It is equipped with:
I left Springfield, VA (about 10 miles southwest of Washington, DC) at 10:30 am EDT, heading north on the Fairfax County Parkway (County Highway 7100), a four-lane with a paved bike path along most of it. I then headed west on US 50, which is a nice highway, and newly-paved, but it's speed limit 55, and has way too many cars and trucks for safe biking. There was a big horse show running in Upperville, VA, in fact the oldest horse show in the entire US, now in its 150th year. That's kind of cool. Upperville is also the home of Sandy Lerner, one of the founders of Cisco Systems. I arrived at the Holiday Inn in Winchester, VA (about 70 miles northwest of DC) at 5:45 pm.
The distance for this first leg of the trip was 69.3 miles, actual travel time 6 hours and 27 minutes, for an average speed of about 10.7 mph! The weather was beautiful all day, sunny and warm. After checking into the hotel, it was off to the IHOP for dinner: French toast, hash browns and a chocolate shake!
I hit the road at about 10:00 am EDT, continuing west on US 50. It was raining, and after about a half-mile I decided to trade my tracksuit top for a rain poncho. I pulled over to the side of the road, but couldn't get the tracksuit top off, because the zipper was jammed! So there I was, using a pliers to get the thing off, which I finally did (ruining the zipper in the process).
Newly-attired in my orange rain poncho, I made it about another half-mile before *literally* hitting the road. I encountered a wet railroad track at about a thirty degree angle, and down I went! My first bicycle crash in over twenty years. Now I know why they teach you to cross railroad tracks at *ninety degrees* (perpendicular to the tracks) in motorcycle safety courses! Since I was only going about 10 mph I got off easy: no damage done to the bike, and no permanent damage to me, just a skinned left elbow and bruised left hip. If I had been going faster it could have been much worse.
I then headed northbound on US 522 (a nice four-lane with wide paved shoulders), then headed westward on VA 127 (two lanes, with no shoulder to speak of, but fewer cars). At the West Virginia border, VA 127 becomes WV 127.
After riding a few miles on WV 127, I came upon Bloomery, which wasn't on my map ...
After a few more miles on WV 127, I turned north on WV 29 (two lanes, no shoulder), which then becomes WV 9 (also two lanes, no shoulder) and takes you down a long hill into Paw Paw, WV. While on that long downhill, I passed this sign:
Just north of Paw Paw, I crossed the border into Maryland, at which point WV 9 becomes MD 51. And there seems to be some confusion here on how things are spelled. I'm about to hit the "Allegheny" mountains, but I just entered "Allegany" county. Whatever ...
Cumberland, MD lies on the northern Maryland border (between Morgantown, WV and Hagerstown, MD), and upon arriving I stopped at McDonald's for some French fries (warm and salty ... yum!). Then it was on to the Cumberland Holiday Inn, arriving at 6:20 pm EDT.
The distance for this leg of the trip was 66.8 miles, actual travel time 6 hours and 28 minutes, for an average speed of about 10.3 mph. A little slower than yesterday's pace, but there were more hills. And it rained almost the entire way. Hopefully tomorrow will be drier. Total distance to this point: 136.1 miles.
I left Cumberland at about 10:30 am EDT, heading west on Braddock Road towards La Vale, MD, at which point Braddock Road intersects Alt US 40. Just before making the turn onto US 40, I felt a "thump-thump-thump". Yep, my rear tire was flat. After I fixed that (changing a rear tire with loaded saddle bags is a little tricky!), I went westbound on Alt US 40. Nice wide shoulder on US 40, until Frostburg, MD, in which there were many parked cars sitting on it.
The fog was so thick between Frostburg and Grantsville, MD that I could hardly see the road.
Right before Grantsville the fog cleared, and the rain began. A fifteen minute downpour, just enough to leave me thoroughly soaked (again). Just after crossing the Casselman River Bridge (just east of Grantsville) the rain stopped, and the sun (yes, the sun!) peeked out for about thirty seconds. Just enough to say "I could be shining ... but I'm not!" Then it was on to Keyser's Ridge, MD, and into Pennsylvania.
By this point, I had climbed more and longer hills than anywhere ever, and there is a long downhill leading to the Youghiogheny River bridge.
On this one, I could smell my front brakes smoking! That's a dangerous thing on a bicycle that has rim-acting brakes, because if the rims get hot enough, the innertube will blow!
After climbing the corresponding hill on the other side, I headed through Flat Rock, PA. I didn't see any rock, and it's not really flat ... it's just less hilly than everything else! About fifteen miles further west I climbed the last long hill, and then it was several miles downhill to Uniontown. And by "downhill", I mean *DOWNHILL* ... it was posted with multiple warning signs:
For this one I stopped several times to check my brakes and rims. Since they were too hot to touch, I cooled them off in a few convenient puddles. I finally got into Uniontown at about 9:45 pm EDT, which was well after dark, and since I don't have a headlight, shame on me! I spotted a Pizza Hut on the way to the hotel, and after procuring a small pizza to go, I was off to the Uniontown Holiday Inn, pizza in hand. When I got there, another guest inquired as to whether I was the pizza delivery guy. I answered him by eating a slice right there at the front desk!
The distance for this leg of the trip was 68.2 miles, actual travel time 8 hours and 44 minutes, for an average speed of about 7.8 mph. That's much slower than yesterday's pace, but there were WAY more hills! And it was either raining or foggy pretty much the whole trip. And did I mention HILLS? Alt US 40 from Cumberland to Uniontown is a nice road, but not to be taken lightly. Of the 68 miles, it seems that half of them were spent traveling vertically ... and more up than down! Total distance to this point: 204.3 miles.
After adjusting my brakes (or what was left of them!), I departed Uniontown, heading westbound on Alt US 40 at about 10:30 am EDT. Since the weather had been so crummy the past two days, there hadn't been many pedestrians out and about, but today there were quite a few. I had a nice chat regarding bikes with a young guy in Brownsville, PA. Several guys commented on my bike, but the gals don't seem to pay it much attention. Maybe I'd have better luck impressing the women if I was doing the trip in a Corvette!
Not much of a shoulder on Alt US 40 until I hit the bridge over the Mononagahela River, just west of Brownsville, PA. Speaking of the bridge, watch those cross-winds! After crossing the bridge (which had a nice shoulder), it was a long uphill into Centerville, PA. Several miles of this part was under construction, and they had removed the top layer of the road, so the driving lanes were very bumpy. The nicely-paved shoulder was strewn with rocks from the ongoing construction. Given the choice between bumpy driving lane (and cars doing sixty!) and a bumpy shoulder, I chose the shoulder. Just as I was starting to think that it was really a drag to have to constantly be on the lookout for crash-provoking rocks, a street-sweeper came up behind me ... sweeping the shoulder! Just for me, I'm sure! As I pulled off into the weeds he passed me by, taking care of the problem quite nicely. Way to go, PennDOT!
About eight miles east of Washington, PA, I glanced to my right, and there was a rooster, running along the road beside me. Being a pretty big bird, with a bright red comb on top of his head, he looked like the Road Runner! He wasn't very speedy, though ... at eight mph I pulled away from him with no trouble! Maybe a mile or two down the road, I spotted a woodchuck sitting on the shoulder. I greeted him with a "Hello!", and he scampered off into the trees. Do you suppose it was something I said? Anyway, after enjoying Alt US 40's nice shoulder all the way to Washington, PA, I turned north in Washington onto US 19, and arrived at the Meadowlands Holiday Inn at 4:30 pm EDT.
The distance for this leg of the trip was 40.3 miles, actual travel time 4 hours and 53 minutes, for an average speed of 8.3 mph. Unlike the first three days, today was a little breezy. Mostly a headwind, but it changed quite unpredictably, which is always interesting on a bike. On the plus side, however, the sun (there's that word again!) was out something like half the time, and there was no rain! No fog, even! With temps in the 70's, it was nearly a perfect day. Today had no shortage of hills, but unlike yesterday's fun-fest (NOT!), I could climb *some* of them without resorting to the lowest of my bike's twenty-four gears. Total distance to this point: 244.6 miles.
I left the hotel at 9:40 am EDT, heading southbound from Meadowlands to Washington, PA on US 19. I stopped in at Volpatti's Cycles, where Nathan gave my bike a quick checkup (no problems noted).
After that, I headed west on PA 844 (a two-lane with a decent shoulder) towards Wolfdale, PA. Along the way, I saw several signs like this one ...
When I first saw a sign like that last one, I thought that they meant "Watch out for stagecoaches crossing". Later, I found that they actually meant "Watch out for horse-drawn carts travelling down (not just across!) the road." I took PA 331 west (a two-lane with no shoulder, but so few cars it didn't matter) towards Bethany, WV.
Just before crossing PA 231 I heard the sound that strikes terror into a cyclist's heart ... "Arf! Arf! Bark!" Yep, a canine cruise-missile, closing on an intercept course! I could see him in my rear-view mirror, so I increased speed from 10 mph to 15. Still closing. Up to 20 mph. Still closing. At 21 mph (good thing for me I wasn't going uphill!), he was holding position right behind me. Since "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear", he was maybe three feet from my left calf. Lucky for me that he was too busy running and barking to do any biting! We went on flying in formation like this for a tenth of a mile, then another, and another. I realize that 21 mph is not all that fast on the four-footed speed scale (cheetahs have been clocked at 60-plus), but Fido kept it up for several blocks. Not a bad performance by that big brown dog. A possible Triple-Crown winner, maybe! By the end of it I was cheering him on!
As many of you know, I'm a cat person. Actually, I'm an animal person, and, as such, I also like dogs. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Many of them bark when they see a bicyclist, and some bark more than others. A few of them will chase you, some just because they think it's fun, and others because they think it's their job. Some know that they're not supposed to chase you, but they want to soooooo bad. You can see it in the way they run halfway out to the road, and then start bounding up and down, or running in circles.
When meeting a new dog for the first time, I like to ask him or her some questions, such as:
Just after crossing VA 231 the pavement on VA 331 got a little rougher, but not enough to be obnoxious. Another mile or two down the road I saw a large brown bird take flight, with a wingspan of at least five feet. A pteradactyl, perhaps? There was a stream running along the road, and somewhere in here I spotted a footbridge that crossed it:
Since it looked kind of precarious, I opted not to cycle across and see what lay on the other side! At the West Virginia border PA 331 becomes WV 67 (still no shoulder, but it didn't matter), and along in here I came upon "Fedak's Tattoos and Body Piercing" ...
Then it was on into Bethany, WV, where I stopped at the General Store to chat and guzzle chocolate milk. After that, I went westbound on WV 67 towards Wellsburg, WV, and then turned northbound onto US 2 (not much shoulder, but not many cars, either).
That left me with about ten miles to go ... or so I thought. Near Follansbee, WV I had to detour eastbound onto WV 27 to get around construction on US 2, marking the beginning of a five mile long uphill climb. After a roundabout ride (sharing a winding two-lane road with all of the cars, trucks and schoolbuses that should have been using US 2) through the WV countryside, I ended up a few miles east of Weirton, WV at US 22. Hmmm ... US 22 is a freeway (on which bicycles are prohibited), so what to do?
I did what any red-blooded American male would do: I broke the law! Hey, it was only two exits westbound to Weirton (with no Smokeys in sight!), so I made a dash for it. Upon arriving in Weirton, I stopped in at the Dairy Queen for an ice-cream freeze and directions to the Holiday Inn. Imagine my delight when they told me that the Holiday Inn was two exits *east* on US 22 ... back the way I came, in the forbidden freeway zone! In other words, had I gone east on the freeway after the detour, I could have saved myself several miles of illicit riding (but I would have missed the Dairy Queen!). Oh, well. I got back on US 22 (eastbound this time, and looking for cops all the way!), and found the hotel, arriving at 4:45 pm EDT.
The distance for this leg of the trip was 56.9 miles, actual travel time 5 hours and 43 minutes, for an average speed of 10.0 mph. Despite the detour and freeway escapades, it was a good ride. The weather was beautiful: sunny, warm, just the hint of a breeze. Oh, and with the exception of the detour, things were much flatter. Not so flat as to be boring, but not a constant low-gear grind, either. And I received several compliments on my bike, including one from a girl at the Dairy Queen! Total distance to this point: 301.5 miles.
I left the hotel at about 9:45 am EDT, and after a long downhill, found my way blocked by a train (the first I had encountered):
After the train passed, I arrived in downtown Weirton, WV, and that's where it happened ... the moment I've been waiting for all of my life. Yes, I suddenly found myself surrounded by cheerleaders! Yep, three beautiful cheerleaders, and all of them vying for *my* attention! After a little fast-talking I managed to extricate myself from their clutches, and dodged into the nearby Kroger grocery store, leaving them squealing and giggling around my bike.
When I came out of the store, they were still waiting for me, along with several of their attractive female relatives! Yep, it was like a dream come true ... and I have photos to prove it! Oh, did I mention that the cheerleaders were fifth graders (eleven years old)? And that their "attactive relatives" were their moms? Nevertheless, it's not every day that a guy finds himself surrounded by cheerleaders, whatever their ages. And the fact that they they were camped out in front of the grocery store fundraising for their cheerleading squad (yes, I made a donation!) doesn't diminish things, does it?
After saying goodbye to the cheerleaders (and their Moms!), I headed across the Ohio River via the Freedom Way bridge to Steubenville, OH, where I picked up OH 43 westbound.
Traveling through Steubenville involved climbing a long hill to get out of the Ohio River valley. At the beginning of the hill there is no shoulder on OH 43, but there was a sidewalk alongside it, so I decided to be clever and ride on the sidewalk. All was well until I got partway up the hill, at which point there was a series of steps, and a fence preventing me from getting back to US 43. So, I had to carry my bike up seventy (yes, I counted them!) steps. So much for clever ...
Steubenville, as you may know, is the birthplace of Dean Martin. You remember Dino ... "Everybody loves somebody, sometime!" And speaking of the famous children of Steubenville, what female movie star hailed from Steubenville? Give up? Here's a hint ... she told the producers that she was eighteen, when she was really only sixteen. Still stumped? Why, it's former "adult film" actress Traci Lords, of course!
