Day Two: Pepin, WI to West Salem, WI: Phlox and birds

What a day. We are clean and showered at the AmericInn in West Salem and waiting on the delivery of pasta and a salad to our room. We rode 78 miles – south along the Mississippi and at Onalaska turned east, and we’ll be riding that direction till we reach Racine on Thursday afternoon.

It was a beautiful day, really, and we started with high spirits as we pulled out of Pepin in the sun, feeling great. Wisconsin 35 between Pepin and Alma is really kind of glorious, the bluffs on one side and the river on the other. The sides of the road were rich with purple phlox. We were getting into the sloughs of this part of the upper Mississippi – water on both sides of the road and the woods loud with birds. (By the way, the most common bird so far is the Red Wing blackbird – so many of them and their vocalizations are easily recognizable and they are everywhere, which is fine because they are a beautiful creature.)

We crossed the Chippewa River, as well as dozens of lesser streams flowing into the Mississippi. The Chippewa flows down from Eau Claire and points north. So far the major rivers we’ve crossed: the St. Croix and the Chippewa. There are so many more to come, we thought we’d name this tour “Many Rivers To Cross” and channel Jimmy Cliff all the way. We may still. Stay tuned for the Tippecanoe and the Youghiogheny (I think I spelled both of those correctly.)

The Chippewa

By noon, it had gotten really sultry and we were riding into a very discouraging and brawny headwind. We were heating up out on the road and had to keep filling up on water. The traffic, especially big trucks, was worse than I’d remembered. Once we entered Trempealeau County, the shoulders shrank to three feet (or less) and the trucks kept blasting by, including two pulling extra wide loads. We were white knuckling it and very hot. We stopped to rest a couple of times and at one stop, learned the Trempealeau Hotel, our hoped for lunch destination, was closed on Monday. We picked the nearest roadhouse instead, the Jailhouse Saloon, the latest in a very long string of small town bars we’ve lunched in while the locals stared at us.

As we entered Trempealeau, we saw two bikers with loaded bikes coming towards us – I yelled hello and they greeted us and Lisa asked where they were going- “San Francisco! And how about y’all?” We yelled “Washington DC!” And we woo-hoo’d each other and kept on going. Wow, I thought, you’re going to be riding into the wind for many weeks, friends – also, they were thirty years younger than us, but it isn’t a competition, right?

We’ve avoided storms and even rain, somehow, but not the wind or the heat. As we wait for the delivery of some food, I ponder the coming days – we have four days to Chicago, each in the 75 plus mile range. And I am absolutely sure we will complete them. Then, after a day off, we move into the part of the trip that is all new to us, and there the adventure really begins.

PS, I did think of Dylan songs all day in honor of his birth – “Purple clover and Queen Anne’s Lace” especially, as well as “you don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows” – but maybe I was just seeing my current conditions through Dylan lyrics. Anyway, happy birthday Bob!

8 thoughts on “Day Two: Pepin, WI to West Salem, WI: Phlox and birds

  1. Sent from my iPhone Dan, my name is Phil Harder and I’m a friend of Enid’s. We’ve exchanged interesting road signs, and I thought your trip might be an opportunity to our collection. Here are two from my biking or paddling trips. Safe travels…I really enjoy your blog.



    • That’s a great question. I’ve ridden it twice now and would say it depends. I’m on 32mm tires (Gatorskins) and am fine. My lightweight road bike has 25’s and I think that would be hard. The surface isn’t what I’d call “gravel” – it Is very packed most of the time but there are many spots where it is looser and it can get slippery.


  2. The pictures are gorgeous! That area of Wisconsin is so lovely. I hope you have another (relatively) smooth ride today!


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