10 June 2006

Did I mention Dane County?

I guess my blogging frequency indicates a paucity of Awesome Adventures. Well, they would not be Awesome if they were frequent, would they? Today's blog is a look back at a genuinely Awesome Adventure ... perhaps one of the first that I reported to my family of origin under that heading. It goes way back to my previous bike, to son Andrew as a 14-year-old, and to my first experience with Dane County.

I believe I mentioned before: I hate Dane County. That is to say, it is a lovely county, bicycle friendly enough, but very hilly and the reason I "hate it" is that I do not train for hills. So there you have my confession; it's my weakness that brings out this fear and loathing.

It was the year 2000. Two years earlier, Andrew had casually asked one day, "Dad, do you think when I'm 16, we could make a bike trip to Minnesota?" You can imagine that this question was like a dream come true ... one of my kids, wanting to ride with me, and a long way, too! At the time he was still very much missing MN and his friends there, so I was under no illusions that spending time with me, on a bike, was any strong factor. But still ... My reply, "Why wait until then? I think we could do it when you're 14." "Really?" And so - in my mind, at least - it was settled. Fast forward about 2 years, and one day it dawns on Karen and me that Andrew has completely forgotten that exchange, and thinks The Great MN Bike Trip is all my idea, and that he is just doing me a favor by agreeing to go. Total non-recall. And (if you've had teenaged boys, this goes without saying) at best a grudging acceptance that this is probably going to happen or else Dad will get all in a snit for the summer.

So it was without any genuinely adequate preparation that Andrew rolled out of our driveway with me on an overcast morning, June 26, 2000. Yes, we had rain off-and-on that day. But it was a good start, and we ended up late that afternoon at Big Foot Beach State Park, Lake Geneva, WI. Days One and Two are definitely part of this Awesome Adventure, but it is Day Three that ties this post to the last ... Dane County Day.

Most of Day Three was spent cycling the hills in Dane County. Interesting in perspective: I doubt any of the hills that day were as challenging as the ones on my April brevet (see "A Fresh Start" my last entry). We began that morning from New Glarus Woods State Park, and rode up the western part of the county, through Mazomanie and Sauk City, and ended up in Reedsburg for the night.

A common theme - maybe this is what makes them Adventures - is my rather careless attention to details. See, a bike trip's distances should be calculated, not estimated. I am an estimator. This is a problem. I'm sure Day Three was way too long to consider at all practical. I put it at "about 80." Regardless the actual miles, it was the hills done us in. Oh, and later, the wind and rain. Funny, though: re-reading my trip log, I hardly mention the hills at all. I remember them, and I remember being personally challenged (even rolling hills, with 35 pounds of gear, are challenging) and I remember waiting for Andrew a lot at the tops of hills.

But none of that appears in my log, from which I now write, fleshing out a bit as I go:
"A very though, long day" - Wednesday, June 28, 2000
62 miles via Wisconsin Bikeways - 6 hours, 10.5mph average speed
Part I: A tough, rainy ride via lettered County Roads, New Glarus to Blue Mounds. The bike path out of New Glarus Woods State Park is a heady descent; I coasted 7 miles without a single pedal stroke - could have gone much farther on a dry day (i.e. without needing to use brakes). New Glarus terminus to this path brought us to a bakery breakfast and search for cash. [3 banks, 3 strikes ... we moved on] En route to Blue Mounds we stopped in Daleyville to fix Andrew's leaking rear tire; we fixed my rear flat in Blue Mounds - twice. Fueled on Pringles, beef sticks, apples and raisins at the mini-mart that serves town. Noted that Daleyville was the gas station/grocery plus 4 bars!
Part II: County F up out of town, but then a glorious long lovely (now sunny) descent into Pleasant Valley. Not less than 5 miles of downhill/flat before the first rolling hill. This characterized the entire second segment as far as Mazonamie. [Not noted in my log, but pretty clear in my memory - Andrew quickly tired of my tired joke, saying "Mazonamie" like the Muppets' "Menomanah."] A slow leak in my rear tire called for a third repair, then a fourth, at which the valve stem broke. Then God gave us a wonderful gift: 1) Andrew proved to be a great help trouble-shooting (ideas for finding a tube and offers of how he could help make it work); 2) Hardware Hank, the only likely place in town, did NOT have a suitable tube, but DID have a cashier who was an avid young cyclist. And though he also did not have the correct tube, he got in the phone with "Aunt Debbie," who did. Debbie and her sister ("Hanks" mother; isn't it sad that I do not have this boy's name?) are also avid cyclists. Debbie brought the tube over and gave it to us, and would not accept money for it, just telling me "pass it on." (This preceded the movie Pay It Forward.) Having lost 2 hours in Mazonamie - lost but rewarded, really, and rewarding - we were back on our at 5 pm! The valley ride continued into Sauk City -- at which point I believe we were out of Dane County.
Part III: Water stop in Sauk City, and a sudden cooling and clouding/winds. Heading west out of town, it was back on with the rain gear, and a cold long wet ride ahead. At 60 miles (10 out of Sauk City) there we were recovering under a spreading oak tree in front of a farmhouse. It was really pouring, and I have to admit, even I was sick of riding. What a day. A construction worker in a Grand Prix came along and offered us a lift into Reedsburg. You know, I don't think we had anything to prove, so we gladly accepted. We would never have made it before dark. And this way we got a "thrilling" ride into our destination. I am content to call it a joy ride. I don't the guy had been drinking; I think he just naturally drove like a maniac. Our two bikes hanging out of his trunk, Andrew squeezed in the back seat with all our wet gear. "Angels unawares" - yeah, well we don't really know that angels might not get a kick out of appearing like that! Kindly Joe Laborer dropped us off near downtown Reedsburg, and we cycled up the main strip to find a motel. No tenting for us after this day! And ... this is the payoff on days like that ... there is was: a Super-8 with a Pizza Hut across the road and a laundromat two doors down. Score!God is good. We were warm, dry, clean, and full. And had cable TV to boot.

So, funny that with all that in the day, all I could think of this spring in Dane County was the lousy hills. Beautiful, spacious, rolling Dane County. Well ... guess I'd better get out there and work on hills so I can go back and really enjoy it!


Christopher Charles Horatio Xavier King III, Esq. said...

Very cool! Do you keep a log for all your bike journeys? I've always had trouble keeping a journal (unless you count the blog), but I imagine it helps to have something more focused than "Oh, I've got to write something down every day."

I find it a little hard to imagine that coasting for 7 miles, on any incline, could be considered just a "hill".

As you well know there are some crazy elevations out here in California, and even crazier cyclers who enjoy taking them. I suppose you'll need to master Dane before you can take on Diablo...

Chuck King said...

I'd like to go back over that same route and see how it looks and feels to me now, with another 6 years of cycling,and with more personal miles already in the year. But here in the midwest, even a 7-mile coast can ONLY be on a hill :~)

And yes, I'd have to master everything the midwest has to throw at me, by way of elevation, before seriously considering my dream trips - especially cross country. Or the Gold Rush Randonee. And believe me, I do have Diablo in my (at least wannabe) sights. One o'dese days I'm going to fly out with my bike, crash at your place while you're at work, and spend my days conquering your valley and surrounding ranges. Who knows, maybe I'll even wear a back pack!

Then, before heading home, drive over to Walnut Creek, where I will visit Rivendell bikes and place the order for "the last (new) bike I'll ever buy!"

I keep a very simple log of every ride, noting at least when I rode, what the weather was like (including winds), the route [now with lots of short-hand for common routes], miles/average speed/ride time ... occasionally will note interesting sights or encounters, and/or how I felt riding.