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Week Six: Wisconsin July 21 - 26

Click here to read Matt's newsletter from this week!

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This week starts by riding through the bluffs and quaint towns along the Mighty Mississippi. By midweek, I'll be experiencing the backroad tranquility of Wisconsin's rural countryside and dairy lands. I'll stop in Wisconsin Rapids, built on the Wisconsin River and known for its paper mills. Then continue to Menasha, which borders the state's largest inland lake, Winnebago, with its multitude of sailboats catching the brisk lake winds. Finally, I'll take a ferry ride across Lake Michigan from Manitowac to Ludington, beginning another adventure across Michigan and Ontario.

Matt's newsletter from this week:


Hello again from Scottsville, Michigan! As many of you know, this summer I am riding my bicycle 4,200 miles across America in honor and memory of my father. He passed away last April about 2 months before he was to set off on his own transcontinental journey. This summer I'll be completing his dream for him, on his bicycle, while raising money for a scholarship in his honor.

This week I cycled from Northfield, MN to Scottsville, MI. I passed the International Headquarters of CycleAmerica, crossed the Mississippi river, entered Wisconsin and Michigan, completed my longest day ever, drafted on a septic tank, crossed Lake Michigan on the SS Badger and had a great week! Check below for photos and descriptions (and don't forget to click on the photos to see larger images)

A few important dates are on the horizon. I will be riding through Rochester (NY) on Tuesday August 5th, having lunch at Perinton Park along the Erie Canal around Noon (keep in mind that timing it totally variable based on weather).

On Saturday August 16th, I will be rolling into Gloucester (MA) to complete the ride by dipping my front wheel in the Atlantic Ocean. Check upcoming newsletters for more details on timing and the specific beach where we will be landing. I'd love to see family and friends there (hint, hint)

Finally, I was thinking this week that I would love to hear from the many people out there in RideAcross land that I do not know or knew at some point, but have not heard from in ages. There are about 430 of you out there, and I recognized about 75 names on the list. I think that's great, but I am totally interested in who everyone is. If you have a spare minute, I would love it if you could reply to this email and let me know who you are, how you found the website, and if we know each other, then what you've been up to since the last time we spoke. Thanks!

  • Miles ridden this week: 399
  • Miles ridden to date: 2,971
  • Amount of coal that the SS Badger (the Lake Michigan Ferry) burns during the 61 miles voyage: 40 Tons
  • Number of full size pancakes eaten for breakfast on Thursday: 8
  • Number of septic tanks that I drafted behind (see Saturday): 1

  • July 22nd: The Mighty Mississippi
    Northfield, MN to Pepin, WI
    73 miles

    I came back from my day off all kinds of refreshed and energized to tackle the trip again. I think I was slipping into somewhat of a rut last week, kinda plugging along, but not really taking advantage of the opportunities that lay before me. It was great to get away from the group for a day, see a familiar face from Boston, do a little lawn bowling, meet some new people and recharge the batteries.

    And what a great day to return energized. We started the day by riding 25 miles to breakfast in Cannon Falls, home of the CycleAmerica's International Headquarters. I really enjoy riding before breakfast; it gives you time to get hungry and cuts the day into thirds instead of halves (with lunch). CycleAmerica's Headquarters had some great and encouraging paintings on the front windows, and it was good to see they're keeping the overhead down too.

    We then jumped onto the Canon Valley Trail, a private cycling & walking trail that runs 20 miles from Cannon Falls to Red Wing, MN. It was fantastic. We rolled, twisted and turned down narrow tree covered lanes without even the thought of traffic or cars. The sun would break through, then return behind the shade of the leaves, in and out, all morning long. We passed small towns, returned to our secluded cycling refuge, then finally emerged into Red Wing, MN.

