The B. O. Loop – that’s County B and County O

by Angie Wright

September 18, 2009

I’ve been involved with the Cycle Southwest Wisconsin project for almost two years and in early September I finally rode my first loop from the map. I’m not a hard-core cyclist; I’m a mom with two young boys who can rarely find more than a few hours in her week to ride her bike. My wonderful husband got me a new bike for Mother’s Day. A shiny new Trek WSD 1.5. She’s beautiful – light and fast. My goal for the summer was to ride 500 miles. I missed it by a long shot; but I did ride about 30 miles a week throughout the summer (usually two 10-20 mile rides).

Now on to my adventure – the B. O. Loop – that’s County B and County O. A few years ago if someone would have said, “Hey, let’s bike to Potosi today” I would have thought they were crazy. But on a Sunday in early September, that’s just what my friend and fellow cycling mom did and I said, “Sure, let’s give it a shot.” I kissed my boys and sent them upstairs with their Dad for books and a nap and I got on my bike and headed out of Platteville on County B with my friend. County B is smooth. Just out of Platteville we had a nice long downhill stretch, followed by a climb, and then another climb, and then another climb as we headed into Potosi/Tennyson. We hit the half way point right around the Potosi School, then headed on down Hwy 61 to County O. What a beautiful road – dappled shade, fields and farms, hills and forests – mostly uphill again, but gentler and less steep. A few miles down County O there is a wonderful, long downhill stretch, unfortunately we were stuck behind a slow moving tractor for the first third of it, but luckily we were able to pass and enjoy flying down the rest. I think I hit 28 miles an hour. We came back into Platteville on Southwest Road, our tired legs conquering the brutal hill by the UW-Platteville stadium before delivering us back to our homes. What a great ride – just over 30 miles in two hours and fifteen minutes. Maybe I’ll do it again before the snow flies.

Next summer I’d like to tackle a few more loops. The new car rack we just purchased will make that easier. Next summer I’ll make my 500 mile goal. Happy cycling!

The Beers are on Mag (Part Three)

by Mike Magnuson

I was in a sour mood.  I had left my money at the Dew Drop Inn, and at that very moment, the strangers there were converting that money into Schlitz.

My buddies, as you might imagine, thought this was about the funniest situation ever.

Dave kept riding behind me and saying, “Bet you wish you could afford a cold one about now.”

I growled and kept pedaling and somehow, after a few miles, managed to feel a little better about life.  For one thing, Highway C is shady and flat and affords frequent views of the Wisconsin River.  For another thing, if you’re riding bikes with your buddies and they’re laughing and poking fun at you, you have to count yourself lucky.  Better to made fun of than not thought of at all.

Besides, our next stop was the town of Mt. Hope, and if you’re riding toward a town with a name like that, it’s awfully difficult to stay grumpy.

We did something crazy then.  We came to a bend in Highway C and saw a narrow farm road extending to the bluff that paralleled the river.  The farm road was called Kussmaul Road – the name had a tough-sounding ring to it – and the map suggested that if we took this road, we would be delivered forthwith to Mt. Hope and save ourselves a couple of miles in the process.

So we took a chance and took Kussmaul Road, and about a half a mile in, to our absolute delight, the road turned to gravel.  We picked up the pace and climbed on the gravel, our wheels making that happy crunchy sound that rubber makes on a loose road, and maybe we weren’t on the official route, maybe we weren’t doing what we were supposed to be doing out here (who really knew what that was?), but when the road turned into asphalt again and we cruised into the town of Mt. Hope, we were all grinning from ear to ear.

A long time later, we rolled back into Lancaster and loaded our bikes back on top of the van and stared across the street at the coffee shop that had advertised quiche earlier in the day.  It was closed.

My buddy John was philosophical about this.  “Next time we do this ride,” he said, “I’m eating the quiche before we roll out of town.”

Roberto patted John on the shoulder and said, “I’m with you, man.”

We all nodded.  For us, there would be a next time.  We would ride here, together, and maybe make a few mistakes and maybe get lost and have a few laughs and maybe roll on some of the best cycling roads in North America, too.  No amount of money in the world is more powerful than knowing that there will be a next time to get together and ride.

The Beers are on Mag (Part Two)

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.

