Seattle to Chicago via Canada


Fall 2005


Denis Kertz, ©2005


Day 27: Sat, Oct 01, 2005 - Piney, MB to Baudette, MN [78.3, 7:44:13, 10.1 mph, 126.3K]

I crashed early at 8:30 last night really tired.  I managed to sleep 10 hours, waking up only a couple times.  I packed up and left at 7:30, rolling my bike down the steep stairs with only the 2 front panniers and carrying everything else down separately.  I was sure glad I didn’t attempt to roll the bike down fully loaded – it would have been a runaway train.  During the week, Sparky would have been cooking breakfast for workers passing through but not on a Saturday.  Consequently, I was the only person around and I had to be sure I had everything with me because the door locked behind me when I left.


It sprinkled a few drops as I left on an overcast morning in the upper 40s.  I rode 1K north to the 89/12 intersection and took 12 east.  It was 20K to the restaurant that Sparky told me about and into a bit of headwind. My legs felt fine, like they had fully recovered, but I still took it easy.


When I came to the restaurant that was part of a small motel, I decided to continue on to another restaurant that I had seen advertised on a billboard.  It was at the turnoff to Sprague.  I ordered the pancakes for $3.50, figuring I couldn’t go too far wrong at that price and I didn’t.  They were medium sized but fine for the price.


When I left I only had about 15K to the border.  When I approached the check point I took a photo to record the moment and rode up to the check point window.  The agent asked me for my ID and then my camera.  This confused me since I had no idea why he would want my camera, much less even know I had one.  Then he explained that this was a restricted area and photos were not allowed.  He gave my camera to another agent who fiddled with it a bit before handing it back to me with the photo deleted.  I was impressed that the agents had noticed me taking the photo but I wasn’t impressed that they apparently weren’t aware that the photo wasn’t really deleted.  Had I wanted, I could have gotten software to retrieve the “deleted” photo.  This incident also made me wonder what they did when someone used a film camera.  Presumably they would have to confiscate the film.


After changing the distance unit on my cyclocomputer from kilometers back to miles, I rode on, noting the well surfaced road with a narrow shoulder.  It was only a few miles to Warroad and I couldn’t help noticing the huge Marvin Window & Door manufacturing complex that Sparky had told me was the largest in the country.  There was also Marvin Lumber, Marvin Hardware, etc.  It seemed like MarvinTown or Marvinville would have been a more appropriate town name.


I stopped at a foodmart and used some of my remaining Canadian money since I didn’t have any US money.  I spent almost an hour at the nearly deserted library on email and paying some bills.  When I couldn’t find a bank with an ATM I rode on at 1:30 with about 34 miles to Baudette, my destination.


In the morning with an easterly wind, I was glad to reach the border, heading south where the wind was a crosswind.  Riding east to Baudette the wind was now from the southeast so I had a modest headwind the rest of the way and I averaged about 9 mph.  So it took me almost 4 hours to make the 34 miles to Baudette but my legs held up well.


What didn’t hold up so well was my butt.  I had noted how much better the road surface was than Saskatchewan or Manitoba until Williams.  Then there was a stretch of 10 miles or so of old pavement which had cracks across the road every 10-20 yards.  Every crack produced a thump-thump from the front and rear wheels which was transmitted to my butt.  I started thinking the Saskatchewan/Manitoba roads weren’t so bad.


By the time I reached Baudette it was about 5:30.  Baudette was a hunting and fishing locale that proclaimed itself the muskie capital of the world with Willie the Muskie guarding the entrance to downtown.  It also was a border crossing site and I found a place to convert my remaining Canadian money.  Then I ate at a foodmart with a Subway.  I also finally found a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich for desert, savoring the delight that I rode across a good bit of Canada for.


Next I searched for a bank ATM.  Wells Fargo wanted to charge a $2 fee but I refused to pay that.  A billboard advertised a bank’s 24-hour ATM at Frank & Randy’s, which I thought was a street intersection.  It turned out to be a since renamed grocery store.  All the locals knew that and I eventually found out and found the ATM that only charged a $1 fee – a victory of sorts for spurious charges.


