Aug 23: Appleton Update

Aug 23: Appleton Update

[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on August 23, 2004]

Hi, folks! I had a great visit with my friends this weekend, in spite of record-low temperatures and a bear on the loose. They let me sleep indoors. ;-)

I'm at a Kinko's in Appleton now on my way toward the Lake Michigan coast. There's a headwind this morning but it's been very easy going so far; I'm going to have to resist the urge to go all the way to Manitowoc today because I don't want to wear myself out like I did after my last day off.

Just a few logistical updates for those of you who like to hear about the challenges of traveling.

Yesterday I went to the AT&T Wireless store about a mile from where I am right now, planning to follow the advice I'd gotten from one of their phone support people last week. He said I could get the same coverage for less money if I bought a newer phone that uses GSM rather than digital service. However, the salesman at the store advised me against it, saying the extent of the GSM coverage would be significantly worse than digital. So no upgrade, I thought; end of story.

After leaving the store, I happened to pass a kiosk selling both AT&T and Verizon service, and I noticed that Verizon's digital coverage was better than AT&T's. I asked about the rates and found that I could save about $20/month by switching, plus I could get a much cooler phone for free (after rebate). The only downside is that since I'm not in the 612 area code, they can't transfer my Minneapolis phone number to the new phone until I've had it for 60 days. If I lost my 612 number I'd have to notify not only friends and family but also my banks, domain name registrars, and so on. Big hassle.

But I sat down and did some calculations and found that even if I have to pay for two cell phones for 60 days in order to keep my number, I'll *still* save money by switching. So I'm doing it. I tell you this not to toot Verizon's horn at all, but because in the past I've recommended AT&T for their rural coverage, and I can't do that anymore. My momma told me, you better shop around.

On the health-insurance front, Blue Cross still says they haven't received the medical records that Abbot Northwestern claims they sent last week, so I still have no insurance. I don't know who's to blame here -- could be either of those faceless bureaucracies or the postal service -- but I suspect Abbot because they failed to send the records at all the first time I requested them, over two months ago. So if any of you in the Twin Cities want to organize a glove-slap posse to go demand satisfaction on my behalf, I'd love to hear about it.

Next time I write, I'll be in Michigan! --Ben

Ben Mon, 08/23/2004 - 12:48

to Wisconsin Rapids, WI

to Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Yesterday's longer-than-expected ride took a lot out of me.  The prevailing southwest wind blew me into Wisconsin Rapids, but it also blew by a succession of different types of weather, including a dramatic rainstorm that hit just as I pulled into town.

The road into town was so quiet I was able to listen to an entire tape, stopping it only when the occasional car went by, but it looks like I won't be able to avoid heavy traffic tomorrow.

After weathering the storm, I went to an ice cream stand that everyone in town recommended and got a huge malt, in preparation (I thought) for riding toward or into Stevens Point.  But I was so tired when I got back on my bike that I stopped at the first campground I found, just outside of town.  The good news is it's very affordable and well maintained, and the traffic noise is no worse than last night's $20 disappointment.  But it leaves me with about 45 miles to ride tomorrow.  Better rest up!

Total distance: 38.19 mi

Ben Wed, 08/18/2004 - 00:00

to Hartman Creek SP, WI

to Hartman Creek SP, WI

I got up nice and early this morning and rode into The Village of Plover, just south of Stevens Point, around 9:30 AM.  I toyed with the idea of visiting the recumbent shop in Stevens Point but decided I probably didn't have the time and might not have the energy.  I did swing by the public library but found it closed, so I headed on out of town.

After leaving the Institute I had my real adventure of the day... I was trying to follow US 10 but finding it too busy and its shoulders too narrow.  Then there were construction signs ahead... nothing to do but keep going.  Turned out they're building a new limited-access route to bypass the towns of Amherst and Amherst Junction.  The new road was closed to traffic but open to me!  I had about 5 miles of smooth concrete all to myself.

When I got to where the new road rejoined US 10, I found that the highway itself is limited-access from there on: off limits to bikes.  So I rode back into Amherst, bought some groceries, and continued on local roads.

The road I picked to Hartman Creek State Park was County D, and it was the perfect road.  Scenic, very low in traffic, and with just enough hills and turns to be interesting.

The state park isn't as nice as Perrot, but gorgeous in its own way.  It's a pretty recent development; part of the campground was planted as a pine tree farm and another part as a nut orchard, which makes for interesting camping.  The campsites in the pine trees are almost spookily public, like camping in a convention hall with only supporting columns between one site and the next.

The real attraction of this park to me is its proximity to the Ice Age National Trail.  I plan to take a hike tomorrow morning and see some erratics!

Total distance: 49.54 mi

Ben Thu, 08/19/2004 - 00:00

to Coffeens', Hortonville, WI

to Coffeens', Hortonville, WI

The ride into Hortonville via New London was uneventful, and I got to the Coffeens' around 4:00. A friend of Chris's from near Milwaukee is visiting until tomorrow, and his girlfriend lives here too, so there were six of us for dinner.

Total distance: 37.98 mi

Ben Fri, 08/20/2004 - 00:00

Coffeens' House

Coffeens' House

I spent the day on the 21st with the Coffeens.  I used their Internet connection in the morning and then helped Steve move sand for four or five hours, partly to the front steps and partly to Lynn's new zen garden.  Last night a bear walked through the zen garden, so we left the tracks intact and I got some photos.

In the evening I got the autoharp out and played a few songs for Steve and Lynn and then a few more when Chris and Becky got home from work.

Went into Appleton with Becky on the morning of the 22nd and bought a new Verizon phone, since AT&T service in Wisconsin has been abysmal.  Went with Chris in the afternoon to see the sod farm where he works.  Otherwise an uneventful day.

Ben Sun, 08/22/2004 - 00:00