The Beers are on Mag (Part One)

by Mike Magnuson

And lo, my old cycling buddies – John and Dave and Roberto – appeared in Southwest Wisconsin.  They had driven eight hours to get here, all the way from the hills of southern Illinois, and when I first saw them getting out of their van in the Mineral Point Fire Station parking lot – three skinny guys with shaved legs and a full season of St. Louis-style criterium racing in their tanks – I sensed that the up-and-downhill experience I’d been having in Wisconsin would now enter a newer, tougher, more disoriented phase.

Before I moved to California, I used to spend about half of my waking hours riding bikes with these guys.  We trained constantly, traveled to events on weekends, and on weeknights, we’d get together and eat more food than normal human beings should be allowed to consume in one sitting.   In terms of cycling friends, of course, this made us very typical because ideally, cycling is a group activity where the fellowship is almost more important than the riding itself.  True, I had gotten out of the loop with the lifestyle, I guess, but by the time we were sitting around the dinner table, stuffing ourselves with pasta, I found myself comfortably in the fold again.  Roberto was raving about the local cheese and sausage; John was waxing philosophical about a fantastic white wine made in Wisconsin, Wollersheim’s Prairie Fume; and Dave was wanting us to finish up with dinner already so we could wander over to the Midway Bar for a glass of Spotted Cow.

After supper, I suggested we should take a look at the map, which we did.  We spread out the Cycle Southwest Wisconsin map on the table and assessed the merits of the various loops – I did mention, several times, that all the loops were hard – and somewhere in there, John pointed to the town of Lancaster, which borders the U-Farm, the Rodgers Branch, and the Green River loops, and said, “Let’s take the bikes over there and see if we can get lost.”

Everybody agreed.  Because getting lost on bikes, to us, is the essence of cycling.  If we know where we’re going, the old saying went, why go there in the first place?

There might be a profound error in logic associated with that way thinking, but in any case, we didn’t consider it.  We folded up the map and set out in the direction of Spotted Cow.

Give Cheese a Chance

By Magnuson

A few years ago, at the start of a century ride in a regions of the United States far, far away from Southwest Wisconsin, I heard a middle-aged guy offer up his formula for enjoying life on a bicycle. He called it the Three S Method. Sacrifice + Self-discipline = Success. Ten miles into the ride, I heard the guy explaining his musical taste. “I only sing in one key,” he said. “The key of pain.” Fifty miles later, he revealed his culinary leaning. “I haven’t eaten a piece of cheese for nine full years.”

To this day, I occasionally light a candle for that guy, in the fervent hope that he may someday figure out how to be happy.

Late one afternoon this week, the Three S guy crossed my mind. I was wandering the streets of Mineral Point in search of I didn’t know what, and I saw a sign outside a liquor and bait store: Cheese. From the pure cyclist’s perspective, cheese is fat, fat is lead weight, lead weight is to the Three S Method what a standing rib roast is to the dining table at a Vegan Commune. Obviously, I followed the sign into the store and bought a hunk of cheese and a box of crackers and snuck back to my room to develop a theory along the lines of Cheese + Crackers = Happy Cheesehead.

This was no ordinary cheese I had purchased. I had selected a wedge of Hook’s Blue Paradise – the name had a ring to it, I guess – and I can say now, without reservation, as a fan of cheese and of food in general and of all things in the world that bring happiness to the world, that Hook’s Blue Paradise is the finest cheese I have tasted in my whole life. Perfectly tangy, creamy, pungent, pleasant – if God Himself had presided over the making of blue cheese, this is what He would have created. I ate the entire wedge in one sitting. And I didn’t feel the least bit guilty. Quite the opposite, when I awoke the next morning, I called the Great Cheesemaker himself, Tony Hook, and asked him if I could come down to his cheese factory (conveniently, this was about three blocks from my room) to shake his hand.

He agreed.

Here’s the place I’m talking about:

I only stopped in for a little while, basically enough to time to pay my respects to the master. Turns out, Tony Hook is a really nice, really smart and incredibly hardworking guy. He’s also the kind of guy who smiles, who is humble, and who genuinely seems content with himself; this is a common trait, I believe, in people who are truly great at what they do. Tony produces cheeses that have been recognized all over as world class – you can find Hook’s cheeses at the very finest cheese shops in the America – and he makes all this cheese with his brother and his wife. That’s it. Three people. He told me he usually works twelve hour days, frequently longer days than that, because cheese-making his a passion. He said that he couldn’t imagine doing anything else with life. He said he was happy, and I could see he was telling me the truth.

