2007 Bike Trip Update #1


"Natalie Dickinson" <ndickinson@tstinc.com> 7/3/2007 1:52 PM  wrote: >>>
Hi All - Just got off the phone with the bikers...John and Pat are in Cascade, Iowa, about one day ahead of schedule.  Sounds like they are doing well & they expect to ultimately resume their original schedule...as my Mom said, "Nat, I bet you didn't know there were mountains in Iowa."...they've been doing lots of uphill (6% grade).  They're in good spirits and since they had cell service, just wanted to say Hi.

Happy 4th of July...I'll keep you all posted as I hear more.




2007 Bike Trip Update #2


Hi all,

Things are going well and we are back on schedule.  We were a day ahead for a while as a result of long days and a route change.  We are back on the originally planned route and will take a couple easy days to get back to the original schedule.  This is day number 9.  We crossed the Mississippi River at Muscatine, IA this morning and are currently about 35 miles into Illinois.  We will go another 10 and stop for the night.  Currently we have gone about 450 miles.

The weather has been very warm ( Pat would say hot). upper 80's.  Up until today, we were bucking a strong head wind for about 5 days in a row.  We had rain one evening but it did not affect us as we were already in camp.  So far we treated ourselves to two motel nights.  One night in Dyersville, IA after a very long and grinding day with many hills and strong head winds and the second night at Muscatine since there was no where on route to camp.  Northeastern Iowa is very hilly and the roads are very poorly maintained.  We are happy to be in Illinois where the roads have been good so far and the terrain is much flatter.

So far I have had two more flats (in the same day) and Pat has not had any problems with her bike.  We are doing great and finally starting to get into biking shape.  We expect to be in Lafayette July 11th as planned.  More to follow later. ......John and Pat

2007 Bike Trip Update #3


Hi all, 
Just a quick note to let you all know that we made it to Lafayette on Wednesday as scheduled. The last couple days the wind was very helpful and the route very flat. The high temps make biking in the middle of the day quite uncomfortable so we had been starting a little earlier in the mornings and getting out of the sun for an hour or so at mid day. 
 We had a couple flats on the trailer tire but each was easily fixed and only resulted in a few minutes delay. 
 We had a little scare on Monday morning when I noticed a bright red streak in Pats left eye. By Tuesday morning the brightness dulled but the redness spread looking more like the classic "blood shot" eye. We called ahead and had Pat's brother in law set up an appointment for Pat on Wednesday when we arrived in Lafayette. Apparently Pat had a conjunctive hemorrhage in the white portion of her left eye. After having it checked out, it appears all is OK and we will continue on our trip on Sunday as planned. 
 Spirits are still high. Appears the weather is cooling a little and we will have several days to rest before continuing on our trip. When we leave on Sunday, Sandy, Pat's sister in law will be joining us for the Lafayette to Watertown WI portion of the trip. We will be traveling to Chicago and are looking forward to checking out the numerous converted railroad right of ways that are now paved bike trails that will lead us up into Chicago where we will be traveling on the city bike trails along lake Michigan up to Milwaukee where we will turn west and head to Watertown on some Wisconsin bike trails (Maple Leaf Trail, New Berlin Trail, Glacial Drumlin Trail). 
More to follow later. ..... John and Pat 


2007 Bike Trip Update #4



Hi all,


Just a very quick update as we have a short access time to the internet.  We are in Watertown and will be leaving this morning as scheduled on our last leg of the trip home. We have gone about 1150 miles to date.


The ride from Lafayette, IN to Watertown, WI through Chicago and Milwaukee was excellent.  Much of the ride was along Lake Michigan and most of the route was on bike paths, more to follow on that later when we have more time.


Our day lay over in Chicago was SUPER!  We visited Grant Park, Millennium Park, the Aquarium, the Planetarium and the Hancock Bld.  We stayed two nights in the Chicago Hostel right downtown in the loop.   Much more to follow later.  ......John and Pat



2007 Bike Trip Update #5



Hi all,

Just a quick note to let you all know we made it home safely.   As you can imagine, there were a lot of things waiting for us to take care of at home after being gone for a month.  In a couple days after the dust settles, I will send out some more information on the Lafayette to Watertown and Watertown to Minneapolis portions of the trip.  More to follow later. ..... John and Pat

2007 Bike Trip Final Update


Hi all,


First of all, thanks to everyone who wrote to see if we were okay as a result of the I-35 W bridge collapse.  We are all fine.  Thankfully, none of our family or extended family was involved in that situation.  As most of you have seen in the media, it could have been much worse than it was.  Our hearts and prayers go out to those involved and the families of the dead and missing.