Further on up the hill, I stopped in at a service station for liquid refreshment, and had a nice chat with Tom, another customer. He told me that one of his relatives was in the process of *hiking* across the country (I'd calculate that would take about four months). Guess I'm not the only crazy person out here.
Then it was on the way on OH 43 west through Wintersville, Richmond, Fairfield, East Springfield, Amsterdam, Harlan Springs and Carrollton, as the shoulder on OH 43 varied from excellent to nonexistent. Just north of Carrollton I turned west onto OH 171 (no shoulder, but fewer cars) towards New Harrisburg. Somewhere between New Harrisburg and Waynesburg I encounted my first Ohio redneck, who took the trouble to lean out of the passenger window to advise me to "Get off my f***ing road!" This despite the fact that I was on the shoulder, and there were no other cars within sight. Too bad that all of my luggage carrying capacity was filled with things like clothes, spare inner tubes, and the like, and I had no room for even a single Hellfire missile. The Hellfire, as you may recall, was used to good effect against Iraqi bad guys traveling in ground vehicles. One of those would teach Mr. Redneck to show a little courtesy towards bicyclists in the future!
Following this exciting interlude I headed north through Waynesburg, where I caught OH 43 northbound for Canton, OH. After cruising through Canton (the first nearly level roads I'd seen since leaving Virginia), I stopped for a cookie and directions at the "Fast Times Deli-Mart" (North Canton, at the intersection of 55th Street NW and Market Avenue North). I chatted with the proprietors (Ryllis and Randy Chandler) for a few minutes about my journey, and was about to be on my way, when Ryllis came running out carrying a "Pepperoni Roll" (made with bread, cheese and pepperoni, sort of like a rolled-up pizza). I tucked it into one of my saddle bags (for later snacking!), and then followed their excellent directions to the Holiday Inn.
With about two blocks to go (I could see the sign), I encountered my second Ohio redneck, this college-age gentleman actually leaning halfway out of the *driver's side* window to scream obscenities ... and he was on the *other side* of the six-lane road! I guess that some Ohio drivers are slightly overprotective of "their" pavement! I arrived at the hotel at about 7:45 pm EDT, and munched my tasty Pepperoni Roll!
The distance for this leg of the trip was 78.5 miles (a new record!), actual travel time 7 hours and 27 minutes, for an average speed of 10.5 mph. The weather was overcast most of the day, with the sun making an occasional appearance, in the seventies, with no wind. Rednecks notwithstanding, it was another just about perfect day! Total distance to this point: 380 miles.
I left the hotel at about 10:15 am EDT, and headed down through Massillon, OH, where I picked up OH 172 westbound (mostly two-lane, with no shoulder). As I was leaving Massillon, it occurred to me that I had already made it eight miles without hearing from a single redneck. It *is* Sunday, though, so maybe they're all in church! But, hark ... what's that sound? Could it be? Yes, it is! The mating call of the Ohio redneck ("Get the f*** off the road!"). The best part is that this particular pickup jockey was not even on the road I was on. Instead, he was sitting in a parking lot, half a block away! Then he puttered off in the opposite direction. Do you suppose that the rednecks are feeling threatened by me? Maybe they think that my superior cyclist's looks and intellect will allow me to abscond with all of their cheerleaders! I'm wondering what's going to happen the first time that one of my redneck pals gives me crap and then gets caught at a red light, only to have me pull up beside him?
Just west of East Greenville, OH 172 merges with US 30 (mostly four-lane, with an excellent shoulder for quite a bit of it), heading west towards Wooster, OH. Note that US 30 doesn't actually go through Wooster, but runs nearby, and in the area of Wooster it resembles a freeway, with on and off ramps, overhead signs, etc. It's not posted "No bicycles", though. After passing by Wooster I continued westbound on US 30 towards Mansfield, OH.
Up to this point, the weather had been gorgeous: mostly sunny, in the 70's, little wind. At about the time I crossed OH 60, the sky was starting to darken as the clouds rolled in. By the time I crossed OH 511 (another few miles), things were starting to look grim, with the wind picking up, and just before I turned south onto OH 603, the deluge began! Thunder, lightning, the whole bit. Still a ways from town, and I was soaked again. I then turned westbound onto OH 430, which bore an ominous sign ... "Road closed ahead". I figured that I could probably get my bike through most construction zones, but a few miles further on was another sign ... "Bridge out". Uh-oh! Last time I checked, my bike didn't float very well.
The rain was starting to slacken somewhat, and I pulled into a restaurant to get directions. There were half a dozen guys sitting at the bar, just starting to eat dinner, and they were all eager to help (each wanting to send me a different way!). They confirmed that the bridge was in fact "out" (as in removed and being replaced). At least three of them (including the bartender!) offered to load my bike into a pickup truck, and get me where I needed to go. I told them that would be cheating, but a map would be nice, so the guy at the end of the bar drew one up. I left the bar, with it raining harder than ever, and after wandering around in the country a bit, I got to OH 39, which merged with OH 430 (west of the missing bridge), and after a few more miles of driving rain and gusting winds (by far the worst of the trip to this point), I arrived at the Holiday Inn in East Mansfield. Sad to say it looked like I had just missed the "Miss Ohio" pageant, which is apparently held in Mansfield. Sorry, no photos of Miss Ohio! Maybe next year!
The distance for this leg of the trip was 66.5 miles, actual travel time 6 hours and 18 minutes, for an average speed of 10.6 mph. With the exception of the last ten or so miles involving detours, this was the flattest day so far. There were plenty of hills, but they were generally quite gradual, and often a mile or more long. It was nice to be climbing at 10 mph, and descending at 20 mph, rather than climbing at 3 mph, and descending at 30 or 40! Today marks about a third of the trip by mileage, and about halfway by time (I'm anticipating flatter ground and longer daily rides from here on out). Total distance to this point: 446.5 miles.
As usual, I started the day with breakfast in the hotel restaurant. At the Mansfield Holiday Inn that's the "Garden Cafe", and Debra (the new supervisor) says "Hi!". After breakfast, I bought stamps at the Mansfield Post Office. My bike chain was dry as a bone (all those miles in the rain had washed the lube off), so when I pedaled, it sounded like a flock of birds was following me ... "Cheep! Cheep! Cheep!" I rode over to Best Bike Shop in Mansfield, and bought some "Dumond Tech" chain lube ("Good for all your pivot points", according to Jay). I also chatted about bicycle touring with Dave, who did a 4000 mile trek that included the Alaska highway. After lubing my chain and other key areas I was off to Kafer's Flowers, where I bought a couple of greeting cards from Angie. All told I rode about six miles doing errands in Mansfield.
I actually got started on today's trek at about 11:15 am EDT, heading west out of town on OH 39. My original plan was to cut north on 61 at Shelby, OH, and then catch US 224 westbound at New Haven, OH, but Jay at the bike shop said that there is a lot of traffic on US 224, so I opted instead to take OH 96 west out of Shelby. I was planning to catch OH 39 again towards Dekalb, OH, but it was closed for construction, so I just kept going west on OH 96 until I hit OH 602. At that point I headed north on OH 602 to New Washington, OH. All during this time it was partly cloudy, in the 70's, with a gusty wind coming from the west.
