Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday September 13, 2014: Houlton, WI to Siren, WI

This morning we awoke to a cold 32 degrees!!! I’m not ready for this!!   Cal pulled out another layer of clothes!  Plus, at 7:00 am there was heavy fog.  However the sun was trying to burn it off!  Due to the fog we ate a leisurely breakfast and did not rush in packing the vehicle.  By the time we came to the spot where Cal stopped riding yesterday the fog had almost lifted, but due to construction we drove a few miles farther before he began riding this morning. 

As I said yesterday we are now following the St Croix River.  We will follow it north to St Croix Falls, but at that point the river curves northwest and we will follow the road north east.  Away from the river we were again dairy land.  I took a few photos of barns with silos and dairy.  I even saw those brown and white cows that give the milk for twist ice cream cones!!!  Chocolate and vanilla! 

Dairy Farm 

Guernsey Cows
Cal found a bike trail on which he road for approximately 7 miles, however it had a gravel surface.  He opted for the highway which had smooth shoulders.  Gravel slows him down and is twice the effort to peddle. 
Beside dairy, hay, soybeans and corn I saw another crop that I could not identify (somewhat like a soybean plant, but shorter and different).  Then all of a sudden coming toward me on the road were these huge pickers – 7 of them – big combines like machines for soybeans or corn, but they had a huge roller on the front.  I saw the field these pickers had just left, but I still had no idea what they were picking.  Then I noticed a semi-trailer that was being loaded from these pickers.  I pulled up to the semi and asked the driver what it was they were picking – Green beans!!!! Tons of green beans for a canning factory in the area! Very interesting!  Yesterday we saw fields that we think were sweetcorn for canning/freezing for human consumption.  The plant and tassel looked different than regular field corn grown on farms, plus the plants were greener.  We keep seeing roadside stands still selling sweet corn. I would love to buy some but how would I prepare it! We know there is a Jolly Green Giant processing plant within 100 miles of this part of Minnesota/Wisconsin, but there is another processor in this area.   

Green Bean Pickers
Today I did stop at a Farmers Market and bought a container of locally grown cherry tomatoes.  I was looking for fruit, and this was my option.  They were great.
Cal rode as far as Siren, WI today but the hotels/motels in town were full due to 3 weddings and a funeral, so we had to drive to where we are tonight.            

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014: Hager City, WI to Houlton, WI

Our Rotary event is over (all went well) and now it is “back to business”!  The temperatures have dropped some more!! This morning it was 43 degrees when we woke up!! We loaded our gear and drove north again (100 miles) to Red Wing, where we crossed the Mississippi to begin riding where Cal had stopped on Tuesday in Hager City, WI. Due to the length of our drive north, breakfast, and a stop to buy gloves and head gear, it was 10:30 before Cal was on his bike. 

One of the rocky bluffs we drove past

Another Train along the Highway
Somehow the hills have not diminished!  It reminds Cal of riding RAGBRAI through southern Iowa, one hill after another!!
Today our views of the Mississippi have been more hindered with trees, but the rail tracks and the river are still to the west.  At Prescott the Mississippi River continues more westerly through the cities of St Paul & Minneapolis while the St Croix River flows into the Mississippi from the north.  At Prescott we continued north in Wisconsin so instead of following the Mississippi we are now following the St Croix River.
I really did not take many photos today.  There is a Great River Visitors Center in Prescott, where the St Croix flows into the Mississippi, but viewing was very poor due to trees in the foreground.
Tonight Cal stopped riding in Houlton, WI so that we could cross the River into Stillwater, MN where we are staying.
A Tree Farm Along the Highway

A Horse Farm


Tuesday, September 9, 2014 - Marshland, to Hager City, WI

Overnight we had rain, but by morning only cloudy skies remained.  Since we stayed in Trempealeau overnight, this morning we needed to drive back to the end of the bike trail where Cal had stopped riding last night. Cal actually rode about 10 miles this morning before we stopped in Fountain City for breakfast. Due to the cloudy conditions and the storm that passed through last night, the temperatures have fallen.  We are not ready for this!!   