Where has the time gone?  It is already closing in on two weeks since we have been back and it seems just like yesterday that we got home.  As promised, I wanted to provide  more info about the second and third phases of the trip that I did not have time to send earlier.  The info about the Minneapolis to Lafayette portion of the trip was in Update #3.  Details of the other two portions of the trip are below:


Lafayette Indiana to Watertown Wisconsin (July 15-21, 2007)


First off we had a wonderful time in Lafayette visiting Pat’s sister Mary Jo and her husband Michael.  We got to lounge around, eat and drink lots and get waited on like we were in a 5 star hotel.  Great food and great company, not your traditional in-law stereotype!!!  Pat also spent a lot of time in their hot tub.  Pat’s brother Greg and his wife Sandy from Watertown joined us on the weekend and we all went out for dinner and had a super time.  Sandy joined Pat and me for the bicycle trip from Lafayette to Watertown.


The trip from Lafayette to Watertown was perhaps the best 300 mile section of bicycle trip I have ever been on.  First of all, we were “moteling it” every night in this section so flush toilets, shower, dry place to sleep, air conditioning, etc were the norm (we could get very spoiled). Secondly, everything worked out absolutely perfect.  It is uncanny how things just came together.  For example: the first day (Sunday 7/15) we had to stay at a motel at one of the interchanges of I-65 near Rensselaer, IN.  We were concerned about finding a place to eat that evening and there was a great restaurant right next door.  The second day (Monday 7/16) the sky clouded up in the afternoon and it just started to sprinkle as we biked into our motel in an industrial park in Merrillville, IN.  Again when it came time for dinner, there was a Hooters and an Outback Steak House a block away.  You guessed it, I got out voted and we ate at the Outback.  The next morning (Tuesday 7/17) we were heading for the Erie Lackawanna Bike Trail.  The trail is paved and runs along an old abandon railroad right of way heading to the Northwest up to Chicago.  The traffic outside the industrial park in that area in Merrillville along the highways was very intense.  But again, as we left the industrial park, there was a paved bike path for about 3.25 miles of the 3.5 miles to the trailhead.  Once on the trail, it was easy going and we made good time until we had to exit the trail because there was section that was not completed and we had to travel on city streets around that section.  As we exited the trail the weather turned bad and it started to sprinkle.  As fate would have it, our city street detour took us past a park with a pavilion and open bathrooms where we sat out the storm until the worst had passed.  Once again we took off and rejoined the trail and continued to the Northwest toward Chicago.  We left that trail and passed through the city streets on our way to the Burnham Greenway Trail (another paved old railroad right of way).  It was lunch time as we passed through a county park with picnic tables and bathrooms so we decided to have our peanut butter, jelly, bagels and smoked salmon packets there.   The Burnham Greenway Trail took us up to South 101st St and Indianapolis Blvd where we crossed under the Chicago Skyway (I-90). We biked through Calumet Park and took Hwy 41 to cross the Calumet River.  We followed the well marked Bike Route signs along Hwy 41 to South 83rd St where we picked up the paved Chicago Lake Shore Bike Trail.  This trail runs along Lake Michigan all the way up to 5700 St North.  We got off at Grant Park right downtown at the Loop as we were staying in the Chicago Hostel at the corner of Wabash and Congress Streets. We checked into the Hostel and they had messed up our reservation.  There are two general types of rooms at the hostel.  The first type are like college dorm type rooms that sleep from 6 to 20 people in bunk beds.  There is a wing for men and a wing for women.  Common  bathrooms and showers for men and women are located on each wing.   The other type of rooms are called “family rooms”.  These range from 4 to 6 people in bunk beds which can be occupied by family members.  This later type of room is the type that I reserved for Pat, Sandy and me.  When we checked in, they asked if it was okay to put us in a handicapped family room because that was all they had and I said fine.  When we got to the room and much to our surprise, we had our own private shower and bathroom in our family room.  That evening a four block walk got us to a great restaurant.  After a couple drinks and a big meal we waddled back to the hostel for a good nights rest as we had a big day of sight seeing planned for the next day.


