August 9, 2023 | Up until yesterday (Monday, Day 32), we had 11 days straight of head winds. We went through half of North Dakota, all of Minnesota and about half of Wisconsin while fighting winds in our faces. As Lauren put it, it was soul destroying. I was starting to wonder if I was on Santa’s naughty list or had done something wrong in a previous life!
Head winds are something of a family joke. Whenever I used to come back from a long ride, the kids would always ask about the winds and how bad ’those head winds’ were. Seems I used to complain about them a lot. At least Lauren now has a better appreciation. :-)
But having a head wind or tail wind makes a huge difference. For example, on Day 31 we did 69 miles into the wind and it took us over six hours; we were averaging just over 11 miles per hour. But in Day 32, with a tail wind, we did 78 miles with more hills in an hour less. Having a tail wind reduced the effort needed by about 25 percent. Not only that, but with a head wind you find yourself tensing up more on the bike and gripping the handle bars harder – you are straining against the wind.
So yesterday, our moods were lifted by the tail wind and the cloudy conditions. Cooler temps and a tail wind. Yahoo!
Let me tell you about Wisconsin. We like this state. We basically rode down the east side of the Mississippi river and then cut east to Milwaukee (I am sitting at a hotel bar by the Harley-Davidson museum as I write this). Tonight we are going to a Brewers (baseball) game and then tomorrow at 6 a.m. we catch the ferry to Michigan.
Wisconsin is very agricultural and rural and very pretty. There must be a rule that all barns have to be painted red; a lot of the scenes look like they came from a post card. And the roads are good – generally smooth and well-kept and great for cycling.
This is ‘America’s Dairyland’ as the license plates say. But what we did not see for the first few days were any cows. We could smell them and see the milk tankers on the highway, so we knew they were there. We have seen corn, alfalfa, cherries, blueberries, apples, pears, peaches, vineyards, wineries….but no cows! I was expecting herds of cows munching green grass in large, postcard-ready fields. Nope. We have seen maybe a dozen in a few fields; the rest must be in barns somewhere. Maybe they are staying away from me since I am lactose-intolerant? :-)
We even stayed on a dairy farm one night. They said they had 28 cows but we did not see any. We did see their chickens, including the one we subsequently ate for dinner.
OK, time for today’s history lesson. As we rode by the Mississippi, we saw lots of French names – La Crosse, Trempealeau, Perrot – and evidence of European settlers – Stockholm, Sparta, Bangor, Nelson, Czechville, New Amsterdam. The first Europeans to settle this area were French fur trappers who traveled up the Mississippi from New Orleans in the late 1600s. France at that time controlled what was known as the Louisiana Territory, consisting of what we know today as Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and about half of Colorado, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming and Montana. The total area was about 828,000 square miles.
France ceded control to Spain in 1762, and then in 1800 Napoleon traded Tuscany for Louisiana; he wanted to get France back in North America and re-establish a presence.
But Thomas Jefferson saw the need to acquire Louisiana and the need to expand west; remember he also funded the Lewis & Clark expedition. France was under threat of war with the UK and so sold the Louisiana Territory to the U.S. in 1803 for $15 million. Just think – that was only 220 years ago. Without this deal, it is hard to imagine the U.S. as it is today. Or us doing this bike ride!