Day 18 - ending at Mount Zion, Wisconsin - Following the Straight Path - CycleBlaze

June 4, 2010

Day 18 - ending at Mount Zion, Wisconsin

Day 18 - Lansing, IA to Mount Zion, WI
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It was raining when I woke up, so stayed in bed until 8:00am. I packed up and rode to the camp office at 10:25am, where I ate breakfast at the bar: bacon cheeseburger, potato chips, strawberry ice cream, and coffee. The bartender assured me that the Lansing bridge approach (that I was worrying about) wouldn't be a problem.

Red Barn Resort Bar and Grill - Lansing, IA
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This was the day to switch my Magellan GPS (loaded with the first half of the trip's waypoints) with my second one (loaded with the trip's second half). At first it powered up and found where I was. Later it went haywire, claiming I was in northern Wisconsin. I decided to put the first unit back on the bike and turn off its track recording, less I lose that record. That's when I discovered the first unit had already over-written the first four days' tracks. Now I was down to relying on the DeLorme GPS for tracking and waypoint information. Fortunately, that worked out OK.

I left at 11:25am, rode (and walked) through Lansing, and was at the bridge at 11:40am.

downtown - Lansing, IA
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Sure enough, the bridge ramp was manageable, especially since there was hardly any traffic. (I later read that the Lansing bridge shoot in the movie was done with the tractor going up the bridge ramp on the Wisconsin side. That ramp is much steeper/longer.)

Black Hawk Bridge - Lansing, IA
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heading to Wisconsin
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Wisconsin welcomed me at 11:47am.

"Wisconsin - that is a real party state." - Brenda (Laurens grocery store clerk), The Straight Story
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At State Route 35 I turned south, with hills to my left and railroad tracks and the river to my right.

on SR-82 looking south - Crawford County, WI
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At 12:48pm I stopped at the Ferryville Cheese and More Store for a chocolate milk.

Cheese & More Store - Ferryville, WI
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Outside on a bench were some Mayflies. I hadn't seen any of those for years.

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At 1:30pm I was at my turnoff to the left into the hills.

SR-35 looking south - Crawford County, WI
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Besides making it to Mount Zion, one of my goals today was to see Seldom Seen Farm, the childhood (and later-years) home of one of my favorite authors, Ben Logan. The setting for his book The Land Remembers was at this place. The farm's address is 'Gays Mill, Wisconsin', but I'd figured out before the trip that the farm is located on Zintz Road. Zintz Road paralleled the main road I was taking to Mount Zion, so this was going to work out OK, without being too much out-of-the-way.

My trip into the hills wasn't too bad at first.

flower scenery - Crawford County, WI
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Later I had to do some serious walking. There was one coasting downhill. I noticed a quarry on my left as I zoomed past, and tried to stop so I could get a picture. Well, I ended up skidding. I braced for a BANG, but didn't hear one, so ended up OK (for now). Here's the picture I stopped for.

quarry on north side of CR-S - Crawford County, WI
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Finally, I was at the west end of Zintz Road.

looking at Zintz Road from Halls Branch Road - Crawford County, WI
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"Road Closed Ahead"! But where? Before or after the Logan farm? I really didn't want to backtrack. Sometimes bicyclists can get through where cars can't. So I proceeded. I wasn't sure where exactly on the road the farm was. Fortunately, coming toward me was a very old and dusty car carrying a very old gentleman who stopped. He got out of the car and pointed out the farm up the hill he'd just come down.

Shortly after I arrived at the farm, renters that are presently taking care of the place showed up. They gave me permission to take some pictures, including one of the front yard tree stump.

Seldom Seen Farm - Crawford County, WI
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protected by a Mississippi Valley Conservancy agreement
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Seldom Seen Farm farmhouse - Crawford County, WI
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where summer evenings were spent in the book The Land Remembers by Ben Logan
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This stump is all that remains of a grand maple tree that was prominent in the book. The renters asked if I wanted them to move their lawn tractor so I could get a better picture of the house. I said, "No, it actually fits in well with the inspiration for my trip." Then I explained my goal of making it to Mount Zion. They suggested I look up the new church building in Mount Zion where they attend. ("But I'm looking for a bar." I said to myself.) I asked about the road closure. They said the road was being widened and cars were being allowed through last week. They wished me well and I continued on to see what the road-closed sign meant for me.

Well, it was something I couldn't get around!

blasting debris on Zintz Road - Crawford County, WI
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no way around
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So, I had to backtrack. On the way back I took another picture of Seldom Seen Farm.

farm buildings and silo at Seldom Seen Farm - Crawford County, WI
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One of the hills on Zintz Road.

on Zintz Road backtracking west
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At the end of the road, I took a left, figuring I'd take roads to the south and east back to County Road S. At the top of the hill, where Halls Branch Road meets Taylor Ridge Road, I stopped to catch my breath and check my map. I got to thinking that if I wasn't so pig-headed about not backtracking, I could be back on County Road S in five minutes. Actually, it only took me four (all downhill).