The next day (Wednesday 7/18) we had our free breakfast at the hostel and headed to a nearby camera shop a couple blocks away that we had checked out the night before as Sandy wanted to get a new camera.  We picked up the camera and went back to the hostel to get ready for a day of sightseeing.  We headed off walking to the Aquarium as the free trolleys did not start running until 10 am.  We spent the morning in the Aquarium, had lunch there and then walked down to the planetarium and spent the afternoon there taking in two of their shows and looking at all of the exhibits.  As we left the Planetarium, luck was with us again as there was a trolley ready to pull out that was headed in the direction we wanted to go.  We were on our way to the observation deck of the John Hancock Building.  We had all been up in the Sears Towers before so we thought we would check out the Hancock Building since it was one of the tickets we had in the “Chicago Sites Ticket Booklets” we bought.   We made a transfer to get on the route that would take us to the Hancock Building.  The trolley was slow going as it was rush hour.  When we got to our stop, we had 45 minutes to get to the tower and get back to the stop as that was when the last trolley pickup for the day was.  If we missed the trolley we would have about a two mile walk or cab ride to get back.  Again, things worked out fine and we spent about 20 minutes on the observation deck and made it back in time to catch the last trolley back to the Loop.


When we got back to the Loop, we stopped for dinner and decided to visit Millennium Park to walk off dinner.  They have some stainless steel sculptures that are difficult to describe.  We took lots of pictures and I will post them on our website in the next couple weeks.  Suffice to say, it was very impressive.  We also walked over to Grant Park past the area where they hold their open air movies on a big screen.  A big crowd was gathering for a showing of Young Frankenstein.   We sat and watched the Buckingham Fountain cycle through its light and spray patterns and headed back to the hostel to get ready to leave in the morning to continue our bike trip. 


The next day (Thursday 7/19) we got our bikes out of the secure area that the hostel had to store our bikes and loaded them up with our panniers and headed toward Kenosha, WI our next stop.  Once again, when we needed a potty stop, one appeared.  When it was time for lunch, an opportunity presented itself.  We were biking on predominately crushed rock trails of abandon railroad right of ways.  From time to time we may need to travel on some city streets to get to the next trail.  When we reached Kenosha, things continued to fall into place.  The motel was right on the route we were traveling, there were several restaurants across the street. 


I got everyone up early (Friday 7/20) as our next stop was in West Allis and we were going to visit Terry and Kristie that evening who currently live in Germantown but lived across the street from us in New Hope, MN several years ago.  There was a car rental place two blocks from our Motel in West Allis but they were only open until 5pm.  I wanted to get to our motel in plenty of time to pick up the car, get our gear stowed and get cleaned up so we could drive to Germantown before it got too late in the afternoon.  Terry and Kristie were preparing a steak and pasta dinner for us and we did not want to be late.  Again, all the events of the day fell into place and we were at Terry and Kristies by about 5 PM.  This was the first time that we got to see their Country Estate in Germantown.  They have a large beautiful home and pastures for their 7 lamas, 3 horses, two dogs, two cats and 2 rabbits.  Their two girls are now in their early teens and are active in sports and community activities.  The last time we saw the girls they were about half that age.   We had a great dinner and a wonderful time catching up.


We slept in a little later than normal in the morning (Saturday 7/21) as the car rental place did not open until 8 am and I had to return the rental car before we departed for our last stop in this section, Watertown.  Sandy had called Greg on Friday evening when we got back from Terry and Kristies and made arrangements for him to meet us on the trail.  Our route today would be mainly on biking trails.  We would travel a few blocks from our motel on city streets in West Allis and get on the 8 mile New Berlin Bike trail that heads due west to Waukesha, WI.  There we would travel about 3 miles through Waukesha and get on the Glacial Drumlin Trail that continues West.  The plan was Greg would drive to the Glacial Drumlin Trail south of Watertown and bike East to meet us for lunch.  As was the case for this entire section, everything went according to plan.  We met Greg on the trail had lunch and biked back to where he was parked.  Greg took the panniers in the car and Sandy, Pat and I biked the remaining 10 miles to Greg and Sandy’s place a little southwest of Watertown.


