July 20. Day 37.
We woke up a bit later than we wanted, but it felt so good to sleep in. Rosemary made us a wonderful breakfast of ginger/cinnamon/molasses pancakes and they were so amazing. It was all we could do to stop eating and get on the road. We headed out of Winona under gray, cloudy skies and hoped and prayed that we didn’t get rained on. As soon as we crossed the river we were in Wisconsin!! Hooray! Finally a state that borders Michigan! So close to home, yet so far away!
Once we were in America’s Dairyland we rode on unpaced path for about 2.5 miles. Apparently it scaves us a few miles, but I didn’t really care for it. The ground was pretty hard, so it wasn’t like riding on a dirt road, but it’s still bumpy and there were tons of bugs. After we got off the trail, we took some weird back roads, until we got to small town from which we were on a main road. We rolled into the town of Holmen at about 11:30 and came to a Subway. It was a bit early, but I was hungry, so we stopped for lunch.
From there, Ethan wanted to take more back roads to try and save us a few more miles. We both looked at the map and satellite view and it appeared to be paved and not hilly. The roads were county roads with letters for names. We were on D, W and M until we met back up with the main road. We ended up calling the route “Dumb Without Motor” because after a few miles of somewhat flat ground we came to a monster hill. By just looking at it, I knew I was going to have to walk. It was so disheartening because we had no idea if there were more hills after this one. We also knew we weren’t saving any time at all by going this way and we’re kicking ourselves for trying to cut off miles. Ughhhhh!
We did make it up the hill after much sweating and walking. Thankfully, the bike gods heard our prayers because it was the only hill. Phew! We decided on no more short cuts unless we were certain of their elevation. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last hill of the day. It was flat for the majority of the rest of the day, which was great because we needed our energy for the last hill. We stopped at a park on the La Crosse River in West Salem for a minute then, continued on to Sparta.
Sparta claims to be the “Bicycle Capital of the US,” but we decided that this was garbage because there were no bike lanes. If you’re gonna make that kind of claim, at least make sure your town is bicycle friendly. Sheesh. We went to the Walmart there and got stuff to make pb&j’s. We’ve been eating out a lot and decided we should try to cut back. We ate a quick sandwich at a park with a giant ceramic bicyclist, then got back on the road.
It was 14 more miles to Norwalk and we came to the big hill with about 5 miles left. The hill was huge and we were both exhausted. Ethan saw a trail to the right and was pretty sure it was the Sparta-Elroy trail. He had read that there were three tunnels on the trail and since the trail was an old railroad bed, he figured the tunnels likely went through the hill. However, he wasn’t certain and for some reason that wasn’t good enough for me. Over the hill we went. I think we ended up biking most of it, then it was 2.5 miles downhill to Norwalk. Thank God!
We camped out at the city park for free, though I did pay .25 cents for a shower. It wasn’t the nicest park, but it was free, there were bathrooms and drinking water. Thats all we really need after all!
That night we talked about our hardest and favorite days so far. Both our favorite days were in Glacier Nat’l Park. My hardest day was the day I cried when we were going to Glasgow, MT. Ethan’s was when we were getting into Bismarck, ND. We both agreed though that every day, whether we have an awesome view of mountains or rivers or we just biked 105 miles, we are reminded at some point why we are doing this and that we love it. Happy biking!