Hands down my favorite day of the trip. Riding through the “wilds” north of New York and dodging cars and pedestrians through the Bronx and Manhattan.
Our last small leg into Brooklyn and a welcome shower:
The day with the big hill.
Yesterday’s long day meant a slightly shorter ride today. The hill south of Hopewell Junction didn’t help any either. It could have been avoided by heading west, but it looked like an adventure on the map, and we were rewarded with a beautiful and crazy ride through largely car-free backroads through the leafy exurbs north of Carmel. We may have seen one or two expensive homes in this area;)
We’d entered the land of few camping options again and opted for another night in a hotel. This would mean a break from the growing heat and an early start for our final push — the day we hoped to reach the tip of Manhattan.
Argh…this was the day that almost did us in. In a car, campgrounds always seem so plentiful and nearby. On a bike, they’re not. Particularly in eastern New York. We had a campground in mind this day (actually made reservations for once) and knew it’d be a long ride. The payoff would be the pool at the end — ya, we’d gone high end in campground land.
The morning started like most on the Erie Canal route. Get up, pack up our tents, and not think an ounce about our route — there’s only one. Oh, and get an in-depth tour of the lock mechanics and motors by the lock master. Talk about a glimpse into the past. Here was a guy whose full-time job is to operate equipment that’s barely changed in 100 years. The backup generators look like they’re out of a museum — but they’re still the main backups. Meticulously cared for — brass shining. More people should see this stuff.
Later, our route pulled us out of the Mohawk River valley for the first time in a long time (saving us quite a few miles over the Erie Canal route) and south into Schenectady. This gave us a straight shot to Albany, but…a lesson we kept learning…it put us into the suburbs — a nightmare for bikers. Multiple lanes, no shoulders, no sidewalks, and lots of traffic. Lots of drivers looking at you like you’re crazy, like you don’t belong. Alas, we made it and headed into the heart of Albany and the capital (the older parts of town are always more bike friendly).
We took a break at the capital and met some friendly guards who watched our bikes while we took the tour. One of the more interesting capital buildings I’ve ever seen. We also got to witness a bit of politics — an assemblywoman showed up to gavel the session in and out to circumvent something the governor wanted to do.
After Albany, our ride turned into one of the few “slogs” that we had on the trip. We were already tired had another 45-50 miles to reach our campground and pool. The roads, still scenic along the Hudson, continually went up and down hills in a systematic strength zapper. To top it off, James got a flat with just a mile to go. We pulled into the campground in the dark with our tent site number pinned to the bulletin board outside the campground office. All was quite and closed…
…including our pool.
We set up our tents, zombied through a shower, and crawled into our bags. Tired, but we slept knowing that Manhattan was definitely within reach.
JW Wells State Park to Gladstone, Michigan
Trip total: 276.9
Weather: chilly (summer polar vortex) with winds out of the northeast (straight in our faces).
This was definitely our least favorite day of the trip so far. Highway 35 to Escanaba is narrow and has a lot of semi and holiday traffic on it. At first, I could hardly stand it. I kept checking the map for an alternative route. James and I separated by a couple of hundred yards (so we didn’t both get hit by some idiot driver). Adding to the stress, the road was under construction with various widths of shoulder with cones and barrels to dodge. It would have been fun with the ability to respawn when we got plastered. The was the first day that I was glad Lori wasn’t with us. She would have been miserable and perhaps mutinied. I wouldn’t have blamed her.
In Escanaba, we found a town bigger than we expected and the best meal we’d had so far. Checking Yelp, we found the Applewood Cafe on main street. This was after spending around an hour on the beach in the great city park they have. Lake Michigan water is cold, though. We didn’t swim much. James got himself some icecream from a park vender who managed to call him both old and overweight. James kept looking at his icecream wondering why he’d gone through with the purchase.
