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The Great Mississippi River Ride, page 3
St. Louis, MO to Minneapolis, MN
(The Great Northern River Ride)

current date and time 2008-07-03 | 19:27:54
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Number of Journal Entries online: 10
Day 15 � Tue., May 29, 2007 � St. Louis (REST DAY) � 0 miles
Once again roomie and I were up at the crack of dawn on our rest day. Can�t seem to shake the daily routine. We were the first at breakfast, a sumptuous continental. While on the subject, I must remark on American �continental� breakfasts, which have come to mean not coffee and a hard roll with butter and jam as is typical in much of Europe, but the �free� breakfast included in the room rate. It can be nothing more than cereal and a banana or it can be a vast offering of hot and cold breakfast fare, as it was this morning.

After breakfast riders scattered for day-off activities which included meeting friends and relatives for lunch and other activities, going to the world famous St Louis Zoo, riding the ratcheting elevator to the top of the arch and back down, living it up on the gaming boats on this side of the River, taking a horse and carriage sightseeing tour, shopping, walking and sightseeing, and going to any of the nearby museums, including the Dog Museum or the beautiful dome of the Historic Old Courthouse (photo above), a prominent landmark of St Louis for over 150 years and the site of the Dred Scott Trials.

Dred Scott first went to trial to sue for his freedom in 1847. Ten years later, after a decade of appeals and court reversals, his case was finally brought before the U.S. Supreme Court. In what is perhaps the most infamous case in its history, the court decided that all people of African ancestry � slaves as well as those who were free � could never become citizens of the United States and therefore could not sue in federal court. The court also ruled that the federal government did not have the power to prohibit slavery in its territories. Scott, needless to say, remained a slave.
While the decision was well-received by slaveholders in the South, many northerners were outraged. The decision greatly influenced the nomination of Abraham Lincoln to the Republican Party and his subsequent election, which in turn led to the South's secession from the Union.
Peter Blow's sons, childhood friends of Scott, had helped pay Scott's legal fees through the years. After the Supreme Court's decision, the former master�s sons purchased Scott and his wife and set them free.

Other riders simply enjoyed a day of leisure, enjoying a late breakfast, doing their laundry, swimming in the hotel pool or sitting in its Jacuzzi, or cleaning their rain begrimed bikes in anticipation of getting back on the road tomorrow for our pedal to Louisiana � no, not the state � but the quaint town of Louisiana, MO, on the Mississippi River. If we�re in the same hotel that I remember, we will be right on the River. This will be the rider�s longest day at 105 miles. Return to see how they fare.

posted 2007-05-29 | 21:45:30 | article number: 1

Day 16 � Wednesday, May 30, 2007 � St. Louis to Louisiana, MO �106
Whooeee what a day�106 miles that turned into 110 for my roomie and a handful of others because of a few bonus miles they picked up. Two of those bonus miles my roommate picked up with me because we missed the turn to the ferry off the Vadalabene Trail. Instead we continued on and climbed the bluff. High above, we could look down and hear the ferry but could not see it for the trees and cliffs. After a quick call to the grand, high, exalted, Poobah (Ride Leader Gene W.), we found our way back to the ferry.

But first things first. We left the Drury Plaza Hotel this am at 6:30 am with Jeff leading the riders out en masse to the Riverfront Trail. Riders stayed on the trail until SS #1, which was set up in a park adjacent to the trail which was right on the river today for a considerable portion of the ride. Good thing the SS was in a park, because it allowed me to set up the sag under a big pavilion. It was sprinkling at ride start and sprinkled off and on until noon with a couple of heavier rains. Most riders didn�t even wear raincoats as they were too hot and cumbersome for the amount of rain that fell.

I rode from SS #1 to SS#2, so got to ride across the Illinois River on a ferry. It was a very short trip, but once again this ferry had the swing-about tug to power it. Because it was wet, we experienced a lot of flats today. Recumbent David (photo above) had four flats today, so won the flat competition; Recumbent Bob had 3 flats; the Shooks on their Tandem took third place with a troublesome flat that required two repairs. I had a flat shortly after we left the ferry. The water holds debris to the tires so causes more flats than usual.

Gene manned the second SS in the town of Batchtown. Near the SS was a small country store. The clerk made sandwiches for the riders and also popped a pizza in the oven which Gene served as a treat at the SS.