Finally, I stopped at the Baudette Motel after learning there was no campground near town.  I got a room for $35 which was a good price.  I also got a Minnesota map from the motel that I could study.  My immediate problem was that strong south winds were predicted for tomorrow so heading south on 72 for some 60 miles didn’t seem like a good idea.  I expected I would continue on 11 which headed mostly east as a way to minimize the headwind and make progress.


I also learned today via email that my friend Chuck, who lived near Eagle River, WI, had a 4 month old granddaughter visiting about the same time I would pass by his place.  I didn’t figure I could compete with a new granddaughter, so I decided I would head for home and I reviewed whether Duluth was still a logical pass through point, which it appeared to be.


After cleaning up, I retired to a bar downtown with Bud Light drafts for $1.85.

Day 28: Sun, Oct 02, 2005 - Baudette, MN

In the morning I ate at the Ranch House, a couple doors down from the motel, which the motel told me had large pancakes.  When I ordered 3, the waitress warned me they were very large, and she wasn’t lying.  They were HUGE, as round as the oblong plate and several inches high.  I was given a second plate for eating them.  I wasn’t totally confident but I managed to finish them off and the waitress said “very impressive” and said not many did that.  My only regret was I didn’t have my camera with me to take a photo of the stack.


Then I had a big decision to make.  It was predicted to reach 80F with gusty south winds 20-30 mph.  That made heading south on 72 not a good idea.  Heading east on 11 was another option but that raised a safety issue since the shoulder was narrow and a strong wind could push me into traffic.  Both options had the problem that there were no good bailout options along the way.  To complicate this the weather for Tuesday and Wednesday was not looking good, with rain and some snow forecast with colder temperatures on the way, suggesting that heading south sooner was better.


After considerable thought I decided to layover.  There was no question that after 12 consecutive days of riding that my legs could stand a day of rest even though they had recovered well yesterday.  Still they felt tired and my resting pulse was 70 rather than the more normal mid-to-upper 50s.


It was a relief to have that decided and my body seemed to sort of let go when the decision was made.  I used the morning to do laundry and bike maintenance.


With my huge breakfast I had no need for food and relaxed in bed watching football off and on.  In the evening I had a small pizza at a foodmart and that was all I needed.  Somewhere in between I snuck in another chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich because I could.  And on this unusually warm day, it was still around 70F in the evening.

Day 29: Mon, Oct 03, 2005 - Baudette, MN to Deer River, MN [122.9, 9:10:58, 13.3 mph, 198.2K]

I ate again at the Ranch House but only ordered 2 pancakes and bacon.  I took a photo of the 2 large pancakes and the waitress, the same one as yesterday, said they should take a photo of me.  She said she had only seen 3 others eat a full stack of 3 in 20 years.  Two pancakes turned out to be about right.  I did notice a couple locals also ordered pancakes but they ordered single pancakes and they got smaller ones at that.  The locals were probably also having some digestion problems as their Minnesota Vikings had put on a sickening performance yesterday and that undoubtedly was hard to stomach.


I left town just before 8:00 in clear skies, calm winds, and temps around 50F.  I rode 2 miles east and then picked up 72 heading south.  It was easy riding on a good flat road.  My legs felt good and my resting pulse was 10 beats lower than yesterday, suggesting the rest day was effective.


Along the way I noticed my cyclocomputer claimed I was doing 60 mph.  I stopped and I was still doing 60 mph.  Then I remembered the Coast Guard had a LORAN transmitter nearby and I presumed I was picking up some spurious interference.  I shut the unit off for a quarter mile and when I turned it back on everything was back to normal.


It was a nice ride through mostly forests and brush with occasional grassy fields.  The road was good for a while but eventually I was riding on old pavement with cracks and thumping my way along.