For lunch, I had the best grilled cheese (two types of cheese, tomato, bacon, and pesto) I’ve ever had. James’ sandwhich — some grilled chicken was also incredible. The sides, fresh coleslaw with olives and warm German potato salad (who serves this??), were also incredible. I don’t ever remember liking German potato salad. Where did this place come from? There was no one else in there (we were having a late 2pm lunch), but it should have been packed. With coffee and desert (chocolate covered bannana), we got out for around $22. Definitely someplace to go back to.
Past Escanaba, we switched to Highway 2 and the scariest stretch of road we’d seen so far. It’s no different than a four-lane interstate, but BUT, the shoulder completely disappeared on us at the bottom of a hill under a railroad bridge. We were doing around 25mph, traffic was going 65mph, and we prayed as we moved quickly into the lane of traffic and back to the shoulder. We were glad in Gladstone to get off this thing for the night. We found their city campground at the edge of town and on the edge of the lake and got a site right next to the beach. Yet another incredible camp site. This time, we did get in the water and freeze our tails off for several minues before drying off in the sun. Amazing what this sequence will do for your mental state.
Dinner in town at a local pizza place. Most bacon I’ve ever had on a pizza. Bought enough to take back to camp and make breakfast the next morning.
Date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Segment: Green Bay to JW Wells State Park, Michigan
Trip total: 232.2
Weather: Winds out of the north (headwind!). Chilly, low 60s, cloudy.
Not all road touring days are rosy — rode
from Green Bay north into the summer “polar vortex” wind. Roads overall were very nice, nice shoulder and little traffic.
I always love the surprises along the road (that’s why we travel, eh?). Despite having lived in Wisconsin for over 10 years, I’m ashamed to say that I had never heard of the Peshtigo Fire of 1871, the worst fire (in terms of human loss, over 1,500 died) in US history. We stopped to visit the museum, talk with the uber-dedicated volunteers who always work in places like this, and look through the cemetery.
Despite having fairly ambitious mileage targets each day, we’re finding out that it’s important to stop, give the behind and legs a rest, and have something else to reflect on for the day than being behind the handlebars. The fire museum fit the bill well.
Rocked it again for another great campsite on the shores of Lake Michigan at JW Wells State Park (in the UP in two day, yeah!). Michigan does a great job with their state parks, and ending our day again with a shower and a meal down the road.
Date: Monday, July 14, 2014
Segment: Lake Winnebago to Green Bay
Trip total: 146.3
Weather: sunny and mild, high 60s, perfect riding weather
Road up and over top of the “Ledge” (Niagara Escarpment!) northeast of Fond du Lac.
Great Wisconsin back roads (really, is there a better place for road biking?) and awesome view of dairies and the wind farm. Again, got on the Fox River rail-to-trail that really slowed us down at first (lost about 3-4 mph over roads). Advantage of rails-to-trails? They’re close to the as-the-crow-flies route. We tried back road alternatives, but they turned out to be too long.
Figuring (correctly) that our legs would be shot after the second day, we rolled the dice with Hotwire and got the Tundra Lodge just down the road from Lambeau Field. Beer and a hot tube helped with recovery. Of course, had to send this photo to the spouses to prove the depths of our suffering.
Date: Sunday, July 13, 2014
Fort Atkinson to Columbia Park (on east shore of Lake Winnebago)
Trip total: 89.5 miles
Today we hoped to start with a bit of a bang — hopefully not running into anything or hitting the pavement, but starting with a strong day to wake up ye’ old muscles.
Planning the trip, I tried to take as many dedicated bike routes as possible — sort of a geographic sample of the current state of biking routes across the Midwest. Today, we f
ound out that not all rails-to-trails paths are the same. I’ve complained about the state of the trails in our neighborhood before, but no longer — the DNR does a pretty good job. The surfaces can very a lot, and we found out that soft, muddy trails do not lead to efficient travel — especially with 25mm tires. We took the Wild Goose Trail its full length to Fond du Lac, and it wore us out. Thirty-five miles of soft trail that we could only do 12-13 mph on. It was pretty, but not a great way to cover ground fast. Take the back to roads. As we got close to Fond du Lac, I expected that the trail would
improve and we’d see more people (it was Sunday), but it didn’t change all that much. In Fond Du Lac, they have “The Loop” which was a great urban bike trail that included the lakeshore park — a must for anyone traveling through town.
