Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Gina's Pies Are Square - Elroy Sparta 2009

I was pretty much gone Saturday morning through Monday evening, between a guys' trip to the Elroy-Sparta Rail to Trail and the Minnesota State Fair (which is really when She Says should come to visit). The Elroy-Sparta trip, despite being a lot of work (46 miles on Saturday, 21 miles on Sunday, lots of climb and dirt trails the whole way), was a blast.

In the past, we've started near Winona and biked across the state to Reedsburg (WI that is). This year we just drove down 94 to Tomah and then went south until we hit the trail and the Tunnel Trail campground, just outside Wilton. It was a bit on the expensive side, as we found out we can stay in downtown Wilton for about half as much, but there were hot showers and it was plenty quiet. Except for the crow in the morning flying over the tents. And the coyotes in the corn field on the hill above us, that yipped until it sounded like some gibbering horror from Cthulu was lurking behind the rows.

Here's Ming at our campground. Inside this building was a scary woman who wanted to "break" Adam in. We weren't sure what that meant, but it was enough to make me nervous about sharing a tent with him.

The trail ran right through the campground. Day one we went left. Day two we went right.

Bike planter at the campground. One of the other nice things about our location was the bed and breakfast nearby that also had a restaurant - the Dorset Valley School Restaurant. Excellent food. We liked dinner so much, we went back for breakfast. And their pie was unbelievable. The owner talked to us for a while in the morning about the history behind the place, and that he'd gone to school in the old schoolhouse when he was younger. Just a great place.

The draw of the Elroy Sparta Trail is the tunnels. Here I am in the mouth of one.

And here's Adam and I posing. You'll note absolutely no pictures of Kyle whatsoever. He wasn't bicycling because of his elbow, but you'd think I'd still have a picture or two. Not sure how he avoided them. Then again, I don't have any picture of pie and I don't know how they avoided my camera either.

Adam, with arms wide open.

I like this picture because the flash activates the reflector.

And I don't know what to make of this. Adam looks like he's one of those old political photos, looking to the future, or like he's some sort of hero from an Ayn Rand book. I suspect he's ruminating on Ming's tone, or what Ming said he left in the trash bag.

Inside the tunnel. Very wet. This year I didn't flick Ming in the back with my water bottle. Instead, I threw a thistle-type thing at him that stuck to his shirt, and then exclaimed "What's That!?!" later. Not as good as the water bottle, but still funny.

Perhaps my favorite picture of the trip. Ming as Sparta's Ben Bikin. He gave the old lady at the depot a hard time about how his pin in Malaysia from 2008 was gone, until she explained they remove them every year and start anew.

In Wilton we followed a coworker's advice and had the Guinness Chocolate Pie at Gina's Pies Are Square. Currently for sale at $195,000. I believe Kyle is tempted. The pie was delicious, though not as good as the Black Cap or Triberry at Dorset. You could taste the Guinness in it, and it had oats or some such grain on the top to give it a crunchy taste.

Me, jazzed up after we turned back at 23 miles.

Right near Sparta, I felt wound up, so I shot up the backside of this cliff to pose, using my mountain bike as it was intended. 7 miles later I'd notice that I had a flat tire. I suspect it was here, where there was some wire on the hill, that I punctured it. Fortunately, I had my CO2 cartridge with, and inflation took about 3 seconds.

In the evening, despite being exhausted, we went to Tomah to see a movie. Ming and Adam went to District 9. Kyle and I went to Inglorious Basterds. I suspect Inglorious Basterds would have been better had I not been so tired. As it was, I fell asleep, and woke up seconds later to Kyle snoring. District 9 would have been a better choice, despite already seeing it once. Not because Inglorious Basterds was bad. It was just too slow for my mental state.

Day 2, Adam bailed, and Ming and I went up the Omaha Trail that heads north out of Elroy to Camp Douglas. It's a lot more Dellsy, with a climb to another tunnel (you can bike through it if no one is around as it's paved, unlike the others, but it's freaky without a headlight), and then a drop into Hustler, Wisconsin. I wanted to bike to the end and back, but my knee was having none of it (seems particular to my mountain bike).

The trail was a bit hard to find from the end of the Elroy Sparta. Although the lady in Elroy tried to explain it to us and charged us a dollar because it was a county trail and not a state trail. Here's Ming at the bridge to the trail.

Here I am. Same trail.

I show this bridge because on the left, near the bike, I took another picture, and as I walked away it felt like I'd walked into a thorn bush. By the time I got to the other side of the bridge, I couldn't locate a planty culprit, but I did see a swarm of small bees rising up out of the bridge where I'd been standing. I'm allergic to wasps, so I'm glad the bee didn't trigger a reaction. As we only saw 4 people on the whole trail (maybe 5...there was a motorized scooter), I wasn't close to medical help.

Where we stopped for the day. Hustler, Wisconsin. They were square in the middle of Hustlerfest! The tractor pull spilled onto the trail, and the ticket lady sort of gave Ming and I the eye because we didn't pay $5 to get in. Hey...we already paid $1 for the trail! The trail lady in Elroy had really talked up Hustlerfest, but it just wasn't as exciting as you'd be led to believe. I think the most amusing thing was when three kids (11-ish) walked by with big, blow up, plastic hammers, and the one with a pink hammer with a purple head held it up like a giant schlong. His friends screamed, "You are so f-ing gay!" and ran away from his adroit cocksmanship. That was Hustlerfest as far as I was concerned.

In case you want to go next year, aim for the end of August.


Anonymous said...

Nice recap. Enjoyed the blog.

Thanks again for driving.


Kyle said...

I must say, it was nice to see all the trail bits I missed out on during the trip. Makes me want to find a piece of pie as well...

She says said...

Ahh, that would get me two great cultural experiences in MN... the Mall and the Fair. We may just have to do it!