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First Day in Eastern Daylight Time

After a very short and un-relaxing day off (in addition to all the moving, we lost an hour due to the time change) we had a long ride today of 112 miles, that was increased to 118 because of some road work. Out here, a detour takes you 3 miles out and 3 miles back due to the lack of roads. The first 10 miles or so we were riding parallel to Lake Michigan through sand dune type areas, reminded me of riding on Eastern Long Island. The rest of the ride was very nice rolling hills, just a LOT of them. Very strong winds out of the SSW, so when we were heading east, it gave a little push, but when heading south, it produced a VERY strong head-wind. Although we are still in farm country, 2 new items were added to our repertoire, Apples and Cherries. Not as much dairy farming as in Wisconsin. We expected the roads to be horrible, as one of the riders lives near Ann Arbor, and had given us dire predictions of the roads, but they are okay. Not as good as the roads in Wisconsin, where the secondary and even the tertiary roads were all very good. The roads in Wisconsin have an odd naming convention: Primary-State roads are Numbered, Secondary-County roads are named with Letters-CR A (County Road A), Tertiary roads are named with Double Letters-CR AA, nice to be back with just numbers. So, counting today’s century, we have done 7 centuries (6 planned plus one that was 99 miles by design, but a construction detour made it 105) plus one day of 97 miles, out of 33 days of riding. The next 2 days in Michigan are relativity short, and fairly flat, before we go into Canada.

alan

Cherry Trees! they are laoded with cherries

Cherry Trees! they are loaded with cherries

nice Michigan farm

Nice Michigan farm

Big Jackson Public School, not quite one room, but...

Big Jackson Public School, not quite one room, but…

Itried to get them to turn around, but I guess they were giving me their opinion of people who ride cross country on their bikes

I tried to get them to turn around, but I guess they were giving me their opinion of people who ride cross country on their bikes

Farm with Wheat ready to harvest

Farm with wheat ready to harvest

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Ferry Across Lake Michigan

Monday was Rest Day #4, what is called a “Traveling Rest Day”. This means we took a ferry across Lake Michigan from Wisconsin to Michigan. We only biked a total of about 7 miles to and from, but it was NOT a very restful day, as we spent a lot of time waiting around, and didn’t to our hotel until close to 8:00 PM. The ferry is huge as it holds cars, trucks, and just about anything else,the last thing they loaded looked like a cylindrical vat of some kind, that was about twice as wide as the flat-bed truck it was loaded on. Apparently this ferry was built in 1953 to transport railroad cars across the lake, but no longer does that. It is powered by a coal fired steam engine, so every year the EPA tries to shut it down as the crossing uses about 2 trailer truck loads of coal, you can imagine the pollution it creates. The crossing lasted about 4 hours and we were not able to see land for close to 3 of those 4 hours. But here we are in Michigan, Eastern Daylight Time. Tomorrow is the LAST century of this trip, we are all happy about that.

Two unexpected occurrences re-enforced why one does a trip like this with a support group. Sunday at the sag stop, one of the Carbon Fiber bikes was leaning against a tree and blew over in the wind. Normally when a bike falls, the handlebars absorb the brunt of the fall, but this time, the seat tube, the upright leg of a triangle frame, hit a curb, and cracked, making it unrideable. Luckily, they carry an extra bike, which they adjusted so he could ride to the day’s hotel. He lives in the Chicago area,  so a friend was driving his “spare bike” up today. Today, my room-mate, Curt, blew out the side wall of his brand new tire, and possibly ruined his rim. Within minutes, the van was there, they fit a spare wheel with his gears, and we were back on the road. In both cases we’re not sure if the frame or the rim are salvageable. Nice to have support.

alan

The S.S.Badger entering Manitowoc Harbor

The S.S.Badger entering Manitowoc Harbor

a tanker trailer coming of the Badger

a tanker trailer coming of the Badger

all of our bikes corralled on the Badger

all of our bikes corralled on the Badger

Good-bye Wisconsin

Good-bye Wisconsin

Hello Michigan!

Hello Michigan!

On the Badger

On the Badger

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To the Shores of Lake Michigan

The last 2 days have been really pleasant riding. After leaving Wisconsin Dells we spent Saturday night in Fond du Lac, with is on the southern end of Lake Winnebago, and tonight we are in Manitowoc. It is possible that Wisconsin has been the nicest state we have ridden through. Nice roads, few long climbs, nice rolling hills, dairy farms and corn everywhere, and wildflowers almost always alongside the road. It has been a very pleasing few days. On the way to Fond du Lac we stopped at the “Best Fried Brat” stand in Wisconsin, just a photo op for me! I can also begin to understand how much the Packers are like a religion up here, their logo and colors are EVERYWHERE. Last night I dined with friends of ours, Jean and Alan Hilgeman, who we see every year in Jamaica. They live in Southern Wisconsin. Very nice of them to drive up to meet me, and we had a lot of fun at dinner and walking by the lake. Tomorrow is a rest day, though we actually have to bike to and from the ferry across Lake Michigan, so I am not sure what the plan is, and how relaxing a day it will turn out to be. I am excited about the ferry, a 4 hour ride, and for a lot of that time you are not able to sight land. We also cross back into Eastern Daylight Time, I am beginning to smell the Atlantic Ocean!