The last riders got in at 5:30, aided by a fabulous tailwind, cool weather and sun hidden by the overcast. We had a tailwind in places when I was riding, also, and it was fun to cruise at racer speed with little effort. About 30 miles from the end of the day, riders had some hills to climb, the usual Missouri short, steep hills. But the homestretch was flat and the wind perfect to push them in.

Gene told riders about Hannibal this evening at Route Rap, explained the Mississippi River lock system, and the history of the northern Mississippi. Then we shuttled riders to dinner at the Eagle�s Nest in downtown Louisiana, MO (photo), an upscale restaurant that had prepared a delicious buffet.

Now it is 9:07, well past time for bed after such a long day. Tomorrow we have our shortest day (32 miles to Hannibal, MO), so riders will have a chance to recover, take a riverboat cruise, or explore other options in this unique little town on the Mississippi, the home of Mark Twain.

posted 2007-05-30 | 22:18:04 | article number: 2

Day 17 � Thursday, May 31, 2007 � Louisiana to Hannibal, MO � 32 miles
Because of the short day, this morning we planned a late load with riders pedaling to breakfast at 8:30. But, we awoke to heavy rain. Change of plans. Instead of riding to breakfast, riders left their bikes in their rooms, and we shuttled them downtown to The Eagle�s Nest for breakfast � the same restaurant we�d had dinner in the night before. While there Jeff bought three large boxes of donuts and sneaked them into the sag wagon for a SS birthday surprise for Jeff M. Anyhow, by the time riders got back to their rooms, got their bikes, and started off, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. Oh happy day!

I set up the SS in a Scenic Overlook at mile 16.3, three tenths of a mile from the road. My odometer was right on the money, so I drove in and set up. The only problem, there really was no overlook because the trees had all grown and leafed out. Just as I finished setting up, Jeff pulled in and reported that four riders had missed the SS turn and he was going after them. A few minutes later he called: �Where are you?� �Right where you last saw me at the scenic overlook.� �You�re at the wrong one. The right one is a mile further up the road.� I had forgotten to zero-out the odometer after adding a few extra blocks to it in town. How eerie that it would place me at the first (and wrong) scenic overlook at exactly the route sheet mileage. Oh well, I told riders that we had the food and Jeff had the view. Actually Jeff also had food in the Mechanic�s Van so his riders got fed and watered � he just didn�t have Jeff�s birthday donuts. After I closed the SS, I drove in to the second Scenic Overview and took the photo above of the Shook trio admiring the River and valley below.

The route today was short but hilly so some riders called it their �longest short day.� Gene, who rode all day today, reported the steepest hill as 17% with the next steepest at 14%. Downhills were even steeper with riders breaking speed records right and left. However, despite the multiple leg-noodling, lung-searing climbs, most riders arrived at the hotel by or before lunchtime, so had plenty of time to tour this interesting city. Several were set to take riverboat sightseeing excursions (photo above), some went shopping and walked about the town, some toured Mark Twain�s house, and others explored Tom & Becky�s caves. A couple of riders even reported seeing Mark Twain . . . or the guy who strolls the streets impersonating Twain.

Just for fun, here are two of Twain�s humorous cycling quotes: �Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live.� (Taming the Bicycle) and �It was on the 10th day of May � 1884 � that I confessed to age by mounting spectacles for the first time, and in the same hour I renewed my youth, to outward appearance, by mounting a bicycle for the first time. The spectacles stayed on.� (Mark Twain�s Speeches)

At Hannibal�s shoreline is a huge levee protecting the city. In it are two large metal doors that are used to close the levee opening when the River floods. A sign showed that the record 1993 flood almost reached the top of these doors.

Tonight, riders are looking forward to being shuttled to a Golden Corral � just the repast for hungry cyclists. Tomorrow we�re off to Keokuk, Iowa. Come join us.

posted 2007-05-31 | 20:34:49 | article number: 3

Day 18 � Friday, June 01, 2007 � Hannibal, MO to Keokuk, IA � 61 miles
The day greeted us with a spectacular sunrise above the river. What�s that saying? �Red sky in morning sailors take warning�? Then it was breakfast at the hotel and a quick start at 6:30 am as all were trying to beat the thunderstorms presaged by the sunrise and predicted for later in the day. We climbed a short, gradual hill to I-72 and then rode a clean, wide shoulder on I-72 across the Mississippi to the flood plains of Illinois. We had cloud cover and a kicking tailwind from the incipient storm, so it was a great whooping ride along the river to SS#1, which was in a riverside park.

