Today we rode 90 miles from La Crosse to Wisconsin Dells. Another pretty awesome day. But what distinguished this day from others was a 34 mile ride on the Elroy Sparta trail. Sparta advertises itself as the Bicycle Capital of America–sounds a bit audacious, but lots of cyclists do flock here. The Elroy Sparta Trail is a hard packed limestone surface, i.e. not paved, and OK for road bikes but not as fast to cycle on as a road. But compensating for that is that it was basically flat (or no more grade than 3%) since it was once a rail bed. And the main “attraction” were the tunnels that were built for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad in the 1870s. There were three of them ranging from about 1,000 feet to the longest which about 3,800 feet in length. They were pitch dark, and we had to walk them and carry a flash light. The first of them dripped water from the ceiling notwithstanding the fact that it has been dry around here. Sort of cool and sort of “why would anybody want to do this?”

The trail, though, was advertised as the first of Rails to Trails in America, and opened in 1965. In many areas, it made its way through a canopy of trees that provided shade and cool temperatures. When the path wasn’t surrounded with trees, we would break out into beautiful farmland nestled into a backdrop of large rolling tree covered hills…all in all, very pleasant and visually stimulating.

We got a lecture tonight at dinner on being mentally tough at this point. We have ridden two back to back centuries and two back to back 90 mile days. About 380 miles in 4 days. I actually feel great–I think, but what we are all a bit frayed and easily able to get annoyed by the grind of checking in and out of hotels, washing clothes in the sink or queuing up at the available laundry machines, eating barely tolerable meals, having to deal with 50 people descending on a breakfast room of about 20’x20′ at 6am all seeking to eat in 15 minutes or less, not having rooms ready when we get to hotels, and in general, tolerating each other’s “foibles.” Mike feels somewhat complicit in this since he has been cranky since breaking his ankle, and in military style (he is retired air force), he reminded us that being aggressive like that is not good for the image of the group, nor is it likely to keep us safe on the roads…Good points I guess, but when I walked into Denny’s tonight at 6pm (dinner was from 5-7pm), and was told that they were too busy to seat us given the earlier arrivals (Denny’s is not exactly a highbrow restaurant–it’s a chain and a step down from like Applebee’s, right?), I wanted to strangle the hostess! I did figure out a way to “beat” the system on beer at places like this. 1. Go to gas station and buy beer. 2. Pour beer into water bottles from the bike. 3. Walk into Denny’s sipping from water bottle… Like a pacifier for me….

(p.s. Day 34 photos should be posted as well…)

Sparta–bike capital of America

Elroy Sparta Rail Trail

I have finally seen the light at the end of the tunnel…

Farmer in the Dells