We recently made a camping trip to Vilas County in northeast Wisconsin. This is an area filled with forests, lakes, and welcoming community towns. We took our bicycles with the intent of riding the Heart of Vilas Bike Trail. This 52-mile paved trail was a gem to ride. At times we were in the thick of the woods following a curving and winding trail, and at other times we were riding along the shore of beautiful lakes. We rode trail sections that were relatively flat and then we also rode some short rolling hills – perfect for gaining enough momentum going down to get you almost to the top of the next hill. We rode over bridges spanning streams and wetlands. We saw deer looking at us from within the woods and we saw turkeys crossing the trail. With hot sunshine and warm breezes we made a stop for ice cream (twice). On the second day the late afternoon clouds rolled in and the rain began, but we were under a tree canopy and protected from the heaviest drops. And as quickly as it started, the rain passed out of the area. It was a memorable trip and we’ll look forward to a return trail ride in the future.
Tuesday morning we packed up our bicycles, a credit card, and a change of clothing, drove northwest 180 miles to Akeley, Minnesota where we met a friend, and started riding the Heartland State Trail. This trail was one of the very first rail-to-trail projects in the United States. We had about 15 drops of rain as we began our ride east to the town of Walker. After a lunch stop we connected with the Paul Bunyan State Trail, turning northwest. And as luck would have it we were being pushed along by a southeast wind and accompanied by overcast skies to keep the summer heat at bay. After 42 miles of riding through fields, forests, and remnants of logging and railroad towns we arrived in Bemidji. Sleep came easily after the fresh-air, exercise, and a delightful dinner on a patio overlooking Lake Bemidji.
The next morning we woke to a dark-cloud sky, winds gusting from the south and southwest, and whitecaps rolling over the lake surface. There was no one along the beach except the gulls and geese. The sun would break through the clouds, but the wind continued to howl. We took our time before getting back on our bikes, waiting for the winds to shift again, which they did, now blowing from the northwest – perfect for pushing us the 42 miles back on the trails to where we started in Akeley.
It was a great two-day adventure. There were stories told and laughs shared amongst the three of us as the miles passed by under our bike tires. The scenery was beautiful, the trails were good, the bicycling was invigorating, and the people we met along the way were delightful — a perfect way to take in summer in northern Minnesota.
We recently spent a week bicycling across Nebraska with the BRAN (Bicycle Ride across Nebraska). It was a wonderful adventure filled with amazing scenery, a diverse topography, the most genial and friendly people, and sunshine! We started in Chadron (west side of the state) and ended in Fremont (east side of the state). Our 400+ miles of travel took us through the Sandhills of Nebraska, fields of corn in the agricultural area, and the rolling hills of the eastern side as we were closer to the rivers. The flooding the state has dealt with this spring was evident as we saw washouts along the Elkhorn River and standing water in so many fields. We are appreciative of the people who welcomed us in their towns and were so generous with their Nebraskan hospitality. To me, a bicycle ride is the perfect way to see and appreciate the landscape, terrain, and people — it’s as upclose an experience as you can get on a journey along highways and biways.
We just got back from a 425 mile ride along the Wisconsin River, starting in the northeast corner of Wisconsin in Eagle River and ending in Prairie du Chien. For seven days, we got to experience the beauty of the state – from the lakes and woods in the north, to the agriculture and dairies, to the bluffs and the hills of the southwest. What none of us were ready for was six days of riding in the rain. Although it didn’t rain entire days, each day necessitated rain jackets and rain gear. And after five consecutive wet days, this was the scene overnight in Baraboo – shoes and clothes lined up on a gym floor hoping to dry out before morning. But as luck would have it, it wasn’t really necessary because we woke to rain again on the sixth day. Because of all the rain and storms, the Wisconsin River was over its banks and was roaring downstream – an amazing sight to see. The seventh day, our final day of riding, dawned with sunshine and blue sky. Needless to say, it was a treat to finish our ride without rain.
On a recent bicycle ride through the countryside, I saw this common scene – freshly cut hay bales scattered across a field, blue sky and clouds overhead. Here in Minnesota we’ve had more than our usual amount of rain, leaving the landscape lush and green. The hay harvest has been done and appears to be plentiful. Unfortunately some of our neighboring states have been battling severe drought, decimating their hay fields and other crops. Like the help that was given earlier this year to farmers in Kansas and Oklahoma, many people are offering their hay to those suffering in North and South Dakota that have none. A wonderful reminder of the good that takes place and yet is often overlooked.