I stopped in at the Dutchtown Dari-Bar in New Washington, where Stevie Hawley made me a strawberry shake. Then I headed west on OH 103, took a small southward jog on OH 4, then west again on OH 103. I stopped in at a Marathon station in Sycamore, OH, and watched the wind blow my bike over as it sat in the parking lot. The wind started to die down as I was leaving Sycamore, though. Somewhere in here I passed a flock of sheep, and though they saw fit to "baa" at me (a wolf in cyclist's clothing?), unlike the dogs and roosters they made no effort to either chase me or race me.
Westbound OH 103 makes a slight southern jog onto OH 53 at Tymochtee, OH, and then it was back onto OH 103, heading west. In Cary, OH, 103 becomes OH 568. As I was leaving Cary I had a nice chat with two guys and a gal who were working on their sidewalks and driveway. Then it was "up the ridge", a fifteen-mile long slight uphill grade to Findlay, OH. For some of this portion the wind was actually pretty calm (for about the first time all day). Once in Findlay I caught US 224 to the Holiday Inn, arriving at about 8:30 pm EDT.
The distance for this leg of the trip was 89.2 miles, actual travel time 8 hours and 35 minutes, for an average speed of 10.4 mph. This was the flattest day so far, but I had either a headwind or a crosswind for nearly the whole day. At one point on OH 39 I was leaning left into the wind at about a ten degree angle to keep the bike upright, and an unexpected gust while on OH 603 nearly knocked me over. On OH 103, quite a bit of the time I was doing only 6 to 8 mph on the level due to the wind (instead of the 12 to 15 mph I could do without it). If I had to choose between hills and wind, I think I might choose hills. They're more predictable. I spent the majority of the day shifting gears, in a futile effort to find a combination that would allow efficient pedaling (for me about 70 crank RPM). Other than that, it was a pretty good day. Longest daily distance so far, and if not for the wind, it would have been a breeze! Total distance to this point: 535.7 miles.
Having now reached the halfway mark (by time, if not by mileage), how is my body holding up through all of this? Well, at this point I have:
The sunburn happened on June 7, when I was faced with the choice of applying sunscreen (and thus daring the weather gods to make it rain), or risking sunburn. Since I'd had enough rain, I opted for the latter, and sunburn it is! One other thing: after arriving at my destination for the day, I'm *really* thirsty. Yes, I'm drinking during the ride (Gatorade, Powerade, water, chocolate milk, iced tea, whatever) and don't feel overly thirsty, but several times now along with dinner I've consumed *two* large glasses of juice, iced tea, milk or something, and an additional *two* large glasses of water. The moral: it's easy to get dehydrated.
As far as the health of my bike goes, her rear brakes are a little worn, but other than that she's doing fine!
Last night the Weather Channel was conjuring up all sorts of tornados, flooding and mayhem for my route today, so I decided to get an early start (wouldn't want to miss any of the excitement!). I headed westbound from Findlay on OH 224 at about 9:00 am EDT. At Ottawa, OH I stopped in at Tucker's Pharmacy, where I chatted with Kathy. I told her that I was planning to head west on OH 694, and she mentioned that she thought there was construction somewhere out there, suggesting that I take OH 15 up to OH 613, instead. So that's what I did.
While I was heading west on OH 15 the wind started to pick up, and by the time I turned west onto OH 613, I had another gusty head and/or sidewind. Just west of Oakwood, OH, the wind calmed (uh-oh, the calm before the storm?). Then it started sprinkling, so I donned the rain poncho (again), and by the time I got to Melrose, OH, it was flat out raining (again). When I got to Broughton, OH, the rain had stopped (off with the poncho!), and by Latty, OH, the roads were dry (and so was I!). Unfortunately the wind started to pick up again (either one or the other, apparently). Just west of Briceton, OH I spotted the sign for Worstville:
Who would name their town "Worstville"? I mean, I can see "Bestville", or maybe even "Mediocreville", but "Worstville"? How bad could it be? Since it was only half a mile south of OH 613, I decided to check it out.
Fighting the strongest headwind of the trip to this point (an omen?), I passed a few houses, but when I got to Worstville (41°4'54"North 84°40'14"Worst!), there was nothing there! No town! Just a railroad track crossing the road.
How very strange ... so I turned around, and let the first tailwind of my trip blow me and my bike out of Worstville!
Speaking of the wind, it was so strong on the stretch between Payne, OH and the Indiana border that I was blown off the pavement four times! Since there was grass along the road, I generally managed to navigate back onto the shoulder without stopping, but the second time I was blown off I had to stop. The wind was blowing so hard that I just wasn't strong enough to force the bike back onto the pavement. While sitting there, I tried to lift the front wheel back onto the shoulder, and couldn't. I looked down to see what it was stuck against, and I had it an inch off the ground. There was just *so much wind* that I couldn't move the bike's front wheel sideways against it. I had to wait until it died down, then I could move. E-gads!
I didn't have any way of measuring the wind speed directly, but I did observe that several birds were trying to fly across the road from right to left, without any success. Oh, they were in the air, and their wings were moving ... but they weren't! They were just hovering there, like they were caught in a tractor beam. Since I know that typical birds can fly at about 30 mph, and some much faster than that (pigeons can do 60 on the level, and a perigrine falcon can hit nearly 200 in an attack dive), I'd estimate the speed of the crosswind at 30. When the wind died down the birds rocketed across the road.
It must be interesting to be a bird. As the wind changes speed and direction, so would your speed and direction relative to the ground, the trees, etc. That's gotta make for tricky landings sometimes! I finally made it out of Ohio and into Indiana (where OH 613 becomes IN 14).
I got blown off the road twice more between Edgerton, IN and New Haven, IN. Nevertheless, I made it to the Holiday Inn in New Haven (just east of Fort Wayne, IN) at about 5:30 pm CDT (Central time began at the Indiana border). After I checked in at hotel, I rode back to a Pizza Hut I'd spotted on the way in, and ordered dinner. While they were making my pizza, I walked next door to the Dairy Queen, and got the largest strawberry shake they make. Then I picked up the pizza, and headed back to the hotel. I got back to the hotel just fine, but while fumbling around trying to get my bike into the hotel room, I managed to drop the shake. Of course it landed upside down. Yes, the lid came off. You've heard of "pineapple upsidedown cake"? Well, this was "strawberry upsidedown shake", right there in the hallway! Having spilled about two-thirds of it, I grabbed one of those white Holiday Inn towels and mopped it up. If you spot a pink towel on your next stay at a Holiday Inn, you'll know why!
The distance for this leg of the trip was 81.7 miles, actual travel time 7 hours and 39 minutes, for an average speed of 10.7 mph. Today's route was even flatter than yesterday's, but what a wind! What with having to constantly fight to keep the bike on the road, I think today was harder on my arms than my legs. And I had been looking forward to that strawberry shake! Total distance to this point: 617.4 miles.
While in Ohio, I never saw a redneck west of Mansfield (where I saw a whole carload near the post office). This leads me to believe that although Eastern Ohio Rednecks are plentiful, the Western Ohio Redneck may be extinct! Could it be that because the Cheerleaders were last seen in West Virginia, the Ohio Rednecks have all gravitated to the eastern side of Ohio? Whatever the reason, we are placing the Western Ohio Redneck on the endangered species list (if you see one, let me know). For the Eastern Ohio Redneck, on the other hand, it's open season, with no bag limit. Happy hunting!
