I'm a big fan of permanents and this is a new permanent owned by one of the other randonneurs in Wisconsin. This was, in fact, the inaugural ride of this perm and even its stalwart owner hadn't actually done it on a bike yet.
The ride itself starts in Black River Falls, WI. That's about a 3 hour drive from my house. RBA Rob was also interested in riding so we made arrangements to carpool. The ride is 218K in some really hilly country and we had around 6 hours of driving time. That makes for an early rise.
But first, the concept of the coulee. I've noticed that this appears to be an upper midwest term from the French. Here is the dictionary definition:
|1.||a.a flow of molten lava|
|b.such lava when solidified|
|2.||( Western US ), ( Canadian ) a dry stream valley, especially a long steep-sided gorge or ravine that once carried melt water from a glacier|
|3.||a small intermittent stream in such a ravine|
We got to Dan's house in Black River Falls at a little before 9:00 am for a 9:20 start. In true fashion, I managed to forget socks and reflective gear and had to borrow. We were not entirely sure we could finish this ride in daylight so lights were aplenty.
The first few miles are rolling with many farms and a small Amish community. It was already getting hot and the wind was in our faces so we kind of had to work for the miles. RBA Rob usually rides much faster than I do, but this was a fun, social ride.
We rolled into Blair (22 miles) with about an hour on the clock and had something to drink. Just the 10 minute stop was enough to drive my bike thermometer up to 104 - balmy. We were in some fairly significant rollers and climbs, but Dan kept assuring us that the big hills were still to come. There has been quite a bit of rain of late and flooding had been a real possibility. The Black River, which we crossed and flirted with all day, was swollen in its banks. We made a stop about 10 miles from the West Salem Control at a small gas station. The heat was on and I discovered that mixing mint ice cream bars and V8 can in fact taste good provided that it is hot enough. I also brought along Zym electrolyte tablets for my bottles. Pulling them out, I offered one to Rob. He popped it right in his mouth, chewed and swallowed. That turned out to be not a good idea since the tablet fizzed for about 20 minutes with the predicted consequences. Rob didn't ask for any more the rest of the ride.
The first large climb was indeed just after our stop. Called the Mindoro Cut, it is the 2nd largest hand made cut in the US. It's a beautiful climb, not too steep, but twisting, shady and pleasant. It isn't ridden by bicyclists very often because it's not really on the way to anything (unless you are riding 135 miles). I started my great tradition of the patient spin up to the top. Dan and Rob always waited, though I hope they didn't wait long. In addition to having a fun climb, we had a great descent too. This was one of the best climbs I've done in a while.
The next big climb was over the ridge before West Salem. This one was significantly steeper and meaner than the Mindoro Cut. I finally got to the top to find Dan with his head over his handlebars. Everyone has that really tough climb once in a while and I had to laugh when he lamented "What **hole designed this route? Oh, it was me". I must admit I was somewhat relieved that we were going to be rolling into a place to eat lunch. It was closing on 2:00 pm and my breakfast sandwich at 6 was long gone.
At West Salem, I danced to disco music at Quisnos which we hear is going out of business. But at least that day, it was serving salty subs and boy did they taste good. This was at about the 100k mark so only a little over 100k to go and only about 20 miles to Coon Valley.
Well, okay it was 20 miles of really nice climbing and some big hills. This was also the hottest part of the day. I had a really nice chat with Rob while Dan charged ahead (he must have had more peppers on his sub). I can't decide how all this came up but topics included: slutwalks, men's shorts, and PBP. Many people ask me what you talk about on a ride. Voila!
At Coon Valley, we had some really awesome Freal Milkshakes at the Kwik Trip. I hadn't ever had one, but Rob is correct that they are mighty tasty, especially when it's 95. I also decided to ditch the sports bra as it was tight, soaking wet and uncomfortable. I tied it to the back of my rack as a mini-protest about the unfairness of female clothing. At least it dried.
Coon Valley to Melrose was the last longer leg at 40 miles. We passed through something with Bohemian in the title, might have been Bohemian pass (look mom, I've gone bohemian). We stopped briefly to get water at a gas station before tackling what Dan assured us was the last hill.
You know it is really not so good when you come to a hill and it has a name. This one's name was Tamarack Hill. It was long and steep and at 5:30 pm, it was swealtering. I had to stop halfway after sweat dumped sunscreen into my eye. It just poured off me, especially with a slight tailwind that stilled the air.
Rob and Dan were waiting at the top once more. And there was one more hill to go too (but much smaller). Indeed, it was much smaller and even though I again flooded my eyes. It passed quickly.
We got into Melrose at about 7 with 17 miles to go. No more hills turned out to be no more "big" hills and we basically rode rollers the rest of the night. We got one more really nice view of the Black River about 7 miles from the finish. Beautiful during the beginning of sunset.
We wound up rolling into the finish just short of the dark. We only needed lights for the few blocks back to Dan's house. There, his wife had held dinner and we were offered showers before our drive home as well. "As long as you don't mind showering with Barbie," was the caveat. Indeed, Dan's two girls are Barbie efficienados and there were a total of 8 Barbies in the bathtub. I might have felt more self conscious in front of a bunch of Ken's but I can deal with an army of girls. Besides, I had enough salt on me at this point to start my own sea.
We left around 10 pm for the drive home. I managed to make it about halfway before Rob took over driving and we saw some spectacular thunderstorms rolling in. Sometimes you have to be really thankful that the ride is over.
This was a great ride, no two ways about it. We finished in about 11:20 ride time and that's not too shabby considering the heat, wind and the elevation. I've got one more long ride before PBP. Then we shall see how good a shape I really am in.