Erika's Ride - Week 6 - Journal & Pictures
Week 6 - Monday, July 22, 2002 - Sunday, July 28
   Washington · Idaho · Montana
   Montana · Wyoming
   Wyoming · South Dakota
   South Dakota · Minnesota
  • 7/22-7/27
   Michigan · Ontario
   New York
   Vermont · New Hampshire · Maine · Massachusetts

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Week 6 Northfield, MN to Scottville, MI

Riding this week has just been pure, plain fun. Yep, we're like kids on bikes. Nah, actually, we are kids on bikes. It's with amazement that I continue to awaken each morning excited about getting to get on my bike again - and, if I'm not excited right away, I'm happy a few miles into the ride. So different than South Dakota. The first couple of days of this week I was still zonked and zapped - South Dakota drained me; but, as the week wore on, I gained strength, and, consequently, thanks to Viv and Joe, had fun with, and worked on, speed. Each day has been relatively cool, the roads smooth and not heavily traveled, and the scenery - the rolling hills, farms, barns, churches, wildflowers, blue skies, green green green, towns and cafes - perfect. Couldn't ask for more. It's almost as if this week was a recovery week (even at 80+ miles a day). While one of the days sported a pretty hilly day, there were lots of flats and rollers, and NO (actually, just a little) headwinds. Lots of time for spinning and riding fast. My friends Vivian and Joe definitely picked a good week to come, actually a great week. They brought with them fantastic weather. No day presented anything terribly challenging, or terribly remarkable. However, it's that each day presented us with a gift - a gift of just plain 'ole good and fun riding, a gift of eye candy, a gift of sweetness, and a gift of health.

And, as week 6 sadly comes to a close, and we're 2/3 of the way to the east coast, to quote a dear friend of mine, as we sit on the SS Badger Ferry crossing Lake Michigan, "This trip is made of memories."

Pretty weird feeling being in Michigan. I've probably spent more time in Michigan, than any other state where I haven't lived. I have cousins and an aunt here, and tend to visit pretty regularly, though never get out to see the state. Seeing the blue Michigan license plates, hearing people refer to pop (not their dads), and, when looking for a paper and seeing folks reading their local paper, the Detroit Free Press, makes me feel like I'm at home - it was one of those times where it dawned on me that, gosh, I have ridden pretty far, and I really am riding across the country. (that still doesn't seem true - it just seems like we're going on daily rides with some great folks). It'll be interesting to see how these feelings develop as we ride through Michigan, as I meet up with my cousins and aunt, and cross into Ontario and New York, both places where I've spent significant time (college days)....

Day 38: July 23, 2002 Northfield, MN to Pepin, Wisconsin; 75 miles; TOTAL: 2593 miles

STATS: a day full of eye candy (water, trees, flowers, grasses/lawns); 7th state crossing-Wisconsin; great weather -- 35-40 degrees cooler

Today was another day that reminded me why I love to ride my bike. We awoke to a gorgeous morning; cool and clear, after a wonderful night's sleep (cool) with an almost full moon. Vivian and Joe met us early in the am; and, after they got settled and their bags on the Penske, we took off. I hammered with them for the first 7 miles (Joe the last 4), and then quickly realized that my legs wouldn't last if I continued, and that I wanted to ride slower, gaze at the countryside, and enjoy the gift we were given today. I rode the remainder, to breakfast, either alone or with Heather and Brent. It's funny - Vivian talked about how she tapered the last week in prep for this trip. Yea, my tapering consisted of 6 hard hard weeks of riding, and week 6 was south Dakota. Yikes, I was pretty beaten up. That's alright - they'll just need to ride for a couple of days and they'll get tired too.

20 miles into the ride we landed in Cannon Falls, MN, the 'international' headquarters of Cycle America and for breakfast (which may have been the best of the trip). The ride was incredible - not too busy roads, gorgeous rolling countryside, cool weather (I actually wore my arm warmers). . .what more could we ask for? After checking out Cycle America's headquarters, and loving their sign - Be back later - Gone biking (PIC), we got to ride 20 miles on a gorgeous, off road, bike trail. Gosh, did the 4 of us (the regular crew) love it. Tree covered paths, river (the Mighty Mississippi), and wonderful wildflowers. Truly, today was sweet, and seemed like a gift from above. None of us could believe how gorgeous it was, the ease with which we rode, the scenery, the serenity, the comraderie, the sweetness. . .

