We started the day knowing that it was going to be dramatically colder, and probably rainy, with about 85 miles of cycling between where we started and where we planned to end the day. All of those things turned out to be true…except for the cycling part.
Earlier in the week, after discovering that the campground we planned to stay at did not have showers, we made arrangements to stay at a bed and breakfast a couple of blocks from the Glacial Drumlin Trail in Lake Mills. It had a big porch and lovely gardens and a grand dining room. Terry, the proprietor, put a new lock on the garage with a keypad so we could keep our bikes in there, and we told her not to worry about breakfast because we were planning to leave earlier than her usual breakfast serving time, and that we would just make some coffee and be on the road.
When we got up at 6:30, we discovered that it was 41 degrees and layered up with our warmest clothes…and also discovered that Terry was up and making breakfast anyway for us at this early hour, with homemade scones and fruit and eggs and hash browns and it was delicious and gave us a chance to learn more about her and the town and life as a bed and breakfast proprietor. She told us about hosting a woman who rode her bike from Colorado to South Bend IN for her 50th college reunion, and also told us about the last cicada outbreak there, after we mentioned expecting to encounter them in a few days, and said “they were like bats” and kept people indoors for some days. (Gah.) We also met another guest, Carola, who came down for coffee and said she was from Seattle, and who was curious about our bikes as someone who also does distance biking, so we gave her a card and chatted while we loaded up the bikes. Terry and Carola stayed on the porch and saw us off, and as we rode away a man riding in the street said “stay warm today!” That was somewhat prophetic.
It was really cold but beautiful (but also really cold), and we rode along the Fox River and through woods and marshland and small towns, with occasional sprinkles. At one point, we rode past a lush green field and saw what I thought was a single white horse, grazing in the middle of it, and it was a very striking scene. So I stopped to take a photo, with Dan stopping behind me…and when the lovely creature raised its head we realized that it was an albino deer. It looked at us for a few seconds and bounded away as we tried to unsuccessfully get our stiff fingers to get our phones out for a picture.
A short time later, as we approached a town, a large older man walking on the trail said “you better hurry up, you are running out of time” in response to my hello…which gave me something to think about for the rest of the day. (Wise guy, or another prophet…?)
In Wales, WI, there was a lovely, warm, cozy, very welcoming coffee shop (Mama D’s) where we stopped for some tea and lunch and to be warm, and started to see many more people biking and running and walking on the trail, which ended in the next town, Waukesha. Dan noted that Waukesha is the birthplace of Les Paul, as well as the BoDeans, and found this great picture of the Gibson Les Paul on the side of a building.
Sometimes people yelling random things at us turn out to be extremely wonderful and helpful. A man walking by in sweats saw us riding past from across the street and yelled “where are you going?” as we were trying to navigate to the next trail on city streets, and we stopped to talk to him. It turned out that Mike is a cyclist who has done many long distance trips, and told us he did the “GAPCO” last summer when he heard about our destination (which is evidently what we should be calling the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O towpaths that we will be riding on in Pennsylvania and Maryland) and gave us some very specific directions to the New Berlin trail that saved us some time.
This is when it started to get really windy. Like, push your bike backwards windy. We had gone out for several long bike rides at home in April during wind advisories so we have been doing a lot of riding in these conditions, but it was very hard riding. And getting colder. We were relieved to find a bike shop next to the trail in New Berlin and went in for some full-fingered gloves.
The bike shop was a huge Quonset hut filled with all kinds of bikes and gear and a very tall guy behind the counter wearing a Pink Floyd sweatshirt went to find us a new tube to replace the one that went flat earlier in the week while we looked at gloves, and chatted about our trip and bike trails in Wisconsin and he cut the tags off the gloves so we could put them on, and handed us some energy chews and alkaline water to keep us going as he said goodbye.
We kept riding, now in the greater Milwaukee area. This is when the day turned from cold and strenuous to rainy and miserable, and we have no photos of this because we were busy being lost and cold and wet and miserable, and then riding as fast as possible through some parkways that I am sure are lovely under other circumstances.
This went on for a couple of hours and there were gale warnings and we were still about 23 miles from Racine, our destination, when I slowly climbed a hill and rode up to Dan and he said “let’s call it and get inside and find a ride.” He was actually concerned about hypothermia; we really weren’t dressed for this weather which was completely unexpected.
The closest building was an immense lawn implement store and we went inside and shivered as we discussed options (can we find a taxi service with a van that can accommodate two bikes? Will AAA pick us up? Can we find a Uhaul rental?). We basically stood by the door and dripped on the floor and no one came over so I finally went to the desk to ask if it was okay to stay there while we waited for a ride.
Dan meanwhile managed to find a guy at a taxi service who would pick us up with a van if we paid $75 in cash, and then I went back to the service desk and Kevin who was working there started talking to me about biking, and said he just bought a road bike, and that the owner rode his bike across Wisconsin, and he let me use their staff bathroom to change into some dry clothes. Our ride hadn’t arrived by the time they were closing but the owner, also named Kevin, told us we were welcome to stay and turned out the lights and the two Kevins hung out for a while chatting with us about biking and kayak adventures, and the owner Kevin also kindly offered to drive us to Racine if our cab didn’t show up. Getting the bikes into the taxi company van (a brand new Honda Odyssey which the driver didn’t know real well, so even folding down the seats was complicated) meant taking the front wheels off which took some doing, and I looked inside the store and saw that the owner Kevin was sitting in the seat of a lawn mower drinking a PBR watching this all unfold in the pouring rain. After getting everything loaded, Dan stuck his head back in the door (which kept blowing open) and said “did you guys enjoy that show?” – they laughed and yes, they’d enjoyed it.
We had a reservation at a lovely Doubletree Suites on the harbor in Racine, and to arrive in a warm vehicle was a relief as the rain continued to pour, and Dan generously tipped our driver because the car only had 230 miles on it, and our bikes kind of messed it up, and we were so incredibly grateful for the ride. While we didn’t ride all of the way to Racine, we did ride 65 miles and were pretty hungry. After getting settled and changed, we headed to the adjacent restaurant where we had a great dinner in the tradition of supper clubs (with soup, salad, bread, entrees big enough to feed a small family, the whole deal) and had a long conversation with the young host, Thomas and our server, Alissa, about our trip and lots of other things. Lovely way to end the long day.
The weather for Friday is expected to be the same and there are gale warnings all the way into Chicago…and so we decided that rather than being miserable all day, we are going to ride our bikes to Kenosha and take the train into the city. Hey, we’re on vacation, after all….!
PS from Dan: I want to note something Lisa said in the van as we warmed up “They call this kind of bike travel ‘unsupported’ but the truth is we just don’t know who is going to support us…and neither do they, and then something happens.” Many kindnesses in abundance.