You might want to go grab a cup of coffee, this could take awhile. It seems I snapped a lot of photos during the last day and a half, and I was only able to omit a few.
At the end of the last post, Shawn and I had left Steve behind at a hotel in Wilton battling “vertigo”. Ahead of us lay a small battle of loaded three speed bikes against “vertical”, but it didn’t exactly start out that way.
At first, the roads were relatively mild, but we could see larger, steeper hills of Wildcat Mountain State Park as we approached Ontario. Since our bodies were low on fuel, a small park in Ontario seemed a good place to pause a bit.
Over lunch, Shawn launched a brilliant plan to make a route change. Something seemed to compel us to explore the abandoned highway trail along the Kickapoo River instead of Wildcat Mountain. We might have missed something grand on that mountain, but that river route was one of the prettiest segments of our entire trip.
It was gorgeous day, the slopes were mild, and the quietness was refreshing. It all passed by too quickly, but we still had a good way to go before our planned evening camp. So we exited the Old Highway 131 Trail, made our way into La Farge, and refueled again. I was actually feeling pretty good at that moment, but its a good thing I took on some food and fluids. We were about to climb in earnest.
Shawn might correct me, but the way I remember it, we had four approximately 3-mile segments (up, down, up, down) until we reached Hwy 56. Then we had about 4-5 miles of stiff headwind into Viroqua. Details aside, I knew I was ready for a break.
We rolled into downtown, spotted the Blue Dog Bike Shop, and went inside for a look around. Since Mrs. Pondero’s honey brand is “Blue Dog Bee Ranch”, I figured this had to be a top notch place, and it was. This shop in such a small town out classes a high majority of shops I see in big cities. Besides the excellent, practical merchandise and coffee bar, the friendly folks in the shop tipped us to the Driftless Cafe for dinner…a perfect name for our tour theme and a delicious meal.
Bellies full, we made one more stop at the Viroqua Food Co-op for supplies before pedaling the last 4 miles of the day to Sidie Hollow County Park for the night.
The park was beautiful and almost empty. We set-up camp on a wide grassy area next to a flowing creek with that wonderful babbling sound. Just before dark, we built a small fire and let it hypnotize us into a dull pre-sleep state. I know we must have had a conversation while staring at those flames, but all I remember was staring at the flickering light, thinking that it had been a long eventful day since Norwalk, and I was very relaxed. After crawling into the hammock, the creek flowed with my consciousness downstream.
I heard the chainsaw fire up at 6:30am, so decided to get up and putter about with some coffee for the chilly morning. Shawn slept through it a little while longer.
But he was up before long and tending the kitchen. He produced delicious blueberry pancakes, and we feasted.
After breakfast and packing up camp, we went down to the campground lake to have a look around. It was a pleasant spot with all the hills and trees. So I took a few glamour shots of the Quickbeam touring bike.
These guys, and their brothers (I assume), cracked me up. As best I could tell, it looked like four brothers, born in consecutive years, aged 6, 5, 4, and 3. There were two adult men, maybe a father and grandfather. These guys ambled all about covering a wide area. They seemed quite independent and fearless carrying their life jackets, tools, and fishing gear. I have no idea how the two men could possibly keep track of them. I’m guessing these boys will become hardy men…if they survive.
After leaving the park, the next segment led us generally along the Bad Axe River toward the Mississippi River confluence. It was idyllic rural and gravel roads winding and rolling through a wonderful green valley. Each new hilltop and bend revealed a new eye pleasing view.
Once reaching the Mississippi River, we used a wide shoulder roadway northward toward La Crosse. We paused for a leisurely lunch by the locks near Genoa.
We made it back to the Goose Island Campground in the late afternoon. It was a far different place than it was the previous Sunday night. We had light and only a whisper of wind as we set up camp.
The sky, which had been cloudy all day, cleared nicely. We watched the last sunset of our tour sink over the Mississippi River and hills of southern Minnesota. Alas, here it was Wednesday night and Steve was still left stranded in a hotel in Wilton, where he had been since Tuesday morning. The good news was that he was feeling much better, had actually been out riding around in town, and was eager for some company.
So Thursday morning, I dropped Shawn off in La Crosse. He was scheduled to catch the train home that evening. I said my farewell to Shawn and MooseMoose, and made my way to Wilton with Steve’s van.
Now that I’ve added multi-day touring to my overnight experiences, I can say I am smitten. I can’t wait to get out and do it again. In fact, I am already scheming about new ways to do short excursions from my home this summer, and I have a trip brewing along the C&O Canal in the DC area in the fall. More to come on that.
Looks idyllic- what a good route-change!
One of the great benefits of traveling with someone like Shawn. I’m more structured, and would tend to stick with the pre-defined plan, and blind to new possibilities. But Shawn was totally aware of these things and eager to adjust to something new.
You mention some pretty good hills but Shawn is always pedaling. Did you have to walk up any hills? I’ve ridden in that area & it’s surprising how steep some of the climbs are, even along the rivers. I recall one time reaching a crossroads. Our intended route went straight, but we could see ski lifts ahead. Not knowing where the crossroad would take us, we gave it a go & were glad we did.
These hills are certainly not high mountain passes, but with loaded bikes and low gear limits of the 3 speed there were some challenging parts on the steepest sections. No, I don’t think either of us walked. We just slowly grunted and sometimes zig-zagged across the road trying to flatten the slope a little. Occasionally, I had the strongest urge to stop and take a photo mid climb.
That entire area is one of my favorite spots in all of the Midwest. In three weeks we will meet my Parents in Spring Green, Wisconsin for our annual weekend get together. We’ve been meeting there every year since 1998. We drive from our home in Duluth, and they drive over from their home in southern Michigan.
Another connection. My sister, who lives in Texas, late husband’s grandfather owned and farmed the land that is now Wildcat Mountain State Park. My sister even had a German Shepard named Kickapoo a few years back.
Kickin’ myself for missing all the fun. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed yourself. Thanks for the pictures and the write-up.
We were all disappointed that you couldn’t make the trip with us. It was really a special time. Hopefully, you guys will have a great family gathering, and you and I will cross paths at the right time.
Really loved reading about the trip! This is the landscape I dream of riding through. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to my own adventure in the (hopefully) near future.
Thanks for the kind words. I hope you bag that dream tour soon.
Reblogged this on Urban Adventure League and commented:
Yeah, I still need to write something up! But in the meantime, enjoy Pondero’s recap!
I’m headed through that area in a week or two. I think I’ll have to give this area a try and go up through the KVR and to La Cross instead of further south to Prairie du Chien.
Have a great trip! I hope you find it as enjoyable as we did.
Splended report. As a Wisconsinite that has riden much of the same route and stayed in many of the same places I feel lucky to have this area to tour in. Your report brought back a memories with your images and words. Thanks for taking the time to tell your story.
Wow – what a great tour!
The scenes are amazing and I totally dig the green.
I am so glad y’all had a great time, Chris!
Have a Wonderful Day!
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