Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day #21: Stealth Camping in Tick Land

Today's Route: Cumberland, WI to Hayward, WI (66 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 848

My tour last year down the Pacific Coast was 20 days in length. As it is Day #21, this is now the longest trip I've ever been on. I'm starting to feel as though bike touring is just my normal everyday life. Quite frankly, I find myself forgetting that I live somewhere fixed and that I own belongings other than those that fit in my panniers.

Before leaving Minnesota, Marshall warned us that the IQ would drop about 30 points when we crossed the border. I'm not so sure about that; Wisconsinites seem quite sophisticated, as evidenced by their complicated street grid/naming system.

Dazed and confused. Jake (who I always thought had some decent noodles between his ears) is really struggling to understand the street signs.

On the bright side, I'm impressed by Wisconsin's roads. I was hearing a strange sound coming from my wheels, and so I pulled over to see if everything was okay. As it turns out, it was just that sweet hum of the tires as they roll along on amazingly smooth roads.

Jake and I have been doing some riding together, but also some riding apart. Jake likes to take off up the hills so as to optimize his pedaling efficiency (he'd love to fill you in on the physics of pedaling). As for me, I prefer to take my time, constantly moving my gaze in all directions to take in the scenery and to save my knees.

Because of our different paces, and because Jake wears a mirror on his helmet (making it easier for him to glance behind him), we've established hand signals to communicate.

Those hand signals weren't so successful when Jake missed the turn and it took a good 25 minutes for him to realize I wasn't behind him and circle back to the turnoff.

Those hands signals were successful, however, in getting Jake's attention to circle back to explore an old, abandoned school with me.

The old school, just outside of Bear Lake, WI.

Jake poses in front of the graffiti.

And so do I.

It was fun to sift through the things left behind - photos, clothing, ...

...old IRS guides from 1981. (Dear lord, this publication pre-dates Jake!)

After the exploration, we stopped at a convenience store for some refreshments. While I was using the facilities, Jake bought a couple of chocolate milks, the ultimate replenishment drink.

When we got outside, Jake pulled a Dr. Pepper out of his bag as well! Yeah! What a surprise! Chocolate milk may be the ultimate replenishment drink, but Dr. Pepper is the ultimate thirst quencher. I just love that bubbly feeling on my tongue.

I don't need diamonds or fur; all I need is a Dr. Pepper.

After conquering a few more miles of rolling hills (oh my god, Wisconsin is just one hill after another!), we stopped at a lake for a swim.

Jake makes the leap into the cold water.

We've seem some wildlife along the way. Without a doubt, turtles win the race for "the most spotted wildlife."

This turtle looks as though he was born in the Jurassic era.

Lots of turtle wildlife also means lots of turtle roadkill. Just today, I noticed three squished turtles on the roads.

Mr. Thousands of Years Old Spines on His Tail Turtle got scared when I approached him for a photo. Shortly after snapping the above photo, the scared little fellow tucked himself into his shell, just as a few cars were approaching. Jake quickly dismounted his bike, and moved this guy off to the side of the road.

Jake said he was a heavy and disgruntled turtle. Although Jake earned his spot in heaven today, he's fortunate he didn't lose any fingers. Let alone an arm!

We're staying slightly off route today, in the town of Hayward. The only nearby campground indicated on the map is a KOA, and Jake and I refuse to stay there. So, it's our first foray into stealth camping.

Jake's awesome sniffer sniffed out a great, groomed, somewhat secluded spot on the river behind an office building. As we were waiting for the evening to approach to set up our tent, we decided to practice our skills in scoping out other spots.

We rode around a bit, and Jake's sniffer spotted a wilderness area. I wasn't too fond of staying in an area with tall grasses because of the potential for ticks. (I got bit by a tick when I lived back in Illinois, and I've heard that the ticks are more hellacious the further north you go.)

Jake scoped out the area, and said that there was a spot with low grass a hundred feet or so beyond the No Trespassing gate.

When we ventured back to the low grass area, I noticed two ticks on Jake's pants. And then we saw some ticks on his panniers.

We high-tailed it outta there. Once we were back in safe territory, we looked over each other, and pulled off a few ticks.

I should have been more adamant about not walking through the tall grass to get to that spot, as Jake doesn't have a lot of experience with tick territory. Failure on my part!

The gate to Tick Land.

We explored a bit more and came across a park along the river. The park, which is operated by the National Park Service, had a sign posted that stated "camping allowed." Ah, sweet goodness! Low grass, a nice view, a pit toilet, and water. Score!

We thought it wise to do another, more thorough tick check before crawling into the tent. So, we both stripped down and did the always lovely tick examination. Good thing we did, because a tick had made a little home behind Jake's right knee.

I attempted to extract the tick using the match technique. Although the heat killed the little booger, the heat didn't cause him to loosen his bite. So, we resorted to the tweezers method. We carefully removed the tick, head and all.

This is the guy that bit Jake - because of his size, he appears to be a wood tick, and not a deer tick.

We saved the specimen in a plastic bag in case we need him later. Meanwhile, we'll monitor the bite area and see if anything looks suspicious.

By the end of the day, I think we had spotted more ticks than turtles. Congratulations, ticks. You bastards have earned yourself the "the most spotted wildlife" award.

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