Someday, I’m going to find the Three S guy and bring him to meet Tony Hook. I’d like Mr. Three S to know that hard work and discipline are self-sacrifice are indeed excellent attributes, but a life without cheese is not a life.

A Wet Oddity.

By Mike Magnuson

So the big rain I mentioned?  The storm blowing in from Iowa at 60 miles per hour?  Later in the evening, it arrives in Mineral Point with the sort of crack, bang, and deluge that encourages a worrywart like me to put on a life preserver and hide under the dining room table.  The rain pounds down for a long time.  Rain comes in through the ceiling and works its way through the windowsills.  I tremble and anticipate the end of the world.   Outside, I hear screaming and make my way to the window and gaze down on High Street in Mineral Point, which has so much water in between its curbs that it brings the raging Colorado River to mind.   A number of young-looking people are standing in the flowing water, laughing, screaming, having a great time.  Looks like they have wandered out of one of the bars to enjoy the storm.  It occurs to me – with a kick-in-the-butt feeling – that maybe the world isn’t coming to an end, but instead we’re merely having a nice, heavy summertime nighttime gullywasher.  I wave to the people playing in the street, but they’re having too much fun to notice me. 

            The next day – a humid, gray, soaked leftover of a huge rainstorm – I’m out for a long ride again, charging moistly over hill and dale in my endless successful search of happiness and tavern food, et cetera, and I find myself rolling toward Mineral Point again, turning on to Ferndale Road.  While I should be impartial and say that I appreciate all roads in Southwest Wisconsin with equal zeal, Ferndale Road is my favorite:  it twists, it dives, it climbs, it affords excellent views of Mineral Point looming on the horizon, signaling the end of a long day in the saddle and perhaps a homemade pizza at the Midway Bar and Grill.   The first circus-like riding entertainment on Ferndale Road, in any case, is a sweeping downhill left hand 90-degree arc that bottoms out at a small creek.

To my horror, then, I see that the road is blocked off.  A sign says, Road Closed:  Water on Roadway.

            The creek’s out of its banks, for sure.  I ponder this dilemma for a moment.  I could undoubtedly scan the map and find another way back to Mineral Point, but then again, if there’s water over the road, how much water could there be?  Couldn’t I just carry my bike across the creek?  And if the water’s too high for that, well, shoot, I can ride back up the hill and move on to Plan B.

            So I bomb down the hill toward the creek with a reckless enthusiasm I haven’t felt since I was a little kid.  I get to the bridge that spans the creek:  no water on the road.  But ahead, I can see about a foot of water streaming steadily across the road from one cornfield to another.  This streaming-water segment of road is perhaps a hundred yards long, and on the other side of this I see a couple of pickup trucks and four-wheelers parked in the road and a group of people milling about.  I look at the people, at the water on the road – no more than a foot deep – and I decide, what the heck, I’m going to ride through it.  The water flows more swiftly than I’ve expected, forcing me to concentrate carefully and keep my eyes down, but I can hear people cheering the closer I get.  When I make it through safely, I roll to a stop and note that the group here is maybe 10 men and 10 women, all drinking canned beer.  They clearly have arrived here just to enjoy watching the water flowing over the road and my presence has contributed significantly to quality of the show.

            One of the men says, “That was terrific!  I thought you were gonna fall for sure.”

            I think about offering to ride across again – to provide more amusement for these folks – but instead, I say, “That was some crazy rain we had last night, wasn’t it?”

            The man swigs from his can of beer and says, “We sure needed it.”

            Before riding toward Mineral Point, I regard the water flowing over the road.  I have to admit:  it’s a beautiful sight.

Even the Rain Is Perfect

by Mike Magnuson

            Of course, not all the loops in Southwest Wisconsin are epic, leg-smashing, soul-destroying slogs toward a certain doom. Well, they could be, if that’s how a cyclist chooses to ride them.  Then again, a person could turn a session on a stationary bike into a death ride, if this person were of a mindset to suffer.  Me?  I’m feeling mellow this morning, at peace with my legs and with my bike, and the jaw-dropping panorama of Highway 39 ridge before me does what it’s supposed to do:  it drops my jaw.  Endless green farmland, stands of deciduous trees, the flow of valleys and ridges:  it’s gorgeous.   I’m riding east the Yellowstone Lake loop, pedaling easy circles and nursing sips of water from my bottle.  The morning is warm and gray and moist and the only other life forms along the roadway are the pickets of red-wing blackbirds I encounter every few miles.  The blackbirds are not happy to see me; they chirp and squawk and dive-bomb me; but I’m certainly happy to see them!

