Mike Breiding's Epic Road Trips: June 1999


Rail-Trails and More

Bug-eyed bugs and a Honeymoon, Rail-Trails and a Former Flame, The Tin Man and a Mangled Mess

Posted: 18 Septemmber 2020
Wisconsin Rail-Trails and More: June 1999

Betsy's first journal entry for this trip starts out with "Mike and I left Morgantown and the drone of the 17 year cicadas around 9:00..." and that sets the stage nicely for my intro to this trip.


It was June of 1999 and we had recently celebrated our 17th Anniversary on May 15th.
The 17 year mark was significant because in 1982 when we returned from our 7 week Honeymoon we found out there had been what people called an invasion of noisy bugs which where flying all over the place and freaking people out. After hearing a little bit more about it we realized we had missed the emergence of the 17 year cicadas and boy were we disappointed because we knew it was going to be another 17 years before we got to see this amazing natural spectacle.
Now it was 1999, 17 years later and we would finally get our chance!

"17 year" cicada is not quite the correct way to identify these interesting creatures. They are correctly called a periodical cicada to differentiate them from the annual cicada. The name difference might seem obvious but I will elaborate: periodical cicada nymphs emerge from the ground after a period of time has passed. That time period can typically be 13-years or 17-years.
The annual cidada nymphs emerge every year. And for many people, when the annual cicada "sings", it is a reminder that summer in on the wane.
Unlike the annual cicada nymphs which have a mass emergence, the periodical cicadas emerge in broods. It gets complicated.


Periodical cicadas are grouped into geographic broods based on the calendar year when they emerge. For example, in 2014, the 13-year brood XXII emerged in Louisiana and the 17-year brood III emerged in western Illinois and eastern Iowa.

In 1898, entomologist C. L. Marlatt assigned Roman numerals to 30 different broods of periodical cicadas: 17 distinct broods with a 17-year lifecycle, to which he assigned brood numbers I through XVII (with emerging years 1893 through 1909); plus 13 broods with a 13-year cycle, to which he assigned brood numbers XVIII through XXX (1893 through 1905).

Source: WikiPedia

Periodical cicada on the left -  annual cicada on the right

Adult periodical cicada on the left - annual cicada on the right. Beauties, both.

Cicada nymph

Periodical cicada nymph

Once might ask: what do they do down in the ground for up to 17 years? Why, suck sap from tree roots of course! And other plants as well.
When the nymphs are finished with their subterranean meal, at the right time of their development, they tunnel out, emerging from the ground by the millions. They then climb up a tree, break out of their papery husks and emerge as adult cicadas. This metamorphosis is amazing to see. The adult cicadas then breed, deposit their eggs in slits on tree branches and die.

The annual cicada? The same.
As you can imagine when these critters emerge it makes an impact on the surrounding area. First off there are millions of tunnels in the soil from which they emerge. That must do something to soil moisture, permeability and who knows what all. And, consider the amount of biomass introduced into the environment. It is mind boggling and it provides a lot of food for a lot of birds, ants and the eastern cicada killer wasp. It is always fun to watch birds do battle with cicadas, especially the annuals which are significantly larger than the periodicals and put up quite a noisy struggle.

By now, 2020, Betsy and I have seen this emergence of the periodical cicada twice during our marriage: in 1999 and again in 2016 when we were doing our 5 year period of isolation in Wheeling.
The next emergence will be in 2033. Betsy will be 83 and I 81. Will we be around to witness it? Only time will tell.

OK, enough about Honeymoons, cicadas and such. Why are we going to Wisconsin? Two main reasons, rail-trails and a former flame.

Rail-Trails first. In the mid 90s I got involved in Rail-Trail development in Morgantown. I think it is fair to say I got deeply involved. I was one of a group of dedicated folks whose dream it was to have our very own Rail-Trail system in Morgantown.
After much hard work and some blood, sweat and tears this was accomplished and now there are about 50 miles of beautiful, mostly wooded trails for non-motorized use such as cycling, walking, running, etc. This trail consists of two separate corridors. One follows Deckers Creek for most of its 20 miles and the other segment follows the Monongahela River ("The Mon") for 30 miles.

