A very pretty day riding and rolling through an Amish region of farmlands and small towns in lower Wisconsin. We rode through Bangor and Norwalk before arriving at Sparta. (Lovely Lucy was immediately looking for warriors). Sparta is one end of the well known and very pretty Sparta-Elroy bike trail. The trail is 32 miles long and is reclaimed from the abandoned Chicago & Northwestern Railroad bed — meaning that it’s straight and close to level. The trail is hard-packed dirt rather than asphalt which makes for good riding though a bit slower than normal. We rode through long “green tunnels” and crossed a number of small rivers, including the world famous Kickapoo. (The Locomotive decided he didn’t need a respite on a quiet, shady path so he went off-route to stay on roads. This is why we sometimes call him Loco).
The best thing about the trail, however, was the three old railroad tunnels. These were carved out of solid rock in the 1870’s; each one took about 18 months to build. The longest one is ¾ of a mile; the others are roughly ¼ mile. They’re all incredibly dark so you need a good flashlight to navigate through them. In the long one, you literally can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel until you’re more than halfway through. Of course, shadows bounce around oddly and voices echo eerily — so we all made silly noises and dancing shadows.
Sparta bills itself as the capital of American bicycling and they have a collection of old big wheel bikes — many of them still rideable. All of which leads me to introduce Dublin
Damian who attempted to ride a statue. Three words for Damian: charming Irish bloke. Damian has clearly kissed the Blarney stone and can quickly strike up a conversation with anyone. At the Corn Palace, he absolutely charmed a group of little old midwestern ladies. They thought he was from Dublin, Ohio but he quickly corrected them. Damian has been a physical education instructor for some years now. Some of his former students are now famous footballers in Ireland and beyond. Damian is raising money for Alzheimer’s and he’s asked his famous former students to endorse — it’s a brilliant strategy and I wish I had thought of it. (But I don’t know anybody famous). You can learn more on Damian’s web site: www.damiandempster.com.
Day’s distance: 91.4 miles (147.1 km)
Average speed: 14.3 mph (23.0 kph)
Day’s climb: 1,600 feet (487.7 meters)
Total distance: 2,527.7 miles (4,067.9 km)