Sunday, August 17, 2008

Straddling the Mississippi

Nice day here in the Midwest. Hot, mostly dry for a few days now. I've been on a mission ever since I became a mountain biker to ride trails in all 50 states. I'm getting close now. Even though I am more roadie than off-roadie these days, the dream of riding in every part of our great country has not subsided. I flew out here a day early on business so I could ride. From Rochester, Minnesota I can reach Iowa and Wisconsin. Today I hit all three states.

Ice Cave Park
Decorah, IA

This is straight south of Rochester on highway 52. This park, actually called Dunning's Springs park, is accompanied by Van Peenen and Palisades Parks. There are many miles of purpose built singletrack here. I rode most of it. The climbs probably don't exceed 300ft, but they are sure steep. I got in numerous VOmax intervals first thing this morning. These trails are cut into the bluffs that hug the Iowa River. There are many places a fall to the outside would result in a serious tumble. Being dry and of clay base, the trails were wicked fast. The corrugated landscape allowed trails to be built that induce as much adrenaline rush as a rollercoaster. Except here you have to earn your plummets. There is a real cave here too. I went part way inside it. Without a light and being alone, I did not venture far. You don't think of bluffs and caves when talking about Iowa. Took photos, but I don't have any application on this computer to reduce image sizes. I'll post a few after I get back. I rode about 14 miles in 1.6hrs here.

Human Powered Trails
La Crosse, WI

It is interesting as you approach the Mississippi River. The land becomes very deeply corrugated. I dropped down to La Crosse in what seemed like a canyon. From the bottom, you could just as well have been on Rt 100 in norther Vermont. The peaks and ridgelines were simply the height of the land that wasn't yet eroded away, not hills or mountains. The area away from rivers looks just like where I grew up in Michigan. Rolling hills, corn and soybeans as far as you can see. After crossing the Mississippi into Wisconsin, I had to deal with a P.I.A. detour to find my trail head. The Human Powered Trails is a small trail system. The large map at entrance says 6+ miles, but I bet there is at least twice that here. I rode about 95% of the singletrack. It was even more fun than Decorah. The trails were meticulously maintained and signed. The black rated trails (expert) were very tight with steep climbs and more than a few natural features I bobbled on. Tails like OB-1, Dark Side, French Connection, and boB Trail were my favorites. Many more 3 minute climbs to leave you gasping here. I rode about 12 miles in 1.3hrs. With about 3hrs of very peaky riding, my legs were about toast.

Holzinger Lodge
Winona, MN

I had planned to drive all the way up to Red Wing to hit the very popular MTB trails there. But it was a long haul, I was tired, and I was getting burned out on the driving. Winona was on the way and I decided spur of the moment to ride this place instead. I had no map. A map does not exist. The place is small though, and it overlooks the Mississippi River. It would be hard to get lost for any period of time. I started by going up. It became clear my choice of trails was wrong. Clearly I was going up a hiking path, as I had great difficulty carrying my bike up the thing. Later, coming down, I would find the way mountain bikers get to the top. Up top is a maze of trails. I was a little disappointed that there were only two marginal vantage points. There were a couple places that are shear cliffs, but trees and brush obstruct the view. The bluffs must be about 500ft above the valley. Heading back down the right way, I nailed a rock with my pedal. This was on trail benchcut into an extremely steep slope. I had just thought to myself "don't look down now." Next thing I'm careening over the edge. Thank God for grapevines. I could have tumbled a ways. After getting bodily limbs and bike untangled, damage assessment showed I had blood running down both legs in two places. Apparently my chain ring ripped through a sock and cut me good right along side the Achilles tendon. I had a knob the size of a golf ball on that shin too. It was time to call it a day. I was uber trashed from over 4hrs of riding.

So when I get back, I can color three more states in. This image is a bit dated, as I completed Nevada and Ohio last year. Looks like I have only eight states to go. The east and west have been canvassed well. Finally the Mississippi River has been straddled to connect to the two sides. I have secondary goals in the back of my head now. It would be cool to ride in each of the provinces of Canada as well. I plan to hit several areas of Canada over the next several years anyway. Might as well hit all of them. Mexico? Some parts aren't so safe, but mountain bike tourism is catching on there. I do plan to ride in South America (to 17,000ft) and in the Himalayas some day too. The highest motorable road in the world is there, over 18,000ft.

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