After town, we headed around the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago to Columbia Park. Turned out to be an great place for our first night. Showers, power (for phones), and nice shady tent sites. AND…a supper club — Jim and Linda’s — right next door. Couple of beers, a great meal, and an easy stumble back to the camp site.
travel down 151, great camping place, great dinner at the supper club
Hmm…amazed how long it’s been since I’ve last made a post. Well, we’re back on the bikes again (along with James Hartwick from last year’s trip) on a more ambitious trip — 21 days from Wisconsin to New York City. We didn’t necessarily plan it this way, but after looking over our route, I realized that we’re closely following the full extent of the Niagara Escarpment from Wisconsin through the Great Lakes to eastern New York (and beyond). Looking over the profiles of each of our biking days, it’s pretty clear when we’re climbing or descenting the Escarpment. To James’ dismay, this meant quite a few hills to climb with fully loaded bikes but also meant seeing some incredible Midwestern terrain.
So, with this ambiguity in mind, we’ve christened our ride “Escape from/to(?) the Escarpment.” Here goes.
Maps of each of our days: RideWithGPS (on phone, so excuse if it doesn’t work well)
Total distance: 48.7 miles
We knew that today would be the “big” day. We had at least two cat-5 climbs (had to look up how cyclers grade climbs, cat-5 is the easiest they bother with) to get up and over the Baraboo hills. We also awoke to utter surprising weather – a 50-degree morning with a projected high of only 56 (in late July!?!). We also had a stiff 10-15 mph wind out of the northwest — exactly the direction we were headed.
Our early start was postponed by a small mishap. We were meeting James at a designated spot (the mostly likely source of a mishap!) at 7:30am and got two texts in quick succession: “my tire’s a little flat” and “oops, I have a flat that I have to fix.” He’d discovered how frustrating micro-pumps can be and ripped the valve stem out of his tube. Lori and I managed to find a bakery and rough it with fresh danishes and coffee while James wrestled with tube and tire. All was well by 8:30am and we were on our way.
Our day was broken up in the two distinct sections by the ferry crossing at the Wisconsin river (recommended by everyone we spoke to). The south half of the route included the new trail along highway 12 (fairly unnoteworthy) and linking together several back roads north of 12. These proved to be absolutely beautiful in the mix of morning sunlight and shade. The small hills warmed us up for the the big ones, and James and I vyed for top speed on the downhills (high 30s — still nervous at high speeds on these bikes).
Besides the danish I’d had, we hadn’t had any breakfast and didn’t really think about where we’d eat our first meal of the day. Lodi was nearby but for reasons I can’t recall, we didn’t head that way. We were lucky to find a marina/bar/pub at the intersection of JV and 188 — Sunset Harbor & Grill. There we devoured some burgers, fries, and a basket full of bacon. Defying the wisdom of any health nut, we decided that bacon was the key to biking success — it certainly helped this day.
Our advice about the ferry was spot on. It was a fun and unique link on a bike trip (shared by many other bikers that day heading to Devil’s Lake) and lead to Marsh Road and a beautiful approach to the park with absolutely no traffic.
The two cat-5 climbs are in the park. The first is on the entrance road that climbs the terminal moraine. It’s not bad at all. The second is on the south shore drive and is a series of very steep switchbacks. On a compact double, it was tough to stay on my saddle but again, not too bad. It’s over before you cough up a lung.
We cruised mostly downhill into Baraboo and discovered the wonderful trails along the Baraboo River.
Challenges with lodging….don’t stay in the Log Lodge Inn in Baraboo.
Dinner at the Little Village Cafe in Baraboo was added to our list of incredible meals. Everyone claimed that they had chosen the best meal.