I got an early start (because I thought it might be a long day), leaving the Holiday Inn in New Haven, IN at about 8:30 am CDT. I headed west on US 30, and stopped in at the Arcola Rest Area (on US 30, just north of the town of Arcola, IN), and had a nice chat with Basil, the caretaker (who was out mowing the grass).
Continuing westbound on US 30, I spotted the "Dairy Queen" in Columbia City, IN, so I stopped in for a strawberry shake (to replace the one I'd spilled the night before). When I got back to US 30, half a dozen cop cars came flying up to me from several directions, sirens screaming! I thought for sure that it had to do with the strawberry shake episode at last night's hotel. "Attention all cars! Be on the lookout for a bicyclist carrying a strawberry shake. He should be considered armed and clumsy!" But when all of the cops continued by, I knew it was a false alarm. Then it was westbound on US 30 again, up to Warsaw, where I stopped at the Holiday Inn Express and chatted with Jason, the duty manager. He and I decided that it would be reasonable for me to continue on to Valparaiso, IN, so he called and reserved me a room there.
Up to this point the wind had been gusting again (with an on-and-off sprinkling of rain), and I was afraid that it was going to be another day of fighting to stay on the road. Things calmed down as I continued west on US 30 towards Plymouth, IN, though. Somewhere along here a small butterfly positioned itself between my handlebars, just behind the bike's fairing. I was traveling about 10 mph at the time, and I bet that butterfly was thinking "Wow! Ten miles an hour, and no wind blast! This is great!" She fluttered off, then came back and tried it again, as if she couldn't believe it.
A while later I was doing 15 mph, with a wasp was hovering right above my speedometer (wasps care more about performance than butterflies do). I'd imagine he was thinking the same thing: "Fifteen mph, and no headwind! How cool! I could do this all day!" I told him the magic gadget was called a fairing, and that he should get one. Then he zipped off to tell his friends.
I stopped in at the Grovertown Travel Plaza (near the intersection of US 30 and US 23), and had a nice chat with Don Hesseling, a trucker from Iowa. After crossing US 35, it seemed that it was mostly one long uphill to Valparaiso, IN. At the Pilot Travel Center on the east side of Valparaiso, I chatted with another trucker, Greg Hensley, then rode the last two miles to the Holiday Inn Express, arriving at about 9:30 pm CDT (after dark!). Just after I arrived it started pouring rain ... perfect timing! When I wheeled my bike into the hotel lobby, the gal behind the counter greeted me with "I don't think you can bring that in here." She thought my bike was a motorcycle! After I explained the difference (pedals ... yes, motor ... no!), she calmed down.
The distance for this leg of the trip was 121.8 miles, actual travel time 10 hours and 50 minutes, for an average speed of 11.2 mph. Over 120 miles in one day! How macho is that!!! Total distance to this point: 739.2 miles.
Since hitting even a small item with your bicycle could cause you to crash, you pay close attention to what's on the road. I saw a lot of things, including:
The most unusual item I spotted was an artificial male sexual organ. If you're missing one, and you think it might be yours, it's on the shoulder of US 50, just west of La Vale, MD!
There was also plenty of road kill, which included insects, lizards, amphibians and (sadly) mammals. The creatures ranged in size from bees to deer. I didn't see anything larger than a deer. That's probably because bears are too smart to stand in the road, and if you hit a moose with a car, the *car* is left a crumpled wreck, while the moose wanders off going "Hey ... what was that? Did something hit me? That kind of hurt!"
Despite watching carefully, I frequently hit stuff anyway. Sometimes that's because there was just so much stuff I couldn't avoid it all, and sometimes I didn't see something until it was too late (if I saw it at all). On numerous occassions I heard a "sproing" as I hit some unseen piece of metal, and it went ricocheting off. While in central Indiana I hit a piece of wire, which got wound up in the spokes of my front wheel. This could have been devastating, as it could have caused all sorts of mayhem, including a flat tire, broken spokes, or a jammed front wheel. It also could have beheaded the speed sensor for my bike computer as it whipped around, or trashed the front fender. Before I could stop it had worked itself free, with no major damage done. It did manage to tear off the valve stem cover, but that was no big deal (I even had a spare).
What with yesterday's run on US 30 being so smooth, I decided that today I would give it another shot, this time in a more urban setting. I left Valparaiso on US 30, heading west at about 10:30 am CDT. Stopped in at a McDonalds in Merrillville, IN for some fries, after which I encountered my one and only Indiana redneck (no, he didn't have "Ohio" plates!).
Continuing west brought me to Schererville, IN, where I witnessed a kid being busted for drugs. The cops were doing one of those field drug tests, where they put the suspected illicit substance in a vial with some chemical, and see if a tell-tale color change occurs ("Shakes out white, turns blue!", or whatever). A little further west and I was into Dacy, IN, where a fireworks vendor was having a sale: "Buy one, get two howitzer shells free!". Hmmm ... howitzer shells, eh? I wonder if they're effective against rednecks? Then it was across the border, and into Illinois.
Lynwood, IL, to be exact, where road construction began, lasting the several miles to Chicago Heights, IL. At that point the active construction ceased, but the evidence remained, in that the top layer of asphalt was missing all the way to Matteson, IL. That made for a bumpy ride, sort of like a miles-long rumble strip. And speaking of Matteson, that's where the distinctive cry of a seagull reminded me that I was near one of the Great Lakes (Michigan).
As I headed west out of Matteson, I passed by numerous roadside vendors of U.S. Open Golf tickets, a PGA tournament being played in the area this week. Most wanted to sell tickets, and at least one wanted to buy them. Why didn't they just get together, and leave me out of it?
The next town along the way was Frankfort, IL, and as I departed Frankfort I came upon the scene of a recent traffic accident (the rescue units had passed me moments before). There was only one car involved, and from the looks of things it had rolled over, maybe more than once. As I was passing they were just getting ready to separate the wreckage of the driver from the wreckage of the car.
Just as well he had been coming the other way, or he might have rolled over me! Then I cruised through New Lenox, IL, and on to Joliet, IL. I'd almost forgotten what climbing a *real* hill was like, but in Joliet I got to climb several of them. On the way out of Joliet I was waiting at a red light next to a guy on a motorcycle. Having just climbed the hills, I asked him if he'd be willing to sell me his engine! "Nope, not for sale!" Guess I'll just have to keep pedaling ...
At Joliet US 30 westbound makes a turn to the northwest, intersecting US 34 near Aurora, IL. Just down the road from Aurora is Oswego, IL, which is where I found the Holiday Inn Express, at about 7:15 pm CDT.
The distance for this leg of the trip was 77.3 miles, actual travel time 7 hours and 41 minutes, for an average speed of 10.1 mph. That's about the same average speed as yesterday, but the riding conditions were dramatically different. The weather was nearly perfect, mostly sunny and warm with no wind, but whereas US 30 in Indiana was a dream to ride on (wide shoulders that were generally free of debris), US 30 in Illinois has *no* shoulder in most places, and zillions of cars. In short, it's a deathtrap for bicyclists. You have been warned! Unless you like dodging cars (and having them dodge you), don't ride your bike on US 30 in Illinois. Total distance to this point: 816.5 miles.
