Day 29. Rochester Minnesota to LaCrosse Wisconsin. I don't even know where to start about today's ride. I guess I'll start with the weather that greeted us this morning. Pouring rain. Teeming. The forecast called for thunderstorms this morning with a 40% chance of a tornado. We didn't see any funnel clouds, but I can tell you it was a deluge.
I really don't like riding in the rain. It is dangerous. That's my biggest issue. But, at the outset of a very long day, it is quite simply depressing. A bike trip should be fun, and even a bit of rain doesn't kill the trip. But the kind of rain we've had 2 of the last 4 days is cause for concern from a rider's standpoint. There have been a number of falls in the group just in the past couple of days, and this is an experienced cycling group. I was actually a little surprised they sent us out today in that weather, as opposed to delaying the day's start by an hour or so, but off we went.
Well, not only were we confronted with rain, but we had a severe headwind to contend with as well. Not fun. The first hour of the ride today took us about 10 miles, which, had we continued at that pace would have meant that we would have ridden for over 9 hours today. All this was of course on top of the back to back centuries we did the past 2 days. I was a bit concerned at around 8:30AM today. The roads were awful, we were making no progress, the visibility was bad, and the weather did not look any more promising. Plus, we had a fairly late start for us (7:20AM), which meant a very long day indeed.
Minnesota farm land is incredibly consistent, or so I thought. We struggled to the first SAG stop at around the 33 mile mark. Then the rain let up a bit and it just seemed very dark and gloomy (see the corn field and the dark sky picture). At the SAG I wolfed down a granola bar and some fig newtons (great cookies!) and pushed on. I started the day riding with John and Dave but everyone just kind of got scattered.
I also captured a shot of a pretty white church on a hill nearby that caught my eye as I rolled by.
There can't be any pacelines in this weather, so today it was time to find your own stride. It doesn't mean however that you can't come across stunning scenes.
Here I am in a beautiful Minnesota valley just after the torrential rain stopped:
After the SAG I rode the next 25 miles by myself and arrived at a town at the start of a cool bike path. This must have been an old railway spur that got converted to a bike trail. It was about 12 miles long and really broke up a horrible monotonous day.
Here I am on that cool trail in Eastern Minnesota:
The other thing that happened was that just as I entered the bike path, the whole topography of the area changed.It went from gently rolling farmland to much like the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York between Syracuse and Albany. Hilly and magnificent. Lush green forests and fields were set amidst glacially carved valleys and a low cloud/fog shroud covered the area. It was better than a sunny day quite frankly. Very memorable. The second SAG of the day was next to a cool local cafe/bakery where they bake fresh pastries daily. I had a raspberry/cream cheese croissant, a raspberry scone and a hot chocolate (it was kind of chilly in the rain). The croissant and the hot chocolate were delicious (the scone was meh) and then a bunch of the other riders came by and sat down for a while.
I was a bit concerned about the look of the clouds so I pressed on and tried to make my way over the last 30 miles to LaCrosse. We had one major climb left though, which saw me doing over 12% at a couple of points over a 1 mile stretch up the west bank/plateau of the Mississippi River. Yikes, that was tough. As soon as I started that climb, the skies broke and the hot humid sun came out to say "hello, why don't we sweat a bit now". So, I did. I sweated a lot actually. I made it to the top, rode across the plateau for a while and then eventually got down to the Wisconsin state line and the Mississippi River. Old Man River. Famed River of song and history.
Wisconsin – Beautiful.
Mississippi River – Disappointing. It's not as big as I thought it would be. Somehow I expected this to be a bigger moment on the trip. This is the second time this has happened (the first being when I crossed the Continental Divide at 9,600 feet of elevation). I guess some things are unexpected surprises (a cool bike trail) and some things simply disappoint when you expect them to be great. Kind of like life.
Maybe the Old Man River is me?
FYI – the DQ Blizzard count is static but the Snickers count is up one today:
5 milk shakes
Now on to today's mail:
Allan from Toronto writes: "
There are few comments because we are all lazy bums and have nothing concrete to offer, we are in awe of your daily accomplishments.
Go mark go." I don't think all of you guys are lazy at all!
Here are my Garmin stats for the day:
This is Joe's blog:
Trip journal and photos by our tour leader Mike Munk:
This link is Jeff's blog:
This link is Baltimore Mark's blog:
And this is Katie's blog: