Day 29 – Making It Look Easy

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Thursday, July 13, 7:20 a.m. – Departed from the Super 8 Hotel in Wautoma, Wisconsin.

The Atmosphere’s Mood

Morning Conditions – Temp 70* with low humidity / Wind – Light out of the NNW / Skies – Low overcast, mist and fog. Cold front passed in the night.

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached a high of 78* with low humidity / Wind – W at 10-15 mph / Skies – Partly cloudy throughout the day, overcast by evening.

6:15 p.m. – Arrived at the Eureka Dam Campground near Eureka, Wisconsin, 24.7 miles, 52,500 steps, 18 miles remaining.

Highs Today

  • The Divine Cold Front – When cold fronts pass, they bring cooler air. Brilliant, I know. More importantly, they generally bring drier air. In very humid air, the human body’s cooling mechanism can’t work very well. When the air is dry, sweat evaporates, taking body heat with it into the atmosphere. When the air is saturated with water vapor, the sweat can’t evaporate, meaning that heat can’t dissipate, and we get to be uncomfortable. Even though there was only a 5 degree temperature difference between today and yesterday, the drier air made me feel as if I had super powers! I can assure you I, I do not…
  • The Willow Creek Creamery Cheese Store – This little cheese store was a great place to stop and take a midday break. More than just a store, the cheese is actually made onsite; you can watch through the window as its happening if you like. Delicious, fresh cheese and a cool breeze across a shaded bench under a roof overhang. How could I ask for anything more?
  • 37th Avenue – I had walked on busy State Highway 21 for nearly 20 miles when I turned and went south on 37th Avenue heading toward the Eureka Dam Campground. Almost immediately, the noise and percussion of heavy traffic were left behind me. Even though there were still more than 4 miles left to walk, I could feel my body begin to relax. It was like taking a cool dip on a hot summer day. This peace and serenity didn’t last for very long, but it was really appreciated while it did.
  • Eureka Dam Campground – When I talked to Jan (owner of the Eureka Dam Campground) on the previous evening, I could already tell she was my kind of people. There was something easy about the way she spoke, and I felt confident that her campground was going to be a place I would enjoy. Arriving there, I was not disappointed. A simple, quiet campground on the banks of the Fox River, I could not have asked for a better place to camp on my last night on the road. I had my choice of campsites, and chose one next to a small tributary of the main river channel. It offered a westerly breeze and view of the sunset that were both so fine, I could scarcely believe how lucky I had gotten. I fell asleep to to the burbling of the river and the sound of the wind in the trees, smiling at my good fortune.

Lows Today

37th Avenue’s Inhabitants – 37th Avenue is really a narrow, paved country road with occasional farm sites adjacent to it. The first part of it was a walk through farm fields and open country with a moderate wind bowing from my right to my left. It truly was beautiful. About a mile down the road, the picture changed. The road was hemmed in on both sides by hedgerows of trees, effectively preventing the wind from getting to it. It was then that they showed up: mosquitos. Not just a few of them; hundreds at a time! At first, I tried to beat them naturally. I would hurry to open areas where the wind would discourage them or carry them away from me. Before long, though, I simply couldn’t take it. Even stopping for 20-30 seconds to get the bug repellent out of my pack and spray it on was nearly unbearable. If I smacked my arm with an open hand, I might easily kill 5-10 at once. The repellent helped, but not nearly a much as stepping out into the open breeze on the last half mile of the walk. Little demons! They sure can ruin a good time…

Lessons Learned – Trust your instincts. That little voice inside of us is almost always right. Our job is to listen to it. From talking to Jan, I knew that the Eureka Dam Campground was likely to be my kind of place. I can’t explain how it works; sometimes we just know. As human beings, we ask a lot of questions because we want all the answers. Where we often come up short is in having the patience to listen for the answers. Sometimes, we just have to shut up!

Special Edition – The End of the Road!

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On Friday, July 14th, at 8:43 p.m., I took the following picture. I had arrived at one of the main gates of the AirVenture grounds in Oshkosh, Wisconsin! On this particular day, I walked 20.3 miles and took 57,300 steps. While an uneventful end to a long journey on foot, I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment and was most excited to have reached my destination! 

Tomorrow (Sunday), I’ll be finishing up the story of the last two days on the road, in addition to adding several more posts during the following weeks. Today, though, I took the day off to give my body a rest, and to reflect on this rich and cool experience I’ve been fortunate enough to have. Stay tuned. Much more to come…:-)

Day 28 – Walking Under Water

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Wednesday, July 12, 10:00 a.m. – Departed from the Coloma Hotel in Coloma, Wisconsin.

The Atmosphere’s Mood

Morning Conditions – Temp – 72* with very  high humidity / Wind – SSE at 5 mph / Skies – Low overcast due to residual moisture from heavy thunderstorms passing around 5:00 a.m.

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached a high of 83* with very high humidity / Wind – SSW at 5-10 mph / Skies – Overcast throughout the afternoon (thank God!), severe thunderstorms passing through at 8:00 p.m.

7:45 p.m. – Arrived at the Super 8 Hotel in Wautoma, Wisconsin, 16.7 miles, 40,900 steps, 43 miles remaining.

Highs Today

  • The Amish World – My route today took me through an area where there is a large Amish population. I can’t help but be intrigued by their lifestyle. It’s not so much that I want to live the life they live; it’s more about stepping back in time. These people continue to live the life that my forefathers were living 100 years ago. In a sense, it’s like being able to personally observe how my great grandparents lived their lives. Not just read about it or see it in a badly made documentary, but to stand and look upon it. It’s almost like time travel. There is indeed something magical in that.
  • A Simple Overcast – I remember a story from when I was a child about a man who complained that his house was too small. A local sage gave him this advice: “Each day for ten days, bring one of your farm animals into the house. Then, after ten days, remove them all.” The man did so, and found that his house seemed considerably larger once all of the animals had been removed. The moral of the story is about perspective, and that sometimes we need to be thankful for the simple things that we’re given. Today, a simple overcast made a difficult day tolerable. I can’t even imagine how bad it would have been had the sun been beating down on me as well. Today, I was grateful for clouds.

Lows Today 

  • The Unforgiving Atmosphere – As a pilot, I’ve learned quite a lot about weather and how our atmosphere functions. I’m fascinated by its power, and studied it even before I was required to learn of its ways for the purposes of flight. We are powerless in the face of it. There is little we can do to control it; oftentimes, our only real course of action is to take shelter from it. Today, being out in the oppressive humidity felt like walking through water. It took substantially more effort just to move, and by the end of the day, that added effort took its toll. I had little choice but to seek shelter, and protect my body from any more abuse. Now THAT’s a power I can truly respect and appreciate!

Lessons Learned – When it comes to heat and especially humidity, each of us has a breaking point. That’s not some great revelation; I’ve known it since I was kid. The trick is to be able to recognize it in time. Today, I felt it coming on, and was able to get into an air conditioned environment and shut down before things got really interesting. “Listen to your body.” That’s what Jill always tells me. Thank you Jill. Good advice…

Day 27 – Visitors From Afar and Hotel Coloma

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Tuesday, July 11, 7:35 a.m. – Departed from the Adams County Airport near Friendship/Adams, Wisconsin.

The Atmosphere’s Mood

Morning Conditions – Temp – 68* with high humidity / Wind – Calm / Skies – Hazy, clear skies. Cumulus clouds quickly developing with the heat of the day.

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached a high of 83* with high humidity / Wind – S at 5-10 mph / Skies – Overcast throughout the afternoon, cumulonimbus clouds developing by evening.

6:45 p.m. – Arrived at the Coloma Hotel in Coloma, Wisconsin, 20.2 miles, 48,700 steps, 60 miles remaining.

Highs Today

  • Ship Rock Wayside – Ship Rock is a very cool rock formation about halfway between Friendship/Adams, Wisconsin and Coloma, Wisconsin. In an area that is almost completely lacking any kind of topography, it juts up out of the ground to a height of maybe 100-150 feet. Looking at it from the eastern end, it resembles a Spanish galleon, and is similar to one in size. A leftover from Glacial Lake Wisconsin, it was a welcome sight, and wonderful place to take a midday break.
  • Jeff and Selma – My good friends Jeff and Selma Stephenson have big hearts and good timing. While heading to the southeast part of the United States to help their son and his family move back to Minnesota, they tracked me down. They caught up with me while I was taking a break at Ship Rock Wayside. I could hardly believe it when I saw them pull into the parking lot. Talk about brightening my day! We chatted for the better part of half an hour while their dog Daisy and cat Duke stretched their legs a bit. They brought me a little piece of home, and there is nothing more precious than that. Thank you Jeff and Selma. What a wonderful surprise!
  • Hotel Coloma – Originally a boarding house built back in the 1870s, this historic hotel was a pleasure to stay in, and at a really good price. Both the old photographs on the walls and the general layout of the building and rooms make it feel as if one is staying not just in a hotel, but in a piece of history. Owners Sue and Dennis have done a wonderful job of renovating the old establishment; the rooms are cozy and offer everything a traveler needs. The Coloma Hotel was truly a wonderful find!

Lows Today

  • Toughing Out Highway 21 –  Like Minnesota State Highway 14 between Rochester, Minnesota and Winona, Minnesota, State Highway 21 in Wisconsin is a challenging road to spend time on. It’s busy, the shoulders aren’t all that wide and their condition varies considerably. As an alternative to Highway 21, I’ve experimented with some county roads in Wisconsin. They’re fine if there isn’t heavy traffic on them. If there is, though, they become challenging and quite dangerous. There doesn’t seem to be an ideal, so with the exception of a stretch at the very end of the walk, toughing it out on Highway 21 is going to be the plan.

Keen Observations – The Personalities of  the Wave – There seems to be an almost endless variety of ways for people to wave as they drive by me. No two waves are exactly alike, but they oftentimes fall into broad categories. These waves can apparently tell a lot about the personality of the waver. This is a complex subject; to do it justice, I’ll really need to dedicate some time and space to it. Look for a post entitled, “Language of Wave: Decriptions, Interpretations and Protocols.” It’ll be published on Sunday, July 22nd as Edition #1 of The Sunday Morning Muse

Lessons Learned – I’ve been telling myself that, as often as I can, I need to slow down and spend some time in the places I’m passing through. It turns out it isn’t all that easy to do. In an effort to make the deadlines I set for myself, I’ve been moving along at a fairly rapid pace. Even when I know there are moments to spare, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that time is chasing me. I guess what I’ll need to do on occasion is turn around and just punch time in the face! We’ll see how that works out…:-)

Day 26 – Potato Pancakes and Roche-A-Cri

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Monday, July 10th, 7:55 a.m. – Departed from the Necedah Motel in Necedah, Wisconsin.

The Atmosphere’s Mood

Morning Conditions – Temp – 73 with low humidity / Wind – NW at 5 mph / Skies – Clear with scattered clouds beginning to develop. Weak cold front passed in the night.

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached a high of 84* with moderate humidity / Wind – Calm / Skies – Clear with scattered cumulonimbus

6:45 p.m. – Arrived at the Adams County Airport in Adams/Friendship, Wisconsin, 20.8 miles, 55,300 steps, 80 miles remaining.

Highs Today

  • The Polish Community – I found out while having breakfast at JB’s Country Restaurant just east of Necedah, Wisconsin that Adams County has a significant Polish population. There are polish grocery stores, delis and restaurants. There is so much color in their culture! Best of all, I had a potato pancake for breakfast. It was delicious! Haven’t had one of those since I was a kid.
  • Roche-A-Cri State Park – Becasue it was a little out of my way, I really had no intention of going to this State Park. But when I saw the Roche-A-Cri Mound (Butte), I just had to go and climb it. A holdover from the era of Glacial Lake Wisconsin, it really put things into perspective. Also, the Native American petroglyphs that still exist on its south face give it historic relevance of a completely different kind. The climb to the top was really pretty easy, and the view was spectacular. It was worth taking a few extra steps to get there.