At noon after 60 miles I stopped in Kelliker, just after seeing a black beer cross the road not too far in front of me, for a break and some food.  When I resumed there was significantly more traffic but the road only continued another 4 miles.  Then I zigged a few miles on 1 and zagged south on 46 the rest of the way.


I stopped in Northhome for a quick break and to get a preview of what lay ahead.  I was interested in bailout options in the event it rained, now that the clear morning was replaced by heavy overcast.  In 20 miles there was a place at Squaw Lake, some campgrounds in another 10 miles, and Deer River, a reasonable size town, another 17 miles, the farthest I could make for the day.


This area was in full fall bloom with bright yellows, gold, orange, and auburn that would have been more impressive in sunlight.  This stretch of 46 was called Avenue of the Pines and was a really nice ride.  Initially the pines were mingled with deciduous trees but eventually the pines took over completely.


When I reached Squaw Lake, I stopped at The Hill where they had a room for $32.  I might have taken it but it was on the 2nd floor and I wasn’t in the mood to lug my bike up a flight of stairs.  So I pushed on, guessing I would eventually try for Deer River, another 27 miles.  It was easy riding and I had enough daylight.  My only real concern was starting off with a 120 mile day right after my rest day.  On the other hand, the weather forecast was not promising for the next several days and I figured the closer I got to Grand Rapids and Duluth the better positioned I would be to deal with the weather.


So I pushed on.  It was scenic riding and my legs felt good.  The only downside was there were frequent cracks in the pavement and I spent most of my time trying to pick my way to minimize the thumps rather than admire the scenery.


Just before 6:00 I rode into Deer River and cased the town.  I got a decent $32 room at a motel and walked downtown to the Sportsman Café for a decent meal.

Day 30: Tue, Oct 04, 2005 - Deer River, MN to Grand Rapids, MN [16.1, 1:25:16, 11.4 mph, 26.0K]

I went back to the Sportsman Café for breakfast.  They had good pancakes and more reasonably sized than the ones I had the last 2 days in Baudette.  They also had current newspapers to read as well so this was one of my favorite breakfast places of the trip.


I left a little past 8:30.  It was only 15 miles to Grand Rapids and I didn’t figure on going any further with the prediction of rain/snow for today and tomorrow.  Duluth was another 80 miles.  There were a couple small places along the way on the way to Duluth but Grand Rapids figured to be a better place to be stuck.


When I reach Grand Rapids I headed for their nice library, mainly to check the weather.  Their Internet policy only allowed 30 minutes for visitors so it was just enough time to check the weather and email.  While I was there it rained a bit and my bike was wet.


Next I stopped at the tourist bureau and got a lot of help from the very helpful attendant.  She gave me the list of motels and let me use a phone to check prices.  The best price was low $40s which wasn’t great but the place I chose was only 3 blocks east and a good location relative to downtown.  Then the attendant gave me helpful advice on a few things to do in the area.


It turned out I stayed just a little too long as it was raining lightly when I left.  I made it to the motel OK and then it started raining pretty hard.


I got checked in just in time to catch the start of the Cardinals-Padres first playoff game.  When the Cardinals were ahead 8-0, I took off, figuring the game was safely in hand or I wouldn’t want to see the ending otherwise.  I walked downtown in my rain gear in light misting and stopped at the Old Central School, built in 1895.  It was no longer a school but had several shops and the Itasca Heritage Museum, which I paid $3 for admission.  Grand Rapids main employment is the paper industry.  The museum covered that, the woolly mammoth that once inhabited the area, and the first inhabitants of the area.  Grand Rapids was also the birthplace of Judy Garland and her early life was covered as well.


The museum turned out to be fairly interesting and a useful way to spend a few hours on an otherwise rather miserable day.  That left activities for tomorrow uncertain although the library was an option.  There was also a Forest History Center that sounded interesting but it was several miles away so cycling would be required in likely inclement weather.


On my way back to the motel I stopped at the bike shop in town.  I was hoping to gain some information on the best route through Duluth to cross into Wisconsin but the shop didn’t have any useful information.

