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Wisconsin 2005

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On the Road with Lucy & Lopez
(or...The Long, Long Trailer Revisited)

                                                                                                                            Story by: Fred & Ethel aka Tod & Susan

Day One:   Lucy’s Story                                     
     Most of us are old enough to remember the hilarious Lucille Ball & Desi Arnez farce, The Long, Long Trailer, in which Lucy and Desi set off across country in what was the then state-of-the-art travel technology, an extra -long house trailer. Well, in our scenario Susan and I (known hereinafter as Ethel & Fred) had agreed many months ago to accompany Jim & Laurie Allshouse (known hereinafter as Lucy & Lopez) on a much anticipated road trip to the Great Northwoods of Wisconsin.  Once there we would undertake what would become a 400+ mile bicycle tour of northern Wisconsin and its deep, dark forests punctuated at nearly every turn by what seemed like a thousand jewel-like lakes. 
     Finally, after much planning and anticipation, we met at the Lopez’s house for a grand departure. Leaving my tiny, tin, Japanese truck in Lopez’s garage, we boarded their van and set off for the Great Northwoods pulling...you guessed it...Lopez’s long (well, maybe not THAT long) trailer loaded with all our gear & bikes, unknowingly about to make almost 14 hours out of a twelve-hour drive. Our plan was to drive straight through to Rockford, Illinois, where we had reservations to spend the night. All that would remain the next day would be a simple 3-hour drive on to Stevens Point, Wisconsin, the gathering point for Pedal Across Wisconsin. This would be the first “commercial” tour for Fred & Ethel, though we are inveterate Freewheelers and have been on a number of OBS Grand Tours, including a dynamite tour of Wisconsin’s Door County in the summer of 2000. It would turn out to surpass our greatest hopes...but that would be after the “Rockford/Beloit incident.”
     The long drive to Wisconsin passed quickly with the anticipation of the tour and new scenery to see along the way...no problems at all...until we reached the Rockford/Beloit Trapezoid.  Not at all to be confused with the simplistic Bermuda Triangle! We had been here before...had actually talked along the way about avoiding the confusion of the dreaded Hydra at the gate...the pay-twice-to-go-once double-back tollbooths at Rockford. On our previous trip up to Door County, Lopez had led our tiny caravan of one car, one truck safely through the tollbooth at Rockford and on toward Wisconsin. Several minutes later some alarm was caused when we found ourselves approaching, and passing through, what eerily appeared to be the same tollgates, but this time going the other way. Then somehow we managed to regroup and pass through THE SAME TOLLGATE yet another time. This time would prove to be even trickier.
      As we approached the exits for Rockford, site of our motel reservations, some confusion arose among us as to which exit to take. An almost instant group-think decision had us off the interstate and safely in Rockford, presumably headed for the same motel as in 2000, but immediately nothing looked familiar at all...to anyone.  Problem?  Not at all, Lopez whips out the ubiquitous cell-phone, saving the day...well, sort of?  A quick dial of the motel number reached a desk clerk who confirmed our reservations. Lopez informs the clerk that we are in Rockford but somewhat confused, and could she give us some directions from where we are?  By all of our accounts, we should be within a mile or so, almost within sight of the motel, but as Lopez repeats the clerk’s directions back to her, the rest of us sense that something is amiss. Directions include...”stay on the street you’re on and go north about 15 miles to a dead end. You’ll be at a Home Depot; turn left there.” Wait a minute...what happened to the “about a mile away?”  And no one remembered driving 15 miles in Rockford the last time.
     Slowly, the miles unfolded themselves, and as they did so did the names of new & different townships.  Were we leaving Rockford? Finally, we settled for a major 3-way intersection (not a dead end) and the glimpse of a sign touting a Home Depot somewhere (but not there).  More miles...the trailer dutifully following...more phone conversations with the clerk, whose British accent is now causing some concern...when lo, upon the horizon...the motel...well, anyway a motel of the proper kind. A Fairfield, I think.  Only problem...we’re now in Beloit...miles from Rockford. We stumble in anyway, confused, exhausted, ready to throw ourselves on the mercy of the concierge.         
     “Welcome to Beloit,” comes the now familiar Brit accent, “your rooms are ready for you.” So what about our reservations in Rockford?  We’d even been there before. This was not the same place BUT there we were. Through the clever maneuvering and navigation of Lopez AND Lucy’s intricate plan to make a faux reservation in a different town in order to confuse the gods of mistravel, we finally made it to our intended lodging...and that is why Laurie only needs red hair to embody the reincarnation of Lucille Ball.
Day Two:   and beyond...Lopez’s story
     From Beloit to Stevens Point was 3 hours, just as planned. By the time we got there, it was Wisconsin all around us, and the air was cool and refreshing to us Okies. We put our stuff in our rooms, broke out the bikes, and went for a spin around Stevens Point to kill time before the tour meeting later that evening.  Stevens Point, though lacking a Stanford-like campus, is to me a kind of Palo Alto of the North. The town is abuzz with activity, bicyclists of all ages, outdoor stands & markets, a HUGE bike shop, The Hostel, and a community out-in-the-open-air ambience that simply has to be found away from the heat & humidity of the south. We had a nice lunch, explored the bike shop, and went out for a 30 mile we’re-free-from-the-car ride along the Wisconsin River, already sensing the coolness of the Northwoods, which in reality were still a hundred or so miles away.