Lows Today

  • Hard To Restart – While getting going again after a weekend off is easier than it was at the beginning of the walk, it’s still a struggle. 20 miles just feels like a really long way to go! After about 10 miles, I feel like I need a nap…
  • No Sleep At Adams County Airport – It was great to be able to utilize the Adams County airport as a place to sleep for the night. Sheldon – the groundskeeper there – gave me full access to the building, showed me a good spot to pitch a tent and helped me feel at home. But I couldn’t sleep! For the life of me, I don’t know why. But I tossed and turned until the wee hours of the morning, and then the rising birds kept me awake! Some nights are just like that I guess. Sleeping in a different place every night, I suppose it shouldn’t really come as a surprise. It sure makes the next day hard, though…

Lessons Learned – It isn’t always worth it to put on extra steps to go “sightseeing.” The decision to do so or not can be quite challenging. A few extra miles doesn’t seem like much, but at the end of a 20 mile day, it makes a BIG difference. On the other hand, I may never pass this way again. There’s always ibuprofen. 🙂

Day 25 – Anticipation

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Friday, July 7th, 9:35 a.m. – Departed from The Edge O’ The Woods Motel in New Lisbon, Wisconsin.

The Atmosphere’s Mood

Morning Conditions – Temp – 73 with low humidity / Wind – NW at 5 mph / Skies – Clear with scattered clouds beginning to develop. Weak cold front passed in the night.

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached a high of 84* / NW at 10 mph, gusting to 15 / Skies – Clear with fair weather cumulus. 

2:00 p.m. – Arrived at Old Mill Park in Necedah, Wisconsin, 11.7 miles, 31,800 steps, 101 miles remaining.

Today’s Highs

  • Reconnecting – The plan for the weekend was for Jill to pick me up in Necedah, Wisconsin, and then the two of us would continue down to Madison, Wisconsin to spend the weekend together. It was the anticipation of that reunion that kept my spirits up all through the day. Jill and I have been together now for almost six years. But the feeling I get inside when I see her walking toward me hasn’t changed at all. After a week of being apart, my heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I first saw her. Words aren’t going to do it here; you either know the feeling or you don’t. I hope you do…
  • Cooler, Shorter Day – The storms that passed through last night were the result of a cold front working its way through the area. Considering the heat and humidity of the past few days, the relatively cool, dry air that came with it was a welcome change. Also, walking only 12 miles felt like getting off work at noon on a Friday. That, too, was a most welcome break in the routine.
  • Old Mill Park – At the intersection of Highways 80 and 21 in Necedah, Wisconsin is Old Mill Park. It’s a small park on the shore of a tiny lake. It has a playground, a picnic shelter, a dock, and just off shore, a fountain that continually shoots water up into the air about 25 feet. It is not a spectacular place; it’s hardly noticeable when driving through town. When I arrived there, though, the wind was blowing across the lake and through the picnic shelter, bringing with it a cool mist from the fountain in the lake. After battling the heat for the past couple of days, it felt downright chilly! I remained there for several hours while waiting for Jill to arrive. I can’t remember any other time in my life when I’ve been so thankful for a picnic shelter…

Today’s Lows – 

  • Challenging, Busy Road – Wisconsin State Highway 80 is a busy road.  I don’t think I saw more than 15 seconds go by without a vehicle whizzing past in one direction or the other. Normally, that’s not really a problem. But the paved portion of the shoulder is only about 30 inches wide. Beyond that, the roadside typically falls away quickly into the the ditch, or worse yet, into swampy areas. In many cases, my choice was to walk very close to traffic, attempt to move on the challenging slope of the shoulder, or simply stop. It made for an exhausting few hours of walking.

Completely Unacceptable

  • Please Drink Responsibly!! – In nearly 500 miles of walking, I have never seen so many empty beer cans on the roadside as I did on the 8 mile stretch of Highway 80 just north of New Lisbon, Wisconsin. I’d like to think they blew off a recycling truck. If that was the case, though, you would think there might be at least a few soda cans in the mix. Unfortunately, the empties I saw were Bud Light, Busch Light, Keystone Light, and occasionally, Michelob Golden Light. Drinking and driving kills people. Does anything more really need to be said about this?!

Lessons Learned – The longer I’m out here, the more I appreciate my home. This walk was my idea, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world. But the longer I’m away from home, the lonelier it gets. I long for the simple things: pressed coffee, our annoying cat, falling asleep on the couch and peaceful evenings on the porch with Jill. In the future, it is far less likely that I will take any of these things for granted.


