Day 32, July 22
Viroqua, WI, to Madison, WI
Cumulative: 2195 miles
After yesterday's tough hills, we feared that today would be more of the same, only longer and harder. We found the hills, all right, but the ride was, to my taste, the most beautiful so far. The weather was cool and glorious, and the hills were just as high as before, but not so steep. The early-morning valley floors were shrouded in fog, the hilltops in brilliant sun, giving the landscape a wonderfully surreal look.
We passed by one dairy farm after another, each one carefully tended and surrounded by fields of hay and corn. The corn is cut green and the entire plant, ears, stalks, and leaves, are cut up into small pieces and stored in tall silos next to the cow barns. In the winter, this sileage is fed to the cows. Wisconsin produces 15 per cent of the nation's milk supply and a lot of its cheese, which is why locals call themselves "cheeseheads." At my younger son's graduation ceremony for the Stanford Graduate School of Business several years ago, every gradate wore a mortarboard except for one proud Wisconsin resident who sported a headpiece shaped like a large wedge of cheese.
As we passed each farm with its cows, usually black-and-white Holsteins, behind fences near the road contentedly chewing their cud, Judy Corley called to the animals. "Bill," pleaded Max Corley, "please don't put in your blog that my high-priced Washington lawyer sister moos at cows, not just one, but every cow we pass. Our family would be embarrassed." Judy says she doesn't care what anyone thinks, she enjoys talking to the cows. "One of them answered me," she says.
Not everyone enjoyed the farms. As Martin Berndt passed by one of them, two dogs raced out. One bit him on the leg, drawing a torrent of blood. We're hoping Martin's bite doesn't become infected.
I have to confess that I didn't ride the full route today. At the 50-mile mark I hitched a ride to Madison with one of the crew. I wanted to get to the city as quickly as possible. My wonderful wife, Ann, was meeting me for the layover day in Madison. The five weeks we've been apart during this ride is the longest separation of our 39 years of marriage.