Day 37: High Cliff State Park, WI to Ludington, MI

working at the Culture Cafe in Manitowoc, WI

We had a bit of a head wind today, so we we happy that we had a shorter ride due to the ferry ride today. We headed to Manitowoc, where the ferry to Michigan departs, where we found a vegetarian cafe with awesome espresso, the Culture Cafe. It’s in a strip mall on the way into town, but the interior felt like a small, independent shop. The owner was very friendly as he prepared our chili and spicy bean burger. We spent a little bit too much time at the cafe, making our ride to the ferry dock a bit rushed. Of course, if something can go wrong, it will. And it did. About 1/2 mile from the ferry dock, Rachel ran over something that caused a horrible tube blow-out. After unsuccessfully begging for a ride from someone driving a pick-up truck, Nick raced ahead to let the ferry staff know that Rachel was running with her bike as fast as she could to get there. Luckily, a staff member offered to come get the bike in a van, so we were able to make it to the ferry just in time.

Saying goodbye to Wisconsin, and getting coal in our beers on the SS Badger

 

SS Badger

Once we had made it on the SS Badger, we promptly ordered some beers and went out on the deck to wave goodbye to wonderful Wisconsin. Unfortunately, our beers were in plastic cups, which became dusted with coal ash from the SS badger. Yes, the SS Badger is powered by coal. This means a huge smoke stack belches coal ash out into beautiful Lake Michigan and our beers. They replaced our beers after we told them what happened. As for the rest of the ride we blogged, fixed tires, contacted a bike shop in Ludington, ate nachos and ice cream and talked to other passengers about our trip across the USA. 

Nick’s temporary fix for that side-wall puncture of the tire: a dollar bill! The puncture is so huge that you can see the bill clearly.

 

Stepping off the ship in Ludington, MI ran into another cross country cyclist. He started in early July from Seattle and was about to pass us, as he was averaging 100+ miles a day. We only did that kind of mileage for six days, and it has taken us a week to recover.

Warm Showers host, Claudia, in Ludington, MI

We biked just about a mile into town to stay with a Warm Showers host, Claudia, and Nick took a detour over to the bike shop, where the owner had agreed to meet him after hours to get us a replacement tire (the old tire got some large gashes in the tube explosion). Claudia welcomed us into her lovely home, and shared a delicious dinner with us: homemade hummus, tabouli, bread, grilled veggies, and wine. We happily went to sleep in a real bed. 

Stats:

today’s ride: 45ish miles (tech difficulties!)
total distance: 2,863 miles 

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Day 36: Tilleda, WI to High Cliff State Park, WI

Wisconsin dairy cows


Today was one of those days that makes this trip, and cycling in general, one of our favorite ways to spend time. We had a light tail-wind, a high of 70 degrees, and blue skies punctuated by a few sweeping clouds. The route took us all on small county roads in good condition, through the last remnants of northern Wisconsin woods and into solidly Central Wisconsin territory: Sandhill cranes, barn quilts, and many dairy farms. We seem to have recovered from pushing so hard before Eagle River, so that the 90-ish mile ride felt relatively easy. 

barn quilt!


 

After the first 20 miles, we were ready for some caffeine and a snack, so we stopped in Showano, WI, where we found the Home Plate Cafe, a very affordable diner where the friendly staff bantered with regular customers. We were happy to get Breakfast II there, and then headed onward with the tailwind. After some more lovely riding, we stopped in Black Creek, WI to enjoy a picnic in the park: the usual banana-peanut butter sandwich, supplemented by goods from the supermarket there — pomegranate juice, yogurt, chips, and frosted animal crackers (Rachel has been craving these for the last several days and finally gave in).

so many cabbage farms


The last 10 miles of the ride were a bit difficult, as they usually are, especially given the difficult climb up into High Cliffs State Park. The park had very nice campsites, and the fee was lower than most campgrounds in Wisconsin, so we were happy to settle in for the evening. 

sandhill cranes


Stats:
today’s distance: 94.8 miles
time in saddle: 8 hrs, 5 min
total distance: 2, 746 miles 