Gene, set up the sag and was monitoring the weather conditions on his weather radio when we arrived. We were joined by a flock of Canada geese and a flock of five mixed domestic/mallard ducks and a domestic goose. They obviously knew the lay of the land and came begging when people were present, but they were so pushy, we had to be shoo them away. Cyclists had to be careful where they walked and lay their bikes, however, as it was obvious that these birds had begged here before.

Just as a group of riders was leaving the SS, a lawnmower backfired with the same sound a tire makes when it blows. There was a collective �Oh No! Whose is it?� Then a lot of relieved laughter. . . until Gene, with a straight face, told the Shooks, who were up on an observation deck, that it looked like the tire on a red tandem. When the Shooks got down and checked out their red tandem, there was more relieved laughter and some groans at Gene�s sense of humor.

At one point just before the SS, we passed through an industrial area and in the cliffs to our right were three enormous caves used for warehousing storage. The cold air from these caves was probably 20 degrees or more colder than the ambient air temp and was very refreshing . . . sort of like riding past a blasting air conditioner. We were along the Mississippi River for the first part of the day and then, after a sharp right turn up a steep hill, and then through the small towns of Hamilton, and Tioga.

It was at this turn that the storm caught up with some of the riders. Those at the very tail were behind the storm, those at the front of the pack were ahead of it (in fact the front runners got to the hotel in time to enjoy a second continental breakfast), but a handful in the middle got heavy rain for a brief spell. Most of these took shelter in the barns or out buildings of the small farms we were passing. Brad was even invited to the porch of one of the farmsteads. The storm raced through. By noon it was gone and blue skies prevailed. The wind is still up, however, and we are hoping that it continues in the same direction for a big boost tomorrow as we pedal to Galesburg, IL. With the tailwind and early start, all had an early day with the last riders at the hotel by 11:30 am.

In Tioga I took some pix of riders as they came round a turn. The one of Sue D. above was taken under protest. As she rode by, she claimed she didn�t want me to take her picture because she already knew what she looked like. Well, I think she looks good on her bike and she�s a fine, strong rider, so. . .see above.

P.S. Heard today of an interesting incident that took place yesterday. At the second (and real) scenic view turnout, Bill parked his bike along the guardrail that prevented sightseers from falling to the valley far below. A gust of wind twitched his bike and shook his helmet over the guardrail where it � fortunately �lodged in weeds about 15 feet down. Riders made a human chain to enable him to retrieve his helmet.

Time for Route Rap. See you tomorrow.

posted 2007-06-01 | 18:06:26 | article number: 4

Day 19 � Sat., June 02, 2007 � Keokuk, IA to Galesburg, IL � 96 miles
Another wonderful day along the Mississippi � the reason this is called the �Great� Mississippi River Ride. Again, with a long day ahead of us and the chance of thunderstorms, we loaded at six and riders were on the road by 6:30 am. Some filled their tires with Iowa air, bragging that the state was so corny that it was as good as ethanol. Ironically the four 65-year olds (myself included), led the pack . . . but not for long. We crossed the bridge we�d come in on the day before and left Iowa to ride all day in Illinois.

For the first 14 miles, we had the River to our left. In places it was clogged with water lotus in the shallows. We also saw Great Blue Egrets, White Pelicans, one lone Mute Swan, and a great raft of Coots on the river fishing or floating in the shallows. There was no barge traffic so early in the morning, and we must be above the high water areas because there was little flotsam and the current seemed gentler.

The route was gentle with few climbs, though at the first one, Judy and I stopped at the top to mop and drink. We heard whirring bicycle tires and then caught a glimpse of Jim as he zipped by. He had climbed the hill with little effort at all, probably at our average cruising speed. Envy.

