Day 1 – MSN to Wonewoc, WI, 75 miles

Day 1 started out with the sound of rain as I woke up in a warm bed. I waited until about 11:30 am but it didn’t seem to be getting any better so headed out.

It was a YingYang type of day. As I pedaled along the Hwy 12 paved trail I notice the corn and weeds blowing wildly but could heard the wind. Of course, I had a 15-20 mile an hour tailwind that was actually pushing me along!

The Ying = the wind

The Yang = the rain

By the time I got to Sauk City the rain had stopped, I stopped at Culver’s to peal off a few layers and have a double Chocolate Éclair custard!


The Ying = a double dish chocolate éclair custard.

The Yang = noticing my back tire was “spongy”.


A tribute to the man who started it all!


I knew where there was a park shelter in town so headed over there to find out what the tire problem was.


Nothing visible from the outside of the tire . . . but on the inside, a dastardly road wire!

A quick change and I was back on the road to partly sunny skies!


Of course one does need to get over the Baraboo Hills.


In Denzer, there was the Ugly Coyote Bar!


Once on top of the rage I had a nice ride along Ruff Rd, the only gravel road I found in Sauk County,


Oh, there were a series of these as I ventured north . . .


. . . followed by long run outs!

Made it to Reedsburg to find out the campground I was hoping to stay at was closed.


Needed to have a map session.

Option A – Quality Inn, $109/night, I passed.

Option  B -Super 8, $79/night, I passed.

Option C – head down the 400 trail to Wonewoc where they had an American Legion Campgrounds with showers $5, let’s go for it!


The 400 trail looks a lot like the Badger and Military Ride trails.


At LaValle. Things have changed some!


Some great cuts along the way.

Encountered a crane family whose father did not want me anywhere near their chick. He made many displays and charges at me while I photographed him and made a movie to!


I finally worked my way around them and headed for Wonewoc.


Arrived at camp at 7:30pm. Only one in camp tonight and no one to collect the money.

The Ying = free camping

The Yang – showers not available other than during the day.

. . . and it started raining about midnight!

Day 2: Wonewoc, WI to Sparta,WI, 75 miles

Woke to the sound of rain which is always a bad thing. Big decision . . . wait it out or start packing. After about ten minutes I decided to get everything packed into the panniers while INSDE the tent, put on the rain covers and transport it all to the covered park shelter. Then pull the pins on the tent and carry the whole thing over to the shelter where it can drain and dry . . . a little.


This was the other camping option . . . Bakers Field. Ying=it was FREE, Yang=it was under water!

6222The DNR does a nice job on the trails here. Lots of viewing stations and info for the nature curious.

6223The 400 trail connects to the Sparta Elroy trail, one of the first Rails to Trails projects in the country. This one is unique to Wisconsin in that it has three tunnels. (Elroy is also the home to one of our more famous Governors, Tommy G. Thompson.

6224At this intersection it’s either left to stay on the Sparta Elroy or right to head out on the Omaha Trail (not sure where the name came from).

6225Surprised the whole trail,and state, has not been renamed to Tommyland!!!!!

6226Nice scenery to roll by . . .

6227Many of the merchants have “hitchin posts” for the horses, and shovels, brooms and special waste containers available for the “spent fuel”.

6228It’s Saturday and shopping day in Kendall for all the locals, including the large Amish community who come to town in their buggies. Buggy and buggy parking lot.

6229Largest round about, around, Kendall,s claim to fame!

62210With dining options like this, who would want to cook in camp along the way!

62211The Amish do not used motorized vehicles but they do use stationary gas powered motors to run their equipment. When they need gas, they do like anyone else who has a lawnmower, etc. drive their “rig” to town and fill up the gas cans.

62212Lots of travel choices!

62213The first tunnel on the Sparta Elroy trail.

62214The obligatory “looking from the inside out” tunnel shot.

62215Second tunnel. Always a lot of condensation from the temp and humidity changes at the tunnel entrances.

62216The third tunnel, and the longest. One definitely needed a “torch”. With all the rain overnight the tunnel had REAL ceiling seepage issues and I should have had on my raincoat . . . plus it was only about 50 degrees in the tunnel!

