Natasha and I had a blast! An absolute blast!
Monday and Tuesday of this week, we explored the Elroy, WI, area with an SUV and our bicycles. The trees were beginning to change colors and we saw glorious hints of red, yellow and gold. We breathed in the fall odor of crushed leaves and purchased chocolate from an Amish bakery. The tires of the two-wheeled vehicle met gravel and fallen twigs and discovered the dark, dank interior of former train tunnels. Natasha and I ate the best burger and fries in the area and pushed out a leisurely 45 miles or so in two days on the Omaha and Sparta/Elroy trails.
The sky was clear blue, the temps around 70, and life almost perfect.
Natasha and I stayed in an extremely small town called Kendall. There was one hotel here, the Sugar Maple Inn. It was the mom and pop variety. Mousing cats roamed the grounds and hotel keys were left in the outside freezer when the office was closed. Yes, in the freezer. Small town trust. While the accommodations were very basic, it was all that we needed for our stay – soft beds, hot shower, TV, coffee pot, fridge.
We didn’t get a start on the trails until Monday afternoon…after a French toast breakfast and a ride to Fort McCoy to enjoy the scenery and allow the cool, 45-degree morning temps to warm up. Around 1:00 pm, we headed to Wilton, home of the annual Wood Turtle Days. Evidently, the wood turtle (a threatened species in Wisconsin) made an appearance during the straightening of a local road many years ago. Although a local believes it to be a myth, there is never a bad reason to celebrate anything in this state, especially when it involves adult refreshment and silly games. Another local community, Hustler, has a chicken pooping contest at it’s annual Hustler Days. Awesome.
Natasha and I finally hit the trail early afternoon, heading west, in the direction of Sparta. Before we left, a local Tomah couple told us about the Omaha Trail. They said it was their favorite and that we could connect with it in Elroy or Camp Douglas. We made note of this as a possibility for Tuesday and commenced to riding. It was not long before we encountered the color of nature’s beauty and the awestruck wonder of man-made tunnels.
“Tunnel No. 3 is 3,810 feet long and was completed in 1873 after three years of digging. It cost $247,272 to build or $65 per foot which was much more expensive than the other two tunnels on the trail. This tunnel was so long that workers dug two long, deep shafts from above to help remove rock, in addition to digging from both ends. These shafts were later sealed with bricks. Workers struck an overhead spring which kept the tunnel wet and difficult to excavate. Today the ceilings and wall still drip with water and provide cool relief on a hot day.”
Natasha and I can attest to the dripping water in Tunnel 3. I shot a video while standing at the entrance to the tunnel. The sound was similar to rain falling. An elderly gentleman who had just come through the tunnel told us to take a bar of soap with us as we would surely have a shower inside. We decided to stay dry and head back. Dinner and a good sleep awaited.
After another French toast start to Tuesday, we chose to spend the day on the Omaha Trail. We were not disappointed in this choice. For the serious bikers, one could start at Camp Douglas and end up over in Minnesota – utilizing four connecting trails. For Natasha and I, we would stay on the Omaha and complete the 26 mile round trip.
Color, leaves, rock, bridge, tunnel. No bears…only squirrels, chipmunks and one antlered deer off in the distance. It was all there, plus an excellent stop in Hustler for a huge sub sandwich. Did I mention that life was almost perfect?
Sadly, the bicycle tires stopped turning around 5:30 pm as we had a two and a half hour ride home, plus a bit of unpacking. Natasha and I had wondered on the trail this day why we had not been serious about biking until this year…why we had not done this last year or the year before. I’ve always preferred nature over roller coasters and these two days absolutely cemented that preference. I am already itching for spring if for nothing else, to explore more of the state’s trails with the bike.
It does not get better, right Natasha?