Marsh along the edge of The Mississippi River

The Mighty Mississippi River

The Church in Fountain City

A small Barge on the Mississippi River
Today we went through several towns with nice gift shops.  I spent time in Alma & Stockholm. In Alma we also saw a barge going through Lock & Dam #4.   Later we had ice cream in Pepin, WI the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder (of Little House on the Prairie fame).  Pepin has a very nice museum relating to Laura and the time in which she lived.  I did not drive 7 miles into the country where a replica cabin is located on the land previously owned by Laura’s family (her birthplace). 
Lock and Dam in Alma, Wisconsin

A barge going through the Dam

The Train coming by the Dam

A memorial in Alma, Wisconsin
There continue to be pull-out areas for Mississippi River viewing and historical markers.  Many locations along the Mississippi and other waterways flowing into the Mississippi have French and Indian history, as these were the interstate highways of the day!

The topography is again hilly for Cal but he reached his destination of Hager City, WI.  There is a bridge crossing the Mississippi River from Hager City to Red Wing, MN.  On the Minnesota side of the River, Hwy 61 is a major highway. You have to plan where to cross the Mississippi as there are not bridges at every town.  From Red Wing, MN we drove south approximately 100 miles (1 ½ hours) to return to La Crosse, WI -Crossing the Mississippi again!  We will be in La Crosse until Friday morning for a Rotary event.  I took a photo from our hotel lobby of the Mississippi River Bridge at La Crosse.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014: from Lock & Dam #9, (north of Prairie du Chien, WI) to Marshland, WI

It was a beautiful day for bike riding – a cool tail wind.  Any hills were just low rolling hills - there were no serious climbs today.  By noon Cal had ridden 50 miles, and he stopped after 78 miles at 4:00.  We did fairly well finding our way through La Crosse on back streets or streets with bike lanes (wasn’t the most direct way, but the best).  We decided to continue north of La Crosse and he rode another 32 miles.  It was about 1:30 when we found a bike trail (old rail road bed) that ran for 20 miles.  The surface was not smooth so it cut down on his speed, but he was away from any traffic. 

Great River State Trail

One of 20 Bridges on the Trail

A Marsh area with Wild Rice - From the Trail

Cal Finishing the Trail
I found lodging in a village of Trempealeau, at the “Inn on the River”.  We literally are along the river. It is the river, rail tracks, street and the Inn.  As I have been writing this, a Tugboat with an empty barge came past, traveling north.  From our room we can also see Lock & Dam #6, which the barge and tugboat just came through.  It is great to see life on the river.  The owner of the Inn told me, “People come here just to watch the water moving”!!    
Our Lodging for the Night

View of the river from our room
The Mississippi River was in our sights most of the day - to our left side as we travel north.  I took a lot of photos of this majestic river. Also there were pull-outs where historical markers were posted, recalling important historic events along the river.  There are not a lot of bridges that cross the Mississippi, so each one is important.  Today we were completely away from the cornfields, with their millions of bushels of corn. Instead it was the river, marshes, and backwaters.  We are now north of the Iowa border, so the bluffs on the western side of the river are in Minnesota. 

Today we saw 4 Locks and Dams - #9 is just north of Prairie du Chien, #8 is at Genoa, #7 is at Onalaska, and #6 is here at Trempealeau.  As we travel north we will see # 5A, #5, #4, & #3, before we follow the St Croix River north to Duluth, MN.
Bridge Across the Mississippi to Lansing, Iowa

As I said before, a double set of rail tracks run between the road and the river.  This morning driving/riding north of Prairie du Chien we saw at least 7 trains in queue to travel south before I stopped counting.  Trains were traveling north, so we don’t know if there are certain hours when they travel in their designated direction.  Since our lodging is so close to the tracks it will be interesting how much the train disturbs us tonight - there should be no whistles, as there are no crossings.
Bluffs along the River

Going Fishing

The Road we are Following

Great use of an old Gas Station - Computer Store and Chiropractor's Office
Tomorrow we plan to continue traveling north until mid-afternoon before we load up the bike to drive south, back to La Crosse, for the conference we will be attending on Wednesday and Thursday.  Cal will need some rest by that time!!   

Sunday, September 7, 2014

South of Prairie Du Chien to north of town - Sunday, September 7, 2014: (45 Miles)

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, a little crisp, but warming up by the time Cal started riding.  He had more hills to climb and cruise down.  There continued to be motorcycle and other recreational traffic.  The campgrounds along the Mississippi looked full.  In fact some said, “No vacancy”! There was a moderate amount of boat traffic on the river by afternoon.  Autumn is here and warm days on the river are limited.  