Day 31: Wed, Oct 05, 2005 - Grand Rapids, MN

It was raining in the morning when I got up so with the weather forecast it was an easy decision to stay put for the day.  I spent most of the day at the library, getting caught up on reading periodicals.  For most of the day it was a drizzly, overcast day with temps in the 40s.  There was some hope with a bit of blue sky in late afternoon but that was short lived.

Day 32: Thu, Oct 06, 2005 - Grand Rapids, MN to Superior, WI [82.5, 5:42:28, 14.4 mph, 133.1K]

I ate breakfast at Dottie’s again, near the motel.  I just had their 2 pancake special, not feeling the need for a gonzo breakfast after 2 easy days.


The story for the day was the weather, which was projected to stay in the 30s all day with some possible showers.  So I dressed the part.  I wore my heavier tights and two pair of socks, the outer pair my Seal Skinz socks.  I wore liner gloves and my lobster claws.  I topped this all off with my rain pants and jacket, more for the cold than the threat of any rain.


It was about 35F when I left shortly after 8:00 with overcast, brooding skies and a light mist.  It was not an auspicious way to start a day of cycling but I couldn’t see laying over another day.  There was also a couple of bailout options at Warba at 15 miles and Floodwood at 37 miles.  The good news was there was a northwest wind and I was traveling southeast.


The route was US 2 and it had a wide shoulder, much like an Interstate, and the traffic was modest.  With the tailwind cycling was easy.  Towards late morning the sky lightened up and the sun tried to sneak out a couple of times.  By early afternoon the weather looked pretty decent, given the start, but the sky kept spitting occasionally as if it couldn’t make up its mind about what it wanted to be.


The road was flat but became rolling as I approached Duluth.  There were a couple nice views of the fall foliage at a crossing of the St. Louis River and a lake.


When I stopped in Floodwood in late morning I got lucky.  The foodmart had a nice Duluth area map on the wall and I studied it closely to determine the best route to the US 2 bridge, which had a bike/pedestrian walkway.  In theory I should have been able to follow US 2 all the way but it merged with I35 before the bridge and I was sure bicycles were not allowed on I35.  So I needed to devise a route to bypass the last stretch of US 2 and the map let me do that.


As I approached Duluth I entered Proctor and took 5th St which became Vinland.  Then I turned on Highland and was surprised to make a significant descent, not aware I was at any significant elevation.  Better yet, this turned out to be a bicycle route with signs that directed me to the entrance to the walkway on the bridge, which would not have been obvious otherwise.


It was a 2 mile bridge crossing with a decent view of Duluth.  When I reached the other side I had covered 80 easy miles and it was still early afternoon.  However, there were some reasonable motels nearby and I wasn’t aware of how much further I would have to go to find other reasonable motels.  Plus it was the start of the 2nd game of the Cardinals-Padres series.  So I called an early halt to the day near 3:00 and got a motel for $32 and picked up the start of the game.


The downside to this area was there was limited eating nearby so I ate at the restaurant part of a nearby motel complex.  It wasn’t my ideal eating place but I had a decent meal and then retired to the bar for a beer.

Day 33: Fri, Oct 07, 2005 - Superior, WI to Rice Lake, WI [97.2, 8:07:15, 11.9 mph, 156.8K]

I ate breakfast at an out-of-the-way place that I only knew about because the motel told me.  Their pancakes were plate sized so I had 3 of them.  The waitress had some doubt whether I would finish them but they were not a problem.  She said some guy ate 5 pancakes in 1992.  I debated ordering 2 more because I knew I could eat them but 3 was really about the right amount for cycling so I passed.


I took off about 8:15, riding back to my motel and continuing on Belknap which took me through Superior and to the intersection with US 2/53.  US 2/53 was a 4-lane road with a square curb that offered no shoulder bailout but traffic was modest.  However, there was a guy in a pickup who passed me and immediately did a right turn in front of me into a service station.  I wanted to give him the 1-finger salute but that wasn’t possible with my lobster claw gloves.  So I yelled at him and he must have heard me since he turned around and I gave him the evil eye.


