Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 48 - Biking the Green Lake Loop

I have never biked the Green Lake Loop. For those that are unfamiliar, the Green Lake Loop is a bike trail that rings the shores of Wisconsin’s deepest inland lake, Green Lake. In total, the road and trail path covers 27 miles through beautiful communities, countryside, and natural areas. Like many things on my “I have never…” list, biking the Green Lake Loop is something I have wanted to do for years but never made the time to do. With knowledge both of Rachael’s siblings and their significant others like riding, I figured this weekend would be the perfect opportunity to get a group together to complete the Green Lake Loop journey. With everyone on board, Rachael, her sister Sarah, her sister-in-law Audra, her brother Daniel, her brother-in-law Zeke, and I prepared to make the trip this afternoon.

The map

Given Sarah and Zeke were visiting from Illinois, we decided to rent bikes instead of having them haul their bikes all the way to Green Lake. This decision ended up being a wise one after Rachael’s bike experienced a flat tire almost immediately after we arrived in Green Lake yesterday. In turn, Dan, Audra, and I loaded up our bikes and the group drove to the rental company from which I rented a Waverunner several weeks earlier. There we easily obtained three rental bikes and prepared to start our journey. With knowledge of the nearly 30 miles before us, each of us expressed some concern over the effort that would be required to make the trip a success, particularly given the threat of rain that continued to plague the area. As a result, we decided we would play it safe by renting the bikes for a period of four hours. With our rental bikes secured and our trip in order, we geared up and hit the road to start our first leg of the Green Lake Loop.

The crew

The trip started with a jaunt down one of Green Lake’s longest city roads winding along the east end of the lake. As we found our pace, our group traveled in a single file line down the bike path running on the shoulder of the busy street. We traveled until we hit a county highway that directed us to head south, where we stopped briefly to make a few adjustments to the rental bikes and talk about our plan of attack for the remaining trip. With knowledge the bike route would lead us to the less busy roads running along Green Lake’s south shore, I assured everyone we would be able to ride in a more comfortable group setting once we tacked on a few more miles. In turn, the group continued on, passing by boaters and fisherman making the most of the lake to our right. In time we made it passed the body of water and climbed a steep hill before finding our turn to the south shore of Green Lake.

Still in our single file line, we wrapped around the turn onto a sleepy road that cut through groupings of small lakeside cottages. In a moment our environment changed from a heavily trafficked highway to a peaceful, quiet expanse of asphalt turned gray with age. Quickly coming to terms with the change, our group fanned out and began taking advantage of the open road around us. We traveled down the road at a leisurely pace, shifting positions to talk with various members of our group as we continued on. In high spirits, we laughed over word games intended to help us remember our upcoming turns and chatted about the sights passing by.  With the sun now breaking through the clouds above us, each of us relaxed in the comfortable summer air hanging next to the beautiful lake guiding us.

Farmland scenery
After some time on the south side of the lake, we met a county road that took us further south to avoid some dead end streets. After a quick check of our map, the group traveled down the road with the lake at our back. We pedaled on, climbing a hill that led into a wide expanse of lush green farmland. With Dan at my right, I looked around at the sun soaked plants that covering the ground to the horizon. I smiled to myself before making a few remarks to Dan about the countryside. “This is God’s country!” I said with a half-hearted Southern accent. “It sure is!” Dan said as he increased his speed into our next turn. With the rest of the group behind us, Dan took the lead and maneuvered near the center of the long, empty country road in front of us. Unprompted Dan removed his hands from his handlebars and stretched them out to the sides of his body. Continuing down the road, the T-shaped form of Dan’s torso resting on the set of his bike was the only sight to be seen. With the rest of the group now catching up to me, I made a few comments about Dan’s “flight position” to Rachael and Zeke. With Dan continuing ahead of the group, the rest of us rode together down the remaining stretch of the country road until we met Dan at our next turn.

Dan in flight
Nearly a quarter of the way into our trip, the group gathered together for a brief water break before heading back toward the lake. Atop a bluff, we took in beautiful views of Green Lake’s opposite shore before we descended back toward the shoreline. We wound our way past massive homes and wooded areas as we climbed several more hills and rode a curved road into a cul-de-sac placed oddly in the middle of a wooded area. I slowed down as we entered the cul-de-sac, prompting the group behind me the stop. A few statements of confusion floated into the air as we discussed the next leg of the journey. Pointing to a small trail running off of the cul-de-sac and into the woods, I explained to the group the next leg of the trail ran a gravel path along of portion of the lakeshore.

Although hesitant at first, each of us made our way through the narrow trail one by one until we all emerged on the other side of the tree line. There we found a small gravel road leading through a campground near a portion of the lake known as Sliding Rock. We rode on, making short work of the gravel road and surfacing on another quiet street on the southwest side of the lake. A little more than one hour into our trip, I started to realize we were nearing the halfway point of the loop as familiar sights came into view. A few miles later we were passing Green Lake County Park and traveling down streets in the west end neighborhood where the lake house resides. Completing the first half of our trek, we pulled into the lake house driveway and took stock of our progress. Much faster than expected, our group had traveled nearly 15 miles in less than one hour and 20 minutes.

Half way there...

Upon arriving at the lake house, we refilled our water bottles and stretched a bit during a brief break. Shortly after arriving, a rain shower moved through the area for a period of a little bit longer than 10 minutes, which proved perfect timing following the completion of the first half of our ride. During the rain we relaxed beneath the overhang of the lake house roof and talked about the rest of our journey. With the rain ebbing, we geared back up for the second part of our trip and hit the road. After a brief trip down the nearby highway, we rounded the last portion of Green Lake’s west end and honed in on the last leg of the Green Lake Loop.

The second half
Over the next 30 minutes we passed through Sugar Bluff and traveled down a rolling county highway. Eventually, we found our way into the Green Lake Conference Center, a pristine area of forest and grasslands littered with historic buildings. Our group remained close on the narrow, winding roadways that traveled through the natural areas around us. The towering trees, flowering grasslands, and scenic views rejuvenated each of us and helped keep our spirits high. After some time we worked our way through the woodland paths to the Northeast entrance of the conference center. The familiar sights of the highway leading to downtown Green Lake came into view as we exited the massive stone gates at the entrance and turned east. Minutes later, we our path crossed the main street leading to Green Lake, which provided us a prolonged downward slope to coast back into town. Together, we worked through the trickle of Green Lake traffic until we saw the rental company from which we rented the bikes come back into sight. Anticipating the end of our journey, I bore down, pedaling to gain as much speed as possible. Just as I hit my maximum speed I saw the rental company driveway over the crest of a small hill. I turned in with the wind at my back and came to an abrupt stop just behind Daniel. The rest of the group quickly followed suit with cheers and celebration at the fact we just completed our 27 mile ride. In a little more than two hours we traversed Green Lake, and that was something to feel good about.

Ice cream!!!
Following the end of our ride, we decided some ice cream was in order. In turn, we found a local ice cream parlor tucked next to a small roadway in downtown Green Lake. Over our treats we talked about our journey, the sights, and our overall physical conditions. Surprisingly, we all felt quite fine after the extended trip, which made the experience all the more enjoyable. As I sat nibbling at the last parts of my ice cream cone I thought about the day’s “I have never…” event. As I sat I recalled the beautiful sights, the laughs, and the experience I was able to enjoy with a group of awesome people. In my mind there was no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon, which made me realize this was an “I have never…” event well worth the effort.

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