     The tour meeting went as those things go...lots of new faces, lots of maps, lots of cue sheets.  Pedal Across Wisconsin is put on by retired first-grade teacher, Jerry Goldman, along with a couple of his long-time riding friends, his two sons, and one of their girlfriends as support staff. There were about 90 people including support staff . . . most of them I would find to be teachers, retired teachers, or at least knew someone with teaching issues. However, there were all sorts of riders there, of all ages, though I don’t recall anyone younger than about 15. We spent an hour or so reviewing the manner in which roads were marked (for our route only, so as not to be confused with the markers of other tours and t-shirt rides), reviewing the next day’s cue sheets, and having ice cream. (Ice cream at nightly meetings is a tradition and somewhat of a requirement.)
     On the morning of the first riding day a routine for the tour emerged . . . out early in front of the motel, check your luggage at the baggage truck, and take off on your own for the destination du jour.  Checking individual baggage onto the truck prevented leaving someone behind. Each day a food stop was set up somewhere between 12 and 20 miles into the ride, where we were each asked to check in with a designated staff person, again to assure that all were accounted for and had actually gotten onto and down the road for the day. This is how Lopez got his name...as soon as the wily Jim Allshouse aka Legs aka Lopez realized that not the same person had the check-in clipboard each morning...he would ride up and announce that Lopez had arrived. For the first two or three days, each succeeding staff person looked frantically for Lopez on his or her rider list. This was all great fun until it was discovered that one staff member in particular (remember the girlfriend of the son???) would look for Lopez again and again, day after day...que bueno!  It just doesn’t get any better does it? Oh, by the way, at those morning food stops riders were strongly encouraged to eat & drink freely and to take as much along with us as we wanted.  That ubiquitous blessing/bane of civilization, the “C” store, is not to be found easily in the Northwoods...something to keep in mind for a trip up north.
     The days and miles began to unfold before us...from Rosholt through Bevent past Hatley and on to Merrill...the land gently giving way from farms and silos to more and more forest, with now & then a small bright lake. Hosts of wildflowers nodded us north and as we went, rarely a car to be seen. Wisconsin appears to be crisscrossed by a system of state highways (We rarely went there, but for a mile or two), a system of county roads with perfectly painted center & fog lines (We used these for about 25% of the ride) which look to Okies like U.S. highways in Okiehoma, except that they’re perfectly smooth.) and a huge system of “township” roads, all as smooth as black glass. We rode 70% or more of the tour on these...no bumps, no holes,no traffic...just black silk ribbons through the deep, dark forests.
     By Rhinelander at the end of the 2nd day, we were into the serious forest...dark ferned troll woods in any direction, silent except for bird calls, rushing waters somewhere in the shadows, and around every turn a crystal lake or a black dell falling off into forever down. And so the days went, with always something to see and wonder at...the boat lift between Rhinelander and Eagle River was a great attraction, lifting family boats up & down between two adjacent lakes of different elevations. A rest day at Eagle River provided an opportunity for a short (about 32 miles one-way) excursion north to see the headwaters of the Wisconsin River and a short (mile or two) ride up into Michigan...for the multi-state bragging rights...and back through “Land ‘o Lakes” (appropriately named) and back down to Eagle River.  At the end of that long day, as at the end of every day, riders gathered around the luggage truck for tour-provided beer, soda, pretzels, etc.  (This is not a “survivor” tour.)
     On the way back toward our starting point, a morning food stop at Lake Tomahawk prompted a overflight by one lone, bald eagle no more than 50 or 75 feet about us, as if on cue. He was so close that we could see the black, onyx dot of his eye as he scanned us...apparently deeming granola bars & wheat cookies of no interest to him. From there all the way back to Lopez’s van in Rosholt the scenery re-presented itself in an astounding array of variations, the route almost never actually repeating itself, so that when we finally arrived back where we began, the last pedal stroke before sighting the van brought scenery as new as the very first.
     This is a classy, classic supported tour. For a modest price, all motel rooms are provided except those on the way there & back. Four EXCELLENT buffet dinners are included, along with continental breakfasts every day, a food stop on the road every morning, happy hour every afternoon, and maps/cue sheets/ AND a clearly marked route. Every motel had a pool & hot tub, and when the size of the group warranted staying in two places (so no one had a “smoking room”) the Phantom Bus Company or one of its subsidiary lackeys transported everyone to the dinner spot of the evening. Jerry Goldman, tour director, aka Dr. J. aka Dr. Pedal has invested 20 or more years into planning, replanning, and fine-tuning this tour to make it one of the very best available.  Total miles on tour...471...counting our 30 mile warm-up and that one mid-course correction between Antigo & Rosholt. Longest day...about 68 miles. Shortest day...50 miles. Our sincere thanks to Lucy & Lopez for taking us on the grand tour d’force.