During the '90s and early 2000s I pretty much lived and breathed Rail-Trails and I started planning vacations around Rail-Trails. I was very keen on seeing how other groups besides the Mon River Trails Conservancy - MRTC built and managed their Rail-Trails. Plus, Betsy and I loved cycling and were eager to get out and see some new country side from the view point of traffic free Rail-Trails.

Enter Wisconsin. The state of Wisconsin has the unique distinction of having developed the first Rail-Trail in the US - the 32 mile Elroy to Sparta Rail-Trail. This we had to see!

At this very same time, Claire, a former flame was living in Milwaukee so we decided to plan our trip around visiting Claire and exploring some of the Rail-Trails in Wisconsin.

And that is how we ended up in Wisconsin. I don't know about you but I am ready to start this trip!
Betsy - take it away!


Saturday, June 12, 1999

Mike and I left Morgantown and the drone of the 17 year cicadas around 9:00 a.m.  We were on our way to Ft. Wayne Indiana, the first leg of our trip to Wisconsin. We had decided we would take small roads instead of the interstate and were driving along Rt. 40 in Ohio, when suddenly it ended!  So we turned up a likely looking but unmarked country road and got lost.  It took us about an hour to get back to square one.  We were both so sleepy during the drive! 
We finally arrived at Mother and Daddy's in Ft. Wayne in the rain and had spaghetti for supper.  We both went to bed early and didn't get up the next morning until a quarter to seven.

Forgot to mention that on our way we passed a large building that looked just like a giant basket which turned out to be the Longaberger Basket Corporate Headquarters.  It's around Newark, Ohio.

Former corporate Longaberger headquarters in Newark, Ohio

Former corporate Longaberger headquarters
in Newark, Ohio - WikiPedia

In 1919, J.W. Longaberger accepted an apprenticeship with The Dresden Basket Factory. Although the Dresden Basket Factory closed during the Great Depression, Longaberger continued to make baskets on the weekends. He and his wife Bonnie Jean (Gist) Longaberger eventually raised enough money to purchase the closed basket factory and start a business of their own.

One of J.W. and Bonnie's children, Dave, opened J.W.'s Handwoven Baskets in 1973. Starting in 1978, the company began selling Longaberger baskets through home shows using a multi-level marketing model.
Each basket was handmade, signed, and dated by the maker.

Betsy's basketlongaberger-basket_stamp_initial_and_date

A combination of a recession and changing tastes in home decor combined to send sales, which peaked in 2000 at $1 billion, to about $100 million in 2012.

Source: WikiPedia

Betsy's Baskets

Betsy's Baskets and our "new" 40+ year old cushion embroidered by Rebecca de la Millstone and recently gifted to us. Nice...

The Longaberger Basket building was reportedly scheduled to become a become a luxury hotel "by 2020" however I can find no evidence this has yet happened. Killed by COVID perhaps?

Sunday, June 13, 1999

We left Mother and Daddy's about 9:00 a.m. and headed for Wisconsin.  Unfortunately, I immediately headed us in the wrong direction on I69, but it was soon corrected and we continued west.

I30 was pretty unremarkable!  We tried to miss the Chicago interstate, but the side streets were too full of traffic and street lights so we hopped on 294.  I couldn't believe how long the Chicago area continued - and then it started to rain or I should say pour!  Our car was hydroplaning on the wet pavement.  Traffic was not as heavy as we had anticipated, at least not going in our direction.  South bound traffic was horrendous all the way from Chicago to Milwaukee.

