Mileage: 78 miles
Weather: Mid 60s and foggy to start. Low 70s to end. Winds out of the east. Rain.
Highlights of the day:
We headed out of La Crosse on two-lane farm roads. Sound familiar? And guess what we saw…. Corn, soybeans, cows, and some horses. We saw this through the morning fog. I guess the temperature and dew point were rather close this morning. Fog lifted to a cloudy day. And construction! Did I mention earlier that Minnesota & Wisconsin have 2 season - winter and construction. Well it’s not winter so I guess that’s why we had to take a detour around a bridge that was out this morning. It was relatively simple compared to the other day. We followed the detour signs and added about 1 1/2 miles to the route. Another 10 or so miles down the road and we almost had to back track several miles to avoid another bridge with issues - this one damage because of all the heavy rain this area has had lately. The construction workers were very nice and allowed the bikes to cross once we explained that they were indeed bicycles and not motorcycles. I guess we need to be clearer to some folks when we talk about bikers.
We made our way to the town of Sparta for our first SAG stop and what we thought would be the beginning of our ride on the Elroy-Sparta bike trail. The weather had other ideas for us. My comments about the nice weather in yesterday’s journal entry evidently did jinx us. I have been asked by the riders to refrain from such comments about the weather in the future. (Oh, I feel the power! :-) ) Anyway, the skies to the west of us were darkening as we rode out of La Crosse. By the time we reached Sparta and started looking at the radar, a large blotch with dark green, yellow and red was headed our way. The trail is packed gravel and dirt. Add lots of water and it becomes a muddy mess that can become quite difficult to traverse, not to mention the goop that gets stuck to all surfaces of the bikes. Add the potential for high winds, downed tree limbs and bolts of lightning, it becomes a dangerous muddy mess with very little shelter and limited support from the vans. The decision was made to ride on Hwy 71. Less mud, more options for cover and better support from the vans made it the better option. It wasn’t our first choice but it was the best choice.
Instead of walking through 3 tunnels, the riders had 3 hills to climb on the way to the 2nd SAG. The profile on the route sheet made them seem rather daunting but reality proved otherwise. The road proved much faster than the trail and the riders were able to stay ahead of the stronger cells of the storm front. After the SAG, we had 15 more miles and the big climb of the day. It was less than a mile but with grades up to 9%, it was noticed. We finished the day on farmland rollers into Mauston.