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Coast to coast by recumbent bicycle

Sparta WI to Lodi WI

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Baraboo River

Expenses($ US)

Started the day on the Elroy-Sparta, another converted railroad right of way paved with crushed limestone. The line was built in the 1870s so there are more turns and the grades are steeper. It's a very interesting ride with three tunnels. Uphill for a long time and then the first tunnel, three-quarters of a mile long. There's a sign saying walk your bike, but I try riding in anyway. After less than 100 feet the darkness is overwhelming and it's only getting darker. I dismount and walk. The trail bed has a significant crown, and an abrupt edge on either side for drainage. It's like a cave inside. Water rains down from cracks overhead. The walls are carved directly into the limestone. It keeps getting darker. I pause occasionally and look around for the trail and the walls. They are just barely visible in the center of the tunnel and only if you really look for them. I took a couple pictures inside, but I don't know what I'm photographing. A flashlight would have been a good idea. Once out, I look back to see a group behind me. When they get out, I see they're riding. Somehow they managed not to ride into the drainage channels.


Downhill for a stretch, but I can't gain any speed. The gravel bed offers too much resistance. Uphill and then a second tunnel. This one is lined with stone blocks and is short enough that I can ride through it. Still, I can't see the bed for most of the way. The trail bed is a washboard inside. I find the sensation unnerving. I feel like I'm moving pretty fast, but there are no visual cues to judge my speed. I think I'm going downhill. When I pop out the other side I see that I was right. Downhill then uphill to the last tunnel, which is paved inside and doesn't have the serious drop-offs on the sides. This one is easy to ride through, but again I get this creepy feeling. The bike starts to wobble. I don't know how to ride in a straight line without being able to see my surroundings. I aim for the light and make it out without crashing.

The Elroy-Sparta ends in Elroy but intersects with two other trails. Cyclists are forced to cross a moderately trafficked, uncontrolled, three-way intersection. I get on The 400 Trail parallel to the Baraboo River. More crushed limestone. After leaving Elroy-Sparta, which was quite busy, there are almost no cyclists. Nearly 60 miles on trails today, but it's 2:00 PM when I hit the end. That's too slow for me. A beautiful ride, but it took forever to complete. They should pave this set of trails: Great River, LaCrosse River, Elroy-Sparta, 400, and the connecting trails. Now that would be an awesome ride.

At Reedsburg, I transfer to Wisconsin highways: 33 east for a while 136 east through Rock Springs, past cliffs of some unusual purple metamorphic rock (quartzite, maybe?), and up and down some tough hills. Very Scenic. Purple rocks on the shoulder and in the matrix of the asphalt. I reach Baraboo, an overdeveloped, tasteless tourist trap of a town. I veer on to 113 but then find myself on 123 heading for Devils Lake. No problem. It's more or less the direction I want to go. Wham! Hills, brutal hills. Is this Wisconsin? Wisconsin Highway 123 becomes Sauk County Highway DL. The hills get worse. Short, but steep. More than a 10% grade. Definitely not a truck route and I'm driving a truck. Back on to 113 then one long, fast downhill. At the bottom, I turn around and see I just came down an escarpment.

Down, down to the Wisconsin River and a ferry. I remember riding this ferry when I was maybe 4 years old. This is the first familiar sight on my trip. I see it's on the National Historic Register. Otherwise it would have been dismantled long ago. There is no reason for it. On the other side, I begin looking for lodging. The first town, Okee, is all no vacancy signs. It's a beautiful Friday at the height of the summer in Wisconsin. Of course it's booked up. I haven't noticed before, but there's a never-ending stream of weekend warriors out on the roads. I find a room at Lodi. Had a really good seafood alfredo at their restaurant.

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