by Mike Magnuson
The next morning, we were unloading bikes in the beautiful Lancaster town square, across the street from a coffee shop with a sign in the window that said “Fresh Quiche.” Each of us carried cash in a plastic bag that we tucked in our jersey pockets, and we resolved that when we returned safely later in the day, we would have enough money left to get a cup of coffee and a piece of quiche. Very civilized goal, don’t you think?
Not a cloud besmirched the sky while we happily tooled out of Lancaster on Highway 35, a relatively flat pleasant spinner of a road, then we turned off on University Farm and dove into a deep valley – implying, with absolutely certainly, that when we got to the bottom we would be climbing again. My buddies live in an incredibly hilly area, so they are used to climbing, but even they had to admit the climbs here were leg-sapping, especially at the crest of each, when the grade is at its steepest. Still, we didn’t push the pace. We pedaled and talked about the old days and enjoyed the traffic-free cycling and the exquisite dairy-farm views.
Eventually, we arrived in the town of Bloomington and stopped at a convenience store. The idea was to refuel and then push south, to the bottom of the Dugway Loop, where we would head west to the state line. Unfortunately, we got the giggles at the convenience store because there was a sign in the bathroom that said, “Quit stealing! It’s against the law.” Is stealing really against that law? That had never occurred to us before. Maybe it wasn’t that funny, but we were so amused and having a such a time, et cetera, that when we got back on our bikes we took the wrong road out of town.
Seemed like a nice move at first. We rolled on a lovely extra-black road surface that gradually climbed up one of the prettiest valleys in Wisconsin – a fantastic cycling road, for sure – except when we finally reached the top we found ourselves in the small town of Patch Grove. Nice place but about ten miles away from where we expected to be.
Needless to say, we took a break and consulted the map. We seemed to be smack-dab in the middle of the Wyalusing Loop the highlight of which is Wyalusing State Park, where, we had heard, there is a miraculous view of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. So we picked a line across the map: Highway P to Highway X. A few hills, a few more laughs, more sunshine and farm field, and we’d see what might come of it.
At the intersection of Highway X and Highway C, we happened upon a small tavern called the Dew Drop Inn, and we decided, what the heck, we would definitely drop in. Nothing much happened in there. We each at a bottle Schlitz and explained our odd clothing to a couple of folks who were whiling away their Saturday afternoon in the air-conditioning. Friendly people. A fine tavern. A nice life.
Outside, in the Dew Drop Inn’s parking lot, we examined the map again. Off to the west: Wyalusing State Park and its storied view of the rivers coming together. To the east: a long, long descent on Highway C, which was the road back to Lancaster.
The next decision I will regret for the rest of my life. I had been riding for days on my own and was tired and the thought of adding extra mileage to our journey, well, it just didn’t sit right with me.
I said, “Fellas, can we just go down that hill and head on back to the van?”
My buddy Dave objected. “But that’s the greatest view in Wisconsin! Why come all this way?”
But I gave him a pathetic, I’m-feeling-weak stare, and Dave agreed to go down the hill.
The descent was amazing, too – an incredibly long drop, the kind of descent you might encounter in a huge mountain range. The whole way down, with the wind rushing through my helmet, I told myself I am so, so glad I’m not going up this hill.
Fifteen minutes later, we stopped at small picnic area along the Wisconsin River, which lazed and whirled its way toward the confluence we would never see. I reached into my jersey pocket for the plastic bag where I kept the map and my cash, and it was gone!
I had left this bag on the bar at the Dew Drop Inn, all the way up at the top the hill. The map, I could live without. My friends each had a copy. But I must have had forty dollars in that bag!
I said to Dave, “We gotta go back for my money.”
Dave shook his head in a manner that suggested ain’t no way he was climbing back up that hill. He said, “Looks like you just bought a few rounds at the Dew Drop Inn.”
So let me say this now, to those friendly people I met at the Dew Drop Inn that afternoon, You’re very welcome for all the beers I bought you.