We found Claire's new place with little difficulty.  We pulled into the underground valet parking-what luxury! - and made our way up to her lovely airy home.  You can see the lake from her living room.  Claire had laid out a nice spread of mixed olives and Asiago cheese which she said she had just picked up from the local "wop shop" a few blocks away. We enjoyed this with red wine and Sprecher beer!  It was the first time we had ever had Asiago cheese and we really liked it.  After a walk in the cool lake air we dined on salad and pasta, and of course, more wine and beer!

Click on the photos below for a larger image.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Betsy took this snap of Claire and I just before the three of us were ready to head out the door for dinner.

Monday, June 14, 1999 (Flag Day)

Mike and I had a little trouble sleeping, not being used to the street noise, and woke early to the smell of Claire's coffee.  It was great relaxing drinking coffee and enjoying the view.

Claire, Mike and I breakfasted at a local diner, then headed to Boerner Botanical Gardens.  The weather was sunny and cool and the gardens were lovely.  We enjoyed the inventive names of the daylilies and iris.  (And Mike, of course, liked the hostas) The koi in their koi pool were acting strangely and we never did figure out exactly what they were doing.

After mammoth burritos that contained about a pound of meat each, the three of us hiked at the Horocon marshes.  The deer flies were out in full force!

When we got back to Milwaukee, Mike took a bike ride and Claire and I took a long walk.

We had dinner at the Pasta Tree, which we had fond memories of from a previous visit.  I had spinach noodles with a delicious sauce of toasted pine nuts and olive oil.  Tomorrow I should eat bread and water!!

Tuesday, June 15, 1999

A beautiful, crisp morning.  Mike and I biked out along the lake and enjoyed the great views.  We met Claire at the Jewish center, used the whirlpool and sat in the sun.  We all lunched at the Rock Bottom Brewery.

In the afternoon Claire and I went to Watt's, a store carrying china, silver, etc. and I got some great discounted glasses.  There were only three of them and I spent a lot of time looking for the fourth one until Claire said, "Betsy, if there were four of them, they probably wouldn't be on the discount table!"

Some tension had been brewing between Mike and Claire and finally around dinner time Mike and Claire "had it out." What fun!  I hid in the bathroom until it seemed safe to come out. Things were finally smoothed over but tension remained and we altered some of our plans for how much time the three of us will be spending together this weekend.

Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Mike and I left Claire and Milwaukee shortly after 7:00 a.m., and it was a relief to leave the noise and traffic of the city behind us.  We headed to Madison and stopped at Verona to try to find out how to get trail passes for the Military Ridge Rail-Trail.  We went into a wine and spirits store (Bert l's) to see if they knew, and ended up buying about 6 bottles of wine, a case of cheap beer and a six pack of good beer.  The guy's wine inventory was fantastic!  He said he had only owned the place for 8 months and he had added 80 vineyards to the inventory.

We found we could buy passes and get on the trail just outside of Verona.  The trail was great! - through pastoral scenery, good surface, well signed, etc.  We biked to Riley and back-about 12 miles.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Trailhead parking for the Military Ridge Rail-Trail. Note the three red cars in the lot. The middle one with the black and grey car top carrier is ours. You will see this car later.

3 red cars

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I took this shot from the Military Ridge Rail-Trail to show the farm name on the barn "TrailView Acres".

On the trail we saw literature for a town called Mt. Horeb (just off of 18 and 151).  Its claim to fame was that it is "The Troll Capitol of the World!"  (By the way, Verona claimed the name "Hometown, USA") Mt. Horeb's main street is "The Troll Way" and there are carved trolls all along it.  I antique shopped and found three Limoges plates.  We then went to a brew pub Mike found - The Mount Horeb Pub and Brewery.  Good beer!  Mike had a lager and I had a "brown" one.

We finally headed on toward Elroy.  78 north to 14 at Black Earth, then 14 west to 23 to 33 to 80.  On the way we passed a place (a home) with great metal sculptures in the yard.  Their mailbox holder was the tin man from the Wizard of Oz.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

In spite of Betsy's detailed description of where these sculptures were, we unable to find the location on another trip we took several years later to the same area.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

In Elroy we are staying at the Valley Inn and so far, 8:00, we are the only customers.  We went into town for supper and walked along the Elroy-Sparta Trail.  It looks like it's really big business in the summer.  I'm looking forward to trying the trail tomorrow.