After 5 miles the road became an expressway with a good shoulder.  I stopped at a rest stop with a travel bureau but they were unable to offer any real cycling info.  One person said she had seen bicycles on US 53 but didn’t think they were allowed, which contrasted to the Wisconsin online cycling info which didn’t show any restriction for 53.


A few miles after the rest stop, US 53 split from US 2 and headed south.  For the rest of the day, 53 rolled through mostly forests which looked to be a week or so away from prime fall foliage on a mostly cloud day in the mid-40s.  Only as I neared Rice Lake did the trees give way to a few farms.


US 53 was 4-lane all the way with a wide shoulder.  There were rumble strips most of the way but they were on the left side of the shoulder, leaving plenty of room for cycling.  Except for one stretch of 5 miles or so where some idiot road designer put the rumble strip right down the middle of the shoulder, leaving only a 1 foot wide lane for cycling that was marginal at best.  Then the last 15 miles of shoulder had cracks that led to uncomfortable thumping.  There was also a lot of traffic after 3:00 which wasn’t a problem other than for the noise.


Near 5:30 I took the exit to Rice Lake and rode a ways through town.  I finally found a motel and got a room for $34.  The owner was from Carol Stream in the Chicago area and was impressed I was riding to Naperville.  He was a lot more impressed when he learned where I started and was nearing the end of my trip.  The room itself was large and nice with a microwave and refrigerator.


From the motel I learned there was a buffet at a Country Kitchen.  They had a fish & chicken buffet that was good, lacking only ice cream for desert.  While I was looking at my state map during my meal, another customer engaged me in conversation and I got info that US 53 would be much like today all the way to Eau Claire.

Day 34: Sat, Oct 08, 2005 - Rice Lake, WI to Augusta, WI [82.7, 7:27:19, 11.1 mph, 133.4K]

I ate at Maxine’s, across the street from the motel.  There were a number of people already there at 7:00, which is usually a good sign.  I ordered 3 pancakes when the waitress indicated they were a good size.  They turned out to be plate sized and among the best pancakes of the trip.  I always eat my pancakes individually.  When I had finished the first 2 and ready to start on the third, a guy from the nearby table approached as they were leaving and said his table had been betting whether or not I would finish the pancakes.  I assured him I was up to the task and whoever had bet against me was going to lose.


I left just after 8:00 and just rode down the street which was County SS.  Last night I asked the motel owner about 53 and he suggested staying on SS which paralleled 53.  That made sense since only local traffic would use SS and this turned out to be a great choice.  SS was a good road with little traffic.  It was nice to ride a quiet country road and avoid the noisy 53.


When I passed through Chetek I saw a sign for a library so I stopped, surprised it was open at 9:30 on a Saturday.  I spent a half hour but remembered just after I left a couple things I had wanted to take care of but forgot.  I had initially thought I would have to wait until Chippewa Falls or Eau Claire to find a library and now it looked like I would still have to look for a library there.


I continued on SS riding through primarily farmland.  Around noon I stopped in Bloomer, another reasonable town, for a bite to eat.  It also had a library and like Chetek it was open from 9-12 on Saturday and now closed.


After I left Bloomer, SS turned east for several miles.  It would have been shorter to pick up 53 but I stayed with SS until it intersected 124 which I took south into Chippewa Falls.  As I rode through town on 124 I passed right by the library so I stopped and took care of my forgotten items.  I also made some copies of my Wisconsin state map, including a map of the Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire area.


When I left the library 2 youngsters, one on a skateboard were messing around the library entrance.  One of them was amazed by my bike and all the stuff on it.  At first he was incredulous but finally figured out I was touring.  When he asked where I was from and I said “Chicago” he said “Welcome to Wisconsin.”


