Crotchety Jake, The Bossman Of Wildcat Landing - America's Most Naive Bike Tourist Rides From MN to MA - CycleBlaze

June 3, 2014

Crotchety Jake, The Bossman Of Wildcat Landing

Brownsville, MN

I closed yesterday's post with some semi-favorable comments about my campsite.  I take them back.  Heavy, bone-jarring truck and train traffic continued all night and I got almost no sleep.  No river views or tall cliffs, no matter how magnificent, can compensate me for that.

I packed up early, gave my site the finger, and started my day.  Unfortunately, that began with a 3-mile backtrack because bikes are not allowed on the section of Highway 61 that runs concurrently with I-90.  At the end of the backtrack, a ridiculously steep one-mile climb up some switchbacks into the bluffs awaited me.  As you know, I am not carrying a bike computer so I can't tell you the exact grade of the hill, and any estimate I write here would sound like an exaggeration, so I will just leave it at "steep."

Strike that.  I'm going to exaggerate.  It was a 35% grade.  If you're going to exaggerate, you might as well do it big.  I struggled my ass up that thing as hard as I could, but I'm going to have to make an admission that is very difficult for me.  I had to walk the last quarter-mile.  Perhaps it was too early in the tour, perhaps I'm not in tip-top shape yet, perhaps I'm getting too old, perhaps my load is too heavy, perhaps the one hour of sleep last night dragged me down, perhaps I was dehydrated from using the last of my water to flush DEET out of somebody's eyeballs yesterday, or perhaps a combination of all of the above was the reason for my embarrassing downfall.

The rest of my day was superb.  The ride though the rolling hills of Minnesota bluff country, the favorable winds, the great weather, the rest stops I made--they were all great.  I also had one of those almost-out-of-control descents out of the bluffs into the town of La Crescent where I visited the library to update my blog.  Then I had to make a little side trip across the river to La Crosse, Wisconsin.  I had something to see there.

La Crosse is the proud home of The City Brewing Company which, in turn, is the home of the world's largest six-pack.  For many years it was a six-pack of the iconic Old Style brand.  That was in the glory days of the brewery when it was the flagship of G. Heileman--before that company was bought and sold a couple of times and then dissolved.  I give the new owners credit for keeping the brewery running, but I just can't get over the idea of covering over the Old Style cans and turning them into La Crosse Lager cans.

"I'll just have one please."
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A sign with an arrow reminded me that La Crosse is also the home of Viterbo College.  I only mention that because I have to laugh every time I hear that name.  Viterbo.  I'm laughing right now.

After my visit to La Crosse, I rode back to La Crescent and had lunch at a place called "Corky's."  I just have to tell you about how the server told me of their lunch special.  "Our special today is a chicken salad sandwich, accompanied by a cup of Wisconsin cheese soup and a side of pasta . . . (and here come's the best part) . . . which is a kind of Italian noodle dish."

I sure appreciated that explanation.  So I ordered the special.  I simply HAD to.  "A kind of Italian noodle dish" sounded too tempting to pass up.  Unfortunately, the Italian noodle dish was just a mediocre pasta salad, but the Wisconsin cheese soup earned two enthusiastic thumbs-up from me.

Eight more miles of pedaling brought me to Wildcat Landing Park, where I found a crotchety old guy named Jake in the campground check-in office.  He said nothing at all as I stood right in front of him at his desk.

"Hi," I said cheerfully, "I'd like to get a tent site for the night."  Usually my happy-voice is enough to disarm even the grouchiest people I meet.

"Got twenty bucks?" was all he said.

I hesitated, then answered slowly, "Yeeeeeah."  I waited for him to ask if I had 30 bucks.

"Plus tax," he added.

"Yeah, there's always the tax."

He was filling out a registration form by hand.  "You want a site by the river?"

"That sounds pretty good to me," I said.

"I'll put you in Site 46," and he wrote that number on the form.

"Okay, that should work."

"So where you headed?" he asked.

"Boston eventually."

He shook his head and all he could say was, "Sheesh!"  Then he gave me my copy of the paperwork and pointed out the window.  "Do you want that site over there," then pointing further downriver, "or that site over there?"

"I thought you already assigned me Site #46," I replied, perplexed.

"Don't pay any attention to that," he grumbled.

I took the more remote site (away from the R.V.'s) and am perfectly happy.  My tent is set up no more than 15 feet from this pretty section of the river and there are no highways and no train tracks.

A Mississippi River campsite. (Not #46)
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Today's ride: 34 miles (55 km)
Total: 142 miles (229 km)

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