C2C Day 36 Madison to Milwaukee WI

Lake Michigan

I cycled thru the rain until I came upon a huge lake, and determined I could cycle no more. At least in an eastward direction. So Milwaukee’s Lake Michigan shoreline is the terminus for this year’s coast-to-coast adventure.

Today started in Madison with threatening skies. A 50% chance of thunderstorms.

Madison is a great cycling city, with many off-street paths and folks enjoying some outdoor recreation. It’s also a booming city with active construction. Perhaps there is a correlation with outdoor lifestyle and city desirability? Being a college town (University of Wisconsin) might also be an attractor.

Bike Path in Madison

Eventually, I made it to Cottage Grove and the start of the 52-mile Glacial Drumlin Trail, named after a geologic landform very common in the area.

Start of the 52 mile Glacial Drumlin trail

Yet another great Wisconsin state trail, devoid of vehicle traffic and loaded with straight-line scenic bridges – crossing over the meandering Koshkonong creek numerous times.

Koshkonong Creek, along the G-T trail

The trail eventually passes right along Rock Lake and a nice sandy beach, smartly named ‘Sandy Beach’, where Jackie busted out the paddle board again. We were so far dodging those forecasted thunderstorms, getting some good paddling and cycling in.

Jackie prepping for paddle boarding at Sandy Beach
Jax joining me on the trail for a spin

And then came the rains. At mile 50, the 50-50 chance turned to 100%, turning into a dousing at the village of Dousman (coincidence?). Then some more trail magic… just as the gravel path started to get slick and muddy, it miraculously turned to pavement. And then, seeking shelter from a heavy downpour, the trailside building (and former rail depot) in Dousman turned out to be a bike shop – called the ‘Bicycle Doctor’. After a brief rest (and a cool bike jersey) from the Doctor, it was back on the trail in a light but steady rain.

Hank Aaron State Trail, Milwaukee

On the outskirts of Milwaukee, I came upon the Hank Aaron state trail. A quick side-story: My Dad visited Wisconsin as a kid and watched a Milwaukee Braves game. At that game in 1954, he got a signed baseball from the entire Braves team – including a signature from a young, upstart rookie by the name of Henry Aaron. ‘Hammerin’ Hank’ would have a hall-of-fame career, breaking the major league record for home runs and setting several hitting records that still stand today. Aaron, who passed away in January 2021, was a man of integrity who broke down many racial barriers and fostered goodwill throughout his celebrated career and life. That trail ride was for you, Dad.

Menomonee River, downtown Milwaukee

That wraps up the 2021 segment of this coast-to-coast journey. 650 miles from Sioux Falls to Milwaukee, across the farms and lakes of southern Minnesota, and the trails and towns of Wisconsin – with my favorite Trail Angel Jackie providing support and encouragement. A memorable trip for sure, and looking forward to more.

~Dan

C2C Day 35 Elroy to Madison WI

Water stop, courtesy of a ‘Trail Angel’

A cool, misty 55 degrees at the starting point of Elroy. Hopped on the ‘400’ trail for 22 miles to the town of Reedsburg. The ‘400’ state trail is named after the former Chicago-to-Minneapolis passenger train that ran this rail line, boasting a 400 mile trip in 400 minutes, at times hiting 100 mph. Today, it’s a 90 minute flight. The 400 marked the last leg of the ‘Wisconsin 101’ – 4 interconnected trails running 101 miles from Marshland to Reedsburg. Whew! Some wildlife spotted on the State Trails included: Bunnies, Birds, Butterflies, Bald Eagles, Brown Deer, Black Squirrels (maybe more greyish, but fits the ‘B’ theme), Bugs, and a Badger. Plus chipmunks. All alive! (as opposed to roadkill animals found on vehicle roads). Stopped briefly at a homemade water stop, courtesy of what long-distance trail riders like to call a ‘Trail Angel’.

Hillsboro Trail spur

The 400 trail had a few spur trails, including this one to Hillsboro. I thought about stopping in at Beezers, but it was a bit too early for a cocktail. These state trails would also be beautiful in winter for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing.

Having run out of trails, I had to hop on some county farm roads to make my way southward towards Madison. Wisconsin county roads are lettered rather than numbered… at least in these parts:

From KP, take a left on V

Very little traffic on these winding, windy and surprisingly hilly farm roads. And a bit of humor:

Best mailbox of the day

A brief rain storm in Sauk City. Thankfully I sheltered at a nice park alongside the Wisconsin River, when along came another trail angel – Jackie delivering lunch! Just the ticket for the remaining 30 miles into a headwind. Back on the trail towards the town of Springfield, when a nice looking bench offered a brief respite:

Temporary resting spot

Then into the sprawling town of Madison, and some popular tails along Lake Mendota. A pleasant 72 degrees on arrival, just a bit windy is all. We’ve got a beautiful view right outside the window as I write this.

View from Mendota Lake House Inn

Tomorrow will be the final leg of this year’s tour. Seems like we just started!

C2C Day 34 Trempealeau to Elroy WI

Great River Trail

A chilly 50 degree start had me donning a jacket this morning as I headed out of Trempealeau on the Great River Trail. Caught a pic of a huge catfish on the way out of town, looks like we’ll have to come back in July for the festival.

20 miles down river, then an eastward turn on the Lacrosse River Trail for another 20 miles or so towards where I met up with Jackie, who parked in Sparta and cycled out to meet me, then back. Great to bike with my favorite cyclist on a trail built for two.

LaCross River Trail
Sparta’s Ben Bikin

Sparta Wisconsin is the self-proclaimed ‘Bicycling Capital of America’, and they have a large statue of ‘Ben Bikin’ to help substantiate that lofty claim. Sparta is the trailhead of the Sparta-Elroy trail, the nations first ‘Rails-to-Trails’ recreational conversion project – completed in 1967 and serving as a model for hundreds of other similar projects around the country. Sparta-Elroy is a legendary 32 mile trail through rolling hills and featuring 3 tunnels.

1st Tunnel, Sparta Elroy Trail

The first tunnel is the longest, measuring over 3,800 feet or 3/4 of a mile. This one was cold and literally dripping wet. A headlight is essential, and the trail is too dark and slippery to ride – so walking your bike thru is a smart option.

Helps to have a headlight in here!

Tunnel #2 is the shortest, but still headlight and hike worthy. I met a group of Wisconsin cyclists here and we traded stories and photos.

Tunnel #2

And after one more tunnel, a downhill cruise to the trail terminus of Elroy for tonight’s stay. 74 miles total, mostly 60s and low 70s (quite a bit cooler in those tunnels!) made for a very pleasant and enjoyable ride across three of Wisconsin’s finest state trails. A few more trails tomorrow on a roll into Madison. Adios for now.

3rd and final tunnel. That white dot is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

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