The clouds and humidity were building all day and the forecast was for more heavy rain tonight, so I sought out indoor shelter for the night to keep me dry and dry out my gear. Most bikers don’t like spending 80-100 dollars a night just for a “roof” and look for the 40-50 dollar range. Yes, there are still some of those out their, especially in smaller towns. But like a lot of things in life . . . you get what you pay for. Many of the motels in that price range have become “resident hotels”, inhabited by an interesting slice of Americana.


Inside and dry . . . there was a typhoon that hit during the night that would certainly have swamped my tent. Ended up being over three inches of rain in most parts of the county.


Day 3 – Sparta, WI to Alma, WI, 71 miles

The rain continued through the night as did the “action” around the motel. What a difference ear plugs can make. I walked out of the motel about 7:30, the air was still and the humidity hit you in the face like a wet blanket. The forecast was for a repeat of yesterday. High temps, high humidity and a 70% change for thunderstorms in the afternoon. I had everything dry and packed away. Might be a motel again tonight. We’ll see.

I joined the LaCrosse River Trail and headed west. Easy riding.

Still no other riders on the trail.


Traveling art show along the way. FREE admittance.


The storm brought down lots of trees along the trail. Made me thing of George’s unfortunate encounter along the Badger Trail. I was able to ride around most of them.



A good example of bridges from another era.

Lots of flowers blooming along the way . . . made the riding even more enjoyable.


. . . and soon I was in LaCrosse where I joined up with the Great River Tail.

Reaching LaCrosse, it was time to head north on the Great River Trail.

Ready . . . Set . . . GO!

Finally . . . my first sighting of Mississippi River which I will be following all the way to Prescott, WI. Nice riding and great vistas.

Lots of great little towns along the way. As usual one of the highlights for me in touring is the SLOW ride through the sights and sounds of rural Americana. Momentarily passing through the lives and times of local residents’.

Downtown Bangor . . . a Main Street without too many vacancy signs.

IMG_0481Their other claim to fame is the annual New Year’s Eve frozen catfish drop. Similar to the lighted descending ball in Times Square, NY (on a smaller scale of course!)

The final miles of the Great River Trail passed through the federal Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge. Great riding and scenery but I stay on their main gravel road. The relatively new bike trail paralleled the road but was too soft for Connie and her heavy load.

A nice ride for the last 3 miles of the Great River Trail through the refuge.

New bike trail on the left, vehicle traffic on the right. No wonder he Fed’s have budget problems!

Not sure if these are the remains of a turtle hatch or a racoons lunch. Hope the little fellers made it!

After basically riding on crushed lime rock trails since leaving Madison, it was time to exit onto paved surfaces. Easy rolling!

As I left the road behind I headed north on Hwy 35, the Great River Road. Lots of traffic with MN license plates  heading home. Thankfully most of them turned west at Hwy 54, heading over to Winona, MN. From that point north it was just as I remembered on  my Mother’s Day ride to Minnesota three years ago. Great road, great scenery, little traffic and easy riding.

I soon arrived at Merrick State Park, which was going to be my home for the night.

IMG_0494This was the planned overnight . . .

Seemed I was drinking a bottle of water every six miles and felt I still could not keep up. The weather was still VERY humid. If it was going to be a repeat of last night’s weather, I did not want to be in a tent. So . . . onward another 15 miles to Alma where I hoped to find inside accommodations.

The 4 Mile Gentleman’s Club. Didn’t see any gentleman this morning, of course it was Sunday morning. Never did figure out what it was four miles from!

With the high temps and humidity, I have REALLY been going through the water. It’s always a hunt to find the local water source in town. If they have a local park, there is usually a source there. I hunted for some time in this park until I finally found the “bubbler” (as we call it only here in WI) inside the lion!

Some of the locals are not too crazy about the boom in sand mining.

Nice digs . . . catering to the fishing crowd. Separate fishing cleaning building with a large kitchen and outside eating area.



Day 4 – Alma, WI to Hastings, MN, 68 miles

I had dinner down the street in Alma at the Best Dam View restaurant and grill which was right across the street from a US Corp of Engineers lock. Had a great conversation with the bartender who was impressed by my story. Then she brought up the fact she had just met a young fella the day before who was waiting for his uncle from Milwaukee to pick him up. He had not seen his Unc for 18 years but needed a ride the rest of the way to Milwaukee after skateboarding all the way from Everett, WA!!!!! My trip seemed like small potatoes compared to that endeavor.

