Day 33 - La Crosse to Mauston WI
Mileage: 76 miles
Weather: Mid 60s to start. Low 70s to end. Winds out of the SSW.
Highlights of the day:
We headed out of La Crosse on two-lane farm roads. Sound familiar? And guess what we saw…. Corn, soybeans, cows, and some horses. Oh and sandhill cranes! That was new and we hope to see more tomorrow. It was very pleasant. Winds were cross to rear quartering and we all made good time 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??
We are in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is known for its cheese. So when in Rome (or Sparta), we felt very obligated to serve cheese curds. Salty, cheesy goodness that is a byproduct of producing cheese. If fresh and served at the right temperature, it is squeaky goodness as well. Those in the know quickly found them on the table and went after them. Those new to the concept looked on skeptically but eventually tried a few. I don’t think anyone was disappointed.
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. I should clarify that it was mostly packed except when we rode through some newly repaired sections of the trail. In those areas, it was a little soft and a little more fun for those with narrower tires. The trail runs through woods, often under a full canopy of trees, and well away from roads. We walked our bikes through two converted railway tunnels, 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.
We usually stay on the path all the way into Elroy but strong storms last fall caused some serious flood damage so we had to exit the trail in Wilton and head out onto Hwy 71. Missing one of the tunnels means we added one more climb. It wasn’t the steep kind like we had yesterday on the way into La Crosse but it was enough to get our attention. It slowed us down a bit but gave us some really nice views of the rolling farmland around us.
SAG 2 had more cheese, this time with crackers (see note above about being in Wisconsin). It also had spread of home-baked goodies and gourmet sweet & savory popcorn from relatives of two of our riders. We love something new at SAG any time on the tour but after the halfway point, anything from home or a friend is very much appreciated and devoured with great pleasure. HINT HINT! 😛
After the SAG, we had 15 more miles and one more climb to make it to Culver’s for milkshakes and perhaps a burger. We’re working hard out here and fuel is essential. Does it have to be chocolate? No. But some of us think it helps.