The next part was the bad part.  After passing through downtown and across the river just above the dam, 124 became a 4-lane road with little or no shoulder.  Eventually it merged with 53 and traffic became worse as I entered Eau Claire.  There was little to do but hug the road edge even when it was cracked and hope everybody behind could drive straight.  I couldn’t get through this stretch fast enough.


When I took the exit to US 12 east, everything improved including my outlook.  My destination was Augusta, another 20 miles, and a town of almost 1500 and surely had a motel.


The first 8 miles brought me to Flat Creek where there were some great views of farms in the rolling land with their multiple silos and silver dome tops.  However, when I stopped at a foodmart I was told there were no motels in Flat Creek or Augusta, a major surprise for reasonable size towns but I guess the nearness to the Interstate killed that.


But I was committed and continued on to Augusta, resigned to camping for the night.  The nice farmland scenery continued and I made Augusta about 5:30.  I rode through town, hoping against hope to spot a motel and retreated when I didn’t see a motel and ate at a foodmart with a Subway.  Then I asked the proprietor to confirm there was no motel and was ready to ask about camping.  He said there was no motel but there were some cabins, which a phone call said were available for $35.


The cabins were just past the downtown area where if I had ridden just a little further on my pass through town I would have seen them.  It was an uplifting end to the day, after being certain I was going to have to find some place to camp.  After cleaning up I walked downtown and entered a boisterous bar to write my notes.  Incredibly, a draft beer was $1.  Sitting at a table by myself and furiously scribing away in my notebook, I could only imagine the patrons were wondering what the heck I was writing about.  So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when Ken, who currently lives in La Crosse but grew up in this town, stopped by and introduced himself, explaining the curiosity of him and his friends.  After I told him about my trip, he suggested an alternate route to my plan to ride US 12.  He suggested I head south to La Crosse and then ride along the Mississippi River.  That sounded intriguing so I pumped Ken for more information and told him I would consider the suggestion.

Day 35: Sun, Oct 09, 2005 - Augusta, WI to La Crosse, WI [80.8, 6:57:51, 11.6 mph, 130.3K]

Grandma’s Café, which was close to the motel, wasn’t open at 7:30 so I stopped at a café downtown where about a dozen locals were gathered.  There wasn’t a big table in the place so they were in 5 different booths, playing a game of dice.  I ordered 3 pancakes which were good but not quite as large as yesterday.


When I left it was already about 40F so I didn’t need my rain gear, just my regular windbreaker and gloves and socks.  I retraced my way back out of town and took R to Osseo.  My pancakes were a little light so I grabbed an egg mcmuffin at McD’s on my way through town.


As I left town I took US 53 south, back on the same road that I thought I had left for good yesterday.  The morning’s ride was through more scenic farmland of corn and soybeans in rolling hills but not as scenic as yesterday because the lack of sunlight muted the landscape.  53 was surprisingly flat for the most part in the hilly terrain but it had to wander left and right to find the flat areas and avoid the hills.


I stopped in Whitehall near 11:30 for food and a break.  Near 1:00 the clouds finally relented and gradually cleared out.  After I stopped in Galesville, 53 became fairly busy with high speed traffic.  This would have been OK except the shoulder was miserable, a 2 foot wide asphalt addition to the concrete pavement.  It was cracked with an uneven surface and some loose gravel sprinkled on the right edge.  This cleared up after about 4 miles and then 53 soon became a full blown expressway with a wide shoulder.


35 joined 53 for a while and then 35 split off and I followed it to La Crosse, a good move as I left the expressway behind and got views of the Mississippi.  When I reached La Crosse I picked up 53 again through town and it was a typically ugly ride through an urban area.  I rode all the way to the south side where I picked up 35 again.  Around 4:30 I stopped and got a room at one of the last motels in town for $34.  Ideally, I would have gone a little further to the next town but I didn’t know if it had a motel and after yesterday’s near miss I wasn’t ready to take the risk.