Most of the day we passed farms that stood as islands in the center of cornfields. Those roadside had miraculous lawns: bright green, perfectly mowed, nary a weed in sight. Judy and I joked that perhaps Brad had stopped to play a few holes mistaking them for golf courses. What? I haven�t told you about Brad N., one of our riders who can put in a 96-mile day, shower, and then play 9 holes of golf before Route Rap? He�s something. We carry his clubs with his luggage, and in appreciation, nearly every day he helps unload the luggage.

When we turned away from the River, we climbed the bluff to Nauvoo, a large Mormon (Latter Day Saints) settlement founded by Joseph Smith in 1839. After Smith�s death, agitation and conflict against Mormons escalated into what is sometimes called the �Mormon War in Illinois.� Opponents of the Mormons began to agitate for the expulsion of the Latter Day Saints from Illinois. The Mormons fled Nauvoo in 1846. Since then Nauvoo has gathered a sizable Mormon population, has built a new temple (see photo), and many of the homes and buildings have been restored. Also, in 2004, 159 years later, the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution of regret for the forced expulsion of the Mormons from Nauvoo in 1846.

We rolled down off the bluff to the town of Dallas City for our first SS at mile 32. Our second SS was in Roseville at mile 63. Few riders took advantage of the SS food, however, because right down the road was a Christian group raising money by selling hot brats and hamburgers in the parking lot of a small store. We boosted their take considerably as all were ready for lunch by this time (photo above). We even invited them to become mobile and follow us up the lazy river.

Riders were shuttled to Sirloin Stockade tonight for dinner. Most had ridden the extra four miles to get in a century and all were famished. It�s a wonder there was any food left in the place after we departed.

Tomorrow we�re off for Moline, IL, home of John Deere.

posted 2007-06-03 | 16:35:58 | article number: 5

Day 20 � Sun., June 03, 2007 � Galesburg to Moline, IL � 59 miles
When I came down from my room to load my luggage today, I stepped into the parking lot to find a beautiful rainbow. I wanted to take a photo of it but had to track down my camera. While doing that, it turned to a double rainbow . . . and then disappeared before I could get more than a quick pic of one arch.

We�re getting farther north, so it was chilly at ride start. Even I pulled on a jacket for comfort. Riders left the motel today a little after 7 because it was a short day. Riders left under sunny skies, but the clouds began to pile up shortly after, as did the hills. This route was considerably hillier than yesterday�s. Most of the hills were not too taxing, but they just kept coming. When we got to SH 17, it was obvious that a storm had dumped a good amount of rain maybe half an hour before. . . the road was wet and puddled. Riders, however, were on its trailing edge so felt nothing more than a drop or two, if that.

I set up the SS today, which meant that I was in the van in the morning while Gene rode to the SS. Gene had programmed his GPS to get the van to the hotel in Moline while riders were on a bike path that ended at the back door of the hotel. So, all morning while we were on back roads on a very indirect route to Moline, the �lady� in his GPS kept telling me, �Turn right here,� and I would talk to her and say, �No way lady. The cue sheet says I don�t have a turn for another 2.8 miles.� She also wanted me to make a few U-turns. She�d say, �Turn left, then turn left again. Turn left now!� And a couple of times she came right out with it: �Make a U-turn as soon as possible!� GPS is pretty nifty because it keeps making adjustments so eventually the GPS was right on. She�d say, �Drive 3.1 miles and then make a right turn,� and the cue sheet would say the same.

The SS was set up in New Windsor Memorial Park in front of a visitor�s center, but since it was Sunday, the center was closed. An adjacent gas station generously allowed riders to use its facilities. The park had a large pavilion in it, and since there were standing puddles and wet roads, I was prepared to set up under the pavilion. But once again our luck held, and we got no rain at the SS. Gene rode to the SS and then we were both in the van. Thank goodness, �cause the GPS �lady was yakking loudly and Gene reprogrammed her.

When we got to the town of Milan, the Black Hawk Fire protection District was having a fried chicken dinner. For $7, riders got half a fried chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, and a roll. For a little extra, they could top it off with a piece of homemade pie � blueberry, cherry, apple, strawberry/rhubarb, banana cream, cocoanut cream, etc. Of course the Lunch Bunch and a few others stopped here for lunch (see photo). By doing so, they missed the rain, and once again arrived at the hotel dry. About 2 pm it rained for maybe half an hour. Another torrential downpour hit about 4:30 pm. Hope it gets all this out of its system before ride start tomorrow.

