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Update – Ike on Her Bike – Week #5

The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.” Abraham Lincoln

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” Rachel Carson

I wondered what I would write about this week. It seemed like all we did was ride through more corn and soybean fileds. What else could I say about that?

It is helpful to have a decent sense of direction bicycling along these states. The roads are named by letter or number, like county road, CR H by 536 Ave. Why do they call it an avenue?

We passed the majority of SD where one road with no turns could take you through the entire state. In Mitchell, we had to stop at the Corn Palace. You guessed it, murals made entirely from corn cobs depicting scenes around SD, namely motorcycle riders, cowboys and indians decorate this community center. The roads cut through fields from one farm to another. As we passed through more flat fields with every inch tilled with corn or soybean, we saw a few of the 10.000 lakes in MN. Out west we saw a lot of deer (dead) on the side of the road, then grasshoppers, dead and alive; here, it is dead frogs all over the side of the road! The towns were coming in closer proximity and the population of the towns grew from 70 to nearly 5,000 in MN and to 7,000 in WI. There was a dramatic change in the scenery from one day into the next between MN and WI. Suddenly, there were trees. The trees grew in size and proximity as we headed eastward.

Starting in Sioux Falls on Monday, the weather was very wet from the storm crossing the states that dropped seven inches of rain in Milwaukee, causing flash floods and sink holes before striking NYC on Friday. The water falls were wide and rocky and somewhat brown. Some people say that the color is from the animals, particularly, cows and suggest that planting prairie grass could filter some of the run off. We were on a curvy bike path along the river for awhile. People in front of the pack were moving along at their usual pace in the rain. Someone said I don’t know how they do that with these wet conditions. I wondered why they do that in those conditions. At least four people fell off their bikes in the next hour and scraped themselves from head to toe.

I have another picture entering into another state. Welcome to MN. We stayed in Worthington, Mankato and Rochester. It is still few and far between places. There are few convenience stores and most of what we pass looks local and old fashioned. There are few chains businesses. The most settled place is Rochester, with a distinct neighborhoods and town/city around the Mayo Clinic. As I headed out of Rochester, up a small hill, a pick up truck carrying a small sized trailer was heading down. Near the top of the hill, the truck started braking. The brakes screeched. The trailer started fishtailing. The truck went across the lanes, still screeching and flopping, out of control, screeching, lands in a gulley on the other side of the road facing the opposite direction. Given a minute difference, it would have struck an oncoming car or one of the riders. To me, it was reminiscent of the Avon mountain crash. I am very surprised that people weren’t more surprised and shaken by it.

It was some pretty flat riding in MN. Some people find that dull, constantly pedaling. Someone calculated that we make about 25,000 to 30,000 rotations during these 100 mile days. I didn’t question his math. Several people are feeling achy knees from this overuse! The roads were flat, but had many ridges, breaks and gaps. It felt like bumping down a flight of stairs.

We had a couple hundred mile days in a row. The weather was nice both days. Everyone finished the first day in record time which encouraged us to do another.

We crossed the Mississippi River in La Crosse and had another photo op, Welcome to WI. There were several houseboats along a marina. Thoughts of Mark Twain came to mind immediately. There was an impressive statue of Native Americans playing lacrosse. Do you think that the game originated here? We stopped in LaCrosse, Wisconsin Dells, Fond du lac and Manitowoc.

WI boasts the oldest rails to trails path. It was built in 1965 over rails that were built in 1873. We rode on the trails for about 35 miles between Sparta and Elroy.

My camera went caput this morning. You will have to picture this:

The bike path looks like an old wagon trail. Trees make a canopy over the trail. It is a wet morning. Mist is hanging in the air. The temperature just dropped about 15 degrees. We come upon an arched opening lined by big rocks, about 25 feet high by 20 feet wide. There are huge, solid, wooden doors attached to the opening. We look around. The path takes us through the tunnel. We walk our bikes into the flat blackness along the uneven rail bed lit only by our handlebar lights. Water drips down on us. Water is splashing from the sides. We walk ten or fifteen minutes through the cool, dank tunnel, unable to adjust to any differences in the darkness. Barely visibe is a grey opening ahead. Stepping out of the tunnel, it is as grey at the exit as the entrance. The path continues for many more miles and two more tunnels.

The doors were to keep the tunnel warm in the winter so that the limestone would not crack and tumble down. In the old days, men had the job of opening and closing the doors when the trains were coming.

WI, America’s dairyland was as I imagined it. There are red barns, cow farms, cheese factories, homes flying the US flag. The rolling hills are nice to ride around and the smell of manure makes ya go fast! I didn’t expect to see the rows of wind turbines. They propel gently and evenly. I consider that Americn ingenuity at work. People cheered us on here. One boy asked where we were going and wished that we would win the race.