By the time I retired to my room after dinner the sky had cleared and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful night . . . go figure.

Today’s ride along the Mississippi was beautiful. The weather was very pleasant and I still had the south wind I have been enjoying the whole trip so far.

IMG_0503Great vistas along the Great River Highway, 35.

IMG_0506Who knew. The actual site was six miles off the highway, I wasn’t that interested.

IMG_0509One of my unique finds. I’ve got to key it out to determine what kind of bug it is.

IMG_0510 Typical of the great viewing as I pedaled by the Tiffany Wildlife Area

This was a pleasant surprise just northeast of Pepin. I thought I had been transported to Italy or France. Band new winery that was still looking for help. Too bad it is not closer to MSN. Someone with a dream has LOTS of cash backing them. Hope it works out for them. I’ll be back!

IMG_0517What . . . did I make a wrong turn in Tuscany?

IMG_0518No . . . it’s just Pepin, WI.

IMG_0519 Complete with courtyard . . .

IMG_0520 . . . and nice stonework.

Funny what you will read while standing by a convenience store eating lunch. Among other items on the community bulletin board was an announcement on what to do it the local nuclear reactor has a melt down! Love the part about putting your clothes in a plastic bag. Doesn’t go on to say what you are then supposed to do with them!

IMG_0523What do it the big one blows . . . ?

IMG_0524 . . . take a shower!

IMG_0512Wood nymphs!

IMG_0513 Art or a sale?

IMG_0521 A Kodak moment around every curve.

IMG_0525 You would think we in Wisconsin could name an airport on our side of the river with the name of one of our cities! Aren’t we “Open for Business?”

 Tonight I am camping in MN at the St Croix Regional Park, a relatively new addition to the Washington County park system. Just about empty and I had the whole tent camping area to myself. I was planning on staying just north at the Afton State Park until the nice folks at the regional park told me all the campsites at Afton are walk-ins, with the walk in part being close to a mile!

IMG_0527My home for the night. Quiet and dry. A new shower building too!

Being six miles out of Prescott, and with no food, I set up camp, cleaned up and pedaled back into town for dinner. Had been thinking of red meat all day so headed over to the Muddy Waters Bar and Grill. Great outdoor seating, great blues and a great burger!

20130624_172027 Yes . . . California burger with all the trimmings.

I had passed a DQ on the way into town and decided I needed a treat. On our cross country ride, we had something like this almost every night. Back then the DQ version was called a Hot Fudge Brownie Delight. It’s now a Oreo Brownie Earthquake. Still yummy!

20130624_175155 (4) Just one of these was enough for the night . . . but there is always tomorrow!


Day 5 – Hastings, MN to Rush City, MN, 75 miles

Woke to beautiful morning with all the birds in the area serenading me. Packed up and heading north to eat breakfast along the way.


 IMG_0532I’m always amazed it all fits in the panniers and on the bike.

It takes about 3 days to get the hang of where everything is on the bike and to be able to instantly lay your hands on an item.

IMG_0534Sorry to leave this place behind . . . nice night, and nice camping.

IMG_0535Some kind of outdoor church, facing east, complete with facilities!

IMG_0537Rolled up on Dave, who said he felt he had finally captured this scene in his painting after several tries.

IMG_0538Nice job! I asked him if he was a “starving artist” and he said it was good he had a day job!

IMG_0540Washington County is SERIOUS about mosquito control!

IMG_0541Cycle swap . . . mmmmmmmmm, maybe Connie could find a new friend!

IMG_0542Boarding school for dogs . . .

IMG_0543. . . complete with rooms above the school. Pretty quiet now because of the summer break!

IMG_0545MN version of WI “Great River Trail”.

I used the Biking Route Option on Google maps to determine my route. In MN, I am now paralleling I-35 on Hwy 61. It must have been the primary route between Minneapolis and Duluth before the interstate was constructed. Really only local traffic on the road which is two lane with about an 8 foot shoulder on each side. REALLY nice for riding. And, there is a small town about every 10-12 miles which is good because I really need to refill my water bottle about every hour. Still VERY hot and HUMID. The small towns all look like they are barely holding on. It’s amazing how each town seems to have a “Thrift or Second Hand Store” . Most of them are out of business. Not much reason for folks to exit the interstate. If they do there is usually a convenience store right at the exit, while the town is 1-3 miles to the east.