            Eventually, Highway 39 passes Nick Englebert’s Grandview – – which is quite interesting combination of historical site and art museum and which is appropriately named for the view from here is grand indeed, leading to a sweeping downhill run-in to Hollandale itself.

            I take a break at the Cenex in Hollandale –  a place that seems to be the hub of local activity.  When I’m leaning my bike against the wall, a little old lady drives up to the gas pump on a riding lawnmower.  She sees me and shakes her head and looks to the west, which, true enough, is looking rather dark.

            “How much longer you riding?” she says.

            “Probably for a few more hours.”

            She says, “There’s a big storm coming across Iowa. Radar says it’s moving at 60 miles an hour.”

            “How much time you think I have?”

            “Not much,” she says.  “I’m mowing my lawn before it gets here.”

            I’m too content today to worry about rain ruining things.  I go about my business, re-top the fluids in my water bottles, eat a Snickers bar, and get back on the bike. The loop heads south now, into the trees on Highway K, an interesting, well-kept road that looks to be straight on the map but feels twisty to ride it, and sure, the sky is looking rather menacing to the west, but I don’t care. This loop is so nice – in fact, were I to rate the loops, I would put the Yellowstone Lake Loop at the top of the list:  the roads are so quiet, the views so broad. 

            Eventually, after a quick water stop in Blanchardville and after riding the magnificent smooth black asphalt through the woods near Yellowstone Lake State Park, I arrive in open country, cornfields and soy, and commenced cruising eastward on Highway F.

            If a big storm had been on the way earlier in the day, by the time this storm reaches me on Highway F, it has mellowed to the type of storm that is equivalent to the cyclist I am trying to be today:  mellow, steady, content.  The rain merely falls.  And I merely keep riding.  The water feels nice and cooling, and despite the gray murk, I can still see the greenness of the landscape and feel the pleasant essence of cycling in my body.  The joy of cycling, after all, is the ability to ride with joy through anything. 

            A while later, I deviate from the Yellowstone Lake loop and descend in the rain into Darlington, not because I want to get out of the rain but because I’m having such a nice ride that I’m thinking there’s no reason not to find somewhere to have lunch.

            I find my spot, a place at the very bottom of the town’s hill called the Corner Bar, where the sign out front says they offer beer, food, and advice.  I take off my helmet and step inside, dripping wet and grinning, and I ask the bartender for advice.

            She looks at me, sees the water dripping, and doesn’t mention it.  “Steak sandwich on special today,” she says.

            That is just the kind of advice I need.


by Mike Magnuson

One sunny morning, before my ride really began, I put my foot on the ground and decided to take stock, to reach an understanding, for once and for all, between me, the bike, and the road down which I was going to ride.  I stood astraddle my Trek Madone on Ridge Street in Mineral Point, on the western edge of town, and stared into a vast, bumpy, open-looking landscape to the south.  My mission this day was not complicated, The Prairie Loop, 51 miles no doubt of heavenly joy.  This would require me to head south on Highway O all the way Shullsburg, probably a 25-mile jaunt, a route so easy to follow, as they say on TV, that a caveman could do it.

I said the highway’s name, “O,” and let the vowel extend into the inevitable groan that the letter O brings to the windpipes.

By this point, I had ridden enough of the hills hereabouts to have developed a keen, cerebral sense of what I would face on Highway O.

On the Far Look Loop, for instance, I had lumbered up High Point Road (with a name like that, where else would it go but up?) southward from the American Players Theater:  High Point Road was craggy and twisty and steep and just at the point where I thought I was going to die, I heard cowbells and then saw a small happy herd of spotted cows, walking along the fence up the hill with me.  One of the cows said, “Mike, why don’t you get off and walk?  You’d go a lot faster!”

And once, on the Burton Loop, on Highway U heading eastward, the road dove from a high plateau to a riverbed area and then meandered through the trees, only to climb remorselessly to a peak near the Potosi city limits.  When I climbed this, highway crews were working on the road, and I passed an amused-looking fellow holding a slow sign. I assured him that, yes, I was gonna be going very slow.  He said, “I believe you, man.”