alan

Farm near Wisconsin Dells

Farm near Wisconsin Dells

Waterfall near SAG Stop in Montello, Wisconsin

Waterfall near SAG Stop in Montello, Wisconsin

Montello Movie Theater, "Planet of the Apes", really?

Montello Movie Theater, “Planet of the Apes”, really?

Welcome to Wisconsin

Welcome to Wisconsin

Full view of the Brat Fry

Full view of the Brat Fry

No doubt as to who this town roots for

No doubt as to who this town roots for

Jean and Alan Hilgeman with me on the shores of Lake Winnebago

Jean and Alan Hilgeman with me on the shores of Lake Winnebago

Lighthouse on Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Lighthouse on Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Our first sighting of Lake Michigan

Our first sighting of Lake Michigan

Small Wisconsin Dairy Farm. All I said was, "Say Cheese", and they all looked at me.

Small Wisconsin Dairy Farm. All I said was, “Say Cheese”, and they all looked at me.

 

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What the Heck is a Dell, Anyway?

So here we are in Wisconsin Dells, which is kind of like the the Jersey Shore, T-shirt shops, Mini Golf, Amusement Parks, lots of fast food, Water Parks, LOTS of teenagers, but NO ocean. The 2 questions of the day are: #1-what is a dell, after all, a farmer can be in one? #2-how many ears are on the average stalk of corn? answers at the end. The ride today was real interesting as we rode for 32 miles on a “Rails to Trails” bike path from Sparta to Elroy. These paths are converted rail beds, so the grade is always minimal for climbing or descending, and they go THROUGH mountains, not OVER them We walked through 3 tunnels, one of which is a mile long, the other 2 were shorter. You need to walk as they are narrow, the floor is rutted and wet from condensation, and there are NO lights, so you need to hold a flashlight or use a bike headlight. I thought they would be a bit creepy, but they were really kind of cool. The first one was just exposed UN-smoothed rock, whereas the next 2 were more finished. The trail itself is what is called “hard pack”, which is basically compressed gravel, so you can ride on it, but not that quickly. But the trail itself was lovely as we didn’t have to watch for vehicles, and we were basically riding through woods. The rest of the ride was through rolling hills, but with Glacier Cut rock outcropping popping up from time to time. Interesting how our group of riders has bonded. One of the couples has a major problem at home with one of their children, and as they were talking about possibly leaving the ride, they refereed to us as “family”, and how supportive we were for them. Pretty nice since we only met 35 days ago, but hen again, together we have climbed mountains, traversed prairies, and crossed 2/3 of the continent.                                                                                                                                                  Answers: #1-A dell is like a gorge that was cut, usually by glaciers, and has water at the bottom. #2-The average Corn stalk has 2 or 3 ears. Seems like a LOT of work for 2 or 3 ears of corn!

alan

Farm near La Crosse, Wiscoson

Farm near La Crosse, Wisconsin

Trail head near Sparta, which calls itself the Bicycle Capital of the World,

Trail head near Sparta, which calls itself the Bicycle Capital of the World,

Entrance to the First Tunnel

Entrance to the First Tunnel

Exiting from the last tunnel, with the Glacial Rock Formation, and Great Hanging Vegetation

Exiting from the last tunnel, with the Glacial Rock Formation, and Great Hanging Vegetation

Sparta to Elroy Bike Trail

Sparta to Elroy Bike Trail

Glacially Carved Rock Formation

Glacially Carved Rock Formation

Beautiful Barn and Surrounding Builings

Beautiful Barn and Surrounding Buildings

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East of the Mississippi

Wow, here I am on the EAST side of the Mississippi River. What a great day of riding; beautiful rolling hills, some very nice climbs, gorgeous scenery, great sag locations, and perfect temperatures. First, about the weather, normally the high temp for this day of riding is in the mid 90’s with high humidity, today was in the mid 70’s with moderate humidity, how lucky we are. The terrain took us through rolling ups and downs with farms, and the occasional small town. We were on a Bike Path along the Root River for about 13 miles, through heavily wooded areas, then into open fields, very nice. Near the end of the day, at mile 70, we had a mile long steep climb, but once we reached the top, we were on this plateau that looked out over beautiful valleys for about 8 miles. We then descended into the Mississippi River Valley, and crossed into Wisconsin. Even the sag locations were great, the first by a stream with a little waterfall. The second was at a cafe that made the best fruit smoothies, so even though I generally don’t eat something like that during a ride, I did have a “Triple Berry” smoothie.

