Monday, May 13, 2013

Sunday May 12 - Merrick State Park to Trempeleau

Having spent Saturday as a day of rest, I felt compelled to move on and put a few more miles behind me.  It felt good to see sunshine when I crawled from the tent, despite the cold temperature.  I woke up refreshed, did some yoga stretches to try and work the kinks out of my body, and started packing up.  The gang of five sons from large family was out shortly after that having a grand time – with one of the younger boys laying down crying while his brothers gathered round his supine body to find out what all the commotion was about.   Listening in on their conversations, I learned two of the boys names – Jacob and Joshua – and imagined that the other three probably had been named after other Old Testament prophets as well.  This seemed to be a family that took the call to go out and fill the earth to heart.   Later as my packing was delayed because I could not find my stuff sacks for my tent and sleeping pad, I blamed the prophets for likely taken it, but after letting go of the blame, I unpacked my sleeping bag from its own stuff sack and found the missing bags with no one to blame but myself.   At around 11 am, I finally had everything packed up and down the road I went, and where I would end up I did not know, but kind of figured it would be Trempealeau – either Perrot State Park or the Trempealeau Hotel.

The road out of Fountain City soon entered the Trempealeau Wildlife Preserve, and then climbs a bit to higher ground dominated by sandy loam farming country.  I passed an assortment of farms included the standard corn farms, beef, turkey, Shetland pony, one place with a couple of draft horses  of some type, and some that at this time of year looked like sterile dirt farms – the genetically modified seed that could withstand the herbicide applications had not been planted yet, hence the look of sterile dirt.  With the sandy soils, there were also a number a irrigation rigs in the fields. 

With a pretty good tail wind, it wasn’t long – around 1:30 or 2 pm – and I had covered the 21 miles from Merrick to reach the City of Trempealeau.   My first stop was the Hotel, to inquire about room availability and cost.  I figured if I could get a room for under $50 I would take it, rather than spend another night in the cooler temperatures camping at the State Park for $20 including electric.  The bartender at the Hotel informed me they had rooms and they went for $40 plus $7 for tax for a night – and he described the rooms as “Eurpean style, with just a room and a bed and one communal bathroom”.  I couldn’t pass up that price and a chance for a soft bed, warm shelter, and opportunity to eat one of their walnut burgers – and was used to sharing a bathroom at the campground. 

While sitting at the bar waiting to register, the young lady next to me mentioned that she used to work at the Hotel as a maid when she was younger.  She told me that I would like my stay and told me that her favorite room was room 5.  She said it was a corner room, a bit bigger than the others – except for the suite of course – and that it had two windows, and that if I didn’t like the room I could hold her accountable.  So when the bar tender told me it was available I took it.  He also told me it would be ok to bring my bike upstairs to the room with me as well.  So I began unpacking it for the trip upstairs and headed up to the room. 

The rooms upstairs are all older, but very clean.  All the doors were open to the rooms, and they all had a similar look and feel.  My room was equipped with an old lumpy, but comfy bed that reminded me of the ones my grandma used to have in her upstairs -  it had old tubular iron headboards.  Also in the room was a single wooden chair by the window overlooking the river and lock and dam, adjacent to the old radiator.  There was also a wooden dresser that leaned a bit to the West, and a large wooden closet. The floor was wooden and painted gray and the walls and ceiling were textured and painted bone white. I unpacked my stuff, and decided to stretch my legs by going for a quick jog through town.

When I came across the bike trail that led to Perrot State Park, I decided to detour down it to see what the trail was like, and if I was energetic enough check out the park.  The trail itself appeared somewhat rough and rutted and passed through the residential section of Trempealeau.  As I jogged along, I found someone’s old heavy flannel shirt hanging in the trees.  As it was cold and I was thinking I could use some warmer cloths, I took a closer look, found out it was my size, and decided to take it as a gift from the gods to take back with me to wash up and hopefully use to keep me warm if the cool temperatures continued.  Not feeling as energetic as I had hoped, I decided to head back to the Hotel, and on the way stopped into the laundry mat located a block from the Hotel to check out prices.  Two middle school aged boys greeted me with smiles, wearing their underwear and tee shirts, and informed me you could get 9 minutes of dryer time for a quarter. They explained they had fallen in the lake and gotten wet, so conveniently stopped in to dry their cloths before they returned home.     

Returning to my room I showered in the community bathroom, which was also quite clean and definitely an upgrade from the campground facilities.  The floor and shower/bathtub were tiled, and a refreshing place to clean up.  Then it was back to the laundry mat to do a load of laundry using all their facilities.  And when I finished with the laundry went back to the Hotel to meet with my old coworker and paddling partner John and his wife Beth who came into to town to share a meal with me.  It was good catching up with the two of them and enjoyed the meal of chicken Caesar salad – unfortunately the walnut burger was not available on the limited dinner menu.   After dinner I headed back up to my room and got caught up with my writing.  I was a little worried about how the noise from the restaurant and bar would be, but found that at least on a Sunday night, the room was fairly
quiet.  I was also surprised to find out that I was the only guest in the motel for the night, so pretty much had the run of the place.  Also, although the train noise from the tracks across the street, along with the barges passing through the lock, did wake me up a few times, I did sleep pretty well.  

I was curious about the distance I have been traveling, so checked the mileage on Google maps.  My first day from Blaine, to Prescott, to Hastings was about 52 miles; Hastings to Maiden Rock was 37 miles, Maiden Rock to Merrick State Park was 44 miles; and Merrick to Trempealeau was 21 miles; for a grand total of 154 miles.  Definitely not a distance record setter, but a good reminder that it is not about how many miles you cover, but what you experience in the miles you cover – which has been a good lesson for me so far on this trip.  In the past I would get caught up in trying to get to certain destinations, or cover a lot of miles, and in the process the trips become all about the miles and getting somewhere.  So far this trip has been much more about trying to learn to enjoy the process, the places, and the people I meet.  So I have come to lower my expectations of how far I will go,  where I will go,  and hopefully  continue to just take each day as it comes.

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