Riders were on a bike path along the river for the final five miles of the ride. The path took them directly to the back of the hotel, the Stoney Creek Inn. We are all very pleased with the Inn, which has set itself up as a lodge with enormous stone fireplace, peeled log corners, taxidermied animals, including a massive moose above the front door, a five-foot stuffed-toy bear at the reception desk greeting visitors in a Stoney Creek polo (see photo above of bear and Jeff in his new jersey), a gift shop, dining room, stick furniture, etc. My roommate says the hotel reminds her of the lodges in the Adirondacks.

This evening we are shuttling riders to Bishop�s Buffet for dinner after RR. Tomorrow we�re off for Galena, IL. Join us.

P.S. We�re back from dinner and with a good tale. Bill met a couple in the buffet who were very interested in where we were going etc. He gave them the usual spiel about going up the Mississippi River starting in New Orleans and ending in Minneapolis; the number of days it was taking etc. Later he was in line again getting dessert when the couple called him over. �Just what kind of boats are you using?� they asked.

posted 2007-06-03 | 21:19:32 | article number: 6

Day 21 � Mon., June 04, 2007 � Moline to Galena, IL � 93 miles
Four words describe this day: cool, flat, windy, hilly. It was cool and overcast for most of the day with occasional light sprinkles. The wind was with riders all day, too. They started with a great tailwind, but it turned frequently (or the riders did) and was more often a crosswind or headwind.

The first 54 miles of the day (to the second SS) were flat and on the Great River Trail (GRT) or the Grand Illinois Trail (GIT). Jeff and Jim rode these trails with the riders as the vans could access them only intermittently and we wanted staff on hand with good mechanical skills. Gene drove Silver with its luggage trailer, so set up both SSs today. I touched base with the riders as often as possible in the Mechanic�s van (White), supplying flat tire repair service and water.

Riders were out of the motel in Moline by 7 am (the Conti wasn�t open until 6:30 or they would have been out earlier), and the last riders arrived at the hotel in Galena at 5:30 pm � 10.5 hours later. That�s a long time on the seat of a bike. They left town on a trail parallel to some RR tracks. I wish I�d been quick enough to get a photo of the riders with the train � loaded with John Deere tractors � in the background

The first SS was at mile 28 in a little park in the town of Albany. It was still chilly and blustery so riders donned their jackets and hit the trail again before their muscles got cold. The second SS was at trail�s end in the town of Savanna. It was spitting rain, but since the C of C is in a restored train car protected by a roof with a large overhang, riders kept dry. Some ate lunch at the Subway or KFC across the street, or at a nearby MCDonald�s.

It�s a good thing they did, because about 1 mile from the SS, they encountered their first climb, a long, steep, twisty road to Scenic Ridge Road. I wsaited in the van at the top, and when Sue D passed me, she said: "Gee, I've never tried to climb straight up before!" This hill was a taste of things to come. From Savannah to Galena, there were many, many hills, some long and gradual but many long and steep (photo above) . . . not to mention the continual rollers. In fact, this morning, when people would ask where we were going, it became clear that �Galena� was synonymous with �hills.� Who would have believed it while on the flat bike path?

But what goes up must come down, no? There were many downhills, a couple of them steep. For instance, riders also had the infamous Blackjack Hill . . . as a descent! Blackjack is a 15% grade for one mile and is a bear to climb for those of us who rode this route from north to south. Well, yes, riders had to climb to the Blackjack Ski Area to earn this descent, but in a series of climbs, not a single killer. The last hill was the 1.3 mile climb from the downtown Galena to the hotel. Let�s just say that the hills into Galena made heroes of these riders. In fact, the hotel welcomed riders as �athletes� and provided bananas and cold, bottled water at ride�s end. Very welcome indeed.

We eat dinner tonight at Emmy Lou�s Caf�, across the street from the hotel. Rider�s will probably clean her out replacing the calories burned on the road today.

posted 2007-06-04 | 19:05:11 | article number: 7

Day 22 � Tue., June 05, 2007 � Galena, IL to Prairie du Chien, WI � 71 miles
The hilliest day yet, and the hills started right out of the box. Riders have gotten much stronger as the days have passed, however, and there were fewer hill walkers. Add a stiff headwind to the hills, and riders had a pretty tough day. Of course there were the downhills, too � many of them � some very long and winding (photo above). But they were all earned downhills until the gradual descent into Prairie du Chien.

