Day Three: West Salem to Baraboo: Tunnels and trails

Today’s ride ended up being 86 miles, and started on a wet parking lot adjacent to the Americinn and Peterbilt Trucks in West Salem after some morning rain. We felt good and left ahead of schedule and crossed the highway to get to the Lacrosse River bike trail, with big trucks driving all around us.

About 40 minutes in — as we were chatting and passing a lovely little city park — I realized I was having a hard time keeping up with Dan…and looked down and realized that my back tire was flat. So flat. Really, really flat. This was not an unusual situation, as my bike has experienced many flat tires that have been chronicled in previous trips…so much so that Dan has started to carry a little square of panty hose in his bike repair kit. (After multiple flats on our bike trip to New Orleans, we had a fortuitous encounter with a bike mechanic who instructed us that “panty hose snags on everything” after he used that technique to find seven small pieces of metal embedded in my back tire.)

Dan took off the tire and did the pantyhose test and found the culprit that caused the flat – a small wire that I must have picked up in the parking lot that morning – and after inflating a new tube and putting it all back together, we were on our way again.

We soon came to the start of the infamous Elroy-Sparta trail. Sparta claims to be the bicycling capital of America, which is a pretty big claim based on the fact that they had the vision to turn an old railroad bed into a bike trail on the late 60s – the first rails-to-trails project. We rode into town for some breakfast at a little cafe and passed big “Ben Bikin” on our way.

The trail runs along the train tracks for a good ways and I was surprised to see a fellow walking many miles from any town. I said good morning and he said “do you know what time it is anyways?” and I got the sense that he was waiting for a train to jump shortly and wished him well and rode on.

We rode through farmland and saw lots of rabbits and other small creatures on the crushed limestone trail, who scurried off into the brush as we approached. At some point it became apparent that we were on a long slow climb uphill, and then the temperature dropped dramatically as we approached the largest tunnel, which is 3800 feet long. Cyclists are instructed to walk their bikes and use headlamps and stay in the middle of the trail, as there is running water on either side, as well as dripping water overhead and bats. It was pretty eerie and a little slippery and we were alone for most of the walk through the tunnel, and then saw a bright light coming toward us quickly and heard scary sounds …. and it turned to be a dad and his little daughter just riding on through making ghostly noises.

The rest of the day was sort of rugged, and windy, and took us through Amish country and along roads with farm equipment and logging trucks and the beautiful Baraboo river, and we were trying to put some miles between us and an approaching thunderstorm. The day also may have included a misunderstanding about how far we were actually biking due to some bad math which was rectified after we stopped at a Kwik Trip for some cold water and a snack. As Dan noted, it’s a good idea to stop to eat when someone is crabby.

We arrived in Baraboo a bit after 7:00 and did laundry and ordered some dinner and the storm followed later when we were safe and clean and happy.

7 thoughts on “Day Three: West Salem to Baraboo: Tunnels and trails

  1. Think I’m learning how to read your charts & graphs.
    So for today, I’ve got 86 miles in a 10-hour day.
    You guys are hauling’ ass.


  2. Gosh the pictures make this look like a blissful and bucolic day on the bikes (with possible exception of the terrifying tunnel and the actual mileage LOL)! Having never ridden more than about 80 miles in one day, I really cannot comprehend how you guys manage this days and days in succession. Truly remarkable! I can’t wait to read tomorrow’s post.

    peace, pcb


      • They are amazing indeed! Currently my favorite content to follow! I am riddled with envy and yet I am pretty sure I’ll never be able to do what they are doing. Thanks for introducing me to your friends! peace, pcb


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