Don’s Blog: July 23: Fondy and Manty
Cycling across the country can be a romantic notion; in fact, it is that ideal that attracts many to treks such as the one in which I am participating. When you think of cycling across the country, you think of mild, sunny days, not too hot and not too cold, with gentle tailwinds pushing you along scenic highways and byways. Of course, if you have read much of this blog, you know that at least to this point, those days have been few and far between.
Today’s ride, day 34 of the trek, turned out to indeed be one of those “postcard” kind of days you dream about. It was cool at the start, but just enough to be invigorating. The roads were nice and we made steady progress. The calf pain that had plagued me yesterday was absent for the early miles of the ride, but did return after the first sag stop. It did not seem as painful as yesterday, although perhaps it was just wishful thinking. We finished the 84 miles today in good order otherwise, arriving at the hotel in Fond du lac at 1:45.
Digressing for a moment, one consideration not given much thought when contemplating a cross country cycling trek is that of expansion joints. They are those cracks that run across the road, created to prevent the blacktop from breaking open from the heaving that occurs in extreme hot and cold weather. When driving they are hardly noticeable. But when cycling, it’s a different story. Poorly constructed and/or neglected expansion joints can result in significant bumps, impacting both bike and body. And when there is an expansion joint every 20 feet, the constant jarring can make you crazy, especially when they go on for miles and miles. To finally be freed from several miles of expansion joints is a cause for celebration. I would estimate we have cycled over tens of thousands of expansion joints since we left Oregon.
All in all however, I must say I am impressed with what I have seen of Wisconsin so far. The towns are scenic and clean, as are the farms that dot the countryside. By and large the roads are well maintained (expansion joints notwithstanding), which is very important to cyclists such as are in our group. That is a significant upgrade over both South Dakota and Minnesota.
Like Lacrosse, Fond du Lac is an older town. It means “the bottom of the lake” in French. An ultrarunning friend, Roy Pirrung, who lives in the area, pointed out that Fond du lac and Manitowoc (tomorrow’s destination) are known as “Fondy” and “Manty” by locals. The hotel for the day was the Ramada Inn, right in the center of town. My room was on the eighth floor. It was a nice change to stay in a real hotel, and not another motel.
I had a minor “celebrity” encounter at the hotel, meeting rock and roller George Thoroughgood. We were in the elevator and he asked about the bike group, so we started chatting. He seemed like a nice guy. (He was in town playing at a local music fair.) His big hit back in the 80s was “Bad to the Bone,” which they still play on classic rock radio stations.
Today’s ride was “only” 57 miles. Distance is relative however, so even though 57 seemed “short” on paper, it was still a significant challenge. We traveled from “Fondy” to “Manty” through the “holy land” towns of St. Peter and Marytown, among others. There were some pretty significant hills on the route, up and down for more than 25 miles. Once again the weather was close to ideal: in the upper 70s and sunny, with light winds.
We reached massive Lake Michigan with about 10 miles to go, and had a nice ride into town and the final destination, the Holiday Inn in “Manty.” That was at about 12:30 or so. We were hoping the rooms would be ready, but alas they were not. Unfortunately, it took several hours for the hotel to get many of rooms ready for us, resulting in an unwanted wait. Ted, Steven, and I took a taxi to the nearest laundromat and had lunch while our clothes were in the washer. By the time we returned after 3:00, our rooms were ready, although other riders were still waiting.
Tomorrow is a “rest” day, although it will not really feel like one. We will have to pedal a few miles to the lake to board the ferry at 1:00, which will take us across the lake to Michigan. The trip will take four hours, and as an added "bonus," we will pick up an extra hour due to the time change from the Central to Eastern time zone. Upon disembarking, we will pedal a few more miles to the hotel, to prepare for a 115-mile day on Tuesday. On and on we go, still more than 1,000 miles from the Atlantic Ocean in Portsmouth.