Along the Mississippi River it depends on how close the bluffs are to the river as to where the road is located. The railroad tracks are always at river level, graded high enough in case there is flooding, but there is not always space for a road, so therefore the road climbs around the bluff.  There are little towns along the river that were vibrant “in their day”, but now they are in pretty sad shape.
It has been interesting to see cemeteries (currently used ones) in the middle of cornfields.  We somewhat do that in southeast Iowa too, but some of these are bare of trees.
Rural Cemetery in the Corn Field

Contour Farming


Wild Sun Flowers
I continue to enjoy the contour of the farming.  The farmers are cutting the final crop of hay for this growing season and they are beginning to cut corn for silage to feed their dairy or feeder cattle (cattle to be fatten for beef processing) this winter.     
Along the river I saw this crane in a backwater lagoon.  I have not seen any 4-legged wildlife but I have seen some birdlife.  The main flower that is blooming along the roadsides is goldenrod with a few miniature sunflowers.
Railroad Along the River

Railroad and Highway

Fishing on the Mississippi River

Blue Herring
Cal rode 45 miles today.  Part of his ride today was a 2 1/2 mile out of the Mississippi river flood plain.  He rode north of Prairie du Chien, but we had to return to Prairie due Chien for a motel. There is not much in the way of towns with services between these two cities. Even cell phones do not work well.  We hope to get to LaCrosse, WI tomorrow. The paved shoulder along the road is not in good condition, but Cal had to use it due to the amount of traffic today.  If all goes well we may go a little farther north of Lacrosse, returning to LaCrosse for the night.  We just hope there are not too many hills tomorrow!!   

Western Dubuque, IA to near Praririe du Chien, WI - Saturday, September 6, 2014:

As predicted for this morning, the day was bright and clear, but it was definitely chilly – in the mid 50’s!!  We also realized again that it is nice to live in southeast Iowa where it is warmer!! It was cool enough this morning for a fleece jacket and socks. 

Uniquely Shaped Barn

Iowa Countryside - Entering Fall

An Appropriately Named Road

As we knew, the hills just kept coming at us!!  Every time you go down a hill, there is another “UP”!! You can be on a ridge for a while, but then you go down to the river bottom, and after you go down, up you go again!!  Cal climbed out of three river bottoms today, including the Mississippi.  Two climbs went on for a length of 2 miles. Cal takes these hills at a slower pace than a regular two wheeled bike, but he climbs everyone!  Today he was only able to ride 55 miles due to the hills. 

Pumpkin Patch ready to be picked

Beautiful Farm House

The topography remains the same with beautiful homestead along the road, on the distance hills and in the valleys.  I keep seeing Grant Wood’s Iowa everywhere.  Northeast Iowa has more dairy and beef herds than southeast Iowa.  Due to the dairy, the farmers raise lots of alfalfa hay.  There is nothing like the smell of newly mowed hay, plus the designs of the cut hay are interesting.   When you are going the pace that I am driving, you notice all of these things, plus the smells “of money”!   Some farmers mow all of the waterways and road ditches - keeping the weeds in check, but it also looks so much neater. 
In every little village/town in this part of northeast Iowa there is a Catholic church.  After taking several photos I began to realize that they look alike or at least very similar - must have used the same architect. I did not take the time to see if you could enter them - it would have been interesting if their interiors were different. You can see their lovely steeples miles away. 
Upon entering one town you see two steeples - one is now a gift shop as the two congregations combined, but for years there was an Irish Catholic congregation and a German Catholic congregation in this town.  
Iowa Calves in a Feedlot

Iowa Barn Quilt

Cattle being fed

Holy Cross Catholic Church
We arrived at the ferry landing a few minutes after the ferry left our side of the river, so we had to wait the full cycle until it returned.  There was only one other vehicles on the ferry with us, but on the other side numerous motorcycles were waiting to cross. 
Luxemburg, Iowa Catholic Church
Barge on the Mississippi River

Approaching Cassville, Wisconsin

Cassville Ferry Dock

We did not ride the whole way into Prairie Du Chien tonight, so tomorrow we will have to drive back to where were stopped this afternoon.
Freshly Mowed Hay showing the contour

The last hill of the day
For dinner tonight we ate at the Jones’ Supper Club.  It reminded us of the Iris Restaurant in Mt Pleasant.  The food was great.  The Prime Ribs were to die for!! They were 1 ½ inches thick! Unreal!!!  Cal & I split a steak dinner and there was enough food for another person!!