The disappointment for the day was the malfunction of my cyclocomputer.  Starting yesterday the unit stopped recording a couple times but jiggling it restarted it, leading me to believe it was a problem of the contacts between the display and receiver.  However, about 10 miles before La Crosse the unit stopped recording and no amount of jiggling helped.  This seemed similar to the problem earlier in the trip at Waterton Lakes.  At the motel I tested with my other unit and neither unit would record unless I moved the backup unit closer to the transmitter.  So I tied the backup unit to the shifter cable and that appeared to be a workable solution.


Then I walked to a mall with a Chinese restaurant and ended up with a huge dinner.  It was actually a bit more than I wanted so I didn’t quite finish it all.

Day 36: Mon, Oct 10, 2005 - La Crosse, WI to Lancaster, WI [92.2, 7:49:34, 11.7 mph, 148.7K]

I ate at a restaurant appropriately called the Hungry Peddler.  I ordered the pancakes and got 2 large pancakes.  They were the best tasting of the trip and had there been 3 of them they would have been voted best of the trip.


I left just after 8:00, initially riding on the sidewalks along the 4-lane road with a fair amount of traffic.  When 14/61 split off, the traffic eased and 35 was a good road.  35 followed the river all the way to Prairie du Chien., providing scenic views of the river most of the way on easy cycling.  Most of the way the road was bordered on the left by steep hills and bluffs.  Between the road and the river was a railroad track with frequent trains.


It was a scenic ride with the combination of river, bluffs, and trains along with easy cycling.  I could only imagine the scenery in a week or so at the height of the fall foliage and I could also imagine the increase in traffic.


There were interesting small towns along the way.  Both of the first 2 towns, Stoddard and Genoa, had motels.  Had I known that, I would have continued yesterday to at least Stoddard.  I stopped in Ferryville for a lunch break, a place where the river widened with small tree islands in the river.


In Prairie du Chien I stopped at the library at 1:30 where they had 5 Internet PCs.  Surprisingly, they were all busy on a Monday afternoon and I had to wait for the first time on the trip, but I only waited about 10 minutes.  I spent most of the time researching a route home the rest of the way.


I left town at 2:30 as the road left the river and headed inland.  Traffic picked up and the easy morning cycling was left behind.  There were a couple hills, one a hard 1-2 mile climb, and the river front was replaced by farmland.


As the road approached Lancaster, a town of 4,000, the road reached a ridge where farms with mostly corn fields were on display in all directions, a scenic spectacle.


I wandered through town at 5:30, stopping at a bank’s ATM to replenish my cash.  I found a motel, Pine Grove Motel, heading east out of town.  My room cost $40 and I got stuck with a smoking room which didn’t make me too happy.  Initially, the host was going to put me in a non-smoking room but changed his mind when he realized he would only have one room left.  Since the non-smoking room had twin beds and the smoking one had a single bed, he preferred to put me there.  So I was not a happy camper despite the host’s attempt to mollify me with apologies and I was even less happy when the room turned out to be a rather so-so room.  I decided it was the least room for the money of the trip.


I ate at a pizza place across the street but had a combination of lasagna and spaghetti rather than pizza.  Then I watched Monday night football.

Day 37: Tue, Oct 11, 2005 - Lancaster, WI to Oregon, IL [109.9, 9:33:08, 11.5 mph, 177.3K]

I ate at McDonald’s and had their mediocre breakfast.  This apparently was the breakfast place since 8 locals were gathered for coffee.  As I was eating I remembered I still had cereal so I bought some milk in the adjoining foodmart for a cereal breakfast.


I left at 7:45 because I was looking to do some major miles so I could get home in two days.  I didn’t know the distance but I figured something close to 200 miles.


It was foggy when I left.  The route to Platteville had some major dips in the road but not really hard climbs.  By 9:00 I was in Platteville and I found the bike shop on Main but it didn’t open until 10:00.  I was looking for bike route suggestions and figured a bike shop was the best place.  There was an Internet Café diagonal across from the bike shop.  As luck would have it the owner was a cyclist and he gave me suggestions.  Most notably he said the real hills were west of the town and it was flatter to the east.


