Bill Weidenfeller

Home: Naples, FL

Hobbies: Biking, Tennis

 

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Rails to Trails Conservancy

America by Bike

Across America North Ride

This summer along with a group which includes many friends from previous long distance rides I plan to bicycle across America AGAIN! This second crossing is another fully supported ride with America by Bicycle, a touring company specializing in long distance cycling adventures. It is called the "Across America North Ride", a fifty day journey from coast to coast, beginning in Astoria, OR and finishing at the beach in Rye Beach, NH.

  • Posted: Fri, 28 July 2006

    Day 40 Port Huron, MI to London, Ontario, Canada




    “ OH CANADA, GLORIOUS AND FREE ”


    Those are the words in Canada’s National Anthem which the group of riders known as “the Final Four” (Annie, Lois, Abe, and Stew) were prepared to sing to the Customs and Immigration officials at the border in the event it became necessary for entry. It was not required (naturally), but a few bars were sung anyway. Actually, the preparation and procedure itself went off very smoothly. We assembled at 7:15 am in front of our hotel in Port Huron with passports tucked away in our ABB jerseys and cameras at the ready. We were to ride closely behind the van–all 54 of us–, and we were to be followed by our other van and luggage truck.

    The bridge authorities were ready for us. They held all truck traffic going into Canada until we had cleared the bridge, which rises high over the St Clair River. The Canadian officials at the far end of the bridge were cordial and efficient. Only the 5 Europeans were asked for their passports–in order to stamp them. The Americans passed right through after disclaiming having a weapon or contraband.

    We were in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada where we immediately found better roads, but the same crops as we found in Wisconsin and Michigan. Our welcome to Canada was complete with the arrival of warm sunshine and a TAILWIND! The unattainable tailwind we begged for in South Dakota and Wyoming we found in Canada on this day. This tailwind pushed us faster than expected down the country roads. What a pleasure to have a wind at our backs.

    The route from Port Huron to London, Ontario was a flat 82 mile ride. From the SAG stop in the town of Watford at the 34 mile mark, we shot right into our destination city of London, Ontario. It was a 48 mile non-stop push at speeds in excess of 18-20 mph. We were at the hotel before 1:00 pm. Actually, Dan and I first stopped for a lunch of fish and chips at a restaurant next door to our hotel. There we found “the Wolfpack”, the group of mainly European cyclists who ride in a pace line together each day, and are always first in. Peter (UK) offered us a celebratory Labatts Blue beer. “Welcome to the Commonwealth”, he said. “Cheers, Peter” was our thirsty response.

    It was a great biking day: the excitement of crossing into and biking in another country, the weather and tailwind, the challenging speedy finish all made for a great bit of cycling.

    I was told at the “all you can eat” buffet restaurant last evening that a gentleman was there looking for me. To my amazement, an old friend from the paper industry, who resides in Port Huron and was the president of the paper company here, heard of my bike trip and knew I was in town. He invited me to his beautiful home right on Lake Huron for a beer and some good catch-up exchange of news on people we both know. His wife and Betty had been good friends and shopping and touring buddies at the paper industry conventions in years past. Small world!

    I ordered another t-shirt. I know I have too many, but this one is an original and is offered by a fellow cyclist on the tour. It describes our unalterable itinerary for the 50 days of our cross country bike ride. It says: “EAT, SLEEP, PEDAL.....REPEAT”. Perfect.

    Cruisin’ in Canada,
    Bill

  • Posted: Thu, 27 July 2006

    Day 39 Birch Run to Port Huron,MI








    MICHIGAN FAREWELL !

    I turned on the television this morning at 5: 30 am to see the local news broadcast of a story on our cycling trip. A reporter had interviewed a couple of our guys, including Stephen (NJ), a great kid biking across America with his dad. He is 15 years old and had some choice quotes for the reporter. His best was: “I HATED South Dakota (due to the heat and wind, of course), but also, “ I thought Michigan was supposed to be beautiful”. The producer at Channel 25 decided against “airing” those comments, and went with some less inflammatory remarks. He is quite a young man!

    The route today was a flat 88 miles to Port Huron, MI (pop 32,000), located on Lake Huron at the site of the Blue Water Bridge to Canada, and “Boyhood home of Thomas Edison”. The bridge, a massive structure, crosses over the St Clair River which flows out of Lake Huron. We will make the crossing and GO INTERNATIONAL tomorrow. We are all excited about biking in Canada! New adventure.