Day 35: Crandon, WI to Tilleda, WI

We miscalculated our route today, thinking we had about 85 miles to do, but it was actually 67.5 miles. That wasn’t too bad though, as we were still feeling a little weak after our insane week of cycling followed by the break in Eagle River. We had a tail-wind most of the day, up and down rolling hills through the woods. We passed several small towns that epitomize Wisconsin: 1 church and 3 bars. When we reached Bowler, WI, we stopped at Bonnie’s Place, a bar with only a few local beers but *very* decent cheese curds. Very few cheese curds can match The Old Fashioned’s in Madison, in our opinion, but these were the second best we’ve ever had. Bonnie’s was in the process of handing out a gun from a gun raffle, so we watched as the owner (presumably Bonnie) and a customer checked to be sure that the gun was properly sighted (we think). After way too many cheese curds and a few beers, we stopped by the convenience store/grocery store for some dinner supplies and biked the last five miles to Tilleda, where we stayed at a private campground by Tilleda Falls.

Stats:
today’s distance: 67.5 miles
time in the saddle: 5 hrs, 40 min
total distance: 2,651 miles 

Day 34: Eagle River, WI to Crandon, WI

best friends ever for coming all the way up from Madison!


We had such a lovely three days off with the amazing friends that came up to Eagle River to hang out this past weekend. Honestly, we thought about driving down with them to Madison and stopping the bike trip. Not really. But it was tempting, and the weekend definitely interrupted the momentum of our trip. It was totally worth it though.

Lake Metonga


You’d think that we’d be raring to go this morning after that rest time, but we felt a little weak and tired. We may have had a few too many delicious Wisconsin beers over the weekend… The head-wind also didn’t help. It wasn’t too bad though, since we had planned a short day. The camping options in this area allowed for either about 50 miles or about 110 miles today, and given that Rachel had a (phone) meeting and two research proposals due, we decided to take a short day. We were almost to Crandon when Rachel’s meeting was about to start, so we pulled over on the side of the road and set up our camping pads as chairs (REI sells very lightweight contraptions that fold the pads into comfortable seats). While Rachel had the meeting, a man drove up, told Nick that he had seen us back in Eagle River, and was curious about our trip. He also gave us an enormous sweet roll to snack on! Most strangers we meet are so nice! The ride took us through forests and around lakes, on roads in great condition. It’s been the nicest riding since western Montana. We were also very happy to have weather in the mid-70’s.

We reached Crandon with plenty of time to work in the cafe. Crandon is a cute vacation town on Lake Metonga. There are

post-thunderstorm clouds over Lake Metonga


some antiques shops, a cafe, a sporting goods shop (no bike supplies), and a restaurant where one may enjoy both pizza and sushi. After a few hours of work, we biked about 5 miles more along the route until we reached the campsite, where we set up the tent, cooked a nice dinner of leftovers from Eagle River, waited out a brief thunderstorm, and enjoyed the view of the sunset behind some unique cloud formations.

Stats:
today’s distance: 51.1 miles
time in the saddle: 4 hrs, 46 min
total distance: 2,584 

Day 33: Clam Lake, WI to Eagle River, WI

It was another hot day with an upper midwest heat wave in full force, and there were many ominous clouds in the sky threatening to storm but also to relieve the heat. We got through the day without a drop of rain, though, and the first half of the day was pretty challenging. We were passed by a group of teenage boys touring from Minneapolis to Mackinaw Island – they were practically naked, in stark contrast to our full-body coverage from the sun, and they were carrying very little in their panniers.

northern Wisconsin ridingAfter lunch, we were riding on typical north woods roads of Wisconsin. There was almost no traffic, the roads were in good shape, and we were surrounded by (mostly) old growth forests and lakes. The route was quite hilly, and the grades of these frequent, small hills were incredibly steep. That also meant we got to ride down some fun little hills as well. The ride was gorgeous. We were sad that we didn’t have time to fully enjoy it, as we were determined to reach today’s ambitious destination.

northern Wisconsin riding

We weren’t sure if we would make it to Eagle River in time to spend the full long weekend with our friends, but we did it! It’s taken us seven days of an average of 106 miles/day, and our bodies are pretty beaten up by the intensity of the riding, but we made it to our mini vacation from cycling. To celebrate our birthdays and spend time with us, some of our dearest friends rented a cabin in Eagle River where we could all spend the weekend relaxing. We’ve gotten a chance to see our friends, catch up on some work, recuperate from the riding, get our bikes tuned up at a local bike shop (4 Ever Young) and catch up on this blog.

