I was invited to join a group of experienced touring bikers (all retired) on a bike touring camp in southwestern Wisconsin known as the Driftless Area, so named as it was spared glacial scouring in the last ice age, 10,000 years ago. The result is an area of valleys and hills of limestone and sandstone, atypical for the Midwest.
They’ve done several rides together and independently. There were three Surly Longhaul Trucker’s in the group to complement my Safari and I’m probably the youngest of the five (Steve, Mitchell, Marv and Phil). The plan was to meet at Wildcat Mountain State Park south of Tomah, Wisconsin, set up a base camp and do day rides. Since we were going to be in one location for several days, I elected to bring what I refer to as “The Big-Ass Tent”. Steve noted that, if the weather turned bad, he’d just move his tent inside mine.
Big-Ass Tent in background (no sign of the elephants it takes to put it up). Steve’s in foreground.
Mitchell, Steve and Marv arrived Monday afternoon and set off on a 31 mile warm-up ride. They came back to camp panting and cold, a precursor to the week. Worse, they said the park hot showers were not scheduled to be brought on-line until Friday…
The view from Wildcat Mountain to Ontario (the city, not Provence)
Tuesday was cool and windy, the plan for the day was to ride out with the wind and back against it, the converse of my preference. We rode the 3 miles and 300 feet drop down into the nearest town, Ontario to meet Phil, who was hoteling it in Wilton, 9 miles away, and was the only one who had a warm shower… The warm-up for Phil was to immediately head up Lower Ridge Road, a 16% grade.
If you look close, you can see the crew coming up Lower Ridge Road…
We were glad we didn’t choose Upper Ridge Road. Lunch was in La Farge, the special of the day was meat loaf at The Sister’s Diner. It was meaty and delicious, $6, and we cleared out the whole town’s allotment.
The temperature on the La Farge bank sign (where The Sisters actually work) was slightly pessimistic… slightly.
The mileage total was 43.7 miles with 3700 feet of climbing.
Day 2 was a warmer start and we decided to take advantage of the Sparta-Elroy bike trail (the first rails-to-trails route in the US and famous for three tunnels). We met at Wilton, the mid-point of the trail and headed east towards Elroy.
Me and my ride at the Wilton trailhead.
The trail is crushed limestone and railroad grade flat, which made it easy, and a little boring at the same time.
Riding into tunnel#3. Dark, wet, bats…
We ate at a bar/restaurant in Elroy where we met Bob. Bob had a lot to share… the sharing continued outside as we mounted up, where he shared roads to take back to Wilton, and where to spot Tommy Thompson’s residence. Mileage total: 37.6 miles and 1700 feet of climbing with 50 mph+ on the road dropping back down to Wilton.
Time for beers at the local diner with $1 beer or, as we found out $5 for a pitcher that filled less than 4 glasses. Small town math. The bartender was alternately our waitress and a patron at the bar. Dinner was at the River’s End bar/diner where the sweatshirts for sale neglected the apostrophe making it read Riversend.
The forecast for Thursday was for rain moving in after lunch so we packed up our tents, headed to Ontario to start our final ride, this time heading to Cashton and back to Ontario for lunch at the Milk Jug café. The menu won the award for the best in the area, but the mystery substance in Steve’s salad and the lack of homemade pie advertised took a few stars off their rating. Steve handed out awards for the week. Mitchell got best attitude, Phil best warm shower, Marv best trailer camper, me for best recent retiree and Steve for best way to get a free salad… Mileage: 29.7 miles with 1700 feet of climbing.
A great trip, beautiful scenery, good roads/trails, friendly people, cheap meals/beer and great company. sign me up for next year.