Thursday 7 July 2011

Stillwater, Minnesota - Udderly delightful

Apologies for the cheesy heading to this blog but I’ve just cycled across Wisconsin, the “dairy state” and need to milk it for all the puns I can get!

Wisconsin has been absolutely lovely. It’s a green and pleasant land of rolling pastures dotted with red, Dutch-roofed barns and quaint little farms. We’ve shared the delightful undulating back roads with shiny silver dairy tankers and the dainty horse-drawn carriages of the Amish people who have a large population in this area. It’s quite amusing to see their horse and carts tethered on the hitching post in the parking lot of a modern supermarket while their owners are inside collecting groceries! In some ways they seem quite a private community but an Amish chap sat down with us one day to tell us about their lifestyle and answer our questions, and they often wave as we cycle by. The Amish live a slow, simple life without modern conveniences or motorised transport. I wonder if they see our slow-moving bicycles laden with our few possessions and feel some affinity towards us.

Cycling across America, we continue to be the recipients of many random acts of kindness. A few days ago we cycled on a scorcher of a day when “severe heat” warnings were issued and the temperature hit 95 degrees. In the morning we stopped in a country bar to refill our water bottles and the barman added ice. What a star! We made it that day to the pleasant rural town of Spencer where Gerry in the Village Office gave us permission to camp in the town park and Keith, the local policeman, let us use the showers in the police station. That was the same day that Graham broke a spoke in his rear wheel and phoned ahead to book it in for repair at a bike shop in the city of Eau Claire. We somehow cycled with Graham’s wobbly wheel to a motel in the city that Graham had booked as a treat for 4th of July. The following day we were out at the 4th of July parade for several hours and when we got back to the motel room, I opened the door and froze … it was clear that somebody had gotten into our room … my mind was racing about what might be stolen. Then I noticed a note on the table … it was Terry from the bike shop. The motel manager had let him into our room, he’d quietly fixed Graham’s wheel and slipped away, leaving no bill … only his best wishes for our trip!

We loved the spectacle, colour and razzmatazz of the 4th of July parade and it was surprisingly moving to be part of the applause and standing ovation for the veterans, policemen and firemen that headed the line. However, we passed on the evening fireworks display. We don’t think anything can beat nature’s light shows that we’ve been enjoying these last few nights from our tents with spectacular lightning storms or the dusk-time, delicate, dancing lights of the fire-flies.

I must dash off now to have my make-up done – we’re about to be interviewed for American TV! You can find out how that went and read about our travels in our sixth state, Minnesota, in my next blog. And I promise … no more bad jokes to make your toes curdle!

More photos on Flickr.

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