Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"400" State Trail, Wisconsin

Recently took a ride on the "400" State Trail. (Every sign you see has the quote marks.) it's a 22-mile trail in the beautiful driftless area of SW Wisconsin. Left early on a Saturday morning from the town of LaValle, a town of about 500 some 20 miles west of the Wisconsin Dells.

The Corner Express Gas-Bait-Liquor Store in LaValle is
one place you can buy $4 daily permits for the
"400" State Trail. It's also THE place to be at 7 a.m.
Saturday morning. Inside, folks were playing
cards and drinking beer. I love Wisconsin.

The rails-to-trails conversion follows the route of the old Chicago and Northwestern route from Chicago to Minneapolis, which the trains traversed in 400 minutes. Pretty good time for steam locos.
Picture of the "400" bombing through LaValle 
in its heyday, from an informational signpost
in the center of town.

Trail is limestone screenings in good condition. Smooth and fairly hard despite the recent heavy rains. The particular morning I most recently rode it, the trail surface was damp; there was just enough moisture to make the trail grit stick to the tires for exactly one-third of a rotation, then fling itself into my hair with uncanny accuracy.

Looking back over my recent posts, I notice a tendency to wax poetic about flowers. I’m not usually a flower type of guy. But this year has been exceptional, most likely because of the regular rainfall and damnit, I’m secure enough in my masculinity to say I’m enjoying the pretty pretty flower show very much. This ride was no exception. The trail was just lined with flowers of every color and shape -- including a few types I’d never seen before. Breathtaking.

The Baraboo River makes several appearances  as you ride southeast. The muddy water carries a fair current as it meanders through forest and farmland.

Nearing the town of Reedsburg, a good Samaritan homeowner placed a  large jug of cool water and paper cups along the trail, with a note urging thirsty trail users to help themselves. There was a small bench to rest on and a flower bed. Small-town America in a nutshell. I drank two cups full, and left a thank-you note. From here on in, if anyone asks what America means to me, I’ll talk about the person who gives thirsty trail riders a drink of cool water and a shady bench to rest on.
In Reedsburg, I stopped for breakfast at Greenwood’s CafĂ©, a breakfast-and-lunch hole in the wall that is my favorite restaurant in the whole wide world -- I can say that with some authority because I’ve been to restaurants all over the world.

I sat at the counter and read the Reedsburg Independent newspaper over wheat toast, bacon and hash browns while a pretty waitress kept up an endless stream of fountain Diet Coke. Bliss.

All too soon came the last bite of hash browns and the $6 bill. A quick 7.5 miles back to the car and the fun part of the day was over. Time for the chores that are part and parcel of owning a cabin in Wisconsin. 

Detail from a mural on the side of the
Lakeside Foods plant in Reedsburg.