The thing I enjoy most about bicycle touring is that it forces you off the beaten path. You can’t ride a bike down the Interstate, so you are naturally forced to slow down, explore, and take the backroads to get from point A to point B. On this segment of the tour, the backroads divulged lots of great scenery and a few oddities that you would normally miss buzzing by at 65 miles per hour.
Thursday morning we left Appleton East High School on our 60 mile journey to Green Lake. Along the way we will tour the towns of Menasha, Winneconne, Omro, Eureka, Berlin, and Green Lake. Appleton, by far, is the biggest city on the ride; and the traffic was intense in spots. But the organizers had chosen a route that was not too well traveled. As we wound our way through the south part of the city, the ride took us to the Menasha locks and Trestle Trail bridge. The bridge is a converted railway right of way that spans across the top edge of Lake Winnebago. This bike and pedestrian friendly bridge makes a quick and easy way to cross the lake without battling traffic. After crossing the lake the ride took a southwestern direction towards the M Schettl Frieght Sales and Gardens.
Located on Hwy S near Butte des Morts, the M Schettl gardens are a conglomeration of big fiberglass critters, odd junk welded together, and displays created by a mad man. The place also has sheds to explore and a hardware store filled with odds and ends you may not have known existed. The park is certainly a treat to stroll through, especially if you love oddities and large fiberglass animals. I was afraid to park my bike anywhere as it would surely become part of the display. Leaving M Schettl’s we continued west towards Winneconne.
The Sovereign State of Winneconne is located on the mouth of Lake Butte des Morts on Hwy 116. In 1967 the State of Wisconsin left the town of the highway map, so the residents decided to secede and create their own state. The residents of this vacation town had lots of fun with the little oversight and turned it into an annual summer event. The Winneconne Historical Museum on the edge of town has a great display on the sovereign state’s history.
From Winneconne it was on to Omro and time for lunch. I stopped at Tanner’s Pub located downtown next to the bridge. Burgers and sandwiches dominated the menu. They also had New Glarus Spotted Cow on tap along with a house beer. The bar had a nice interior and friendly clientele. The owners where in the process of adding a deck to the rear of the bar. Now that smoking is banned statewide, many establishments are putting in decks and patios for their smoking patrons to still enjoy the hospitality and light up at the same time.
Leaving Omro we ambled along the Fox River, through the crossroads of Eureka Locks and into the town of Berlin. The wind had really picked up from the west, and it hit us square on for this leg of the journey. The tour had a water stop in Berlin, and by the time I arrived there, I needed some refreshment. From Berlin, it was a shot south over some hills to the town of Green Lake, which is where we will be staying for the night.
Green Lake High School is on the top of the hill overlooking the town and Green Lake itself. The school is small, but they managed to wedge all the riders into the gym and on the grassy field behind the school. I camped in the field with my little yellow REI tent and didn’t realize until now how many other little yellow REI tents where on the tour. I guess its a popular model.
In these journals I really haven’t spent much time telling about the food on the trip. The tour sells a meal plan so that you can get dinner and breakfast in the school and then lunch is on your own. The meals are usually prepared by a community group, atheletic booster club, or by the school lunch staff. The meals are usually no frills meat and potatoes type fare. Since everyone has been riding all day, we usually prefer quantity over quality. Evidently someone told the Green Lake crew that bikers are a hungry bunch, because they pulled out all the stops for dinner.
Dinner consisted of a half a chicken, slab of ribs, baked beans, green beans, potato salad, bread, and frozen custard. When I say half a chicken I mean HALF A CHICKEN. It was humongous, and delicious. The meat was cooking on the smoker all day. Many of the riders couldn’t finish their meal, but everyone commented on how delicious dinner was. I think next year they can scale back to a quarter chicken and everyone will still be satisfied.
This is a last evening of the tour, so the mood was pretty mellow. Lots of people took the shuttle down the hill into town and the Green Lake County Fair. It was getting cooler out, so I went to bed by 9:30. It had been so hot all week that this was the first evening that I actually crawled into my sleeping bag instead of laying on top of it.
Coming up next, the final day of the ride.