Monday, October 20, 2014

Devil's Ferry Fall Outing

Grant came up with an idea for another cross-border operation for a fall color ride. Set up to start at Blue Mound state park, it ran north to Spring Green, Ferry Bluff, Devil's Lake state park, the Merimac Ferry, Gibraltar, Mazomaine and back to Blue Mound.

We did a couple of prep rides, the first just he and I out of the village of Blue Mounds; the second to Gibraltar with Steve joining us. We rode very little of the course, but hit a couple of the more questionable highlights. I had never been to Gibraltar and found it to be magnificent, but both prep rides were excellent in many other ways too.

The course was revised several times by the day of the event, most importantly to eliminate a screaming descent immediately upon leaving the park in the pre-dawn darkness.

Family life has been busy lately, so I ended up driving out to the park the night before, arriving after dark. Grant and David had already set up in an adjacent site, and I was soon joined in mine by Jakey. It was in the upper 30's and windy, and I was a little cold that night. Apparently the coons couldn't sleep either, and they woke us up a couple of times.

We were slated to take off at 06:15, and we were pretty close. Grant's neighbor Mark had gotten up early and rode 30+ miles from Madison to join us. Rolled out in the dark and cold at 06:30, west on the rail trail to Barneveld and then north on roads toward Spring Green.

About halfway there it was gloomy as the sun came up, and it started lightly to rain. The breakfast place was a welcome sight with its big flapjacks and hot coffee.

Headed north out of town, the clouds started to break up and we got to practice our headwind skills. Leaf colors were a little past peak but lovely.

We stopped at Ferry bluff and hiked to the top for a look at the Wisconsin river and points east. The weather continued to improve as we embarked on the long climb toward Devil's lake.

Ferry Bluff
We stopped for a snack break but lost David shortly after resuming. Retraced the route to find him fixing a flat.

The longest climb of the day commenced just as the sun came out and the clouds rolled away. We reached the summit near North Freedom, finding some surprise gravel and getting buzzed by an angry motorist. We rode a short stretch of a very busy US 12, crossing onto Ski Hi road toward Devil's Lake state park.

Many had apparently assumed that this was the last beautiful day of the fall, so the park was really busy. We rode down to the lodge, ordered lunch and ate it while enjoying the view of the lake and its surrounding bluffs.

Back on the road, we arrived at the Merrimac Ferry to find that it was also in great demand, and we bought concessions and chatted while waiting for it to arrive. Fortunately, there was plenty of room for bikes.

Next up was a stop at Gibraltar Rock, which entailed an almost impossibly steep climb up an abandoned, moss-covered pavement. The view was worth it.

Mark split off from us at Mussen Road and County Y and headed back to Madison with the hope of getting there not long after dark. Soon after, we rolled through Roxbury and then back into the hills just as the sun was setting. Then we made the mistake of wanting to cut off a few miles, and allowed Grant's Garmin Touring to reroute us onto rather busy highways 19 and 14 to Black Earth as it got really dark. Fortunately, both highways had pretty decent paved shoulders, and we shortly returned to much less-travelled county highways.

By this time, the batteries in both Grant's and my Garmins had run out of gas (a disappointment and a story for another time) and we switched to navigating by knowledge of the local topography. Luckily we were already on County F, which ran into Blue Mounds, but nobody knew how far we had still to go. Uphill and in the dark. Turned out that the final climb was huge, long, and beginning to get quite cold. But persistence pays off, and we finally passed Brigham county park and began the short descent into the village.

David left us before we even arrived at the Hooterville Tap and set out to drive back home to Illinois. Grant, Jakey and I went in and had burgers, beer and pizza before shivering our way back to camp. Even though it got down into the lower thirties, I was ready for it and haven't slept so well in recent memory.

Broke camp the next morning, and had breakfast at Sjolinds in Mt. Horeb with Grant and Jakey. Drove home.

125+ miles. Good, good stuff.

Pics on the Flix.

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