Gravelly independence

It seems like most people spend Independence Day (that’s July 4 to you foreigners) picnicking and boating and grilling and drinking cheap American beer.

We ride.

I have a deep an abiding affection for riding on gravel. It’s the perfect combination of road and off-road. Unfortunately for me, southcentral Wisconsin is not blessed with a network of graveled agricultural roads that one finds in Minnesota or Iowa or Illinois (or a great many other farm states). The dairy industry went out of their way to get local roads paved so that milk trucks could make it through no matter the weather. This leaves us with an abundance of excellent country roads, but not much in the way of gravel.

So, when we want to ride on the gravels we have three choices within riding distance of home: the Military Ridge Trail, the Glacial Drumlin Trail, and the Badger State Trail.  We’re both partial to the Badger–more shade, better scenery, and a long curved tunnel–and so we opted for that.

I met Michael at 8am and we were off for points west by about 8:15am. He was riding a newly single-speeded Trek 400 of uncertain (at least to me; I’m sure he knows) vintage and I was riding the Albatross, running a 36×16 fixed drivetrain.

Crossing the bridge in Belleville (photo by Michael)

We rolled along at a moderate pace until we reached the tunnel, where we found that the flashlight I’d brought alone was so dim that it didn’t penetrate the gloom. I wasn’t feeling much like stumbling along in the dark, so we rode over the bypass.

Climbing the hills (and for me descending them) was a bit of a leg-breaker, but at least we earned a fine view of the surrounding country (unlike the last time we come through this area, it being too foggy then to see anything).

After a brief stop in Monticello to fill the bottles and don a neckerchief soaked in cold water–it was starting to climb into the 80s–we carried on toward Monroe in search of milkshakes and shade.

As we entered Monroe on the Badger, we found that the old iron-decked bridge was gone in favor a good deal of construction–and what will ultimately result in a new but less interesting bridge.

We backtracked somewhat and stopped in downtown Monroe in search of sustenance, but everything was closed.

So we opted for an old standby: Culver’s for a burger and a very large chocolate shake. At least half of this formula would later prove to be very nearly a very bad idea.

By the time we finished with our lunch, it was just about noon and starting to get warmer and sunnier. And we started to get hotter and hotter, as well as a bit tired. Both of us passed through a couple of periods of mild overheat and we had to stop more often for water and rest (and sugary drinks in Belleville). We took the tunnel even though we had no lights, just to cool off (tip: a camera flash comes in handy in a dark tunnel).

Conversation was somewhat less frequent on the way home. By the time we returned to the paved portion of the trail at Purcell Road, we were both glad of it and ready to be home and off the bikes.

I made it home just after 4pm having pedaled EFI of a little more than 85 miles, 2/3 of which was on gravel. I was gone about 8 hours, but riding time was more like 6.5 hours. My legs were tired, I was a bit sore, and certainly glad to be off the bike by the time I got home.

Then we grilled (hot dogs and italian sausages), picnicked, and drank very cold cheap America lager (Capitol Supper Club).

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