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Old 10-07-07, 07:42 PM   #1
Tom Bombadil
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TB's Lazy Biking Vacation

Just got back from spending 4 days in central Wisconsin, riding my recumbent, enjoying the outdoors, visiting small towns, and having a few nice, inexpensive meals.

Thursday morning I drove up to the tiny town (pop 216?) of Union Center, Wisconsin. Stayed at the Garden City Motel, $35/night including tax, clean rooms, friendly owner, sits right on the bike trail - don't even have to cross the street. Parked my car, took my bike out, didn't start the car again until I put my bike back in this afternoon to drive home.

Union Center sits on the "400" trail, which has been around for a long time, but is over-shadowed by the well-known Elroy-Sparta Trail, which just celebrated their 40th year and was the nation's first rail trail. It sits 4 miles south of Elroy, where it connects to Elroy-Sparta. Even here in Wisconsin, there is very little mention of the "400" trail (which I believe is named after the old 400 railroad line) Also out of Union Center is a little 5 mile spur trail that runs to Hillsboro, a Czech-founded town.

All of these trails are limestone / dirt.

I had planned to primarily ride the more famous trail, but the first day in I rode down the 400 and it was just spectacular. This region has many bluffs, carved out of ancient hills just a few thousand years ago by ice age glacier meltoffs & floods. The trail runs down the Baraboo River, which it crosses over time and time again. There are also many ponds and wetlands. Autumn colors were strong, but not quite at their peak. The net was that the terrain was constantly changing from open fields to ponds to wetlands to rock cuts and alongside bluffs.

And then there were the towns. Every 4-7 miles you would ride through a small town. I think the largest one had a population of 1500. Several arts & antique stores, several restaurants welcoming bikers (and offering pie), all having trail depots with restrooms and water, nearly every town having a store that carried bike supplies.

I had a blast. Decided to focus more on relaxing and enjoying the outdoors and less on doing miles. This was my first significant use of my recumbent and didn't want to overdo it - not wanting to injure something due to overstressing it. So I did a "4-day century" riding 101 miles total, from 23 to 27 miles a day. I was slow on the bent, even slower than I am on my Trek hybrid. My normal cruising speed was 10.5 to 11 mph, sometimes bumping up to 13, sometimes just puttering along enjoying the scenery at 9 mph (seriously!). Those times felt like just taking a country stroll - watching the herons and cranes on the ponds or admiring the bluffs & autumn colors.

Here's a traveloge of one lazy day. Slept in and didn't leave until 9:45. Cruised down to the town of Wonewoc (3.5 miles), briefly checked it out and continued. Two miles later stopped to observe some birds on a pond. 4 miles later stopped to admire some bluffs & colors. Rode through next town of La Valle and a couple miles further. Stopped to admire a little valley where the river flowed through it. Rode the 2 miles back to La Valle, browsed an antique shop and art gallery. Chatted with the art gallery owner for a while, who is a cyclist and is planning an age ride (59).

Then had a late breakfast of an omelette. Took a little hike along the river. Started riding back. Rode 3 miles and stopped at the bluffs I had glanced at on the way down. They were about 200' high, with a mix of pine and hardwoods around. Sitting underneath them reminded me of my last vacation to the Estes Park, Colorado area, where I found a spot to read a book under a cliff with pines around me.

Then rode back to Wonewoc and had a slice of walnut pie with milk. Yum yum. Browsed a couple more stores. Started back toward the motel. Stopped again where they had constructed some walkways over the wetlands and walked around there. Finally arrived back at the motel at 5:00. Had been gone for 7 hrs 15 minutes and ridden 25 miles. An hour later walked across the street to have their small steak dinner special - a 6 oz angus sirloin that was very good. Got back to the motel at 7, watched some playoff baseball on TV, played around on my laptop computer and later took a night walk.

All four days went about the same. Repeated the route above one other day, rode to Hillsboro & Elroy one day, and to Elroy & Kendall the other day. Shortest real time round trip was 6:30, longest was 8 hours. I had meals in the middle of rides every day: burger one day, pizza another, and a wonderful jerk chicken. Chocolate-covered doughnut and milk from a bakery at the 20 mile mark on one ride.