There seems something monumental about crossing the Mississippi, like we have crossed the sacred waters of America. It also seems like we are clearly entering the homestretch, even though we have another 16 days of riding to go.

Thought I would mention something about the food on this trip. It has clearly been a challenge for the staff to properly feed the 3 vegetarians on the trip. Sometimes they strike out, like tonight at the “North Country Buffet”. But sometimes they really do well. Last night was catered in the hotel, we had pasta with sauce, a veggie burger on top, salad, and the best cooked broccoli I have had on this trip, not overdone so it gets that grey-green color, not sitting in hot water, but perfectly cooked, with a little oil, it was great.

lots of photos tonight, hope you enjoy

alan

first sag stop

first sag stop

second sag stop in the town of Houston, Minnesota

second sag stop in the town of Houston, Minnesota

small farm on today's route

small farm on today’s route

Church near the town of Rushford

Church near the town of Rushford, Minnesota

rolling hills

rolling hills

view looking into the valley

view looking into the valley

the Root River from the bike path

the Root River from the bike path

Wisconsin-state #6

Wisconsin-state #6

Bridge over the Mississippi River

Bridge over the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River

The Mississippi River

Sunset over the Mississippi

Sunset over the Mississippi

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Back to Back Centuries

So here we are in Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic, and Minnesota’s 3rd Largest city. The ride here was beautiful, rolling hills, farms, nice small towns. The weather was great, slight wind out of the north, temps in the 70’s. It was the second day of back to back centuries, something I haven’t done in a long time. So let me try to tell you what it is like for me to spend approx 8 hours ( including stops) to ride 100 miles.

Load is at 7:00 AM-put your bags in the truck and go. The first 20 miles are great, as the air is fresh and the sun has that nice early morning glow, and we generally lave in a group. After 20 miles or so, I usually start riding by myself as I want to stop to take photos, or don’t want to maintain the pace of others, or I simply choose not to ride in a group. Then the head games begin, a song pops into my brain, I look at the scenery, I try NOT to look at the odometer too often as a “watched odometer never gets you there”! I think about stuff: life, family, work, what’s next on this trip, where might our next vacation be, all while still paying attention to where I am going, and staying safe on my bike The repetitiveness of cycling always help me think. I often do “head math”; I’m 25% there, I’m half-way there, at this pace I will arrive by 2:00 PM. Then a different song will pop into my brain, and I hold onto that for a while. In a funny kind of a way, a route with hills makes that day seem to go quicker, because I am focused on climbing and descending without a spot for any thing else in my brain . Reaching the half-way point is a biggy, as then I start calculating a more realistic arrival time. And then, miraculously, there are 30 miles to go, at which point I can “feel” the finish. We joke that, like eating in the dark so the calories don’t count, the last 10 miles hardly count. However, it seems that there is always a climb at mile 90 or so, and in the larger cities, a lot of navigating to get to the hotel, when you just want to BE THERE!

Anyway, tomorrow is only 88 miles, so it will be a shorter day, but there are lots of climbs and descents, so it should go quickly.

alan

Clear Lake in Waseca, Minnesota

Clear Lake in Waseca, Minnesota

typical farm in Minnesota

typical farm in Minnesota

fields of corn

field of corn

Sag stop with mural as bike rest

Sag stop with mural as bike rest

Main Street, West Concord, Minnesota

Main Street, West Concord, Minnesota

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Mankato, Minnesota

Tough day for me today, 2 flats as a result of a slight tear in my rear tire, so we lost lots of time while I tended to them. We rode 110 miles with an unfavorable wind, either coming from over our left shoulder, so not really a tail but a cross wind, or when we headed North, directly into the wind. The temperature however has been wonderful, 50 degrees when we load, mid 70’s as a high-in July! And naturally, we made it, and after all, part of biking is overcoming the adversity you find along the way. We are definitely in an area of the country that makes things, either agricultural, or by-products of farming. Almost every town we went through has train tracks, with factories, or grain facilities. As for the country side itself, as one rider said as he passed me, “a whole lot of nothing”, just acres of corn, soy beans, and hog farms. Tomorrow is another 100 mile day, but hopefully I will have better luck with my tires.

alan

The Des Moines River as it wind through Windom, Minnesota. Not the grain elevator in the background

The Des Moines River as it wind through Windom, Minnesota. Note the grain elevator in the background

Tending the Soy Bean crop

Tending the Soy Bean crop

Train and grain elevator in the town of Madelia, Minnesota

Train and grain elevator in the town of Madelia, Minnesota

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Welcome to the Midwest

Today we left South Dakota and entered Minnesota. The 2 states feel different somehow. South Dakota, though definitely NOT the West like Wyoming, still retained some Western feel. Minnesota clearly feels like the Midwest. The towns in Minnesota look like people live in them, unlike South Dakota where every small town we went through looked like it was struggling to survive. The farms are looking like farms I would recognize with fields surrounding the homestead with farm buildings., the houses look nice, and there are trees. In Wyoming and South Dakota trees are incredibly uncommon, whereas today, they were fairly common.