    Red Wing is also home to our Mississippi River crossing. Remember how crossing the halfway mark reminded me of the larger journey I am undertaking? Well, crossing the Mississippi (how many times am I going to have to write Mississippi) had a similar effect. Once I crossed the bridge, I felt like I entered into the eastern part of America. For the first time, I felt like I was close to home, I felt like our journey was coming to an end. I have mixed emotions about finishing this journey, excited to complete the trip and finish the accomplishment, but weary about leaving this experience behind.

    Wisconsin kinda snuck up on us after crossing the Mississippi as well. Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota took forever to cross, but Minnie flew by. I have a feeling the rest of the trip is going to be like that.

    July 23rd: Rolling Beauty
    Pepin, WI to Osseo, WI
    63 miles

    We had a great mocha stop this morning at Great River Roasters in Pepin, WI. With the short day today, our regular Mocha stop of 6 people ballooned to about 20 peeps. Everyone is starting to realize that you can hammer your butt off, but it's a whole lot more fun to take your time and enjoy this trip. I'm glad our style is spreading.

    After Mocha we picked up a small county road that took us most of the way to the next town. Wisconsin is subtly beautiful. Unlike the breathtaking beauty of the Tetons and the Badlands or the majestic beauty of Rushmore and Crazyhorse, Wisconsin has miles and miles of smooth country roads with little traffic that roll up and over steep hills through farmlands and small towns. It is perfect cycling country.

    I rode with Bob from San Diego today. We rode slowly, absorbing the views and smells at a slow meandering pace. We had nice conversations, but have ridden together enough that we didn't feel the need to have forced discussions. Most of the time we allowed the rolling hills to speak for themselves.

    The Green Bay Packer's fans provided the day's humor. Check out the house to the right to see how dedicated some of these fans are.

    July 24th: How much was that hamburger in the window
    Osseo, WI to Wisconsin Rapids, WI
    93 Miles

    Today supplied more of the subtle Wisconsin beauty. After lunch we stopped in a cute little town named Pittsville. When asked who had the best pie in town, the local greeters said Laura's Cafe had the best pie in the world, not just in town. Since being appointed Official Best Pie in the World judges a few weeks ago, we have made it our duty to test all the pies that cross our path. I had banana cream pie with strawberry ice cream (I realize this is an odd combo, but I was thinking that banana strawberry smoothies taste good, so why not?) Well, Laura's pie was amazing; jury is still out on "best in the world" though.

    As we were getting ready to go, I glanced on the front of the menu and saw that a hamburger was only sixty cents. I thought there must be some mistake, how a whole real hamburger could cost sixty cents. Well, when you're in Pittsville, population 350, hamburgers don't cost as much as Boston. I was completely full, I had just eaten lunch, and had pie a la mode, but how could you NOT order a sixty cent hamburger. So again, I fell victim to rationalization (I am riding so many miles, that I need to order this hamburger) and ordered the burger, but I asked for pickles. Pickles were an extra 3 cents, so I had a burger, with pickles and chips for 63 cents. I love flyover country.

    Laura, of Laura's Cafe, was also telling us about her real passion in life. She is a disabled and elderly hunting guide. She helps those than cannot kill small animals by themselves and aids them in achieving their goals. She even has a special oxygen delivery system with extra long tubes, so she can sit 10 yards back and turn off the oxygen just as her client is about to fire, then turn it back on again before they keel over.

    July 25th: My LONGEST day ever
    Wisconsin Rapids, WI to Menasha, WI
    109.17 miles

    I've had a lot of firsts on this trip as well as a lot of personal milestones, but I'm pretty excited about biking 109 miles in one day. It's really not that much more than my first century, but there's something oddly rewarding about riding this far on a bike in a single day. The best part is that I felt full of energy after the ride and wasn't at all concerned before we left. All the obstacles and challenges we've faced thus far have hardened us to a point that we just know that no matter what lies ahead we can tackle it, we will make it to the next camp. (Note to self: if my bike self destructs tomorrow, I will completely deserve it for jinxing myself right now)

    July 26: Lakes, Ferries and Time Zone's Oh My!
    121 miles (with 61 miles of ferry)

    We had a time deadline for the first time all trip. The ferry across Lake Michigan leaves at 1:00 PM and Midnight and we were 50 miles away. Bikes need to board at noon, so we needed to get a somewhat early start (in case of flats, headwinds, and other unidentifiable obstacles that always seem to get in your way when you have a deadline). So we made our way to breakfast at 6:30 AM planning to leave at 7:15 and have plenty of time to make the ferry. Well, Mother Nature did not cooperate. As soon as we sat down for breakfast, the skies opened, rain started pelting down and bolts of bright lightning began striking the horizon.

