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THANKS!!!

I just want to say an online thank you one more time to all those who contributed to NAMI. I am bringing home to mail to NAMI additional checks from Cycle America riders that will boost the total over $3000. That’s wonderful!

Of course, additional contributions can still be made by clicking on the link at the top of this blog or by googling “Carole Atherton, NAMI,” which will get you to my NAMI fund raising page.

The Finale

I took Saturday, the 28th, as my weekly day off in Marshall, Wisconsin. Then, on Sunday, July 29, I rode from Marshall toward Lake Geneva. Shortly after leaving Marshall, I came to the village of Lake Mills. It had some fabulous older homes. I have tried to discover on line why there were so many elaborate homes, but I had limited success. I think possibly the saw mill and grist mill historically located there supported the housing stock. Anyway, here’s a photo of one of the homes.

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In Lake Mills, I saw a sign for Aztalan State Park and found out it was the location of a flat-topped ancient pyramid dated to about 900 AD. When I looked up a picture on line, I thought it looked just like the structures I had seen several years ago at Teotihuacan, near Mexico City. I wanted to ride over to see it but decided I needed to continue on toward Lake Geneva. So I resolved to come back to Aztalan when I return for my 50th graduation reunion at Ripon College in a few years.

In Lake Mills, I got on the Glacial Drumlin Trail. I learned that a “drumlin” is a large  mound of rocks left behind by a glacier. The trail was made of crushed limestone. Here’s a photo of a fancy underpass along the way.

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As it turned out, what appeared to be carefully set river rock flanking the entrance was actually some sort of man-made substance, as you can see from this close up-note the gray paint on the edges of the “stones” as well as the seams through their centers.  I was amazed.

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I left the Glacial Drumlin Trail in Sullivan and proceeded via road shoulders to Palmyra, Elkhorn, and then Lake Geneva.
I saw some really unusual cattle along the way. They were black with a wide belt of white around their “waists.” When I researched them on line, I found out they are called Belted Galloways. They are fairly rare in the US. They came originally from Scotland and are considered excellent beef cattle. They grow a heavy double coat in the winter that helps them tolerate the cold, so I imagine they are a good breed for Wisconsin.  Anyway, here are the cattle.

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At about 7:30 the evening of the 29th, I rode into Lake Geneva. After passing the crowded downtown waterfront, I rode by some incredible mansions and finally reached the Geneva Inn.

This was the view from the dining room the next morning as we ate breakfast and prepared for the final day’s ride from Lake Geneva to Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

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I entered Illinois on the Illinois Prairie Trail. From Genoa, Wisconsin, a crushed limestone trail leads to the Prairie Trail. There was no fancy sign announcing the border crossing on the trail. One moment, I was in Wisconsin and the next in Illinois with no particular fanfare. But I knew I was in Illinois when the trail crossed a road and I saw this road sign.

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Soon, the trail became a paved path that was excellent riding.  Near the city of McHenry, I passed a woman stopped on the trail. I struck up a conversation with her, explaining that this was the last day of my six-week ride from Seattle, and she began to ride along with me. It turned out she was an angel. Her name was Andrea. As we rode, she mentioned that my back tire seemed low. She said she would show me a good bike shop. She led me on a complicated route through the streets of McHenry to Bike Haven on Pearl Street. She even gave me a map of how to get back on the trail. What a kind person. I’d have been in a real pickle without her!

At Bike Haven, they efficiently repaired my tire, which by that time was totally flat, gave me cold water, and provided a map of the whole bike trail system in the Chicago area, which came in quite handy.

As I proceeded along, I got lost in Elgin, where a detour made it difficult to find the point where the Illinois Prairie Path separated from the Fox River Trail. I hailed a passing bicyclist and asked for directions. His name was Bruce. He offered to show me the way.

As we rode, I explained where I had started riding six weeks earlier and that this was my last day. He explained that, years earlier, as a boy scout, he had actually helped build part of the trail. (Thanks, Bruce!) These days, he said, he used the trail to commute 19 miles to work. Before he turned onto a different trail to go to his home in St. Charles, he gave me excellent directions through the last few turns to reach the Prairie Path.

Not far onto the Prairie Path, the riding surface changed back to crushed limestone. I rode on further, finally entering DuPage County, where Glen Ellyn, my sister’s home town and my ultimate destination, is located.