Quintessential America
Lunch was on the banks of the Mississippi. . . . and crossing over it, for me, really had an impact. Somehow, the other 'half way' marks, with the possible exception of the mileage halfway mark, didn't seem halfway. I suppose it's because the other markings weren't as meaningful. But, somehow, flashbacks to elementary school spelling quizzes where I had to learn to spell Mississippi, and me not really caring how to spell it since it was so far away, really made me realize that I am half way, or more, and I've done it on the bike. It's hard to put my finger on, or to describe, the feeling, but, in some ways, it's a feeling I get riding across the Golden Gate Bridge, or pulling up to the Donner Cabin after being gone from it for too long, or seeing the Chugach Mountains. . . .

Welcome to Wisconsin
Eye candy continued in the afternoon, and our regular crew was joined by Albert, half of the Double Dutch, as Andre had to return home. . . we followed the Mississippi for miles, and at mile 52 found what I think we collectively believe may be the best café yet ==Bay River Café, along the banks of the Mississipi. Basically, it was an upscale café/restaurant, which was closed, but they opened it anyway. I wanted to get a good shot of the river, so I went down to the river (the song down by the riverside, of course, running incessantly through my head), and Brian joined. Beautiful purple, blue, yellow and orange flowers ringing the wide river (looked like a lake), benches along side the river, and grass. We ordered iced lattes, a not uncommon drink for us in the afternoon, and sat outside on the grass at a table and chairs, in the shade, with a view of the river, as well as their garden, complete with vineyards and a wren. Our drinks came in tall frosted glasses, unlike any any of us had ever seen. And, boy, were they good. The café also had pie, and, I, at least, couldn't resist ordering a piece of tri-berry (raspberry, blueberry and strawberry) for the table. Despite being chided, folks were delighted, and, of course, they couldn't pass up the whipped cream that came along with it. For you bakers out there - here's a tip: butterscotch schnaps in the whip cream. Wow, none of us was successful in figuring out the secret ingredient, though we knew we loved it. Try it. would love to come back here.

15 miles later, we entered Stockholm, a quaint amish community. . . I broke off from the group a few miles before, because I just had to stop to take stock of the scenery - Lake Pepin, a natural lake in the Mississippi, was just so gorgeous, juxtaposed against the greenery, and the brilliant blue skies. I don't know why I was so moved - was it the dearth of water of the last couple of weeks? The lack of headwinds? The cool temperatures (when we pulled into Red Wing it was 35-40 degrees cooler than it had been the previous week, on numerous days)? The beauty wasn't stark, it didn't smack me in the face. Rather, it was subtle, and it was sweet. In my mind, the natural beauty, combined with the people with whom I was riding and our stops, made this one of the top days of the ride.

(Went out at night with a slew of folks and sat out on a porch overlooking Lake Pepin. Fred had his computer so time was spent checking out pics. Also, bought bottle of Old Fart. . . to be drunk in the near future.) Sleeping was great - nice and cool.
Erika at Lake Pepin
Lake Pepin eye candy


Day 39: July 24, 2002 Pepin to Osseo, WI; 65 miles; TOTAL: 2658 miles

Stats: 65 miles, short day; wildflowers galore, scenery reminiscent of upstate New York, great farms and barns, picturesque churches, and green, green, green scenery (mostly corn and soybean fields, along with cows)

Great day of riding. . . flat until the left turn in nelson. Lauri and I had great climbs, though I realized that the sense of feeling good is artificial. All it takes is one hill to do me in! we had good conversation, and good fun. Ended up stopping at the top of the hill to find replacement for our cattails - wildflowers. Unfortunately, I also ended up losing my sun glasses either at that 'restroom' (in the bushes) stop or while flower picking. Total bummer. Thankfully, the sun wasn't too bright. Pretty amazing though - and to show you what a family this has become - when we reached the bottom of the hill after looking for the glasses, many people knew that I had lost them. In fact, all day long folks asked me whether I had found them. Gads. (Post script, Rich, tour leader, has leant me his glasses until mine are delivered. I called my buddy Josh, who initially told me about them (they're polarized and great - an answer to a long search), and he immediately told me the make, as well as the catalog number, telephone number and sale price of the glasses. How lucky! Josh, you just read my mind! )

