Wednesday, August 11:
About to set out from Ellsworth for Minneapolis. It should be an easier ride than yesterday, when we blundered onto a local hill-training route, just ahead of a torrential downpour. We made it into the hotel only a little soaked, thanks to kind strangers who transported our trailer to the hotel after we had a flat on one of the hills.
We may not have appreciated our good luck on Tuesday, August 10, when catastrophic storms with up to 6 inches of rain were striking areas just north of our ride. Osseo to Ellsworth was supposed to start (after breakfast at the Norske Nook) with a ride on the Buffalo River State Trail, followed by mostly country roads and some time on Highway 10. All of the Wisconsin trails come with a warning that their surfaces may be best suited to mountain bikes rather than touring bikes. We hadn't come across anything that we couldn't ride on, and the Buffalo River Trail leaving Osseo was splendid.
Along the first section, a red fox popped out of the bushes and looked at us, then ducked back in and came out a couple more times before finally disappearing. We rode through Strum on this wide, smooth, crushed-limestone section, then on to Eleva. The trail looked just a bit rough as we set out from Eleva, and we were soon bottoming out in soft sand. We struggled to keep the trikes moving, sometimes getting off and pushing them, always hoping for an improvement just a little further on. A great horned owl flew up in front of us, but there were few other consolations as we fought through a mile of bad trail to a point where we could get back onto Highway 10. It was so bad, and we were getting so worried about the weather, that we didn't even stop to take a picture of the deep ruts where our bike chains dragged through the sand and the wheels spun.
We would recommend the Buffalo River Trail from Osseo to Eleva, but it scarcely deserves to be called even a mountain bike trail from Eleva to Mondovi.
Once back on Highway 10, we were reluctant to go off to the side roads that Google had proposed, knowing that they might be gravel and that the hills are often steeper on the country roads than on the highways. The bicycling map showed green with good shoulders from Plum City to Ellsworth. What we didn't know was that it was a good route for hill-training, rather than for fully-loaded touring.
We really appreciated the kindness of Wisconsinites when we didn't think we could pull the trailer up one more hill. A guy who noticed us changing a tire halfway up a very long hill turned around and took our gear trailer up to an auto repair store well past the crest. The daughter of the guy at the auto body shop was driving into Ellsworth, and she dropped them off at the hotel for us. With a lighter load, we were able to make it to the hotel just two or three minutes after the storm hit. We were soaked, but our bags didn't take on much water. There was a roof over the sidewalk in front of the motel, and we could get out of the rain as soon as we pulled up.
The photo above shows another flat tire on the morning of August 11, when we loaded up the trikes at the David Motel in Ellsworth for a planned 55 mile ride into Minneapolis. We were out of un-patched tubes, and the tube that Dale put in at the hotel lasted less than three miles. We had to take the good tube out of the wheel that we weren't using. Then we noticed the tire thumping from a weak spot in the casing. We checked the internet for bike shops in Prescott or Hastings, finding only one that was out of business. We remembered it as a good shop -- The Route -- that might have carried odd-sized tubes and tires. It looked as if we would be out of luck with any more tire problems.