In other words, on this sunny morning, when I stood with my bike and stared into my future on Highway O, I knew what was coming.

But then again, I didn’t.

My old friend Headwind Gunderson blew in my face and I pointed toward him, to the south, and vowed to make the best of O.  A few miles later, it became apparent that while there are many individual monster climbs in Southwest Wisconsin, Highway O qualifies as a limitless set of monster climbs.  The landscape here was wide open, only the occasional tree, and at the top of each climb, I could look out and see more rollers and more rollers and more rollers.  Highway O was like one of those simulacrums that you can make with a set of mirrors, where one image continues reflecting into the mirror for what seems like eternity.  Only Highway O was not a mirror, it was not an image, it was a straight-line stretch of dairy-road asphalt, steep pitch after steep pitch, all leading toward a higher point on the road, which, when I would reach it, revealed another even higher point on the horizon.  I thought I would never reach Shullsburg.

A long time later, I did finally roll into the lovely downtown area of Shullsburg and stopped to collect myself.  A woman saw me along the road and asked where was I coming from?

“O,” I said.  “O”

“What?” she said.

I pointed to the north.  “O.”

“O,” she said.  “I understand.”

I exaggerate.  But not by much.

Now to make this clear, Highway O doesn’t exactly qualify as a single monster climb but instead a SET of monster climbs.  The landscape here is open and spectacular and prone to headwinds, and what you encounter here is rollers, large rollers, an endless line of rollers stretching off to the eternity – Shullsburg, that is.  At one point, after rising ever higher over a series of rollers, you would swear to God that this is it, you reach the top and, stretching as far as the eye can see, even more rollers!  Whew! 

A Growler of Old Potosi

by Mike Magnuson

I suppose there is a certain fuddy-duddy type of cyclist who believes that once you visit a brewery, your life goes downhill.  In the case of the Potosi Brewery, however, you must ride downhill hill to get there, and the only possibly after your visit is for your life to go uphill.

            First, some background.

When I visited the Potosi Brewery (ahem, purely out of intellectual curiosity, of course), I went downhill twice to get there.  My ride for the day began in Platteville, from which I headed west on the B.O. Loop – not to be confused with what a sweaty, hill-climbing cyclist might smell like after a long day in the saddle – following the magnificently wooded Highway O along a riverbed toward the friendly town Tennyson, where, at the top of a rise, I saw the first sign for the Potosi Brewing Company.  Incidentally, if you are unable to follow the subsequent signs to the Potosi Brewing Company, I would advise spending most of your time at home, on account of you are predisposed to getting lost.  To wit, the signs are really big and are spaced at 100-yard intervals all the way down the long, long descent on Highway 133 through downtown Potosi and finally to a short flat stretch where the brewery itself stands, in newly remodeled brick splendor, next to a thickly forested hill.

I rolled to a stop, set my foot on the ground, and contemplated my options.  The place looked incredibly inviting:  clean brick exterior, newly paved parking lot, outdoor beer garden, sparkling spring water cascading from the hillside.  The skies were a trifle gray with a hint of drizzle in the air – might have been nice to bag the ride and commence beer sampling right then and there – but I decided that the better part of valor would be to ride for a while longer before turning my attention to this inviting facility.

For the next couple of hours then, I experienced the mixed righteousness and accumulating thirst of a person who has decided to pedal an additional 35 miles or so before having a cold one.  I followed the Highway 133 along the edge of the Burton Loop and the Great River Loop then 35 back to the monstrous hilly Highway U, which bore me, or rather I bore it, all the way back to Potosi, where once again I descended to the Brewery.

This time, I parked my bike along a limestone wall that abuts a pool created by the natural spring and stepped inside the restaurant area of the brewery, the restaurant area.  First thing I noticed was 1) nobody seemed startled that a sweaty man in Spandex had hobbled into the room and 2) one of the largest, coolest-looking handcrafted bars I had ever seen and 3) the bartender was filling a rather prodigious jug of beer from the tap.  I said to the bartender, a nice lady in her late twenties, “What in the heck is that?”

“A growler,” she said.  “You want one?”

I did.  Who wouldn’t?  We’re talking a half-gallon of beer brewed on the premises, fed directly from lines in the brew-tanks next to the bar to the tap, but I declined because I had a long way to pedal to get back to Platteville and didn’t think I could carry a growler on my bicycle.  Instead, I ordered a pint of Old Potosi, a lager based on the original formula brewed here back before our great-grandfathers were glints in our great-great grandfather’s eyes.  True enough, Old Potosi was fantastic, a light golden color and as refreshing as the sight of open farmland after a long time confined to the concrete wastes of a big city.

