Sunday, April 08, 2018

The Touring Series: Hippies And Vagabonds

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.

  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. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995.

We return to the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" as the three riders have stopped on the La Crosse River Trail after a loud crunch under my wheels was heard.....
When we had gotten turned around and back to the scene of the crunch, we found Troy's clear lensed Oakley Frogskin glasses in pieces. Seems that they fell off his face because they too were bored with the trail. They fell off thinking that maybe somebody more interesting and exciting would find them and save them from endless trail hell! Unfortunately for the glasses, its plan failed. They were crushed by an unwitting cyclist.

Troy was actually able to rebuild his glasses and we continued. Finally we reached Sparta, Wisconsin and we could go no further. It was 7:00pm, and we had maybe an hour and a half, at best, of sunlight. The main problem was that we had no idea where we would spend the night. After we left the abandoned depot, we found an A&W Restaurant and decided it was a good time to eat.

While ordering our food, I realized that it would be brought out to us by a car hop. When she came out, Troy declared her a sight for sore eyes. Unfortunately, his sandwich wasn't a beauty and Troy was again sorely disappointed in his food. A recurring theme for him throughout this tour. At least we got directions to a local campground.

On the way over we passed by a house with several "hippie wannabees" hanging outside. Steve figured that they were kindred spirits, sympathetic to wandering vagabonds such as ourselves. We stopped to see if we could camp and Steve went in as our ambassador. Well, after wasting time finding out the differences between Woodstock and the "fake Woodstock", we found out we were going to the campground after all. Steve never did come right out and ask those guys if we could stay there. He was disgusted that they didn't come right out and offer!

So much for that! It was getting dark outside fast now and we headed over to the campground as quickly as we could. It was a State campground and we had our fears confirmed that it was a "camping for a fee" joint by folks we met there. We decided to defy the unseen ranger and camp anyway.

Modern day view of the DNR camping area circa 2015. They looked much the same in 1994

On the way in, I realized that I had lost my beloved Fisher Mountain Bike hat, and I retraced my steps a bit as the others dove on into the forest to set up camp. I gave up hope finding it in the fast disappearing light, so I returned into the camping area alone. The campsites at the Sparta Trail head were rather unique, carved as it were right out of the young forest. The sites were all bowl shaped or oval shaped openings in the trees. Each campsite had a narrow opening on to a winding path of about four feet in width. This path had other paths criss-crossing it here and there. We never found out anymore about the paths, unfortunately, but they looked promising for mountain biking.

When I arrived at our campsite, I was surprised to see someone other than Troy and Steve there. My first thought was that we had been detected by Park authorities. However; I quickly dismissed this notion when I realized that the individual had a touring bike. Perhaps he had layed claim to the campsite? Well, it turned out that I had nothing to fear, he was just a tired, weary traveler like us, looking for a nights rest.

His name was Jamey. He also worked for a bike shop. He was two days out from Minneapolis. As we set up our camps, I noticed that Jamey didn't look much like a cyclist. You know, trim, athletic build, and tough in sinew. He looked rather soft and "couch potatoe-ish". Pear shaped was the description finally settled on by Troy and I. Jamey offered us root beer barrels and butterscotch candies as we set up camp. He held up two bags that were full of the stuff. At least five pounds worth. Perhaps this was the downfall of this fruit shaped young man.

After our supper, Troy and I decided to go directly to our tents as we were both very tired. Steve and Jamey decided to keep the fire burning and talk for awhile. I found out that I could not help but eavesdrop on their conversation. Soon the talk faded into the distance as they both walked away for awhile. What they did while they were gone, I do not know, but when they returned, I hadn't fallen asleep yet. I overheard Jamey giving Steve some Wisconsin maps geared for bicycle touring for our trip. With that bit of encouraging news, I finally fell asleep.

It was a chilly, cloudy morning when I awoke. we quickly went about our packing and breakfast making. Jamey had his own food and ate with us. When we were finished eating, it was decided that we should head north out of town. We had once entertained the thought of following the Elroy-Sparta trail, but this went southeastwards, out of our way. Troy was anxious to get northwards, as we hadn't gone that direction since the first day. Jamey said that Wisconsin Rapids would be a good place to ride to, so we took his advice. Once we were all prepared to leave, we rolled out to the entrance to the campgrounds. Here Jamey took leave of us. I noticed that the Elroy-Sparta trail actually started right at that point. Jeremy was going eastwards to parts unknown and the Elroy-Sparta trail was on his way. With a last "Goodbye! Take Care!", we turned and headed back through Sparta.

There is a LOT going on here with this post. The Frogskins were Troy's favorite glasses and he was really pissed about them getting broken, and I felt really bad about running over them. Fortunately, he was much more inclined to be nice to me after they were found to be salvageable. 

It was quite late when we got to Sparta and all the time we wasted dinking around with the "hippies" and Steve's floundering around was not taken lightly by Troy. This was another tension building point between those two. My lost cap was a huge bummer for me. I think I may need to explain our mode of clothing and how we went about hygiene during this tour in a new, separate post, but the hat was a daily wear item for me so I was bummed.

The map we got from Jamey was a Godsend! It was a traffic count marked map which guided us most of the rest of this tour. I was super happy to have the resource as route finding was primarily on my shoulders the further we got into the tour.

Next: A Tale Of Hills And Hurry

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