I was planning on staying in Forest Lake but was making good time and decided to venture on to Rush City where I knew there was a campground on Rush Lake. Glad I did, nice place.

IMG_0546Nice digs on Rush Lake! Had the whole place to myself.

Day – 6, Rush City, MN to Moose Lake, MN, 75 miles

I moved my tent late in the afternoon to a shaded spot behind a tree because of the direct afternoon/setting sun. Things were fine until about dusk when the skeeters came out in FORCE! Luckily I was in my tent at dusk when they began to “swarm”. I left the fly off the tent because there was no threat of rain. As I lay on my back reading my Kindle I looked up through the mesh and swarming around the tent, 180 degrees, were MILLIONS and MILLIONS of mosquitoes. I know they came out heavy at dusk but this was incredible. A quick Google gave the facts : . . . to mate, the males form large swarms at dusk and the females enter to take their pick. And for mosquitoes, it’s not the size that counts. Studies show that medium-sized males attract the most females because of their ability to stay up (in the air) longer. Funny!

I woke in the morning to more skeeters swarming and quickly loaded everything on Connie, hitting the road in record time. Already warm and humid.

IMG_0550Not Paul Bunyan, but one of his contemporaries.

IMG_0551Beaver Boutique . . . should have stopped by!

IMG_0552The fire museum in Hinckley commemorating the great 1894 Hinckley fire that burned at least 200,000 acres as a result of land clearing. Over 800 people died in the fire . . .

IMG_0553. . . never underestimate the power of capitalism to make a buck off any event!


IMG_0557No Dumping . . . some people can’t read I guess!

IMG_0559Came upon the Robert Monger Trail . . .

IMG_0561. . . but only lasted one mile on it and got off again onto the road. Too claustrophobic in the “tunnel of trees”. The trails in MN are paved but many seams have opened, been paved over or repaired and make for a bumpy ride when touring with a heavy bike. Better out on the open road . . .

IMG_0564. . . plus one would miss the wildflowers show along the way.

I’ve made a habit on this trip of stopping at all the roadside memorial I see along the way. Many of them are on straight roads, in the middle of nowhere. Makes one wonder if most of the victims fell asleep and veered off until it seems like they usually hit a tree. Many of the large pine along the road at these memorials till show the scars of impact. Sad!

IMG_0566This poor souls friends evidently like hamburgers!

IMG_0567Those trees are not going to move as a result of an impact.

IMG_0568Well kept memorial for . . .


. . . a motorcycle rider.

IMG_0571How about lunch? It’s not too humid to eat heart healthy!

It was EXTREMELY humid again today and there were forecasts for heavy rain over night, 70% chance. I decided not to take a chance, since everything was relatively dry, stayed inside once I reached Moose Lake. It didn’t take until evening, because at 2:30pm the skies opened. Glad I was inside.

IMG_0574The Moose Lake Motel . . .

IMG_0573. . . a deal at $52/night including tax. The local campground was $25 for a tent!!!!!!!!!

IMG_0576The view from my room . . . soon after I check in.

The humid weather has created physical problems for me I have never experienced riding. I have developed “bumpy butt”, as I call it, a form of road rash on the rear end. Also, along the areas on my feet where the biking sandals cross, there are large welts and red rash that usually goes away at night when I am in a motel with the AC running. About 4:00pm I put my sandals back on and tired to walk across the street to the store. My right foot hurts so bad, in the infected areas, I had to walk across the street barefoot.

Could be an interesting ride tomorrow. Good thing I have my sweetie, who will be driving up from DSM, as a backup SAG, if I need it!

Day – 7, Moose Lake, MN to Grand Rapids, MN, 80 miles

I heard it rain gain again several times during the night, glad I was inside.

I walked out the door to glorious low temps and low humidity, the sky was blue! The weather station predicted strong afternoon westerly winds 15-20 with gusts to 25. My first 40 miles today would be NW heading to Floodwood, MN. From Floodwood to Grand Rapids it would be directly west on Hwy 2 right into the headwind. Floodwood would be MY halfway point for the day. I needed to get an early start to try to beat some of the wind and was rolling at 7:00am.

