Friday, September 14, 2012

Lite Touring - 137 Miles to Elkhart Lake, WI

Bicycle - First Day After Build


     Tomorrow is a big day for me.  Life has been a mess and my bike has always been my savior when things are bad.  So tomorrow I am planing some lite touring to give me some time to clear my mind and just be on my bike riding.  I will be traveling from here in Gurnee, IL to Elkhart Lake, WI for a family function.  I will have to hitch a ride home with family Sunday because of time restraints on Monday.
     You may look up the route on Google Maps.  Just enter Hillside Court Gurnee, IL and Elkhart Lake, WI and make sure you select traveling by bicycle.  The route will be taking me up through Kenosha and Racine, where I have lived for the the last 12 years and know the route quite well.  The Milwaukee stretch of the route makes me a little nervous, but it should not be to bad, Milwaukee has a nice path system along the lake.
     The route I will be taking is the Ozaukee interurban Route.  Over all the route is 137 miles and Google says it will take 11 hours 53 minutes.  The weather forecast is for 75 degrees with a 5 mph wind from the west south west, so conditions will be perfect.  I think I am a lot stronger cyclist then Google has figured for the 12 hours they estimate.  I think I will be in the 9-10 hour range.  If it was a multiple day tour I would be a lot slower conserving energy for the following days.
Here is a list off all that I packed.
2 Tubes
Tire Patches
Tire Levers
Park Tool Multi Tool
1 chain Tool
Bike Pump
6 Bottle of Water
2 Bottles of Water in the cages
6 Granola Bars
1 lb Dried Fruit
1 lb Almonds
1 Canister of Gatorade Powder
1 pair of jeans
1 pair of shorts
1 pair of riding pants
2 t-shirts
1 dress shirt
1 sweat shirt
Under ware and Socks
1 phone
1 IPod
1 IPad
Bag for my pills

Bare Bike


All That I need To pack

Loaded Bike

     I started riding at sun up.  The bike at first was out of balance, I had to stop and move some things around.  The ride was moving fast.  I did not think to take any photos until after Milwaukee, I have ridden the area from Gurnee to Milwaukee so many times that it just didn't seem photo worthy.  I rembered to start taking photos around Port Washington Wisconsin.
     The air was pretty cool at the beginning, started by wearing riding pants and a sweat shirt, but quickly shed those around the 20 mile mark.  I do not really like the first 25 miles through Gurnee over to the North South path and then through Kenosha.  There are a lot of busy roads and the scenery is all the same.  Around Washing road in Racine around where I use to live, is when the ride starts to get interesting.  I love the section of trail from Washington road to Milwaukee,  there is a lot of trees, twists and turns and parks along the way.
     The Milwaukee section does nothing for me either.  Skyscrapers, cars and pollution don't really interest me.  But the Ozaukee County Interurban trail is really nice, scenery is not much yet, but the trail is very interesting, and there is a lot of city stuff to look at.
     Just out side of Port Washington is where the trail and scenery gets interesting, in my opinion anyways, I love the rolling farm country and small towns of this type of trail.  I arrived in Port Washington around 11:00.  The trail was closed for construction so I had to take the detour on a gravel road for about 4 miles.  It was all new loose gravel with no area packed down.  It was slow going and I worried about getting a flat, but I lucked out.

Port Washington Scenery

Gravel Road Detour

     The first small town I reached was Belgium, WI.  I really liked this section of trail, the weather was getting warm and there was a lot of dips in the trail where the cool air has not warmed yet.  It was refreshing to hit the coolness.  The path from Belgium through Cedar Berg and into Oostberg was tree lined and beautiful.  With all that has been going on this summer with my family, this was about the time in the ride that my spirits really started to lift and my body was getting into a very fast and efficient rhythm.  I am not sure exactly, but this must have been in the 80-90 mile range of the ride.
     I love the small towns along the trail.  Belgium, Cedar Grove and Ooostberg is like looking back into time.  There is just small main street with a few small stores.  The sad part is most of the buildings are empty and run down.  It makes me think of what could be.  Oostberg looked like it was trying to revive a little with restaurants and a beautiful train depot turned into a bicycle trail head.  It is amazing what can happen when a community embraces cycling.
     This part of the trail was not well maintained, a lot of weeds, flowers and grass was over growing the path, but it had a beautiful affect.  I snapped a few photos of flower and grass all the path.

Belgium Farm

Small Town of Belgium, WI

Abandoned Belgium Mill

Trail Side Daisy

Trail Side Grass

Path from Belgium to Oostberg

Oostberg Trail Head

      The next 10-12 miles was from Oostberg to Sheboygan Falls.  At Oostberg according to the map, the bike trail turns north east into Sheboygan, I just needed to continue north because I was eventually turning west, the trip into Sheboygan would have added around 10 miles to my route.  At this point I left the trail and took County Road A and then Hwy 32 into Sheboygan Falls.  This was a very nice road, the speed limit was 55 mph, but there where hardly any cars, I saw more tractors and bicycles then I saw cars.  This was also a demanding section of the route, it seemed as it was all up and down on very steep grades.  When I got into Sheboygan falls I took a 20 minute break in a park to eat and drink and let the muscles loosen up.
     I liked Sheboygan Falls, it felt like a classic American town that still felt small.  There where signs around town for the falls, I road around a little looking for them, but could not find them.  On the north side of town I  turned west catching the Old Plank Road Trail that follows Hwy 23.

Sheboygan Falls River

Sheboygan Falls Bridge

      I rode Old Plank Road Trail for about 6 miles into the town of Plymouth.  The trail is very nice, but it follows along a four lane highway, so it was loud and unscenic.  In the town of Plymouth I turned north on Hwy E.  Hwy E was a beautiful ride.  No traffic, but huge hills up and down with a lot of curves and trees.  This was near 130 miles in and I was getting pretty tired.  I am embarrassed to say I had to walk a few hills at this point, legs where just dead, and I was to close to my destination to stop and rest.
     The last mile into the Osthoff Resort, where the family gathering was, may have been the best part of the ride.  It was all tree covered winding roads and little bridges.

River Along Old Plank Road Trail

Hwy E

Last Mile to Resort

     I was extremely tired by the time I made it to my destination, but my spirits have not been this high in a very long time.  I left a lot of mental baggage out on the trail and having time with all my family, aunts, uncles and all really help.  This was exactly what I needed to re-enthuse myself for life.  I am so proud of myself for making it this far, and only in about 9 hours.

My bike & I at the End

I will be adding a few more thoughts about the trip after it sinks in for a few days.

Until Later,

John Z.

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