Speaking of which, near the end of the ride, I was sitting at the top of the exceedingly long climb out of Bagley waiting to give riders water and encouragement. One of the riders who had pedaled the whole climb remarked: �Whew, a week ago I would have had to walk most of that.� I replied that riders had developed good muscle memory. The rider said, �Yeah, mine were remembering walking too much.�

We entered Wisconsin, our 8th state, today, at about mile 11. Of course the Shook�s, in their Wisconsin jerseys, came down a hill on the tandem not only singing the Wisconsin fight song, but fists in air also.

Gene set up the SS today in the town of Dickeyville. This town is famous for its Holy Ghost Grotto (photo of the Lunch Bunch before the grotto above), built by Father Mathias Werner. The grotto is a crazy mix of religious shrine and patriotism. It wraps around the Holy Ghost Catholic Church, a folk art progression that includes a small artificial cave, statue alcoves, arches and fountains. Left of the main grotto is a walkway with a pillar and stylized cross marked �Religion;� to the right an American flag sculpture promises �Patriotism.� The concrete walls and displays are embedded with a wide variety of household bric-a-brac, jewelry, shells, marbles, pieces of crockery, pieces of colored glass, stones, medals, pictures, balls, geodes, rose rocks, gazing balls, tiles, and explanatory labels. There are religious statues (the 12 apostles, saints, Jesus; the stations of the cross), and patriotic statues (an eagle, Christopher Columbus, Lincoln, Washington, etc.) as well. Pretty fascinating. Built between 1925 and 1931 when grotto-building fever struck the Midwest and south in the early 20th century, though the stations of the cross were completed in 1963.

After this official SS, Gene set up an unofficial SS in Beetown where we always set up on the North/South route. There is a cheese factory right next to the little SS park, and Gene bought several types of cheese for riders to sample. We still had some Triscuits and green grapes, so riders enjoyed a fine snack.

At mile 58, some riders rode a mile off route to Bagley and had lunch in the Backwater Caf� there. Bagley is a town of 332 people and quite a few of them eat lunch at the Backwater. Many of them were very interested in our ride. On one wall was a Cow Patty Bingo Game, part of the town�s Fourth of July celebration. For the uninitiated, Cow Patty Bingo is a grid representing a scaled down version of a pasture that on July 4th will house a single cow. People choose the spot in the grid (pasture) they think the cow will drop her patty. The winner of this particular game will win $50 on July 4th.

After the climb out of Bagley, riders turned onto County Road X�at least those who were over 21 were allowed to ride this x-rated route. CR X took riders (with an optional 8 mile round trip bonus) to Weyalusing State Park, from the outlook of which one can see both the Wisconsin River and the Mississippi River, as well as McGregor and Marquette, Iowa and Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin.

Then it was only 10 miles to the hotel in Prairie du Chien. Riders caught their first break as it was mostly a gentle downhill into town.

We ate dinner this evening at Huckleberry�s and celebrated Judy�s birthday with a large chocolate sheet cake (some of which will be served at the SS tomorrow) and a singing Birthday card signed by all, and a small Energizer Bunny, which quite accurately represents Judy�s tenacity and energy.

Tomorrow we�re off to La Crosse, WI. The weather forecast calls for cool morning with 77F as a high and strong tailwinds gusting up to 25 mph. Yeehaw!

posted 2007-06-05 | 21:57:29 | article number: 8

Day 23 � Wednesday, June 06, 2007 � Prairie du Chien to La Crosse, WI � 66 miles
Today we�re in LaCrosse, where the Black, LaCrosse, and Mississippi Rivers meet. We stay in this same hotel (Best Western Midway River Resort) on the Across America North Ride, so the town is beginning to be familiar to me.

But, first, back to Prairie du Chien and today�s ride start: After breakfast at Huckleberry�s, riders left the hotel parking lot with a Yeeeeeehaw! Sunny skies, mild temps, no hills, few turns, and a strong tailwind. What more could one ask for? We were right along the Mississippi River for most of the ride, cycling the �toes� of the bluffs occasionally, but mostly flat, following the river and the RR tracks alongside it. There were a few turns at the beginning and end of the route, but the middle 50 miles were �turnless� so riders sailed along without a care in the world. They all had big smiles on their faces, especially after yesterday�s challenging route.

