Don’s Blog: July 21: Tunnel Vision
Catching up on the past few days:
After Wednesday’s long, arduous, soaking day, it was a relief to all in the group when Thursday dawned clear and dry. In addition, the winds were fairly light, although not altogether in our favor. As has been the case recently, Steve, Ted, and I started out after everyone else had already left. We rolled pretty slowly to the first sag stop at mile 35, and then picked up the pace a little, although we were peppered with rolling hills for the next 15 to 20 miles. At that point, Ted opted for a bike path option, while Steven and I stayed on the road to the second sag stop at mile 63. Only 25 left! It was nice to know we would not be finishing in the late afternoon on this day. There was one last test in the form of a wickedly steep mile-long climb at about mile 70. I managed to do it without getting off the bike, a victory of sorts. We passed several others walking their bike up the hill.
Yet more landmarks were achieved near the end of the ride, as we reached our sixth state, Wisconsin. In addition, we crossed the mighty Mississippi River. Well, it is not all that mighty this far north, compared with its Southern terminus. But still it was impressive, one of the major landmarks of the trip.
The city of Lacrosse, where stayed on this night, was kind of an old town, at least from the look of the architecture. Sights such as these are small hints we are steadily moving eastward. Some others are more frequent towns breaking up the open plains, and unfortunately, more aggressive drivers.
Quiz time: As Steven and I were enjoying a milkshake at a restaurant next to the hotel after the ride, I wondered if there were any other towns, aside from LaCrosse, that were also the names of sports, or athletic events. I posed the question to some members of the group, and they were able to come up with two. If you can think of any, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org I will offer the answers in the blog in a day or two.
No rest for the weary. For the fourth straight day we would be traveling in excess of 90 miles, this time to the small resort town of Wisconsin Dells, in the middle of the state. A unique twist to the ride today was that 32 of the miles would cover the Sparta to Elroy bike path. That’s a pretty long bike path! Not only that, but the path contains three tunnels, in which we would have to dismount the bikes to walk through them. We were advised to bring a flashlight, as the tunnels are quite dark.
For the first time on the trek, the weather was gray and overcast, but dry. Some rain was predicted for later in the day, but hopefully would not impede the ride. The winds were light, so all in all it was an ideal day for cycling. Unfortunately, I did not feel that great to start out. I am not sure exactly why, but I am sure it had something to do with the fact that I had cycled more than 2,300 miles in the past four and half weeks!
Our slow start got even slower when we reached the crushed gravel bike path, on which we were able to average only about 12 to 13 miles per hour at best. Then we arrived at the first tunnel. The entrance had medieval kind of look to it, and once inside was a little creepy. It was cold and had musty smell, and water was dripping from the sides of the tunnel. It was also hard to negotiate the footing, as the surface was rough and uneven. It was difficult to negotiate the footing while walking the bike. It took a good 20 minutes for us to walk through it, more than two-thirds of a mile long. I was glad to reach the end, and was hoping the other two tunnels were not as long!
Unfortunately, upon getting back on the bike and starting to cycle again, I realized I had tweaked a tendon or muscle in the back of my leg, at the top of my calf. I think it was a combination of days of wearing a knee brace and also walking through the tunnel in my bike shoes on the uneven footing. In any event, the pain as pretty significant, enough for me to think about regularly as I cycled. I tried to move around on the bike to accommodate it, but unsuccessfully. There was not a whole lot to do aside from sucking it up for the more than 50 miles to the finish.
The two other tunnels were indeed shorter, and once off the bike path we increased the pace. Still, it was after 3:00 p.m. by the time we reached the motel in the town of Wisconsin Dells. With amusement parks and other kids’ activities, it quite different from other places we had stayed on the trek so far. Ted, Steven, and I played mini-golf, a fun time; although I must admit they both beat my score. On the downside the Super 8 was one of the poorer places we have stayed. The walls were paper thin, so noise was prevalent all night long. In addition, the restaurant at which we ate was not really ready for our big group, so it took a very long time for the meals to be served. That is never a good thing for a hungry group like ours. Much grumbling was heard during the long wait. You have to roll with the punches however, so it is on to the next ride, and 84-miler to the town of Fond du Lac.