Saturday, July 31, 2021

Day 50 - July 31, Waukesha Wisconsin to Grand Haven Michigan, 36 miles

Today we took bike paths and city streets from the suburb town of Waukesha to the Milwaukee Lake Express Ferry.  The ferry took us 80 miles across Lake Michigan making 31 knots to its docking port in Muskegon Lake.  From Muskegon we took US Bicycle Route 35 to Grand Haven.   Short day of riding but a long day overall. 

Just another great Wisconsin bike trail, the Hank Aaron State Trail runs west to east through much of the city with very few road crossings and smooth as glass. 

The Horticulture Conservatory was right next to the trail but not yet open when we were there. 

The Ferry Express on the way into port at Milwaukee to pick us up.   This catamaran boat can carry up 46 cars, 12 motorcycles, 20 bicycles, 250 people.  Today there were sold out on cars. 

Bicycles are loaded first and strapped to the side walls of the the auto bay.  

Off the ferry at Muskegon and ready to ride

Friday, July 30, 2021

Day 49 - July 30, Madison to Waukesha, 73 miles

This morning we rode from Madison to Cottage Grove where we picked up the start of Glacial Drumlin State Trail.  This trail runs from the outskirts of  Madison to the suburbs of Milwaukee. Two nights ago there were tornados and high winds in the areas near the trail.  All went well riding along beautiful tree covered crushed limestone paths until just over half way when we were blocked by a long series of large trees that fell across the trail.   We managed to get past the first three fallen trees but then we were completely blocked by a wide swath of multiple large downed trees.   We backtracked and rode on US 18 for a few miles until we could get back on the trail.   From the road we could see many downed trees in multiple towns.  Quite the storm! The rest of the trail was paved and the large debris had been cleared.  Later we caught up with a forest service team that was clearing the trail and they said they were headed back to the blocked area. This trail gets a lot of use!

Taking a break on the bridge at Rock Lake (town of Lake Mills).  The two orange floats in the water are attached to swimmers!

Lots of cool bridges over rivers and lakes along the way

Question: what is a Glacial Drumlin ?

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Day 48 - July 29, Baraboo to Madison, 47 miles

Today we rode south to and through Devils Lake State park.  This started our day with three short pitches of 11% - we were in first gear for those!  A short time later we were rewarded with a long descent with an 8% grade.  At Merrimac we caught the ferry across Lake Wisconsin.  The ferry is free and runs 24/7 across the lake with a 20 minute cycle.  From the ferry we continued on a combination county and state roads to the the east side of Madison.  It was a real roller coaster ride today with a mix of hills from small to quite long.  High clouds most of the day helped keep the temps down to bearable.  

The ferry coming to pick us up.  They use an interesting cable  driven system to pull the ferry back and forth across the lake. 

On our way across.  Bikes are welcome.  The ferry can carry up to 15 cars at a time 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Day 47 - July 28, Elroy To Baraboo, 43 miles

We started today on the 22 mile long 400 State Trail. The morning air was thick with 100% humidity, fog and cool temps.  After finishing the trail at Reedsburg we moved to state route 136.  This state highway was lightly traveled and had a great shoulder to ride on.  We were happy for a bit shorter day after a very long day yesterday.

The 400 trail runs through woods and wetlands

Limestone features along the way

Wisconsin 136 took us through Rock Springs an area with an important contribution to geology.  

Quartz rock with a interesting purple color (hard to see in the  photo below)

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Day 46 - July 27, La Crosse Wisconsin to Elroy Wisconsin, 61 miles

Today was a day of riding the beautiful Wisconsin bike trails. Our route consisted of the La Crosse River State Trail followed by the Elroy-Sparta State Trail.  These two trails are directly connected.  Normally this would be 61 miles of nothing but trail riding however the Elroy-Sparta had a couple of bridges out so that put us on roads for about 10 miles.  We did have a few challenges in the morning with the weather.   We had to wait out early morning thunderstorms which delayed our start to 10 am.  On the way to Sparta we got caught in a down pour.  We also had trouble with the tandem belt wanting to come off when mud and debris from the trail would get caught between the belt and chainring.  But by noon the weather cleared and turned sunny, and with a free adjustment to the belt tension from Speeds Bicycle Shop in Sparta we were off again.  (Thanks Milt!)

La Crosse River Trail - these trails are old railroad beds topped with crushed limestone 

Elroy-Sparta Trail has three old train tunnels that you must walk through.  The longest tunnel is more than a mile

The storms blew down several large tree limbs

How do we get the loaded tandem over these construction fences ?

Fellow wet bike packing travelers

Monday, July 26, 2021

July 26 - Day Off - So much for the ride across Iowa!

Yesterday evening we made a plan change.  Several days ago we left all paved country roads or high traffic roads with a paved shoulder behind. We’ve been riding on roads with no shoulder and high traffic for a couple of days.  Road edges were thick gravel which is really dicey if you need to move over. The Iowa bike maps and local info indicated the same across the rest of the northern part of the state.  Not safe and definitely no fun so we rented a UHaul and headed to La Crosse WI today. Tomorrow we will pick up the Wisconsin Rails to Trails bike trails.  The updated plan includes heading toward Madison and then to the ferry at Milwaukee. 