We ate dinner at Porky's Pub and are now relaxing in our little motel retreat.

Thursday, June 17th, 1999

It's about 6:00 a.m. and I'm still sitting outside our little motel room, sipping coffee and nibbling on molasses cookies.  It is quite chilly and foggy and it feels like it will burn off into a glorious day.

As I sit here I can hear mourning doves cooing, song sparrows, chipping sparrows, the chickadee's two note song, the cardinal and of course the English sparrow.

I can see the window of the manager's apartment and their little gray striped cat poked its face through the curtains to stare at me.

The biking should be great today.  Three trails merge here in Elroy: the Omaha trail, the "400," and the Elroy-Sparta trail.  We'll be taking the last of these for its entire 32 miles, spending the night in Sparta and biking back tomorrow.

We walked into town and had breakfast at the Trailside Cafe, then finally got under way from Elroy around 10:00 a.m.

Development of the Trail - In the Beginning
In 1964, the Interstate Commerce Commission authorized C&NW to discontinue and abandon the unprofitable Elroy-Sparta line. The Wisconsin Conservation Department (now the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources) designated a trail on the abandoned railroad right-of-way in 1965 while negotiating its purchase. C&NW removed the tracks in 1965, but left the steel and wooden bridges, station buildings, fencing, whistle posts, tunnel shelters and, of course, the tunnels. In the summer of 1966, the state concluded its purchase of the trail right-of-way for $12,000.

Source: Wisconsin DNR

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

These photos are of "Elroy Commons". The old depot now has a visitors center, camp ground, rest rooms and gift shop. When we talked to the folks at the visitors center they asked us if we had flashlights to which we said "No". We were then told we would be biking through 3 tunnels, one of which was 3/4 of a mile long! They told us the gift shop had souvenir "Elroy to Sparta" flashlights for sale and suggested we each get one. We were glad we did.

Our souivineer Elroy to Sparta flashlight

The trail, constructed upon the abandoned Chicago and North Western Railway railroad bed, is covered with crushed limestone for a smooth ride for bicyclists. The three tunnels along the trail are impressive feats of nineteenth-century railroad engineering.
Tunnel #1, a short distance from Kendall, is surrounded by natural tunnels formed by the surrounding canopy of trees.
Tunnel #2, stationed halfway between Wilton and Norwalk, features 20-foot-tall wooden doors on both ends of the tunnel. Both Tunnel Number 1 and Tunnel Number 2 are a 0.25 miles (400 m) each.
Tunnel #3, nine miles from Sparta and three miles from Norwalk, is longer than the span of 10 football fields at 0.75 miles (1.21 km).

Source: WikiPedia

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

We got our start early and the place was pretty quiet. However on our way back through the next day it was mid afternoon and the place was quite busy.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

At the time this seemed to me to be the Grand Central Station of rail-trail hubs. Would we someday have something like this in Morgantown, I thought?

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Here we are, ready to head out into the beautiful Wisconsin countryside.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Here she comes!

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

There she goes!

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

All these years later I found there is more than one photo I can not remember the location of.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

The trail was gorgeous with beautiful farm vistas and we seemed to have it to ourselves.  Good interpretive signs along the way gave us interesting trail and railroad information.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

We eventually climbed up and out of the low farm county and into the beautiful shade of the woods.

There were 3 tunnels, the last one was 3/4 mile long and we bought a flashlight to help guide us through it!  The tunnels had doors on them that could be closed in winter to keep them from freezing inside.  The last tunnel was so wet, it dripped all over us.
At one point we saw a stone flume that was built to bring water down the mountain.  It was incredible!