    7:15 came and went, then 7:30 and 8:00, finally around 8:30 the lightning was pretty far away and we headed off into the darkened day. The rain was still pelting down, but it was warm, so I felt fine. I was riding draft line with my usual buddies into a moderate headwind when I slowed momentarily to chat with a stopped rider. Sure enough my train left the station and I could not catch their paceline. Rookie mistake # 46 of the trip. I was left to fight the winds by myself, but I felt strong, so I battled away. It was actually kind of fun (in a demented sort of way), but I felt challenged again in a way I haven't since we left the mountains.

    About 35 miles into the ride, I came upon a tractor pulling a large muddy container along the road at about 22 MPH. Ahh, perfect drafting partner I thought. Just sit in the dead air behind the tractor and coast to the ferry. So I pulled up to the muddy container and started coasting. But I smelled something funny, something just wasn't right. I soon realized that it wasn't mud that was dripping off the container, and it wasn't any normal container, it was a septic tank. I think I burned a hole in my rims I hit the brakes so fast.

    We made it with time to spare; I even went to the Library to check email and stopped in the coffee shop to get the ever important mocha. We all lined up and rode onto the ferry, spectators abound looking at us like we were some type of movie stars.

    We celebrated Brenda's (from England) birthday on the ferry crossing. Her favorite drink is Gin and Tonic, so a few people bought some bottles and we enjoyed the mixers while swaying back and forth through the waves. Only about 5 people in our group got seasick, and I was not one of them. YAY! I mean, sorry to the sick folks.

    After the ferry, we rolled into Scottsville where I had a huge rack of ribs for dinner at Steve's Tavern (yes, I ate all of it and more). I was planning to go out last night, but ended up chatting with my Mom and Sister on the phone and reading my new book. A nice relaxing evening, to a nice relaxing week.

    * * *

    So I'm sitting in Steve's in Scottsville, about to watch the final stage of the tour. Next week we'll be heading through Michigan, into Ontario Canada, and ending up at Niagara Falls. After that we're into the homestretch, almost done with the journey.

    As always, I have really appreciated all the support I continue to receive from everyone out there on the RideAcross Travelogue. Please feel free to send this along to your friend;s, I always like to hear from voices old and new.

    I would also like to express my sincerest thanks for those that have donated in support of my ride. If you have not yet made a donation and would like to, please visit www.rideacross.com and click on donations.



    Day 1: Welcome to Cheeseland

    Day 1: I believe I can Fly

    Day 1: What has two thumbs (Beis That's for you)

    Day 1: Picture with the Texans

    Day 1: Lunch along the Mighty Mississippi

    Day 2: Notice how our mocha groups are getting bigger and bigger?

    Day 2: Bob JRA in Wisconsin

    Day 2: So you're a Bear's fan, right?

    Day 2: The boys chilling in WI

    Day 3: Thank god Tony isn't hungry

    Day 3: Old Stuff

    Day 4: My Longest Day EVER!!

    Day 5: Matt & Steve on Lake Winnebago

    Day 4: Ice Cream places know were coming

    Day 5: All Aboard

    Day 5: Waiting to board the SS Badger to cross Lake Michigan

    Day 5: Matt & George entering Michigan (yes, it says Michigan behind my bike)

    Day 5: Where's Waldo

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    Contact Matt: matt@NOSPAMrideacross.com (remove the 'NOSPAM' before sending)