After 12 days and 770 miles in the saddle, our hero’s Midwestern tour triumphantly concludes where it started: The Capital City, Madison, Wisconsin.
I’m still easing my way slowly back into civilization. After 11 nights sleeping outdoors and 12 solo, sweaty days in the saddle, a roof over my head and human interaction both feel strangely alien to this pedaling pilgrim. Not 12 hours ago I was waking up to the sound of birdsong and gentle rays of sunlight drying the raindrops from my tent.
And now I’m replenishing my glycogen stores with a military-grade Bavarian Pretzel and a New Glaurus Milk Stout.
If I had any doubts about whether I was ready to take a break from biking for a little bit, today’s final 51 mile jaunt put those feelings FIRMLY to rest.
Today’s ride started smoothly enough, but after a few miles I started to see some ominous cumulonimbus clouds gathering ahead of me and hear the foreboding rumblings of an oncoming storm.
The first few minutes of falling rain were a mild annoyance. When the wind picked up and started gusting heavier drops directly into my face, I grit my teeth and started grinding my gears as fast as possible in hopes of riding out the storm. Then, with an earth-shattering crash from above, the skies opened up and unleashed a truly BIBLICAL storm.
Thoroughly soaked, I started to laugh. I realized that there was no possible way I could get any wetter. I realized that the only way out of the storm was through it, so I might as well make the best of a soggy situation. I realized that the westerly wind would soon push the deluge past me. I realized that the rain was rinsing off 12 days worth of chain-lube and sunscreen from my dirtbag biker body. I realized that no bike tour would be complete without a little bit of type-two fun (the kind that’s more fun when it’s over). I realized that there was a pretzel and a beer waiting for me at the end of the ride.
And then, the storm broke. The clouds parted. The sun emerged.
With the sun shining down on me I quickly dried off and continued my rapid ride westwards.
On my way to Madison I passed by the headquarters of Trek Bicycles! The company began in 1976 out of a barn in Waterloo, Wisconsin. In fact, my sturdy steel traveling companion, the beautiful blue 620 series between my legs for the past dozen days, was handmade in the 1980s at that very facility!
After paying proper homage to our wonderful Wisconsin cycling heritage, I practically flew through the town of Waterloo, sped past Sun Prairie, and biked like a bat-out-of-hell through Dodge County.
My manic pedaling took me to the Dane County line in no time flat. Unfortunately, the morning’s big push left me pretty depleted. By the time I reached Cottage Grove, just on the outskirts of my home city, I was POOPED.
The final nine miles of my tour felt LONG. I couldn’t find a comfortable position in the saddle, my Achilles’ tendon started feeling creaky, and the wind seemed like a personal insult from Mother Nature. Somehow, with the power of positive thinking, personal pep-talks, and visualizing that Bavarian pretzel, I spun my way at a snail’s pace along the Capital City Bike Trail. Then suddenly, finally, I caught sight of the stately Capitol dome, which perked me right up into pedaling home!
My tour is over, the tanlines will fade, but the memories are forever. I had a fabulous trip; I wouldn’t trade any part of it for anything in the world. Now all that’s left to do is unpack.