WEDNESDAY 21 JULY 2010
Departure from Verona: 8 am
Arrival in Platteville: 6:13 pm
Saddle/Total Time: 7:02:54/10:13
Average Speed: 11.5 mph
Wrong Turns: 7
Money Spent: $7.13
The year before I graduated high-school, my friend Stan and I took a 'long bike ride' to the south of Mount Horeb. We rode a little over twenty miles before turning around, and that's the furthest south I've ever traveled from and to my house on a bike.
As I crossed that twenty-mile mark today, biking from Madison to Platteville to stay with Stan on the first night of my trip, I for some reason had that scene from Lord of the Rings pop into my head: "That's it. If I go one step further, Mr. Frodo, it will be the furthest I've ever been from the Shire." Recalling that line has something to do with the fact that I recently read the trilogy for the first time and re-watched the Peter Jackson films. It also has something to do with the idea of my trip as a journey. Though I hope to meet people nicer than Saruman and an army of orcs. There were trolls in Mount Horeb, funny enough.
Somewhere on the Military Ridge State Trail: A German Shepard looks agitated ahead of me, trotting sideways and crouching on the trailside. When I'm fifteen feet away, I hear it growling and see it baring its teeth. As I pass, it lunges and barks. It feels like I downshift four gears when the adrenaline hits. I accelerate. The dog chases me for a number of yards, then gives up.
Dodgeville: ten A&W employee-kids at a park. They look high-school aged. A girl asks about what I'm doing and I tell her. After fifteen minutes of silence from me, I ask: "Are you the graduating class of Dodgeville?" as a joke, about how small the town is. They don't get it. They are eating a picnic. I hoped they might offer me some Doritos, but they don't. Instead, they all sign a joker card from the deck they are playing Egyptian Ratscrew with. They want me to remember them. Then they all go to play on a merry-go-round and I sneak off.
I hit the Cheese Country Trail out of Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Thousands of little yellow butterflies rest on the path, unfolding and swarming as I pass. That's the only nicety; it's an ATV track. Full of large potholes and jagged ridges. Not made for biking. All loose gravel and sand. I'm thinking: "Ten miles of this?" I slog on at nine miles an hour, my rear-end swimming. I'm worried. I overshoot the turn-off for the Pecatonica State Trail, which is in no better shape for bicycle-touring. Ten more miles of "this."
A half-mile into the Pecatonica Trail, I wipe out in the loose gravel at an intersection. Exhausted, I continue. Checking for a break in the elbow. Just some skinning, a bruise, and a bump. At the end of the Pecatonica, a ladder-bridge leads up onto County Road G. I walk the bike over it, hoping I won't slip between the rungs.
I arrive at Stan's house around 6 pm. He isn't home, so I walk in and just sit for half an hour, too tired to move. He arrives from playing basketball and we have steak-salad. My parents sent me off with some food, so I don't need to buy anything but an extra sandwich for the evening.