    It was a bit foggy this morning, but we were pleased to see the sun shining early. The morning fog produced a haze over the farm fields in the distance. It did cloud up later in the morning, however.

    “New guy” John passed us –as he does every day–in a flash. He is an incredible cyclist with a steady, steady 105 to 110 pedaling cadence ALL DAY LONG. That is very fast spinning, his legs are like pistons going up and down. He is definitely in a different league.

    Our first SAG at the 26 mile mark was at Artesian Well (photo). We then biked on to Brown City and into the town of Yale for a SAG at Andrae Park, named for the family of one of our riders, Nancy (FL).

    On the outskirts of Port Huron–passing beautiful houses on the lake– we caught a glimpse of Lake Huron at Lakeport State Park Beach. It was a good day for a swim-hot and humid–, but we cycled on to get lunch.

    We again moved right along today, averaging 16.3 mph. We were on the road for 5 hours and 28 minutes, getting into town about 12:30 pm. Keith, Dan and I rode together most of the day–and finished together.

    Floyd Landis: (if proven) SHAME.... for what you have done to the sport of cycling! WHY?

    Bill

    ps ** See photo of road conditions–and call your county supervisor if you live in Michigan.

    ** Naples Cyclery, my bike shop, would be proud of my biking clothes today. It is their team colors.

  • Posted: Wed, 26 July 2006

    Day 38 Mt Pleasant to Birch Run, MI





    ATTENTION SHOPPERS !


    We wanted to stay ahead of the rain today–and we did, but not by much...and it wasn’t easy! We completed the 75 mile route today in 4 ½ hours, in spite of some segments with 10-15 mph headwinds and some of the worst road conditions in America. Our average speed for the day was over 16 mph. It was as tough a workout for me as yesterday’s 115 mile ride. I probably pushed a bit too much to stay with stronger cyclists—but I do enjoy having some free time this afternoon. I even had a chance to put new clip-on cleat sets in my biking shoes.

    It was a gray, overcast day with scattered showers. Some of the riders are still out and it has now begun to rain here in Birch Run, MI.

    I am told that this city of only 4,000 residents hosts “millions” of shopping tourists each year at the more than 150 brand name outlet stores located in a HUGE complex as you enter town. In fact “the Birch Run exit off I-75 is the second busiest exit on that highway” that runs all the way to Naples and Miami. “Only the exit to Disney World is busier”. However, I have NO intention of visiting the outlets. During this trip the only store in which I have any interest is a bike shop. All of us stop at every bike shop we come across. You always need something in a bike shop.

    What has happened to Michigan roads? Granted, we are on low priority back country roads with little traffic , and granted, Michigan does have long and tough winters, but holy cow, what a state of road disrepair we have encountered.

    The route today took us through the towns of Sheppard and then into Alma and past the college campus there. That was the last town we saw until we entered Birch Run. Farmland was our environment today. Kent (VA) identified the crops we passed en route. His list (since I am unable to question his identification of these grains and vegetables) includes: corn, soybeans, green beans, lima beans, sorghum, beets, asparagus, pumpkins, sunflowers, wheat and....hay----all on Michigan farms.

    Biking the farmland of Michigan,
    Bill

  • Posted: Tue, 25 July 2006

    Day 37 Ludington to Mt. Pleasant, MI




    SINGING IN THE RAIN

    (NOTE; See Day 36 also posted today)

    About 3 miles outside of Ludington this morning we stopped to put on our rain gear. It was a high mileage day (115 miles) to Mr Pleasant, MI and the forecast called for thunderstorms during the morning hours. What it didn’t say was ALL MORNING. It was 75 miles and 5 hours later that I took off the rain jacket. Incidently, my rubberized rain jacket is the same type of cover that wrestlers wear when trying to lose weight before the weigh- in for a match. Guaranteed to drop pounds through “sweat equity”. I was as wet on the inside as on the outside. Nevertheless, I could not get certain “rain”songs out of my head, so I rode for miles singing to myself.

    Today’s ride was our last “century” ride of the trip. We only have 12 cycling days left–none over 90 miles. But we certainly have some great cycling ahead of us. Michigan, despite the weather, has been beautiful. We all look forward to our time in Canada, and then NY State–and family visits–, followed be the Green Mountains of Vermont, and then New Hampshire and the beach. These are exciting days! The large cycling group has really come together well. We have all developed new friendships and riding partners.

    I had dinner and a couple of drafts with Eberhard and Anja this evening. They own a bicycle touring company that offers cycling tours of Germany and Majorca. I’ve been thinking.....next summer maybe Munich to Hamburg or possibly the Belgian border to the Polish border; Germany South to North or West to East. I’d love to do either one!