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Even with all the effort of installing this flume, Tunnel #3 still dripped water like a leaky old shower.

At our picnic area rest stop we saw two beautiful rose breasted grosbeaks!

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Photo source: WikiPedia

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

These doors are closed in the winter to prevent damage from the freezing and thawing which would occur during the winter months. Progress constructing the tunnel averaged 21.7 ft a week.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I'll bet these kids had a blast riding through the tunnel. And mom and dad too.

Post card - Click for larger image

This is a scan of a post card Betsy got at the Elroy gift shop. This is the holy grail of rail-trails - long distance touring.

Although the ride was great, it seemed to be mostly uphill, so we expect to fly down it tomorrow.  We arrived at the Sparta end of the trail only to find that we still had 2 more miles of street riding to get to the town of Sparta.  We located the Best Nights Inn (32.00) and ate dinner at Polaks Pizza.  Now I'm sitting in bed and I am bushed!  Forgot to mention that Sparta is "the bicycle capital of the world" and home of the world's largest bicycle!

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Betsy and the Big Bike in Sparta.
There is an interesting "Story Map" of the Elroy to Sparta Rail Trail here.

Friday, June 18, 1999

Mike and I walked down to Hardee's for breakfast and finally were ready about 8:00 to take off for the return ride back to Elroy.   Our first stop was Norwalk where we found a strong Mexican influence.  We stopped at Marias Cafe for tacos and the salsa was excellent (even if it did have cilantro in it!)

A Casa Maria - 196 Main St Norwalk WI

Besides us, the only customers were a table of local farmers talking shop over cups of coffee.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Click to better read the menu.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Across the street from Maria's was Lil's. In all the little towns along the way many of the businesses had trail related names as does this one: "Diamond Lil's Trail Saloon". Note the bike racks to the left of Betsy. But that did not last. Both Maria's and Lil's are now closed.

The former location of Diamond Lil's Trail Saloon

13 years later the bike racks are gone and the now the name is simply "Lil's Corner Bar". The place changed hands at some point and was then called the "Long Shot Saloon". That did not last either and it is now permanently closed.

We departed Norwalk and pedaled on down the trail and guess what - it wasn't all down hill!  How could that be?


Elevation profile for the Elroy to Sparta Rail-Trail

THIS is how it could be! The high points are the 3 tunnels. What goes up must come down.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

After Norwalk we passed through Wilton which also had a nice trail head and caboose visitors center.

When we arrived back in Elroy we were both tired and I was sore so although it was a beautiful ride we were glad to be finished. Next stop - Door County.

Post card - Click for larger image

We drove for about five hours to get to Door County - some of it through the craziness of the Green Bay freeways, but once we got to the peninsula it became very rural and pleasant.  We found the Valmy Trails Inn and it's fine although not as secluded as we had hoped.  Our $60 room (still pre-season rates) has a queen sized bed, a sleeper sofa, a refrigerator and a private deck!  After having a beer on the sunny deck, we walked 2 minutes to the Happy Hour, obviously the local hot spot.  We enjoyed the ambiance along with beer and some pretty good pizza.  Then home, *** and bed.

Saturday, June 19th, 1999

I'm sitting on the deck sipping coffee and listening to the birds.  I see blue sky and clouds so don't know which way the weather will go.  The air smells fresh with just a tinge of the lake.

We finally got ahold of Ben and Amy who are in Morgantown taking care of our place and the cats, and everything seems to be OK on the homefront.

This morning we'll just relax and enjoy the surroundings.  Claire will be joining us today and should arrive around noon.

Mike, Claire and I set out around 11:30 for Whitefish Dunes State Park.  We started out on the White Trail to Cave Point County Park.

