Hello everyone! It’s Friday, July 24, Day 33.
We traveled with our jerseys on from Lacrosse to Wisconsin Dells, WI. We knew today that we would be riding through the tunnels, so we were all kind of looking forward to seeing what that would be like and what the diversity of the day would be. All I can say is that today was a rather interesting day, in many, many ways, as you’ll see. We started off with a pretty decent morning, good weather, a very nice breakfast at our hotel at 6:30, eggs with cheese, hash brown potatoes with peppers and onions, which was a real treat for me, I love that, lots of fruit and muffins and lots of good choices, oatmeal and bacon and all that other kind of stuff that I don’t eat. Everything went pretty well, I was really strong, climbing really well, moving along, kind of riding by and talking to different people as I rode along and moving on ahead. We got to our first SAG stop at 27 miles, in Sparta, the bicycle capitol of the world. There’s a really cool statue of this great big huge man on a bicycle. It’s really kind of funny because they named him Ben Bikin, and he says on his little machine when you go by the statue, “Hello, I’m Ben Bikin!” He talks about the history of the Sparta area, which is really pretty funny. I got a few pictures of that and went over to where our SAG stop was. They actually had another bike that I got up on top of and got a picture. Funny thing is, other people had gotten on the bike and we got pictures, but when I got up on the bike, a policeman came by and told me to get down and told us that we couldn’t go up on the bike anymore. So I was the last one to be able to get up on the bike. But wouldn’t you know the police would come by when I got up there! We all thought that was pretty funny. I can never get away with anything, that’s kind of been the story of my life. It’s kind of a joke, and I thought it was pretty funny, actually. After we had our little SAG time there, we got onto the Sparta to Elroy portion of the trail, and the trail was a compacted dirt trail. We went along on our thin tires and I was pretty surprised it went along as well as it did.
We all got to our first tunnel and thought it was really exciting. We got pictures and really thought it was awesome. You have to walk your bikes through with flashlights and we were all pretty much in a big group walking our bikes with the flashlights. It was kind of drippy and wet and we just had to be careful as we walked along. But because it was the first one, it was pretty exciting. When we came out from that tunnel, it started to rain. That wasn’t really too bothersome, because we had already had our little rain jackets on from going through the tunnel, and that didn’t really seem all that bad, the rain was kind of warm. We traveled along and started to ride a little bit more, and the rain got a little bit heavier until we started to get very wet. We got to this area called Wilton on the trail, and we got off and went to Pies Are Square. They had so many people to serve, there were so many locals there as well as a bunch of us from America By Bicycle, so it was actually a longer stop than planned. I got a sandwich and some soup and a piece of blackberry pie, which was absolutely delicious. The group I was with got served last and we were sort of the last to leave that area, which at first didn’t seem so bad. We were at 61 miles at that point and knew that we just had about another 30 miles, that didn’t seem so bad. However, once we got going, it was very wet. We had gotten wet already and were a little bit chilled, but it seemed like it was starting to clear up a little bit. We started traveling along on the trail, but the trail was pretty wet by then and it wasn’t quite as easy to ride on it as it was before, even though it wasn’t too bad, there was often a canopy of trees and what not. But throughout that ride for some mileage there, we kind of started hitting some headwinds, and my lunch really didn’t do me much good for energy, I noticed. From the 61 to about the 70-mile mark, I started to get really, really tired. From 70 to 91 miles, it really seemed like a really long 20 miles. We had gone through our second tunnel, and by the time we got to the third tunnel, there weren’t many people going through it and it was really kind of like, okay, let’s just get through this! The ride was starting to have some up and down climbs to it, not big climbs, but just on the trail. From our second SAG stop on it was just really a long ride. Our bikes were all dirty, we were dirty, and the bikes weren’t really riding as well. To make a long story short, I was getting really tired and we were hitting headwinds. But the thing that really saved me is I was with Ken and another man named Tom; Ken is the new rider with the group and Tom is someone who usually rides with another gentleman named Ken, but he wasn’t riding with that Ken at this point. So the three of us were kind of moving along and we hit a construction area that was really, really crazy.
We had to walk through a ton of mud and kind of down into a hole and carry our bikes across a plank, and our shoes just got totally muddy and grubby after that, which we were so filthy to begin with. We had to clean off our shoes and scrape them out so we could use our pedal clips on our bikes. That took quite a bit of time, and it sort of started raining and sprinkling on and off, and more headwinds as we traveled along. It just really became a very long ride at the end. About the last 10 miles I realized I was really dogging it. So I ate a trusty chocolate bar with almonds and said to Ken and Tom, “You know what, I’m going to really need to start pushing it because it’s feeling like I’m going to be out here all day.” So I started gearing up, kind of pushed myself and started talking to myself to get myself going, get myself in gear and really started going up and down these rolling roads as fast as I could. I pushed it up to like 22 to 25 mph and the last six or seven miles we just zipped in. I pushed it for all I had, gave it everything I could, and just wanted to get myself and my bike in and get off my bike. So that’s exactly what we did, just got in, and once we got into the motel, everybody was outside cleaning their bikes off. It took a long time for us to all get our bikes cleaned off, our shoes cleaned off, had to re-lube our chains.
They had to adjust our rap time to be a little bit later and our dinner time a little bit later. So that’s what we did, cleaned up bikes, got back into our rooms and cleaned up to go to rap time to find out that tomorrow we have an 83-mile day that will take us from Wisconsin Dells to Fond du Lac, WI. Hopefully it will be a good day, we’ll have to see what happens. Needless to say, today was kind of the trail, the terrain, the rain, the mud we had to go through and climbing up and down rolling hills that were actually quite a bit of work after we were so tired and our bikes were kind of sluggish. After the other days of all the mileage, it was really a long day and I’m really glad that it’s over. We haven’t really been able to enjoy what Wisconsin Dells has to offer. I hear there are a lot of fun waterslides and a lot of fun things here, but it’s 9 o’clock at night right now and I just finished dinner a little while ago. I’m really tired and I’m just going to take it easy and try to get to bed early tonight. So onward bound. I just want to say thank you to everybody again. For these last few days I really haven’t been responding to anybody for all of your encouragement and all the great things that you all are doing for me. I really do appreciate it. I’m just really kind of trying to survive through these days right now, because they’re hard and they’re long. I’m keeping my positive attitude up, but it really is difficult. That’s just kind of where I’m at. I’m thankful for the ride, we’re really doing well, everybody’s safe, that’s the important thing. Mentally I can say it’s a little bit harder than it was before. I’m looking forward to getting to our next destination tomorrow. I met a few people today, K.C. who was a waitress, and a young boy who worked at Pies Are Square. I just want to thank them, they were really sweet. They worked really hard today to serve us our lunches. When 50 or more of us come in, it’s pretty overwhelming for them, especially when they have other customers. They did a great job. God bless all of you, I love you out there. God bless America with all these little towns and these cute little places where everybody lives between Wilton and Kendall and Elroy, all these little places. They’re parts of America that I would never have seen otherwise, trails that are actually really pretty with the canopy of trees. It’s really interesting to see this part of the world, even though at times I’m really tired and at times I get really tired of being on my bike. Altogether it’s still a great blessing and I’m really grateful. So God bless all of you and I’ll talk to you again tomorrow.