Stats:
today’s distance: 124 miles
time in the saddle: 10 hours, 30 min
total distance: 2,526 miles

Day 32: Cumberland, WI to Clam Lake, WI

We woke up after too little sleep in the extremely comfortable bed at Mike and Paula’s, and we wandered upstairs to find breakfast ready in the kitchen. They had prepared oatmeal, berries, hard boiled eggs, toast, and endless cups of coffee for us to enjoy together on their screened-in porch, where we enjoyed chatting and discussing the impending ride. This was well worth the time spent, despite the effect it had on our start-time on such a hot day. We hoped to make to another Warm Showers host about 120 miles further northeast in Butternut, though that ended up being too ambitious of a goal.

northern WI lakes!

northern WI lakes!

Our ride took us through many small but steep hills around dozens of lakes that all looked clean and healthy, with no algae blooms. The heat wave was continuing, so we stopped at every gas station to get more water — both for our water bottles and to drench ourselves, which provides a nice cooling effect when we ride. We were lucky to have a nice tail-wind for most of the ride, but we still couldn’t quite make it to Butternut. We had been rushing the past week or so with ridiculously long rides, and the miles were taking a toll: without going into too much detail, we can just say that saddle sores are common with this much riding. Rachel’s knees have been holding up relatively well, but she’s getting some ulnar nerve compression that has resulted in a loss of feeling in her pinky and ring fingers. We stopped in Clam Lake to assess whether we could push onward, and we were easily persuaded off our bikes for an all-you-can-eat taco bar at the local tavern. It was good to enjoy a Wisconsin beer, too!

Stats:
today’s ride: 102.9 miles
time in the saddle: 9 hours, 0 min
total distance: 2,399 miles

Day 31: Dalbo, MN to Cumberland, WI

enormous, inexpensive breakfast in Harris, MN

enormous, inexpensive breakfast in Harris, MN

We left the Bunkhouse after gorging ourselves on sugary cereals available there, and headed out into the wind that would mostly push us along. After about 30 miles, we made it to a cafe in Harris, MN that Don had recommended. We decided we were ready for Breakfast II, so we stopped. Nick got apple fritter french toast with hash browns and eggs, and Rachel got eggs, hash browns and toast, and the entire meal was about $10 total. It was amazing, and it really helped power us along for our long day of riding.

Hooray! A few days in our home state!

Hooray! A few days in our home state!

The upper midwest was experiencing some very hot weather, so we stopped frequently to get water and to soak our clothes in the bathroom sinks of gas station bathrooms — this really helps with the heat. We were very excited to cross into our home-state, and we stopped in the cute vacation town of Osceola, WI to have an ice cream cone and sit in the air conditioning. We vacillated between feeling strong and happy to ride, and then feeling weak, tired and hot. We were excited to go to a Warm Showers (free lodging for cycle tourers) location, and we were feeling the pressure to make it to Eagle River by the weekend, so we managed to push on for the longest ride we’d ever done. Northwestern Wisconsin proved to be a bit hilly, with many beautiful lakes with cranes and loons in them. When we rode through Amery, we were excited to find a health food store, where we stocked up on a few cooking supplies that are hard to find at typical grocery stores.

northwestern Wisconsin farmland

northwestern Wisconsin farmland

Mike and Paula, our amazing Warm Showers hosts

Mike and Paula, our amazing Warm Showers hosts

As we rode into Cumberland, it was starting to get dark. We felt badly about keeping our Warm Showers hosts up so late, but we were going as hard as we could. It was a shame that we arrived too late to see much of Cumberland, which seemed like a cool town. When we arrived, we met Mike and Paula, two retired teachers that are avid cyclists and *amazing* hosts. They helped us get our bikes into their garage and welcomed us warmly into their beautiful, comfortable home. Then they shows us the dinner they had prepared for us: delicious grilled asparagus, brussels sprouts, potatoes, peppers, and carrots, along with rolls, pasta salad, fresh berries, and brownies. They also gave us a delicious Wisconsin beer that we hadn’t tried before, a Valkyrie Australian Pale Ale. We enjoyed getting to know them and learn about their cycling adventures, and after dinner, they showed us to our own bedroom and bathroom for the night. The bed was the most comfortable place we’d slept over the course of the trip, which was a real treat. We only wish we could have spent more time there!

 

Stats:
today’s distance: 121 miles
time in the saddle: 10 hours, 15 min
total distance: 2,296 miles