My rear end was feeling better and the AC had dried out my sandals and pretty much cleared up the rash on my feet. Eighty miles, loaded and into a headwind, would make for an interesting day.

IMG_0577One more along the way . . . complete with impact scar.

Passing through Cromwell, was soon on the way to Floodwood which appeared ahead in the bright blue sky. It was time for lunch.

Finally reached Hwy 2 . . . left turn into a 20 mile and hour HEADWIND for the next 40 miles!

 Soon I was back on the road DIRECTLY into the headwind NOAA had forecast. This is one time I was hoping for the “tunnel of trees” to help deflect the wind. Being a major highway, but with a nice 8 foot shoulder, much of the landscape on either side had been cleared during construction, just wide enough to let the wind funnel into my face. The only good thing about it was the speed of the wind kept the horseflies and deerflies, that had been constantly buzzing around me during the first 40 miles, at bay.

Powerlines as far as the eye can see . . . heading to Canada?

A whole lot of nothing . . . on Hwy 2. Large openings REALLY did not help with the headwind issues!

A good place to head for in Grand Rapids!

 Not much around Highway 2, lots of time to look around, especially at the reduced speed, and soon I spied a Camelback laying on the side of the road. The straps had been removed and I believe it was some touring riders “water reservoir” they carried on the back of their bike. It was still full so the impact had not damaged it.

Using the remaining clasp, affixed it between my rear panniers on the rack and away I went!

My big find of the trip. A Camelback that fit perfectly between the panniers. A good bleaching when I get home and it will be as good as new.

Up ahead I could see flags along the shoulder, the closer I got the more it looked like a Burley with flags. The flags looked like they were getting closer . . . the Burley was rolling towards me. Ended up being Sgt. Chuck Lewis, retired USMC, who is walking across America to Washington DC in honor of the fallen soldiers. Quite a discussion ensued. He walks about 25 miles a day pushing the custom made three wheeled Burley type rig that weighs 150 pounds with all of his gear on board! I was only the second bicycle tourist he had seen since leaving Everett, Washington. Interesting, Floodwood was my half way point today where I turned west into the headwind. Floodwood is Sgt. Chuck’s half way point across the US as he journeys east. You can see his website here.

Capt. Chuck and his rolling home . . .

 A stop for refreshments at Swan River meant I was halfway from Floodwood and Grand Rapids. Only twenty more miles of headwind!

The “oasis” in Swan River.

Connie resting in the shade.

Funny . . . but a little out of season. Of course, the snow just left this area last week!

My destination . . . Grand Rapids, the home of Judy Garland!

But before I knew it the ride was coming to an end as I entered the outskirts of Grand Rapids.

A turn south on Hwy 169 and in three miles I was sitting in the DQ enjoying a large chocolate malt. A man and woman saw my bike outside and asked how my ride was going. I said” It was great but it’s over!” They were surprised they caught me at the very end. Three hundred feet later, I was laying on the bed with Connie propped up against the wall in our motel for the weekend.


Ally and Jeff
Good luck on the Happy Ride through your life ahead.
Sunny skies and a tailwind the whole way!

JUST ADDED: Crane attack video from Day 1. Watch at about second 10-14 to see the little chick run ahead of it’s mother on the left side of video. Click here to see video.

OBSERVATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS: It was a great ride from MSN to Grand Rapids, the first half on trails and the second half on secondary highways with wide shoulders. A tailwind all the way from MSN to Floodwood! No dogs . . . but plenty of rain. I have never ridden in such humidity and wet conditions . . . but it is all part of the adventure. People were very friendly especially when you are traveling alone. Most were amazed at what I was doing and wished they could do it if not for work, physical problems, family obligations or whatever. It’s great rolling across the countryside and through peoples town and lives. A moment in time. One thing that really struck me on this trip, especially in rural MN are the number of folks living “so close to the ground”. Many home sites reminded of the “stereotypical” Appalachian poor. I don’t think anyone would want to live that way by choice but are probably dealing the best they can with the cards they have been dealt. Makes one feel VERY fortunate for a middle class life style with all the blessings that come with it.

Next trip . . . Poland.

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