We were very lucky to get a 15 foot UHaul truck.  It was the only one way rental of any kind available in this part of Iowa.  We only had to ride 2 miles from the hotel to pick it up and used our cargo straps to tie down the bike

We made it to Minnesota !  Well …

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Day 45 - July 25, Emmetsburg to Clear Lake, 74 miles

The route today took us through long miles of corn fields.  This seemed to be more corn crops than we had ever seen in one place. Of course we were seeing only a small part of Iowa. A little research on arriving in Clear Lake and sure enough Iowa produces 13.5 million acres of corn claimed to be more than any other place in the world. The route was gently rolling with no wind but hot and humid.  We started riding at 6 am and we agreed that starting even earlier would have been better.  We could not find a paved alternative to US 18 today until the final 10 miles.  Good thing that it was a Sunday and the truck traffic was very light. 

Clear Lake is an Iowa resort area with boating, fishing, and camping.  Countless pontoon boats docked at the lake and in the lake 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Day 44 - July 24, Sheldon to Emmetsburg, 70 miles

Today started with wet roads, fog and 100% humidity.  A big storm front had passed through last night and we had slept through it. The first 20 miles followed US 18 to Hartley. We were not clear on how to navigate the next 20 miles.  Consulting the locals in Hartley and then following the suggested route on Google Maps worked really well and we had a pleasant ride through quiet farmlands to Spencer.  Again we looked for a way to avoid the highway on the final stretch. This time we relied only on Google Maps and ended up faced with a long, really bad gravel road.  It was already in the 90s so we backtracked a few miles to US 18 and finished up the ride.  Getting some local advice really does help!  To stay cool at our final rest stop we filled all our bottles with ice and water and put ziplocks with ice in our jersey pockets. 

New sentinels of the prairie

Friday, July 23, 2021

Day 43 - July 23, Sioux City to Sheldon, 65 miles

Today’s route took us north to Sheldon.  We started on the Floyd River Trail a couple of blocks from the hotel and took it all the way out of town.  Then US 75 and SR 60 - mostly 4 lane highway shoulder riding.   A good tailwind helped push us along.   We turn to the east tomorrow and the hills will come.  We passed through Le Mars on the way to Sheldon, which is the start of RAGBRAI 2021 on Sunday.  There are 15,500 riders registered so far.  We might come back and ride it another year. We are 33 miles north of Le Mars tonight but the hotel is full of people on their way to RAGBRAI. 

Le Mars has a great bike path and is known for ice cream 🙂

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Day 42 - July 21, Osmomd Nebraska to Sioux City Iowa, 70 miles

We planned on starting with shorter distances and gradually working up to longer days.  Well it only took 42 days of riding to work up to a 70 mile day 🙂.   Full disclosure - in Osmond, while waiting for our motel room, we decided to mail our camping gear ahead to Grandpa Lee in Dayton Ohio.   Whew and we are glad we did!  Today’s route along US 20 was really challenging.  There were dozens of hills, some of the worst road conditions of the whole trip, and road construction.  If you are interested in the hills take a look at the route profile on Ride with GPS.  We expected hills like this in Iowa but they started on this last day in Nebraska.  We passed several milestones today: finished the crossing of Nebraska (413 miles), crossed the Missouri River, and passed 1900 miles in total. 


Welcome To Iowa !  On the bridge across the Missouri

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Day 41 - July 20, O’Neill to Osmond, 59 miles

Today’s route started flat and as the day proceeded turned into rolling hills.  We left early enough to catch the sunrise over the farmlands.  There was fog and haze that kept us cool well into the day.  We are on US Hwy 20 all the way to Sioux City Iowa, where we’ll be tomorrow.  The excitement today was one of our straps holding our camping gear to the rear rack broke.  The strap fell, caught in the rear wheel and wrapped around the hub.  Amazingly the wheel and spokes were not damaged!  And we did not lose any gear!

Sunrise in eastern Nebraska

The morning haze continues and the hills return

Iowa has its fair share of corn!  And it has already tasseled 

We dodged one today!   Good strap and the broken strap

Monday, July 19, 2021

Day 40 - July 19, Ainsworth to O’Neill, 66 miles

Today we continued southeast on flat roads with the steady Nebraska wind out of the south.  It was one of our longer days today and we wanted to beat the heat so we got started early. There were several small towns along the way often with a convenience store.  We took several nice breaks and got out of the heat. Many local folk are very interested in the details of our trip and today we answered a lot of questions.  One nice women, who used to be a Barrel Racer, offered us a place to stay and shower.  Everyone we have met in Nebraska has been very kind and helpful. 

When we arrived at our destination in O’Neill we learned that it was founded by Irish immigrants in 1884. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Day 39 - July 18, Valentine to Ainsworth, 48 miles

Today’s route started off continuing through the beautiful green Sand Hills.  The weather pattern has been consistent since our arrival in Nebraska with nightly rain storms, cloudless days, and winds out of the south during the day.  Today we were headed southeast and had light headwinds much of the day.  But the road surface was much better today and being Sunday the traffic was very minimal.  Nearing the end of today’s ride the route flattened out and the Sand Hills melted into farmlands.  So long Sand Hills!

