Monday, October 1, 2012

One last hurrah--not for the feint of heart

Goodbye sweet summer.  You have been so good to me this year, albeit too harsh on the farmers.  As the frost gathers on the roofs and grass, I will think of all the fond memories you gave me.  Although you officially left me last week, autumn graciously brought "Indian summer" this past weekend and my husband and I got one last road riding hurrah before we brace ourselves for a long, dark winter.

Outside of Westby

Each year in fall, I tend to get a bit greedy with my time.  When not at work, I try to spend every free moment outside.  Knowing what's around the corner, my husband and I will often times get away for a few days to do some final rides--with bare legs and arms--and with any luck, tag on some hiking.

Since moving to Wisconsin, we have both fallen deeply in love with the driftless zone.  On a trip this spring, we explored the Boscobel/Muscoda area.  Creeping a bit further West this time, we planted ourselves in two spots.  Our first could only be described as a technicolor roller coaster ride.  Westby, a small town tucked between LaCrosse and Viroqua, appeared to be on fire with the changing leaves.  Our rides brought us up hills that made the ones near our home seem like molehills.  Over and over again, we would find ourselves climbing up to two miles in our lowest gears, only to have the grade ramp up a bit more at the top.  At the crest, we would have a brief glimpse of some of the most amazing scenery we've ever experienced.  Amish farms with corn stalks bunched into pyramids, sheep and cows grazing in the pasture, trees ranging from green to yellow to red and wind turbines churning in the distance.  More than once, I felt so overwhelmed by the beauty, I thought I could cry.  That moment quickly dissolved because after we crested the hills, we found ourselves looking down descents that made me whimper--and swear a bit too.  Look, I love descending.  I have been trying to hit the 55mph mark down Cleveland hill for three years.  I don't, however, like 18-20% grade drops that still have chip seal or sand from the previous winter on them.  All we could do is scootch our butts back behind the saddle and pray our brake cables wouldn't snap.  In hindsight, though, it was fun.

still smiling after one of the hardest climbs I've ever done

Second stop--Trempealeau.  A cute little river town just North of LaCrosse.  I had been here once while riding up to Minneapolis in 2003 and have visited a couple times since.  Neither my husband or I had gotten a chance to ride the coulees or what the locals refer to as "hip breakers".  Surprisingly, the riding, although still very hilly, wasn't nearly as intense as the Kickapoo region around Westby.  Here, the valleys were wider, so after a long climb, we were treated to a long descent and then a few miles of flats prior to the next ascent.  Once again, the scenery was breathtaking and we both fell in love with a town called Gallesville, which is known for it's apples.

Outside of Perrot State Park

Riding along the Mississippi into Trempealeau

The one consistent thing about both places is that it's easy--very easy--to get turned around or lost.  We had three maps with us, the WI bike fed map, the WI Gazzetteer, and the local bike map.  None of them helped us at several intersections and we ended up riding on instinct.  Please note that we are both trained to read maps in wilderness areas.  This, thankfully, got us through but know it's common for roads to change names, for there to be no signposts at an intersection or for whacky bends to occur that aren't listed.  No harm done except for multiple huddles around the maps and a few added miles.

Both Westby and Trempealeau are now on our "must return to" list.  In fact, I'm already thinking about all the other routes we could try. much biking, so little time--if only summer could last a few more months!

Amish farm outside of Westby

climbing to Galesville

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