Daily miles – 75. Total miles – 3258.
Well, this is it! We awoke in our cornfield home early and skipped breakfast to get to a payphone as early as possible. We had called Chandra’s dad, Mark, yesterday and estimated arriving at Devil’s Lake last night (which turned out to be too far), and had arranged to meet at the Merrimac Ferry around 9:30. We were 20 miles shy of Devil’s Lake at least, so we needed to call and make arrangements to meet later. There was no cell phone reception last night and, since the campground was no longer available, no payphone either. We found a payphone in Reedsburg, called to rearrange the schedule, and then busted it into Baraboo for breakfast.
We found a good-looking breakfast spot, chatted with a nice Menonite couple, and found ourselves surrounded by bikers with number on their bikes. It turns out, the GRABAAWR – Great Annual Bicycle Ride Along the Wisconsin River – was passing through town today! Once again, for the thirs time on the trip, we found ourselves wrapped up in a bicycle event. From the breakfast place to the Merrimac Ferry accross the Wisconsin River is only about 12 miles, although there were some surprisingly steep but short climbs, and a nice descent into town. Chandra has memories of riding the free ferry as a kid and where the cars line up, she recalled there being a little ice cream shop. It was all still there, so we had some ice cream and waited for our escorts – Chandra’s dad and some others to arrive. The ferry departed and returned as we chatted with GRABAAWR riders for a bit, and when it returned a second time, we recognized familiar faces! Mark and Jo, Uncle Jeff, little Tyler, and Peter Bock were all on the boat to greet us! It was starting to really feel like the end was upon us.
We took pictures and chatted across the river, and on the south side, Chandra and I were joined by Mark and Peter for the 30 mile ride to the capitol square in Madison. The route was totally beautiful! Lots of little hills – some pretty steep, lakes, farms, nice vistas, and nearly empty roads characterized the riding. Mark was on a hybrid bike and had a hard time keeping our pace, so he had Jo pick him up and drive him in and we were escorted the rest of the way by Peter. Peter rode solo across the US in 1980 or so and it was fun to exchange stories about his trip and ours. He’s a strong rider, so we pushed our pace a little, and enjoyed what will likely become a semi-regular ride for us after moving here.
On a hill still about 15 or 20 miles from town, we got our first hazy and distant view of the Capitol! Cresting hills along the way, we got more views, ever closer, and realized this was truly the final push. We made our way through busy streets in Middleton, finally finding a bike path along the lake that took us to the University and ultimately the capitol square. We saw Dean Leeper and one of his friends riding toward us a couple blocks before the square, and were greeted by a Welcome Home sign and more people including Uncle David and Aunt Debbie, Jamie, Kathleen, Grandma Midge, and other people. It was a strange feeling to be now in a place so familiar and our new chosen home, but to have arrived after such a long journey with the diversity of landscape, people, and conditions along the way. We took lots of pictures, drank champagne, had a picnic lunch, and then rode the final 5 miles around Lake Monona to Chandra’s folks’ house to park Talula for the last time.
In some ways, this last section we were limping along with the bike needing some love, our bodies ready for a little rest, but we finished strong nonetheless and it was hard to unload the bike – in the same way we do every day – knowing that we were not going to reload her on this trip. Our immediate goal was accomplished – to ride to Madison. The larger goal of continuing our lives together here is just at the beginning though. New challenges and opportunities are ahead of us, but for the time being they do not involve navigating a loaded tandem bicycle through unknown terrain. We will find a home, jobs, and all that. But first, our last ice cream cone of the trip – going to the Union Terrace. We will have celebratory beers, dinner, and hang out with friends and family, old and new. Tomorrow we will rest, and then the newest phase of the journey will begin.
We can never thank everyone who has supported, followed, and helped us throughout this trip.Â We’re stoked to be done, although I know we will be twitching to get riding again.Â We will update the blog with a few reflections and summaries, not to mention photos, but for now, we are signing off from Madison…