 Cow story: Ever since the west, I've been trying to talk with the cows. While I've made some progress, I haven't quite mastered the skill. I keep saying 'moo', in all different forms, whenever I pass a herd of cows (are they called herds?). And, what I'm hoping for in response, is a 'moo' back. Hasn't yet happened, and I continue to take 'moo' lessons, though I haven't managed to get that "A" yet. I have, though, just to share with you my improvement, managed to pretty consistently get a turned cow head, and a look. Now who knows what the cow may be thinking - who (or what) is this idiot mooing at me for. . . . or, what is this fool doing? I've been taking lessons, but I just don't know whether I'll be able to master this skill. (Then again, perhaps I should move to the "hey cow" to see whether I can get the particular cow to respond.)

Some highlights of the post ride day --

  • vending machine bait ( I chose leeches - a dozen for $2.00; and, yes, I even bought them
  • nordske nook pie shop (cherry took the cake, apple was a little sweet, and the raspberry sourcream wasn't bad. Went right after the ride as I was pretty bonked)
  • Old Fart Vino and Chippewa cheese for cocktail hour at the town center picnic table
  • Vivian's parents joined for dinner (100 tons of pumpkins sold on their pumpkin farm last year!)


Leeches Anyone
Rolling Hills of Nelson and Modena

Day 40: July 25, 2002 Osseo, WI to Wisconsin Rapids, WI; 88 miles; TOTAL: 2746 miles

Stats: great riding - probably first fast day

This journal entry is brought to you compliments of my friends Vivian and Joe, who have joined us for a week and a half...They hail from Atlanta, GA, and have brought with them cool weather, as well as plenty of skeeters (at least for this evening).

You mean I've ridden 88 miles and now I have to journal??? Yes, this is compliments of Vivian (and Joe), but I'll tell you about Erika's day first, because that is what you all want to know about, right? Besides, she's got more interesting habits than I (or I least than I care to tell you all about-) So, Erika got an earlier start than us - we finally caught her at the first town 25+ miles into the ride at - where else but - the local coffee shop. And, of course, the table was adorned with pie, cinnamon rolls and ice cream, yes, at 9:30 am - and most of what was left was just crumbs. Our cafe recap of the first 25 miles included elk, llamas, sandhill cranes sightings-all of which Erika (and we) missed. She did see cows and horses, of course (and later even a mouse.) The first 25 miles were the first of some great, smooth roads but the last of some of Wisconsin's rolling hills.

After our 2nd breakfast, Joe and I got a head start, but Erika sprinted to catch up (hard to say sprint - they were 5-10 miles ahead) - and our pace line, for which we held most of the day, began. We were cruising most of the day - held a 24+ mph average for a about 5 miles just before lunch. Again, great, smooth roads today. We had a little drizzle here and there today, but our afternoon coffee break couldn't help but allow us to avoid the really heavy downpour (yea, stops have their purposes). With the sprinkles, clouds and cool weather, we even forewent the ala mode for hot chocolate for our afternoon snack.

Ok, I'm getting eaten by bugs, so I'm going to have to cut this short. We did see an Amish carriage, mouse, cranberry bogs, and more wildflowers today. Rode with Dan and Lance as well after lunch. Finished great with an average of about 18 mph. Great German beer Hacker Pschorr - compliments Uli. (before dinner at the Mead hotel and beef sticks we picked up along the way. Tea and cookies (thx to Lisa) around the tent with the gang after dinner.

