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Day 92: Biking the Root River

32.3 miles

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Early morning on the Root River

In the river valley, heavy fog had settled overnight, so we woke to cottony clouds drifting on the edges of town. After the fog lifted and we packed up, we started on the Root River Trail from Houston to Lanesboro. Although the Root River twists and winds its way eastward across Minnesota, ultimately draining into the Mississippi, we rode upstream, and westward. The trail follows the river closely through what is called Bluff Country, and links a handful of small towns, nicely spaced for cyclists to find water, snacks and rest.

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Day 91: West of the Mississippi

26.23 miles

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

It was pretty chilly again last night. I actually zipped up my sleeping bag for a change, which I’ve never bothered to do before on this trip. Unfortunately, we didn’t get up in time to say goodbye to Jeff and Dodie this morning. It was nice staying with them.  The morning fog was burning off and it looked like was going to be a nice day for biking. After a stop at the grocery store we headed west to cross the Mississippi River.

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Day 90: Another Saddle

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It was raining when we woke up this morning and so we slept in hoping the rain would stop.  Eventually our hungry bellies (and the call of nature) forced us out of bed and out of the pop-up trailer we’re sleeping in.  We dashed through the rain into the house and made ourselves some breakfast since our hosts had already left for work.  They had told us to make ourselves at home so I enjoyed some cold cereal and milk.  It’s a luxury I usually only get to enjoy when we stay at a motel.  It was still raining so we watched some TV while researching local bike shops.  The new saddle I’ve been riding the past week has not worked out and so I’ll be sending it back to the store I bought it from and taking advantage of their generous refund policy.

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Day 89: Drifting Through

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Back on rail trail at Wilton

45.9 miles

After pop-tarts at the Mid-trail Motel, we jumped back on the Sparta-Elroy State Trail. There are several small towns along the trail, and most cater, in some way, to bicyclists (and probably snowmobilers in the winter). In the town of Norwalk, we stopped in at the Main Street Cafe for a real breakfast, before heading up the trail again. Within a few miles, we encountered the last two of the three railroad tunnels on the trail. The final tunnel was the longest, at 3810 feet. During the construction of the tunnel in the late 1870s, workers struck a spring and the tunnel has always been wet. As we rode through in the dark, it was like a gentle rain storm, with constant dripping from the ceiling the whole way through.

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Day 88: Into the Driftless

40.78 miles

It was a cool, cloudy morning and so we felt no guilt staying in our motel room as long as possible before check out time.  Eventually the sun came shining strongly through the window and so we hit the road.  Thank goodness it was sunny because otherwise it would have been pretty chilly.  Even with the sunshine we were wearing a couple layers of shirts and long fingered gloves.  Caroline was extra hungry today and so we stopped early in La Valle, WI so she could get a hot dog.  I was less hungry so I just ate a few cookies.

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Day 86 & 87: A Chilly Couple Days

31.75 miles

Portage, WI levee

Portage, WI levee

We were expecting a chilly morning and so we waited as long as possible before checkout time to leave the motel.  I doubt it was over 50 degrees when we left and so we bundled up before getting on our bikes.  Caroline was wearing tights and we both wore long sleeves under our rain jackets.  We didn’t expect rain, but the rain jackets helped keep out the cold wind.  The first part of today’s ride was along a levee road outside of Portage.  A couple of times we stopped to walk up the levee to look at the river on the other side.  It was a very quiet road which made for nice biking, despite the chilly weather.

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Day 85: A Short Day

21.35 miles

I woke very early this morning to hear the rain start drumming on the roof of the pavilion. It’s a nice sound to listen to, especially when you know your tent is staying nice and dry. It finally let up around 10 o’clock, so we decided to break camp and get moving. After about 10 miles of riding, we stopped in Pardeeville for a snack. Alan and I split a quart of chocolate milk and a pack of donuts. As we sat in the Kwik Trip mart, it started to rain a little. We put on our rain gear, but it never really rained too hard. Our plan for today was to bike to a campground near Wisconsin Dells, but we battled a head wind all day, it seemed. So, 20 miles into our ride, we decided that we’d had enough of the wind and drizzly rain and we found a hotel in the town of Portage. Much laziness ensued.

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Day 84: Cruising America’s Dairyland

46.24 miles

Our Warm Showers host, Ted, was going to be up and off to work early (he’s a school teacher), so we said our goodbyes last night. We took his dogs Mare, Stella and Shiloh out for a potty break before rolling out of Fond du Lac.

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Wild Goose Trail

Our goal today was to reach Deer Creek Campground, about 45 miles away. Just outside of Fond du Lac, we picked up the Wild Goose Trail. Fourteen miles of nice double track through woods and farm land took us to the town of Waupun. I’ll admit that I don’t have much appreciation for snow mobilers, In Colorado, I think they are a noisy annoyance in the back country. But in Michigan and Wisconsin, snow mobilers have worked to establish a network of great trails that double as bike paths in warmer months. The number of miles of dual use trail in Wisconsin is really impressive. I couldn’t find any hard numbers, but there are easily hundreds of miles of bike trails in the state.

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Day 83: Fond of Hills?

35.04 miles

Log cabin along bike path

Log cabin along bike path

The sun streamed into the tent this morning to wake us up.  I can’t complain about a sunny, warm morning, especially since it might not be long before we run into cold weather as Autumn approaches.  Since we didn’t bike through any towns yesterday we went a few miles out of our way this morning to bike into the town of Plymouth to stop at the Piggly Wiggly (a grocery store, for those who don’t already know).  In addition to a few groceries we shared a quart of chocolate milk and some cookies for our second breakfast.

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Day 82: Off Route

31.66 miles

DSC02356Today is our first full day in Wisconsin navigating on our own, without the help of the ACA maps. The Northern Tier route veers northward from Manitowoc and loops westward towards Minneapolis. Given our goal of reaching Mt. Rushmore before it gets too cold, Alan and I decided that a more direct route through southern Wisconsin and Minnesota and into South Dakota made better sense. Our destination today was the Plymouth Rock RV resort near Plymouth, WI.

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Day 81: Riding the Badger

5.84 miles

Early morning donuts

Early morning donuts

This morning we had to catch the once daily ferry across Lake Michigan.  We didn’t want to risk missing the boat, as it were, so we got up early.  We didn’t get a chance to thank our host, Claudia, in person since she was still asleep when we left.  We probably left earlier than needed, but that just gave us extra time to stop at a donut shop that was conveniently across the street from the turn into the ferry terminal.  We rolled our bikes into the back end of the ship and leaned them against a wall under a stairwell.  We grabbed our valuables off the bikes and walked upstairs to the main deck.  We learned that the boat used to carry railroad freight cars across Lake Michigan.  It’s also the only coal-fired steamship in Operation in the U.S.  Pretty cool.

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Day 80: Last Day Biking in Michigan

55.6 miles

Marcia and Darin's cat, Sadie

Marcia and Darin’s cat, Sadie (we forgot to get a photo of her humans)

Our bed at Marcia and Darin’s condo was super comfy so you can’t blame me for trying to sleep in.  Caroline actually got up before me for a change to work (or play?) on her laptop.  It rained overnight, but the weather forecast called for only a small chance of rain today.  Marcia and Darin had already left for work, so we used their kitchen to make breakfast before we got back on the rail trail out of Reed City.

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