The Wine Cyclist

Time For A Break

by on Jun.27, 2009, under Cycling, Philosophy

So I’m sure you’re all waiting for this blog update. Here you are. I’m still alive and well, but tired in Stillwater, MN. Over the past five days, I’ve logged nearly 300 miles of cycling. Whew…

IMG_0388I set out from Madison on Monday morning. Look at that beer gut there. We’re gonna do something about that, no doubt. I’ll take an after picture of me on the Oregon coast and we can look at the two side by side.

It’s been a long, hot week. I think the highs I’ve encountered every day this week have gotten close to 90, if not broken through (I think Tuesday was 95), and the humidity’s been pretty intense too. Rare cloud cover made for a lot of cycling down sun-parched roads. Fortunately, I have a nice stockpile of sunscreen to keep all that annoying solar cancer away. Even with all that, though, I’m developing a solid and well-defined cyclist’s tan (kinda like a farmer’s tan, but with some extra shapes produced by the cycling gloves).

IMG_0393It was a very warm night to be camping in White Mound County Park on Monday night. I noticed a lot of abandoned firewood at other empty campsites. Enough that I could’ve built a pretty sweet fire, but it was just too damn hot. I was sweating bullets for quite a while and didn’t even want to think about crawling into my sleeping bag until after the sun had set. Even then I had left it half-way open all night, but I awoke early, and knowing it would be a long, hot day, set out early as well to get as many miles in as I could before the heat really started pounding down.

Made a stop in the library in Richland Center to check in online briefly, and post some quick updates (by the way, I seem to be updating my twitter page more often than this site. So for more timely, if less detailed updates, surf on over there as well. Say what you will about twitter, and I can say many things, but it is, on occasion, handy). All the computers there were running linux, which I thought was pretty cool for a small town library. The morning was getting on, so I was off again, down a very hilly US Route 14 into Viroqua, WI. There are some surprisingly solid uphills on that route. A few climbs of 8% or greater grades had me thoroughly worn out. I think that I’m getting better at these intense climbs, slowly but surely.

IMG_0395At the top of some of these climbs, at least you might run into this very friendly sign. The sign you see here is probably a cyclist’s best friend. It means time to cruise like the wind. There are many other road signs that have special meaning to cyclists. Perhaps there’s a blog post in there somewhere.

There was a very lovely homestead just out from Viroqua whose owners let me crash for a night. A fun game of scrabble and some delicious fresh fruits and veggies was about all I could take in my exhausted state, but a good time was had no doubt. Back on US 14 the next morning and I was up over some more hills, heading through La Crosse and up to Trempealeau.

Admittedly, the solitude of the road begins to wear on me some days, and the physical struggle can grind me down. I still have some darker thoughts I’m working on exorcising from my head, but that will take some time. While the open road is a great medium for long, rambling thoughts, it can at times be too easy to get bogged down mentally. Hopefully, I can keep working to clear my head and let better thoughts have their time in the sun.

IMG_0399After a wonderful visit in Trempealeau, which included enjoying a sunset on the patio of the inn & pub in town, which looks right out over the Mississippi River, I was off again, now crossing that river into Minnesota.

Thursday was absolutely intense. I logged a touch over 90 miles. There weren’t as many hills on Route 61 as there were on Route 14 in Wisconsin, but it still made for a very long day. What helped quite a bit, though, were the very awesome views of the Mississippi River I had while cycling up 61. What can I say? I do so love traveling along a great body of water. There are two types of scenic views I enjoy the most: looking out over a magnificent vista from the top of a mountain, and looking out over an awesome body of water.

IMG_0402IMG_0406IMG_0407

It was about 80 miles into Red Wing, MN, and I set out a little over 10 more miles to find camping for the night. Amazingly enough, I found a cool private campground with an unadvertised discount for cyclists, so I was able to set up for only $5. At this point in the day, this was preferable to continuing on down the road to state forest land and finding a spot for primitive camping. I won’t spoil this guy’s unadvertised cyclist rate by posting it publically, but if you’re a cyclist in the Red Wing, MN area, I’ll hook you up with the info.

Fortunately, Friday was a leisurely 40 mile day, though there were some pretty good hills heading in to Stillwater. Not much of significance on the road today. I wasn’t near water anymore, aside from a somewhat annoying bridge over the Mississippi in Hastings on US 61.

After five days and nearly 300 miles of cycling, I’m enjoying a nice day of relaxation here in Stillwater. I’m discovering some cool things in my two night stay here, but I’ll save that for the next post. I’m back on the road tomorrow, and back to putting the miles in.

Keep the rubber side down…

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7 comments for this entry:
  1. Jenn Stoneking

    Awesome, Jim!
    Thanks for the update.

    Great photos :>

  2. Melinda

    Woohoo!

    Eldan and I call that road sign ‘trucks on cheese’. There’s even a ‘bikes on cheese’ sign on a trail ’round these parts.

  3. The Wine Cyclist

    Ha! I love those names for the signs. Going into Yellowstone, there was a bison crossing sign that had flashing lights on it. The guy I was with told me they called it the “disco bison” sign. I was, of course, highly amused.

  4. vj

    Great post….that area is quite scenic…

  5. V

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying it, and keeping safe!

  6. Jan

    Yeaaa !! Jim!

  7. Kathy

    Sounds like you’re doing GREAT! The folks west of Mississippi are definitely more laid back and friendly than east (for the most part!). We had many more invitations to visit people “out there”. Glad to hear your trip is such a blessing. As for the heat – get a cheap cotton sheet at a thrift store and use it instead of your sleeping bag. Can double as a pillow or towel when unneeded (or makeshift shower stall!). God speed!

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