We had planned on the riding some of the Cowboy Trail but there were two problems.  First the trail surface was too soft for our loaded tandem.  Second the recent comments on the trail reported lots of thorns. We will come back with singles and tubeless tires and ride the trail another time. 

The Sand Hills - photos just don’t do it justice

We saw several “harvesting trains” today taking combines on semi-tractor flatbed trailers north for the Great Plains wheat harvest.  

Combine and grain trailer pulled by one semi - a “train” might have six or more of these units all traveling together

The combine heads pulled separately

All assembled in the field and ready for harvesting - semi now used to pull the grain trailer (stock photo)

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Day 38 - July 17, Cody to Valentine, 40 miles

We got dinner last night at the Circle C Market in Cody, which is run by the area Highschool students.  It was the cleanest most well stocked small markets we have seen on the trip.  We had called ahead and they had the whole milk chocolate milk we needed, and they let us keep it in their cooler over night.  They are awesome !  We were camping last night so it rained - in fact thunder and lighting and heavy rain for several hours.  The tent held up well and we stayed dry but we had to pack up the tent wet this morning. We will dry out in Valentine.   Today was a pleasant ride with much easier rolling hills and little to no wind. 

Another milestone - reaching the Central Time Zone!

Nebraska advertises US Hwy 20 as one of their scenic byways.  The landscape is beautiful in the Sand Hills area we are in now.  Our pictures of the rolling green hills look bland and just don't show the true beauty. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Day 37 - July 16, Gordon to Cody, 55 miles

Today’s route took us to new landscape once again, transitioning from farmland to the Sand Hills.   The Sand Hills have cattle grazing and wide open vistas.  We are watching for Sand Hill Cranes but haven’t seen any yet.  The highway tended to go straight up and over the hills so we were riding a continuous roller coaster!  The wind was strong out of the south again today.  One local said that is typical.  The one drawback today - lots of expansion joints on the shoulders.  Camping at the Cody city park. (Camped at Cody WY and now Cody NE.)  Mailed our down parkas and some other cold weather clothes to Dayton Ohio for future use.

Nebraska is not flat!  We make fun of Google Maps - often when we map out a route it will say “Mostly Flat” and not show the profile  

Camping at the city park 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Day 36 - July 15, Chadron to Gordon, 50 miles

A completely different day today - bright and sunny. We take US 20 all the way across Nebraska to Sioux City, Iowa.  The highway has a nice wide shoulder, the traffic light and there are several nice towns along the way.  Today started with a gradual rise out of Chadron over the ridge that runs through the Nebraska National Forest.  The wind was steady out of the south as we headed into it over the first 20 miles and then it helped us the remainder of the day as we headed northeast.  We stopped in the towns of Hay Springs and Rushville on the way.  We noticed that each town has a beautiful park with trees, shade, and a pool!  

Once again new landscape - now the Great Plains 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Day 35 - July 14, Hot Springs South Dakota to Chadron Nebraska, 53 miles

Last night we had thunder, lighting, and light rain off and on. In the morning when it started to rain again as we were packing up the tent, the question was do we go? A quick look at Weather Underground showed that we should have a gap in between the big storms as we head south. So off we went!  Our route today was US Hwy 385 all the way to Chadron.  We had low clouds, fog, rain and the temperature hovered around 57 degrees.  Is this really summer in the west?  Luckily US 385 has a nice wide shoulder to ride on.  Well, except for 11 miles of road construction where we had a plastic pylon to dodge every 100 feet!

Next state - Nebraska!  Sherri in rain attire

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Day 34 - July 13, Custer to Hot Springs, 38 miles

Last evening we said good-bye to Glenn and Michelle as they headed back to Boulder.  It was great having them with us for a couple of days. Today’s route from Custer to Hot Springs was all along US Hwy 385. The downhill was great since we had to carry all our gear for the first time in a couple of days!  We had planned on riding the Mickelson Trail but it rained hard in the early morning so we decided to use the highway.  We rode through Wind Cave National Park.  The park has a beautiful green landscape with Bison. Road construction in the park gave us the opportunity to gravel ride. Good news was they had not yet spread any oil or tar.   We had lunch in Hot Springs and are camping tonight at a very nice KOA just outside of town. 

Landscape from Wind Cave National Park

One of the staircases at Hot Springs

Hot Springs waterfall in town

The Stick Bug helping us set up camp

Monday, July 12, 2021

July 12 - Day Off - Enjoying the Black Hills

We took today off to plan our trip details as far as Valentine Nebraska and spend sometime enjoying the Black Hills with Glenn and Michelle.  While we were busy planning this morning Glenn and Michelle enjoyed a Jewel Cave tour.  In the afternoon we drove the Needles Highway and saw rock spires that are unique to this area.  At one point mountain goats blocked one of the tunnels on the road - Glenn got out of the car and cleared out the goats!  Thanks for herding and driving Glenn!

The Needles

The mountain goats that were in the tunnel

Also saw Bison