Interestingly enough, we had no mechanical problems or flat tires on this section of the trip.  Our timing worked out perfectly and we had a super time biking with Sandy and having the opportunity to spend some quality time getting to know her better.


Watertown, WI to St Paul, MN (July 23-28,2007)


We left Watertown on Monday (7/23) after visiting with Pat’s family for a couple days and repacking our equipment.   Since we “moteled” the last section of the trip, we sent all of our camping equipment home with Greg from Lafayette.  We now had to repack all that equipment along with most of the breakfast and lunch food we would need for the remainder of the trip.  BOB (Back Of Bike) trailer I pull behind my bike was once again up to about 70 pounds and I was feeling it the first day out.  We left Watertown and proceeded to the Northwest headed for the Pride Of America Campground near Portage, WI. We stayed there in about 2000 when we biked from Minneapolis to Watertown with Pat’s bother Dan.  There was nothing great about the place but we were sure surprised when we paid $34.00 to pitch our 5X7 foot tent for one night.  To add injury to insult, we had to pay $.50 each to take a 6 minute shower.


On Tuesday (7/24) we biked from the Pride of America campground East of Portage, WI to Reedsburg, WI where we picked up the “400 Bike Trail”, a crushed limestone abandon railroad right of way that runs about 22 miles from Reedsburg to Elroy, WI.  We continued on to Elroy and camped in a city park in Elroy that evening.


The next day (Wednesday 7/25) we left Elroy via the Sparta Elroy Bike Trail heading for Sparta.  This trail is about 32 miles and is again a crushed limestone trail on an abandon railroad right of way.  The unique thing about this trail is that there are 3 tunnels along its route.  The longest being 3/4th mile in length.  Lights are a necessity which we had been carrying for the entire trip since we knew we would need them for this section.  Once we arrived in Sparta, we picked up the LaCrosse River Trail that runs about 21.5 miles to the Westsouthwest to Medary, WI which is Northeast of LaCrosse, WI.  We stopped about 4 miles East of Medary at Veterans Memorial Campground for the night.


The next day (Thursday 7/26) we continued on the LaCrosse River Trail to Medary where we picked up the Great River Trail.  The Great River State Trail is about about 24 miles of crushed limestone that runs Northwest of Medary along the East side of the Mississippi River to Marshland WI.  At Marshland, we picked up the Great River Road Trail and headed North which is basically WI Hwy 35.  We continued on Hwy 35 until Alma, WI and camped in a city park a mile or so North of Alma.  That night was probably the worst night of our trip.  We got into camp and set up the tent, a protective tarp and started cooking dinner when we had to deal with horizontal rain for about an hour.  It must have rained about 2 inches before it was all over.  We managed to keep our equipment in the tent dry.


The next day (Friday, 7/27) would have to rate as perhaps the worst day of the trip.  After packing up our wet tent and tarps, we headed out.  We went about 50 feet and Pat’s chain came off for no apparent reason.  Next, she forgot to fasten her rack pack and that fell off.  We got that straightened out and started up the hill out of the campground and the cable to my rear derailleur broke.  Fortunately, I carry a spare so we spent the next half hour or so changing the cable and retuning the rear derailleur shifting.  We got about 200 yards from the campsite and the batteries in the GPS died and needed to be changed.  We went about another quarter of mile and my radio (walkie-talkie) popped off my camelback harness and landed in the road (only minor damage).  We stopped about noon to call ahead to the campsites we were planning on staying at that evening and ALL were booked.  We called 5 different places that were all along our route and none of them would let us even camp in a vacant corner somewhere of their campground for one night.  After calling several motels in Red Wing Minnesota, we found a place to stay and wound up crossing the Mississippi River into Minnesota earlier than we had planned to have a place to stay for the night.  Eventually we got to our Motel in Red Wing and settled in.  There was a restaurant about a half mile away and we decided to bike there have dinner and retire early that evening.


