Day 33 - La Crosse to Mauston WI
Mileage: 78 miles
Weather: Mid 60s to start. Upper 70s to end. Winds out of the NW. Rain.
Highlights of the day:
Weather was a key player in today’s ride. As of last night, the forecast was more doom & gloom. The route features a stretch on packed gravel road. Packed gravel road and thunderstorms don’t make a good match. Based on the inaccuracy of the forecasts from yesterday, we decided to make the go / no go call on the bike trail in the morning. The rain held off until almost noon. We rode the bike path. Some rode all of it. Others were politely asked to move to the road after some of the front riders found a mile long extremely slippery stretch. Something about the combination of well packed dirt, some rain and a bit of moss. It was described as ice. That’s not something we want to knowingly ride on.
We headed out of La Crosse on two-lane farm roads. Sound familiar? And guess what we saw…. Corn, soybeans, cows, and some horses. It was very pleasant. Winds were mostly behind us and we all flew into the first SAG stop in the town of Sparta. Sparta is the self-professed capital of bicycling in the US. I’m not quite sure why other than an amazing rail trail and a really big penny-farthing with Ben Cycling perched on its seat. Quick side bar, penny-farthing is the old fashioned bicycle with a really large front wheel and a tiny back wheel. Its name comes from the British coins, penny and farthing, and their relative sizes. Who knew??
Out of Sparta we entered the Elroy-Sparta bike trail. It’s one of the first rail trail projects in the US. The trail is packed gravel, but the surface is as good or better than some of the roads we’ve ridden. It runs through woods, often under a full canopy of trees, and well away from roads. We walked our bikes through up to three converted railway tunnels (see weather note above), one of them over a mile long. Bikes are walked because the tunnels don’t have lights. Riders carry flashlights to find their way. Some of us geeks quoted the King of the Dead from the third book of the Lord of the Rings, proclaiming that “The dead do not suffer the living to pass” as we entered the cool dark cavern. Others just shook their heads at us and walked on.
After the SAG, we had 15 more miles and the big climb of the day. It was less than a mile but with grades up to 9%, it was noticed. We finished the day on farmland rollers into Mauston. Oh and we rode in the rain. It definitely found us after 2nd SAG. No lightning. Just steady wet. It actually helped clean the mud off the bikes. So that’s a good thing, yes?