This is NOT how you bike tour.

Trip Start Sep 14, 2009
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Trip End Aug 31, 2011


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Flag of United States  , Wisconsin
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

So I wanted to have one real good long bike trip while I was in the US over the summer. Constantly throughout biking on small roads in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin I just kept thinking, "I would never do this in China," while here I'm 100% comfortable. The language has nothing to do with it. The culture of helping others that the US has does.

Anyway, when one does a biking trip usually they will go as far as they care to in a day and then settle in somewhere for the evening, usually at a campground or stealth camping. In addition, they will plan out a route, or at least something general, and they just assume they will get to whatever point by whatever point in time. Days are usually relaxed and when you see something cool, you stop. I'm not doing this. I've got a specific place I am going, but I've also got a very tight schedule to work on. I don't have time to go out of my way. I don't have time to stop but for more than a moment (or for lunch). The only thing I can do is just keep on pedaling. That's all I have time for. It hasn't bothered me that much since the main reason why I'm doing this trip (other than seeing friends) is to bike in a place where I am comfortable (see paragraph 1).

I was supposed to leave last Thursday, but while in the process of going back home and confirming plans my friend told me (when I called him) that he had forgotten that they were busy with something that they had planned previously and couldn't get out of, so they couldn't see me or house me for the night. I decided to postpone leaving until Monday or Tuesday. Eventually I decided on Tuesday because that gave me time to get in a 100 mile ride and give me appropriate recovery time before leaving. After I booked myself a hotel room near a friend for Thursday night (they can't house me for some silly reasons beyond their control) she told me that she had forgotten about plans that she had already made and wasn't going to be able to see me. The middle night of the trip my friend is letting me stay at her house (where I am now), but she is busy preparing something for work and is away for the moment. She told me this well beforehand, but was very kind to let me stay at her place without her being here. It's not as much fun, but considering what I got last night and what I will get tomorrow night it's a really nice situation. Yes, I know I'm being crabby. But when you fly half way around the globe to see people, then they forget that they made plans with someone else and only tell you after you can't change them you'd be pissed, too. Since there isn't much going on in these entries, you might as well just skip this and go to the pictures. However, since I was mostly just trying to get from place to place, there really isn't much here.
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So anyway, day 1:

It started off well enough. I knew my route 100% (or at least the first 60 miles or so) The first problem that I could potentially run into had to do with flooding of the Des Plains River, especially at the start and along the first trail. When I got to the trail head the place was completely dry and I started off smooth sailing. Very early into the time on that trail I started chatting with a professor from Northwestern University. I didn't learn much about him. I know he teaches Econ, and he did tell me his name, but mostly he just spent time listening to me complain about China or something else that happened. Maybe vent is the right word, but he was laughing a lot, so I just kept going with it. He helped make the first portion go very fast.

Things were going very well until I arrived at the Des Plains River trail. The DPR trail is a very nice trail, but it's a cinder path as opposed to a paved path. I hate cinder trails and will go on some pretty atrocious roads to get off them (see day 2). However, this was not the worst part about it. The trail runs right next to the Des Plains River (hence the trails name) and the river is much higher than normal due to the rain. At every single road over pass and some of the other spots the road was flooded out. I decided to just tough it out and bike on through, wet feet be damned. However, in some places the water was so high that I was doing actual slow damage to the bike. At a few points even the crank and bottom bracket were being submerged. I ended up picking up some water bugs in my shoe!. I did eventually make it through, and there was only one pass that I absolutely refused to bike through (it would have flooded out my wheel hubs). However, being that it's a stone trail and add the flooding to it, I decided to hop onto the road and take that for as much as I could. Tuesday this was a good idea.

Once I got out of Illinois and into Wisconsin everything was fairly straightforward. The only problem I ran into was the road I was going on ended up having a detour up ahead. I decided to not take their detour, but one of my own. I didn't realize it until after I passed the area, but I could have kept on going straight, because where the construction was going on was after Hwy 45 turned off of the road that I was going on. Oh well, just 1.6 more miles added on to what I was doing for the day.