    The rain today may have slowed us down a bit, but we made very good time over the 115 mile course (avg 15.8 mph). The final 25 miles was again with “gusto”. We hammered home. I rode with Dan, Kent and Ilkka.

    Dan’s quote today, as we headed into Mt Pleasant was: “I never like to see the word “Mount” in our destination city. Inevitably, it involves a climb”.

    When riding with Kent, a recently retired pilot for American Airlines, I am reminded of his quote on opening day when asked WHY he was making the cross country trek, He said, “For 30 years I have seen the world go by at 500 mph. Now, I want to see America at 15 mph” Well said.


    Bill

  • Posted: Mon, 24 July 2006

    Day 36 Manitowoc to Ludington,MI




    REST DAY?

    MICHIGAN AHOY!


    The booming horn on the SS Badger sounded at 1:15 pm as we slipped out of the harbor in Manitowoc, WI. The large 612 passenger ferry (they called it a CRUISE ship!) was underway across Lake Michigan to the town of Ludington, MI, a voyage of 60 miles over the course of 4 hours. This was our REST DAY.

    It was amusing to watch the 50-plus cyclists– in civilian clothes– occupy the time aboard ship. Some lounged in the sun on the top deck, some below amidst a bingo game. Some read a book in the “quiet room”, and some –like me– did all of the above. It was a pleasant, though rolling ride AT SEA.

    On arrival, we walked our bikes off the ship, changed our watches to EDT, took photos at the “Welcome to Michigan”sign , and hurried to dinner in town.

    Kevin, a reporter for The Herald Times Reporter newspaper in Manitowoc, had called earlier in the morning for an interview. We spoke on the phone and he came to the port for a photo and further questions. A nice gentleman–in a very friendly town.

    Rested for tomorrow’s 115 mile cycling day,
    Bill

  • Posted: Sun, 23 July 2006

    Day 35 Fond du Lac to Manitowoc, WI







    THE SHORE OF LAKE MICHIGAN

    It was a beautiful Sunday morning in Southeastern Wisconsin. There were only a few people around as we departed Fond du Lac for Manitowoc, WI, located on the shore of Lake Michigan. It was a short 60 mile ride through the cornfields on untraveled county roads. There were no trucks to be seen, and only the occasional passing car. We were all dressed in our red, white, and blue America by Bicycle jerseys–as we are asked to do on days going into a rest day town.

    We were almost alone on the roads, just 54 cyclists in the quiet of the morning’s rising sun. We were in no hurry today.

    I began to feel a little guilty about missing church on this Sunday morning. I was nudged by the town signs as we entered St Peter, Calvary, and Marytown, WI with its grand Catholic church perched on the hilltop.

    A group of 3 bikes passed us on a downhill–it depicted the variety of two-wheeled vehicles represented on this tour. First was the tandem with Steve and Barb (ME) in command, next was Jon (VT) on his conventional road bike, and finally Larry (MA) on his lay-back recumbent. All were cruising along comfortably and enjoying the ride.

    I rode mostly with Nancy today, a fellow Floridian and Team RTC member. We entered the town of Kiel, where none of the 3400 inhabitants was anywhere to be seen. We were all alone until the SAG stop at the far end of town. The rolling hills kept us active along with the “DO NOT MISS” county road turnoffs on our route sheets. At the 47 mile mark we caught our first glimpse of Lake Michigan. What a sight!

    Arriving at the busy lunch spot in Manitowoc, there were the usual questions by the folks there and subsequent amazement at the time, logistics and distance of our cross country bicycle trip. There seemed to be a great deal of interest in cycling on this final day of the Tour de France–and I noted some degree of pride that Floyd Landis , an American, had won.

    We will board the ferry at noon tomorrow to travel across Lake Michigan–on our rest day.

    Floating across America,

    Bill

  • Posted: Sat, 22 July 2006

    Day 34 Wisconsin Dells to Fond du Lac, WI





    ‘FOLLOW THE SIGNS TO THE PIGGLY WIGGLY’

    We had perfect cycling weather today for our 85 mile ride to Fond du Lac, WI. A little breeze kept the 80 degree day very comfortable under partially cloudy conditions. We rode on county roads with initials -not numbers- like CR “N”, and CR “J”. The pleasant Wisconsin countryside has beautiful ridges in the distance and you can see the rolling hills and corn fields for miles on end. We saw mostly agricultural farms with soybeans and corn as the main crops. There were surprisingly few dairy farms on this route.