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I began to cry as I passed this sign. I called my sister to tell her where I was and then called my son, Bill Jr., who lives with mental illness and who provided the inspiration for this ride to raise funds for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Bill said he couldn’t figure out how, at almost 70, I had found the strength to ride 2800 miles. Little did he know that he helped me. All along the way, in every difficult spot, I thought of him and all he has so bravely faced and overcome and it helped me keep on going.

This was the scene as I reached where the trail intersected Park Street in Glen Ellyn, the place where my sister and I agreed to meet. What a colorful and welcome celebration it was, with signs, flags, balloons and all.

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That’s my brother-in-law, Emerson Lacey, my sister, Martha Lacey, me, my dear friend Malarkey Wall, who drove my rental car sag wagon for the final week of the ride, and my dear friend and classmate from Ripon College, Mary Kroening.

So, that’s the tale of my ride. It was hard work but a wonderful adventure.

Ripon to Marshall

This ride day (Friday, July 27), began with a rain storm and ended with another. The rain actually made the ride easier because it cooled things off but it left little time for photos. The only offerings I have are this shot of  the entry to the City of Marshall and the following one of the entrance to Little Amerricka, home of the steam train we were hoping to ride.

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We decided to take the day off for this week in Madison so that we could meet with a group from NAMI Wisconsin and NAMI Dane County.

Here we all are in front of the Wisconsin Capitol building.

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We also had the opportunity to ride three times on the steam train at Little Amerricka in Marshall. Here are a couple of shots of the engine, built just after WW II and beautifully maintained.

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Riding to Ripon

On Thursday (July 26), Ric Damm, cycling coach for Ripon College, rode his bike from Ripon to Portage and met me riding the opposite direction from Reedsburg.

I was graduated from Ripon in 1965 and thought it would be fun to return 47 years later by bicycle! I contacted the college about my ride for NAMI and Ric was kind enough to offer to ride with me for the day. Despite some rain in the morning, it was a beautiful ride through the rolling hills.

Ric kept me pedaling so hard that I did not take many photos. In fact, I realized to my dismay after the ride ended that I hadn’t even taken a picture of Ric in his Ripon College cycling regalia, so you’ll just have to imagine it, complete with matching socks emblazoned with the Ripon logo! But here’s a shot of Ric lifted from a college publication (with apologies).

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I did manage to snap this shot of a passing Amish carriage-one of quite a few that we saw in the countryside around Ripon.

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When we reached the college campus, Ric took this photo of me in front of Shaler Hall, where I lived my freshman year, beginning 51 years ago in 1961!

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Thanks for sharing the ride, Ric! It was fun to meet you and to see the college again. I have always felt my years there prepared me well for future education (Masters in Zoology and law degree from the University of California) and just for life.

The Answer

We drive up Interstate 5 from Oregon to the Sabin’s near Seattle often. On the way, we always pass the exit to Onalaska, Washington, and invariably wondered where the name came from. On Wednesday (July 25), as I was riding out of Onalaska, Wisconsin, toward Sparta, searching for the start of the Lacrosse River Trail, there it was-the answer-it means “dwelling together harmoniously” in Aleut.

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After about 20 miles on the Lacrosse trail, which is made of crushed limestone, I spotted the water tower for Sparta. If you look closely, you will see there is a bicycle riding across the face of the tower.

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From Sparta, I continued on another limestone trail, the famous Elroy to Sparta trail.

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It is a rails to trails conversion, and, besides the beautiful countryside, one of the things for which it’s famous is the three spooky old train tunnels along the way. Since I was going “backward” on the trail, I entered Tunnel # 3 first. It is 3800+ feet long and, for a LONG time after entering it, I could see no light at the other end. Water dripped from the ceiling, landing on my head, and I could hear sizable streams of water flowing down either side of the tunnel, forcing me to stay in the center. I had a light on my bike but it simply illuminated the clouds of fine mist swirling up from the tunnel floor, like high beams reflect off the fog. A sign at the cave entrance announced that bikes must be walked through. How anyone could have ridden is beyond me. To complete the picture, this sign was at the entrance to the cave announcing that the bats in the cave must be protected from disease but incidentally making clear that bats would be present.

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I was totally alone inside that tunnel for what seemed like an eternity with just the sounds of running water and my cleats crunching against the gravel. I was happy finally to see the light at the far end.

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The other two tunnels were not as bad as tunnel # 3, although tunnel # 1 also involved a considerable walk in the dark before the exit was visible. Before entering tunnel # 1, I saw these hillsides terraced with corn. I thought it was interesting because, before this, I had seen corn growing on hills but the hills retained there natural configuration. In the US, other than the rice fields in California’s Central Valley, I cannot recall seeing cropland terraced like this.