New Friends

House in Necedah

Old Mill Park

The Picnic Shelter

My Love

Day 24 – Embracing the Heat

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Thursday, July 6th, 6:05 a.m. – Departed from Bloyer Field (Y72) in Tomah, Wisconsin.

The Atmosphere’s Mood

Morning Conditions – Temp – 63 with high humidity / Wind – SW at 5 mph / Skies – Clear but hazy. High cirrus clouds to the east, anvil tops from thunderstorms to the north and northwest.

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached a high of 92* with very high humidity / Wind – Westerly but variable / Skies – Clear with cumulonimbus clouds beginning to build up to the north and northwest by 5:00 p.m. Severe thunderstorms began passing through the area at around 9:00 p.m. 

6:30 p.m. – Arrived at the Edge O’ The Woods Motel in New Lisbon, Wisconsin, 20.3 miles, 53,400 steps, 113 miles remaining.

Today’s Highs

  • The Early Start – I love the early mornings in the country. The air is heavy and sweet, and smells of clover, freshly mown alfalfa and soil made damp by the dense morning dew. Especially in the peak of summer when things are really heating up, it’s the best time of the day.
  • Mill Bluff State Park – This park is just a few miles west of Camp Douglas. By the time I arrived there, it was late morning and the temperature had already climbed into the upper 80s. Within the park and immediately adjacent to the road I was walking on, there lies a small pond with a swimming beach. By taking a slight detour and walking to the other side of the pond, it was possible to sit in the shade of giant oak trees and feel the cool and refreshing breeze that was blowing across the pond. It felt like a little piece of paradise. I’ve never been to a desert oasis, but imagine that arriving at one must be a similar experience to the one I had at Mill Bluff.
  • Edge O’ The Woods Motel – Opting to stay at small motels can be a bit like buying scratch-offs: lots of times you lose, other times you win a little, and every now and then, you win big. I felt like I won big at Edge O’ The Woods. This little motel had touches of home, and it was obvious that the owners care a lot about its condition, sustainability and making guests feel at home. Because the owners couldn’t be there at the time I arrived, provisions were made for me to get access to my room in their absence. I didn’t talk to anyone at the front desk until the next morning. More on that later…

Amazing Storms – There’s nothing quite like the power of a large thunderstorm. There were some very impressive ones passing through the New Lisbon area between 9:00 and 11:00 in the evening. Copy and paste the link below into your browser to have a look! 

    Today’s Lows

    • Feeling the Time Crunch – More and more as this walk has progressed, I’ve been feeling like I made a critical error in planning it. There simply wasn’t enough time built in to stay for very long at any of the the places I’m passing through. Especially now, as its end is drawing near, I regret making that planning error. The next time I do something like this…:-)
    • Melted Gummies and Burned Lips – It got so hot in my pack today that the gummie vitamins carried inside of it all melted together into one, big multi-colored blob. Also, the metal water bottles hanging on the outside of my pack  were exposed to the sun for so long that the water inside them got scalding hot. I burned my lips trying to drink it. Not going to do THAT again!

    A special note to: Jovanka (pronounced Yovanka) – Owner of The Edge O’ The Woods Motel – It was a pleasure to talk with you for a few minutes before I left, Jovanka. Your hard work makes a room at your motel feel less like a room, and more like home. Thank you! You and your partner are welcome at our home in Duluth anytime.  Jill and I would love to have you…:-)

    Lessons Learned – There are certain things that are simply beyond our control. Accepting that fact – and even embracing it – makes an adventure like this one so much more enjoyable. I don’t really seek out danger, but if it comes my way, I’m going face it head on, and be better and stronger coming out the other side!

    Day 23 – Long Road to Tomah

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    Wednesday, July 5th, 9:55 a.m. – Departed from the Sparta DNR Campground in Sparta, Wisconsin.

    The Atmosphere’s Mood

    Morning Conditions – Temp – 79 with high humidity / Wind – SW at 5 mph / Skies – Clear but hazy. High cirrus clouds distant SW, thunderstorms to the north.

    Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Beginning around noon, thunderstorms began popping up all across the area, becoming severe by evening. Temp – Reached a high of 88* with high humidity / Wind – Light and Variable / Skies – Clear after strong thunderstorms moved off to the SE. 