          Here some pictures of Saturday after we checked in at our hotel.
 We rode around the town of Stevens Point.

Click thumbnail for larger view of photo. Captions below

Tod, Laurie and Susan riding through the river park in Stevens Point.

Laurie is checking her route map from last year.

Tod & Susan in front of a nice mural in the downtown area.

Jim & Laurie in front of the same mural.

The Hostel Shoppe, the largest recumbent bike store I have ever seen.

Lots to choose from, too many choices.

The lobby of our hotel where PAW map gathering was in progress.

July 31/ 2005

We drove to the start of PAW   "Pedal Across Wisconsin "
starting from Rosholt and riding into the Northwoods.

Click thumbnail for larger view of photo.

Don, one of the GREAT people of PAW. We had fun with him all week and he took care of our luggage with professionalism and great care.

Off on our ride to adventure. This is just as smooth as an Oklahoma turnpike.

A nice farm house with the green countryside.

Our first food stop at Bevent, Wisconsin.

Bob prepares the rest stop feast. My favorite was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Laurie is making a turn.

There is nothing better than GOOD smooth roads, pretty scenery and COOL weather.

These are ELK. There is also the albino Elk which is the first I have seen.

A true cyclist waits for no one in the food line.

GOOD food and GOOD friends.

Monday, we saw Corvette Lane just on the outskirts of Rhinelander. Sure costly flower planters.

This is a test. What year is this vette?

Also, what year is this vette? They do make nice planters tho.

Susan and Tod.

Rest stop north of Rhinelander. What a nice day for a bike ride!

Riders coming and going.

A big Wisconsin moose. We haven't seen one of these in Oklahoma.

We are riding into the town of Tomahawk.

Looks like some serious tandem rider talk between Dixie, Bill and Marie.

I think Happy Hour added to the camaraderie that I was missing from our tent tours. Don did an excellent job of playing host.

Is it Dr. J, Dr. Pedal, or Jerry???

Barb is giving hints about what to expect on the next day's ride.

Laurie is tired. Yes, both of the beers are mine.

We are getting our next day's route info from the boss, Dr. J

Lots of Wiconsin yard art. It looked nice.

Love these roads! Also another GREAT day for a bike ride.

Ann is having a good time.

Ann and her daughter going up the hill.

Mary Ann.

We picked up sandwiches to eat at the boat lift area.

We are guessing this is a home. It sure was a big structure. The barn is to the left.

Laurie, Tod and Susan in their OBS jerseys.

Laurie standing by the lake's edge.

Tod and Susan

The boat lifts the boats from one lake to the other.

These riders are watching the activity with the lift.

The parking meters here are attached to the buildings not on the curb. Must be for a snowplow reason.

We are riding thru a little fog from the water back in the trees in the early morning.

It was still foggy later up the road.

What hills, as Johnnie says, it is an opportunity.

Looking over the lake at Phelps. We had a much needed breakfast there before riding on to Land O' Lakes

Flowers and lakes.

These trees had faces on them and a bicycle laden with flowers hidden in the trees.

Path to the start of the Wisconsin River.

Laurie is on the way there.

Almost to the start.

Greg and Marti from Galva, IL

This is the lake that feeds the Wisconsin river.

This is the start of the Wisconsin River.

Jim, Tod and Susan by the Michigan state sign.

An old Desoto for sale. I think it was a 1955.

A lake outside of Land O Lakes on the ride back to Eagle River.

Click here for pictures from Eagle River back to Rosholt

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last modified March 12, 2013