I took 80 south and then County H a couple miles east to County J.  J curled southeast into County W which I took all the way to Warren.  However, W wasn’t flat.  It was rolling with more climbing than descending until the last few miles when it finally settled down and leveled off.


After almost 50 miles I stopped in Warren just after 1:00 for food and a break.  In the foodmart there was a bingo game underway with 8 women.  I guess they figured if the guys could congregate for breakfast coffee they could get together for bingo.


When I left Warren I took the Stage Coach Trail to Lena, which was an old stage coach route.  It was a good road but without a shoulder so I had to watch the traffic which didn’t prove to be a problem.  In Lena I continued on Stage Coach which ended at US 20 and I took 20 to Freeport.  US 20 was a terrible road for cycling with almost no shoulder and a lot of high speed traffic.  I had to bail out several times for big trucks.  This was easily the most dangerous section of road on the trip.


After about 8 miles I was relieved to take Business 20 to Freeport and had a nice 6 foot wide shoulder.  From Freeport I took 26 south.  It was a newly paved road not yet striped with a fair amount of traffic.  It didn’t have a marked shoulder but it had a packed gravel shoulder level with the pavement so it was easy to bail out a couple times.


At 5:30 I turned east on 64, hoping to make Oregon.  At the start of the day I figured Oregon would be the farthest I could possibly make but it was now 14 miles into a little headwind and a rolling road which seemed to be climbing slightly.  However, I also had the option of stopping in Mt. Morris, only another 8 miles, where I stayed in 1994 when night caught me as I was riding through.


However, this time I didn’t find any motel in Mt. Morris, not even the one on the east side where I stayed in 1994.  So I was forced to continue to Oregon in the fading light and I turned on my rear blinking light.  Cars were able to see me and seemed to give me more room than in daylight.


I rode into Oregon in darkness at about 6:45.  However, I rode into town without seeing a motel so I asked.  It turned out there were only 2 motels and they were a couple miles north on Highway 2.  So I headed north in real darkness, riding sidewalks as far as I could.  When the sidewalks ended I sprinted on the road and got a room at the Chateau Lodge for $64.  This turned out to be kind of a resort area at the Oregon Sculpture Trail.  There were a couple restaurants in the area and I had a decent meal at one of them.


A long day as I expected since I wanted to make as many miles as possible in good weather in light of tomorrow’s predicted showers.

Day 38: Wed, Oct 12, 2005 - Oregon, IL to Naperville, IL [76.8, 6:06:25, 12.6 mph, 123.9K]

I rode the 1.5 miles back to town for breakfast and ate at the Sunrise, the same place I ate at in 1994.  They had pecan pancakes so I had them and they were good.  It was nice to have a variation on just plain pancakes.


I left town about 7:45 on 64 which had no shoulder.  Even with a modest amount of traffic I only had to bail out a couple times.  It was 34 miles to Sycamore, the next town on the road, with nothing much to see except corn fields.  Just before the intersection with I39 there was new pavement and a good, wide shoulder.  That lasted until about 11 miles before Sycamore when the shoulder all but disappeared again.


I stopped in Sycamore at 10:30 for a quick bite.  I would have had a 2nd breakfast but I pushed on to get as many miles in while it wasn’t raining and I felt a few sprinkles as I left.  64 had a good, wide shoulder the rest of the way.


I didn’t see any obvious place to turn off so I stayed on 64 to the outskirts of St. Charles where I took Peck Road south as far as it went.  It ended at Kaneville Road which was part of one of my regular long weekend ride routes.  So I took my familiar route home.


Having ridden the entire route without a flat tire, I managed to get a flat near the Naperville Library, a real flat that I couldn’t pump up and limp home.  Rather than go through the hassle of fixing a flat rear tire, I pushed my bike the rest of the way since I was just a little over a mile from home.  I limped home at 3:00, thoroughly exhausted after two hard but dry days.





Copyright Denis Kertz, 2005. All rights reserved.