Today we biked 90 miles and climbed about 2950 feet from Rochester to La Crosse Wisconsin–a new state in 3 days! I think that today was my favorite riding day of the trip so far. An epic ride… Yes, there have been days that we saw scenery that I was dying to see like the Tetons and Mount Rushmore, but I’m referring strictly to the ride itself. There have been some days that were in contention for “best,” but those rides may have started out great, then some combination of heat, wind and hills made me just want to get off the bike really bad by the end. Today was a nearly perfect 90 mile day. We started out with cloudy skies and a temperature of around 72 degrees. The dew point must have been right around there as well, as the air was wet and misty over the fields. It felt good, almost like a September day back in the east. Here’s the ingredients that made it awesome: 1) We rode along several ridge lines that provided views over lush green rolling hills. The scenery of planted crops in rolling hills high above the village below was spectacular. 2) Once out of Rochester, traffic was low, and the road/pavement condition was good all day. 3) We had a bike path from miles 50-63. Minnesota has many bike paths–not short multi purpose paths around big cites, but actual paths that are principally used by bicyclists and go for miles. 4) There was a pleasant coffee shop at the end of the path with awesome blueberry cheese croissants. The vibe was like country Vermont. They had hummus! And greek yogurt! I ate neither, but it felt like “civilization” to have proprietors serve this stuff… 5) I rode down some steep hills without freaking out. 6) I rode some parts with other riders but did not need a pace line, and so rode some parts alone just to enjoy the scenery by myself. 7) I felt strong climbing the hills. 8) We crossed into Wisconsin and over the Mississippi River. We are in the east! 9) It never got hot and sunny. In short, all good!

As I climbed the biggest hill of the day at mile 71, two recumbent bikers were in front of me. Those two riders had skipped the second SAG in fear that they would need the extra time to climb the hill. I haven’t mentioned that we have a couple of riders doing the ride on recumbents. Now, we are all very polite about this, but I have to admit that over a month into it, I still find it hard to “admire” recumbents. There is something elegant about the triangular form of an upright bike and something athletic about the rider perched upon it. And all that is lost with the recumbent. Recumbents are perched with feet seemingly kicking in the air. Not sure how to describe that, but it looks like someone trying to defend themselves from an attack. They are potentially as fast/faster downhill (longer wheelbase is stable), they can be pedaled nearly as fast on flats, but they are very slow uphill, since you need the power to stand etc to climb. They are unwieldy, and can’t negotiate tight spaces. I think I would actually feel trapped on a recumbent, as I like to stand up just to stretch when I am riding and move around in multiple positions on the saddle. But I think both riders are on recumbents to adapt to back/spine issues, so this is not as if they are trying to assert the superiority of the contraption over the upright bike. I have to admire them for persevering like this for 3,700 miles!

Lastly, just learned that we lost a rider from the group today. A very colorful Brit from London. He was taking a picture on the aforementioned bike path while riding the bike, lost control and fell and broke his shoulder. He has already packed and left for the airport. After 3 or more weeks without incident, reminds us all not to get too complacent…

Another state!

Mississippi River!