July 23 Thursday

Pepin WI to Sparta WI
(Mississippi River)

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© 1998 by Glenn Elert
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Distances (miles)
Day 96
Total 2281
Speeds (mph)
Average 12.3
Maximum 27.0
Expenses ($ US)
Lodging 36.08 
Cash 100.00 
ATM Fee 2.00 
Left Pepin south on Wisconsin Highway 35 parallel to the Mississippi River. The highway stayed close to the river so there were no hills. A good, wide shoulder and winds out of the Northwest. Excellent weather, by the way. Accidentally rode on to Wisconsin Highway 25. Figured I was going the wrong way when I saw a "Welcome to Minnesota" sign and a bridge over the river. Added maybe 4 miles with this little detour. Found an interesting action figure on the ground. A four inch high Frankenstein's monster with a translucent head and hands. Tied it to the front post with a rubber band like a masthead. photo
After 45 miles of highway riding, transferred to the Great River Trail. Took awhile to find the trail head. State maps show it intersecting with 35 but it's actually off the road at the very small, unincorporated hamlet of Marshland near the main entrance to the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge. There is an access road from the highway through the refuge that may effectively extend the trail, but it did not look like a legal way to enter. For some stupid reason, there is a fee to use the state trail system in Wisconsin. $3 a day or $10 a year for a pass. I picked up a yearly pass at a gas station in the town of Trempealeau. The trail is crushed limestone. Not as fast as asphalt but no potholes, cracks, or sections of broken pavement like the trails in Minneapolis. The Mississippi and the rivers feeding it braid through valleys called coulees here. Lots of interesting swamps and twisty little rivers. Upstream the river was dammed so it was more like a chain of lakes than a river. I prefer the wild look of this section. There are almost no level crossings on the trail.
Discover Onalaska
Bike Trail
Department of Natural Resources
Purple Loosestrife
Purple Loosestrife
Purple Loosestrife InfoCentre
  The Great River Trail ends in Onalaska, a suburb of LaCrosse. Several blocks of city streets and back alleys connect it to the aptly named LaCrosse River Trail. More development now than on the Mississippi. After a really big swamp, it's basically all farmland. That swamp, by the way, is choked with purple loosestrife, the kudzu of Wisconsin's wetlands. The farm animals along the trail have no curiosity about cyclists. They don't stare like most of the cows and horses I've encountered previously. Came whiffably close to a small pig farm. Maybe a dozen pigs, but an overpowering stench.
  Stopped at Sparta, "The Bicycling Capital of the World. Home of the World's Largest Bicycle". Ate at the A&W across the street from the motel. Heard this woman with the world's thickest Wisconsin accent place an order using the car-side intercom system. "Oh ya, and gimme a float, too." The counter staff got a chuckle out of listening to her speak. If you ask me, Fargo was filmed in the wrong state. Wisconsin accents are much stronger than anything I heard in Minnesota.  


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