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Friday, July 14, 2017

Wisconsin Hill Country Day 6 - New Glarus to Beloit

The final day of Wisconsin Hill Country was marked by overcast skies and cool temperatures, with some wind (hindered some of the time; helped at other times).  The cloud cover and cool air made for very good cycling conditions.

We were not disappointed with the course - very scenic and low traffic conditions.  Some of the rolling terrain was such that we could maintain momentum enough to power up the next hill after a descent, but a good number of hills slowed us down enough to require the use of low gears and patience.

The distance was 77 miles, so we had only a single rest stop in the morning and a lunch stop.  All riders were in by around 2:30 p.m., with bike disassembly and packing going on in the parking lot.  Several riders are leaving today, while the rest of us will depart tomorrow a.m.

It has been a great week.  PAC Tour never puts on a casual ride, but for those up to the challenge it is a fantastic bike touring company, attested to by the large number of returning riders.



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wisconsin Hill Country Day 5 - Spring Green to New Glarus

Most everyone chose the shorter 46 mile route today over the longer, hillier 86 mile course.  The shorter mileage gave us an extra hour in the morning at the motel, and also assured an earlier end to the day.  Weather was very nice with variable cloudiness.

Just 4 miles from the start is the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor's Center.  We did stop briefly but only a few riders stayed behind to go inside.  There was some tough climbing today, but not the magnitude of the first couple of tour days.  A few miles of pretty rough pavement required extra caution.

Due to the shorter mileage, we just had one rest stop and the lunch stop.  The final 15 miles went pretty quickly, with some great sweeping downhills to balance out the climbing.

Tonight's lodging is at the Chalet Landhaus Inn in New Glarus.  This is a very nice Swiss inspired lodge with somewhat stricter rules about bike storage - no bikes allowed in guest rooms; they all had to go in a conference room on the second floor.

We had an ice cream social in the parking lot, and tomorrow will be the last day of this great and challenging tour.  77 miles back to Beloit, with another large helping of hills.

Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor's Center

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wisconsin Hill Country Day 4 - Mauston to Spring Green

We were expecting a heavy storm between 4 and 6 am, but it actually hit shortly before 6, with lightning and heavy windblown rain.  Looking out the motel window, I commented that it would be suicidal to go out there on a bike.  Retta Deane and I walked down to the breakfast area to join a few other riders and watch the weather channel.  Lon came in and assured us that it was a fast moving storm and would soon be out of the area.  Sure enough, by 7:15 the storm was gone, leaving only wet pavement and a few puddles to deal with.  A few roads had gravel and dirt washouts but we were spared any flooding issues on today's route.

This is called the Hill Country Tour for a good reason - there is no shortage of challenging hills each day.  The last section after lunch always seems to include some particularly tough climbs.

Retta Deane took advantage of a tour at the Baraboo Circus Museum, but I was more interested in finishing the last 36 miles before another possible storm rolled in.  We had dinner at Arthur's Supper Club in Spring Green with several other riders.  Tomorrow I plan to take the shorter option (46 miles) as I think only a handful of riders are going for the long route (86 miles).  The long route will be "on your own" - no supported rest stops and lunch, just get what you need in convenience stores.

Rain was coming down in sheets this morning as we ate breakfast
The Round Barn motel is where we are staying tonight in Spring Green WI

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

WI Hill Country Day 3 - Viroqua to Mauston

PAC Tour is supplementing the motel continental breakfasts with the same great oatmeal and assorted fresh fruit toppings.  The riders appreciate this "bonus" as it helps to get the day off to a good start.

Overall climbing was somewhat less today, although punctuated with some tough steep hills.  One prankster (not sure if an outsider or rider) had cleverly modified one of Lon's white 'W' arrows at the bottom of a steep, curvy downhill into a U-turn shape.  I doubt if anyone fell for it, but we did joke that it was a special route marking for Rod from IL who has been making a practice of deliberately adding in extra miles, often riding back up a hill that he just descended.

Today's highlight was 35 miles on the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, a converted railroad bed now used for bikers.  I didn't see any evidence of equestrian traffic (which was fine, if you know what I mean).  The surface is hard pack (crushed limestone) and no problem even for 25 mm wide tires (wider would have been more comfortable).  By the end of the trail, most of us were ready for some pavement.

Tomorrow's ride is 76 miles from Mauston to Spring Green.

Bike museum in Sparta shares building with a space museum
Tandem bike used for record setting cross country race by Lon Haldeman and Pete Penseyres
Starting down the Elroy-Sparta State Trail (from Sparta end)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Wisconsin HIll Country Day 2 - Dodgeville to Viroqua

A heavy thunderstorm moved through Dodgeville and surrounding area late last night, but by the time we finished breakfast and loaded gear bags (7:45 am), skies were clearing and roads were nearly dry.  Today's route was slightly over 80 miles, with a good mix of steep climbs and long downhill runs.  Nearly all roads were in very good to excellent condition; there were just a few short sections of hard pack gravel.  So far I haven't noticed anyone getting a flat tire.

Retta Deane and I are doing more laundry in the motel sink than we did on the Northern Transcontinental (PAC Tour provides clothes detergent).  It seems to take less time overall to just take care of the day's wash immediately instead of throwing it in a laundry bag and hoping there will be a laundromat available 3 days down the road.

We have seen many attractive farmsteads and rolling fields of corn stalks.  Traffic is very light on the narrow back roads of southwest Wisconsin.

Tomorrow is another 80 mile day, but not as much climbing.  Part of the route will be on a long bike trail with three tunnels, so lights are required.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Wisconsin Hill Country Day 1 - Beloit to Dodgeville

This morning's breakfast was a sit-down, order off the menu affair in the restaurant attached to our motel.  PAC Tour picked up the tab, as breakfasts, lunches, and snack stops are included as part of the tour package.

We enjoyed great weather today, although it was getting pretty hot in the afternoon.  Quiet back roads with minimal traffic contributed to a wonderful day of riding.  At lunch (71 mile point) I was thinking the route hadn't been as tough as I was expecting.  That idea was quickly dismissed during the final 24 miles, as we faced many, many tough steep rollers.  I would get to the top of one that seemed to be the highest peak around, and be looking at another set of rolling hills.  This part of Wisconsin is known as the Driftless Region.'

We are spending the night at a very nice lodge type of motel in Dodgeville.  Tomorrow will be 80 miles to Viroqua.

Susan encouraging some riders prior to morning departure
I left a little before Alice from Louisiana but she caught up just before first rest stop
Drew and Elizabeth just before first rest stop.  Drew is crewing so rides every other day

Lunch stop at Yellowstone Lake
View from the top of one of the many steep rolling hills