    7:30 p.m. – Arrived at Bloyer Field (Y72) in Tomah,Wisconsin, 18.6 miles, 47,300 steps, 134 miles remaining.

    Highs Today 

    • Beautiful Sky’s, Powerful Storms – I’m a weather geek. I love the power of the atmosphere, its freedom, and the fact that there is little we can do to stop anything it does. Today, there was an amazing amount of energy in the air. The towering cumulonimbus clouds shot up up tens of thousands of feet; some of their tops even billowed into the stratosphere. Their powerful effect could be felt for hundreds of square miles as they filled skies with electricity! A weather geek’s dream…
    • Roberta and Daisy – While descending a long hill just west of Tomah, Wisconsin, I noticed a lady out mowing the lawn on a small farm site. As I got closer, I saw her stop the mower, get off and disappear. When I reached the farm’s driveway, she was headed my way with a giant glass of lemonade. Her name was Roberta, and she thought I might be a veteran she’d heard about who was walking across Wisconsin. I explained that I wasn’t, gulped down the lemonade, and we had a wonderful conversation about her two boys, the walk, the cost of education and how things are today.  I also got to meet her less than six month old blue healer pup named Daisy. Daisy didn’t always like people, but she sure does now. 🙂 Thank you, Roberta, for your kindness and generosity. It was truly a pleasure to meet you!
    • The Motorcycle Stop – In the early afternoon when I had nearly finished walking through Fort McCoy, a motorcycle with two people on it came to a stop about 100 yards in front of me. From what I could see, the driver was making some sort of adjustment or a change of clothing. What was actually happening, though, was that they were waiting for me to get there so they could ask if everything was okay. I couldn’t help but think what a caring gesture that was. I told the two of them that what I was doing was intentional. We had a bit of a laugh, I thanked them both, and we went our separate ways. On the really hot days, those check-in stops are really appreciated. Thank you fellow biker!

    Lows Today

    • Hot, Humid, Slow – Time and distance are both such changeable commodities. Even though there were only 18 miles to cover today, it felt like one of the longest walks I’ve experienced so far. Steps come hard on days like this one, and there’s a constant mental battle that’s being fought. Nature had its way today, making me feel pretty darn insignificant.

    Strange Occurrences – During the early part of the day as I was walking through the Fort McCoy area, there was a car broken down on the side of the road. Actually, it was out of gas. Walking past the car, I asked the people in it if they needed help. They said they were fine, and I continued on my way. Later in the evening, I walked into The Superior Family Restaurant in Tomah, Wisconsin and came face to face with Rachel, one of the people who had been in the out-of-gas car earlier in the day. Just weird…

    Lessons Learned – The simplest of things can make the biggest of differences when mind and body are reaching their limits. On a beastly hot, humid day, the temporary relief offered by a cloud passing across a blazing sun feels like splashing cool water on one’s face. The cold air brought down from the upper atmosphere by thunderstorm downdrafts feels like taking a divine dip in the creek. Even on the hottest and most humid of days, nature finds ways to make it more bearable.

    Day 22 – The Privilege of Independence

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    Tuesday, July 4th, 8:35 a.m. – Departed from Microtel Hotel in Onalaska, Wisconsin.

    The Atmosphere’s Mood

    Morning Conditions – Temp – 69 / Wind – SE at 5 mph / Skies – Clear with high cirrus clouds distant SW.

    Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached a high of 86* with moderate humidity / Wind – Light and Variable / Skies – Clear with high clouds on the western horizon.

    9:15 p.m. – Arrived at the Sparta DNR Campground in Sparta, Wisconsin, 23.7 miles, 58,650 steps, 154 miles remaining.

