Sunday, August 12, 2012

Day 58: Montello, Wisconsin

Today was the type of day I needed. Faced with another day with over 20 miles on an unpaved Wisconsin bike trail (named the 400 trail for reasons that escape me), I rebelled and replanned our route for good old-fashioned roads -- hopefully the back country, paved and empty kind.

This mutiny involved changing our destination from Portage, Wisconsin to a smaller town, a bit further north: Montello, Wisconsin (did the town namer unintentionally drop the "ic" before the "e"?). The mileage would be about the same - a shade over 50 miles - but with the added benefit of reducing tomorrow's ride to Fond du Lac (to be pronounced without any trace of a French accent -- like "Lack") to about the same distance, from an original (from Portage) of about 60 miles.

It turned out to be an excellent decision. Although we started on a fairly major road, Route 82, Sunday reduced the early morning traffic and the shoulder was in good shape and reasonably wide. But we quickly got onto side roads that were exactly as hoped - paved, traffic-free (essentially) and quite scenic. We also began exploring to increase the proportion of the day's trip that would be on similar roads.

I don't think I have yet properly extolled the benefits of my Garmin bike-mounted GPS unit -- instead, I bemoan its occasional inexplicable losses of my day's riding metrics. But it's a fantastic tool -- first, because it carries a complete, detailed set of maps for the entire U.S. that doesn't rely on having cellular connectivity. So I can check where we are, and where me might be able to go, and how far it is to get there, from any location. That proved less than useful in states like Montana and South Dakota (and, yes, even Minnesota, sorry Ben) where there was no way of telling from the GPS unit (which doesn't distinguish with any consistency) whether a particularly appealing back road is paved or gravel - but which, from experience, we learned (as readers know) was more likely to be gravel than not if we attempted to vary our route and ride it.

Wisconsin, I was told by a friendly biking couple we met at a local Cheese Outlet Factory 12 miles into today's ride (we bought 8-year aged Cheddar that was delicious), has 96% of its county roads paved - because of the dairy industry trucks need for them (not entirely sure why that follows - but I'm reporting it as I heard it - Bob's quip was it's so the milk doesn't turn into butter during transportation).

In any event, this observation (the couple's, not Bob's) seemed to be borne out by our experience. Which meant I could rely on the Garmin to find a parallel side road and commit to the extra mileage to get there and not be bitterly disappointed upon arrival and/or have to turn around.

The result was that today's ride ended up longer than planned, at a shade over 60 miles, and a bit hillier than planned, with total elevation of almost 1500 feet (although a lot of it in the form of rolling hills, which are easier, because your speed going down takes you right back up - almost) -- but also a whole lot more pleasurable. It really ranked right up there with the type of riding I enjoy the most. And it also was the first time while riding in Wisconsin that I began (I think) to get a feel for the  uniqueness of the State itself, with its acres of farms, oceans of corn fields, multitude of hidden rivers, creeks and lakes, and abundant rolling hills. Bob and I sort of disagree on this, but I generally find that bike routes, as compared to back roads, are somewhat isolating and not as good at giving you a feel for the area in which you are riding (the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes in Idaho certainly excepted).

And, once in Montello, we ended up as the only guests staying at the lovely Bayview Resort, directly on Lake Montello, in an upgraded room with plenty of space and the whole panoply of amenities (although we had to walk down closer to the office to get the wifi functioning reliably). Sandy and Roger (great name, that), the owners, even let us use their laundry facilities (after some gentle persuasion from Bob). Thanks guys!

A very good day in all. Now we'll see if we can replicate the back roads experience in tomorrow's ride to Fond du Lac.

Here are today's route and metrics:


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