Midwest USA Summary 2014

A flat gravel road in Michigan

September 23, 2015 | Posted in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Places, Wisconsin | By

We continued our USA travels with some visits and riding in the Upper Midwest, primarily my home state Wisconsin. Despite several flats, a broken rack and getting hit by a car (almost all on the same day), it was a wonderful way to really break in the bikes and legs.

Ohio (Jul 15)

Distance cycled:17 mi / 28 km / 112,423 RJP
Elevation gained:174 ft / 53 m
Elevation lost:75 ft / 23 m

We took the train to Toledo and rode up into Michigan. The inner-city neighborhoods had the missing teeth to show for their storied past, but the holdouts had kept up their places and everything looked really nice. We were the probably only white people within miles and we got a lot of quizzical, WTF looks. Luckily there were some nice trails once we hit the burbs, so we didn’t have to dance with krrs.

Michigan (2 nights: Jul 15-17)

Distance cycled:42 mi / 67 km / 269,686 RJP
Elevation gained:282 ft / 86 m
Elevation lost:240 ft / 73 m

This little Ohio/Michigan detour was so we could visit Colleen, a friend we’d made back in Brooklyn. She was living on a farm in, of all places, Brooklyn, Michigan. From the Ohio border we were hammered by such a fierce headwind that we couldn’t even get to Brooklyn and had to be picked up about 20 miles short. We chilled out on the farm and caught a Phish show outside Detroit! The ride to the train station in Jackson was much nicer than the windy hell on the way in.

A flat gravel road in Michigan

You can’t see the wind, but believe me, it’s there!

Indiana (Jul 17) Transit only

Passed through on the train to Chicago.

A huge billboard that says "Stillinnoyed? No Wonder. Indiana. AStateThatWorks.com

Almost as desperate as West Virginia’s, “Open for Business!” It gets points for wit though, and the insolence of trashing your neighbor right on the border bridge.

Illinois (5 nights: Jul 17-22)

Distance cycled:40 mi / 64 km / 257,989 RJP
Elevation gained:0
Elevation lost:0 (Illinois is flat!)

We spent several nights in Chicago visiting friends and going to a three-night run of Phish shows. The miles listed include riding from the place we were staying across town to the shows, changing spots in Chicago, and riding to the Metra train that would take us to Wisconsin.

Phish on stage

Northerly Island

Wisconsin (36 nights: Jul 22-Aug 27)

Distance cycled:436 mi / 701 km / 2,832,030 RJP
Elevation gained:4,994 ft / 1,522 m
Elevation lost:4,712 ft / 1,436 m
Flat tires:2
Times hit by krr:1
Ass kicked by bike:3 times
Broken racks:1

Finally, some real cycling. Metra dropped us off in Kenosha from which we rode to Milwaukee, West Bend, Sheboygan, Wausau and Buckhorn State Park. We also did a bit of riding in and around Madison and visited Lake Superior by krr.

Posing in front of our loaded bikes

A punctual noon departure from Sheboygan

Both flat tires, the broken rack, the krr crash and two bicycle defeats occurred on the same day. That day started out upbeat on a beautiful morning leaving a perfect stealth camping spot. We hadn’t even gotten off the dirt track out of there when Brandy’s front rack broke and rolled down under her tire. I stopped to see what happened and forgot to unclip. Oops! Down I went. I got a flat later in the day and was pushing the bike to change it under a shady tree when some guy sideswiped the bike. He even had a bumper sticker that said, “watch for motorcycles.” Luckily he stopped and took us to his motorcycle shop down the road to assess the damage and fix the flat. He destroyed the huge can of white fuel we’d been carrying around and had wanted to unload anyway and also exploded our toothpaste. That was all. We were very lucky. All these delays caused us to still be riding when night began to descend. We were on an unpaved trail and I saw an outlet to get to the road, but Brandy was ahead. She tried to make a U-turn in the trail and toppled over. Not only was this a bike ass-kicking event, but the torque tore the tube valve and we had to change another flat, this time in a mosquito bog warzone at sunset.

The third ass-kicking event occurred leaving Wausau as Brandy was taking a photo. She was straddling the bike and it went down with the sprocket wending a badass tiger slash on the leg.

Despite the fact that I got hit by a car, Wisconsin drivers have been some of the best we’ve encountered in the US and it is a great state for touring, as I’ve discussed before.

Brandy and bike in front of the Friendship Trail junction.

A forlorn trail junction. We eventually had to bail on the trails to bring up our speed, but I liked the rustic experience.


A pretty farm across a golden wheat field

A typical Wisconsin view


"Welcome to Seymour; Home of the Hamburger"

I bet you never knew.


A lovely farm viewed from across a golden wheat field.

Near my hometown


Bike trail next to huge prairie flowers

A nice trail outside Madison bordered by regenerated prairie

Minnesota; North Dakota; Montana (Aug 27-29) Transit only

We passed through these states on the train to Seattle.

A photo of a crossing and water tower from the train

I’m not sure why, but this photo reminds me just how much I love the train!


Huge sunflower field from the viewing car of the Empire Builder train

Lots of sunflowers in North Dakota


A freight train curls off around a grain elevator on endless plains

This is Montana


A lonely truck paces the train in the vast golden plains

It is endless, and I love it.

Grain elevators on the plains of MT

More of the plains of Montana

More of the plains of Montana

Gleaming tracks trail into the distance under the rising sun from the back of the Empire Builder Amtrak train.

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