Yea, well, the newbies are doing a little complaining about the bugs. Huh. I'll tell ya! Until their ankles are eaten up, and they've stayed awake at night scratching, I'm not certain whining is allowed. Actually, though, the bugs were bad; though we had a lovely evening with tea and Lisa's cookies. Today was, all in all, another great day. Fun to ride without 100 degree heat, without headwinds, without lots of hills. Just pedal, pedal, pedal...and, though we weren't 'drafting' (Cycle America doesn't like for us to draft), we had a great group post lunch, despite the rain, which enabled us to keep our speed and got our hearts beating. Not that our hearts hadn't been beating in the prior 5 weeks - it's just that this time heartrates were up and we were cruising, versus tackling hills or battling headwinds. Fun, fun, stuff. The riders were all smooth, knew what we were doing - little races here and there, though all in good fun. When one person got tired, someone else just jumped up and took the pull - there was some weaving in and out - but we all trusted each other. I don't think I've ever had so much fun just cruising along.. Thanks, Joe, Lance, Vivian, and Gina for the last part. Fun stuff!
Mead Hotel
Care package

Day 41: July 26, 2002 Wisconsin Rapids to Menasha, WI; 107 miles; 2853 miles

Stats: longest mileage day of the summer, incredible flowers (beautiful fields of flowers), inviting lake and lakeside in Neenah, and great fountain; tons of fun riding

Another great and fun day, what can I say? It used to be that before century rides we'd be sure to taper, rest up, eat well, etc. Well, somehow, recovery has gone out the window, and us coast to coasters are pretty nonchalant these days about whatever they throw at us. It's not that we're fast, you understand. It's just that we know that we'll make it, no matter how slowly we go.

The day started in a fog - reminiscent of early morning rides at home. I started with the regular crew, and then started to get a bit bored. After all, I really couldn't see anything. I did hear a tractor start to pull up behind us, however, and decided that I'd try and outpace the tractor. Yep, what we'll do for fun.

The Fountain
I met up with the crew, as well as Joe and Vivian at the first water stop, after checking out the tiny tiny supermarket, and we hammered to the first café stop, in Almond, of the day. I was only going to grab a quick cup of coffee, but they had ice cream - the real stuff (hard). And, yes, Vivian, despite the early hour, decided that it's our second to last day in Wisconsin and we haven't eaten enough ice cream. Hmmmm, mint chocolate chip was our flavor of the day, and after tasting both Vivian's and Joe's, decided I needed one of my own.

The fog began to break, and we rode off to lunch in the town of Mt. Morris, along a gorgeous lake. I had no idea how much I'd enjoy the Wisconsin countryside. I could, indeed, imagine living here. I was feeling good, and wanted to continue to push myself. I took off with Joe, as well as Tom and Brian, though Joe managed to drop Tom and I (Brian didn't catch the ride) within yards, rather than miles! Nonetheless, Diane, Tom and I rode hard (even though Brian blew past us), and at the final water stop (mile 75-ish), I needed a quick nap, so I used the excuse of wanting to borrow a tree (yep, no more guardrails!), as well as a little snooze while we waited for Vivian, Lauri and Jim to roll on in. (They took a longer lunch) The remainder of the day seemed to fly by. . . and Vivian challenged me to some sprint work. Yikes, I think that this week should be renamed "Speed week". We were unsuccessful in talking our way into a free swim at the local pool, but certainly enjoyed the views of the lake around Winniconnie. . . and found a wonderful fountain, dedicated to the children which, I, of course, needed to play in - or at least get a picture in.

Even though when I arrived I felt like I had energy left over (except when Vivian whipped my butt on the last leg in), after dinner, I was zonked. . . so, a quiet evening.

Also, a thoughtful evening. It really is hard to believe that tomorrow is the end of the 6th week, and that, after a 50 mile ride, we'll board the ferry to Michigan; and, in my mind, almost the east coast.

A random field of flowers
Sweet scenery

Day 42: July 27, 2002 Menasha, WI to Scottville, MI; 52 miles; 2905 miles

Stats: ferry ride to Luddington, MI (8th state crossing - Michigan and third, and final, time zone change)

From Vivian's perspective againŠErika's getting lazy (actually, it's jointly written from the parlor/galley/concession/lounge/eating/sitting area of the SS Badger, the ferry ;-) Actually, I will say, Erika seemed to rest up and rejuvenate this week with the delightful surprise of Wisconsin's pretty, rolling hills and the nice weather. (Boy, have we heard plenty of stories of the South Dakota horrors...and with the great week in Wisconsin, Joe and I have to wonder if they're not all just a bunch of complainers!) After all, at the beginning of this week she was telling me how she had no interest in riding fast anymore, and now she gives me the look every few milesŠand I know I have to kick it into high gear to keep up. (Then we both say our legs are toast but then, we are back to a chic challenge again just a few minutes later.) Actually (this is Erika writing), this week, in many ways, has been a recovery and refreshing week, though I did ride hard. (Thanks, Vivian and Joe). It's felt really good, and yes, has reminded me why I just love riding bikes!