There was only one SS today, at mile 33. There were a few treats at the SS, too � dried apricots and mangos, as well as ranch and regular cheese curds. Wisconsin is famous for its cheese curds, the fresh curds of cheddar cheese. About the size of a peanut, cheese curds are generally available in retail stores operated at cheese factories throughout the US and Canada (especially in Wisconsin, Quebec, and Upstate New York, where they can be found in many grocery stores.) Cheese curds should ideally be eaten absolutely fresh, within hours of manufacture. After twelve hours, even under refrigeration, they have lost much of their �fresh curd� characteristics, particularly the �squeak.� This �squeak� has been described by the New York Times as sounding like �balloons trying to neck.� [Cheese curd info from Wikipedia]

Shortly after we got to the hotel and got the luggage unloaded, it began to rain. It rained hard for maybe an hour but is now darkly cloudy with the sun peeking through. Some of us braved the rain for a Subway sandwich and others � such as Boston Bob on the turtle and David K on the dolphin above � enjoyed the Waterpark in the center of the hotel. Bob and David were in the Kiddie pool, which also had a slide and a high bucket that filled slowly with water and then dumped it on the unsuspecting. There was also a large adult water slide that Bill Z. tried out (photo), full sized pool, and jacuzzi with waterfall. Good to have this indoor playground on this rainy afternoon.

This evening we welcomed a 2006 North rider, Kirk Jeffrey, who will ride with us the last two days to Minneapolis where he will meet his wife, Frances, and then repack his kit to ride an MS150 directly after.

Jeff L and I opened the ABB store for the final time this evening, and riders bought tees, polos, and jerseys. After route rap, we shuttled riders to North Country Buffet about half a mile down the road.

Riders are hoping to ride a 5-hour century tomorrow to Red Wing with the same whomping tailwinds they had today. Tomorrow night we also hold our final banquet. Tune in and join the fun.

posted 2007-06-06 | 18:32:54 | article number: 9

Day 24 � Thur., June 07, 2007 � La Crosse, WI to Red Wing, MN � 100 WINDY miles
We ate breakfast at the motel and then, since riders had ridden through town the day before, they were on the road and into the country rolling up the lazy river with a very strong tailwind in good time. Some opted to ride 23 miles on a crushed limestone trail along the river (photo). This worked out fine as their route and that of those on the road converged just before the first SS, keeping the group pretty much together. Even though on a bike trail protected by trees, the bike trail group and the road group alike experienced high crosswinds at times that required good bike handling skills.

The first SS was at a scenic little park and overlook right along the road and along the marshy edge of the Mississippi, though we could see the shipping channel in the distance. This was an excellent spot for Gene, Kirk, and I � all three avid birders. We saw a Bald Eagle, many Great Egrets, a Baltimore Oriole, Cedar Waxwings, and a wonderful flock of American White Pelicans rising on the thermals.

By the time riders got to the second SS at 63 miles, the weather was up. The wind was gusting to 35 mph at times, the trees were �turned inside out,� and the sky looked threatening with roiling clouds. Most of the time it was a tailwind, but occasionally with a turn in the road or a bend in the river, or in an unprotected area, riders experienced gusting crosswinds which required that they concentrate to keep their bikes and themselves upright. By the time all riders had left the second SS, there were reports of rotation and the possibility of tornadoes northeast of us and several miles south of Red Wing.

Gene has education in meteorology and also has a weather radio with him, so he coordinated with the rest of the staff and with the riders. Some took shelter (and took this break to eat lunch) in Pepin, some made it to the town of Stockholm and the bakery caf� there (I know one called in to report the delicious blueberry cheesecake), and others took shelter in an eatery in Maiden Rock. Thoughtful motorists stopped riders and warned them of the weather ahead, some even offering lifts. Russ, who was the frontrunner today, reported that he was faced with a tough decision when a good looking woman in a pickup stopped to warn him of the weather and to ask if he wanted a lift. Though he got soaked, he �resisted temptation� and rode his bike in. Several walked their bikes in the high winds and a few walked the bridge over the river and into Minnesota, our 9th and final state. This will be one century that the riders will probably never forget.