I had told one of my friends (a Sheriff's Deputy in Minnesota) about my bike trip, and he reminded me to be wary of Wisconsin's cops. For those of you who aren't aware, the cops in Wisconsin (city, county, state ... it doesn't matter) have a fearsome reputation. Sort of like Imperial Storm Troopers. I think that it's probably undeserved, though.
Many years ago, the drinking age in Wisconsin was a year younger than that for Minnesota (18 versus 19, I think it was). As you would imagine, the result was that many 18 year-old residents of Duluth, Minnesota (the "Land of 10,000 Lakes") would head across the border to Superior, Wisconsin (the "Land of 10,000 bars"!). At that time, Superior seemed to have at least one bar on every block.
Aside from the bar owners, I'd imagine that the residents of Superior were none too pleased to have a bunch of young Minnesotans driving over, getting drunk, and making nuisances of themselves. Also, the speed limit in Superior is 25 mph, whereas in Duluth it's 30. That doesn't sound like much of a difference, but when you're used to driving 30, doing 25 seems like you're standing still (I think it has something to do with Einstein's Theory of Relativity). Putting the two together (young drunk drivers and a 25 mph speed limit), and the Superior cops must have had a field day. And I'd imagine that they were probably happy that the Minnesota kids thought of them as hard-nosed.
I've done a lot of driving in and through Wisconsin, and I've never been hassled. While it's true that I did receive the *only* speeding ticket I've ever gotten in my life in Wisconsin (69 in a 55, south of Spooner at about 2:00 am), I was guilty. It seems to me that if you don't break Wisconsin's laws, you won't have any trouble with Wisconsin's cops. Law enforcement types in general are much too busy *catching* bad guys to *be* bad guys themselves, and since Wisconsin is a big tourism state (as is Minnesota), badge-heavy cops would be bad for business.
I headed west on the "Bonzai Pipeline" (US 30 in Illinois) at about 9:30 am CDT, which as expected had no useful shoulder, and then caught IL 47 northbound. Just before reaching Sugar Grove, IL they were paving my side of the road. As is commonly the case, there were flaggers allowing traffic to pass one way at a time around the construction. When it came my side's turn to pass, Kelly the flag gal let me get a head start, and I got around the construction before any of the vehicles behind me made it. I asked the flagger on the far side to call Kelly on his walkie-talkie and thank her for me!
Then it was on through Sugar Grove, and into Elburn, IL. By this point I'd gone about 20 miles for the day, and my thighs were pretty sore. Guess it was building up over the past several days. Stopped at the McDonalds just north of Elburn (at IL 38) for fries and a chocolate shake (gotta maintain my energy, right?). Continuing north on IL 47, I passed a sign posted in the middle of a field, and it said:
It took me a minute to realize that it must have been associated with the church next to the field, and that they were recruiting members!
The shoulder on IL 47 ranged from excellent to nonexistent, so although it was better for biking than US 30, we'll chalk IL 47 up as "bicycle unfriendly", as well (except for Kelly, of course!). At Woodstock (IL, not NY!) I cut west onto US 14. The shoulder on US 14 was also hit or miss, sometimes excellent, sometimes adequate, more often useless. At Harvard (IL, not the university!), US 14 had a decent shoulder, and that lasted up to the Wisconsin border. Bottom line: the roads that I traveled on in Illinois were for the most part *not* friendly for biking. I pretty much felt as though I had a bullseye painted on my back the entire time.
That being said, I'd like to thank each and every driver in the state of Illinois for not running me over. Based on the number of cars on the road, I'm fairly certain that every licensed driver in the entire state passed me at least once over the past few days!
Since my Mom was born in Wisconsin, I expected great things from Wisconsin roads, and for today, anyway, I wasn't disappointed. US 14 had a good shoulder from the border all the way up to Janesville, WI. Not only that, but the road, shoulders and surrounding areas were clean! Apparently the "Adopt a Highway" people in Wisconsin take things seriously, unlike what I saw in some other states.
The distance for this leg of the trip was 102.5 miles, actual travel time 9 hours and 29 minutes, for an average speed of 10.8 mph. A little better than yesterday's average speed, and twenty percent more distance. My second century (100 miler) in three days, and my legs are feeling it. At the 30 mile point, I was sore. At 40, I had a cramp in my left thigh that I thought might be a show-stopper, but a few seconds without pedaling and it was gone. I actually felt pretty good while riding the rest of the way, but when I stopped it became apparent just how stiff my legs are. Getting off the bike was a bit of a challenge, and getting back on tomorrow should be interesting. I might not be walking, but I'll be riding! "I say, kind sirs, could you hoist me onto my trusty steed? I have dragons to slay!" Total distance to this point: 919 miles.
We already talked about dogs, but Wisconsin dogs are different. They don't bark as much. That is, many of them don't bark at all, and those that do bark don't bark as much as the dogs in other states. I'd imagine that's because Wisconsin dogs know that their state is pretty much overrun with tourists, and if they barked at every stranger they saw not only would they not have time to do other important dog things (like digging holes, or playing fetch), but it would also be *really noisy* in Wisconsin. The next thing you know, not only might the tourists leave, but the *residents* might leave, as well (who wants to listen to all that barking?). And if that happened, who would feed the dogs?
So you might pass quite a few dogs who don't bother barking. They figure that if you've made it that far into the state, you've probably already been barked at by at least one Wisconsin dog. And for those dogs that do bark, they might give you just a polite "woof" or two of greeting, instead of that frenzied crescendo so popular with non-Wisconsin dogs. So don't take it personally.
Hmmm ... yesterday was Friday the Thirteenth, and I never even noticed! Having too much fun, I guess. I left the hotel at about 9:30 am CDT, and after running some errands in Janestown, headed west on US 14 (still an excellent shoulder), then north on US 51 (also a good biking road) to Edgerton, WI. According to a bank sign in Edgerton it was 81 degrees at 10:58 am CDT. Sunny without any wind. A good day for any kind of biking, and there were a lot of motorcycles on the roads. I had been talking to a couple of riders back at the hotel, and they said that there was a charity rally happening in the area, and they were expecting a thousand bikes. From the look of things, I was the only "biker" in the state that didn't have my "old lady" perched on the back of my "scoot"!
Just past Edgerton I continued north on WI 73 (no shoulder, but not very many cars) until it intersected US 12, and I went west on US 12 (good shoulder). Just before I got to County Road N (in Dane County, which surrounds Madison, WI), I saw a yellow bi-plane in a grassy field, and it was just starting a takeoff run. The Yellow Baron, perhaps?
After watching the plane depart, I went north on N (which I was surprised to see had a decent shoulder, despite being a county highway), where I passed another herd of cows. Why is it that cows always give me that "we know you're up to something" look?
I continued north past the cows on County Road N until it hit US 19 (good shoulder), on which I turned west. I went through Sun Prairie, WI, and then turned north on US 51 (which also had a good shoulder, and is not to be confused with US 151, which is a freeway). At De Forest, WI I turned west on County Road V (which also had a good shoulder), which took me to De Forest Holiday Inn Express (right across the street from the "Cheese Chalet"), arriving at about 4:00 pm CDT.
