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.