Day two didn't begin as well as day one. Instead of having someone to talk to I was just off alone. However, since I started at nearly the same place I was a few weeks ago, so the first 10 or so miles were on some of the same roads I've biked before. However, it was about halfway through day two that I figured out that the saddle I have is a little too narrow at the back. So, sitting on the front of it is exteremly comfortable, but it's not so good for biomechanics and I lack power and a sustainable position. This would work fine as a race saddle, just not for touring.

The path I chose had me going on the Eisenbahn State Trail. This trail is one of the former railroad lines that has been turned into a bike trail. The first few miles were paves and that was lovely. However, needed to be on it for about 20 miles and I wasn't willing to spend that much time on a gravel trail. Last year I ended up crashing because of some gravel. Some people are fine holding a good pace, but I'm still paranoid going over 13mph or so on good gravel trails, 10mph on the bad ones where there is a lot of loose gravel, mud and water. This tails was one of the crappier ones, so I decided to jump off the trail and go on the road. The roads will have more hills than the trails, but they take less effort to go faster due to just being on a hard surface. However, this day it ended up being the wrong choice. CR V north of Milwaukee was just horrible. nothing but up and down, very little flat, grades varying from 5-8%. Add into the fact that the entire day I was biking into the wind as opposed to with it made for a difficult ride. Even though day 2 was 17 miles less, it ended up being much harder.

This night I ended up staying in my friend's house in Oshkosh. Since the Experimental Aircraft Assosciation (EAA) show is currently taking place in Oshkosh I saw a lot of planes flying around, a couple of stunt planes going around, lots of water planes parked and tons and tons of people camping.

The most miles I had done in a day previously was a hair over 82 miles. Last week I did a 107 mile day just to get a century out of the way and to make sure I could do it. On this trip day 1 was 99 miles and day 2 was over 82, so I was a little tired. Day 3 was just a simple 60 miles, so I decided to sleep in, get a late start and take it really easy

Oshkosh has a lot of construction going on, so getting into my place in the evening was easy, but getting out wasn't. There was a state trail that wasn’t that far away, but there was still construction between there and I couldn’t even cross that street it was so torn up. Eventually I made it to the bike trail, but there is so much contruction going on that even that trail was closed for a significant portion. Of course, the only part of the trail that I really wanted to go on, a bridge over the huge lake that was just for the bike path, was closed. I ended up getting on a road, which did have stoplights, but within a mile I realized that I was on a road that had exit ramps. There were no signs saying that I could not be on there, so I just kept on going and got off at that first exit and made my way back to the trail. Not sure why, but I do not remember too much of this day. It was, however, the first day that I was definitely in the northwoods. Finally I could hear and smell the road that I remembered.

My last day I was thinking I should try to arrive before many of my friends left for the day. I originally decided to leave at 4am, but after not being able to fall asleep I decided to wait until it was lighter and warmer out. The terrain started off continuing downhill further into the valley. Plus, the wind was at my back so I was making wonderful time for the first 27 miles. However, then my path turned into a rails to trails gravel path. I was trying to beat rain, too, so I really wasn’t happy with the 11 mph average speed for the 25 miles that I was on the trail. I wasn't fighting light and towards the middle of the trail I realized I wasn't fighting rain either. Only hunger, which would be resolved as soon as I found a place to eat. I didn't get to stop at a cool place for lunch as it was a national chain, but by that time I didn't care.




However, once I was done with lunch that's when the hard part of the day started. I thought I had about 2 hours of biking left and that the terrain was going to stay flat. Nope. I encountered hills harder than I encountered on day 2. Instead of being constant short up and down instead it was long up and long downs. Instead of being able to power down I was usually so tired that I was just moving my feet instead of putting power down. Also could have been that it was the end of my too much biking not enough touring trip. 




And well, that's that. Really this was more of a commute than a tour. Basically from here on out I'm going to make sure I don't bike more than 60 miles in a day so I can focus on checking stuff out as opposed to, "I need to make sure I get to my destination in time."
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