Saturday, October 23, 2010

Life on The Mississippi - October 23, 2010

I moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin at the beginning of October to take a position with the Gundersen Lutheran Health System as the Program Director for the MedLink AIR and Specialty Care critical care transport programs.  I feel very honored to be affiliated, not only with a great health system, but also with first class air and ground transport services.  The picture to the left is of the MedLink AIR Eurocopter EC-145 helicopter over the Gundersen Lutheran Hospital and Clinic in La Crosse.  To the west is the Mississippi River and Minnesota.

I have only been able to get out on four bicycle rides since arriving as I attended the Air Medical Transport Conference for part of one of the weeks in Florida and it has been raining this weekend.  La Crosse has a number of cyclists and Nordic skiers and I have been able to join the local listserv which is sponsored by the La Crosse Velo Club.  In general the cyclists I have met so far are in a class above my speed level of 16-18 MPH as they average 25-30 MPH.  This is especially hard as this area has some incredible hills with all the bluffs along both sides of the Mississippi River.  The picture to the left is on top of Granddad Bluff just to the east of La Crosse and to get up to it there is a mile long climb with a 13% grade at the start and then ranging from a 7-10% grade for the remainder of the hill.

The 600-ft high Granddad Bluff overlooks the Mississippi River Valley which includes the three states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Wisconsin Trails readers voted this "the most scenic view in the state" and I know from my first ride it was well worth the climb.  The picture to the left, looking east, is from Main Street which then turns into Bliss Road as it goes up the bluff.  Bliss Road is closed to cars because of heavy rains that washed out part of the side of the road but it is passable for hikers and cyclists.  My first two rides went up Granddad Bluff and can be viewed from my Garmin here for the Grandad Bluff La Crosse - October 7, 2010 41.9K Ride and here for the County Road YY MedLink - October 9, 2010 37.6K Ride.  On the October 7th ride I went out with Jen who is the leader on an organized ride and on October 9th I went out myself but ended up riding with another cyclist for part of the distance.

On October 16th I went out for a longer ride that started out with a large group of riders.  After the first mile long hill on County Road K, however, I could not keep up with the fast pace so I went on my own exploring the country side to the east and south of La Crosse.  It was a gorgeous sunny day with temperatures in mid 60's and a 5-6 MPH wind from the south.  There is beautiful farm land which includes both rolling hills and very lengthy climbs and descents.  The picture to the left is of a farm just to the southeast of Chaseburg, Wisconsin.

This area of Wisconsin has a number of Amish communities and during this ride I saw a number of covered wagons, farms, and furniture shops.  The picture to the left is from an Amish farm and you can tell by the way they bale their corn stalks.  After the forth mile long climb I came out of the bluffs at Genoa, Wisconsin which sits right on the Mississippi River and is about 17 miles south of La Crosse.  Unfortunately I had my 8th flat tire of the season with a steel pin going through my new Kevlar back tire on the last climb. With all my experience changing flats, however, I was again climbing the hill on Wisconsin Highway 56.

This picture was taken north of Genoa on Wisconsin Route 35.  The river is very scenic here and the highway includes a nice wide shoulder.  It was also a welcome relief to have some flat land and the wind at my back to finish the 92.4K ride.  The map from my Garmin can be viewed here Amish Country Ride - October 16, 2010.

On Sunday, October 17th I went out with Tom, who is cyclist I met on the Saturday ride and who also works at Gundersen Lutheran as an Ophthalmologist.   Tom, like me attended Michigan State University, and we went out for a late afternoon 54.2K ride.  Temperatures were cooler than Saturday in the high 50's without much wind and Tom showed me one of the regular routes that many cyclists do on County Road M.  The ride can be viewed from my Garmin here County Road M - October 17, 2010. 

Except for a few hearty souls the cycling season pretty much ends in La Crosse at the end of October which is when I usually switch over to roller skiing to get ready for the Nordic ski season anyhow.  Fortunately there are a number of Nordic skiers here in La Crosse so I look forward to training with them on roller skis and then actually skiing with a few local trails in the area.  Depending on snow levels, the best skiing will usually be found further north.

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