Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Making lemonade out of lemons

I'm not looking too happy about the weather.
photo by Tim Reinhardt
Forgive me, for I know some of you may remind me of rule #5 when I whine a bit about it being in the 50's and rainy over a weekend in late May, but I just can't help myself.  This heat and humidity seeking creature wants temps in the 80's with very little wind--not a pissing rain all day with winds in the 20mph range and temps which make me consider wearing my lobster mitts again.  We northerners get enough of this 6 months out of the year and each weekend we don't see a reprieve, just means we're one weekend closer to starting another winter.  Honestly, I'm not sure why I even bother putting my winter riding clothes away some years.

So, a friend of mine and I had big plans to ride around lake Winnebago on Saturday.  Thought was to drive up in the morning (surely the rain would stop by noon if the forecasters were calling for it to stop by 10 or 11am), eat lunch and visit, and then head out on the bikes for nearly 100 (or 110 if my friend chose to take advantage of me being a) in a place I've never ridden or b) knowing how naive I was/am).  A message he sent me said "5 hours riding time"...I, of course, laughed my head off thinking I was in no mental or physical shape to push a 20mph pace in wind.  But hell, I had a map with me and the car keys so my thought was he could drop me and wait for me in a bar somewhere or drag my slow ass to the end.

As we drove into Neenah, which would be our starting point for the ride, the rain showed no mercy.  Every hour we checked weatherpessimist.com and every hour they pushed the end of rain out.  11am somehow turned to 2:30pm (it was still raining in Menasha just a few miles away at this point) and we questioned even getting a short ride in.  This was all going down while one of our mutual friends was finishing up his first century of the season in Madison mind you...in the rain and wind (Jsams...stop making us look so bad!), and other friends were doing the Dirt Kanza 200 or the Sturgeon 100 gravel grinder.  We were being wusses and I honestly don't feel bad about it.

We did finally make it out, and let me tell you how great it felt.  No, we didn't do the Race the Lake course as planned, but we did put down just under 40 miles with another great guy and I got my first ride in the Fox River Valley as well as climbing a fire tower in High Cliff state park.  Not too shabby since a couple hours prior we had considered just watching movies while sitting around getting fat.
Cap the ride off with a couple beers at Club Tavern in Menasha, as well as hanging out with the owner of CT in his garage, and the rain was a memory (although we were still freezing our asses off in our kits).

Tim and Steve in High Cliff State Park

I was the only one stupid enough to climb the tower (wet wood+cleats isn't a good combo)
Since I had no idea about what to expect from riding in the area (my only view of it had been from HWY 41 which doesn't make a good impression), I was honestly so pleasantly surprised.  The roads chosen for both Saturday and Sunday's ride were low traffic, much smoother than the ones around Madison, dotted with old restored barns made into homes (a couple are now on my wish list), and although flat, were roads I'd like to ride again soon.  Downtown Neenah and Menasha are not only full of beautifully restored brick storefronts but are quite happening--unlike so many small downtowns which have fallen into a Walmart/suburban sprawl demise.  The homes in downtown Neenah reminded me of Summit Av. in St.Paul and although they were far too large for my liking, I thoroughly appreciated their craftsmanship.

Sunday's ride brought us into the small town of Dale for breakfast at Still Wallys Still.  I'm sure I've mentioned how much I love going out for breakfast, and somehow I wish I could transport this place to the Madison area--especially since the Roxbury Tavern isn't serving breakfast for a spell.  I didn't, however, enjoy the feeling of eggs, potatoes, sausage and coffee sloshing around in my tummy while pushing into a headwind the entire way back (okay, scratch that...I sucked some serious wheel--I cannot tell a lie).

Was I happy I ditched other rides to attempt a ride around Winnebago?  You bet.  No, it didn't work in our favor, and I'm beginning to think I'm seriously bad luck to my riding friend who brought me up there, but hey, we had fun and one of these days I'll make it around the entire lake!

Pelican infestation in Neenah

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