Aug 14: First five days

Submitted by Ben on Sun, 08/15/2004 - 21:24

[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on August 14, 2004]

Hi, folks! Sorry it's taken me a while to write a real message; I wanted to have something real to say first. I've been taking daily notes, but they make for dull reading. I've got enough miles behind me now that I can start using generalities instead of just specifics. :)

So... so far everything's going great! I know most people wouldn't consider two days of cold drizzle and rain a good way to start a bike trip, but in a year there are bound to be some days of bad weather! Besides, I find that one sunny day makes up for about three drizzly ones, not only in my mood but in basic tasks like recharging batteries (solar charger) and drying laundry. So I'm all caught up now.

Three days is also the magic number for my physical fitness. As on my previous trips, the first two days were really hard: my joints ached, my muscles ached, and I couldn't think straight by the end of the day. But on the third day I was not only pain-free but so full of energy I didn't want to stop riding. Now I don't know what I'll do with myself when I take a day off to visit with friends... turn a generator or something.

Tuesday and Thursday I rode at least half the way on designated bike trails made from old railroad rights-of-way. (Gateway State Trail from St. Paul to Stillwater, MN, and Red Cedar State Trail, from Menomonie to near Durand, WI.) Wednesday and Friday I stuck to county roads and the shoulders of state highways. I've got to say that Wisconsin gets good marks in my book for its highway shoulders: all the ones I've ridden on so far are very clean of debris and comfortably wide.

Wisconsin state parks are also excellent. Both Willow River (Tuesday night) and Perrot (Friday night) are spacious, quiet, clean of litter, and well staffed, and their restrooms and such are in great shape. I wish I could say the same for the "resort" I patronized outside Menomonie; its owners are getting too old to keep the place up, apparently.

Thursday night I experimented with unofficial camping. There were no official campgrounds along my route (the Buffalo River from Mondovi, WI to the Mississippi), so, being full of energy, I just kept riding all evening until the sun began to set, eating dinner during little breaks along the way. Then I found the perfect spot: an overgrown access road leading into a grove of trees near the river. I followed it when no one was coming and found no "no trespassing" signs, just a little one proclaiming "FUR FARM LICENSED BY WI DEPT. OF NATURAL RESOURCES".

I followed the road (on foot) way into the wetlands but didn't find any clues to what a "fur farm" might be. Maybe it's not leased right now. I certainly heard plenty of beavers going about their business overnight, along with loons, frogs, some bird that sounds like a monkey, and a pack of dogs that yelped like coyotes! At any rate, the place was beautiful, and I took lots of pictures both at sunset and at dawn, when the valley filled with fog.

Since I didn't have ready access to water that night, I ran out and couldn't make breakfast, so when I rode into Alma (on the Mississippi) first thing Friday morning, I stopped and got a proper greasy-spoon breakfast. It occurred to me that my camping menu doesn't include any fat, and fat is a necessary nutrient...

Which leads me to roadside farm stands. I've been able to get sweet corn every single day just by stopping at stands along my route. I've also bought some cheese straight from the factory store, a properly ripe muskmelon, and a tomato. I hope to be able to buy citrus fruit this way during the winter. :-)

Finally, I apologize to those of you whose calls I haven't returned. Although my phone gets good reception most of the time, it's roaming (i.e. not my provider's coverage), so if I used it I would be charged a bundle. If I don't find better coverage soon, I'll switch to a plan that doesn't penalize me so much for roaming. Thanks for your patience!