Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 5: Bushwacking

I took a while getting going in the motel room in Thorp on Monday morning. Its amazing how many little things you need to do each day on a bike tour to get ready to roll. Once I was out the door, I needed to get some groceries. As I was walking in I ran into a "crazy" old man who talked about riding 65 MPH on a 3-speed. Riiiiiiggght. Did my shopping and then ran into him again on the way out, here he revealed more details about track riding and speed records that made me think he was legitimate.... I wonder what is story was then.

I had a quick breakfast of bagels and painfully sweet sugar cookies in the Veteran's Park before rolling out of town. I had to cover as much ground as possible, since I had figured out the night before that it was in fact 155 miles to Hayward from Thorp, not the 125 miles I had thought it was.

A tank, and behind it, a Vietnam-era armored fighting vehicle.

Beyond Thorp was agricultural land for about 20 miles, apparently settled by Polish immigrants after the forest had been cleared from the area. As open as the landscape was, it was hard to imagine what it was like when it was forest covered.

Can anyone explain to me why this tractor has metal treads instead of rubber tires?

By late morning I made it into a pieces of the Chequamegon National Forest. Here the route follows an ATV trail system, basically old-rutted out double track. With huge puddles from the recent rain and rough, rocky terrain, this was the first real test of my touring bike's off-road ability. And it did pretty well.

At this point I should mention the deer flies. They were pretty bad in this area, as they have been in most of the forested parts of the ride. They buzz around your head and body and are generally annoying. However, MOST of the time, they don't bite, occasionally one will bite me on black lycra colored parts (like my bike shorts or the back of my gloves) in general they just buzz around and don't do any harm. I kind of wonder if they are looking for an actual deer and when they realize I'm not a deer they leave me along. If you stop for 2-3 minutes, the swam eventually flies away. Curious.

The 2-track trail eventually ended in dirt road, which took me to Perkinstown, which was a lot less of a town than I thought, but the "P-town" Saloon had food, water and a toilet, so I was good to go.

From there it was a bit of a round-about trek through forest roads, which were pretty, but I have to think they were just a waste of time, as I could have easily cut out the loop and saved 5 or so miles. Saving time was on my mind at that moment since I had s tarted so late, and taken time for a sit-down lunch, I was looking to come up short on miles for the day.

The gravel forest road dumped me out on a highway, where I headed west on the route. After about 3 miles was turn north onto overgrown doubletrack. Really over grown. I checked the map, and it would add almost 10 miles to go around, so I tried to go for it. This was definitely one of those frogs in a pot of cool water that you warm up slowly situations. At first it was rutted but ridable. After a while I was pushing as much as I was riding. fortunately the light load on the front end of my bike make it easy to wheelie up over logs, because there were a LOT of them. At several points the trail was so flooded or log strewn, that it was easier to just bushwhack through the woods than to travel on the trail. Maybe that should have been a sign. Finally, the trail went onto lower ground and was just flooded and completely overgrown. I looked at the map, and it was another 1/2 miles of wetland, then a creek crossing, then the route didn't follow a trail at all for a couple hundred yards until it met a trail on the otehr side of the creek. And this creek could be anything from something I could step over, to a 6-foot deep, 30 foot-wide stream. So finally, at the point photoed below, I gave up and turned around:

After backtracking through the "trail" I had lost at least an hour of time. The best possible re-route had me going back east, past where I had met the highway, and further on around to a small county highway that went north. Eventually this highway met up with the route, but I decided to divert a little bit further east and head north into the town of Kennan. It was getting late, so I put my One Good Earbud on, played some tunes, put my head down and hammered.
As I got to this south side of town there was a park where I found a water pump. I started looking around and realized the park had everything I could want from a place to camp: water, a picnic table, toilets and trees to string up my hammock. There was no place really secluded where I wouldn't be seen, but the county highway was very low traffic, and the nearest houses were so far away that as long as I didn't produce too much light at night, I wouldn't be very visible. So I sat down and ate some bagels and junk-food for dinner while the daylight faded, and then put up my hammock.

Only made it 66 miles on Monday due to the late start and the bushwhacking fiasco, leaving me with about 95 miles I would have to cover on Tuesday.

1 comment:

  1. I'm guessing the tractor had metal "tires" because the owner doesn't believe in rubber-seriously. Some sects of Old-Order Mennonite and Amish are permitted to use tractors, but can't have pneumatic tires, or occasionally, rubber on their wheels. I believe the area that you were in at the time does have an Amish presence.

    I'm enjoying reading your blog posts on the Trans-WI, as I'm considering doing part of it.