71.8 miles

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:

69.7 miles

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;)

South of Carmel we found one of the best off-road bike trails of the whole trip. A beautiful, paved, smooth track largely in the woods (the Putnam Trailway and North County Trailway).

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.

Date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Segment: Green Bay to JW Wells State Park, Michigan

Length: 85.9

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.

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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.

Total miles: 27.8 miles

Well, sometimes those weather forecasters are right. They were calling for rain, and it’s raining. We made it from the B&B a quarter mile to the Lake Mills trail shelter before it really started in. We debated — we could ride in the rain. A quick check of the radar showed some “yellows” heading toward “oranges” coming our way. We wimped out and hung out in the shelter watching the triathlon runners and bikers go by — they’re tougher than we are today.

James started talking about his strange ideas and future plans, so we decided that the rain didn’t look so bad. The ride must have freed some long-ago imbibed substance stored in James’ body. Actually, we’re thinking how great a travel study for students would be for this trip — take students across the state and all the geography, history, and culture they could learn along the way: A people’s history of Wisconsin: The culture, the people, and their ice cream.

After the rain let up, we hit the trail and learns what happens to this hard-packed pea gravel. It turns into a nice grey slurry with an uncanny ability to stick to your tires and be slung all over your legs, shoes, and delicate derailleurs (check out the photos). We also discovered that water bottles make for nice squirt bottles for cleaning all this stuff off. This sounds like I’m complaining, but it didn’t slow us down much even on our skinning 23mm tires.

We stayed at a friend’s apartment in downtown Madison at the end of our short, “rest” day.

By the way, breakfast at the B&B in Lake Mills was amazing. My preconceived notion that this trip was going to be tough it eroding quickly.

Distance: 62.2 miles (MapMyRide app)

After a great cup of coffee at John and Linda’s, we hit the trail and headed for Lake Shore State Park on the east side of the Summerfest grounds. The plan was to meet James (who had stayed at his sister’s place) at the far eastern edge of the park at 7 am, touch the lake, and get rolling. He showed up within minutes of our arrival, we took the obligatory selfie, touched the pristine waters of Lake Michigan, and got on our bikes.

For anyone that hasn’t bike in Milwaukee, the trails leading west from the Lake are a pleasant surprise. First off, we did have to traverse a half mile or so of city streets, and Milwaukee drivers seem to be very accommodating. The rest of the ride through the Menomonee Valley on the Hank Aaron Trail was great — at times you couldn’t believe you were in the middle of a major city.

Rest of the day: breakfast at Dave’s in Waukesha, zipped down the Glacial Drumlin Trail, and arrived at the Sweet Autumn Inn in Lake Mills at around 3:30 pm.

We stored the bikes, grabbed showers, and headed into town to find our “recovery drink.” We didn’t have walk long. We found Timber Creek Pizza Company on the town “triangle” where they serve the locally-famous Mullen’s Ice Cream from Watertown. We all bought and scarfed down tall shakes and malts. And Lori bought a taco.

Lori had friends in town who just happened to have ripe raspberries in their backyard, so we walked to their place and chatted in the backyard while picking their canes clean. Aren’t friends great.

Now for dinner. Every time we’ve driven through Lake Mills, we’ve seen a ton of people at the local Mexican restaurant. Tonight was no different. We sat down, ordered a round of waters, and proceeded to fill up on chips and salsa. Lori gets credit for noticing that margaritas were half off on Thursdays, so we decided that a second “recovery” drink was in order. Went well with the fajitas and burritos.

 

Distance: 14.5 miles (from MapMyRide app)

One of my goals on this trip was to see if we could do the whole thing without using a car. I couldn’t stand the irony of being dropped off by a car at one end of the state and be picked up on the other side by car — effectively driving twice across the state — to do an “eco-friendly” bike ride. So, I think we’ve figured it out. To get to Milwaukee, we’re taking Badger Bus from Johnson Creek (about a 15 mile ride from home) to Milwaukee’s bus depot, about 3 miles from where we’re staying the 3rd Ward. Badger Bus is a very bike-friendly company — no box needed — just throw your bike (gently) in the luggage hold and give the drive $10 extra.

That’s a great plan as long as you leave for the bus on time. Both Lori and I had really busy Wednesdays. Rushing back home, I spaced it on the time management and only gave us just over an hour to get to Johnson Creek. Doable, but not the leisurely afternoon ride that I promised Lori and not the relaxed start to the trip she wanted. So, a bit of excitement as we headed north pedaling and drafting as fast as we could go. With Lori grumbling at my math skills, we made it just in time (caught the 5:45 pm bus in arriving at 7 pm).

After the uneventful bus ride, we met Jeff Zimmerman at the bus depot and he took us on a hair-raising ride through the streets of downtown. We dodged cars, buses, potholes, and one horse and buggy on the way east. In the 3rd Ward, we met John and Linda at their place, stashed the bikes, and headed to Cafe Benelux for a beer and some dinner (ever tried “pannenkocken?”).

Thanks to John and Linda for letting us stay at their place!