Post card - Click for larger image

We ended up hiking a side road with no traffic and lots of quaint houses.  The weather was cool, breezy and delightful and we stopped on a stone pier to snack and watch the water.  We took the Brachiapod trail across the boardwalk and out to Clark Lake - small and serene.  Along the way we were serenaded by the black throated green warbler, the winter wren and the hermit thrush!  Our next stop was Ridges Wildlife Sanctuary.  The three of us sat at a picnic table on the beach enjoying the water and were entertained by a father with 3 little kids flying kites.  We hiked around on the board walks and saw yellow lady slippers, dwarf cornel and pitcher plant (in bloom!) and then drove up the bay coast through Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, Ephraim and Sister Bay.  Lots of shops and eateries and much more crowded.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

We stopped at a cherry wine place and bought our obligatory cherry stuff-jam for mother and wine for Char and Joe.

The Sister Bay Cafe was our dining place of choice.  It was a Norwegian restaurant and Mike had a Norwegian dish.  I had locally caught grilled whitefish-fantastic.  After supper the three of us strolled through the harbor and sat looking out at the bay, then drove through Peninsula State Park.

The Valmy Trails was not quiet that night!  Boom-Boom-Boom-Boom someone came in late and up the wooden deck stairs to a room above.  Boom-Boom-Boom back down to get luggage and up again.  Boom-Boom-Boom down to do God knows what and up again!

Forgot to mention the wonderful Swedish restaurant in Sister Bay with a sod roof and goats munching on top!

Post card - Click for larger image

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Sunday, June 20, 1999

We awoke at the Valmy motel and turned on the coffee pot around 6:30 a.m.  The three of us then packed up and left for Mike's Port Pub in Jacksonport for breakfast.  The plan for the day was to drive up to Gill's Rock, check out the Maple Grove Motel and head over to Washington Island.

We instantly fell in love with the Maple Grove Motel. It was set back off the road, very old fashioned and neat as a pin.  The owner's mother, a little Swedish lady, talked to us about how this part of the country reminded her of Sweden.  Her daughter just bought this place in May from a widower who died and had no heirs.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

The Maple Grove Motel.

Not surprisingly 20 years later the old place is under new management (2019) and being marketed as a "retro motel with all the modern amenities". Oh well...

So after having made clear to Swedish mom our intentions to stay, Mike, Claire and I headed for the ferry.

Post card - Click for larger image

The ride to Washington island was fantastic.  Mike and I unloaded our bikes, Claire rented a one speed clunker and we were off.

We biked to a great little stone beach where we swam and sunned and I called Daddy to wish him Happy Father's Day.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

The cycling on Washington Island was scenic and relaxing.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

We continued to ride and sightsee until we ended up at the outside eatery beside a golf course.  We sat in the sun and had beer, wings and fries.  While there, we struck up a conversation with a father and son who had flown over to the island for the day-their own plane-off loaded their one speed folding bikes and pedaled to the golf course for a game.  What a life!  We then caught the 4:00 ferry back to the mainland and sat in the shade outside the motel enjoying the gentle breeze and wonderful setting.  We had such a quiet restful night that Mike and I decided we would stay the next two nights also.

Monday, June 21, 1999

We drank coffee and ate our complimentary danishes under the maples outside our room.  After breakfast at the port, the three of us donned swimming suits and set out to hike in Newport state park.  We hiked through beautiful woods with lots of rattlesnake ferns.  Out on the deserted shore of Lake Michigan we watched the fish in a frenzy again just as we had seen the koi at Boerner.  We later learned they were carp spawning-which we had suspected.

As Mike, Claire and I walked along the beach, we encountered a camper who informed us that the beach in front of her campsite was her "private property" and we couldn't continue.  Rather than hassle with her, we turned around and retraced our steps to the trail.  Eventually we made it to a sand cove where Claire and I swam.  On our way back to the car we met a ranger in a little red golf cart type vehicle.  He confirmed that the beach in front of a campsite was not private!

We drove to the restaurant of the night before and had beer and munchies in the sun.  We finally tried cheese curds-cheese chunks deep fried-what a low fat snack!  Claire had root beer on tap and Mike and I enjoyed a Goose Island Honker's Ale.

