Day 32 Malaca MN to Siren WI.
My third 'normal' day in a row: I have now effectively taken a rest day. Today was beautiful till about 1:00 PM, then a big storm passed through western WI and, when I started riding again after 2:30, it was cold (in the 50s F), windy (10 mph or so from the north east), and wet (intermittent light rain). I only managed another 15 miles in the next hour and a half and I was pretty miserable most of that time. Heavy traffic with only a two foot shoulder on WI 70 didn't help, but the main problem was the cold headwind | crosswind.
I found an inexpensive motel in Siren (nice place - Pine Wood Motel) and, with the help of the owner figured out that I could probably afford to stop here. Since yesterday's ride in the rain, my cold, which started after riding into Dodge City in a deluge, had worsened, and today's ride was threatening to really make me sick. Anyway, God willing and the creek don't rise, I think I can make my next stopping point, Iron River MI, in two, pretty long, days. There is a big hole in available places to stay between here and there, but I hope to find something roughly in the middle. Park Falls is looking like my best chance. It is 110 miles from here, but the weather forecast is for very good weather (today was 'afternoon showers' - yeah, about an inch worth of rain in that shower...) - if it holds I should be OK.
I left Milaca at 8 AM this morning. Riding conditions were excellent. No wind, moderate temperature, sunshine, light traffic, and a great shoulder. The best riding conditions I've seen since I entered Minnesota - actually since I rode from Cheyenne to Lusk WY or maybe since that great 'frontage road' east of the Badlands. I stopped in Ogilvie for a snack and then rode on to just south of Mora where I headed south on MN 65. It was just as good a road as MN 23!
Four or five miles later I headed east on MN 70. This was a smaller, less well surfaced road with no shoulder, but little traffic. MN 23 had accustomed me to riding with traffic, but on a usually great shoulder, and the first part of MN 70 reminded me how nice it is to ride without traffic. MN 70 heads east for seven miles, then jogs south for two miles or so and then heads east again, crossing I-35 at Rock Creek. I stopped at the Rock Creek Cafe for a great second breakfast. My first breakfast, at about 7 AM, was a not to great continental breakfast. My second breakfast, at about 11 AM after some 40 miles of great riding, was two very large pancakes, two eggs, and three links of sausage. Excellent.
I headed on down the road towards Wisconsin, about ten miles away. Riding conditions deteriorated as soon as I crossed I-35. No shoulder, a bumpy road, and moderate traffic in heavy bursts. I'd ride for a few minute in relative peace and then be passed by a dozen cars and trucks in a group. It wasn't bad because almost all of the drivers were polite, but it sure was comedown from what I had become used to in Minnesota. As I rode I was trying to remember a time on this tour where I had had worse riding conditions due to traffic. The few miles I rode on TN 96 coming into Dickson TN were worse. That was a lot of miles ago!
When MN 70 became WI 70 after crossing the St Croix, it became much smoother and acquired a two foot wide shoulder. Traffic was still a pain, but riding was pretty good. Climbing out of the river valley required that I use my granny gears for the first time today. I also acquired a horse fly as company for a while. He, unlike some smaller flies in MN, didn't manage to bite me.
I got to Grantsburg WI about 12:30 and stopped for a snack. This was the planned midpoint of my days ride. About 12:45, when I was ready to ride again, a local person commented "Looks like rain is coming." Indeed it did. In the morning a big storm had formed south of me and moved east. Coming into Grantburg I had noticed that another storm had formed to the west and was now raining on where I had been riding earlier. That storm was headed for Grantsville. I prepared my bike for rain and rode on. I didn't get out of Grantsburg before the first rain drops fell. Looking back across the valley I could see a 'wall' of heavy rain coming so I decided to take shelter in Grantsburg.
There were signs for a museum so I followed the signs into town and through town to the museum. It was only open on sundays from 1 till 4 PM! OK how about a library? I couldn't find one, but in the process of looking I saw some shelters with picnic tables by the lake. The rain was starting to get heavy, so I headed back to the lake and got under one of those shelters just before that wall of water arrived.
Have you ever spent time under a metal roof in a heavy rain? It is both deafening and delightful. When I first got to the shelter, a city worker who had been trimming grass in the park was also sheltering there. We talked, shouted really, during that first heavy rain, then he, deciding it was going to last for a while, ran to his truck and drove back to 'the barn.' I put on my light rain jacket and waited it out. It was quite a storm, but the shelter held six picnic tables so I was able to stay fairly dry by getting on the downwind side of the shelter. The wind was from the west so I was at the east end of the shelter. An hour later, when the rain had pretty well passed, the wind shifted to the north east. I was heading east. Curses.
I rode out about 2:30 in much cooler, much wetter, and much windier conditions than I had ridden in earlier in the day. Traffic was heavier too and the wind was a cross/head wind coming across the road. This made for bad wind (and sand) blasts from trucks coming the other way. Almost all the traffic was very considerate, but riding conditions were lousy. I only managed another fifteen miles at an average speed of less than 10 mph before I had the opportunity to quit. I quit. If I had to, I could have done the next 26 miles to Spooner, but I didn't have to and I'm thankful for that. Tomorrow will be a better day for riding! Once I get past Spooner this horrible traffic should abate and, if the weather cooperates it should be a good riding day.
Friday afternoon or evening in the summer is not a good time to be on WI 70 in western WI. Live and learn. When the weather folks in the twin cities forecast "possibly the best weekend of the summer" lots of folks head for the north woods.