La Crosse, Wisconsin

I do plan to write a post about riding to the Twin Cities and our experiences in Minneapolis.

However! La Crosse was so amazing that I had to write this post first.

We get into town about an hour before sunset on Saturday and head to the co-op grocery store, where we start asking if anyone knows of a good place to camp, and after pointing out that backyards are fine, the woman at the customer service desk offers hers! But Bree didn’t get off work until after ten, so we spent some time at the co-ops deli eating area, on our computers, before heading out for a quick beer.

The bar had plenty of bicycles parked outside, and while Shawn and I were locking up, a couple people were checking out our bicycles. One of them turned out to be a member of the band playing the bar that night, and he bought our beers! Sweet!

We met up with Bree as her shift ended and did the short ride to her house, where we set up in her backyard while talking with her and her co-habitant (boyfriend? partner?), Eric. Their house is filled, almost, with stuff they’ve canned themselves, and we settled in and had another beer and chatted until about one in the morning. It was that wonderful easy kind of conversation you can have with new people sometimes, and it’s part of why I love this kind of traveling.

The next morning Shawn and I get up and eat delicious muffins (mmmmmm…) and head out to the bike shop, since Shawn has a slow leak in his rear tube that’s already been patched. He figured he’d try and buy a thorn-resistant tube. We get to the bike shop and the lights are off, but there was an employee there who saw us with our loaded bicycles and let us in.

The bike shop itself is interesting, as it’s been in La Crosse under various owners and in two locations for almost a hundred years!

But Scot, it turns out, is also someone with whom we really connected.

Every year there is a tour of three-speed bicycles between Red Wing and Wabasha along Lake Pepin. I learned about it years ago, and wanted to go but never thought I would, until Shawn fixed up his Raleigh Wayfarer, and we’ve talked about it off and on since.

Scot was also into older three-speeds and made some new ones himself, and had done the tour, so we talked bikes for a while. Shawn and I left the bike shop after Shawn gave him a postcard from his three-speed ride in Portland, as well as a Cycle Touring Primer and pin with an illustration of the guts of a three-speed hub, and we went to the co-op again to pick up some groceries.

We were chilling in the deli area again when Scot showed up and asked if we wanted to come to his house, check out his bikes and various collections, and stay the night.

We looked outside: it was raining. Did some mental calculation: we could afford another rest day. So: yes!

Scot not only has gone to the Lake Pepin tour every year except the first one, he also collects Sturmey-Archer hubs, old Raleigh catalogs, old Campagnolo parts, vintage bicycles, and he’s started making new custom bicycles in the style of older British bicycles. His library of older cycling literature–magazines, catalogs, etc.–is worthy of a museum collection. It was amazing.

I really enjoyed the catalogs in particular. Here’s a couple quotes from the 1934 Raleigh catalog:

The bicycle is the modern edition of the magic carpet of old. It is the key to the pleasures and the treasures of the countryside. It constitutes at once the easiest and cheapest method of travel, and thousands of cyclists will assert that it is the best all-round pastime ever though of–a pastime for both sexes and for all ages, a pastime which will readily fill an hour as a week, a pastime for all weathers, a pastime for the hours of darkness no less than for dalight, a pastime as strenuous or as lazy as one likes to make it, a pastime which almost guarantees the securing of good health and which most certainly produces happiness and contentment.

The pleasures of cycling are varied and abounding. It would be difficult to describe in cold type the joy associated, day by day, with a fortnight’s cycle tour running into a thousand miles, when every minute and every yard produce some new sensation, some delicious pleasure. Nor would it be appreciably easier to describe the joy of the lazy potter thorough delectable lanes, or the strenuous evening jaunt or the gay dash to meet friends at some distant rendezvous. No two occasions are ever the same, and the pastime holds an infinite variety of delights–physical and mental joys which, for the majority of people, cannot be obtained in any other way.

Just lovely.

And then another from the 1937 Raleigh catalog, when describing a women’s model of a bicycle:

Sister to the man’s model, it is, of course, similarly equipped with the same Sturmey gear. Light, and by virtue of the gear, speedy, the keen, sporting lady-rider, when once astride it, will have no difficulty in “keeping-up” with the men; and who more than she can appreciate what a desirable quality this is.

Somehow it just strikes me as a rather poetic way of saying “this bicycle is just as good as the man’s and won’t make you fall behind.” Plus, how can you not enjoy the phrase “keen, sporting lady-rider”?

We’re in the co-op again, and if for some reason someone offers us another night here we’ll have to turn them down, as we need to get a long day in today. The weather has improved, though, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

And I really do promise a post about everything from Duluth until La Crosse.

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4 Responses to La Crosse, Wisconsin

  1. rekre8 says:

    Okay, now you’re in my home state. When you reach Madison, check out Budget Bicycles (http://budgetbicyclectr.com/) on regent, and be sure to hit the downtown farmers market at the capital on Saturday morning. The network of rails trails (http://www.a1trails.com/rail/trailswi.html – slow loader) can get you around the state and away from the milk trucks.

    Do try the New Glarus beer, and Culver’s frozen custard & cheese curds (I dream of curds. We can’t get deep fried cheese curds in Oregon, alas). Avoid the governor, and let me know if you need a local contact – I did mtb bike advocacy all over the state, I knows peoples.

    Here, have some more maps: http://www.mikebentley.com/bike/wisconsin.htm

    • We have a ton of bike maps. We’re not sure we’ll get to Madison because of time issues. We’ve tried New Glarus beer, I love their Black IPA! It’s really amazing.

      Shawn has been trying all the dairy foods for me. :^)

  2. Those quotes from the old Raleigh bicycle catalogue are a fun read. My wife enjoys her 3-speed Supercycle, though she finds the gearing too high. We’ll have to figure out a way to reduce the gearing without it looking like too much of a hack job…

    BTW, thanks for the Adventure Cycling magazine you left behind in Calgary (special edition focusing on historical bicycle touring related stuff). I’m not sure if it was left behind by accident or intentional, in any case I really enjoyed reading it!

    • It’s really easy to lower the gearing on a three-speed, and inexpensive too! The shop will just swap out the rear cog for one with more teeth. I did that to my Raleigh and was so glad I did!

      I’m sure we did it on purpose…we keep buying magazines and then having to leave them somewhere. Can’t carry them around forever! Same with the paperback books I occasionally pick up.

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