Friday, July 13, 2012

Of rollers and rustic roads

Our first rustic road of the day

The heat broke.  I was about to break.  Three weeks of 90+ degree temps with several days of 100+ left me cagey.  It's not that I didn't get outside, oh no, I still got out on rides early on the days I didn't have to work and continued to commute by bike.  I just didn't feel like spending any added time lingering outside lest I dry up like my garden which hasn't seen rain in almost two months.

Bison farm
So, when Sunday morning came, my husband and I got to go on a 55 mile joy ride through Southern Wisconsin.  We based ourselves out of Monroe since we'd be touring Minhas brewery post ride.  Neither of us had explored much South of New Glarus so it was a treat to pour over the maps to pick our route.  This part of Wisconsin is criss-crossed with rural routes--roads that cannot be "improved".  Most are short--under ten miles--and are usually narrow with frequent bends.  They offer views of old farmsteads, lazy creeks and to our luck, a bison farm.

It felt good to take a break from 18% grade climbs, like the ones West of Madison.  I'm not saying it isn't hilly down there, however, the rollers and long, shallower accents allowed us to stay seated, breathe and take in the scenery a bit easier.  Riding past the white farm homes, whose walkways were lined with hollyhocks, my mind wandered to my childhood when my grandmother taught me how to make dolls out of the hollyhock flowers.  The farms are somewhat iconic.  Row upon row of corn, wheat and soy laid out a grid work that lulled my mind into a meditative state.  Rarely seen were the white plastic tubes of hay.  Instead, round and square bails dotted the fields.  Dogs ran free and one found amusement in chasing us--a cyclist's worst nightmare.  The barns were made of wood, not steel, and the cows grazed outside in the pasture--where they are supposed to be.  Although a pang of sadness washed over me for the farmers having to survive this drought, I also felt calm and content.  Being raised close to downtown Minneapolis, I somehow inherited a few country genes along with my city ones.

Ride cemetery
From Monroe, we rolled West, then North, snaking our way along county and rustic roads up to New Glarus.  Although stopping by the New Glarus brewery for a beer sounded appetizing, we knew our ride was only half over and another brewery was calling our name.  Just North of Monroe, on our way back, we came upon a cemetery of sorts for old carnival rides.  All were set up to be ridden but stood unoccupied, covered in rust.  Memories of old state fair midways overtook me and I had to stop and take some pictures.  I couldn't image what the owners did with the rides or the small train that circumnavigated their property.  The site made my inner child giggle.

After crossing over the Badger State Trail a few times (it runs from Madison all the way down to the Illinois border), we found ourselves back at the car, coated in dust and very thirsty.  Onward to Minhas brewery!  Most cyclists I know have a love for beer.  I wouldn't be surprised if they ranked what's important to them in the following order: 1st Bikes, 2nd Beer, 3rd Spouse or partner.  Don't ask me why...I'll just tell you the stuff tastes great after hours in the saddle.  Of course, I put my husband before beer.

Post ride at Minhas brewery
Minhas --formally known as Huber--is a       smorgasbord of beer.  They brew their own and  also contract out to thirty-five other companies for brewing, including Berghoff.  The brewery was purchased in 2006 by a young brother and sister from Canada and has since exploded to be the 10th largest beer producer in the country.  You wouldn't guess it by it's size.  It still seems small and cozy.  It's their high speed machines that put them into the top ten spot.

This next weekend, we will be skirting just North of Monroe once again when we undertake a century that our riding group threw together (thanks Michael).  This, however, won't be our last time visiting the area.  Cheese days is calling out to us and Minhas will be opening a distillery in August.  This is all making me think that biking in Southern Wisconsin isn't all that healthy.  Guess we'll just have to put on a a few more miles!

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