Day 31, July 21
Winona, MN, to Viroqua, WI
One state closer to the finish!
Minnesota's claim to the steepest hills on the cross-country ride was short-lived. Wisconsin wins, hands down. Today was a short-mileage day but, we were warned, it would be a very full day. It was that, and more. The the hills on the final 20 miles of the ride were long, steep, and, for me at least, exhausting.
We had entered the "driftless" region, an area that the glaciers of the last ice age inexplicably skipped. When the last glaciers in Wisconsin melted about 10,000 years ago, they left a smooth, scoured landscape everywhere except in what is now the southwest part of the state. This area was left rough, unglaciated, driftless, and the steep hills are what challenged us. We climbed to 1200 feet and then plunged straight down to 700 feet, over and over. Climbing 500 feet is not usually a big deal. But when the grade is severe, it's tough.
We crossed into Wisconsin in the morning, and, of course, took pictures at the Welcome to Wisconsin sign. Then we rode into a time warp. Suddenly, it was the 1800s. We passed through an area populated by Amish farmers. They had cut their grain, tied the stalks into bundles by hand, and stacked the bundles into shocks to await threshing. My back hurt when I saw how hard the farmers had to work to bring in a small crop. It's truly amazing to realize that these good folks deliberately work hard and stay poor because of their beliefs when they can see prosperous, highly mechanized farmers all around them.
As we neared our destination, Viroqua, we learned that we're also in a major organic agricultural area. We passed by a creamery in Chaseburg operated by the Organic Valley cooperative, the largest organic coop in the nation with sales last year of $245 million. Founded in 1988, Organic Valley now has more than 800 member farms.
When we finally reached Viroqua we dined at the Driftless Cafe.