    At the 32 mile mark we cycled past Buffalo Lake outside the town of Montello, a town that appears to have frozen in time 50 years ago. At the SAG we were promised a “beautiful waterfall over granite rock, with swans swimming in the lake below”. It was scenic and relaxing stop.

    Keith (IA) and I then pace lined for 15 miles to Princeton, where we ran into road construction and confusing “detour” signs, and mixed signals from the traffic flow. Lisa, asked a native if we could get through the construction on bikes, or if there was a better way out of town? His response was to “follow the signs for the Piggly Wiggly”. This local chain store had posted signs for directions to the store to help Princetonians find it in the confusion of road construction. Follow the signs we did–right to where we wanted to be. Sometimes it just works out right!

    After the second SAG in Ripon, WI, “Birthplace of the Republican Party”, according to the sign, Dan and I hammered for 22 miles into Fond du Lac. When Dan can “smell the barn” at the end of the ride–say the last 20-25 miles–he really lets it go. I was hanging on at 19-20 mph right up to the ice cream stop on the outskirts of town.

    Our hotel is right downtown–a real city hotel in this attractive town of 42,000 people. The city is located at “the bottom of the Lake” (Winnebago), hence the name of the city in French: Fond du Lac. It has been recognized as the second safest metro area in the US, and is home to the state’s first cheese factory.

    We have a group of riders who call themselves; “The Final Four”, as in the last 4 people to finish the ride each day. Annie, Lois, Stew and Abe have more fun with their relaxed style of bike riding–and have been seen just lying in the grass at the roadside looking up at the clouds. They have t-shirts with Final Four on the back. Their goal yesterday was to make it to Route Rap, which is held daily at 5:00 pm. They made it–and received applause from the cycling group. We do have some laughs.

    Today Ilkka received word of the birth of a grandchild. Chalk marked words of congratulation were written along our route today. Yesterday, Lois’s sisters and their children placed humorous signs near Wisconsin Dells welcoming her arrival at the hotel.

    I’m off to “ mechanic hour” to have a new chain put on my TREK. We have 2550 miles behind us, so it is time for a new one.

    Pedaling in Packerland,

    Bill

    photos: (LtoR) Falls in Montello, Wisconsin faramland, Downtown Fond du Lac.

  • Posted: Fri, 21 July 2006

    Day 33 La Crosse to Wisconsin Dells, WI




    FLASHLIGHTS IN THE TUNNEL


    The first thing we all noticed at route rap yesterday were the3 hugh peaks on the topography chart given to us along with the day’s route directions. Lil (France) said, “This looks like the Pyranees”. The alarm was quieted when we were told: “Don’t worry , we don’t have to climb them. We will go through TUNNELS”.

    With flashlights in hand we made our way through these dark, wet tunnels through the mountains, while walking our bikes. The first was 3/4 of a mile long and cut through solid rock. A new adventure on our bicycle trip.

    The highlight of today’s 94 mile ride was our 32 mile segment on the Elroy-Sparta Trail–the first Rails to Trails bicycle and walking pathway built in the US, we were told. It was on this trail that we experienced the tunnels, as well as great country riding on a hardpack surface. As with yesterday’s trail in Minnesota, we rode through woods and rural countryside, but today on Elroy-Sparta we saw many families and youth groups out for a morning bike ride. The trail from Sparta passed through the towns of Norwalk, Wilton, and Kendall to Elroy, MN, all with cafes, facilities, and parking for trail users. We all enjoyed the Rails to Trails experience and the change of pace to our daily rides.

    We arrived in Wisconsin Dells; “the Midwest’s #1 destination” in time for a late lunch. The busy tourist town is located on the spot where the Wisconsin River has cut through miles of sandstone to form the Wisconsin Dells scenic riverway. Boat rides through the “Dells” are available–along with every type of tourist theme park, waterslide, miniature golf etc.

    Jessica, a reporter for the Wisconsin Dells “Event” newspaper, came to the Super 8 motel with her young children to interview me this afternoon. The razzing continues from the cycling gang about all the publicity for RTC–except those whose pictures also appear on the TV spots.

