St. Paul to Chicago, Day 2: Pepin to West Salem, WI

We actually slept really well last night. I slept better in the tent than I had in my own bed the night before. Woke up rested and ready to go. I packed up and was on the road by 8:00, with a little over 50 miles to ride to Trempealeau, where we would meet for lunch. Lisa packed up the campsite in Pepin, walked with her hiking poles for an hour along the lake and then drove on down WI 35, which (I repeat myself) is beautiful.

In my effort to stop and smell the roses, I got a shot of sunflowers and the fence made out of old skis and a big catfish.

There are more cute towns in this side of the river- Alma, Fountain City, a town called Bluff Siding (truth, it is a town, I guess, but not a cute one.)

Lisa caught up with me in Fountain City as it began to rain. It poured for a while, and there were about a half dozen places where bridges were being repaired and only one lane, so southbound traffic (and vice versa) had to wait, in the rain, for opposing traffic to get across. As is often the case, no problem if you are in a car.

I made it to Trempealeau by noon and we had a really nice lunch at the hotel. They have had live music there for years, and there is a wall of photos of people who have played the room ranging from Charlie Daniels to Richie Havens and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Must return.

At Trempealeau, I got on the first of a week of Wisconsin bike trails: the Great River Trail, the La Crosse River Trail, the Sparta Elroy Trail, and, east of Madison, the Glacial Drumlin Trail. They are unpaved but relatively hard packed and smooth, a little wild, very flat. I prefer riding on a hard surface but these are safe, and, did I mention, flat – they are old RR routes.

I arrived in West Salem a couple hours after lunch. We’d planned to camp again, but the forecast for tonight isn’t favorable for a good camping experience (thunderstorms and maybe tornadoes.) If you’ve been a follower of Confluence, you know that Dan and Lisa can be flexible. We found a room in the West Salem Americinn where I can dry out, make plans for tomorrow and get a good strong start on what will be a 90 mile day, ending in Baraboo, home of the Circus Museum. (I won’t be going, because I am single minded about getting to Chicago. Janelle Monae, dude.)

I have to say that I REALLY miss having Lisa riding with me. And LOVE having her meet me at my destination. I will miss her terribly the next few days.

St. Paul to Chicago, Day 1

My friend Tom Kunau, a very fine cyclist, much more experienced than I (and fresh back from Colorado’s Triple Bypass ride – look it up, it is crazy) launched me this morning by joining me at our house and leading me to Prescott through South St. Paul and Woodbury, I guess, though I have to refer to my computer’s map to be sure. It was a great and fast start and very nice to have a companion, at least, for a while.

Actually, Tom may have saved my bootie in the first half mile – south of the monument on Mississippi River Boulevard. He was riding behind me and noticed that one of my bags was coming off. We stopped and I realized that the attachment that Thule uses – which is perhaps a little too clever – had lost a tiny screw which meant the whole bag would fall off. Had that happened a day later, it could have been disastrous. As it was, I called Lisa, who brought another bag and we switched them out. I also checked the same screws on my other bag and found one missing. I cannibalized the bad bag and all was good. As we worked, runners and friends came by and we chatted.

Today’s was a sweet ride – the Wisconsin side of the river (Prescott is where the St. Croix and the Mississippi converge – it is a confluence) is by some accounts the more scenic side. I can verify that and add that it is also the hillier side. From Prescott south for nearly twenty miles, there were no towns, many steep hills and a lot of hot sun. I’ll include an image of the elevation and temp.

I stopped at a bar in Bay City for a beef sandwich and a Bud Light and lots of water. I realized how depleted I was and actually got a little light headed. I only had twenty miles to go and knew there were a couple of cute towns ahead, Maiden Rock and Stockholm. I stopped two times just to relax, take more fluids and look at the lake, which was beautiful and full of all kinds of boats.

Also, I was passed by approximately 27,500 very loud motorcycles.

I beat Lisa to Pepin, set up the tent and then welcomed her and we caught up on our days. We were surprised to learn that there was a wine and cheese tasting at the campground with live music, which was lovely, and we met many dogs and their people riding around the Pepin Campground on golf carts.

Dinner was at the Harborview, one of the area’s most renowned restaurants and it was delicious. We had a long wait for a table which we spent wandering along the harbor, looking at sailboats. And now we are sated, and tired! And heading back to our site.