Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 33 - La Crosse to Wisconsin Dells, WI

Today: 91 miles, 2112 feet of climb
Cumulative: 2491 miles, 87599 feet of climb

Early morning, headed out of La Crosse

Today was another signature day on our tour as we rode the 34 mile Elroy-Sparta bike trail from the town of Sparta to the Town of Elroy.

Start of the Elroy-Sparta bike trail in Sparta

Fortunately for us, the rain stayed away. Wisconsin is getting a lot of rain just to the south of us, but the bands of rain are just sliding by and missing us. Since the bike trail we rode today is hard packed dirt, that was a blessing. We got a few spritzes of rain early and the clouds looked threatening, but the roads and bike trail stayed dry for us today.

Scenes as we ride along the Elroy-Sparta Trail

The Elroy-Sparta Trail is considered to be among the first, if not the first, of the “rails to trails” biking trails in the United States. The last trains ran here in 1964 and the right of way was sold to the Wisconsin Department of Resources for $12,000 in 1966. What a deal. The bike trail, scenery, and train tunnels were fantastic.

The Elroy-Sparta Trail at the trailhead in Norwalk

Here we are riding the Elroy-Sparta Trail:

The highlight of the trail are the three train tunnels. Two of them are about a quarter of a mile long and the third is three quarters of a mile long. Those of you who ride the Silver Comet Trail probably are familiar with the Brushy Mountain train tunnel at mile 31. The approach to these three tunnels is similar to the SCT tunnel. About a quarter of a mile away, the land on either side of you rises as the trail seems to burrow into the ground. The walls close in and you begin to feel the cold air rushing out from inside the tunnel. The tunnel opening appears in front of you with a big wall of mountain above the tunnel ceiling. But after that, all similarity with the SCT tunnel ends. These three tunnels are loooong and they have no lights inside. You are required to walk through the tunnels and you need a flashlight. The floors of the tunnel are rough and there is some water falling on you inside. There is a fog at the tunnel entrance as the cold air condenses when it exits the tunnel. There are huge wood and steel doors at the entrance. (I guess they lock them in the winter?)

On the left, in front of Train Tunnel #3 (three quarters of a mile long). On the right Dave enters the tunnel through the fog

When walking through both quarter mile long tunnels you cannot see the light from either end when you get to the middle. It is pitch black. And that also goes triple for the tunnel that is three quarters of a mile long. It seems like you are walking in the dark for a very long time. It is cold. Drops of water fall on you from who knows where. And then finally you see light from the other side through the fog. You exit the tunnel and your glasses fog up from the warm air. Very cool, no pun intended.

Exiting Train Tunnel #1

Here we are exiting one of the tunnels:

Our route today started in the northeast direction and then headed southeast when we got to the bike trail. Early on, we were on County Road B and County Road U. After the bike trail we were on County Roads O, G, J, and H. Not content to use numbers, they use letters for county roads in Wisconsin. I guess no county has more than 26 roads. And I can imagine some good combinations of road names at junctions.

Can you come up with your own interesting combination of lettered road names?

In the middle of the bike trail we stopped in the town of Wilton at a place called Pies Are Squared. We were told by the ABB staff the store had killer pie and I can report that this is true. I have never had rhubarb pie before. So I ordered a piece and it was absolutely fantastic. I may have to ask Karen’s mom to make me another rhubarb pie when I get back to Georgia. Just for the record, pictures of the pie are included here.

Pies Are Squared

What type of pie to order? It was a tough choice. I went with the Rhubarb pie and it was FABULOUS.

As you may have surmised from some earlier posts, all of the riders (including me) are addicted to ice cream. Dairy Queen Blizzards. McDonald's Flurry’s. Wendy’s Frosty’s or Shakes. All are quite delicious and still I’ve lost five pounds since the start of the ride. But I’ve heard several stories from prior year riders who have warned we’ll put all the weight back on, plus some, when we come home and stop burning the extra 4000 to 5000 calories a day. I’ve got to wean myself off the ice cream soon. I may need professional ice cream help. I’ve already asked Karen to clean out the freezer before I get home on August 10th.

After 2500 miles and the crossing of countless train tracks, we finally got stuck for a train.

Well, that’s it for an exciting Day 33. It has been a fatiguing last four days with very close to 400 miles covered. And we have 83 more tomorrow. I’m tired tonight. But I can still go for another ice cream. There are only 15 days of serious riding remaining (plus a day for the ferry ride and a day off in Niagara Falls) and we still need to finish Wisconsin as well as cover Michigan, Ontario, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Still a long way to go, though we did pass the two thirds point today.

I finally stopped for the obligatory Field of Dreams photo

By the way, my medium Vanilla Frosty was very good tonight. It is time to head to bed now.

Today’s route (My Garmin turned off twice again):

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