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Click here to see a La Crosse Tribune article about the mission in Uganda.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Merrily We Roll Along...

Not. A. Clue. Roads that I've not only not ridden, I'd never driven the roads on my route today either. And that's what made it so exciting, just like a REAL tour. The first potential challenge was crossing the bridge across the Father of Waters, an appellation applied to the Nile and Irrawaddy rivers as well as to our own Mississippi. It was a challenge not realized, though, as light traffic and a wide shoulder presented no difficulties at all.

After looping through Marquette, Iowa, the road rolled at the base of a rock face with trees on both sides providing shade and thinning out occasionally for a glimpse of the river on my right. It was still windy and the wind was out of the south which suited me just fine - I was going north today! The route took me around Effigy Mounds National Monument then turned west and up. I didn't know it at the time, but I had already seen the last stretch road with any shade on it and I still had over 60 miles to go.

It was a long pull west with the cross wind not helping so much. Still, I knew at Decorah I'd turn north for the a 40 mile run with the wind. When I entered Decorah, I stopped and called Shirley to find she was only a few miles behind. We had lunch in a small café where we waited for about an hour - something the waitress told us to expect (a big crowd had just ordered) and something I was not too upset about. It was considerably warmer and the break, I reasoned, would do me good.

Turning north around Decorah I encountered two long hills - not big enough to be climbs, but just a little too much to be called rollers. My opinion at the time, at least. My thoughts ran along the lines of "if this keeps up I'm dead!" But the track turned to gently rolling and I had the wind at my back. This, it turns out, did have a downside as it was blowing at about the same speed I was riding meaning there was almost no breeze helping to cool me down. Did I mention it was getting warmer and that there was NO SHADE ANYWHERE?

A good ways out of Decorah and a good ways to go before Lanesboro, a Cenex station emerged like an oasis in the desert. My only shot at filling the water bottles. And getting a very large ice cream sandwich. I finally crossed the Minnesota sate line and after a 3 mile westward ride to Canton, turned north for the final run in to Lanesboro. Just out of Canton, I could look out on the road ahead and take in a long-range view: a series of ever higher rolling hills going as far as I could see - the last one at the horizon looking more or less vertical. Sheesh! And, there was NO SHADE ANYWHERE. Well, at that last hill, I did find about 10 square feet of shaded grass and sat there a few minutes just for the unusualness of it. A few miles later and I was rewarded for all of the ups and downs (each up more up than the last up) with a long descent through a series of big sweeping curves down to the Root River and Lanesboro. Shirley was out for a walk and waved me in to the Stone Mill Suites. Just as in the old west, I had to take care of my mount first and Stone Mill has a convenient storage room behind the main building. The bike safely put away, I could now look forward to a shower and, tomorrow, a day off in scenic Lanesboro!

This was so much fun. Even though there was NO SHADE ANYWHERE.

84.2 miles
3420 feet of climbing

Pictures from day 2 of the tour

A Lot Better Than Uff Da Drive:

Big Rollers North of Decorah:

On the Prairie for Sure:

Never Ending Rollers:

Inn at Last:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bridge Out

There certainly was nothing to complain about when I left home at around 7:00 a.m. to start the SPOTUM Tour. Right away I can tell you are smitten by the catchy name; sort of rolls off the tongue, so to speak. SPOTUM stands for, of course, Small Part Of The Upper Midwest and should never be confused with sputum. Anyway, after a short stop at the local Kwik Trip, I headed south. That is to mean "I rode in a direction more or less opposite of north" as opposed to "things started to go bad." Sorry. Another digression.

Blue sky and deep green wooded hills in the early morning light made it about as good as it gets around here. Ten miles in I made my first climb. County O eventually turned abruptly east, dumping me off on County K which I rode down into the river town of Genoa, declaring it self, quite proudly I think, as being on America's Original West Coast. It was not a whole lat* further when I turned off of the highway again, this time to climb up above Victory. Right from the start, this was not looking too good. As soon as I turned off I went by a signs declaring Road Closed and Bridge Out. I decided to ride on anyway (it was only 0.8 miles to said out bridge) to see if it would be possible to get my bike across, but that was not to be.

* lat; that's either a misspelling of "lot" or a reversion to writing "Southern," as in, "that's a whole lat o' collard greens you put in my bowl." I'm not so sure which myslef.

Riding along the river was certainly not a penalty although the wind was picking up. Say, did I mention the wind? Well, it was out of the south and already brisk when I left home. And it only increased in intensity as the day wore on. It was a factor, to be sure. Lunch was in the small town of Ferryville where a sign on the gas station/convenience store I stopped at declared "Ice Cream is Back." I had no idea it had gone anywhere. Perhaps it was out with the bridge? I was, nonetheless, glad at this happy turn of events. Not far from Ferryville I turned towards the hills again, eventually climbing County UU up to Mt. Sterling before battling the wind to get through Seneca then down again to the river at Lynxville.

