Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Touring Series: A Tale Of Hills And Hurry

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

When I returned home from this tour I wrote a rough draft manuscript of about half of the trip. It is 27 pages of hand written stuff, front and back, and this is what I will be posting to begin with. You'll be able to identify the 1994 manuscript material by my using italics to post it here. After the manuscript information ends, the rest of the story will be picked up from memories written down in 2008. That will appear as regular text here. As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant.
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Today the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" rolls out of Sparta, Wisconsin on its way to parts unknown....

We once again noted how chilly it was for August as we made our way through the early morning traffic of Sparta. Once clear of the city, the terrain consisted of rolling hills and dairy farms. The road itself was clean blacktop with a narrow paved shoulder. Our bikes did not want to roll too well on this pavement though. We did not take much notice of this strange phenomenon, instead we delighted in making fun of the rustic names seen on each mailbox as we rode by. There were many of these names which, unfortunately, I can not note here. I was too busy riding my bike to write them down as I went by.

Soon our road sent us over some more difficult hills. the farms disappeared for the time being. We had come upon some sort of highland area. Suddenly I saw rising before me a very steep and tall hill. This reminded me of the hill outside of Preston, Minnesota, only this hill was not as long and was steeper than that hill. I was certain I could make it, but I was waiting to see how long it took my companions to drop me. As I gazed over to Troy, I saw him put his head down, shift up a gear, and walk right away from us. He crested the hill far in front of Steve and I, then he disappeared. I was busy in my granny gear again, this time holding my own against Steve. The dratted hill decided to steepen on me just then though. This was almost my undoing. Almost.

Steve managed to reach the top about fifty yards ahead of me. There he stopped to watch me as I agonized up the last section. My body screamed to halt, but I would not let this hill beat me! I made it to the top. I was breathing so hard that I thought my chest would never stop heaving. Once my mind cleared, I looked out to see the distant farmlands, but Troy was no where to be seen. Steve congratulated me on my victory over the hill. We had some water and pop tarts to celebrate right in the middle of the road. Soon though, we gave our attention to finding Troy. 


Location of Cataract, WI
 The long, fast descent was a welcome reward for us. We made about two to three miles pass beneath us before we saw Troy. He was parked at a fork in the road near a farm waiting for us. We got regrouped and took off once more. We were looking forward to reaching the town of Cataract and maybe a bit of something to eat as well.

We pulled into the small city only to find a small gas station/grocery store along the road. The day was partly cloudy and pleasant, so we took our purchases out to consume them by the road. A local woman stopped by to say hello, but when she spoke, it was apparent that she wasn't a native cheesehead. We were surprised to find out she was a native of Belgium. She expressed her countryman's love for cycling and how she did not find that here in the U.S. The three of us nodded in unison. She went on to tell us that she admired us for our goal of reaching Canada. She was the first adult that had dared to talk to us vagrants. We thought that was really nice.

We left and found out we were not out of hill country just yet. Just north of Cataract the hills were not so big, they were just ganged together! Troy and Steve pulled away and I was left behind. Far behind! At the top of a hill I saw Troy and Steve at least three quarters of a mile ahead of me. This made me quite irritable. Absolutely mad! This in turn motivated me to catch them. I had a long down hill, a flat space, and then a short steep hill after a left turn. Going into the corner I thought I might actually reel them in, but I just didn't have enough left in me to get the job done. I was mad again. Then just as things were looking pretty grim, I noticed that Steve and Troy had pulled up and were waiting for me. I was immensely grateful!

After a short rest stop at the top of the hill, we moved on again. It was decided that we would not continue on towards Black River Falls, as it was out of our way northwards. We took County "O" to the east, and that road was a very nice straight blacktop that had young, tall pine trees lining both sides for as far as we could see. This screened off the view, and the wind. We could only see up the level road and the sky above our heads. There was no traffic at all on this lonely stretch of road which allowed us to all ride together and converse freely. After awhile it seemed that this road would never end. We knew that the next town up was called Millston, but we had no clear idea of how far away it was.

Then we saw an alarming sight. Fall color! Not just a little bit either, but a whole grove that had fallen under Fall's powers. We stopped to take some pictures which didn't please Troy. Apparently "stop" was a word equivalent to "defeat" in Troy's mind.

That became very apparent once we took off again. Troy set a pace that was borderline brutal. This had been a tough day for me and it wasn't even noon yet! Finally we reached a turn in the road, which was cause for some celebration since this road was so flat, straight, and boring. Troy agreed to a stop here and we discovered the reason for the turn. It was a lake, which we took some photos of. I was thankful for the break, but I wondered where Millston was. It seemed that it really wasn't on this road. Not much later on though, we came to the outskirts of Millston, and I was relieved to see that town. Since it was around noon, we hoped to find a place to eat. We didn't find much, just a local joint, but it looked good from the outside.
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Looking back on this I don't think it occurred to me that perhaps I was suffering from fatigue after two really long days in the saddle which were unprecedented in my lifetime. Then again, it is remarkable just how well I adapted to these long days. The Belgian lady was funny. She actually kind of sized us up before she gathered the courage to speak, but I am still glad that she did.She wasn't the first adult to speak to us, that would be the Stonemason of Peterson, but she was the first to actually have a conversation with us beyond a simple remark.

Next: Heading Into Cranberry Country

1 comment:

Robert Ellis said...

Really enjoying these!