Traffic on the trails was light. I averaged seeing someone (or a small group of people) about once every 2 miles. Everyone was friendly. Only came upon two people walking dogs, and they both pulled their dogs in to let me pass. I passed/dropped 2 couples and was passed only once (in 101 miles of slow riding).

It was incredibly relaxing. The bent was extremely comfortable. Not once did I feel any discomfort in my right thumb or left elbow, which sometimes hurt within 10 miles on my upright. I felt so good today that I might have tried to ride 40, except it was 87 (all-time record highs) on both Sat & Sun and the heat zapped me a bit. My legs felt great.

Not quite the same as going out riding long distances and getting that burning in your muscles. That can be great too. This was more like bicycle strolling and using that great seating position of a LWB bent to observe one's surroundings, much like you would when out on a walk. Just what I needed. Hope to do it again, but probably won't get a chance again until next March or April.
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Last edited by Tom Bombadil; 10-08-07 at 09:20 AM.
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Old 10-07-07, 08:01 PM   #2
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That sounds terrific. I'd end up doing the same as you, checking out all the sights. It would be tempting to ride the length of the trail doing some credit card touring.
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Old 10-07-07, 08:51 PM   #3
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Tom, you've got to learn to chill out and relax. This stressful pace is going to do you in.

Great report. I could envision a lot of it. Thanks for sharing, and glad you had a good vacation.
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Old 10-07-07, 09:19 PM   #4
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Tom, you really know how to get the most out of a ride. I'm always glad to read your very upbeat reports.
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Old 10-07-07, 10:02 PM   #5
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Sounds like the perfect vacation, thanks for sharing.
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Old 10-07-07, 10:20 PM   #6
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I start off the same but then seem to start to up the miles...
Then remind myself to slow down...
But one day I'll take that "slow trip to China"
Why do we think we have to do 60 miles or more a day?
I like your 25
Keep on riding
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Old 10-07-07, 10:21 PM   #7
Tom Bombadil
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Originally Posted by Dchiefransom View Post
That sounds terrific. I'd end up doing the same as you, checking out all the sights. It would be tempting to ride the length of the trail doing some credit card touring.
I'm thinking about options along this line for next time around. There are 4 trails that link to make a 101 mile trail. The motel I stayed at allows people who stay there to leave their cars for multiple days. So if I decided to do something like riding 35 miles a day, then I could go there and ride to Reedsburg and back to do 36 miles. Stay there the first night. Then ride to Sparta, 32 miles, stay there. Then ride back. There are other options for doing 40 or 50 or whatever miles per day. The motel's owner told me that many people do this.
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Old 10-07-07, 10:32 PM   #8
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Tom, you've got to learn to chill out and relax. This stressful pace is going to do you in.
Unfortunately it is the stressful pace of everyday life, primarily from my job, that makes it very important for me to take regular "chill out" breaks.

I would have loved to have had a few more days up there. So peaceful. No internet access or cell phone either. Once I left the motel in the morning, it was pretty much impossible to contact me. Someone would have had to send the state police out looking for me.
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Old 10-07-07, 10:46 PM   #9
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Forgot to mention that I had a snake moment. Left my bent by the trail, resting on its wonderful kickstand that I installed a couple of weeks ago. When I got back, there was a snake right under it. Nothing nasty, just an 18-20" common snake. It slithered off so fast! They always amaze me.

Saw a couple of black squirrels. Solid black. Variant of the gray squirrel. Not all that uncommon but some have never seen them.

Also found a really nice anniversary present for my wife. Our 30th is coming up, which is the Pearl Anniversary. She isn't big on jewelry, but I found a hand made broach that was made to look like a few stalks from a ***** willow tree, with small freshwater pearls as blossoms. We have a ***** willow tree in our yard that she loves.
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Old 10-08-07, 04:04 AM   #10
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Good for you. Sounds like a great time!!!! Had my "bent" out
over the weekend too, but I think your riding was way more
refreshing.

Your ride reports get me to thinking of relocating to your part
of the country after retirement, especially if my daughter
follows thru with her dream of landing an Architechural job
in the Chicago area (she's currently studying at MSOE).

For now I ride Wisconsin's trails vicariously through your reports.
Thank You

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Old 10-08-07, 06:14 AM   #11
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What a great way to spend a few days. Now that you've described this place don't be surprised to see some of us on those trails
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