On Saturday (7/28) we headed for St Paul.  Since we did not plan on taking this route we had no detailed maps of this area but did have a Minnesota Highway map.  We were familiar with biking on Highway 61 and decided we would take that route as long as the shoulder was good and if it turned bad before we got to Highway 316, we would just wing it on the county roads and use locals for route suggestions.   As it turned out, this route was great.  The only downside was that we had to climb out of the Mississippi River valley twice and the Cannon River valley once.  Other than that, no problems we were on our way to St Paul.  We had previously arranged with our daughter Tracey that lives St Paul to have our van at her house and we would stop by there, see the grand kids and then load up our stuff and drive back to New Hope.  This was all part of a master plan since our middle daughter Natalie had flown in from San Mateo, CA on Friday for the weekend to assist Tracey with a major painting project of the downstairs of her house in St Paul.  By making transportation available for the parents to get home Saturday night, they could then be back Sunday morning with their painting stuff to assist with the project.  Sly kids.  Their plan worked, we were back there painting on Sunday……




This trip was unique in that there were times when it was very interesting and there were times when it was not so interesting.  There were three distinct phases to this trip.  The Minneapolis to Lafayette Phase, the Lafayette to Watertown Phase and the Watertown to St Paul Phase.   Each has its own personality.  In the first Phase, the many small towns that we passed through and the places where we camped were very interesting but it seemed like we spent hour after hour of biking along corn fields that made for excellent potty spots but restricted any visibility to the country side.  I believe we experienced what some previous bicyclist have characterized as corn field tunnel vision.  In some places traveling through central Illinois, you literally had to stop at the intersection of two roads when you were in an area where all sides of the road were planted in corn and creep up looking to the left and right for cross traffic as the fields are planted so close to the roads you can not see on coming traffic on the cross road unless you peer around the corn plants.


The Lafayette to Watertown portion of the trip was by far Pat and my favorite.  First and foremost we greatly enjoyed Sandy’s company.  She was always upbeat and seemed to be truly having a great time.  We are so pleased that she could join us on that portion of the trip and look forward to the possibility that she can join us on other trips.  I had spent a great deal of time researching the routes through Chicago and received a great deal of help from fellow bicyclists in the area.  I was truly impressed by how Chicago is trying to become known as a “bicycle friendly city”.   The bike maps they have and the route markings in the city were very good and the number of bike lanes and routes they have down town is very impressive.  Millennium park is also a place everyone (bikers and none bikers) should visit at least once if you have not done so yet.  In addition to the beautiful sculptures, gardens, reflection ponds and amphitheater, the park provides up to 300 indoor secure parking places for bicyclist.  They also have locker and shower facilities for bicycle commuters.  The bicycle trails and paths in and around Chicago and especially along Lake Michigan are excellent.


The Watertown to St Paul Phase of the trip was very comfortable.  It is always fun to get back out on the bike trails one is familiar with.  We have been on the Sparta-Elroy for example many times and introduced our children to the trail when they were young.  In a few years we hope to share that same experience with our grandchildren.  The Great River Road was a new experience for us and we enjoyed it very much.


In retrospect, this trip did not have the glamour of some of our other trips.  This was after all, a trip through the Heartland of the USA and it needs to be recognized as such.  We saw the small towns and the large cities.  We had great views along the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan.  We saw lots of corn and soybeans!  We continue to be impressed by the friendliness of the people we meet on our trips.  We had complete strangers coming up to us while we were camped in a small town park offering the use of their porch if the weather turned bad during the night.  Even in Chicago, when we pulled over to the curb to check the map, a motorist (who must have been a biker) recognized that we were through bikers and needed some help, rolled down his window and shouted out “ keep going, two blocks ahead and take a left” as he passed by.  Sure enough, those were the correct directions to get to the bike route.  All in all, it was great trip!


As is typical, I want to share some statistics about the trip:


Duration:                                  32 Days (June 27 through July 28, 2007)
Biking Days:                             27
Total Miles:                              1330
Non Camping Nights:              10 (Motel, Friends or Family)
Longest Biking Day:                 62.0 Miles (July 26th)
Longest Biking Time:                6 Hr and 31 Min (Jul 2nd)
Shortest Biking Day:                 33 Miles (Jul 11th)
Shortest Biking Time:                3 Hr and 19 Min (Jul 11th)
Highest Daily Ave:                 10.8 MPH (Jul 9, 10 and 21st)
Lowest Daily Ave:                 7.3 MPH (Jul 2nd)
Flat Tires:                                 Pat 1, John 2, Trailer 2
Broken Spokes:                        None
Crashes:                                   None



When I get the pictures on the website, I will let you know. ....John