St. Paul to Chicago, Day 4: Baraboo to Lake Mills

I rode early this morning, wanting, again, to get a head start. Also, the casino was creeping me out. They didn’t have much in the way of breakfast – actually, nothing. I guess gamblers don’t get up early. I saw one old guy sleeping in a chair in the fancy lobby.

I rolled over to the big BP, got water and planned on a suitable breakfast later. Rode back into Baraboo for the second time and started looking for my route. I was using a suggestion from the Official Biking Guide published by (did Scott Walker privatize tourism here?)

The map didn’t seem to be made for real navigation, and I wandered around Baraboo a little looking for the roads. The direction was south, to Devil’s Lake, which is beautiful but, gee whiz, there are some big hills around it. You really feel the load you’re carrying on the climbs.

I circled around the south side of the lake and cycled into the little town of Merrimac, caught the free ferry across the Wisconsin River and headed towards Loki, where I was going to begin my trip around Madison to the Glacial Drumlin Trail, heading east out of Cottage Grove. I made one wrong turn, adding about 8 miles to my day, and reminding me that it doesn’t matter how fast you’re going if you are going in the wrong direction, something leadership trainers tell us, but which I can now illustrate.

On the whole, my planned route was a good one, east on the north side of Dane County, then south on the east side. I never entered Madison. I saw some stuff, a crop duster doing acrobatics and cranes in a field…and many trucks and potholes.

I made one more small navigational mistake but got to the trailhead at about 1:30. I had sixteen miles ahead of me on the trail, which runs from Cottage Grove to Waukesha. Sixteen miles is nothing, especially when you can’t get lost…

I’d considered camping tonight at Azatlan State Park, just east of Lake Mills. So, here are few words about that.

Are you familiar with the poem “Happiness” by Jane Kenyon? It is one of my favorites and it is about how happiness comes to us at surprising times. In it is this line:

“…happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.”

I have always wanted to be that guy – and I don’t mean metaphorically – the man who brings you happiness – I really wanted to actually be that guy who travels around in a single engine plane, or an old MG or jeep, sleeping bag in the back seat, just seeing America and having experiences. It is very romantic, eh?

But here’s the thing – after eight hours in the saddle, I kind of just want to clean up and sleep on a bed. There may be a picturesque romance connected what I’m doing, but it is hard work and mentally challenging – especially this trip.

Last year, Lisa and I had really detailed maps telling us how to get to New Orleans, turn by turn details. On this trip I had/have an idea of my route, but there are some gaps that are in the category of “I’ll figure it out when I get there.” Worrying about those gaps has made sleeping a little tricky – that, and I miss Lisa.

I didn’t finalize today’s route till about 5:00 PM last night in the business center of the Ho Chunk. I’ll be working on tomorrow’s in a bit.

So, the Glacial Drumlin Trail is the best of the five I’ve ridden so far, smooth, clean, dry – almost like it is paved. I will get back on it tomorrow and ride to Waukesha where I start angling southeast towards Racine. I hope to see Lake Michigan at the end of the day and maybe even wade in it on my tired legs. And will then retire to my hotel room.