Passed some really orange sand along County Road S.

along CR-S - Crawford County, WI
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Finally, at 7:00pm, I was in Mount Zion.

city limits - Mount Zion, WI
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Farther into town was this sign. I couldn't get my bike up the bank to get a picture of the bike and sign together, so just got the sign.

The Straight Story Filmed Here
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As I was walking back down the slope, a fellow in a red pickup truck pulled up, providing all sorts of information about Henry Straight and the movie. (The real Alvin Straight's brother Henry was called Lyle in the movie.) This fellow knew where Henry had lived, but so did I (I thought), so I didn't ask for directions. I was told that the scene where Alvin camps next to a cemetery was actually filmed in Mount Zion, even though the movie indicates the cemetery was on the Wisconsin bluff above the Mississippi River, and Alvin was there the night before he arrives in Mount Zion. I also learned that the silos seen in one of the shots in Mount Zion belong to the pickup truck driver's neighbor.

We parted and I headed to the Mount Zion Pub.

". . . now I'm gonna have me a cold beer." - Alvin Straight, The Straight Story
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In the movie, Alvin sits down at the bar and says: "I haven't had a drink in a lot of years, but now I'm gonna to have me a cold beer." - Alvin Straight, The Straight Story. He proceeds to enjoy a bottle of Miller's Lite. I did the same, though my Miller's Lite was served in a can. I inquired about available souvenirs relating to the movie. The bartender said at one time they had some, but all they had now was a frame on the far wall with information about the movie.

information on the wall in the bar - Mount Zion, WI
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After finishing my beer, I headed on to the cemetery and its church, the 'Mississippi River bluff' filming location.

Union Hill Cemetery - Mount Zion, WI
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Union Hill Cemetery - Mount Zion, WI
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Union Hill Cemetery building - Mount Zion, WI
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It was 7:42pm when I left here, following directions I'd pulled from the movie for getting to Lyle's place.

"Well, you just cross 61 here on 'W', take 'W' on down to Weed Road, and then on to Remington Road.
On your right will be Lyle's place - if he's there, that is." - Mount Zion bartender, The Straight Story
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I did that, but didn't find the place.

Was that a left or a right at Remmington Hill Road?
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Lots of thoughts were going through my head as I stood there part-way down Remington Hill Road:
- "Maybe the house isn't here (though the movie directions seemed legit)."
- "If you want to backtrack to look again, you'll have to walk up this hill you just came halfway down."
- "This road was gravel in the movie."
- "Why didn't I get the directions from that pickup truck driver in Mount Zion?"
- "Man, it's getting late!"
At this point I declared (to myself) that 'The Straight Path' part of my trip was over, and let off the brake for a 28-mph ride down the rest of the hill.

The slope of the hill eased, allowing me to observe a couple of peaceful scenes.

Wisconsin farm (not Lyle's place) - Crawford County, WI
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contented cows - Crawford County, WI
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At 8:15pm I was back on County Road S, and thirteen miles from where I planned to stay the night - at Eagle Cave near Blue River. I kept going. At 8:30pm, I passed a cemetery which got me thinking . . . I turned around and decided to stay there. I was careful to pick a spot where I wouldn't be sleeping on top of anyone. Decided to skip supper and any raccoons that might choose to visit me later in the night. I was mainly just tired anyway.

The stars were sure bright out in the middle of nowhere - as I was - which related nicely, I thought, to the end of the movie. "The sky is sure full of stars tonight." - Alvin Straight, The Straight Story.

Subject: Day 18 report
Sent: Saturday, 6-5-2010, 8:24 AM
It rained from about 2:00am to 8:00am. I got up at 8:00am. Left campsite at 10:25am, but got as far as the campsite restaurant, where I had a bacon cheeseburger, chips, coffee, and strawberry ice cream.
Left there at 11:25am.
Was in wisconsin at 11:47am. Bridge was no problem, however, wisconsin hills have been. Had to walk a few. On one road fallen rocks blocked my path, and I had to backtrack.
Arrived in mount zion at 7:00pm. Enjoyed a miller lite at the bar (like in the movie).
Couldn't find lyle straight's house.
Running out of daylight, so stopped at west fork cemetery west of excelsior on route s at 8:30pm.
Breakfast (lunch?): $8.12+2; chocolate milk in ferryville: $1.29; beer: $2.25+1.
47miles, 8.4mph moving average speed.
Out of cell coverage here. Will send when I can.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Day Eighteen: 46 miles in 10 hours, 5 minutes = 4.6 mph average progress.

Spent: $8.12 plus $2 (breakfast) + $1.29 (chocolate milk) + $2.25 plus $1 (beer) = $14.66.

Today's ride: 46 miles (74 km)
Total: 850 miles (1,368 km)

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