    Highs Points Today – 

    • Soaring Birds – As I was leaving Onalaska and moving out of the city limits, I noticed what could best be described as a swarm of large soaring birds circling for altitude just south of where I was walking. There was no real way to count them, but my estimate was between 50 and 75. I believe they were turkey vultures, but some seemed to fly differently. There’s no way I’ll ever know for sure, but it was a truly spectacular display. I wished I could have spread my arms wide and flown with them. 🙂
    • Skies and Flowers – The skies today were particularly beautiful. High cirrus clouds passed overhead throughout the day in ripples and waves, looking as if they were only visiting in our atmosphere for Independence Day. On the earth’s surface, the flowers along the trail were in full bloom. Bright oranges, reds and yellow stood out against the vibrant greens of midsummer farm fields. The contrasts were amazing, causing me to stop and take it all in on several occasions.
    • Break at Augies – In the early afternoon, I really needed to get out of the heat. I made a plan to get as far as the small town of Bangor, Wisconsin and find a bar or restaurant that was open on the holiday. In the downtown area of Bangor, I found Augies Bar and Grill. Toni – the bartender there – was super interested in the walk I’m doing, and her questions were the beginning of great conversation. She told me a little about herself and her husband, and about her own experience with a 10 mile cancer walk on the LaCrosse River Trail (way to go, Toni!). I had a delicious pizza, stayed in the air conditioning an wrote for a while, and finally picked up and moved on around 3:30 p.m. A note to Toni:  Thank you for your interest and conversation, and for the warning about the trail ahead. You were right. Parts of it were Sahara-like, and I found myself scurrying from shady spot to shady spot until the day cooled down some. You affected my day in a most positive way, and I wanted to make sure that you knew that. 🙂
    • The LaCrosse River Trail – This trail passes through some really beautiful country. The stretch I was on today also passes through several small towns that are really bike friendly. In the cool of the morning, there were a lot of people moving on the trail, making for a friendly, social environment. By late afternoon/evening though, it got really quiet. I walked the last 7 miles to Sparta without seeing a single person. Talk about peace and quiet! Just me and the occasional, fast-moving train…
    • Alex from Durham, North Carolina – At a water fountain near the trail in Rockland, Wisconsin, I crossed paths with a young man named Alex on a bicycle. His journey originated in his hometown of Durham, North Carolina, and was planned to end in Portland, Oregon. We stood in the shade, drank cool water and had a really good conversation about the challenges of being on the trail, about what was working, and about what was not. He also told me about an ap called Warm Showers. Much like an AirBnB, it’s people in their homes who wish to put up bicycle travelers for the night. Even though I’m not on a bicycle, I feel confident that it’s a service I could use. I wish I’d have known about this earlier! Thanks Alex. It was a pleasure to meet you. Safe travels on the rest of your journey!

    Lows Points Today – 

    • Mosquitos in the Tunnel – Below is a series of three pictures that shows how close the canopy of trees is on one part of the LaCrosse River Trail. It actually looked like there was a light at the end of a tunnel. Unfortunately, the shade and dense foliage made for a perfect mosquito habitat. Each time I stopped to take one of these pictures, I was immediately immersed in a swarm of hungry mosquitos. I actually started “running toward the light” to get away from them. Even out in the bright sunshine, they hovered around me and my pack for several hundred yards. Nasty!
    • A Long, Hot Day – Today’s temperature got up to nearly 90 degrees by late afternoon. At that time of the day, I was on a part of the trail that offered almost no shade and little breeze, making for a pretty steamy stroll. Also, for some reason unknown to me, a route that showed to be just under 22 miles in the morning turned into nearly 24 miles by evening. Perhaps a rip in the space time continuum? Not sure. But 2 extra miles at the end of hot day is definitely not a situation that makes me upbeat and positive.

    Keen Observations – It’s Independence Day today! That means something different to each and every one of us. To me, it means having the freedom to walk 600 miles if I want to, and to be able to do so in an environment of relative safety. The more I thought about that today, the more I realized that our freedom should be quite high on the list of things to celebrate, if not right at the very top. So on a more serious note, I want to thank all of the women and men who earned our freedom for us, and also those who continue to protect it. This is not something to be taken for granted…

    Lessons Learned – Motivation and the drive to continue can come from a lot of different places and take many forms. There are days when it is quite difficult to continue putting one foot in front of another. People like Alex and Toni make all the difference. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for having had the chance to meet them.

    Day 21 – The Great River Trail

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    Monday, July 3rd, 9:25 a.m. – Departed from Perrot State Park near Trempealeau, Wisconsin.