Though it is sunny at 3:30 as I type this, the wind is still ferocious. The trees outside my hotel window are dancing and bending like grass. The storms are passing to the southeast of Red Wing, however, so we are in a safe and sunny spot.

We held our ride-end banquet tonight at Liberty�s Restaurant and Lounge in downtown Red Wing. The meal was delicious, and the dessert yummy. ABB had a large sheet cake made up for our dessert. It read �Congratulations on your ride �up the lazy river�.� Gene gave each rider his end-of-ride packet, a pair of ABB �Sock Guy� socks, and a chance to say good-bye and thank-you. The group had bonded tightly and there was a mixture of pride of accomplishment and sadness that it was over and that this group of new formed friends would be going their separate ways tomorrow.

After dinner, I took a photo of the group in front of a Red Wing mural. I couldn�t get the words �Red Wing� in or more than a fraction of the mural but it includes riders and staff at ride�s near end. Yep, it�s not over quite yet. We ride from Red Wing to Eagan Minnesota (suburb of St Paul near the airport) tomorrow. Tune in then for ride wrap-up

posted 2007-06-07 | 22:42:37 | article number: 10

Day 25 � Fri., June 08, 2007 � Red Wing to Minneapolis, MN � 65 [FINAL] miles
Who would think? This is our final day yet it seems as though we were starting in New Orleans just a week or so ago. Guess the saying �Time flies when you�re having fun� is true. For this ride at least. Our final day began very chilly, probably in the high 40�s low 50�s. Riders donned jackets and arm warmers and some even wore leg warmers or tights. After breakfast at Perkins Family Restaurant, the group started the last day of their epic ride by crossing the river to ride in Wisconsin again for a bit.

Again the wind was very high and unfavorable, either a stiff crosswind or a headwind. As riders climbed the bluffs and left the River, they had more hills to climb on this last day also. Thus, the Lunch Bunch and Matt stopped at the 23-mile mark in Preston and found an interesting little caf� for hot chocolate and hot coffee.

After crossing the St Croix River on the Preston drawbridge, these �final five� had less than a mile to go to the SS, which I had set up in a park on a point in the St Croix River. When I got to the park, a Bald Eagle was circling very low above the SS. I wanted everyone to see it, but it circled higher and higher and flew off before the first rider arrived.

After the SS, riders climbed up and rode along the top of the bluffs along the St Croix and then took Hwy 20 west to the beginning of a bike trail that would see them nearly to the hotel. When riders arrived at the hotel, John Hill was waiting to greet them. Recumbent Dave�s wife, Marsha, who has been following along for several days now, was also at the hotel waiting for her husband to arrive. Kirk�s wife, Francis was waiting and part of Tom�s extensive family was at the hotel also. Gene�s wife, Barb, and their little highland terrier were waiting, too. They actually met Gene in Red Wing and then drove to the hotel this morning. Barb W. will join the elite cadre of Medicare-eligible this Wednesday (Happy Birthday Barb). Jeff Lazer�s sweetheart, Sondra, had ridden to Red Wing yesterday so the two of them rode back together this morning. They plan on getting married in Manitowoc on the Across America North Ride, and have invited all. Mike & Barbara Munk and Karen Bauer arrived a bit later so it was �old home week� again. The Munks, Karen, Jeff, and Jim will be staffing North. I�m sure there were other kith and kin but these are the ones I met.

When riders arrived at the hotel � and after lots of high-fives and congratulations � they quickly became involved in their homeward preparations, whether that was boxing their bike, taking their bike to a bike shop for boxing and shipping, meeting relatives who could accommodate both bike and rider in the family vehicle, or reserving a room preparatory to a flight home tomorrow. Jim helped riders box their bikes and made several runs to the local bike shop, also. So it was the last fond farewell to newfound friends who will cherish this wonderful accomplishment for the rest of their lives.

Good-bye all you riders and riders� families, friends, and rider wannabes. We hope to see you on another ABB ride � particularly you wannabes. In the meantime, the cake in the photo above says it all.

posted 2007-06-10 | 00:31:38 | article number: 10

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