Claire left around 5:30 and Mike and I, exhausted, retreated to our little cottage to shower, make love and watch TV.

(Forgot to mention that during our hike we heard the black throated green warbler, hermit thrush and winter wren.)
Tuesday, June 22, 1999

After coffee in the room, back on our own again, Mike and I walked two miles to the port for breakfast.  My cherry pancake was delicious!  We sat at a table facing the water, but some other customers sat looking out at the woods so they could watch the antics of the squirrels.

Back at Maple Grove we moved our stuff over to room 3, the room we had been staying in was booked for that night, then I set out to shop in Sister Bay and Mike set out for a bike ride.

Shopping was fun, but it was all "collectibles" rather than antiques.  I had lunch at Sister Bay Cafe, shopped some more and headed for "home." I was more worn out from shopping than from hiking or riding.

We ate dinner at the bar and planned to get to Oshkosh the next day to ride the trail there and stay in a Bed and Breakfast to celebrate my birthday.

Wednesday, June 23rd, 1999 - My 49th Birthday

Today began like any other day.  We got up early and rode our bikes to the port to take some pictures of the windy road.  We then packed up the car and headed down the road - 42 down to Twin Rivers just above Manitowoc where we picked up 10 west.  We were rolling along when I heard Mike yell "I don't believe this shit!!!" and I saw a white pickup truck pulling out at us from a side road.  Mike swerved, but couldn't get away and we crashed.  We were very shaken, bruised and dazed.
Almost immediately someone was there asking us if we were OK.  The paramedics and the ambulances arrived and they were soon stabilizing us and getting us ready to transport to the hospital.  They had to get "the jaws of life" to cut Mike out of the car.  He was very sore and had some bad lacerations on his left leg.  At the hospital I discovered that I had not only bruises and abrasions, but also a fracture of one of the bones in my left foot, so they put on a shoe cast and gave me crutches.

We had left our car, which was totaled, at the scene of the accident, so Mike contacted Rusty Davis at Nationwide, called a car rental company and we then took a cab from the hospital to pick up the rental car.  We ended up at a Best Western Inn and Restaurant where we got room service Italian food and watched a "Spyography of Austin Powers."
Neither of us could walk, so we had to crawl back and forth from bed to bathroom. No *** tonight!  Tomorrow we will go to pick up our stuff from our poor wrecked vehicle.

What a birthday!

There ended my journal and there ended our trip. I remember the next day we got ourselves into the rental car and Mike drove us to the salvage yard where the car had been towed.  And this is what we saw.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I talked to the owner of the salvage yard who told me when he saw our car he assumed there had been no survivors. Remember that picture of our car with the roof mounted carrier?

Three red cars

On impact that carrier was launched about a 100 feet into a farmers field. And, had we not had our seat belts on, we would have probably been lying next to it when the ambulance arrived.
Betsy does not mention it because she did not see it - the driver of the truck that hit us was on his cell phone, stopped at the intersection and then roared on through and hit us square in the side. The icing on the cake? We had about $1200 worth of work on the car before taking this trip. Now it is good for nothing but parts.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

There poor Mike, aching in every muscle and bone in his body, had to unload all our gear (and we never travel light) from our wrecked vehicle and car top carrier and pack it into the rental car.  Not a thing I could do to help.

I had called my sister and brother-in-law from the hotel the night before, gave them the account of our accident and let them break the news to my parents.

So we drove to Char and Joe's place outside of Ft Wayne and were there comforted and looked after in the wake of our harrowing experience.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Here Betsy recounts the whole nasty story to her parents, sister and brother-in-law. That night I had such terrible muscle spasms in my back that I felt like I was on a medieval torture rack. Throughout the night I had involuntary shrieks and whimpers from the pain and poor Betsy had to lay there and listen to it all.
Of course I would love to tell you that was our last car wreck but unfortunately it was not.