Ok, so, about today's ride. We had some rain and mild storms overnight, so we got off to a bit of humid start, but it dried up. (ER: I did a dumb thing last night. In the middle of the night it started to drizzle. My fly, on top, of the tent was open. Since I had already taken a shower for the day, and didn't want to be sleeping in a soaked down bag (even though I was indeed hot), I guess I got up to zip up the fly, but first I had to unzip the mesh. Part way through I must have thought that it wasn't raining that hard. Dunno. Anyway, what I do know, is that I started to get attacked by skeeters; couldn't figure it out, but was too tired to really try. And, it would have been difficult given the fact that my flashlight has decided that once it's dark, there's no reason for me to see. So, another night fighting skeeters ,and itching, itching, itching. Bummer, was hoping for a good night's sleep. Ah, but it started to really rain. Uh huh - I realized that I left the mesh only partly closed, so the skeeters had free reign, and fresh meat (which I know they took advantage of since the ones I managed to kill (they just got caught in my clapping) had red stuff squeaking out of them.).

Welcome to Michigan 
Ok, back to Vivan and the ride -- We cruised ~5 miles to breakfast. Neat story at breakfast - Nell and Tom's son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids surprised them at breakfast. Nell and Tom hail from California's tomato, and their kids from Ohio. They're probably in their late 60's, and riding cross country has been Tom's dream, though Nell decided that she'd come along. I have a ton of respect for them - Tom rides nearly every inch, on a heavy cross bike. Nell will sag a lot, but is one of the most positive folks you'll ever meet. She's kind of the mom of the group too. She too rides a heavy bike. . . and, if it weren't for her arthritis in her hands, my guess is that she wouldn't be on this trip to 'watch after Tom', she'd be cruising along. Folks, as you can probably tell for now, each have their own stories, own motivations and own goals for undertaking this cross country journey. None is right, none is wrong, and all are worthy.

Erika, Joe, Brian, Lance and I rode off from breakfast togetherŠwe stayed together for the remaining 45 miles to Manitowac. Some great roads, great rolling hills, fairly cool weather, and great company. Some tail winds and side winds. We had our occasional sprints and kept a decent pace throughout the day, as I alluded to earlier. (For me, ER, it was a 17mph average. Yahoo!) No towns or food stops to speak of, but plenty of farms and barns and cows and wildflowers and greenery; and, we had a fall (and a ball) at Humpty Dumpty RoadŠposed, and, of course, with plenty of laughter.

Ironically, once we hit town and were tooling around, lo and behold, Lance inevitably took a real spill those darn clipless pedals. Classic - he was on the ground, and the rest of us were laughing. Two elderly ladies came walking by, and I must admit that the look of horror on their faces as we were giggling, uncontrollably (for the second time today - the first being the Humpty Dumpty Road), made us realize that perhaps we are a traveling freak show.

The town of Manitowac, on Lake Michigan, was neat. Farmer's Market, library, ferry, and water, of course. Stocked up on wine, cheese, and snacks for the 4 hour ferry ride. In search of baguettes again. Didn't find any but at least when Erika asked about baguettes, they knew what she was talking about, unlike in South Dakota.

The ferry ride, just like everything on this trip, just flies by. A nice rest on the lounge chairs upstairs, a change of clothes (wearing bike pants, aka diapers, for more time then necessary is unpleasant), and a glass of vino, newspaper, fresh preserves from the farmer's market, beef stick and bagels hit the spot. I met some local folks a few minutes before the ferry was to dock in Luddington. They suggested Steamers and Scotts - so the regular crew, as well as some others, decided to join us for drinks at Steamers along the water, and then dinner at Scotty's, along the 10 mile road to Scottville, where camp will be for the next two nights.

