Sunday, September 23, 2012

Crossing the River ~ a Long Ride

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for Deb, whose road this year has been a bumpy one

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Autumn came in with a bang - we had widespread frost last night, and a low of 32º (that's 0º for my Celsius friends). I was hoping to hit the road at 7 am this morning, but the sun wasn't yet high enough for me (and neither was the temperature).

By about 7:50, jacketed and tighted, energy-barred and watered up, I finally set out. The sun is a bit higher, though the temp is still 32º. (Which isn't really very cold compared with our extreme winter temps, but on a bike, with the air flowing past, it's very chilly. I'm wearing an extra pair of gloves over my cycling mitts to protect my finger-tips.)

At the edge of town, a field of goldenrod is furred with frost. Tiny grasses and leaves wear icy coats:

The shady stretches of road are uncomfortably cold, and I look forward to getting into the sun. (Quite a change from a month or two ago.)

One of the sadder effects of this year's drought: many of the fir trees have been burnt brown. I don't know if it's possible for them to come back.

On a happier note, the air is crisp and beautifully clear. I look forward to getting some good pictures this morning.

Here's a favourite tree, with farm in the background:

Because I have a long way to go today, my pictures are taken in clusters, with long stretches of riding in between.

At the 15-mile mark, I stop for a snack and a break at a park next to the Wisconsin River. Gulls are swirling above the water on the far side...

...while on my side, the trees are beginning to lose their summery green.

Crossing over the interstate (which as you can see is under construction just here):

And back to the river. The water here is like rippling silk...

...but a few miles later, where it widens out to become Lake Wisconsin, much choppier. (The wind is beginning to pick up.)

Across the causeway and up a hill, I see a sign I like:

Miles later, at the top of a much steeper hill, stands a row of lovely fall-tinted shrubs...

...and some picturesque silos.

Today's course is rather more hilly than I expected. I'm looking forward to reaching the halfway point, and taking another break.

A view across the fields and hills:

Suddenly I'm next to the river again. More hills peek from between the trees that line the road:

Getting near the halfway point now - just a few miles to go.

Railroad tracks run next to the road, and along the edge of the lake. The engineers must get an incredible view.

Around a bend, and I've reached the goal of today's ride: the Merrimac Ferry.

Waiting in line:

And here she is. The Merrimac Ferry, Wisconsin's only free ferry, runs 24 hours a day from April through November, crossing the Wisconsin River and providing a handy shortcut for commuters (and the odd cyclist).

The ferry docks and lowers its ramps to disgorge one set of cars and take on another.

Iris and I have been looking forward to this ride for some time....

These signs are posted at the rear of the ferry (or would it be the front?):

The train tracks run across the lake, parallel to the ferry's path.

After a short (but gloriously scenic) 7-minute crossing, which also served as a snack break, Iris and I are back on the road. The first few miles are freshly-paved - oh, the joy of a smooth road.

I'm in new cycling territory here, and the scenery is bluff and rugged. Hills rise and fall...

...hay bales dot the landscape...

...and peaceful valleys, complete with grazing cattle, present themselves to the view.

A classic farm scene, calm and serene:

Waves of corn ride up to the deep-blue sky.

It's about time for another break. As soon as I cross the interstate (again) I'll look for a spot to have a bite.

A little meadow is just the thing. Queen Anne's lace is still growing here, with its leaves that look like carrot-tops (and so they should - Wild Carrot is another name for QAL)...

...and, incredibly, a few small wild chicory are still blooming. (I do love this flower.)

While I sit cross-legged in the grass, a tractor goes by.

Across the road is a gorgeous fall-tinted hedgerow, with a caramel-coloured soybean field behind.

Heigh-ho, enough break - it's time to get back in the saddle. Only one more leg to go. There's been a lot more climbing than I expected today (most of it into a cold headwind), and I'm getting pretty tired.

A hilltop view of fields and river valley - with a tiny, far-off gleam of water on the right-hand side:

Miles later, I make one last stop. I'm crossing the river again - same river - but farther north, and on an overpass this time. Looking east:

And west:

The water's rather low just now - as evidenced by all the sandbanks.

While I'm stopped on the bridge taking photos, my sister and her fiancé drive by. They pull over and we chat for a few minutes. A pleasant interlude (and a good excuse to extend my break - I'm very tired from fighting that headwind).

With about 10 miles to go, it's time to put my head down and just ride. Luckily for me, the road turns away from the wind and I no longer have to struggle against it.

All through this ride I've had a Boston song running through my head (Don't look back/a new day is breaking/It's been so long since I've felt this way. I don't mind/where I get taken/the road is calling/Today is the day). Now, on the last leg of my journey, I replay in my head the entire Side A from their classic first album - great cycling music, and wonderful for maintaining a good pace. These words, from "Long Time", seem especially appropriate as I draw near to home:
It's a long road
I've gotta stay in time with, yeah
I've got to keep on chasing that dream,
though I may never find it....
Today I chased a dream, and found it too. I've been hoping all summer to ride 60 miles, and today was the day. A long ride, a cold ride, and very tiring - but full of beauty and very satisfying.

60.5 miles, with ferry
60.0 miles actual riding distance

(Now I can slack off for the rest of the cycling season, AND stop inflicting you with mileage stats. It was a way to keep myself accountable while training for the big one - thank you all for putting up with it.)

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  1. Wow, I've now done a 60 mile bike ride and went across a river on a ferry. I enjoyed that, thank you.
    Well done you!

  2. Thank you Sue, for "Sharing the Road" with us...all 60 miles. Wow! Love the gulls. :-)

    1. Thank you ... good use of the sign verbiage, by the way. :)

  3. That was GREAT!

    And I've been on the Merrimac ferry! Years ago a boyfriend and I made a day in late September of driving around your neighborhood. I'd never been to the Dells (I know - I must have been the only one) and wanted to go see it, and we looked on a map to see what other things we could do, spied the ferry so put that on our list, and also saw a "natural stone bridge" indicated which was hard to find. We ended up driving up what looked like someone's driveway past a house to get to it. Do you know about that one?

    Anyway, thanks for a beautiful ride, and congrats on the sixty miles - brava!

    1. Thanks, Ginnie! I've never heard of the natural stone bridge - will have to Google it and check it out. It sounds fascinating.


  4. Woohoo! Well done. I don't think I've done 60 miles since having kids. I blame lack of time but a little laziness has perhaps crept in too. Tell you what, I'll aim to do it next year, you've inspired me!
    It was interesting to see the parallels in our rides this week. It was 0.5C and sunny when I left for my ride, I went a little further than normal and encountered more hills than I expected too.
    I like the photo of your favourite tree with the farm in the background and I noticed a nice looking fence post in the foreground too! The wild chicory flower is very pretty, and the fall tinted hedgerow is most attractive too.
    Enjoy your week!

    1. That's a favourite fence post - how clever of you to spot it!

      This was my first ever 60-miler. I hope it won't be the last. If you go for it next year, be sure to blog about it so I can return the congratulations. :)

  5. Yay!! Congratulations Sue! I have so enjoyed sharing these bike rides, from the comfort of my couch, with you and I could feel that icy headwind. Doesn't it make your ears ache? I was wondering what you would do with the arrival of those colder months. Will it be hard for you to slack off?

    Beautiful wild chicory and what a lovely image: 'water like rippling silk'.

    I am listening to France Musique right now, enjoying a programme on early seventeenth-century theorb music and technique. It's fabulous. If you are interested in listening to it over the next few days here is the link:


    1. Merci, Stephanie! The theorbo has such a beautiful, haunting sound. I am listening to the podcast as I type (understanding parts of it, but not all) and enjoying the music very much. One of my brothers is an accomplished guitarist - I'll send him the link as well. (He also speaks French much better than I and will be able to understand the entire interview - especially the technical bits.)

      P.S. En hiver, je marche.


  6. Congrats Sue, 60miles, that certainly is some achievement particularly on a colder, windy morning too.....
    So much wonderful scenery along the way, I think I would find it hard to get going after stopping to take a pic. I would just want to stay there and soak it all up!
    Love the farm and the Fall coloured hedgerow and the ferry ride would've been a lovely change to the pedalling.
    Enjoy your week......


