Monday, 7 September 2015

The Righteous Ride Down (and up) Old Man River

Location: Dubuque, IA, USA
Despite the fact the route from Tory's towards the Mississippi was pretty straightforward we missed our turn and ended up riding through some pretty built up areas with busy roads and a couple of detours due to roadworks so not a great morning's ride, but the wind was mostly behind us and we were soon over the Mississippi River and into our eleventh state, Wisconsin.

That night we had a Warm Showers host who lived on a smallholding near the town of Stockholm. It was a beautiful spot and after I bottle fed their calf we helped in the kitchen while Martha made mozzarella right in front of us and Geoffrey made us a delicious dinner of spaghetti and sauce that we tore the fresh mozzarella over. It was fantastic. After a breakfast of fresh eggs, homemade bread and hand churned butter we rode off to follow the river south to La Crosse. We had a wonderful tailwind which made the riding fast and easy. We met a pair of credit card tourers en route and had a fun chat. We stopped for lunch at Midway where another cyclist came and talked with us. He'd just done a tour in the summer and asked if we had somewhere to stay in La Crosse, which we did, another Warm Showers host.

We got onto a nice bike trail after lunch and rode into La Crosse. After getting showered and sorted at our hosts we walked into town for a beer where our host John joined us. Then we went for ice cream and wandered back to the house. Our hosts were out at a prior engagement so we chilled out and had an early night. We had coffee with John and their daughter Alexa the next morning before making our way to Rosie's Diner for an awesome breakfast. John had highly recommended we stop in at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque so we altered our route slightly and planned to cross the river at Prairie du Chien into Iowa, our twelfth state.  Outside the visitor info centre in Prairie du Chien we met another cyclist or as he referred to himself 'a drunk with a cycling problem'. He claimed to have rode the roads either side of the river over eighty times and could tell us anything we needed to now about the area. But proceeded to not tell us anything at all about the roads really, though he did tell us our journey was 'righteous' so that was nice. Then he left to buy more booze.

We camped at Pike's Peak State Park after climbing our first major hill since the Icefields Parkway. The hill afforded the park a stunning view over the river and we enjoyed a gorgeous walk as the sun set. Friendly neighbours came and chatted with us in the morning and we left feeling buoyed up and encouraged. It was great to be riding through hilly terrain! Though the prairies hadn't been as flat as everyone made out the gently rolling terrain doesn't lend itself to the highs and lows (metaphorically and literally) that you get with hilly terrain; to the panting, sweating, straining ascents, the feeling of achievement at the summit and the liberating, exhilarating, joyous descents. We were loving the hills.

We got into Dubuque just after lunch time and went straight to the Museum. It's big, it has two halves, lots of info about the river and aquarium exhibits of both river and sea creatures. We really enjoyed taking our time, reading all the boards, interacting with the interactive bits and staring at the aquarium tanks. You would be totally amazed at the size of some of the fish in the Mississippi River, they are whoppers. We learnt about the pearl button industry that sprung up using the shells from fresh water clams, how much barges can carry compared to trains or trucks (1 barge = 15 train cars or 58 trucks!) and how dynamic the river was and how its been tamed and straightened causing issues at its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico. It's a great museum and if you're in the area you should check it out.

After an afternoon well spent we hit the grocery store for supplies and then rode up a very steep hill on our way to our campsite for the night in Massey Marina.  We rode through the Mines of Spain State Park, which seemed lovely, and rolled into our campground as the sun was setting. It was pretty buggy but a great spot right on the river with free showers all for $12, bargain!

1 comment:

  1. A great panoramic shot! Credit card tourers?