The distance for this leg of the trip was 60.4 miles, actual travel time 5 hours and 56 minutes, for an average speed of 10.2 mph. Not bad, considering that I was taking it easy. There were some hills, but I was climbing most of them at 6 mph (as opposed to the usual 3 mph back in Pennsylvania). And my legs feel pretty good. "I am a Vulcan. The mind rules. There is no pain. As long as I keep sitting here in the hotel's hot tub, that is!" One other thing that I've noticed is that while my heartrate for the first few days of the trip was in the 120-160 range, now it's generally in the 90-120 range. Part of that is because there are fewer hills, but even when I'm climbing hills it's not getting over 130, despite the fact that it's warmer now than it was last week. Guess there's something to that "aerobic conditioning" business after all. Total distance to this point: 979.4 miles.
It just so happens that the Wisconsin Highway Patrol's First District Headquarters is right across the street from the Holiday Inn Express, so to prove the point that Wisconsin cops are not a bad bunch, I went over and introduced myself to PCOs (Police Communication Operators) Schmid and Ehlenfeldt at the Communications Center. When I told them what I was doing, they called Sergeant Kruger and Trooper Berkley to the Comm Center. When I told the Sergeant and the Trooper that I was riding my bicycle through Wisconsin, they immediately slapped the handcuffs on me, beat me senseless, and threw me in jail!
Just kidding! They were all very friendly, and they gave me some advice on the best roads for getting to tomorrow's destination. I'll be writing their boss (Captain Heinle) a letter thanking him for his troop's hospitality.
After calling my Dad to wish him a Happy Father's Day, I departed De Forest at about 10:00 am CDT, heading west on County Road V. I noted that where V crossed I-90/94 that the shoulder I was riding on was marked as a "Bikes Only" lane! Score another point for Wisconsin!
Just past the town of Dane, WI, County V intersects WI 113, and that's where I encounted my first Wisconsin redneck. He was driving a large pickup, and towing an even larger boat, so I suppose that he figured he needed every square inch of pavement to himself.
At this point I had to take a slight southern jag on County P (which my map doesn't show), which took me back to County V. Another little complication (my map didn't show this one, either) is that rather than being able to continue on County V until I hit US 12, I had to turn north on County KP, then west on County Y, which took me through Roxbury, WI, and on to US 12. For that last mile on County Y after Roxbury I was chatting with a local cyclist, comparing bikes, discussing my trip, etc. He continued west on County Y, while I turned north onto US 12 (nice shoulder!), and at Sauk City, WI, I hit the one thousand mile mark for the trip.
Just past Sauk City US 12 turns northward, climbing a long hill prior to reaching Baraboo, WI. In downtown Baraboo, US 12 has been provided with a bike lane. The area starting just north of Baraboo through the town of Wisconsin Dells, WI lies close to the Wisconsin River. Originally noteworthy because of the scenery (it's where my parents went on their honeymoon), "The Dells" is now a tourist trap such as to almost rival Las Vegas. Air shows, water shows, stage shows, magic acts, go karts, boat rides, a casino, a robot show, you name it. Most of it apparently owned by someone named "Tommy Bartlet", and having absolutely nothing to do with the scenic beauty of Wisconsin. Lots of traffic, much of it tourists from out of state, and since there is no shoulder on US 12 through here, bicyclists had better watch out! I did pick up a baseball from the side of the road right in the middle of town, though, and stuffed it between two of the compartments of my right saddle bag, figuring I'd deal with it later.
The shoulder on US 12 picks back up at Exit 87 on I-90/94, just north of Wisconsin Dells, and there are some really big corn fields along this stretch.
The corn was only about a foot high at this time of year, but the stalks were planted about five inches apart, and the fields were massive! Then it was up through Lyndon Station, WI, where I came up behind a mower-equipped tractor that was doing about 10 mph.
In my first and only pass of a motor-driven vehicle of the trip, I "blew by" him at about 12 mph. Uphill, too! I was sweating it for a few minutes. What if I passed him, and then couldn't maintain the pace? He'd pass me right back! Fortunately for my ego, I made it over the hill, and left him eating my dust!
That took me into Mauston, WI, which is where I met Tyler, an eleven year-old who lives in both Mauston and New Lisbon, WI (one parent in each town). I'd stopped at an Amoco station for a Gatorade (and, as it turned out, a Rice Krispy treat, as well!), and Tyler pulled up next to me on his bike. I offered to trade him bikes, but he wouldn't go for it. We started chatting about my trip, and he asked me some questions about the trip and my bike. When he spotted the baseball, be asked why I was carrying it, so I told him where I'd found it, and gave it to him.
I continued northwest on US 12 (passing through Tyler's other hometown of New Lisbon), and after passing through Oakton, WI, I felt some sharp pains in my left leg, just above the knee. That's what I get for doing 15 mph up a long hill, showing off for the birds! After backing off a little and some on-the-fly massage therapy, it was okay. I was worried for a few minutes, though. I'd hate to have come about 1200 miles and have my body give out with only another few hundred to go. Especially if it was my fault! I (carefully!) zipped through Tomah, WI, and out to the Holiday Inn on the other side, arriving at about 8:30 pm CDT.
The distance for this leg of the trip was 101.4 miles, actual travel time 9 hours and 20 minutes, for an average speed of 10.9 mph. More hills, but again I was climbing most of them at 6 mph. Not a bad day ... I did another hundred, and hit the thousand mile mark, as well. Total distance to this point: 1080.8 miles.
Having travelled through several Midwestern states, I'm now somewhat of an expert on livestock. I've heard jokes in the past about city slickers attempting to milk bulls, and I'd have to say that nobody could fail to tell the difference between a bull and a cow.
After stopping to pick up some greeting cards, I departed Tomah at about 10:00 am CDT, heading westbound on US 12. I cruised through Millston, WI, where I stopped at McPeak's Mini-Mart in Brockway, WI (not on my map, but just south of Black River Falls, WI), and chatted about bikes with Ron Bollom. Somewhere along this stretch I came upon a "deer crossing" sign that had been modified (by the addition of a red reflector) to depict a certain "red-nosed reindeer" ...
Then it was on through Black River Falls, continuing west on US 12, but ... at the point where US 12 crossed I-94, I once again saw that fateful sign: Road Closed - Bridge Out Ahead. The bridge was 9.5 miles down the road, but my map didn't show any alternate routes during that stretch, so I headed the half-mile back to Black River Falls, and then cut northwest on Jackson County Road A. This was my first long uphill of what was turning out to be a very warm sunny day.
At Hixton, WI, I chatted with two gals about my trip, then headed west on WI 95 until I hit Jackson Country Road P.
I went north on P (my second long uphill of the now even hotter day) until it intersected WI 121 at Pigeon Falls. Since it was unclear which way I had to turn on WI 121 to get to US 53, I chose right. In yet another example of the "Fifty-Fifty-Ninety Rule" (if it's a fifty-fifty chance, ninety percent of the time you guess wrong!), after about a mile it became apparent that things were getting more rural, with no sign of US 53. I turned around, zipped west through Pigeon Falls, and found US 53 on the other side of it.