I don't remember our drive back to Morgantown, but I do remember a further complication once we arrived home.  A friend of ours who had just had surgery had asked if she could stay at our home to recover since our place was all on one floor and her home was not.  We told her fine since we would not be there.  So we arrived home to a guest who could lift nothing, I could barely walk with crutches and obviously couldn't carry anything and Mike was in pain from most every movement he made.  We were quite the pathetic trio and I don't remember and can barely imagine how we must have managed.
But obviously we survived and went on undaunted (more or less) to many more years of Epic Road Trips!



~~~~~~~~~ BONUS Photos ~~~~~~~~~

This COVID summer has been pretty boring as far as travel. Not nearly as exciting as being in a nasty car wreck in rural Wisconsin.
Like many others, our plans had to be cancelled or changed and spur of the moment trips were out of the question. But, we did manage to get away twice for a few days and we are glad of it.
Our first trip abroad was in early August down to Summers county WV where were stayed at Doogie's fishing shack.

Photo: Sam England of Doug Wood, a.k.a. Doogie, a.k.a. Ostenaco

Photo by Sam England of Doug Wood, a.k.a. Doogie, a.k.a. Ostenaco

Our host on his way back from getting us some dinner.

Tom and Becky from Lewis county joined us at Doug's and we all made plans for the next day.

The plan for the day? Betsy and Becky decided to spend the day relaxing on the porch, taking a local walk and enjoying the cool waters of the Greenbrier River.

Betsy and Becky at the River

Photo of Becky by Betsy

Betsy and Becky at the River

Betsy and Becky at the River

Photo of Betsy by Becky

Betsy and Becky at the River

The beautiful Greenbrier River, how lucky we are to be here!

Betsy and Becky at the River

Betsy's relaxation station.

Becky on the Porch

Doogie's place has a nice relaxin' front porch.

While the ladies relaxed and took it easy Doug, Tom and I beat the brush and scrambled over barbed wire fences in our hunt for the elusive Asplenium septentrionale aka Forked spleenwort. We looked at many rock outcrops along Potts creek but our search bore no fruit. But what fun we had running all over Monroe county!

Hunt for Asplenium septentrionale in Monroe County WV

While I scanned the cliffs from the water...

Tom on cliff

Tom explored the cliff face from above while...

Doug and Tom

Doug carefully picked his way along a ledge for a closer look.
But it was all for naught. There were no Aspleniums to be found anywhere.

But all was not lost - we did locate one of the known stands of Taxodium distichum aka Bald cypress which was planted stream side in the 1940s making these amazing trees about 80 years old.


Tree hugger Doug shows his affection for this fine Taxodium specimen.

Check out the knees on that baby!

"Check out the knees on that baby!"


A cypress knee is a distinctive structure forming above the roots of a cypress tree of any of various species of the subfamily Taxodioideae. Their function is unknown, but they are generally seen on trees growing in swamps. Some current hypotheses state that they might help to aerate the tree's roots, create a barrier to catch sediment and reduce erosion, assist in anchoring the tree in the soft and muddy soil, or any combination thereof.

Knees are woody projections sent above the normal water level, roughly vertically from the roots, with a near-right-angle bend taking them vertically upward through water. One early assumption of their function was that they provided oxygen to the roots that grow in the low dissolved oxygen (DO) waters typical of a swamp, acting as pneumatophores: mangroves have similar adaptations.

Source: WikiPedia


In December of 2006 when Betsy and I were in Edward Ball Wakulla Springs SP in Florida we saw knees that were tall enough to stand on.

Our only other trip for the summer was to the beach. But it was not salty. We went up to the Erie area to visit Tom and Becky and we all went out to Presque Isle SP. While Becky, Tom and I biked the 14 mile loop Betsy relaxed at the beach.


Here is Betsy at Sawmill Beach where Tom, Becky and I joined her after our ride.

And that, my friends concludes our COVID summer of 2020.

See you next time...
Mike and Betsy


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