caring for Rosie, and providing support along the way.  My focus shifted from the experience of the ride to completing it as quickly as possible so I could rejoin her in Virginia.   See my post The Chicago sidewalk event

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