Chuck Stults' first Saddle Sore 1000
Well its 5:30 am, Saturday, June 19, 1999. The weather channel is calling for rain. Everyone knows they cant predict the weather any better now than 50 years ago, so it will probably be nice all day, and if I dont go on this ride I will regret it. So after packing a rain suit, and filling the tank bag with a few essentials, I take off.
I head west out of my home town, Beloit Wisconsin on hwy 81. This is some beautiful riding. I know these roads very well being so close to home. I know just about every pothole by name. Hwy 81 eventually gets me to what is known as the "Great River Road", hwy 35. 35 follows the mighty Mississippi just about all the way up Wisconsin. The river is fascinating to me no matter how many times I see it. I guess all of the stories, weather true, myth, or legend are a big part of its draw on me. But it is something more, this river is to me the mother of all rivers. The power. The tranquility. The awesome, immense feeling of it can overwhelm you. Winding around curves, climbing the bluffs, and gliding down the valleys the "Great River Road" takes me on a meandering route up the west side of the state. Its chilly for June. I thought I had dressed warm enough and would be shedding clothes along the way. Hmmm, first gas stop, I dig out the scarf from the tank bag, fold it into forths then put it inside my coat. That ought to keep the wind from getting in through that zipper.
Prairie du Chien, now this is a town with some history. It is the second oldest town in Wisconsin, near the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers. On an island is the beautiful Villa Louis, a Victorian -Italiante style brick mansion, built in 1870 by the widow and son of early fur trader Hercules Dousman. Too bad I dont have time to stop and explore. Just enough time to gas up and go. This little run that Im on doesnt allow for much lollygaging.
The trip up the mighty Mississippi has a sameness about it. Beautiful as it is, it is a mighty long river. As I ride I have time to contemplate past rides as well as plan future ones. A year ago this same month I was riding my trusty Trident around the Empire State. That old bike ran true the whole trip. Even the long run home from Binghamton NY. 1100 miles is a fair piece on an old bike all at once. Now, looking at the river I think that maybe I would like to follow it from end to end. I know its been done. But not by me. There are many places I will see on the back of a bike if my life span permits. Ive ridden many miles, and have to say that each and every one are cherished.
My second gas stop is a small town called Pepin, which is Laura Ingalls Wilders Home Town (little bungalow on the prairie writer). As well as giving me a spectacular view of the big river, dammed up into what is called Pepin Lake. What a fine sight this presents. The people of this small town have a great wealth in what they are privileged to see looking to the West. Ah but I have to head farther into the Great North Woods. And rain. I don my rain suit and head on to Superior Wisconsin. Just about but not quite the top of the state. It is however as far as hwy 35 will take me.
After my third gas stop, I go in search of hwy 2. The road that will take me over the top of the state. Shortly after passing through a town called Ashland, out in the cedar trees, very near the Bad River Indian Reservation, I see a very large mound next to the road up ahead. The closer I get the more this mound seems like its moving. It IS moving! Its a bear! A big HUGE black bear. Id like to stop and take a closer look, but wisdom...or maybe fear keeps me on track and I whiz buy, in awe. What a monster. I could not imagine coming into contact with that, one on one. Wow, what an experience. Just one more reason to be glad I took this trip. A little fear to get the adrenaline running, "What a high"! Now the next few miles just fly by. Thinking back, that bear was plenty close to dwellings. Is this a normal sight for these people? Being a townie, the closest I get to nature is road kill on my trips back and forth to work. What a great place to live. Almost like being on the untamed frontier.
Next town Ironwood MI., time to turn south. Hwy 51, a familiar road that goes right through my home town. Cool, a straight shot home. So I turn down 51, it starts out rather rough. Gee, if its going to be like this all the way home I may need to find an alternate route. Actually after a few miles I hit a construction zone, after that it is brandy new and smooth as glass. Nice, I like this. Just sit back and enjoy. Its getting on towards evening now. The sun is getting low. Up ahead I see a really big bird flying right down the center of the road. As I get closer I contemplate on weather it is a crane or a loon. Just about to it, catching up as it were, we were both going the same way. I look to my right and there is another one. My god! Its a bald eagle! Oh how beautiful! I guess I am a sentimental guy because I had just heard a few days previous that these were taken off the endangered list. How glorious an animal this is. So grand and BIG! Man is that a big bird. It was right over my head now. Looking at it, I thought it could pick me up and carry me away.
Well, after my next stop the sun was down and there were no more sights to see. Its just as well, because about that time 51 turned into a freeway. So I wick it up and head for home. Now, I have to start checking on mileage. The signs are saying 125 miles to Madison. Hmmm, add another 50 to Beloit and I dont have enough mileage yet. I need 1000 + to get my pin and certificate from the Iron Butt people. I guess I will have to take a side trip. I missed the turnoff to Manitowoc via Appleton. Oh well, I guess I can just hop on I94 and go to Milwaukee. Once there I jump down to I43 and slab it in the direction of home. Oh man, I still am not going to have enough miles. If I go straight home that will put me right on the 1000 mark. I know what the distance is on this road Ive ridden it plenty, both ways. I guess one more side trip will help put me over the top. Hwy 14 to Janesville, I90 home. That gives me **1015 miles on the odometer as I pull in for my last gas up at 2;30 am. Hopefully my odometer is accurate enough to get me my prize. Anyhow, even without the pin and certificate. I had a...
**The Iron Butt Association determined the actual mileage of the trip to be 1006 miles.
to go back to British By Chuck
updated 05/26/2008 11:22 -0500 by Naomi