    1. You too, Claire. Hope the jet lag isn't too bad.

      The farther into the ride, the harder it is to get going after a break. :)

  7. No real frost here yet. But the weather people are "mumbling" about the possibility. :-)

    Nice thing about frost is..... The opportunity to find vegetation, with a "silver fun" coating. I love those pics!

    Is it called Rhoar Frost or something???


    1. Or hoarfrost? Not sure - I just know it's cold and icy and kills tomatoes and basil (but mine were all covered up so no harm done). :)

  8. Wow Sue, that's some ride!!! I haven't even been on a bike in years, and to be honest the narrow lanes here aren't all that safe for a cyclist, barely room for a bike and car to pass in many places. So I walk instead, and my son runs. He has his big one in a couple of weeks, the Chester Marathon!!

    We were working up to frosts but now seem to have a deluge instead!

    1. Gosh, I don't know how anyone can run 26 miles (and 385 yards). Good luck to your son!

      Thanks, Annie. :)

  9. Beautiful ride, congrats on getting it all done. Wisconsin is such a beautiful place as it transitions from summer to Fall. I miss it.

    1. Thanks, Meredith - and not being a native I can say it's GORGEOUS here in the fall. I do enjoy having 4 seasons, after growing up in SoCal which only has about one and a half. :)

  10. Wow, you didn't tell me you started out in freezing cold! More difficult to get moving when it's that cold, but then the effort warms the entire body.

    Congratulations on such a magnificent accomplishment! I'm curious... does this make you want to string together a few of them next year??? :)

    You've done something I've never done. A bike ride and a ferry ride on the same day. That's pretty awesome!

    I want yarn the color of the chicory...


    1. I was counting on that warming effect, but I must say it took about an hour to kick in. :)

      If you'd asked me last night about stringing a few rides together, I'd have said no. But today I feel pretty good ... what did you have in mind?

      And thanks. For everything.

    2. We tried for about three hours to get your site to load at home the other night, but our dial-up is... well, the pits. So we had to wait until we got to a hotel with high speed because The Lizard wanted to see what you had written and what you had seen.

      What did I have in mind??? Ride the Rockies, of course!!!

    3. I KNEW that was what you meant!


      Now there's a dream to chase....

    4. I will be chasing that dream right alongside you!!!

  11. Wow!!! Impressive milage. Fantastic pics. I think my favorite this time is the shot with the birds taking off over the water.
    I don't think we had a frost yet. To be honest I have been having insomnia so I am up until 3am but then sleep until about 9am, so I woouldn't have seen the frost unless I wandered outside in the wee hours. (Not gonna happen).
    Have a great week.

  12. You must be absolutely mega fit! I would be tired even driving 60 miles!

    Pomona x

    1. Thanks, Pomona. I like the sound of "mega fit" - rather super-hero-ish. Perhaps I should get a cape (the tight Lycra outfit I already have).


  13. Well done, and a nice ride to boot! The route looks beautiful, and incorporating a cruise into the ride would be a hoot!

    How close to Waterloo can you get on a C'dale before the town raises its shields?

    No, you can never quit riding. The next level is a triple-digit ride. I don't care how cold Wisconsin gets.

    The Lizard

    PS: I liked Peace of Mind, and my buddy and I had More Than a Feeling for Maryann, but we could never figure out who she was.

    1. Thanks, Brett - it was a beautiful route. Next time I'll be in better training for it.

      Don't know about Waterloo - would they really mind an ancient creature like Iris? (And speaking of, we did tell you we took the factory tour years ago, didn't we? That was a ton of fun.)

      Triple digits? Maybe next year. I'll admit the thought has crossed my mind. :)

      P.S. I always wondered who Maryann was too. And why does he start dreaming as she walks away? Why not stay awake and go after her? Unless that's the dream he's chasing in Long Time. Hmmm. Maybe the lyrics are deeper than I realized.

      Thanks again!


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