After getting through a bunch of surgery and getting a cold, I decided to celebrate my illustrious birthday by being on the inaugrual ride of the Hills of Wisconsin Permanent. My friend Gary created this to provide riders far and wide with about 7,000 ft of climbing in a 200k. With a temporary detour due to road construction, he managed to exceed the goal and get up to about 7,600 ft.
We had a really nice forecast for the day that turned out to be a little spotty. It started much colder than originally thought, in the low 20s at 8:00 am. Temperatures eventually made it into the high 40's but with a gradually accelerating wind from the east, it never got to what I would call "warm". Add to the fact that I still have issues turning my head to the left and the cold and I warned everyone to leave me in the dust as I would doubtless be the Lantern Rouge on this ride. At least it was sunny for most of the day.
The start is in New Richmond, WI, about an hour from my house. I managed to keep up with the others for all of about 10 minutes, except for Gary who kindly stayed with me. The route goes east from New Richmond on rolling terrain, very nice. 5 minutes from the start were a herd of deer standing in the fast-melting snow. I'm sure it says something that with a nice remote route, we only saw deer in the middle of town. Maybe they were planning on shopping at WalMart.
Had some very interesting discussions on the way to the first control, Knapp, about China and the Three Gorges Dam. Gary visited the area before the dam went in, which gives him a more unique perspective on the area. This might have slowed us somewhat. However, we rolled into Glenwood City easily enough. There is an old train depot turned into a barber shop on the corner (unusually shaped buildings are an interest to me and as many times as I had been through that town, I'd never noticed it). At this point, we took the detour to Knapp. The actual route will take CRQ on some very gentle hills that are very scenic. The detour takes a very hilly route near the Glen Hills County Park. While sort of scenic, these are the kind of hills that grate on you after awhile and as we descended down to rejoin the original route, I breathed a sigh of relief. One point of interest: at the top of the big hill, someone has constructed their cabin on top of a silo. A very interesting choice that I am sure affords fabulous views and looks pretty cool too.
There is a screaming descent at this point that I was careful on due to large amounts of sand leftover from the winter. We rejoined the original route just outside Knapp and as we rode by Cty Q we could see the other 4 riders ascending the big hill. We must have been about 15 minutes behind them.
At the control, Gary had a flat, probably due to the road debris. Being the first flat of the year, it always takes longer to change. After destroying one tube, we hauled it inside the BP station (and some warmth) for a second shot. Sure enough - success! Then taking the pump off, we snapped the stem. Fortunately, it seemed to be holding and it lasted the rest of the day.
The climb out of Knapp on Cty Q is one of those "beat me hard and then soft" hills. Extremely steep (maybe 15-18%) for about 1/2 mile, then shallower but still hard for another 1/2 mile. I was happy to have it behind me, but less happy when I realized we actually do the hill twice on the route. In any case, the nice rollers and countryside on top were worth the work and we made nice time to Elmwood with some nice climbs and descents. Unfortunately, the pheasents were sleeping in near the turn onto P, but it was starting to get warmer and that always improves the mood. At Elmwood, I had some V8 and Chocolate milk. Gary had some kind of mexican thing that had at least 200 ingredients. We marveled at how the packaging must have needed to expand to hold all of them. Due to the very hilly nature of this route, the middle controls are spaced only about 15-18 miles apart. This has some advantages on staying hydrated and on the ability to snack frequently without carrying a ton.
Out of Elmwood, we headed east again on a rolling, but relatively flat highway road for about 8 miles. I admit to shamelessly hanging on Gary's wheel, but in my defense, I found it almost impossible to check traffic behind me (pesky lack of skin) so pulling ahead might have been a little dangerous. How's that for rationalization? We turned north onto CRK and back into the hills towards Menomonie.
K has two kicker hills on it that range from 15-19%. Even with my cassette, I wasn't exactly tearing up pavement on these, but there are some nice views at the top which is always the reward for climbing. The rest of the way to Menomonie was a highlight of the route especially the stop at Devil's Punch Bowl and the views of the river (I think it is the Chippewa). Really something to see especially this time of year. Devil's Punch Bowl is somewhat fenced off, but is very interesting from a geologic perspective. I will have to look up it's origin and re-visit in the spring when I can explore more easily.
We stopped for a little longer in Menomonie. Gary shed some clothes and I reapplied my sunscreen (which I am now religious about). The next trip to Knapp was only a few miles away. We had a great roll with a tailwind out of Menomonie on Hwy 19. After all the hills and a headwind for most of the day, it was fun to suddenly be rolling easily at 18-20 mph. We turned onto 280th St for the last 5 miles to Knapp. This section is on a very quiet road and has what in my mind is one of the best, most scenic climbs in the area. At about 8%, it works well for tempo and winds its way around several hills so you can always look down into the ravine below or see the path you have been taking. I was sad to see it end.
After a speedy trip downhill into Knapp, we refueled and took the dreaded route back up Q and the hill from the morning. After 80 miles, it seemed even more imposing. Gary pulled far ahead of me; I'm not a very fast climber yet since I am still rebuilding my right hamstring. I caught up to him at the next intersection onto 90th streeet. At that point, we were done with the big hills and descended down to CRN.
N is a really fun road to ride on. It starts with about a 2 mile climb through the woods crossing the border between Dunn and St Croix Counties. Then it heads due west all the way to Hudson (on the St Croix River). Going west is for the most part downhill and Gary was nice enough to have arrange a lovely tail wind. We flew along this section (about 30 miles). There are some beautiful old churches, cemetaries and a horse showing area as points of interest. The 1-2% grade downhill made it easy to enjoy the scenery as well.
It was about 6:00 when we pulled into the Hudson control and I had some chocolate milk. Our stop was brief though and we did the last 14 miles of rolling terrain fairly quickly arriving at the WalMart around 10 til 7. The last 14 miles on CR-A passes through 2 towns of interest: Burkhardt which has an old style saloon that I really think looks fun and Irvington which has an odd collection of buildings in various states of repair. One house might look very nice while the one next door looks like a tornado has been through the front yard. Odd, but very interesting nonetheless.
It's always a pleasure to ride with Gary. He has been in the area for all his life and so he knows all the nifty little details that show off the character of the various towns and places. I had originally thought that 12 hours was the fastest I would ever get done with this route in my current state, but I am sure that riding with him is what brought us in slightly under 11 hours.
Looking forward to more rides in April as the seasons change and the randonneuring season starts in earnest. This ride was the day before the vernal equinox. It seems appropriate since the first winter permanent was the day before the winter solstice. Not planned, but appropriate somehow.