Pretty soon, I met up with Greg Larsen, Executive Director of the Facility, who was pleased to see a cyclist stopping in for a beer.  He invited me to take a tour of the building (toting my pint of Old Potosi, of course).

So not only do they make beer here but this is the home of the National Brewery Museum, which, as Greg explained it, is as much of an art museum as it is a comprehensive history of beer in America.  Here you will find bottles and cans and advertisements from back in the old days, before conglomerates made beers, back when beer was made in the towns in which it was consumed.  I could remember seeing these advertisements when I was a kid : Chief Oshkosh beer, People’s beer, Holiday Bock, Walter’s (whose slogan was The Beer That Is Beer) and so on.  It was a truly moving experience to have this glimpse into a past that is long, long gone.  Or maybe it’s not long gone.  The Potosi Brewing Company is a not-for-profit organization and maybe, with their help, the old small-town breweries will return to Wisconsin.

Two Old Potosis and a whole lot of fond memories later, I slung my leg over the top tube of my bike and climbed gradually up the long, long hill on Highway 133 toward Tennyson.

About halfway uphill, I saw an old man fiddling with his flowerbeds in his front yard.  He waved at me and said, “How are you doing today?”

            “I’m really happy,” I said.

            He winked and said, “Me, too.”

            I guessed he might have been into the Old Potosi that day.

One Way Prayer is Answered…

by Mike Magnuson

Okay, I will confess to being the type of person whose entire outlook – even if this outlook has been swirling uncontrollably toward the vast, unhappy drain of no return – can be rectified to the better with the addition of one small, fortunate turn of events. 

I went on a huge ride, a combination of the State Park, Taliesin, Far Look, and Mill Creek Loops, and it was tough sledding – with lots of climbing, predictably enough – and the weather alternated between periods of rain and periods of hot sunshine.  I guess this was the kind of day on the bike the rough and tumble among us dream about, what with the scenery, the long distance, the weather, and so forth, but friends and brethren, when I was about three-quarters of the way through this epic, heading west through the center of the Far Look Loop (on account of I decided to bisect the Loop to save my aching legs) there just wasn’t anything left in the tank.  I was thirsty, hot, tired, and muttering unintelligible curses to a variety pack of unintelligible gods, and if somewhere were to have asked me what hope was, I wouldn’t have recognized the word.

Somewhere in there, I found myself on Highway Z, on the State Park Loop, heading south toward Dodgeville, where I had began this journey many hours earlier in the day, and I was desperate to find a convenience store or anyplace where I could wander in, rest, have a cold beverage, and save my spirits from the sewer. 

And it came to pass that the gods were listening to me, for at the intersection of Highway Z and ZZ, there appeared the Pleasant Ridge Store, an old-fashioned, tree-surrounded building that looked like it might sell cheese and sausage and cold soda and the like.  What a wonderful name, I thought!  And how well placed along this weary traveler’s route!  I pulled my bike to the side of the road, dismounted, removed my helmet, and limped up the stairs and opened the door. To my delight, I could see that the Pleasant Ridge Store is not a quaint little general store but a quaint little tavern.  So with tears of joy in my eyes, I pulled up a stool and ordered a can of La Crosse Lager.   The Bartender, a local wrestling coach, set the can on the counter and offered to fill my water bottles for me. 

He said, “Having a rough day out there?”

“Not anymore,” I said.

“That’s the spirit,” he said.

We talked for a while about the weather, the importance of cold beer, the Green Bay Packers, and after a while, outside, I could hear the telltale rumbling of the other kind of bike, the Harley Davidson.  Turned out that the Pleasant Ridge Store is also a “Biker” bar, meaning those loud two-wheeled vehicles with motors attached to them, and a number of these burley fellows wandered in.  In no time, the were happy to include me, a sweaty guy in Spandex, into their fellowship.  We all laughed about this and that and watched the Brewers on TV for a while, and the biker dudes informed me that on my way back to Dodgeville I would encounter a monster three-quarter-mile hill. 

I told them I figured there were more hills left in my day’s ride, and they all nodded. 

“If you don’t like hills,” one of the bikers said, “you will never be happy here.”