A tale of two bike trips
(We made it to Lambeau Field!)
by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist
It was the best of rides, it was the worst of rides.
That Dickensian summary of our second annual family bike trip isn't totally accurate, but the two parts of the journey were definitely different. I had trouble with the transition from Beautiful Byways to Lobotomy Lane.
My sons, 12-year-old David and 14-year-old Jasper, had never seen Lambeau Field. I told them I'd take them there and even spring for an official tour and Hall of Fame visit -- if they rode their bicycles all the way from Chippewa Falls. We were joined by another grownup, Joe Cherrier.
Pedaling 236 miles carrying food and camping gear might seem daunting, but we were propelled by memories of last year's successful bike trip to Duluth.
Like last year, we made it in far less time than scheduled -- we left Friday morning and were in Green Bay by lunch time Sunday! Granted, we did get an early start, rolling by 5:45 a.m. on a beautiful Fourth of July. And we couldn't have asked for better weather -- we enjoyed a cool, crisp morning with no wind.
Avoiding highways, we took County O north of Lake Wissota. At McDonald's in Stanley we not only refueled our bodies with a Deluxe Breakfast, we also redecorated our bikes. Fellow customer Ed Nayes was feeling patriotic and gave us little American flags for our trek.
We picked up County N just south of Stanley and continued east. The day just kept getting better! We got into the rhythm of the rolling hills, and had fun watching the Amish farms as we rode by.
Friday must be laundry day, as just about every farm house had clothes hanging from long lines that were connected to very high poles, accessible only with low-flying aircraft or a big pulley system. Every clothes line sported "Little House on the Prairie" dresses and bonnets.
Our target pace last year was 40-50 miles per day. But since we had exceeded that with days of 65 and 75 miles, 70-mile days became the new target, much to the chagrin of my overprotective wife.
The picture-perfect first day this year, however, saw us getting to Unity (70 miles) before 2:00 p.m.! So we pushed on. And on. It was going so well, we decided to ride all the way to Mosinee that day, lured by the visions of real beds to sleep in. (Chippewa Falls native Grace Schmoldt, formerly Haley, lives in Mosinee.)
Saturday we rode East from Mosinee before cutting north. While studying maps, we had noticed an 83-mile bike trail from Wausau to Green Bay. I thought it would be great to ride the "Mountain-Bay" bike trail.
Boy, was I wrong.
My mistake was thinking that all bike trails are similar to those here in the Chippewa Valley. I love riding the Old Abe Trail from Chippewa Falls to Cornell. It has beautiful scenery along the Chippewa River, and is nicely paved.
The Chippewa River Trail from Eau Claire to Durand is also quite nice. And while the Red Cedar Trail from Menomonie to Durand is not paved, it is so hard-packed that you don't notice, and also follows a scenic river.
The Mountain-Bay Trail, on the other hand, has neither scenery nor pavement. Rather, it is a mind-numbing experience in monotony.
While my tires were grinding through the gravel, my mind wandered back to the roads we had biked on the previous day -- sweating and straining while cranking up a hill, then flying down the next hill, the wind evaporating all your hard-earned sweat. Variety is the spice of life.
Mountain-Bay made me think of a patient who had a lobotomy. Everything is the same. You just pedal. There are no turns. There are no hills. No emotions. Just pedal. You don't see anything but trees and the weeds slapping your shins. You don't feel wind. You don't shift. Just keep pedaling.
I was going CRAZY! To make matters worse, my trusty county bike maps showed several opportunities to escape the monotony and get back on refreshing country roads. But my boys actually preferred to stay on Lobotomy Lane, because it required less physical energy. Betrayed by my own sons!
A short diversion to a campground in Shawano Saturday night was a welcome relief from the drudgery. But it was back to the boring trail Sunday, although it did get better as we approached Green Bay.
In the meantime, we're already planning next year's bike trip. If it goes anywhere near a bike trail, I'm going to check ahead of time to make sure it has a river or tunnels or something to make it interesting.
Otherwise, we'll enjoy the freedom of the open road, thank you very much.
You can see 589 photos of our trip at arneberg.com/photos/2008.0704.bike_lambeau
You can reach Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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