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Wisconsin 2010

I Should Have Stopped at One Blind Russian

                                                                                                     Story by: Laurie Allshouse

Why do we drive a day and a half to ride our bikes 370 miles in Wisconsin?  Dr. J and Pedal Around Wisconsin (PAW) have introduced us to the nicest people from all over the United States.  It has become an annual pilgrimage that PAW fans look forward to every summer.  We have participated in Jerry’s Northwoods rides for the past 7 years and love every one of our tours.  This year we opted to try his River Valley’s tour.  Meeting up with two Wisconsin friends we met on previous Northwoods rides, Sharon and Kris were our riding partners for the week.  Sandy, another PAW alumni and friend, joined us on the first day of riding the Elroy-Sparta Rails to Trails.

We began our week with the PAW Pardeeville weekend ride.  We had heard glowing accounts of the three day weekend ride and this year it just happened to be on the weekend preceding River Valleys.  Saturday’s ride through Amish country was like stepping back in time.  Amish buggies were everywhere.  Sharon commented that there were more out and about than she had ever seen.  We stopped at an area lake.  Five buggies were parked with horses tethered in the shade trees.  Pairs of Amish were in canoes fishing in the lake.  One gentleman was on the shore, cleaning fish as a young tyke played on the swings, pumping to his heart’s content to the thwart any mosquitoes from attacking him.

The Pardeeville Lion’s Club put on an excellent dinner preceded by boat rides on the lake.  As a storm started dumping tons of rain, our hosts brought out umbrellas to protect hungry cyclists bringing their food from the kitchen hut to the covered pavilion.  Good food and a fabulous rainbow were our reward.  Driving back to our hotel in Portage, we found the nearby town to be completely dry.

And so began our week of riding PAW’s River Valleys tour.  Hills, perfectly manicured farms with impressive wood piles, beautiful flower beds and huge gardens greeted our every turn.  Here are some hightlights:

Sunday – Portage to Mauston
 Ran over a snake.  Not sure what kind but as I screamed for my companions to avoid the creature, it was reported that he was still alive.  He had a flat head with golden bands.  We also had lunch in a bar with root beer on tap.  That was the BEST root beer EVER.

Monday – Mauston to Tomah
A squirrel fell from a tree right beside me as I rode by and then he scampered away.  I thought I was being attacked.  Sharon said it looked like he hit me since I swerved so much.  70 miles made possible by the Cranberry Ice Cream in Warrens just 10 miles from the end of our ride.  Sharon’s sister, Sandy, joined the exhausted riders for dinner.

Tuesday – Tomah to Sparta
A chipmunk ran through my tires and somersaulted to the side of the road.  I sure am hard on the Wisconsin wildlife. A very hilly 25 miles to the rest stop where we had the option of continuing in the hills on the road or take the Sparta Trail .  We walked through a train tunnel that must have been close to a mile long.  We all had headlights which were an essential item to navigate through the tunnel.  We discovered Ginny’s Cupboard in Sparta for homemade soups and homemade breads for sandwiches.  Our room had THREE TVs.  One in the bathroom, one in front of the hot tub and one in front of the bed.  We watched the Tour de France on all three TVs and marveled at our luxurious surroundings..

Wednesday – rest day in Sparta
We rode to the Sparta Trail station (an old railroad station) and visited the Deke Slayton Space & Bike museum.  The museum was quite impressive with a lot of local volunteers.  Our afternoon canoe trip was cancelled with the forecast for high winds and impending rain/hail storms.  A bus was arranged to take us to the dinner we were to enjoy at the end of the canoe trip.  Our ride was delayed by a tornado warning.  As we rode the bus to dinner, a massive rain storm followed us for the hour long ride to the River View Inn in North Bend.

Thursday – Sparta to Reedsburg
This was the MOST exciting day.  The storms knocked down trees on the Elroy/Sparta trail.  A group of eight from Chicago and Michigan were in front of us and removing what trees they could strong arm.  The rest we had to crawl over with our bikes.  Some trees we had to just pick our way through the branches.  It was like fighting your way through the rain forest of Borneo or something.  On this 70 mile day, we had peanut butter sandwiches at the rest stop in Norwalk, pie at a place in Wilton, sandwiches and root beer on tap at a bar in Kendall and finally iced drinks at a trailside pizza place in LaValle.  Once we went on the 400 Trail we started seeing lots of water in places where it shouldn’t be.  Picnic tables were swimming in the middle of mini lakes.  Dinner at the Voyager Inn was steaks, chicken and some of the best fruit I’ve ever tasted.  Maybe 70 miles had something to do with it.  After dinner we had drinks in the bar.  I ordered a White Russian made with Bailey’s Irish Cream instead of the normal cream.  I was told it was called a Blind Russian.  I introduced the drink to one of my friends, who shall remain nameless.  She liked it so much, she ordered another one.  It was good . . . . so I ordered another one too.  NOT a good idea!

Friday – Rest day
Remember those two Blind Russians?  I should have stopped at one. We rode to North Freedom to the Mid Continent Railway Museum after a great breakfast buffet with fresh melons and pineapple.  The museum had LOTS of trains.  I’m sure my mom and John would have loved to tool around there.  Riding on into North Freedom we had an early lunch at the Railway Inn Cafe’.  Jim took dozens of pictures of all the collections that decorated the small town eatery.  All the talk was of the flooding that the area was experiencing.  We saw one closed road but nothing that bothered our routes. . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Powerade cures a hangover.

Saturday – Reedsburg to Portage
Beautiful ride with the PAW rest stop set up at the Crane Foundation.  We didn’t tour the Crane Foundation since we wanted to stop at the Leopold Foundation but when we arrived, it was closed, even though the sign on the door said open on Saturday from 9 – 5.  We made it back to our van by 10:30 a.m. and started the task of changing clothes for our road trip, saying our good-byes and sampling Nikki’s home-made brownies.  We enjoyed her treats all week but especially the banana bread with cranberries.  Bob and Ken sagged the routes but thankfully we never required their assistance.  Jerry kept us entertained as he also drove the routes looking for riders with problems.

It was a great week with old friends and new as we discovered new PAW routes.  We can’t wait for our next PAW adventure.

Here is a Link to Laurie and Sharon's trip pictures

Here is a Link to Jim's trip pictures


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