Big Ride Update: Days 30 &31
Tuesday we rode 67 steep miles from Winona, Minnesota to Viroqua, Wisconsin, crossing the Mississippi to our seventh state–“America’s Dairy”–and riding along the river valley before we climbed arduously into Amish country in 100+heat, then roller-coasted through more hills into Viroqua. We pitched our tents at the Vernon County Fairgrounds until some people learned they could stay at an air conditioned church up the path and moved there. Wednesday we rode 99 miles from Viroqua to Madison, Wisconsin, the state capitol, rising at 4 am for a 5:30 am start so we could beat the heat. It was a long day but the temperature stayed in the low to mid 90s, a break from the day before, and we made some interesting stops en route. But everyone was happy to reach the University of Wisconsin campus at Chadbourne Hall for a rest day.
Leaving the Island City of Winona in the early morning.
The Mississippi River in the early light. The Mississippi starts in northern Minnesota and flows over 2500 miles south to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. It touches 10 states and its watershed drains all or part of 31 states between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. It remains a working river and is used to transport coal, gravel, lime and grain.
This section of the river valley is known as the Mississippi River Blufflands and includes tall bluffs, deep valleys and rocky outcrops as seen in the upper right hand. The area is referred to as “driftless” because it avoided the massive glaciers that carved the rest of Minnesota so the landscape is closer to its original appearance before the Ice Age.
Another view of the Mississippi
After about 20 miles, as we enter Dakota, Minnesota, we were treated to a fabulous reception at the home of the Meyer family. Five sisters who started by welcoming Big Riders over a decade ago with a lemonade stand have turned it into an annual banquet replete with delicious home-made cakes and fruit and sandwiches and cold drinks and heartfelt hospitality. They keep a scrapbook with every Big Rider and interviewed and photographed each of us.
The Meyer family sisters and cousins
Crossing the Mississippi at La Crescent
Entering Wisconsin, our seventh state (from left to right: Rob, Mike, Doron, Rick)
A partial, moving-bicycle-oops-I-almost-missed-it view of the largest six-pack in the world in La Crosse, Wisconsin
Riding along the Mississippi River on the eastern or Wisconsin side now.
Entering Chaseburg, just before the creamery and the steepest, hottest 1.5 mile climb.
It’s always beautiful at the top
We stopped for lunch by this lake and several Big Riders jumped in to cool off.
Entering Viroqua. We immediately headed for an air conditioned pizza parlor cum ice cream store
Two Big Riders, Ben and Cam, exhausted from the day’s riding, swimming and 104 degree heat, unwind at the fairground.
The Driftless Cafe in Viroqua where we had a nice dinner in original surroundings, including two trees that grew through the ceiling.
On the road between Lewiston and Viola. Wisconsin produces a quarter of the nation’s cheese and butter and is second in milk production.
More cheese, butter and milk being cultivated.
We bike through the town of Richland Center, birthplace of Frank Lloyd Wright and an important place inthe history of women’s suffrage
A working farm along the Frank Lloyd Wright Memorial Highway.
Crossing the Wisconsin River
In one of our more inspired roadside stops, Big Rider Liz spots Carr Valley Cheese and we are transported into an air conditioned paradise of gourmet cheese, fine chocolates and wine. We partook of the first two but left the wine alone since we still had 25 miles to go.
A check-in by a lake in Mazomanie
The proprietor of Uphill Grind Bicycle and Coffee shop makes me a fruit smoothie. I bought a new chain from him since after 2500 miles, mine is worn out.
Lake Katherine, with an unusual turquoise hue
Big Riders unwind after 100 miles at State Street Brats with a bootful of beer ( from left to right: Mike, Doron, Camillo, Ben, Liz)
Gene puts on the chain I bought.
Science Hall at the University of Wisconsin campus
The state Capitol in Madison, as seen from State Street
View over Lake Mendota from the Wisconsin Student Union