Any Road Tour: Day 20 – Trails and tailwinds to the banks of the Mississippi River

I’m sitting in my tent listening to waves wash up on the little beach just below my tent site on the Mississippi River in Lake City. Finally! Hawks and eagles are flying around searching for dinner.

There is a near zero chance of rain tonight so no rain fly for me. I expect I’ll be drenched by 2 am.

Last night I got the senior’s special at the family restaurant next to the hotel: spaghetti with alleged vegetables on the side.

The Settle Inn turned out to be a very nice hotel. The complimentary breakfast had proper china and silverware. I had my usual double dose of food.

Off and running under overcast skies with cool temperatures, I found the Great River Trail and followed it north next to an active rail line along the river. It was mostly unpaved but it had withstood the recent rains rather well. (The surface was almost as good as the GAP trail in Pennsylvania,)

An interesting feature of Wisconsin trails is that you have to pay a user fee – $5 for the day, $20 for a year.

It was worth it. The trail was shaded and afforded so many different views. Trains, bluffs along both sides of the river, swamps, trestles, even an Indian mound.

In the winter it is used by snowmobilers because Wisconsin.

I didn’t see anyone for ten miles then I saw some riders with event numbers on their shirts. Soon after a black van pulled along side me. It was a local bike shop doing support for the event. The woman and man and I talked for a while. She gave me some energy food things that tasted like marguerita mix. Trail angels show up when you least expect them.

Such nice people. They even took my picture to prove that I am not making this up from a bar in La Crosse.

I managed to get lost soon after this but The Google and a compass set me right. I road a few more miles on the road turning down a chance for Food and Booze! (Wisco people aren’t very subtle.)

I re-crossed the river at Winona Minnesota.

After a delicious burrito at the Winona Sandwich Shop, I headed north on highway 61. Yes, it’s the same one made famous by the Bob Dylan song only he was singing about the southern part in the Mississippi delta.

For about 20 miles I had a tailwind and a perfectly paved 12 foot shoulder. The Mule took off, cruising along at 16 miles per hour . Wheee!

For a brief period I diverted from this four lane highway to a quieter country road near Kellogg. They warned of jaywalking turtles.

About an hour later I was wondering if my destination got the night existed. Lake City is on a section of the river called Lake Pepin. The town once was a world leader in the manufacture of pearl buttons. And claims to be where water skiing was invented.

For me it held good and a campsite along the river.

I was pretty tired. Fortunately a nearby camper named Brad came over and helped me set my tent up. (The elastic cords inside my tent poles are stretched. Anybody know how to deal with this?)

And so the sun sets on another long day in the saddle. 90.5 miles.

My total mileage so far is 1,498.

Tomorrow I go to Saint Paul.

Any Road Tour: Day 19 – Great River Roading

Yesterday my waterproof panniers leaked again. The biggest victim was my 39 year old paperback copy of The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test.

The clerk at the motel gave me a roll of 8 plastic bags to put my stuff in so I don’t think there will be any more water problems.

Yesterday The Mule passed another milestone. 47,000 miles. He gets extra oats tonight.

After eating mass quantities at the hotel breakfast bar, I hit the road from Prairie du Chien thinking I had 77 miles to ride. It turned out to be 63.5, all on Wisconsin’s Great River Road along the Mississippi River. The river is mostly a protected area in these parts so there wasn’t much motor boat noise. The road, a two lane highway, wasn’t nearly as peaceful. There were trains every 20 or 30 minutes, and car and truck traffic which increased throughout the day.

I could occasionally see the terrain in the western side of the river. It was very hilly. I cruised along headed north with a tailwind. River and railroad to my left, bluffs to my right. It was hazy until 12 a.m. so the views were rather muted. I can’t complain. Tailwind, riding in the shade, temps in the 70s.

I pulled into a gas station. The sign indicated I was in Wisconsin. For the record I have yet to try cheese curds. They are to Wisconsin what boiled peanuts are to North Carolina.

A few other signs caught my eye during my ride.

The views were well worth the increasing traffic as the day wore on.

At 3 I arrived in La Crosse Wisconsin which is only 62 miles from Prairie du Chien. With rain approaching I once again forgot about camping and headed for a hotel. Apparently La Crosse is a happening place this weekend. Most hotels in town that I could afford were sold out. The desk clerk at the sold out Courtyard found me a hotel that had a vacancy. It’s called Settle Inn. It’s still being built but what’s finished is quite nice.

There’s a guest laundry which was very much in need. And there is a restaurant next door.

Speaking of next door, Minnesota is now across the river. Iowa it was nice knowing you.

On to Minnesota!

Today’s miles: 63.5

Total so far: 1,407.5