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This next shot is just to provide an idea of what most of the trail looked like-just a ribbon of crushed limestone without much in the way of uphills or downhills. It was serene but slow, given that my bike did not freewheel at all on the limestone. I had to pedal every inch.

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Slippage

The switch from having my ride assisted by Cycle America to being supported for the final week’s ride by my dear friend H. Malarkey Wall caused some slippage in my blogging schedule. So I will attempt to catch up on the last three days of riding plus the Sunday off all in one entry.

On Saturday (July 21), the ride was from Hutchinson to Northfield, MN. I skipped part of it to give myself time to pack for my departure, but I did ride about 52 miles from Belle Plaine to Northfield. It was a beautiful ride through green, rolling hills with quite a few lakes. Here’s a shot of some of the hills.

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On Sunday (July 22), we had our weekly rest day. This week, since we now have a car, we spent the time in Minneapolis/St. Paul. We went to REI, where I purchased a new seat for my bike which I hope will relieve some of the problems I have had with saddle sores.

After dealing with the exchange of information with a young man who plowed into the rear of our rental car (no one was hurt-the car was just scratched up), we took a long walk around St. Paul. I shot this view as we walked across a bridge over the Mississippi.

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And this is a boat on the river that bills itself as a bed and breakfast.

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After a delightful dinner at Pazzaluna Italian restaurant, we drove up to the historical residential area and saw the homes of James J. Hill, founder of the Great Northern railroad, and author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Here’s a shot of Fitzgerald’s.

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On Monday morning (July 23), I was due to begin riding again, but we had to drive to the airport to exchange rental cars and then drive back to Northfield so I could continue the ride from the Northfield High where it ended on Saturday.

By the time I got started riding, it was noon.  The first little town I passed was Randolph, MN, where I was amused to learn the high school team was the “Rockets.” My high school team in Park Forest, Illinois, was the Rockets and I had not seen a team by that name since. Here is a photo of the Minnesota Rockets’ field.

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Later, I rode through Cannon Falls, home of Cycle America, with whom I rode the first five weeks of this journey. Here I am in front of the headquarters.

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The country between there and Redwing was beautiful. 

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Here was the first sign I was entering Redwing.

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After Redwing and after crossing the Mississippi into Wisconsin, I began the long ride along the shores of beautiful Lake Pepin. It was formed because the strong current of the Chippewa River at the southern end washed sand across the path of the Mississippi and backed up the bigger river because its current was more sluggish.  Here’s  the whole explanation.

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Here’s a photo I took of the river as I was nearing the city of Pepin and the sun was going down.

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On Tuesday morning (July 24), I rode out of Pepin for Onalaska. It was raining pretty steadily, so I did not get any decent photos until later in the day. I took this one of a beautiful garden at a farm outside Trempealeau.

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Trempealeau has done a great job of preserving its history. Here is a shot looking down the main street toward the railroad and the river. The Trempealeau Hotel is on the left. That’s where I got my pass to ride on the Wisconsin State Trail between there and Onalaska.

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I finally arrived in Onalaska at about 8 pm. On Wednesday, it’s on to Reedsburg.

Montevideo to Hutchinson

For anyone who was concerned about it, the bike that was featured yesterday dangling from a basketball net was retrieved and its owner, a young man from Vermont happily did the whole ride today.

Today, (July 20), we rode through incredible quantities of corn, soy beans, and sugar beets. We had lunch at Olivia, Minnesota, which bills itself as “the corn capital.” Just to prove it, they have this kiosk featuring a giant ear of corn.

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Just before Olivia, in Danube, Minnesota, a local man who stopped to ask me what in the world caused all the cyclist to come streaming through his town told me that the huge, open trucks full of corn that regularly passed us were sweet corn bound for the nearby Green Giant factory.

As I continued on through Olivia, I snapped this shot of the courthouse there.

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Soon, we were back riding through the Minnesota countryside. One thing I had been noticing all day long was that almost every farm home is surrounded by a forest of several acres with the silos, barns, and other outbuildings on the southeast side of the forest, or sometimes completely surrouded by forest. A local man who stopped along the road as I was photographing one of these arrangements explained that the trees shield the buildings from the snow in the winter and the weather normally comes out of the northwest. Here’s a photo of a typical farm forest.

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And here is a different home featuring a beautiful flower garden out front.

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Tomorrow, we ride to our final destination in Minnesota, Northfield.

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