    The Atmosphere’s Mood

    Morning Conditions – Temp – 69 / Wind – Calm / Skies – Clear with high cirrus clouds moving in from the west.

    Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached a high of 86* / Wind – SE at 5 mph / Skies – Clear with fair weather cumulus.

    7:00 p.m. – Arrived at the Microtel Hotel in Onalaska, Wisconsin, 21.8 miles, 54,800 steps, 180 miles remaining.

    Highs of the Day – 

    • Trempealeau – I really liked this little town; it just had a good feel to it. I wasn’t going to stop until later in the day, but felt compelled to as I passed through. I headed for a convenience store near the edge of town, got some food and Gatorade, and sat down in the shade near the store. There were so many people that asked me about what I was doing. One guy even offered me a beer for the road! I had to turn him down, but the gesture was pretty cool. It was also an excellent reminder of which state I had entered…:-)
    • People Having Fun – I took a break where the Great River Trail crosses over the Black River. As I rested there on a bench in the shade, people just stopped to talk with me. Many had seen me earlier pulling my recognizable trailer down the trail. Everyone I talked with was on vacation, and it showed in their mindsets and willingness to take the time to chat. In particular, I met a couple from Des Moine. They were biking their fool heads off, and hoping to hit 50 miles by the end of the day. Chad and Kelly – a couple from Eau Claire, Wisconsin – were also biking. Their objective was not to see the same scenery more than once, and they seemed like really fun and interesting people. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could bottle up that vacation mindset and let it out when we need it most? Maybe someday.
    • UnWine’d – By the time I arrived at Onalaska, Wisconsin, I’d been on the Great River Trail for nearly 20 miles. While a beautiful place to walk, the scenery doesn’t change a whole lot. I was ready for a change. The first place that came into view was a wine bar called UnWine’d. I loved the name, and decided to take a break on a bench outside. Ellen – the owner and proprietor – came outside to work on the front of her shop. We started talking about the walk, and she offered to send me down the road with a really good beer. After checking out her cool wine bar and having a very pleasant conversation, I stepped outside to finish the remaining 3 miles of walking for the day with a lighter heart. Thank you, Ellen, for your generosity and for lifting my spirits at the end of a long day. We will meet again. 🙂 Go Pack!

    Lows of the Day – 

    • Back in the Saddle – Sore – There’s not a lot to say about this. The week staying with friends and my sister combined with the week I took off made me SOFT! I was tired and sore by the end of the day, and thankful for an air conditioned hotel room. 
    • Trail Boredom – Trails like the Great River Trail make for peaceful, easy walking. The scenery, however, just doesn’t change much. After spending the better part of day on one, I start to get a bit stir crazy. There needs to be a balance, but that is sometimes difficult to achieve. I was glad to arrive at Onalaska, and finish walking for the day through a more urban setting.

    Keen Observations – Insects: Part of the original sin penance? – Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by what it might be like to see things through the eyes of a cat, a dog, a cow or an insect. What do they think? Do they think? What does a blade of grass look like to an ant, or a human being in the eyes of a house cat? Along that line of thinking, there are some things I’ve been wondering about as I’ve been fending off insects.

    1. Deer Flys – They’re just not that smart. Do they believe that if they can gain enough velocity and then hurl themselves at the mesh part of my hat like a BB, that they will reach the promised land of my shaven, sweaty scalp?! Also, they seem to like my iPhone screen, but they don’t seem to know what to do with it. Nor can their little feet make it work. So primitive…
    2. Gnats – These guys are fascinating. They always work as a group. The swarm follows you along for miles. Or does it? Is it possibly some sort of tag-team arrangement between Gnat communities?  So how does it work? Does one of them dare another to fly into one of the human “slime caves?” Or is it the “challenged ones” that just happen to do it? What must that be like? One minute you’re flying around, the next minute you’re slimed like a Ghostbuster and caught in a high velocity air stream heading straight for the ground. Do the other gnats laugh? Or do they say, “Gnatty was so brave to test the slime cave. We will immortalized him.” It is possible that I have too much time to think…:-)

    Lessons Learned – The best connections always seem to happen when least expected. Also, the simple act of sitting down for a few minutes always seems to end in new relationships. Note to self: sit down more!