I headed north on US 53, and found my third long uphill of a now smoking hot day. Not only was the sun blazing down, but US 53 had just been resurfaced, and the new asphalt was like a black mirror, reflecting the sun back up. By this point I'd done around seventy miles for the day, and gotten a few pains in my left leg (heat cramps?) on the way up the hill.
As I passed through Osseo, WI, I looked ahead on the map, and I saw that north of Brackett, WI, just before US 53 reaches Eau Claire, WI, there is a short freeway-looking segment. I was unsure whether I could ride my bike on that, and, if not, I'd have to backtrack from that point to Eau Claire County Road HH (at Foster, WI), and then head east over to US 12. The mileage isn't an issue, but I don't want to be on the road after dark.
Just north of Osseo I flagged down a passing Trempealeau County Sheriff's Deputy, asked him if he knew if US 53 just south of Eau Claire was posted "no bikes". He said that he wasn't sure (Eau Claire County is out of his jurisdiction), but that he had just gone through there two days earlier, and couldn't remember seeing any signs. I told him that I didn't want to get my first moving violation in twenty years (and first ever on a bicycle!), and he said that even if bikes were prohibited there, he couldn't believe that anyone would write me a citation (Yeah, right! Famous last words by a Wisconsin cop!). Based on his educated guess, I decided to chance it, and sure enough, he was right. I wheeled into Eau Claire and found my way downtown, but couldn't find the Holiday Inn, so ...
When I spotted an Eau Claire city cop sitting at a gas station, I asked him for directions. He told me I'd just passed it, so back I went.
I arrived at the hotel at about 8:00 pm CDT. Actually, when I got to the hotel I noticed that I had covered 99.6 miles for the day, so I went around the block a few times to get it up over 100!
The distance for this leg of the trip was 100.2 miles, actual travel time 8 hours and 30 minutes, for an average speed of 11.8 mph, the highest average daily speed so far. There were some hills, but my legs felt really good for the first fifty miles, and okay for the last fifty. The roads either had good shoulders (US 12, Jackson County Road A, and most of US 53), or so few cars that it didn't matter. Interestingly enough, back on June 2, my server at the IHOP was named Brooke, the first "Brooke" I'd ever met. Tonight my server at the restaurant attached to the Holiday Inn is, of course, another Brooke (she says that two more of them work there). Total distance to this point: 1181 miles.
Leaving downtown Eau Claire at about 8:00 am CDT, I headed north on US 53, known as "Hastings Way" within the city. It's a busy four-lane with no shoulder, not really safe for bikes. A few miles north of Eau Claire US 53 has a good shoulder (new construction), and since it wasn't posted "No Bikes", I was planning to ride it all the way to Rice Lake. About a mile south of the Chippewa Falls, WI exit that plan went up in smoke, which brings us to ...
Wisconsin State Trooper Steve Johnson pulled up alongside in his cruiser and waved me over. It turns out that bikes *are* prohibited on that section of US 53, but the signs had yet to be replaced following the recent construction. He and I spent a few minutes talking about my trip, and then we planned out an alternate route around the affected section of US 53 (which extends north to Rice Lake, WI). By the way, just past the construction zone, the speed limit on US 53 is 65 mph. Steve mentioned that he'd recently clocked a kid doing 101 there, for which the fine was $473, and an automatic 15-day driver's license suspension. It could have been worse ... doing 101 in the construction zone rates a fine of $845. Yikes!
I got off US 53 at the Chippewa Falls exit, and caught WI 29 east through Chippewa Falls to WI 124. I headed north on WI 124 (great shoulder!). Just north of Eagleton, WI I headed west on Chippewa County Road SS. The section of SS running from WI 124 to Bloomer, WI was not on my map, but it had been on Trooper Steve's. I continued on through Bloomer, then headed north on SS (which run parallel to and just east of US 53) past New Auburn, WI (having just crossed into Barron County), through Chetek, WI (where a bank's sign informed me that it was 83 degrees at 12:08 pm CDT), through Cameron, WI, and on up to Rice Lake.
At this point I'd done 65 miles for the day. My original plan was to spend the night in Rice Lake, then do the remaining hundred or so miles to Duluth, MN the next day, but since the weather was so nice, I decided to just go for it. In Rice Lake I got onto WI 48, then back onto SS, skirting around the "Bikes Prohibited" section of US 53 (which extends nearly to Haugen). At that point I got back onto US 53, and headed north. From there it was about a seventy-five mile shot up US 53, where about the only thing you have to watch out for is the rumble strip that is sometimes part of the shoulder ...
Just past the spot where US 53 and US 2 merge (about a dozen miles south of Superior, WI) bikes are once again prohibited, so I cut west on Douglas County Road C towards South Range, WI.
I was now racing the darkness (it was after 8:00 pm CDT) and the rain (I'd been getting sprinkled on for about fifteen minutes). My plan was to take County C west to WI 35, and then head north on WI 35 into Superior, but nooooooo ... "Road Closed, Bridge Out" (again). So I went north on Douglas County Road E (not on my map, but I had no other choice). After a few miles, with darkness rapidly approaching, I saw a guy in his driveway, and asked him for directions. Corky told me to just continue north on County E, and it would take me to US 53 just north of the "no bikes" portion, which it did.
Superior has a population of about 30,000, but because it's long and thin (on the south shore of Lake Superior) it takes a long time to ride through. By the time I got into downtown Superior, it was past 10:00 pm CDT, and dark. Good thing that Superior is well lit! There are two ways to get across the Lake Superior harbor from Superior to Duluth. One is I-535, the so-called "High Bridge" (a reference to the fact that it is higher than the bridge that it replaced), but being an interstate, you can't legally ride a bike across it (and it would be madness to try!). The other is US 2, via the "Bong Bridge" (named after a local war hero), which has a bike/pedestrian path along the west side.
By the way, there is one more major bridge associated with Duluth. The "Aerial Lift Bridge" connects the island penninsula of Park Point to the rest of Duluth, and since it appears on many postcards, it's world famous. Let's see, that makes "Lift", "High" and "Bong" ...
Sounds like Duluth is a doper's paradise! Maybe they should have named it "Upperville", instead! I crossed the Bong Bridge, and was now in Duluth, MN.
The next (and nearly final) step was to climb the long hill at 40th Avenue West. This two-mile long hill is as steep as anything I came across in the mountains of Pennsylvania, and since I'd already ridden my bike 170 miles so far that day, it was a killer. Just to make things even more interesting, 40th Avenue West (which includes a section called "Horseshoe Bend") has a sheer cliff along the right side of the road, and by this time it was after 11:00 pm CDT, on a moonless, foggy night. I did have two things in my favor, though. First, my high-school girlfriend lived near the bottom of the hill, so I'm quite familiar with it, having ridden up it many times by car and bike. Second, there were fireflies in the woods on both sides of the road, so I figured that as long as I stayed equidistant from the fireflies, I must be near the center of the road! My stategy worked, and I made it to my parent's house in Duluth at 11:30 pm CDT.
The distance for this leg of the trip was a whopping 175.4 miles, actual travel time 14 hours and 10 minutes, for an average speed of 12.4 mph, easily the highest daily mileage and highest average daily speed of the entire trip. Total distance for the entire trip: 1356.4 miles. And, yes ... my legs are tired!