Sunday, July 4, 2010

Part IV: The mornful cry of the my most distinct memory from Day 2....

Part IV: Day 2 from Viroqua through Kickapoo and into the efficiency sucking, heartbreaking sands of Central Wisconsin…

“There is no quiet place in the white man's cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in the spring, or the rustle of insect's wings.... And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the Whipperpoorwill or the argument of the frogs around the pool at night? ----- Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If man spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know----- the earth does not belongs to man, man belongs to earth…”Chief Seattle, 1856, upon surrendering his tribal lands

Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

After four hours of “rest;” Day 2 brought an early start, a good breakfast in Viroqua,… and although a sunny day complete with a heaven-sent wind pushing us Northward, to me it felt like it must feel to be stuck in the fabled Doldrums. The Fact is that that specific time on our journey (Day 2) is pretty much a vague, even blurry memory for me, probably because it was just basically a slow enduro-grind, a forced march, or a day to simply get over with, so as to be able to hopefully say at the end of it that we were “over halfway!”

The picturesque Kickappoo Trails consist of both moderately challenging double and single-track. Although not in the same league as Duluth single-track; if a guy went there for an afternoon to ride the trails, he’d enjoy the effort, but for us it was just a matter of get’in ‘er done. Lotz of grass and a fair amount of hills, it was obvious that these trails get little use. It was easy for us to navigate as we had Joe’s Nano-Raptor tire tracks to follow. However, we were slow on the second half as it became progressively hillier and thus on many segments we walked. Yes, we walked many of the hills and yet we could tell that Joe was riding everything. Later on and into the night on this day characterized as sand, sand, and more sand; the observation that Joe was always riding no matter what the terrain, coupled with the grim reality that we were walking almost all the hard-stuff became an ongoing marvel to us. The juxtaposition was evident in comparing our squirrely and snakey lines in the sand with that of his straight and fluid imprint, “How can he ride this?... Itz like hez attached to the pedals!”

Had I been alone to ponder my efforts in the sand against that of the race leader, I may have become a despondent and bitter old man! Yet, with Jeremy along, our deficiencies became the object of a kind of self-deprecating humor. Plus it was also comforting to have Jeremy along not only for the camaraderie but his navigational skills are far superior to those of the author; honed from years of guiding, trekking, and climbing from Alaskan peaks to kayaking in Greenland, he always seemed to know where we were, where the next turn was, or what lay ahead… Although it took us a disconcerting three hours, we finally pulled through the nearly fifteen miles of Kickapoo.

As alluded to above, Day 2 was the hardest day in terms of sheer physical labor. Interspersed with fun and even fast sections of ATV/snowmobile trail were energy sucking and motivation-destroying loose sand. It was not long into the day, when we simply gave up on riding the quicksand and instead accepted our fate and walked and walked…and walked…and swore with dramatic flair!

As this essay is my proof, we finally pulled through it and got back on the delightful gravel roads en route to Hatfield. To meet our goal for the day (~155 miles) we needed to get well beyond the Clark & Jackson County ATV Trails and by mid-afternoon it was obvious that we were well behind schedule. The Clark & Jackson County ATV Trails involved a series of trails that appeared on the map to be about twenty-five miles in length and started just on the outskirts of Hatfield. We arrived in Hatfield about 8:30 p.m. I remember this because the only gas station in the little resort town was to close at 9:00 p.m. Essentially we had to choose between loading up on Fructose corn-syrup at that gas-station or crossing the street and dinning at a busy and rowdy steak-house. We took a quick little break on the lawn next to the steak-house and took stock. As the workers inside the restaurant dutifully sang an anniversary song to a behemoth sized couple sitting in the screened porch…we quietly resigned ourselves to more pop-tarts and pretzels.

In an effort to break the somber mood (remember that at this point in Day 2, we had been on our bikes for over fourteen hours and we had barely made one hundred miles), I exclaimed; “I’m sure that these trails will be better. This is a destination spot for the weekend city-types that come to race their four-wheelers in the country…there is no way that these fat catz would ruin their fancy-pants ATVs in a bunch of sand like the kind we dealt with earlier today!” Such is the mentality of a demented optimist! Jeremy, a realist, only responded with a cautious, “We’ll see soon enough.”

So, Jeremy and I, as is our DBD nature, soldiered onward into our second night on a road clearly “less traveled.” At first it seemed as if my prediction was accurate, for the trail, although sandy, was ride-able, especially on the far edges. Plus, it was a beautiful night complete with brilliant stars and as if by magic, completely absent of bugs. As the darkness firmly established its domain, probably around 11:00 p.m. or so, the sad (and eventually maddening) call of the Whipperpoorwill began to haunt us and too “the argument of the frogs around the pool at night.” Jeremy, who is a man of nature, told of how the little bird is notorious for itz sad and unyielding nighttime mournful cries. Amused at first, little did I initially suspect that the little bird’s “song” would continue to follow us in close proximity, as if following us on purpose, well into the wee hours of morning confounding any hopes that I had entertained of a quiet respite.

Presumably as a test of our resolve, the trail became increasingly sandy and thus more and then even more difficult and then, ultimately, nearly impossible to ride given our strength. We walked "zombie-like" for long sections, looking for a place to bivy, and cursed loudly (with dramatic flair) for several hours. Finally just after 2:00 a.m. we came upon a nice little campground. With weariness bone deep within our manly loins, we threw down our merger belongings and attempted solace through stationary slumber. Jeremy, once again conceded the picnic table to the elder one. For the young one, sleep came abruptly with the end of ambulation, but alas, for the old one there was only a stilling of sinew, muscle, and bone for his myopic mind was restless and worried, wrestling with a hard truth to ponder-- In nearly twenty hours of effort, we had only been able to achieve about 123 miles…WE were behind schedule by some 32+ miles!

Look forward to Part V: Redemption and Hope…Day Three delivers the needed miles...and our spirits SOAR!


  1. Good one! You're right...,maybe the hardest day of the ride. It blows me away the hours on the bike and the night time efforts.

  2. Exellent read as always Mr. Farrow. Looking forward to the tale of the next day.

  3. I'm thinking that someone needs to contact Hollywood. Good stuff, Bravo!