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.”