We left Sioux Falls by riding out of town past the Falls, very nice way to leave the cit, and see the falls one more time. The weather today is crazy, with temps in the 70’s as a high, and winds out of the NNW at 20+ miles an hour. We saw BIRDS struggling to fly into the wind! Not much of a tail wind, more of a crosswind, as we are heading directly East, but it made it  difficult at times to stay on your bike when a gust would blow across. Nice terrain, mostly flat with some rolling hills. Tomorrow is a long day, 110 miles with an early load at 6:30AM.

alan

Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls

Welcome to Minnesota

Welcome to Minnesota

Main Street, Luverne, Minnesota

Main Street, Luverne, Minnesota

Farm near Adrian, Minnesota

Farm near Adrian, Minnesota

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Day Off #3-Hard to Believe I’m that far into the Trip

So here I am in Sioux Falls on Rest Day #3, along with Peg, who finally arrived after a few canceled and/or delayed flights, but to me it didn’t matter when she got here as it was wonderful to see her, and to spend the weekend together. It felt like being at home.

Peg and Me at luch

Peg and me at lunch

Reflecting back on the is past leg of trip, it was probably the toughest 8 days of riding of the trip, almost 700 miles-including 2 centuries with one in close to 100 degree heat, a fair amount of climbing including one day with close to 6,000 feet of climbing, and as an extra bonus, a couple of days with strong head winds. This is also the period where that first exuberance of doing the trip has sort of worn off, and some days just seemed like hard work, but as the Grateful Dead said, “at least I’m enjoying the Ride”. But I got through it, feel strong, and look forward to the balance of the trip.  One other rider dropped out this week, and 2 left as a planned exit in Sioux Falls, so we are a slightly smaller group.

Let me say a word about the staff, and the concept of a supported ride versus a self-supported ride. First the staff. Six people, a leader-Jeff, a meal/logistics person-Judy, a route person-Karen, a health person-Pam, 2 mechanics-Jim and Mike, who also does “color commentary” every night at rap about the town/area we are in. These people work really hard to always make us feel like we are safe and sound, even when, while on my bike, I can see NO other people either looking forward or back for as far as the eye can see! It really is quite a feat. In addition, they are always upbeat and enthusiastic, even when they know what lies ahead, as they have all traveled this route MANY times. Before I left for this trip, people would ask me, “why not go on your own?”. It never occurred to me that we would pass through areas of the country where there are 45 miles between a store, in a town of 50 people. How lovely to see the ABB van waiting to give you food, water, or just that little word of support to get you “home” for the night.

Tomorrow it is on to Minnesota and then Wisconsin, with this upcoming leg culminating in a ferry ride across Lake Michigan. I feel good and it should be a great week of riding!

alan

Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls

Peg and Me at Sioux Falls

Peg and me at Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls

 

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Sioux City, End of the Third Segment

NO photos of Cornfields today, though we rode through ENDLESS Fields on our way from Mitchell to Sioux Falls. Nice ride, 73 miles, not much climbing, and once again, the weather seemed to cooperate. There were bands of thunderstorms North of us, and South of us, but we rode in this corridor between for almost the entire ride, with a few showers as we entered Sioux Falls. You can tell when you are in an agricultural area, as the buildings in the small towns take on a functionality unique to grain or corn, and the processing and transporting of those crops. Each small town has big metal silos, and grain elevators for loading either trucks or fright trains.

Grain elevator building

Grain elevator building

SAG Stop in the heartland

SAG Stop in the heartland

In the town of Canistota, we watched a kid’s tractor pull, where the little kids get on a tractor like tricycle kinda thing, and try to drag this sled with weights on it. Serious business for the kids, as we were told that they seriously train for this, we tried to recruit them to ride cross country in a few years, but there were no takers. Interestingly, there is a sizable Mennonite population in this area, and they are in the background watching the event. Welcome to the heartland of America!

Day off tomorrow, Peg is flying in, should be here in time for supper if the airlines don’t mess things up more than they already have.

alan

Canistota, South Dakota-Girl's Tractor Pull

Canistota, South Dakota-Girl’s Tractor Pull

Canistota, South Dakota-Boy's Tractor Pull

Canistota, South Dakota-Boy’s Tractor Pull

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