    Bill

  • Posted: Thu, 20 July 2006

    Day 32 Rochester to La Crosse, WI




    ROOT RIVER TRAIL

    At precisely 8:18 am my cell phone rang–as planned. Dan, Keith and I had stopped to take the call along the route just outside of Chatfield, MN. It was the first media event of the day; an on the air interview with Mike Hayes, "Talk radio WIZM", La CrosseWI. We talked about the bike trip, the group of riders, and Rails to Trails Conservancy. WXOW TV and WKBT TV also sent reporters and cameramen for interviews and bike riding footage today for the local La Crosse news shows at 6:00 and 10:00pm. One interview took place in front of the large "Welcome to Wisconsin" sign just before crossing the Mississippi River.
    The timing was perfect, as we had a wonderful ride today on Minnesota’s Root River Trail, a RTC bike path from Rushford to Houston, MN. It was a 12 mile interval in our 90 mile route from Rochester to La Crosse, WI. The trail weaved through the shade in the woods , along the Root River, past cornfields, through wildflowers, and over railroad trestles. It was great fun and an enjoyable change of pace from our road riding. We met a cyclist from New Zealand who took photo of (left to right) Susan (staff), Ted (NJ), Dan and me.
    The weather --in contrast to yesterday’s severe storms–was a beautiful summer day in the 80's. It was an enjoyable day on the bike!
    We came upon a turkey farm along the route. Thousands and thousands of turkeys are getting ready here to feed America on Thanksgiving Day.
    We also had the unique assistance of the MN State Police today. As we came down the road we saw 2 black dogs in wait. There was no doubt as to their intent–our ankles! At that moment, coming from the other direction, was the police patrol car. As we both got nearer to the dogs, the trooper put on his siren, stopped, and shielded us from the now confused dogs, who took out their frustration by barking at the trooper. He stayed on to protect riders following us. A real public servant!
    The Minnesota countryside –in good weather– has been refreshingly green and scenic. The rolling hills make for good cycling fun, the big expansive farms are attractive, and the huge healthy tracts of corn and soybeans are a marvel of modern agriculture. We have moved quickly across the state with long mileage days.
    Tomorrow we ride on another RTC pathway: Wisconsin’s famous Elroy Sparta Trail.
    Bill

  • Posted: Wed, 19 July 2006

    Day 31 Mankato to Rochester, MN



    BARN STORMING


    In long distance cycling you never know what you will find up ahead on the route. Or what will find you. Severe weather FOUND US in spades today. I had never been caught out in a thunderstorm of this intensity before. We were right smack in the middle of it. There were heavy winds, whipping rain with pea-sized hail, lightning and thunder and some of the darkest sky imaginable. It turned our 100 mile “century” day upside down.

    We left Mankato at 6:20 am and arrived 10 ½ hours later in Rochester, MN. The winds followed us right up to the door of the Holiday Inn. They were relentless all day long. We rode for 50 miles in various stages of rainfall, soaked to the gills.

    Hoping to avoid the forecast “scattered” thunderstorms, we rode the first 40 miles under heavy gray skies with a quick and steady pace for a century ride. Just outside of Mankato we had to walk our bikes through sand and gravel over a closed road under construction. Others, having left later were detoured around it.

    The unusual events of the day began for Dan and me at the 40 mile mark–somewhere outside the town of Waseca, MN, in farm country. We saw the sky color turn to green before the cloud appeared pitch black. I said, “I have to take a picture of that cloud”. It had appeared quickly and looked violent. Before I could put the camera away (in a plastic bag), the severe storm hit us–squarely! There was no cover and lightning flashes were numerous. A farm lady in a pick-up stopped and told us we could find shelter in her barn 1/4 mile down the road. We found the barn, now occupied by 7 of our cycling friends, and waited out the first thunderstorm. Larry (MA) had his brother on the cell phone giving us updates from the Weather Channel radar. When it looked clear to go we departed, but the lightning returned us to our second one hour barn visit. This farm couple not only opened the barn, but brought us folding chairs and bottled water, and showed off their pet chinchillas (he sells them), and new litter of puppies. They couldn’t have been nicer.

    By 12:30 we still had 50 miles left to complete the ride to Rochester. In the wind and rain Dan and I trudged on. Many chose to ride in in the vans. Who could blame them. It was a miserable and at times dangerous day.

    We had to ride right into the downtown area of the city of Rochester, passing the Mayo Clinic in rush hour traffic.

    It was not an enjoyable ride –the weather was too extreme–, but I felt great satisfaction in having DONE IT.

    Bill

    ps The buffalo photo was taken in Reconciliation Park in Mankato. It symbolizes “Peace” between the Indian and white man. Mankato is the site of the execution of 38 Dakota Indians for their role in the uprising of 1862, which launched a series of Indian Wars. It is the largest mass execution in American history.