Thursday, May 16, 2013

Monday May 13th - Trempeleau to Goose Island Campground

The night was pretty quiet.  Could hear the trains roll by at night and a few barges working their way through the locks, but after about 11 p.m.  the bar downstairs closed up and I think I had the building to myself.  I woke about about 6 am to the sound of trains, so got up and got caught up on my writing from yesterday.    I then grabbed a quick bite to eat from my supply bag, and hauled my bike back down the steps, and made several return trips to haul my stuff down.  I loaded up and was read to head out when a man named JR stopped me as he was driving by to find out where I was going.  We talked for a little while and I learned he was in town vacationing, with another person.  He had just drove to the gas station in town to pick up their morning coffee.  JR was from Milwaukee, but went to LaCrosse for school for a couple of years back in the 70’s.  We shared stories about biking down Grand-dad bluff hill, and he told me about the time he watched someone hang glided off the bluff.  We wished each other well and I headed out of town for the Great River Trail. 

After jogging down the trail yesterday, I wasn’t sure I wanted to bike down the rough trail, or take the smooth highway, but opted for the trail, and I was glad I did.  The trail cuts through the Van Loon Wildlife area which is an interesting area created by the flows of the Black River filtering into lake Onalaska.  Although the trail parallels the Burlington Northern railroad tracks it is far enough away that the passing trains were mostly unnoticeable.  There was lots of water, numerous bridges – including the old rail
road trestle, and plenty of warbles, water fowl, and at least one pair of sand hill cranes.  Nicholl’s Mound, a Hopewell Indian burial
mound, is also found along the trail.   There are a number of interesting cabins located adjactent to the trestle bridge crossing the main channel of the Black River.   

After a couple of liesurly hours of peddling, I found my self in the City of Onalaska, and the sign advertising Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant called out for me to stop and feast on some Mexican food, so I did.  I ordered a vegetarian fajita of tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, and carrots served with rice, beans, lettuce and some tortillas.  Before the meal came I gorge myself on some tasty salsa and nachos.  And they served me one of the largest glasses of orange juices with no ice – my favorite beverage to drink.  While I was eating, a gathering of 60 something year old Onalaska women began to fill the three tables next to mine.  All the 6 or 7 women appeared to be about the same age and have similar short cropped hair cuts.  It was difficult to listen in on their conversation but it seemed to range from a debate on whether or not some woman convicted of a heinous crime should get the death penality or would it be better for her to spend her life in a cell, too how would win the latest TV dance compition, to the latest Detroit Tiger baseball game.  They all had margaritas to drink and must be regulars and the waiter seemed to be pretty familiar with the women.    

Feeling extremely full, I waddled back on to my bike and started peddling up Highway 35, and soon came across a Salvation Army Thrift Store.  I decided to stop in and see if I could exchange the old flannel shirt I found along the Great River Trail yesterday, with something a bit more stylish, lighter and weight, and less mildowy smelling.  I also wanted find  another tee shirt and some shorts for backups.  So I found some bargains and traded in my old shirt, then
as I got in to La Crosse, I started looking for a bike shop.  I had wanted to find someone to try and fix the problem I was having with my middle range gears slipping on me.  I asked several people for assistance if find the shop, and came across congress man Ron Kind talking to someone on the side of the street.  I debated asking him for directions, but is sounded like he was engaged in some kind of serious political discussion, so passed him by. 

Eventually I found Smith’s Cycle shop, and the repairman was good enough to take my bike and and hopefully make some adjustments.  And then he was kind enough to not even charge me for his work.  I did however feel obliged to purchase something, so picked up a headlight to replace the one I brought with the shorted out in the rain, and a yellow reflective triangle to strap to the back of my bike to avoid angry men who drive red trucks.  And then I headed south through La Crosse, stopping of course to admire the world largest six pack of beer at the La Crosse Brewery, and then to take some pictures of the Gunderson Lutheran Hospital, which is the birthplace of my youngest daughter. 
Then I stopped at my old work place – the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to meet my friend John again.  I found his office and he presented me with a bag of food, which was very kind of him.  He also was kind enough to walk me around the office where I met with a number of other folks who had worked out of the office when I did.  It was good to see old faces –  not to imply that the faces were old (although I learned many of them were older than mine), and catch up on how life protecting Wisconsin’s natural resources was going after the political changes that occurred over the past several years.  Most of the folks seemed in good spirits, despite the political foolishness that capture the State.   I also tried to borrow a larger than life version of the Mississippi River Valley map to strap on to my bike, but decided the map might be needed more by the folks in the office. 

Heading out of the DNR office, I decided to swing by my old neighborhood, took some pictures of our old house and was sad to see all the plantings and landscaping we had done on the house had been removed and replaced with lawn.  The two bat houses I had installed were gone, and all the wood siding I had put on the house to give it a unique look had been replaced with low maintenance.  I was glad however to see how big some of the white pine trees I had planted in the yard had gotten, and also noticed that a third bathouse I had installed in the park behind my neighbors house was still standing after 15 years of use and bats were still inhabiting as evidenced by the fresh bat droppings below the house – but it was in need of some maintenance itself.
I then headed south out of town for the Goose Island Campground, found a site, paid my $20.25 self-registration camping fee for a tent only site, spent 0.75 for a shower, ate some supper, and then saw my old friend John driving into the campground.  He brought more food – I probably should have warned him that if he keeps feeding me, I might not leave.  He had brought along his 4x5 box camera along which was a pretty interesting gizmo.  Apparently it is the same kind of camera that Edsil Adams used.  He made me pose in front of my tent for him and then headed off to capture a sunset photo.  I pulled out my laptop, and started writing up my journal entries for the day, watched the sun go down, and then enjoyed the tastee morsal of terrici steak John had brought me.  Later as I was typing a way, I heard my panneirs rattling by what I thought was the wind, but when I shined my light on my bike which was only 4 feet away from me I saw the glaring reflecting eyes of a brazen raccoon who was attempting to claw/chew his way in to my pannier to get at the cookies John had brought me.  I jumped up and scared the beast away, but now know I better sleep with my food in the tent tonight.  Hopefully the thief won’t try to chew his way into my tent.  

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