Steamers was great. Again, we're like the traveling freak show. Along with the regular crew, Nancy, Alan and Andy (and Andy was being a positive crack-up tonight - how his mood, and level of fitness, has changed on this trip) joined us. We sat on the patio with local microbrews (glad to be out of South Dakota choices) talking with some Wisconsoners, who motorboated across the lake, about our trip. Folks never cease being intrigued by our undertakings. . . soon, though, we'll have to start saying where we've come from, versus where we're going. So hard to believe that we're 2/3 of the way through.

I could have hung out in Luddington for the evening and night - I suggested perhaps us doing so as it was a really really cute town, with a number of interesting places to visit. I thought that we could then just get a couple of hotel rooms and put everyone inside. Unfortunately, there were no takers. . . The wait at Scotty's was going to be too long, and not everyone had lights. That, and the drizzles, made us pedal along to Scottville, and to grab dinner in Scottvile. I was feeling a little chagrined at passing up some great restaurants. . . and was thinking that we'd be having peanut butter and jelly, or no dinner at all, once we reached town and folks set up tents and took showers. However, we did go straight to town, and the one restaurant that was open. It wasn't bad, though they were scott out of their special - ribs, which sounded great. Nonetheless, it was another evening of jovialness and great company.

Got back to camp late - around 11ish. The time zone changes are bummers. While not in need of a rest day (what a change from the first few weeks), I was looking forward to getting to sleep late. Brian and I were in search of the perfect camping spot. The ones taken by others tended to be in more lighted areas, and on not so soft grass. The only rules were not jumping fences. I discovered the opened gate to the football field, and it was
dark and provided plush plush grass. Brian was sold. I, on the other hand, thought that we'd spend the night there, and be told to move tomorrow. Brian asked for my interpretation of the rule, and, literally, we were ok. He had me convinced. I tried to convince Lauri and Jim, as well as Vivian and Joe, to join - no such luck, and Jim's perceptive comment - "How do you think the grass got so green and plush??" Ah, yes, sprinklers. That tipped the scale for me. The last thing I wanted to do when I can set up camp for 2 nights, versus one night, is to move my tent. That, combined with the thought of sprinklers in the middle of the night, made me set up my tent on the not so soft grass...

Bed at midnight - can't remember the last time I stayed up so late. Ah, , , , and come 3 in the morning, we were all treated to a concert and light show. Thunder, lightning, winds and rain unlike any we've experienced (Dillon came close). Since I set my tent up in the dark, I was lazy (the skies were clear) and didn't stake down the flies or take the other requisite steps for bad weather. Turns out that I weathered the storm ok (this tent is great - Sierra Designs Nightwatch).. though, at one point, I was concerned that the tent, and me in it, was going to blow away as the poles started to bend.....after the worst of the thunderstorm passed, someone yelled out, "welcome to michigan". Even this am, I don't know whose voice it was, but hats off to him. Turns out that others didn't fare so well. Vivian's and Joe's fly flew off, and they went to stand in the gym. The other tent perched by ours is no longer, and I'm still not certain who was in that one. I must admit, though, our little re-convening at 3ish in the am was quite fun. I tried to help Vivian and Joe out a bit, but I'm afraid my laughter, and picture taking, wasn't too helpful. As Joe said this am, however, we needed to do laundry anyway. Ah, the adventure.

Ferry Ride
Humpty Dumpty

Day 43: July 28, 2002 - Duff Day - 20 miles. TOTAL: 2925 miles; Went to Luddington

Steamers in Luddington
Slept in to 10ish, or didn't get out of the tent, save for the pee stop. First time to sleep in. yahoo. Wonderful. Decided not to do laundry. Very mellow day off, and a great one. Spent the afternoon, and 10 miles each way, in Luddington. Had lunch at a local brewery, ice cream at the House of Flavors, mucked around at a bookstore, and laid on the grass, resting.

Interesting note - as great as this trip has been, and experiencing America, it has been shocking to note the lack of diversity in the towns we've visited. In fact, it wasn't until Manitowac, WI, where we saw African Americans, and they were from Michigan. I guess we're really spoiled living in the Bay Area. The diversity is definitely a characteristic of my hometown that I really really appreciate, and have missed along the way.

Finished off the evening with a stop at Scotty's with Vivian and Joe, and Vivian's sister's family. Got a great night's sleep, and ready for another week of fun riding!

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