Day 40 – Viroqua, WI to Winona, MN

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Day 40 – Viroqua, WI to Winona, MN – 77 miles

We had a quiet night in Viroqua and made a point to get up early to beat the heat of the day. We knew we had a long day ahead of us if we wanted to make it to our Warmshower host in Winona. The alarm went off ( that is the first time we have set an alarm since working days) a little before 5 am to hit the 5:20 Wisconsin sunrise. But a quick look at the radar, changed our plans. May as well stay in bed until this red and yellow and green blob cleared western Wisconsin.

We had a leisurely breakfast, including biscuits and honey courtesy of our beekeeping WS host from the previous night. So good! We also had a chance to catch up on all the news(?) from the Today show. We watched the rain outside and by 9 am it had finally stopped. We started to gear up for riding, about 4 hours after we had planned, it looked like the Winona long haul was going to be a challenge.

We headed out of town and were pleasantly surprised that the hills coming into Viroqua were not anything like the hills leaving Viroqua, we made very good time as we approached the town of Genoa. The views were beautiful and the hills were few but noteworthy! Just about the time we were noticing beautiful green valleys below us, we came to a truck warning sign for an 8% downhill. We stopped pedaling, flipped on the drag brake & let gravity do the work. After a couple miles of cruising thru the valley (and not taking a picture of a cool giant aluminum chicken because we were going so fast), we came to the “equal and opposite reaction” – the 8% grade uphill. Like so many downhills on the trip this one was a mixed blessing, we were only diving into a valley, to make a long climb on the opposite side coming out. We were warned there was a long climb going into Genoa, and we were in it! It was a long steady grade and we were making a nice steady climb, never dipping below 4 mph (we are slow!). We were debating whether to take a break midway up or keep moving. The break and time off the bike seat feels good, but starting on an uphill is never easy, as we discussed where to get off, we accidentally went into the gravel shoulder. Well, that settled it – decision made. Certainly reminiscent of New Hampshire except this was a winding hill so we couldn’t see the top. You can get an idea where you are by the trees and sky you can see up ahead. Before too long we were cresting this monster hill. This was immediately followed by another truck warning sign for a 7% downhill grade. We enjoyed this long descent as we approached the town, it was screamer hill and we were very happy we had the drag brake!

Genoa is a sleepy, tiny town on the Mississippi. It was time to “fuel the furnace” and about the only place we saw was a pub. We went inside, found a comfortable table with a view of the big screen TV that was showing the World Cup and scanned the menu on the wall. We asked for a tall glass of ice water, hamburgers and chips. Before the burgers arrived, we had scarfed down the chips & water. The burgers came – nice thick burgers loaded with pickles & onions. They tasted so good! It might have been our hunger level, but I think they really were great burgers! Our tab, for two burgers & 3 bags of chips was $8. Small town America – great food at a reasonable price!

After lunch, we headed out on the Great River Road to La Crosse. It was flat and smooth with views of the Mighty Mississippi and we had a tailwind, so we were flying high & covered the 16 miles to La Crosse pretty quick! We have had tailwinds for much of our ride across both Michigan & Wisconsin & it’s been awesome! We’ll try to remember this & not whine too much next time we ride in headwinds.

Riding thru La Crosse took longer than you’d think as we seemed to hit every red light possible. We stopped at a coffee shop & had a snack before heading out of town. La Crosse seems to run right into Onalaska and when we got to the north end of Onalaska, we saw a scenic wayside stop with a big fish statue. Here we are! This is big fish, big animal, big bird, big statue country! I always remember this from our family trips to Minnesota! We had to turn in and get a picture! Back on the bike & riding into the next town, same thing – another big fish! We didn’t stop for this one, but got a few shots of it as we rode by. Due to our late start, we were concerned about time – we wanted get in & meet our WS host before she ran off to her evening meeting.

When we got to the bridge across the Mississippi River, we decided to take the pedestrian route so that we could stop for pictures. It was just after 5 pm, so there was a good amount of vehicle traffic on the bridge. It turned out to be a rather narrow pedestrian crossing, so we walked the bike. Just about the time we thought we could ride, a couple other cyclists came in the other direction so we kept walking & they squeezed by between our wide load & the bridge railing. We were able to ride the last 100 yards, or so but it was a tight squeeze.

We rode thru Winona & made our way to the home of our Warmshowers host for the night. Rosemary greeted us warmly & we knew right away we were going to enjoy our time with her. She showed us where we could park the bike & we went in the house and enjoyed easy conversation with her as she prepared dinner with fresh greens from her garden. I must remember how she prepared the kale & Swiss chard, sautéed with onion & feta cheese & lemon juice. The lemon juice really made the flavors pop. It was so good! Anyhow, much of the conversation revolved around her & her husband’s experience walking the Camino last year. Yet another person telling us about this pilgrimage – it seems to be calling us! It sounds like an incredible experience – very difficult, but incredible!

Rosemary had plans for the evening, so we finished our meal without her, straightened up the kitchen & took our showers. Then we went outside in the backyard & worked on our knitting & the blog as we enjoyed the view of our hosts’ beautiful raised bed vegetable garden. When Rosemary returned, we went inside & resumed our conversation. Rosemary & her husband are both retired and have such a wonderful, peaceful approach toward life. Too bad we didn’t get to meet her husband, Jim, but what a neat woman! We could have talked all night!

It was a perfect day – couldn’t have scripted it better! Great riding, great weather, great company!

Brain Meanderings:
– Tricked-out cemetery – lots of bling on the graves!
– “Look at the cows! Left! Left! LEFT!”
– Duck Egg Lane (he he)

On the Great River Road – we made it to the Mississippi!

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Just came up this grade!

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Big fish pics:

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Welcome to Minnesota!

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Our WS Hostess!

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