By now it was what you might call "very warm." You might add "very windy." And you might call it a few other things which I won't mention. Furthermore, it was obvious that while the railroad had invested heavily in laying out a very flat roadbed, the highway department had not. The road started to increasingly undulate. Not that the ups were like climbs or anything, but combine them with the heat and wind and I was beginning to appreciate the bridge that fell into the creek at Victory. Not taking that loop saved me about 5 miles and 600 to 700 feet of climbing. And then I had a flat, maybe five miles from Prairie du Chien, courtesy of a small piece of wire that was certainly just a bit of the blown-tire detritus that litters the shoulder. It was a quick fix, but I was now ready for Prairie du Chien and the Country Inn and Suites Hotel. I wasn't up and running but a couple of minutes when Shirley drove by and waved. As I waved back, I realized we hadn't discussed the difference between waving, which means "Hi; things are good; I'll see you later," and raising a clenched fist in the air, meaning "Please stop because if you don’t stop, I might just cash it in right here." We did get that straightened out, by the way. It was a long five miles.

We ate an early, light post-ride (for me) meal at the hotel then went to a movie in town - Knight and Day. Afterwards it was a late, light meal to end the day.

79.5 miles
2,812 of climbing

Along the river and above Stoddard on County Roads O and K:

My favorite road sign:

Genoa to Ferryville:

Genoa to Prairie du Chien:

My sentiments exactly

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tour de France Top Ten

No, I'm not riding in the Tour de France this year. "Why not?" you ask. Well, aside from the obvious factors which I will not enumerate (you know what they are), here are ten reasons why I'm only participating vicariously in the Tour, courtesy of Versus TV:

10. I don't have a single set of matching shorts, jerseys and socks.

9. There are no Kwik Trips in France. You CANNOT take a long ride without stopping at a Kwik Trip.

8. The International Compressor Engineering Conference at Purdue is being held during week 2 of the tour. West-central Indiana in July with 600 or so other engineers. My apologies to the Tour, but seriously, how could you compete with that!?

7. No challenge. Anyone can take a long ride with escorts on closed roads that have been swept before the ride. The real challenge is doing it on roads with random gravel and road-kill hazards along with traffic that includes the occasional it's-all-my-road driver. And, all this while carrying your own spare parts, pump, etc.

6. Team car issues. Shirley was happy (sort of) to follow me around on my Small Part of the Upper Midwest tour. But, I've been informed that 3 weeks puttering around France with a car full of bike parts, snacks and water bottles is not in the cards.

5. Team car issues #2: And, she absolutely refuses to lean out the window at 30 mph (that's how fast I'll be riding, of course) to adjust the rear derailleur.

4. It would seem that a triple chain ring is against Tour de France rules.

3. I already have a broken collar bone, thank you very much.

2. Humanity breaks on global satellite TV. Enough said.

And, the number one reason I won't be in the Tour de France:

1. I refuse to ride even a short distance without my hands on the handlebars. Since this means no double-fist-pump salute for my stage wins, what would be the point?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I've Been Everywhere

I've been to Genoa



Mt. Sterling


Prairie du Chien





La Crescent

La Crosse

Yep. Me and Hank. We've been everywhere...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

All Good Things...

The last day of the cruise - a short jaunt from Fairport back to Macedon where we needed to turn over the Onandaga by 9:00 a.m. Unlike the rest of the week, we woke to a cool, misty morning. After getting the coffee squared away (job one every morning), we pulled away from the wall, turned the tiller to the Fairport lift bridge and cruised slowly east, trying to get the full measure of the time remaining.

It was almost too cool for short sleeves, but everything else was already packed away. Cool as I always am (don’t say it!), it was a literal state this morning. As we had become accustomed to, the canal was still and quiet, our wake the only disturbance. A serene hour to end a week that was mostly serene.

During our time on board, we looked through and added to the on board log book. One of the entries contained this note, "When we returned the boat to Macedon, Tom backed it into the slip." Thwump! (sound of gauntlet hitting the table). Pulling away on Monday afternoon, I was aware that the boats had been backed into the slips. I thought then that when we return, I'm just driving straight in; they can turn it around if they want. However, two-and-a-half days of experience at the controls of the Onandaga got me to the point where I was pretty sure I could pull off the backing in thing. So that and Tom's challenge pretty much sealed the deal. How did it go? Flawlessly. Beginner's luck, more likely than not. But flawless nonetheless.

I hit the "engine stop" button, turned off the key and it was over. It was a great experience, one I'd recommend to anyone looking for a way to just relax and unwind in a quietly beautiful setting.

Here are a few pictures from the last hour on the Erie Canal: