Day 41 Duluth Minnesota to Bad River Casino Wisconsin
Pier and breakwater on Lake Superior in Ashland Wisconsin
This was a better day bicycling than any of the previous four days. Most of the day was spent bicycling through extreme northern Wisconsin on US 2 and, despite too much traffic, that was pretty good bicycling. The day began, in heavy fog, riding through, or more accurately around, Duluth and over the channel on the walkway part of US 2.
My bike, with strobe and reflector on the walkway
Although I rode into Duluth and out of Superior on US 53, it turned out that 'you can't get there from here' on US 53, even in a car, thanks to construction. My motel gave me good routing advice last night: don't even try to go through town, go back out and go around on Haines Rd which comes down to the channel near the US 2 bridge. Then find the walkway and ride across on that.
I mounted my xenon strobe on the back of my bike, and rode off into the fog. The fog was heavy enough that I had to stop several times to wipe of my glasses so I could see. Not being able to see was especially exciting coming down the long hill on Harris at 30 mph. The road was bumpy and curvy and the fog was thick. After I got down to the channel, the fog wasn't a problem, but finding the access to the bridge took several tries, one which ended with me having to ride out of an interstate entrance. Fortunately, traffic was light.
The bridge! That is the walkway swooping in on the right
The walkway near the high span
The ride over the channel, even with my own, very nice, walkway, was challenging because of the wind. Especially when trucks or bridge elements blocked the strong crosswind momentarily, it was hard to keep the bike from running into the wall.
US Truck Route 2
When I finally reached Wisconsin, I found myself on US Truck Route 2, which wandered so much that, when it ended at a four lane expressway, I ended up going west. I knew something was wrong when I had a tailwind, so I stopped - in a protected crossover in the middle of the road - and checked my compass. Then, after waiting for a break in the traffic, I headed east. Superior WI is not a great place to ride a bike, but it wasn't terrible either. It was cold, just like Duluth, and windy, just like Duluth, but I was comfortable with my light weight vest on over my shirt.
US 2 - US 53 in Superior
It had taken me more than an hour to get out of Duluth, so I stopped for a break at a McDs in Superior. I had coffee and their version of apple pie ala mode. Not bad. Then I rode on to find the familiar construction signs. I did mention that this was US 53, my nemesis road under construction, as well as US 2, that I was riding.
Construction - four lanes to two for the next six miles
The worst part of the construction was right at the beginning where there was still a curb and no shoulder. A block or two later, it was OK with a decent shoulder. A big truck waited for me for the last half a block, since he couldn't pass me safely before that. Things soon became expressway like and I stopped at the Wisconsin Welcome Center to pick up a map. They do things just about as well as the Canadian Info Centers. Nice! When I left the center, I saw that was not supposed to be riding this expressway! Hmm, they should tell a person that before letting him get a mile or two down the road. It was only a few miles more till US 2 and I would part company (off of the bad road at last!) with US 53, so I figured I could ignore the sign and pretend ignorance if I was stopped.
The 'expressway' under construction US 2 / US 53
Ahh! Off of US 53 at last
Riding really did improve when I was able to head east on US 2. Traffic noise was much less, the shoulder was narrower, but smooth, and the road was a bit hilly. Wind was still a bit of a problem, but it got less as I got farther from the lake.
Coming into Iron River, yes that is Iron River on the right
I stopped for a good lunch a Mother's Café in Poplar and for desert - they had run out of pie at Mother's - in Iron River. The pie place in Iron River offered pie and coffee for $2.25 between 2 and 4 PM. I had two cups of coffee and a slice of good strawberry-rhubarb pie and was set for the next fifteen miles. Unfortunately, there is nothing but several bars in the next 25 miles, so I stopped on a side road about eight miles from Ashland for a break.
US 2 was busy, but enjoyable riding
The twenty miles between Iron River and where I stopped for a break was the best riding of the day. Wind was not a problem except at the crests of hills, the road was too busy, but that wasn't much of a problem either, and the rolling hills were nice riding. The paving was not as good as it had been earlier, with much of this section having unpleasant expansion gaps. Riding was pretty thud-thud on those shoulders, but much of the time I could ride in the lane where they had put down strips of asphalt in the tire paths.
Pretty, but dangerous - that yellow blob is the wide load that I bailed out for
All was not perfect, even discounting the abuse to my butt caused by the expansion cracks. I had to bail out once when I looked in my mirror and saw a wide load approaching that extended completely over the paved part of the shoulder. I had missed seeing one of those in Washington - these are trucks carrying house roof supports that stick out half a dozen feet to the outside of the lane - and that one pulled out just far enough to clear my head with its load. I still remember the woosh as those beams passed near my head! This time I just headed off the road and stopped to let the truck pass. There were a lot of big dump trucks hauling dirt in this direction. Most were very considerate, but one of them, who I apparently pissed off by staying in the lane too long - he beeped at me when he was still a quarter mile away, did the classic wheels on the white line pass to show me who owned that part of the road. Since that put his, very large, wheels about a foot away from me with a 40 mph or better speed differential, I wasn't happy with his behavior.
Northern Wisconsin Visitors Center
Shortly after my last break, I stopped at the Northern Wisconsin Visitors Center. This a palatial place - somebody got some great pork barrel here - that offers info about tourism in northern Wisconsin. I got good info from the very nice folks inside. These people are trying to out do Canada in being helpful to tourists! My question was what were my options once I passed Ashland. The answer was where I'm staying tonight.
I rode about 80 miles to Ashland from Duluth. It is another forty miles to Ironwood Michigan. That actually seemed doable for a while, but then I came back in to the wind coming off of the lake. That was about the time I stopped for my break. Still, I could do more than 80 miles. The answer was the Bad River Casino and Lodge located ten miles east of Ashland. The folks at the visitors center even called and found out what it would cost me to stay here; less than it cost to stay in Duluth
I stopped at the Subway in Ashland, got a foot long sub, half for in as the Canadian's say, and half to take with me in case I did decide to ride that extra 30 miles. Just getting to Ashland was a challenge because of the strong winds off of the lake, and, as I rode on for another ten miles, those winds, although weaker than on the causeway coming into Ashland, still slowed me down. I could have made it to Ironwood, but not without really pushing my body, and my body tends to get injured when I do that. This is far enough to make it possible, with good weather, to get to Iron River Michigan tomorrow.
My room is great - huge, with two queen beds and enough wall space to park my bike without blocking anything, and very comfortable. However, there are some problems: the Casino restaurant is closed till August, so breakfast will be pretty grim, and I can't get an outside line - and I have been trying for two hours - so I don't expect to be able to check my email or to post this ride report from here.